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The Program that Stops Gun Homicides

Today I am mostly going to link to a piece and and quote the specific parts that stand out. It’s good enough to stand on its own, and worth reading in full. In any case, it’s an article in The New Republic, and you can find it here. Now, excerpts: Many people viewed inner-city shootings as an intractable problem. But for two years, McBride had been spreading awareness about Ceasefire, a nearly two-decades-old strategy that had upended how police departments dealt with gang violence Under Ceasefire, police teamed up with community leaders to identify the young men most at risk of shooting someone or being shot, talked to them directly about the risks they faced, offered them support, and promised a tough crackdown on the groups that continued shooting In Boston, the city that developed Ceasefire, the average monthly number of youth homicides dropped by 63 percent in the two years after it was launched.

Regarding the Sanders Data Breach

Although it happened a few days ago and has already reached a sort of resolution, the data breach publicized late last week in which staffers for Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders accessed confidential voter data for Hillary Clinton’s campaign has suffered from some dishonest, erroneous, and just plain bad reporting. The best source I’ve found that gives a solid rundown is from Bloomberg: The database logs created by NGP VAN show that four accounts associated with the Sanders team took advantage of the Wednesday morning breach.

The Myth of America's Broken Education System

Education reform is not a new topic in American discourse. The No Child Left Behind Act–perhaps the most extensive education reform carried out in the US in the past half century–was passed in 2001. Fourteen years later, its results are mixed, to say the least. But what if there was nothing to reform in the first place? What if the “education crisis” is another resilient, yet false, construct? The common scapegoats for the perceived failures of our education system are administrators, teachers’ unions, uninvolved parents, and government meddling.

The Hidden Influences

Recently, I took part in a discussion that, among other things, delved into the extent to which influences one doesn’t care about (and are thus ignorant of) ultimately affect the indifferent individual. In truth, many things influence us, especially forces we don’t care about enough to examine seriously. This is a famous scene from The Devil Wears Prada that, believe it or not, helps illustrate the point perfectly: [embed][/embed] In this scene, Anne Hathaway’s character is dismissive toward Meryl Streep’s character, who is attempting to choose from two superficially identical belts in order to complete an outfit.

How Much do Politicians Lie, Anyway?

It’s another Presidential (primary) election season in the US, which means it’s time to trot out the old saw that all politicians lie. Politicians are not unique in this, obviously, but politicians tend to be characterized as much more profligate in this respect. Fortunately, to some extent we can quantify just how much lying is going on. Do some lie more than others? According to the New York Times, very much so:

Climate Change: Good News from Paris?

The 21st Climate Conference, also known as COP21, was just held in Paris. It is the most important international climate change agreement made at least since 1997’s Kyoto Protocol. But is it good news, or bad? Among environmentalists, there is disagreement as to whether the accord coming out of Paris represents a positive outcome: The major mainstream U.S. green groups are singing the Paris Agreement’s praises. Take the Sierra Club. “President Obama’s leadership in getting the world to this landmark agreement, a turning point for humanity, will go down in the annals of history,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

Do a Quarter of American Muslims Support Terrorism?

Some conservatives have been rabidly citing the hot statistic that 25% of American Muslims support terrorism. Where did this come from, and is it actually true? It’s the result of a poll commissioned by the Center for Security Policy, which has spun it as an alarming revelation. But what do the poll and its results actually say? Fortunately, they were nice enough to share the questions, results, and methodology, so we can learn quite a bit from how it was conducted.

Is Donald Trump a Fascist?

Is Donald Trump a Fascist? The question of whether Donald Trump can be called a fascist is becoming increasingly common in public discourse. The rebuttal is usually that Trump cannot be a fascist because he is just a clown who does not have a coherent ideology. The problem with this is: The lack of a coherent ideology is one of the main features of Fascism. Fascism, unlike National Socialism, did not even try to become a coherent ideology.

Faking Discussion

Recently, I found myself in a restaurant having breakfast, and Fox News was on the TV. It was muted, but the closed captions were on so I could follow what was being said. I didn’t give it my full attention–why bother?–but what I saw was enough to make me think about what was being done. This was in the aftermath of last week’s terrorist shooting in San Bernardino. ISIS and Islamic terrorism were the topics.

The Problem with New Atheism

The number of Americans who consider themselves non-religious is about 7%, accounting for both atheists and agnostics. This is a not a trivial number: it amounts to about 22 million people. Most American atheists and agnostics are not politically active on the basis of their lack of religious belief. Nevertheless, there are political and social movements consisting of atheists organized against religion–most commonly, these days, against Islam. Guys like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens characterize the thought leaders of these movements, sometimes referred to as New Atheism or the Skeptics’ Movement.