I’m a Believer

This song, written by Neil Diamond and performed by The Monkees was their best one, I thought. It is the ideal song, at least the title phrase, for those occasions when one is cheering for one’s preferred team, especially when it is the underdog and fighting back. I don’t go to any sporting events so don’t know if it is actually used for that purpose.
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Looks like Sri Lanka picked a bad day to play sports …

The same day that Sri Lanka received a thumping at the hands of South Africa in the World Cup cricket tournament, they also suffered a shock defeat to Bhutan in a qualifying game for the 2018 football World Cup. Bhutan is ranked as the worst of 209 teams in FIFA and needless to say they are thrilled at winning the two games 1-0 and 2-1.
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The lead-violent crime connection and Kevin Drum

Kevin Drum has done some excellent writing about the case for a causal relationship between the amount of lead in our environment and violent crime, bringing to greater public awareness research done by Rick Nevin and others. I wrote about his article for Mother Jones on this topic last year and he now has a follow-up article looking at more research by Nevin, a leading proponent of the lead-violent crime linkage, that extends that argument to rural areas, saying that rural crime skyrocketed in the late 1800s because lead paint wasn’t readily available before 1880.
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When the new normal is better than the old normal

Recently my daughter told me that her friend from high school, whom I also know and happens to be the daughter of a colleague, had got married and was pregnant. She is in a same-sex marriage. Another colleague of mine, also in a same-sex marriage, just had a baby too. What struck me was how ordinary this news seemed to me. Just a decade ago, same-sex couples getting married and giving birth to children would have been big news. Now I find myself responding pretty much the way I would to news of an opposite-sex marriage and pregnancy of people I know, happy for the couple, wishing them well, and then moving on to other things.
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We’re really #1!

American exceptionalists are always claiming that the US is the greatest nation in the world and the best at practically anything that matters. Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not see it in the same way and marvel at how deficient we are in areas like health care, social and economic mobility, infrastructure, public services, and other quality of life measures.
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Who is the mysterious Egg Man? And how does he do it?

There is a very strange news story emerging from a Cleveland suburb near where I live. Since March 2014, someone has been throwing eggs at the front of a house occupied by an 85-year old man. This was not some isolated random prank by a child or a by a disgruntled trick-or-treater who decided to get their revenge long after Halloween. This has been a sustained attack of more than 100 eggs. These eggs were projectiles launched from a distance and hitting the house with remarkable accuracy.
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The ‘world’s greatest democracy’ is not quite

Politicians in the US are proud of boasting that it is the world’s greatest democracy. That is part of the routine pandering that the public has come to expect, along with being the sole possessor of many civic and even personal virtues. But according to this year’s Electoral Integrity Project report, when it comes to electoral integrity, a measure of whether “polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption, and flawed registers”, surely one of the most basic elements of a democracy, the US ranks a lowly 45th among the 127 nations it surveyed in 2014.
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2015 World Cup update #18: The path to the championship

The preliminary rounds are over and the matchups for the quarterfinals are now set. This is a knockout process in which anything can happen, where a spectacular performance by a single player or a lucky break or a fielding lapse can change the situation dramatically. As I said before, I am terrible at predicting cricket outcomes but that does not prevent me from keeping on doing so, so here are my picks for the rest of the tournament.
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The double standard is now standard

The lawyers for Stephen Kim, who is serving a 13-month jail term for talking to a reporter about a classified matter that was considered minor, are asking the Department of Justice to immediately release him from jail, saying that the plea deal they made with David Petraeus reveals a “profound double standard”. Peter Maass at The Intercept has the details.
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