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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Conan O’Brien visits a cigar factory in Cuba

One of the good things about the loosening of travel restrictions to Cuba is that more and more people from the US will get to mingle with the Cuban population and find out what the people there are really like and rid themselves of absurd misconceptions about them.

In this clip, Conan O’Brien visits one of the factories where they produce their world-famous cigars entirely by hand to see how they do it and to try his hand at making one. Note the expressions of the woman in the beige dress on his right.
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An ‘open letter’ from Iran to the Republicans

The letter sent by 47 US senators to Iran continues to send shock waves through the political establishment. The White House has gleefully listed many US newspaper editorial boards that have roundly condemned it. About 250,000 people have signed a petition calling for the prosecution of the senators for treason. Even Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei has slammed the letter as showing the ‘disintegration’ of US politics.
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How to cover breaking news

Conan O’Brien has a zany sense of humor and on a recent visit to Cuba he tried to figure out if he had what it takes to work at CNN during what news networks love to refer to as a ‘breaking news event’ where the host has to spend a lot of time on camera and maintain interest in the audience even though little has happened since the first event and hardly anything newsworthy is occurring.
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The fallout from the Republican letter to Iran

The fallout continues from the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to the leaders of Iran, condescendingly explaining the US system of governance to them and explaining why they should not trust any deal they arrive at with the US government. Not only has the letter produced an angry response from the Obama administration, it was also a grossly inaccurate oversimplification of the US president’s power to negotiate agreements with other nations.
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The other King of the Jews

The Daily Show had fun with Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that he speaks for all Jews and the rapturous reception he got from the US Congress, saying “It was the State of the Union speech the Republicans wanted delivered by the leader they wished they had.” He also highlighted all the previous times that Netanyahu has cried wolf about Iran’s nuclear threat.
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The hyperpatriotism trap

Bill Maher had a good segment on the deep strain of jingosim in America that demands that one should never say anything negative about its past or present actions. The problem with such a stance should be obvious. If you think that your country can do no wrong and has never done anything wrong, then you are going to continue doing those wrong things. Politicians of the major parties relentlessly pander to this way of thinking, making it worse. Obama panders a lot too but not enough for some people because he has the audacity to say that maybe not everything was always great.
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How the government treats whistleblowers

The Daily Show looks at how governments treat whistleblowers, starting with the case of the UK-based megabank HSBC where a whistleblower accused his employer of helping its clients avoid taxes in their home countries. Of course the people who take advantage of these kinds of sophisticated tax avoidance schemes are the very wealthy and well-connected and includes the HSBC chief so you can guess how they were punished, and what happened to the person who revealed it.
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