Changing the language in children’s books

Books by children’s author Roald Dahl are being revised to remove material that might be offensive to current generations of children.

Puffin has hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of the author’s text to make sure the books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”, resulting in extensive changes across Dahl’s work.

Edits have been made to descriptions of characters’ physical appearances. The word “fat” has been cut from every new edition of relevant books, while the word “ugly” has also been culled, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now described as “enormous”. In The Twits, Mrs Twit is no longer “ugly and beastly” but just “beastly”.

Hundreds of changes were made to the original text – and some passages not written by Dahl have been added. But the Roald Dahl Story Company said “it’s not unusual to review the language” during a new print run and any changes were “small and carefully considered”.

Gender-neutral terms have been added in places – where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompas were “small men”, they are now “small people”. The Cloud-Men in James and the Giant Peach have become Cloud-People.

Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company made the changes in conjunction with Inclusive Minds, which its spokesperson describes as “a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature”.

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The rehabilitation of psychedelic drugs

Back in the 60s and 70s, psychedelic drugs, notably LSD, had a mixed reputation. There were those who took them who claimed that it brought them vivid experiences and enlightenment and increased their creativity, and there were also horror stories of people doing all manner of crazy things, even killing themselves after taking them. The net image that remained from that era (in my mind at least) was that these drugs were too dangerous and one should avoid them at all costs.

But it turns out that because of the war-on-drugs mentality that tried to scare people off all drugs, some of the frightening stories about psychedelics were exaggerated or outright falsehoods and thus suppressed research into those drugs that might have given us a more balanced picture as well as possible positive uses of them.

On his latest episode of his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver looks at what we know now about the use of these drugs as therapies in treating patients.

This is not to say that those drugs should be taken recreationally. He points out that these drugs should only be taken as part of a carefully monitored therapeutic programs under controlled conditions.

Childfree people are slow to gain acceptance

A few days ago, I posted a clip from comedian Chelsea Handler, that week’s host of The Daily Show, about her choice to be childfree and the nasty responses she received when she told people this, and I expressed surprise that other people would think it was perfectly acceptable to pass judgment on someone’s personal life choices that did not affect them at all.

Handler is by no means an outlier. As this article points out, the numbers making this choice are increasing, along with the backlash. The article also says that we need to distinguish between the term ‘childfree’, which is meant to “capture the sense of freedom and lack of obligation felt by many of those who had voluntarily decided not to have kids” and ‘childless’ which is used for “adults who don’t currently have kids, but want them in the future, or adults who had hoped to have children, but were unable to”.
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Good luck with that!

The Republican National Committee is planning to propose that all candidates seeking the party’s presidential nomination must make a pledge that they will support the party’s eventual nominee if they want to participate in the primary debates..

Republican presidential candidates will be blocked from the debate stage this summer if they do not sign a pledge to support the GOP’s ultimate presidential nominee, according to draft language set to be adopted when the Republican National Committee meets next week.

The proposal sets up a potential clash with former President Donald Trump, who has raised the possibility of leaving the Republican Party and launching an independent candidacy if he does not win the GOP nomination outright. While RNC officials and Trump aides downplay that possibility, such a move could destroy the GOP’s White House aspirations in 2024 and raise existential questions about the party’s future.
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Yet another person creating a fake ethnic background

There seems to be a trend of white people creating different ethnic backgrounds for themselves in order to achieve and occupy positions that they might not have been able to otherwise. Alice Speri mentions two prominent recent cases.

There is a history of white people posing as persons of color or claiming ethnic backgrounds they do not have. In 2015, a national controversy erupted following the revelation that Rachel Dolezal, a white woman, had for years posed as Black before becoming president of an NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington. Others have claimed roots they don’t have; more recently, Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., falsely claimed Jewish descent, among a host of other lies.

Speri says that now there is another case that involves a white woman who passed herself off as a queer Muslim woman of color and rose to a senior position as a diversity officer in a progressive organization.
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Biphasic sleep

We have got used to thinking that a proper night’s sleep consists of somewhere between seven and nine hours at a stretch during the night. Hence people who get up in the middle of the night and find it hard to get back to sleep immediately may fret that they are insomniacs. But not that long ago, before the invention of street lights that allowed people in urban areas to go out and about long after sunset, people would go to sleep an hour or so after sunset, get up after a few hours and do other things, and then go back to sleep. Such a two-sleep pattern was called biphasic sleep.
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Can a woman ever win the US presidency?

Susan B. Glasser is a political analyst for the New Yorker magazine whom I have favorably linked to in the past. She has written a new piece with the title Is a Woman Ever Going to Win the White House? and expresses doubt.

The reasons for her pessimism lie in Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 and that Democratic party insiders feel that Kamala Harris, despite being the first female vice president, has not inspired enthusiasm within the party establishment as someone who could win the job in her own right in an election.

Harris, meanwhile, could become President at any moment, but the thrust of many conversations in Democratic politics these days is a persistent worry about her weakness as a potential candidate if Biden, willingly or otherwise, does not run again. A deeply reported take by Jonathan Martin in Politico on Thursday makes the point that high-level Democrats don’t want Biden to run again but are afraid of saying so because their greater fear is Harris becoming the 2024 nominee and not being able to win in the general election. A recent Times piece was even harsher, quoting dozens of Democrats as saying that “she had not risen to the challenge of proving herself as a future leader of the party, much less the country.”

“Biden is the guy that can beat Trump,” Joyce Beatty, a senior Black Democratic congresswoman, told Politico. The current President is the only politician, as his departing chief of staff, Ron Klain, reminded my colleague Evan Osnos the other day, who has ever beaten Donald Trump.

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Fox News personalities are craven liars, and other non-news

During the discovery process leading up to the trial where the Dominion voting company is suing Fox News for defamation, documents have been released from depositions showing that in internal communications, Fox News personalities knew from the get-go that the claims of election fraud that were being propagated by Donald Trump and his cronies were utterly bogus but they spread them anyway.

Hosts at Fox News privately ridiculed Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen while simultaneously peddling the same lies on air, according to court filings in a defamation lawsuit against the network.

Rightwing personalities Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are among those named in the $1.6bn action brought by Dominion Voting Systems, the seller of electronic voting hardware and software that is suing Fox News and parent company Fox Corporation for maligning its reputation.

“He’s acting like an insane person,” Hannity allegedly wrote of Trump in the weeks following the election as the host continued to push the so-called “big lie” during his top-rated prime time show, aided by a succession of election deniers he had on as guests.
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