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Ally

A Swarm of Controversy: In Their Struggle for Survival Against Killer Mites, Bees Get an Unlikely Ally: Monsanto by Hannah Nordhaus.

“Make a fist,” says Jerry Hayes, waving his own in the air.

“Now put it someplace on you.” About 150 people, the audience at a honeybee panel at the 2014 South by Southwest Eco conference, place their fists on their shoulders or collarbones. “Proportionally, this is how large a varroa mite is compared to a honeybee’s body,” Hayes says. The reddish-brown parasite, just a dot to the naked eye, drains the life out of bees and delivers a deadly cargo of viruses. “It would be like having a parasitic rat on you, sucking your blood.”

Under a microscope, a varroa mite is a monster: armored and hairy, with eight legs and one piercing, sucking mouthpart, primordial in its horror. Since the parasite arrived in the United States from Asia in 1987, the practice of tending bees has grown immeasurably harder. Beekeepers must use harsh chemicals in their hives to kill the mites or risk losing most of their bees within two to three years. About a third of the nation’s honeybees have died each winter over the past decade, and Hayes, an apiary scientist, believes the varroa mite is a major factor in this catastrophe.

Hayes’ audience, however, believes something else. SXSW Eco is a conference for environmentalists, and these attendees are not inclined to blame the honeybee’s problems on an obscure arthropod. They’d rather blame Hayes. That’s because Hayes works for Monsanto, the St. Louis-based agricultural behemoth that environmentalists love to hate

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Trend

Why America’s ‘Nones’ Left Religion Behind by Michael Lipka.

Perhaps the most striking trend in American religion in recent years has been the growing percentage of adults who do not identify with a religious group. And the vast majority of these religious “nones” (78%) say they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood.

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Restoring

Restoring the Political-Moral Center by Shimon Cowen and Arthur Goldberg.

Until the second half of the twentieth century, the major parties of the left and the right in the United States and in other advanced Western democracies operated within a framework of shared basic moral values. These universal ethical values—which predate, but were authoritatively reiterated at, Mount Sinai over 3000 years ago—constitute the common root and the enduring shared values of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They are known as the “Noahide Laws,” the moral covenant established by G-d with Noah for the renewal of civilization after the Flood. They were practiced and transmitted by Abraham until they were reaffirmed at Sinai as the eternal and universal legacy of humanity.

As laws of a Divine covenant, they found deep resonance in natural law traditions from Cicero to the American Declaration of Independence with its reference to, and reliance upon, “Divine Providence.” Indeed, an Act of the US Congress in 1991, on a bipartisan basis, recognized how these “ethical values and principles . . . upon which our great nation was founded . . . have become the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws.” (In the same legislation, they warned that “without these ethical values and principles the edifice of civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos.”) With this deep, shared tradition underlying Western society in general and American society in particular, any laws contradicting its fundamental moral principles would have been almost unimaginable until recent times.

In recent decades, however, a new secular, hedonistic, materialistic worldview has emerged, which is supported by elites within our judicial system, media, and educational institutions. It has achieved significant success in pulling the major political parties away from the moral center of traditional universal values that were based on the Seven Laws of Noah. But this now “politically correct” mentality has produced a serious disconnect between our political establishments and ordinary citizens, many of whom experience with unease the dissolution of traditional values, family, and community. These citizens seek a return to more traditional universal moral values in order to produce just and cohesive societies, to protect spiritual and political freedoms for all citizens, and to anchor our political-moral center.

Today, we face the ultimate choice between these two opposing worldviews—the traditional spiritually embedded worldview that has anchored our society and the secular hedonistic materialistic worldview that has unmoored it. A serious battle over the direction of our culture and politics is underway. It may look at times as if defeat were inevitable for the worldview that relies on tradition, faith, and family values. However—aside from the religious conviction that only good is inevitable—there are signs that the end result will be a reconfiguration of politics that will ultimately correct the moral drift of our major political parties, and encourage a similar, broader trend to restore the traditional moral center of politics in other parts of the world.

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Irrationality

The Neuroscience Behind Bad Decisions by Emily Singer.

Irrationality may be a consequence of the brain’s ravenous energy needs.

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Ethnoburb

Ghosts of White People Past: Witnessing White Flight From an Asian Ethnoburb by Anjali Enjeti.

If diversity is so important to liberal whites, why do they keep fleeing ethnically diverse suburbia?

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Revisiting

Revisiting “Moneyball” with Paul DePodesta by Kevin Berger.

Shattering preconceptions about players isn’t all about the numbers.

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Coddling

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.

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Dating

Hello Goodbye by Ruth Graham.

The author of a best-selling abstinence manifesto is reconsidering the lessons he taught to millions.

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Hard

It’s Hard to Go to Church by Emma Green.

