World Cup update #9: Afghanistan registers historic and thrilling win

Afghanistan beat Scotland in a low-scoring but thrilling game yesterday to register its first World Cup win. Scotland batted first and once again its batsmen failed to put up a decent score. They scored 210 all out in their 50 overs, better than their previous outings of 142 and 184 but nowhere near the score that would give their bowlers some room. Afghanistan got off to a decent start with 42/0 but a middle order collapse saw them reeling at 97/7 before Samiullah Shenwari stabilized the innings and almost single-handedly took them to 192 before getting out for 96 and leaving them tantalizingly close at 192/9. So they still needed 19 runs to win off 19 balls with only one wicket left. But Shapoor Zadran, who had earlier shone as a bowler, saw them safely through with just three balls to spare
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Black sites in Chicago

The disgraceful and criminal torture practices of the US government have not aroused as much anger and disgust here as they should have. People seem to find reasons to excuse them, using various arguments depending on their political views. The excuses range from the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario that actually justifies torture to regretful expressions that because the people being tortured were ‘captured on the battlefield’ there exists the possibility that they may be guilty. These are arguments whose absurdity I will not even bother to refute. All these excuses have at their root the feeling that torture is being used only on other people, foreigners, and Muslims, people who are ‘not like us’. The rest of us are safe.
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Doc Martin and English country life

I lived in England as a young boy a long time ago and my memories are faint. But I lived entirely in London so my knowledge of what life is like in a small English village is non-existent. So I was interested in what the British TV show Doc Martin showed about life there. I have watched the complete six seasons of the series so far and quite enjoyed it, as my earlier review indicated.
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The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics

Those who have read about quantum mechanics have heard about the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) proposed by Hugh Everett in 1957. It is an idea seems unbelievable when one first hears of it because it implies the existence of many, a huge number in fact, of unobservable worlds that exist in parallel to our own but of which we are unaware. One needs to get over the initial feeling of incredulity before one can judge it properly on its merits.
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On electing judges

One of the things that shocked me when I first came to the US was the practice of electing judges. While I can understand that appointing judges can lead to insider cronyism, it should be possible to find a way to ensure that competent and reasonably impartial people can be found to serve as judges without putting them through the inherently corrupting process of raising money for elections and then pandering to low-information voters.
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Being obsessed about what happened to Malaysian flight MH370

The story of the plane that mysteriously disappeared last March and was never found has gone from the news pages, consigned to be one of those stories that we will never find the truth about. While this story captivated many people around the world for a while, most people have gone on to other things.

But not all.

There is still a small group of people who are painstakingly going over the most minute bits of information, trying to figure out the truth.
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Trouble at First Look Media

The new media group First Look Media formed by former eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar that hired a group of first-rate independent-minded journalists like Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Laura Poitras, Dan Froomkin, and Pater Mass has run into trouble, with charges of extremely poor behavior by upper management being made by departed staffers. The original plan was to create a set of digital magazines serving diverse needs and I had great hopes for this venture as providing a much needed alternative to the government-corporate friendly establishment media.
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Why English spelling is so quirky

Thanks to reader Jeff, I became aware of this interesting article in The Atlantic by Luba Vangelova that tries to explain why English spelling is so quirky compared to other languages, making it a nightmare to learn, and resulting in children in English-speaking nations trailing those in other countries when it comes to literacy.

Why is English so different?
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Snowden documentary wins Oscar

Laura Poitras won an Academy Award yesterday for her documentary Citizenfour about Edward Snowden that I reviewed favorably. In this photo from the awards ceremony last night, we see the three winners: producer Dirk Wilutzky (far left), Poitras next to him, and editor Mathilde Bonnefoy (far right). Glenn Greenwald and Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills (who now lives with him in Moscow most of the time) joined them on the stage
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