The case of the kidnapped and missing student

Perhaps because of my memories of being a new graduate student in the US, my attention was drawn to the strange and sad case of a Chinese student Yingying Zhang, who came to the US for graduate studies in April and disappeared soon after on June 9. What is puzzling is that footage from street security cameras show her waiting at a bus stop and then getting into a car that stopped for her. The car’s owner has since been identified as being until recently a promising physics graduate student and he has been taken into custody.
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People who write in library books

As part of the research for my book, I have borrowed a huge number of books from my university library. Many of them are decades old, sometimes going back over a century, and some are quite rare. I am sincerely grateful that my library is stocked with them and that the library staff is so helpful and thus make my life easier. So I get infuriated when I find that people have scribbled all over some books, such as underlining sections and inserting comments and exclamations and other editorializing in the margins. Some have done it in pencil that can in principle be erased, though the extent of scribbles can be daunting. Others have done it in ink.
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The destruction of Libya

Marcus Ranum looks at the chaos that the US has unleashed in Libya as a result of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s ‘liberal interventionist’ strategy. This is an old strategy that involves asserting US military power to overthrow leaders whom the US no longer finds useful for its purposes but dressed up in the guise of trying to save the people from a despot. But once the leader is overthrown, the US walks away and the media treats the resulting situation as if it were the working out of local factors and not as a consequence of US actions.

The net result is that people who at one point lived in a modern functioning society suddenly find themselves in utter misery and despair. We now see Libya as the source of many refuges fleeing the devastation with some of them seeking revenge through groups like ISIS at those who did this to them, and the country itself the source of weaponry throughout the region.

Getting angry over driving trifles

This video below shows what can happen when two drivers both try to enter a Taco Bell drive-through line at the same time and then each refuses to yield to the other, ending up blocking the line for everyone and the police having to be called in. The video was taken by a driver who was stuck behind as the people in the two contesting cars demanded that the other back down, and the videographer could not believe that this standoff was over Taco Bell food.

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Great moments in nepotism

At one of the G20 meetings currently going on in Hamburg, Germany that dealt with the important question of how to improve the conditions in some African countries in order to stem the tide of refugees fleeing awful conditions, who do you think represented the US among the other 19 heads of state and sat between Germany’s president Angela Merkel and China’s president Xi Jinping? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, or National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, all of whom are present as part of the US delegation?
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The ethics of laboratory grown meat

I was interested in this article and video clip of attempts to make meat in the laboratory. This technology has been talked about for some time and is advancing. They are already able to make chicken, beef, and pork. They do this by using stem cells to grow the protein in the labs. I have no idea how it compares with regular meat in terms of taste and texture. The video below explains the process by which it happens and the advantages.
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The doorway effect

We’ve all experienced what the cartoon character has just gone through. You decide to do something the next time you go into a room where that task has to be done and then as soon as you get there, you forget what it was that you wanted to do. Sometimes you know that you have forgotten something but can’t recall what it is, at other times you don’t even realize that you have forgotten until much later, when you are doing something else.
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Hobby Lobby and the stolen Iraq artifacts

The crafts company Hobby Lobby has been fined $3 million and asked to return over 5,000 stolen artifacts to Iraq. The name of the company may be familiar to some because they were behind a victorious lawsuit that went all the way to the US Supreme Court because they argued that the religious beliefs of the owners of the company should allow them to not provide contraceptive coverage in the employees’ health insurance policies. Yes, the family that owns the company consists of religious zealots.
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Background to the tensions over North Korea

Donald Trump seems intent on making childish belligerent noises over North Korea and this is concerning because bellicose rhetoric (such as considering doing some “very severe things”) has the effect of raising the stakes and expectations. This can create its own dynamic and lead to Trump doing something rash because to not take action after talking tough would make him (at least in his own eyes and those of his supporters) look weak, and for such weak-minded people that is something to be avoided at all costs.
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