TIME Mideast Peace

Who is Jonathan Pollard? And Why is He in Jail?

Should the only American convicted of espionage and sentenced to life in prison be released?

He currently resides in a federal prison in Butner, N.C. Jonathan Pollard, 59, is a Jewish-American who passed American secrets to the Israelis while serving as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst.

In 1985, he was sentenced to life in prison—a sentence that many Israelis and some American Jews consider excessive, cruel and potentially tainted by anti-Semitism. Now the Obama administration is reportedly considering releasing Pollard from prison as an incentive to keep the Israelis in peace talks with the Palestinians.

And so a convicted spy who many Americans have never heard of is back in the headlines because the Mideast peace process is, again, on a precipice.

TIME Military

U.S. Special Ops Planning for Action in Globe’s ‘Dark Areas’

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Getty Images

Seeking “critical” but “non-existent” intelligence for a dozen nations

The U.S. military is always busy planning for war pretty much everywhere, but some places are tougher nuts to crack than others. That’s why the U.S. Special Operations Command is seeking “Geospatial Data on Countries of Interest for Which There is a Critical Need But Non-Existent Data.”

Just who might those countries be? According to a USSCOM announcement posted Monday, the “initial dataset” consists of “Jordan, Djibouti, Burma, Honduras, Iran, Morocco, Nigeria, Trinidad & Tobago, Burkina Faso, S. Sudan, N. Korea, and China (Guangdong).”

That sounds a story list on a cover of an old National Geographic (Guangdong—formerly known as Canton—is a province on China’s South China Sea coast. It is the most populous and richest of China’s 22 provinces, and its two leading cities, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, are among the largest and most important in the country).

“USSOCOM has a mission for Special Operations Forces (SOF) to prepare and operate in dynamic and diverse environments,” the announcement says. “Commercial sources and other government agencies have not yet gathered data and information on some countries of interest for which there is a critical need.”

The goal is to provide the U.S. military with satellite maps that chart people—and their activities—as well as topography. The Pentagon calls it “human geography.” Think of it as Google Earth on steroids.

“Contractor will provide geospatially referenced, rectified, socio-cultural data on a number of countries for which there is a critical need but non-existent data,” USSOCOM says. “Research will include, but is not limited to, data that informs customers of the countries’ ethnography, language, education, politics, religion, and economy.”

Beyond that, American commandos want to gather “locational data on infrastructure points of interest” including military installations, “GSM [cell phone] tower locations,” airfields, “companies conducting mineral/gas/resource surveys,” embassies, refugee camps, “Internet café locations” (as well as “information on owners”) and “smuggling routes” for narcotics, humans and arms. They also want to know about “VEO [violent extremist organization] sympathies versus host government/western sympathies.”

The U.S. military has long been plagued by cartographic complications. In 1983, American troops invading Grenada had to rely on photocopies of tourist maps. In 1999, an Air Force B-2 mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, instead of the nearby Yugoslav Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement after a string of errors, killing three Chinese.

The Special Ops command plans on expanding an existing contract for the data with GeoEye Analytics Inc., a subsidiary of DigitalGlobe, Inc. (the same folks who recently located a fake Iranian aircraft carrier for the U.S. Navy, who launched a crowdsourcing effort to find missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and who provide satellite imagery to Google Maps). USSOCOM’s statement provided no information on the cost of the original contract or the modification, set to happen Mar. 31; USSOCOM officials did not respond to questions about the price.

“Supporting a wide range of defense and intelligence customers, DigitalGlobe is committed to meeting and exceeding their strategic and tactical requirements and expectations,” the Longmont, Colo.-based company says on its website. “From supporting military actions and national security to emergency management and mapping intelligence, DigitalGlobe supports national and international customers to keep their citizens safe and protect precious resources.”

The contract is sole source. “This unique satellite constellation provides high resolution imagery not available from other commercial sources,” the government says. “Digital Globe purchased their primary competitor, GeoEye, in 2013. The only other competitor is Spot Image, a consortium of foreign state-owned interests led by the French Space Agency, Centre National d ’Etudes Spatiales.” Zut alors! Can’t have that.

