There are many dying languages in the world. But at least one has recently been born, created by children living in a remote village in northern Australia.

Carmel O’Shannessy, a linguist at the University of Michigan, has been studying the young people’s speech for more than a decade and has concluded that they speak neither a dialect nor the mixture of languages called a creole, but a new language with unique grammatical rules.

The language, called Warlpiri rampaku, or Light Warlpiri, is spoken only by people under 35 in Lajamanu, an isolated village of about 700 people in Australia’s Northern Territory. In all, about 350 people speak the language as their native tongue. Dr. O’Shannessy has published several studies of Light Warlpiri, the most recent in the June issue of Language.

“Many of the first speakers of this language are still alive,” said Mary Laughren, a research fellow in linguistics at the University of Queensland in Australia, who was not involved in the studies. One reason Dr. O’Shannessy’s research is so significant, she said, “is that she has been able to record and document a ‘new’ language in the very early period of its existence.”

The lasting impression of the debate, certainly for anyone watching in the rest of the world, is just how narrowly Americans define foreign policy. Neither candidate mentioned NATO. Indeed, neither candidate mentioned the European Union or the Eurozone crisis, other than Mr. Romney’s dire predictions that the United States will soon be Greece unless he is elected.

Moving east, the candidates barely mentioned a single country in East Asia other than China. There was only the briefest reference to Japan (our closest ally in Asia) by the moderator and a single mention of North Korea (another very dangerous nuclear power). Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, didn’t come up. For that matter, there was no reference to India (a mere billion people). This silence is all the more striking given Mr. Obama’s reference at the end of the debate to his administration’s purported “pivot to Asia,” a pivot that was supposed to be away from the Middle East. Yet when Mr. Obama was asked to name the greatest threat to the United States he said terrorist networks; Mr. Romney said a nuclear Iran.

Beyond individual countries, consider the silence on the global issues that are vitally important to the rest of the world. Neither candidate ever uttered the word “climate.” Or drug violence. Or poverty, disease, food, water, or even energy.

This really wasn’t a debate about foreign policy or world affairs. It was the projection of the American electoral map onto the globe. All discussion of Israel and Islam was targeted at Florida; all discussion of China was targeted at Ohio. From a real foreign policy perspective, a business in which we devote a great deal of time and effort to reassuring and mobilizing our friends and allies and trying to solve global problems, we can only hope the rest of the world wasn’t listening.

pol102:

“The New World” is a particularly interesting New York Times interactive feature. It offers 11 examples of countries that might break up, merge, or expand in the near future.

pol102:

“The New World” is a particularly interesting New York Times interactive feature. It offers 11 examples of countries that might break up, merge, or expand in the near future.

Part of what makes infrastructure is its invisibility,” Kirsch told me. “When we have to create infrastructure for ourselves — installing charging stations at our houses, for instance — we make the invisible visible. It becomes an overwhelming task, like having to remake the world. Most people just want a car.
What, then, is work for? Aristotle has a striking answer: “we work to have leisure, on which happiness depends.” This may at first seem absurd. How can we be happy just doing nothing, however sweetly (dolce far niente)? Doesn’t idleness lead to boredom, the life-destroying ennui portrayed in so many novels, at least since “Madame Bovary”? Everything depends on how we understand leisure. Is it mere idleness, simply doing nothing? Then a life of leisure is at best boring (a lesson of Voltaire’s “Candide”), and at worst terrifying (leaving us, as Pascal says, with nothing to distract from the thought of death). No, the leisure Aristotle has in mind is productive activity enjoyed for its own sake, while work is done for something else. We can pass by for now the question of just what activities are truly enjoyable for their own sake — perhaps eating and drinking, sports, love, adventure, art, contemplation? The point is that engaging in such activities — and sharing them with others — is what makes a good life. Leisure, not work, should be our primary goal.
Far From 'Junk', DNA Dark Matter Proves Crucial to Health

The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

Germany demands Facebook destroy facial recognition database

The company’s use of analytic software to compile photographic archives of human faces, based on photos uploaded by Facebook’s members, has been problematic in Europe, where data protection laws require people to give their explicit consent to the practice.

Instead of using such an opt-in system, Facebook requires them to opt out instead.

The Hamburg regulator is demanding that Facebook destroy its photographic database of faces collected in Germany and revise its Web site to obtain the explicit consent of members before it creates a digital file based on the biometric data of their faces.