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Sacrifice in the Name of Sport

On July 25, The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study on the correlation between a distinctive brain damage (chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE) and playing football professionally. The study included 202 brains of individuals who played football at some point in life, 111 of which were of former NFL players. They found that only one of the professional football players didn’t have CTE.

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Do Harvard’s Final Clubs Undermine Equality and Inclusion?

A recently released report from a Harvard panel of faculty members recommended that Harvard adopt an outright ban on student participation in unrecognized social clubs such as “Final Clubs,” fraternities, and sororities. These organizations have not had official recognition from Harvard since 1984, when such formal recognition was rescinded because these social clubs refused to end membership policies discriminating on the basis of gender. In May 2016, Harvard decided to penalize anyone who joins these single-gender social clubs by banning student members from “holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They will also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.” The report from the faculty panel takes the May 2016 policy to its natural conclusion: an outright ban.

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What Can be Done about Human Trafficking?

On July 23, 10 people were found dead in the bed of a swelteringly hot tractor-trailer found in a WalMart parking lot in San Antonio, Texas. Authorities found 39 people in the vehicle, but had reason to believe that there had at one time been as many as 100 in the small space.  All of the individuals appeared to be suffering from heatstroke, and many will likely have related injuries and other health problems from which they will suffer for the rest of their lives.  It appears that the individuals involved were undocumented immigrants, seeking to gain access into the country illegally.

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Finding New Language to Reimagine Disability

Back in 1994, Sarah Dunant published a collection of essays titled The War of Words: The Political Correctness Debate, and it was met with a great deal of media coverage. A large portion of the country had been moved by a sensitivity to language that could offend or contribute to an undesirable power schema, and this sensitivity had been met with scorn or doubt by another large portion of the country, often along party lines.

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The Dangers of Ethical Fading in the Workplace

Suppose your boss asks you to fudge certain numbers on a business report on the same week the company is conducting layoffs. Is this an ethical dilemma, a financial dilemma, or seeing as it will affect your family, a social dilemma? Likely, all three are true, and more layers exist beneath the surface. Are you in debt from taking a luxurious vacation? Do you have children in college? Are you hoping to get a promotion soon? Research shows that navigating through these many layers makes it increasingly difficult to see the ethical dilemma. This describes “ethical fading,” the process by which individuals are unable to see the ethical dimensions of a situation due to overriding factors.

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Taking Stock of Solitary Confinement’s Mental Toll

In prisons throughout the United States, a total of somewhere around 80,000 prisoners are isolated from human contact for 22 to 24 hours a day. These prisoners are kept in very small cells—spaces of roughly 80 square feet.  In the cell is a bed, a toilet, and very little else.  Prisoners in solitary are fed three meals a day and are often allowed outside every day for an hour, with no contact with other prisoners.  The practice, commonly known as “solitary confinement” has come to be known by a number of euphemisms, including “restrictive housing” and “segregation.”

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Who Should Decide Charlie Gard’s Fate?

Charlie Gard is an 11-month-old boy suffering from an inherited and terminal mitochondrial disease. He cannot move his arms and legs or breathe unaided. At the time of writing, Charlie was still in intensive care at a UK hospital. Charlie’s parents decided that Charlie should be brought to the United States to receive an experimental treatment that may help alleviate his condition. However, the doctors at the UK hospital decided that the experimental treatment would not likely improve Charlie’s quality of life. Since the parents and the doctors disagreed on what would be in Charlie’s best interests, the courts got involved.  The UK legal system has so far ruled that receiving the experimental treatment would not be in Charlie’s best interest, and Charlie should be removed from life-sustaining treatment to receive palliative care; the legal process is still in process concerning Charlie’s ultimate fate.

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Privilege, Punishment and Cultural Relativism: The Case of Otto Warmbier

Even after his passing, Otto Warmbier continues to make headlines. Over 17 months ago, Warmbier, an American college student, was detained while attempting to leave North Korea after a trip with Young Pioneer Tours. According to The Daily Beast, Warmbier was accused and found guilty of stealing a propaganda sign from his hotel, and was sentenced to remain in the country for 15 years of hard labor. A few weeks ago, Warmbier was returned home under mysterious circumstances and in a comatose state, before eventually dying.

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The Costs of a World Without Fossil Fuel-Powered Cars

On July 4, car giant Volvo announced its plan to suspend all production of non-electric or hybrid cars by the year 2019. This means that Volvo will not produce any new diesel or gasoline-powered cars in only two years. In reaction to this announcement, France’s new cabinet released an ambitious plan to ban all diesel and petroleum-fueled car sales by 2040. Though France is not the only country to take this approach to clean energy transition, regulating the sale of petroleum-fueled cars is still very rare. France’s ecology minister stated that the new standard was “a way to fight against air pollution.” Though this move is being applauded by many environmentalists, is the French government’s regulation of petroleum fueled cars really better for the environment? And how will this new regulation influence socioeconomic inequality?

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Ryke Geerd Hamer and the Dangers of Positive Thinking

Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer died on July 2. It was hardly noticed in English language media. This is not surprising as, indeed, he was an obscure person. But, unfortunately, his legacy lives on, and the harm he has caused far outweighs the media attention that he has been given (Spanish and German newspapers have dedicated more attention to his death). Continue reading “Ryke Geerd Hamer and the Dangers of Positive Thinking”

South Sudan’s Famine and the Moral Relevance of Distance

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics, recently declared that certain area of South Sudan are no longer in famine, but “but almost two million people are [still] on the brink of starvation.” According to an April 4, 2017 BBC article, the famine in South Sudan started in February 2017, during which 100,000 people faced starvation. This was reportedly the first time in six years that a famine had been declared in any part of the world. The main reason for the South Sudan famine is the current violence precipitated by political disagreements between the president and vice president of the country. The president fired the vice president in July 2013, who he later accused of wanting to take power, and forces loyal to both sides escalated the political dispute into armed conflict.

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Manslaughter by Text Message

In 2014, Conrad Roy III, an eighteen-year-old resident of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, committed suicide. Roy placed a generator inside the cab of his pickup truck to facilitate the production and inhalation of a lethal amount of carbon monoxide.

In recent months, Roy had expressed to friends and family that he was in a low place mentally.  He shared details about his psychological state with his girlfriend, Michelle Carter.  In a series of text messages and Facebook correspondence over the course of a few weeks, Carter encouraged Roy to end his own life. “I thought you wanted to do this,” she told him, “The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it! You can’t keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did last time and not think about it and just do it babe. You can’t keep doing this every day.” When he expressed reservations about going through with it, Carter insisted, “You’re just making it harder on yourself by pushing it off, you just have to do it.”  

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The Church, the State, and a Missouri Playground

In one of the final rulings before the Supreme Court’s summer recess, the court found that it was unconstitutional to deny civil funds to a Missouri church on the basis that it was a religious institution. Trinity Lutheran Church applied for a grant that would re-surface its playground with recycled tires, creating a safer rubber surface for its preschool children to play on. Forty-four non-profit organizations applied for the grants, and the church’s application ranked fourth among them, but it was denied the grant on the grounds that it was a religious institution and thereby is an ineligible beneficiary of these public benefits.

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