“For over 20 years DigitalGlobe has compiled an exclusive in-house archive of over four billion square kilometers of high quality imagery used in high-fidelity geospatial information products,” the government adds (the company is currently photographing more than 3 million square kilometers daily). “DigitalGlobe has a unique satellite constellation for collecting data in areas not available through commercial means…The human geography field is in its infancy and data is non-existent for ‘dark areas’ of the globe and of interest to SOF.”

TIME

Preschoolers’ Innate Knowledge Means They Can Probably Do Algebra

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Imgorthand—Getty Images/Vetta

Child development specialists are uncovering evidence that toddlers may understand much more than we think

Give a three-year old a smartphone and she’ll likely figure out how to turn it on and operate a few simple functions. But confront her with an algebra problem and ask her to solve for x? Not likely.

For decades, child developmental psychologist Jean Piaget convinced us that young, undeveloped minds couldn’t handle complex concepts because they simply weren’t experienced or mature enough yet. Piaget, in fact, believed that toddlers could not understand cause and effect, that they couldn’t think logically, and that they also couldn’t handle abstract ideas.

That’s because, he argued, children learn to develop these higher skills through trial and error. But child development specialists are finding out that preschoolers without any formal education may have the capacity to understand more complex concepts than we give them credit for, such as complicated rules for operating a toy or even solving for an unknown in algebra. Some of this is due to their ability to be more open and flexible about their world than adults. But beyond that, toddlers may have the innate ability to understand abstract concepts like quantities and causality, and that’s fueling an exciting stream of experiments that reveal just how sophisticated preschoolers’ brains might be.

MORE: The Brain: What Do Babies Know?

Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at University of California Berkeley and her team devised a way to test how well young kids understand the abstract concept of multiple causality — the idea that there may be more than one cause for a single effect. They pitted 32 preschoolers around 4 years old against 143 undergrads. The study centered around a toy that could be turned on by placing a single blue-colored block on the toy’s tray, but could also be activated if two blocks of different colors – orange and purple – were placed on the tray. Both the kids and the undergraduates were shown how the toy worked and then asked which blocks activated the toy.

The preschoolers were adept at figuring out that the blue blocks turned on the toy, as did the purple and orange ones, but that the purple and orange ones needed to be paired together. The Berkeley undergraduates, however, had a harder time accepting the scenario. Their previous experience in the world, which tends to work in a single-cause-equals-single-effect way, hampered their ability to accept the unusual rules that activated they toy; they wanted to believe that it was activated either by a single color or by a combination of colors, but not both. “The training didn’t seem to give them a hint that the world might work in different ways,” says Gopnik, who published her work in the journal Cognition.

The preschoolers’ lack of bias about causality likely contributed to their ability to learn the multiple ways to activate the toy, but the results also suggest that preschoolers really can think logically and in more complicated ways. Just because they can’t express themselves or aren’t as adept at demonstrating such knowledge, doesn’t mean they don’t have it.

MORE: Developmental Psychology: Baby Monitor

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, for example, found a similar effect among preschoolers when it came to math. Previous studies showed that if you present infants with eight objects over and over until they got bored, and then showed them 16, they suddenly regained interest and sensed that things changed. Even before they are taught about numbers or amounts, then, infants seem to have a grasp on quantity. “All the evidence so far leads us to believe that this is something that babies come into the world with,” says Melissa Kibbe, co-author of that study.

MORE: High Anxiety: How Worrying About Math Hurts Your Brain

She and her colleague Lisa Feigenson wondered if that innate sense of quantity might translate into an understanding of numbers and higher math functions, including solving for unknowns — one of the foundations of algebra — which often isn’t taught until seventh or eighth grades. So they conducted a series of experiments using a cup with a fixed amount of objects that substituted for x in the equation 5 + x = 17.

To divert the four- and six-year olds’ attention away from Arabic numerals to quantities instead, the researchers used a puppet and a “magic” cup that contained 12 buttons. In one of the experiments, the children saw five buttons on the table. After watching the researchers add the 12 buttons from the cup, they were told there were 17 buttons on the table. In another test, the youngsters saw three piles of objects — buttons, coins or small toys — in varying amounts, and observed the researchers adding the fixed number of contents of the puppet’s cup to each.

After training the kids on how the cup worked, the researchers tried to confuse them with another cup containing fewer (such as four) or more (such as 24) objects. However, the kids understood intuitively that the decoy cup contained the wrong amount of items and that a specific amount — x, the “magic” cup amount — had to be added to reach the sum.

