40 Strangers, 50 Questions

I am usually not a big fan of those contrived situations that are meant to make people more sensitive or empathetic by revealing something about themselves. But I found this exercise by the creators of Brave New Films, where they invited 40 strangers into a large room and posed 50 questions, was rather well done in showing how we all share so many similar life experiences that transcend the distancing that occurs when we pigeonhole others into boxes based on their appearance.
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Hindu chauvinist vigilantism in India

Teesta Setulvadi writes about the Hindu vigilante mobs who are unleashing violence against mostly Muslims and but also Christians as part of their goal of trying to create a Hindu state in what is still an officially secular country. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has a history of Hindu chauvinism and remained silent about these atrocious acts until a sudden spate of public protests forced him to issue a somewhat grudging condemnation of the latest killing of a young Muslim man by so-called cow-protection vigilantes for the ‘crime’ of allegedly carrying some beef. Cows are considered sacred by Hindus.
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Punishing young people for doing stupid things

Young people have always done stupid things and will continue do so. Take the tragic case of this young couple where a young man died after asking his partner to shoot him the chest. He had been holding a thick book up in front of him in the belief that it would shield him from the bullet. Why did he take such a stupid risk? Because the couple wanted to “increase their social media following” on YouTube and become famous.
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The background to Susanna Reid’s epic put down of Smarmy Piers Morgan

Pretty much everyone must have seen the clip of the way that Smarmy Piers Morgan (I believe that is his full name) was hilariously put down by his TV co-host Susanna Reid, and the expression on his face as it slowly dawned on him that he was having his own words turned on him by his co-presenters. The clip has been rocketing around on Twitter and blogs, a sure sign of how everyone hates Morgan and are delighted at the opportunity to laugh at him. But there is some background to it.
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We would all be better off without Facebook

Being an old geezer, I don’t use Facebook even though I have an account. But I have been seeing increasing reports of how it has become a pernicious influence, not merely because it encourages the waste of time. Facebook has become a haven for the spreading of false information and generating hate and divisiveness. And what makes it worse is that Facebook is not neutral when it comes to monitoring hate speech and taking steps to combat it.
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South African court bars schools from promoting any one religion

Last month I wrote about a legal challenge brought by a of South African secularist group OGOD (Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie that translates as Organisation for Religious Education and Democracy) challenging the practice of many public schools that promoted Christianity, thus subverting the neutral official religious instruction policy as outlined in the government’s National Policy on Religion and Education. They took aim at six schools that were accused of promoting Christianity and suppressing the teaching of evolution.
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What is it with the Ten Commandments?

Yesterday, a 6,000 pound monument to the Ten Commandments was installed on the grounds of the Arkansas state capital building. Then that very night, someone drove into the monument and destroyed it. The driver has been arrested and it is not clear what his motives were. Maybe he was trying to emulate Moses who also smashed up the tablets on which the commandments were written (Exodus 32:19). Not many people recall that bit of the story.
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The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster

The novelist E. M. Forster (1879-1970) wrote books such as A Passage to India, Howard’s End, and A Room With a View that deal with life in Victorian England and its empire, casting a wry look at the mores of the British bourgeoisie, the kind of material that is ideal fodder for Merchant-Ivory films. He is not known as a science fiction writer and so I was surprised to learn that in 1909 he wrote a futuristic short story with the title The Machine Stops that is available online.
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