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Apr 11 2014

The growing mess in Ukraine

Once the US and western powers accepted that it was ok for the elected government of Ukraine to be overthrown by unrest (either spontaneous or secretly instigated by the US) caused ostensibly by what were essentially policy differences over whether the county should move closer to the west or Russia, things that are normally decided by elections, it seems that it has now become the norm in that country for people in various parts of it to take things into their own hands.
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Apr 11 2014

Information in torture report starts to leak out

The White House and the CIA are still resisting calls to release even the 500-page Executive Summary and conclusions of the 6,300 page Senate torture report. It appears that while the full report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the US government’s torture practices has not been leaked (as yet anyway) elements of what it contains are coming out.
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Apr 11 2014

Greenwald and Poitras enter the US

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras entered the US today. They are here to receive their Polk Awards for National Security Reporting at an event to be held today in New York City.
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Apr 11 2014

How good are experts at discriminating?

Jonah Lehrer, the writer for the New Yorker who lost his job when it was discovered that he was recycling content and manufacturing quotes, had an interesting article before his disgrace where he discussed how hard it was for people, when subjected to double-blind tests, to discriminate between wines, not being able to tell the difference between high-priced reputedly quality wines with much cheaper varieties. There have been studies that show that when subjected to blindfold testing, even people who are considered expert wine tasters cannot even tell the difference between red and white wine, let alone the fine distinctions such as year, vineyard, grape type, etc. between different grades of wine
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Apr 11 2014

The effect of the internet on the decline of religion

I have been saying for some time that the internet is a real danger to religion. A new paper by Allen B. Downey of the Olin School of Engineering argues that what I had merely guessed at might be generally true. By controlling for other variables such as religious upbringing and education, the author finds that “Internet use decreases the chance of religious affiliation. Increases in Internet use since 1990, from 0 to nearly 80% of the general population, account for about 20% of the observed decrease in affiliation.” (p. 10)
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Apr 11 2014

Friendly scam artists

Everyone is (or should be) familiar with the infamous Nigerian 419 scam in which people write to you saying that there is this enormous fortune that needs to be taken out of some country and that if you are willing to assist, you will get a share of the proceeds. Everyone has received them would have noticed how poorly written these appeals are but as I explained earlier, that crudity is deliberate because the appeals have to be such as to not elicit a response from people who are likely to discover that it is bogus before they have parted with any money. Those people are a waste of the scammers’ time. The scammers want to only get responses from the really na├»ve.
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Apr 10 2014

The Daily Show on Noah

Jon Stewart looks the reactions of Christians to the new film.
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Apr 10 2014

They are not ‘bug splats’

The drone operators who remotely order the missiles that blow up people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and who knows where else the US is killing people refer to the victims of their airstrikes as ‘bug splats’, presumably because of the resemblance of the images they receive after the strike to what one sees on the wind shields of cars. This is part of the general dehumanizing that is adopted when you are killing people in cold blood from a distance.
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Apr 10 2014

Stephen Colbert to leave Comedy Central

The rumors that Stephen Colbert would replace David Letterman as host of the latter’s Late Show late-night talk show on CBS when Letterman retires in 2015 turn out to be true. Clearly CBS is hoping that Colbert will bring along with him the younger demographic that he attracts to compensate for the older viewers such shows have.
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Apr 10 2014

Skepticism about Bible increases

The American Bible Society does regular State of the Bible survey and it finds that there is increasing skepticism about it, with younger people as usual leading the way. The ‘Millennials’ they describe are those in the age cohort 18-29.
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