When the children were presented with the straight algebraic equation on a card, 5 + _ = 17, and asked to fill in the blank, their answers were no better than chance; that’s because they were simply guessing. In the puppet and cup scenarios, however, which did not involve numerals, they were able to accurately identify the correct amount, increasing their accuracy dramatically, to between 59% to 79%.

MORE: Study: Employers Assume Women Are Worse At Math

That suggested that the preschoolers had some concept of quantity, and the appropriate amount that they needed to get from a small quantity (five) to a larger one (17). What surprised Kibbe was not just that preschoolers understood the concept of adding “more,” but that they could also calibrate how much more was needed to fill in the unknown quantity.

“These kids had very little formal schooling so far, but what we are finding is that when we tap into their gut sense, something we call the Approximate Number Sense (ANS), kids are able to do much more complex calculations than if we gave them numbers and letters,” says Kibbe of her results, which were reported in the journal Developmental Science. And there doesn’t seem to be any gender differences in this innate ability, at least not among the girls and boys Kibbe studied.

MORE: Your Brain On Sesame Street: Big Bird Helps Researchers See How the Brain Learns

There’s also precedent for such innate pre-learning in reading, says Jon Star, at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. To improve reading skills, some teachers have tapped into children’s memorization skills to make the connection between words and meaning more efficient.

Kibbe’s and Gopnik’s recent work may have broader implications for education, since current math curricula in schools, which focuses on teaching Arabic numerals and on solving equations, may not be ideal for nurturing the number sense that kids are born with. “There’s an exciting movement in psychology over the past decade, as we learn that students bring certain capabilities, or innate knowledge that we hadn’t thought they had before,” says Star.

Though it may be too early to translate such findings to the classroom, the results lay the groundwork for studying similar innate skills and how they might be better understood. ANS, for example, is one of many so-called cognitive primitives, or constructs that young children may have that could enhance their learning but that current curricula aren’t exploiting. Developmental experts are still trying to figure out how malleable these constructs are, and how much of an impact they can have on future learning. For instance, do kids who hone their ANS skills become better at algebra and calculus in high school? “We still need to figure out which constructs matter most, and which are most amenable to interventions to help children improve their learning,” says Star.

MORE: How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science

“The hard part is, educationally, how do you build up and upon this intuitive knowledge in a way that allows a child to capture the complexity but not hold them back,” says Tina Grotzer, associate professor of education at Harvard. Tapping into a child’s still developing sense of numbers and quantities is one thing, but overloading it with too many new constructs about algebra, unknowns, and problem solving may just gum up the working memory and end up adversely affecting his learning and academic performance. “As soon as concepts get big and complex, there are all sorts of perceptual, attentional, and cognitive costs and challenges involved,” she says.

Still, that doesn’t mean that these innate skills shouldn’t be explored and possibly exploited in the classroom. Preschoolers may be smarter than we think, but we still have to figure out how to give them the right opportunities in the classroom so they know what to do with that knowledge.

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela Arrests One Mayor and Imprisons Another in a Widening Crackdown

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Venezuelan opposition students take part in a protest against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on March 19, 2014. JUAN BARRETO—AFP/Getty Images

Intelligence agents arrested the mayor of San Cristobal, a city of 250,000 near the Colombian border, for aiding a "civil rebellion"

Venezuelan intelligence agents arrested the mayor of San Cristobal on Wednesday, while another opposition mayor was sentenced to 10 months in jail for dereliction of duties.

According to Reuters, both mayors stand accused of allowing protesters to barricade city streets, and in the case of the arrested mayor, supporting “irrational violence.”

At least 31 people have died in clashes between protesters demanding the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro and police trying to reestablish control over opposition strongholds.

[Reuters]

TIME Children

How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science

Young boy writes math equations on chalkboard
Justin Lewis—Getty Images

I’ve explored the science behind what makes kids happier, what type of parenting works best and what makes for joyful families.

But what makes children — from babies up through the teen years — smarter?

Here are 10 things science says can help:

1) Music Lessons

Plain and simple: research show music lessons make kids smarter:

Compared with children in the control groups, children in the music groups exhibited greater increases in full-scale IQ. The effect was relatively small, but it generalized across IQ subtests, index scores, and a standardized measure of academic achievement.

In fact musical training helps everyone, young and old:

A growing body of research finds musical training gives students learning advantages in the classroom. Now a Northwestern University study finds musical training can benefit Grandma, too, by offsetting some of the deleterious effects of aging.

(More on what the music you love says about you here.)

2) The Dumb Jock Is A Myth

Dumb jocks are dumb because they spend more time on the field than in the library. But what if you make sure your child devotes time to both?

Being in good shape increases your ability to learn. After exercise people pick up new vocabulary words 20% faster.

Via Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:

Indeed, in a 2007 study of humans, German researchers found that people learn vocabulary words 20 percent faster following exercise than they did before exercise, and that the rate of learning correlated directly with levels of BDNF.

A 3 month exercise regimen increased bloodflow to the part of the brain focused on memory and learning by 30%.

Via Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:

In his study, Small put a group of volunteers on a three-month exercise regimen and then took pictures of their brains… What he saw was that the capillary volume in the memory area of the hippocampus increased by 30 percent, a truly remarkable change.

(More on how exercise can make you and your kids smarter and happier here.)

3) Don’t Read To Your Kids, Read With Them

Got a little one who is learning to read? Don’t let them just stare at the pictures in a book while you do all the reading.
Call attention to the words. Read with them, not to them. Research shows it helps build their reading skills:

…when shared book reading is enriched with explicit attention to the development of children’s reading skills and strategies, then shared book reading is an effective vehicle for promoting the early literacy ability even of disadvantaged children.

(More on things most parents do wrong here.)

4) Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid

Missing an hour of sleep turns a sixth grader’s brain into that of a fourth grader.

Via NurtureShock:

“A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development,” Sadeh explained.

There is a correlation between grades and average amount of sleep.

Via NurtureShock:

Teens who received A’s averaged about fifteen more minutes sleep than the B students, who in turn averaged fifteen more minutes than the C’s, and so on. Wahlstrom’s data was an almost perfect replication of results from an earlier study of over 3,000 Rhode Island high schoolers by Brown’s Carskadon. Certainly, these are averages, but the consistency of the two studies stands out. Every fifteen minutes counts.

(More on how to sleep better here.)

5) IQ Isn’t Worth Much Without Self-Discipline

Self-discipline beats IQ at predicting who will be successful in life.

From Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success… Students who exerted high levels of willpower were more likely to earn higher grades in their classes and gain admission into more selective schools. They had fewer absences and spent less time watching television and more hours on homework. “Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable,” the researchers wrote. “Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not.… Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.”

Grades have more to do with conscientiousness than raw smarts.

Via How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character:

…conscientiousness was the trait that best predicted workplace success. What intrigues Roberts about conscientiousness is that it predicts so many outcomes that go far beyond the workplace. People high in conscientiousness get better grades in school and college; they commit fewer crimes; and they stay married longer. They live longer – and not just because they smoke and drink less. They have fewer strokes, lower blood pressure, and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Who does best in life? Kids with grit.

Via Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

The best predictor of success, the researchers found, was the prospective cadets’ ratings on a noncognitive, nonphysical trait known as “grit”—defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

(More on how to improve self-discipline here.)

6) Learning Is An Active Process

Baby Einstein and braintraining games don’t work.
In fact, there’s reason to believe they make kids dumber.

Via Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five:

The products didn’t work at all. They had no positive effect on the vocabularies of the target audience, infants 17-24 months. Some did actual harm. For every hour per day the children spent watching certain baby DVD’s and videos, the infants understood an average of six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them.

Real learning isn’t passive, it’s active.

What does Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code recommend? Stop merely reading and test yourself:

Our brains evolved to learn by doing things, not by hearing about them. This is one of the reasons that, for a lot of skills, it’s much better to spend about two thirds of your time testing yourself on it rather than absorbing it. There’s a rule of two thirds. If you want to, say, memorize a passage, it’s better to spend 30 percent of your time reading it, and the other 70 percent of your time testing yourself on that knowledge.

(More on how to teach your child to be a hard worker in school here.)

