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First tractors with GPS, now farmers coordinating things with an iPhone app? Progress is scary.

The app tracks everything needed in a farm’s upkeep, says iCropTrak’s Aaron Hutchinson—from tillage, to planting, to irrigation, to scouting, to spraying, to harvest, to soil sampling. The service also connects labourers, ensuring everyone is aware of completed and uncompleted tasks. Fields are divided up using map data, allowing farm owners to analyse each section of their farm to see whether wheat, for example, is performing better than maize (corn).

[Video: Rodney Atkin's "Farmer's Daughter" has very little to do with this post, but I couldn't resist.]

Denial

Isolated at a Young Age

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The second excerpt from Jonathan Rauch's "Denial" has just posted at the Huffington Post. Jonathan summons to mind what it means to feel from an early age cut off from all the rest of humanity.

Little boys and teenagers want many things, but most of all they want to be normal. The desire not to be strange is not, I think, the callous invention of a capitalist or racist or sexist or whateverist culture which seeks to repress human beings' explosively variegated diversity. It is, for people, an indivisible part of the socializing instinct. That is why children are so easily embarrassed by their parents. The instinct which teaches children how not to be little sociopaths also instructs them, unremittingly, to conform.

UN Things

Arab Governments Try to Punish Canada

Arab governments seek to punish Canada's Middle East advocacy by moving a UN agency out of Montreal.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, which sets international rules for airplane transportation, has been headquartered in Montreal since 1947, but Qatar is now bidding to relocate it to the Middle East in 2016, trying to muster votes from 115 countries to approve the move at a meeting this fall.

The occasion for the move? A meeting by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni at a venue in eastern Jerusalem. It's pretty amazing that Qatar would assert a claim to determine where a Canadian minister of the crown may go and whom he may see. What happened next is even more amazing:

At an April 15 meeting with Arab ambassadors in Ottawa, Mr. Baird had a tetchy exchange with Egyptian ambassador Wael Aboul-Magd, who asked him to clarify Canadian policy, according to sources familiar with the events.

"The dominance of governors in our presidential politics is an old and durable phenomenon. Since the election of 1828, when Andrew Jackson's landslide victory over John Quincy Adams ended our initial era of Founding Father Presidents, governors have won more major party nominations, more general elections, and more Electoral College votes than any other category of Presidential candidate - and vastly more than candidates whose main political experience was in the U.S. Congress."

So wrote former AEI president Chris DeMuth in a 2004 paper. He then offered an explanation of the gubernatorial advantage.

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Paul Morse/George W. Bush Presidential Center via Getty Images

"Governors have submitted budgets, hired and fired subordinates, presided over public emergencies, called out the National Guard, negotiated public strikes, exercised discretion in the enforcement of criminal and other public laws, and endured a succession of victories and defeats large and small for which, fairly or unfairly, they received the credit or blame."

You won't be flying in any of these bad boys any time soon, but "solar powered drones that can fly for days at a time" has a great ring to it, no?

[W]hen a propane shortage nearly ended his record-setting ride in 1999, he began dreaming of a way to fly day and night without fuel, an idea that has reached fruition in a featherweight solar airplane set for an initial voyage across the United States starting on Friday, weather permitting. His brainchild, the Solar Impulse, will not be the first sun-powered plane to fly; its chief distinction is its ability to go through the night.

Public support for a path to citizenship has fallen from 59 percent to 52 percent since April 4th, and 30 percent of voters now want to require illegal immigrants to leave the country, an increase from 25 percent a month ago, reports the Quinnipiac Poll.

Find THem. Get Them

Where Are Syria's Chemical Weapons?

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A picture taken on April 26, 2013 shows Abu Tarek, a 74-year-old retired army officer, trying on a homemade gas-mask assembled using a plastic bottle, coal, cotton, gauze, cola, and cardboard, for protection against chemical weapons, in Syria's northern Latakia province. (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Eli Lake reports for the Daily Beast that even if we wanted to secure Syria's chemical weapons, we might not be able to find them.

[T]he Syrian military has transferred more and more of its stock of sarin and mustard gas from storage sites to trucks where they are being moved around the country. While U.S. intelligence agencies first saw reports that Syria was moving the weapons last year, the process has accelerated since December, according to these officials. Also worrisome, said two of the officials, is intelligence from late last year that says the Syrian Scientific Research Center—an entity responsible for Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpile—has begun to train irregular militias loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in how to use the chemical munitions.

The assessment that Syria is moving large amounts of its chemical weapons around the country on trucks means that if Obama wanted to send in U.S. soldiers to secure Syria’s stockpiles, his top generals and intelligence analysts doubt such a mission would have much success, according to the three officials. “We’ve lost track of lots of this stuff,” one U.S. official told The Daily Beast. “We just don’t know where a lot of it is.”

Michael Koplow thinks it's a failed government in Pakistan:

Anyone who knows anything about U.S. foreign and defense policy knows that the most pressing problem facing the U.S. right now is not the rise of China or the fight against al-Qaida. It is the possibility that the Pakistani government will fall and that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will be taken over by extremists. Only slightly less worrisome is that the lax command and control structure that exists for Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile – and for those who don’t pay close attention to these things, it turns out that the Pakistani government moves its nukes in and out of traffic in barely guarded civilian vans so that we won’t steal them – will lead to a nuke being stolen or even accidentally launched. This is the reason that the U.S. keeps on propping up the Pakistani government and throwing money into a Pakistani black hole despite mountains of evidence that Pakistan is not our ally and actually works to undermine the U.S. in Afghanistan and other places.

The prospect of a mushroom cloud above New Delhi is about as unsettling as I can imagine. 

