Reinforcing the ‘ugly American’ stereotype abroad

There have been so many reports recently of people going on racist rants that, sadly, it has ceased to be a novelty worth mentioning and is becoming a routine fact of life. But then I came across this one about a United Airlines flight from Sydney to San Francisco that had to be diverted to Auckland because a passenger objected to being seated between two people of apparently South Asian ethnicity.
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TV Review: The new episode of Sherlock (no spoilers)

Series 4 of the BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman aired the first of its three episodes on PBS stations last Sunday and it will be available for streaming online until January 14. After getting rave reviews early on, the series creators have come in for considerable criticism for going over the top in their plot twists in later episodes, and its Christmas special that aired in January 2016 episode was heavily panned, including by me.
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The academic renter from hell

Those of us who work in academia tend to think of ourselves as the kind of people who subscribe to a certain standard of behavior. This makes us especially vulnerable to those in our midst who exploit that sense of camaraderie and trust. A University of California, Berkeley professor learned that lesson the hard way when, during her sabbatical in Paris, she rented out her home to a professor from another university who was spending some time in the Bay Area. Since he was a fellow academic, she did not bother to check his references or do any other kind of due diligence that she might have done for anyone else, and that was her mistake.
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Are you a real child of god or merely an adopted one?

From time to time I come across theological debates of the kind I used to concern myself with during the time when I was a religious believer. Usually these are familiar ones that recycle old controversies but last week I came across one that was new to me that was prompted by an evangelical preacher named Paula White, yet another proponent of the infamous ‘prosperity gospel’ that tells suckers believers that if they ‘plant a seed’, i.e., send the evangelist money, they will reap financial rewards. White has been invited to participate at Donald Trump’s inauguration and some other evangelicals are criticizing that move, accusing White of promoting heretical views.
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And the beat goes on …

The Washington Post seems to have decided to send its credibility into the dumpster by rushing into print with alarmist headlines any story that suggests that Russia is pretty much waging cyberwarfare on the US without bothering to do basic journalistic due diligence. The latest is a story that had the headline “Russians hackers penetrate U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, official say”, an alarming claim if it were true. (It has now added a disclaimer that undercuts its own story and even changed the headline to make it less scary.)
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Charlie Brooker reviews 2016

I am not a fan of year-end reviews but I will make an exception for Charlie Brooker’s annual sardonic take on events and how the media covers them. He is always entertaining even when I had not heard before of the news that he is commenting on. For those who think that TV in the US has become too lascivious, the clips he showed of some British reality shows are astounding. Those shows make US TV seem extremely prudish by comparison. One of them seems to be a version of these popular matchmaking shows in which the men are shown naked from the waist down and the woman picks the man by comparing their genitals.
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New investigation of government whistleblower retaliation

One of the most shameful episodes of the Obama administration has been the way that they have treated whistleblowers. Chelsea Manning has been severely and inhumanely punished and even tortured for her courageous act in 2010 of releasing the infamous Collateral Murder video that showed US troops in a gunship cheerfully murdering Iraqis that were walking the streets and then attacking a vehicle containing children that came to their rescue. Edward Snowden has been targeted for his courageous release of documents that showed that the US and its allies have been systematically spying on people all over the world. And of course, Julian Assange and WIkiLeaks have been targeted because of their role in releasing the Manning video and other documents. Those who are hoping for Obama to pardon Manning and Snowden expect too much from someone who has shown a massively vindictive streak when it comes to punishing those who dare to show that he and the US government are not driven by noble motives but act cruelly and illegally as it suits them.
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How the mainstream media also propagates fake news

Did you hear the news where recently Julian Assange of WikiLeaks had sharply criticized Hillary Clinton while praising Donald Trump, also saying that Russia had freedom of the press and that was why WikiLeaks has not been releasing documents that revealed secrets of that country, and that Assange had a long and close relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin? This has been all over the mainstream media news and was largely based on an article published on December 24th in the Guardian newspaper, a paper that I read and link to regularly
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