7) Treats Can Be A Good Thing — At The Right Time

Overall, it would be better if kids ate healthy all the time. Research shows eating makes a difference in children’s grades:

Everybody knows you should eat breakfast the day of a big test. High-carb, high-fiber, slow-digesting foods like oatmeal are best, research shows. But what you eat a week in advance matters, too. When 16 college students were tested on attention and thinking speed, then fed a five-day high-fat, low-carb diet heavy on meat, eggs, cheese and cream and tested again, their performance declined.

There are always exceptions. No kid eats healthy all the time. But the irony is that kids often get “bad” foods at the wrong time.
Research shows caffeine and sugar can be brain boosters:

Caffeine and glucose can have beneficial effects on cognitive performance… Since these areas have been related to the sustained attention and working memory processes, results would suggest that combined caffeine and glucose could increase the efficiency of the attentional system.

They’re also potent rewards kids love.

So if kids are going to occasionally eat candy and soda maybe it’s better to give it to them while they study then when they’re relaxing.

(More on the best way for kids to study here.)

8) Happy Kids = Successful Kids

Happier kids are more likely to turn into successful, accomplished adults.

Via Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents:

…happiness is a tremendous advantage in a world that emphasizes performance. On average, happy people are more successful than unhappy people at both work and love. They get better performance reviews, have more prestigious jobs, and earn higher salaries. They are more likely to get married, and once married, they are more satisfied with their marriage.

And what’s the first step in creating happier kids? Being a happy parent.

(More on how to raise happy kids here.)

9) Peer Group Matters

Your genetics and the genetics of your partner have a huge effect on your kids. But the way you raise your kids?
Not nearly as much.

Via Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference:

On things like measures of intellectual ability and certain aspects of personality, the biological children are fairly similar to their parents. For the adopted kids, however, the results are downright strange. Their scores have nothing whatsoever in common with their adoptive parents: these children are no more similar in their personality or intellectual skills to the people who raised them, fed them, clothed them, read to them, taught them, and loved them for sixteen years than they are to any two adults taken at random off the street.

So what does have an enormous affect on your children’s behavior? Their peer group.

We usually only talk about peer pressure when it’s a negative but more often than not, it’s a positive.

Living in a nice neighborhood, going to solid schools and making sure your children hang out with good kids can make a huge difference.

What’s the easiest way for a college student to improve their GPA? Pick a smart roommate.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

One study of Dartmouth College students by economist Bruce Sacerdote illustrates how powerful this influence is. He found that when students with low grade-point averages simply began rooming with higher-scoring students, their grade-point averages increased. These students, according to the researchers, “appeared to infect each other with good and bad study habits—such that a roommate with a high grade-point average would drag upward the G.P.A. of his lower-scoring roommate.”

(More on the how others affect your behavior without you realizing it here.)

10) Believe In Them

Believing your kid is smarter than average makes a difference.

When teachers were told certain kids were sharper, those kids did better — even though the kids were selected at random.

Via The Heart of Social Psychology: A Backstage View of a Passionate Science:

…Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) did the same study in a classroom, telling elementary school teachers that they had certain students in their class who were “academic spurters.” In fact, these students were selected at random. Absolutely nothing else was done by the researchers to single out these children. Yet by the end of the school year, 30 percent of the the children arbitrarily named as spurters had gained an average of 22 IQ points, and almost all had gained at least 10 IQ points.

Sum Up

  1. Music Lessons
  2. The Dumb Jock Is A Myth
  3. Don’t Read To Your Kids, Read With Them
  4. Sleep Deprivation Makes Kids Stupid
  5. IQ Isn’t Worth Much Without Self-Discipline
  6. Learning Is An Active Process
  7. Treats Can Be a Good Thing — At The Right Time
  8. Happy Kids = Successful Kids
  9. Peer Group Matters
  10. Believe In Them

One final note: Intelligence isn’t everything. Without ethics and empathy really smart people can be scary.

As P.J. O’Rourke once said:

Smart people don’t start many bar fights. But stupid people don’t build many hydrogen bombs.

So if you want to learn how to raise a happier kid go here and a more well-behaved kid go here.

I hope this helps your child be brilliant.

Related posts:
Good Parenting Skills: 7 Research-Backed Ways to Raise Kids Right
How To Have A Happy Family – 7 Tips Backed By Research
How To Raise Happy Kids – 10 Steps Backed By Science
This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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