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Apr 20 2014

I just can’t stand it

If the endless “Will she? Won’t she?” speculations about Hillary Clinton running for the presidency in 2016 were not bad enough, we now have the ‘big news’ that her daughter Chelsea Clinton is pregnant. I saw it on news headlines of practically all the news sites that I visit and it received some comment on many blogs as well.
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Apr 20 2014

What can happen to torturers

Unless one has been subjected to torture oneself, it is impossible to get an accurate sense of what it must be like to be subjected to it, which is why one can dismiss out of hand the excuses given by torture apologists that it is little more than fraternity hazing, although that is bad enough. Torture is evil and those who committed it, provided the authorization for it, and gave the orders for it should all be prosecuted.
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Apr 20 2014

Can you spot the missing myth?

Today is Easter Sunday, the day when Christians around the world celebrate the anniversary of Jesus returning to life as a rabbit and distributing chocolate eggs to all his followers. From reader Norm, I received link to this article by a geneticist Victoria Metcalf about whether the story of the Easter Bunny is harmful to children.
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Apr 19 2014

Why are there so few women and minorities in science?

While on a panel, Neil deGrasse Tyson gives an excellent answer to the question of whether there are any genetic reasons as to why there are so few women in science. (Thanks to reader John for the link.)
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Apr 19 2014

A step backward for Cleveland

I have recently been praising the city Cleveland for taking a progressive attitude towards LGBT rights. They are even hosting the 2014 Gay Games to be held August 9-16. But some Muslim can drivers have given the city a black eye by walking off their jobs because they refuse to drive taxis that carry ads for the games.
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Apr 19 2014

Some excellent news out of India

India has been in the news recently, and not always in a good way. We have had the cases of brutal rapes of women that have shed an unflattering light on social mores and the law enforcement system that seemed to treat these as less than the horrible crimes they are. It is hoped that the uproar that these rapes generated may lead to broad reforms.
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Apr 18 2014

What is New Yorker humor?

Bob Mankoff is the long-time cartoon editor of the New Yorker magazine, notorious for the quirky and sometime inscrutable nature of its humor. In this TED talk, he tries to explain what kind of cartoon he thinks fits within the framework of that magazine. Analyzing humor and what makes people laugh is a decidedly difficult proposition but it is a little easier to do with cartoons and Mankoff gives a highly entertaining effort.
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Apr 18 2014

Vanity Fair article about Edward Snowden

The latest issue of the magazine has a profile of the famous whistleblower that traces his life history and his evolution from a hesitant and tentative participant in online forums for computer enthusiasts to an assured, self-confident, sometimes cocky, and even abrasive personality. It is behind a paywall but one of the authors was interviewed at length on Fresh Air and it made for good listening and the interview and the transcript can be found here.
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Apr 18 2014

When religious tradition collides with modernity

In many traditional cultures, marriages are arranged by the parents, often using matchmakers. Reader Tim sent along this link about a dating service in Israel aimed at ultra-Orthodox Jews that circumvents the traditional matchmaker’s role for those cases in which the young person does not fit the desired profile and is seen as a ‘difficult’ case, though the things that cause the problems are those that the rest of us might see as desirable qualities.
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Apr 18 2014

How fossil fuels formed

When I was quite young, someone told me that all the fuel that exists in the form of oil and coal came from long dead dinosaurs. What amazes me is that I never questioned this preposterous piece of information for a long time. I think the fact that they were referred to as ‘fossil fuels’ confirmed in my mind that dead animals were the source and dinosaurs, being the largest dead animals, seemed to fit the bill.
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