The standard narrative of American religious decline goes something like this: A few hundred years ago, European and American intellectuals began doubting the validity of God as an explanatory mechanism for natural life. As science became a more widely accepted method for investigating and understanding the physical world, religion became a less viable way of thinking—not just about medicine and mechanics, but also culture and politics and economics and every other sphere of public life. As the United States became more secular, people slowly began drifting away from faith.

Of course, this tale is not just reductive—it’s arguably inaccurate, in that it seems to capture neither the reasons nor the reality behind contemporary American belief. For one thing, the U.S. is still overwhelmingly religious, despite years of predictions about religion’s demise. A significant number of people who don’t identify with any particular faith group still say they believe in God, and roughly 40 percent pray daily or weekly. While there have been changes in this kind of private belief and practice, the most significant shift has been in the way people publicly practice their faith: Americans, and particularly young Americans, are less likely to attend services or identify with a religious group than they have at any time in recent memory.

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Cage

The World Wide Cage by Nicholas Carr.

Technology promised to set us free. Instead it has trained us to withdraw from the world into distraction and dependency.

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Role Model

How Israel Became a Role Model in Fighting Terrorism by Nathalie Hamou.

In the wake of last month’s tragedy in Nice, just like after the attacks in Paris on November 13th, the same solution was put forward for France: “the Israeli model,” where the terrorist threat is part of daily life.

In Tel Aviv, military experts invited on television sets appeared to be modest, avoiding any kind of reference to an “Israeli anti-terrorist model.” The Jewish state, whose people have been through seven wars and two intifadas since its creation, has become a textbook case for how to handle a permanent state of insecurity. This expertise could be a source of inspiration for European decision-makers.

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Apocalypse

The Coming Free Speech Apocalypse by Daniel Payne.

There is a good chance American enemies of American free speech will shortly mount a sustained and successful effort to drastically reduce American speech freedoms.

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Arms Race

The Adultery Arms Race by Michelle Cottle.

Technology has made cheating on your spouse, or catching a cheater, easier than ever. How digital tools are aiding the unfaithful and the untrusting—and may be mending some broken marriages.

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Intellectualism

Francis Schaeffer and Christian Intellectualism by Jake Meador.

In his recent essay on Christian intellectualism (see link here), Alan Jacobs dates the high point of the public Christian intellectual in America as being in the late 1940s. Citing the influence of thinkers like CS Lewis, WH Auden, and Reinhold Niebuhr, Jacobs argues that the movement began to fade in the 1950s and, by the 1960s, was largely a spent force. By that time Lewis, Auden, and Niebuhr were no longer as relevant in contemporary debates and the next generation had not yet emerged. By the time that generation of leaders did, Jacobs argues, the culture had moved past them and they had become more conversant in the intramural discussions happening in conservative religious circles rather than the broader cultural conversation.

As a general overview of the era, that seems reasonable enough. That said, the conclusions Jacobs comes to seem a bit incomplete. So what follows is not necessarily an attempt to refute what Jacobs is doing in his piece, but is, rather, an attempt to highlight some complicating factors in hopes of getting Jacobs to say a bit more. (Or to perhaps address the question in his forthcoming book which seems to be closely related to the issues he raises in his essay.)

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Temporary?

California’s Temporarily Temporary Tax by Larry Sand.

A state tax increase, due to expire in 2018, might live on.

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Boom

The Twin Boom by Laura Spinney.

The proportion of twins in the population has waxed and waned in human history. For the first time we understand why.

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Bad

How Bad Prosecutors Cause Bad Policing by Taylor Pendergrass.

What responsibility do district attorneys have for fixing broken policing practices that lead to tragic and infuriating deaths like those of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling? “Prosecute bad cops,” goes the refrain. But top prosecutors bear far more responsibility for police misconduct than prosecuting officers who abuse, injure, or kill community members. The decision to indict is only the final step in a prosecutorial process that tilts in cops’ favor in many little ways that are largely beyond public view. Without greater scrutiny of their day-to-day practices, prosecutors will continue to enable police abuse. Indictments and prosecutions of cops—if and when they happen—always come after the fact and tend to reflect a purely punitive approach to harmful behavior that criminal justice reformers appropriately decry in other contexts. It’s time for a new approach.

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Relativistic

Why Liberals Don’t Want Immigrants To Embrace ‘American Values’ by David Harsanyi.

American idealism has become so relativistic, we probably couldn’t agree on what it is anymore.

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Averted

Religious Liberty Crisis Averted in California by Darren Patrick Guerra and Andrew T. Walker.

The war is far from over, but a recent battle in California shows that pluralism, religious liberty, and traditional values can be defended where there is a will to mobilize and resist.

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Monetary Suicide

Japan’s Slow-Motion Fiscal and Monetary Suicide by Daniel J. Mitchell.

Remember Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, the 1993 comedy classic about a weatherman who experiences the same day over and over again?

Well, the same thing is happening in Japan. But instead of a person waking up and reliving the same day, we get politicians pursuing the same failed Keynesian stimulus policies over and over again.

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