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Because risk is an intrinsic part of most financial transactions, a Financial Product Safety Commission would not—and should not—prevent every financial mistake. But the agency would allow consumers to make informed decisions about the amount of risk they want to take and would protect them from unscrupulous practices that disguise the dangers. The FPSC might evaluate loans and credit-card agreements using standards similar to ones employed by other agencies concerned with consumer safety: Is a reasonable consumer likely to get hurt by this product? Is the information provided complete and helpful, or is it designed to create a false sense of safety? Will this aspect of the product’s design provide a meaningful service to consumers, or will it confuse and mislead them? Is the malfunction rate—that is, the default rate—reasonable, or is it unacceptably high? Each year millions of credit-card offers go out with tiny print detailing “double-cycle billing” and “trailing interest,” terms that have enormous financial implications but are meaningless to most people. Likewise, such products as mortgage prepayment penalties are slipped surreptitiously into agreements for the sole purpose of trapping people into loans that they otherwise would not likely take on. — “Protect Financial Customers,” Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, from a November 2008 Harper’s Forum
I’m not sure if I explained how circumcision fits into all this. About the time young boys begin to play basketball in the Philippines, they also get “cut.” The folklore around circumcision includes beliefs about male potency: you need to be cut to be able to marry and to have children—and to play basketball. Bad performance in a game—missing an easy shot, for example—brings jeers of “Supot! Supot!” (Literally, paper bag, referring to the conformation of the uncircumcised.) –“Thump, Thump,” Michael Tan, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Greg Stubbs, a Guapo regular and one of the most vocal members of the old skate scene, laments the turn he’s seen in popular skateboarding, down the same hypercompetitive path of youth baseball and soccer. A remarkable skater on a ramp used to draw a cheering audience of dozens of fellow skaters; now, Stubbs says it’s about kids running skate drills on their own until they nail a given trick. A 43-year-old legal consultant, Stubbs remembers his early skating years in Oklahoma City, when riding a board was just about having fun and breaking a few rules. “Skateboarding has gotten so accepted. It’s a P.E. elective,” Stubbs says. “I was out at the skatepark in Allen and there was a dad literally screaming at his kid, ‘Do your frontside grind!’” –“Legendary Dallas Skateboarders go Underground,” Patrick Michels, Dallas Observer
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith