Why memories are unreliable

We all know that our memories are unreliable. We forget things that happened and we ‘remember’ things that didn’t. Recent events have put back in the spotlight the issue of false memories. I have written about my own experience with false memories. The fact that people can spontaneously create false memories or have them implanted by others have in the past led to the kinds of miscarriages of justice that occurred during the epidemic of reported abuse in day care centers a few decades ago.
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John Oliver takes on the tobacco companies

Tobacco companies are clearly in the running for the title of the most evil, lying, despicable companies on Earth, relentlessly marketing a product that when used as intended causes disease and death. Last Week Tonight takes on the issue of how tobacco companies are targeting people in other countries as the anti-smoking campaigns in the US cut into their profits here. In the process, he shows how news can be investigative, informative, and hard-hitting and yet interesting and worth watching.
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A bizarre way to die

We know that America has an enduring love affair with guns that has been manifested in recent times with the introduction of laws that enable people to carry guns on their persons almost everywhere they go, either openly or concealed. With men, this is relatively easy to do, since they have pockets and wear loose-fitting pants and jackets that can conceal a weapon without any telltale bulges.
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Sometimes the best thing is to do nothing

Critics of America’s interference in other countries by invading, bombing, and killing, and fomenting coups that overthrow their governments and create general chaos are often asked what the US should do instead. The US government always says that it is doing whatever it does for humanitarian reasons but history has shown that that is merely the excuse given to make the interference palatable to the public.
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And on to the next great intervention!

Glenn Greenwald points out that Libya is a classic example of something that happens over and over again: War hawks drum up some case for attacking some country, the ‘humanitarian interventionists’ gleefully sign on to the war effort and condemn those who think that the wars are wrong, there is great gloating among the war hawks when the invaded country’s leaders are toppled at the beginning of the war and a ridiculing of the war’s opponents, and then silence as things go badly awry, leaving the situation worse than before
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What the success of American Sniper says about America

I have not seen, and do not plan to see, this film about a real life sniper Chris Kyle who apparently has the deadliest kill record in US military history. While some critics say that Clint Eastwood’s film portrays war in a complex way, it may have been too nuanced because the public seems to have reacted to it with jingoistic pride at the way that Kyle gunned people down in the war in Iraq, making it a huge success at the box office. The fact that Eastwood put the word ‘American’ in the title seemed to me that he was saying that Kyle somehow represented America and this undoubtedly would have colored people’s perceptions to think of this film as an exercise in patriotism.
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Update on Alabama same-sex marriage issue

The stakes just got raised in the legal tussle between state probate judges in Alabama who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and a federal district judge Callie Granade who had ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Granade has now directly ordered the probate judge Don Davis in the town of Mobile to issue licenses to same-sex couples. (You can read her ruling here.)
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The ‘mystery guest’ at my conference hotel

I am at present attending a conference held at a hotel in San Francisco. A day before my arrival, the organizers sent all the registrants an email saying that a “high profile” guest would be staying at the hotel for two days right in the middle of the conference and that there would be enhanced security due to that. All the doors except the main one would be closed and people would have to enter and exit through only the front doors and be subjected to security checks.
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