Die on another planet

Want to Go to Mars?

The Dutch organization Mars One has received over 20,000 applications from intrepid citizens seeking to colonize the Red Planet in 2023.

Of these 20,000, 24 will be chosen by the public through a television show (think American Idol meets Survivor). Mars One has already begun releasing video submissions on their website.

These lucky chosen colonists -- who must be at least 18 years old, be 157 cm (roughly 5-foot-2) tall, and have 20/20 vision -- will then endure six to eight years of training and will be grouped into teams of four, who will train together in simulated living conditions of the planet. And yes, an audience decides who will be the first four to settle on Mars.

In Swansea, Wales, there is a measles epidemic. Over 800 people have been diagnosed with the disease that is easily preventable by parents vaccinating their children.

Measles can lead to lung infections such as pneumonia, and untreated, it can often be fatal. Some parents, however, refuse to vaccinate their children.

Wales has had low Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccination rates for some time … since about 1998, in fact, when Andrew Wakefield published his bogus study in the Lancet falsely linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Columbia Journalism Review details the shameful story of how the false fetish of press neutrality enabled cranks and charlatans to promote the hoax that vaccines cause autism in children. Among the guilty: CJR itself. Kudos to them for the self-criticism.

Between 1998 and 2006, 60 percent of vaccine-autism articles in British newspapers, and 49 percent in American papers, were “balanced,” in the sense that they either mentioned both pro-link and anti-link perspectives, or neither perspective, according to a 2008 study by Christopher Clarke at Cornell University. The remainder—40 percent in the British press and 51 percent in the American press—mentioned only one perspective or the other, but British journalists were more likely to focus on pro-link claims and the Americans were more likely to focus on anti-link claims.

While it’s somewhat reassuring that almost half the US stories (41 percent) tried, to varying degrees, to rebut the vaccine-autism connection, the study raises the problem of “objectivity” in stories for which a preponderance of evidence is on one side of a “debate.” In such cases, “balanced” coverage can be irresponsible, because it suggests a controversy where none really exists. (Think climate change, and how such he-said-she-said coverage helped sustain the illusion of a genuine debate within the science community.) A follow-up study by Clarke and Graham Dixon, published in November 2012, makes this point. The two scholars assigned 320 undergrads to read either a “balanced” article or one that was one-sided for or against a link between vaccines and autism. Those students who read the “balanced” articles were far more likely to believe that a link existed than those who read articles that said no link exits.

David's Bookclub

A New E-Book from Jonathan Rauch: 'Denial'

"I HAVE a peculiar memory which must date to when I was 10 or 11 years old. I am sitting at the piano daydreaming one afternoon, and it occurs to me that I will never get married. Simultaneously with this realization comes the recognition that I have always understood that marriage was unlikely for me, and that today is merely the first time I have said so, to myself, "aloud." So baldly clear is this realization that I might as well be acknowledging that I will never have eight legs and spin a web.

Even so, the revelation strikes me as peculiar. Almost all of the adults I know are married, and so, for that matter, are most of the grown‑ups I have ever heard of. Everyone gets married. Why, then, do I know that the world of married adults has no connection to me, and that I will go off in some different direction?"

So opens Denial: My Twenty-Five Years Without a Soul, a memoir excerpted today in the Huffington Post. The author, Jonathan Rauch, is one of my oldest friends: we have known each other since the fall of 1978. The story he tells is at once harrowing and inspiring.

As he writes in an introductory blog on the HuffPost site:

I get the fun irony of tossing eligibility questions at the Senator from Texas, but let's settle that now: As David Graham writes at the Atlantic:

[T]he Congressional Research Service gathered all of the information relevant to Cruz's case a few years ago, at the height (nadir?) of Obama birtherism.

In short, the Constitution says that the president must be a natural-born citizen. "The weight of scholarly legal and historical opinion appears to support the notion that 'natural born Citizen' means one who is entitled under the Constitution or laws of the United States to U.S. citizenship 'at birth' or 'by birth,' including any child born 'in' the United States, the children of United States citizens born abroad, and those born abroad of one citizen parents who has met U.S. residency requirements," the CRS's Jack Maskell wrote.

So in short: Cruz is a citizen; Cruz is not naturalized; therefore Cruz is a natural-born citizen, and in any case his mother is a citizen.

Listen in

Stand Up! With Pete Dominick

This morning, David had a conversation with Sirius XM's Pete Dominick.

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On the foreign policy end, David and Pete discuss the deteriorating situation in Syria and what the US should learn from our involvement in Egypt during the Arab Spring. Back home, they look at the real problems with the gun culture in America.

Best Part: Ever wonder what President Bush nicknamed David during his tenure at the White House?

In another win for modern medicine, surgeons from the US and Switzerland have used stem cells to build a windpipe for 2-year old Hannah Warren, who was born without one.

Until the operation at a U.S. hospital, she had spent her entire life in a hospital in Seoul. Doctors there told her parents there was no hope and they expected her to die. The stem cells came from Hannah's bone marrow, extracted with a special needle inserted into her hip bone. They were seeded in a lab onto a plastic scaffold, where it took less than a week for them to multiply and create a new windpipe.

The windpipe was implanted April 9 in a nine-hour procedure. Early signs indicate the windpipe is working, Hannah's doctors announced Tuesday, although she is still on a ventilator. They believe she will eventually be able to live at home and lead a normal life.

About the Author

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David Frum

David Frum is a contributing editor at The Daily Beast and a CNN contributor. He is the author of eight books, including most recently the e-book WHY ROMNEY LOST and his first novel Patriots, published in April 2012.

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