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Will Squid Soon Rule the Oceans?

By | December 13, 2017

The future is full of tentacles.
Even now, both giant and colossal squid writhe throughout the deep, while hooked and flying squid migrate from sea to sea in swirling swarms. Otherworldly glass squid and jewel squid proliferate in the open ocean. And market and common squid blanket shorelines with their egg capsules and their own dying bodies.
Then, of course, there are the octopuses: giant and pygmy, …

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Why Americans Insist on Putting a Price Tag on Life

By | December 12, 2017

Everything, as they say in America, has its price. It has been found that a lack of sleep costs the American economy $411 billion a year and stress another $300 billion. Countless other studies have calculated the annual cost of pain ($560 million), heart disease ($309 billion), cancer ($243 billion), and diabetes ($188 billion). Surf the web at work sometimes? That costs the American people …

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When Alaskan and Russian Native People Thawed the Cold War’s ‘Ice Curtain’

By | December 8, 2017

As the Russian city of Provideniya’s deteriorating concrete buildings came into view below, Darlene Pungowiyi Orr felt uneasy. So did the other 81 passengers landing in that isolated far-eastern Soviet outpost in 1988.
They were aboard the first American commercial jet to land there since the United States and USSR had imposed a Cold War “Ice Curtain” across the Bering Sea some 40 years earlier. Orr, …

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Why Poor Americans Are So Patriotic

By | December 6, 2017

Why do the worst-off American citizens love their country so much?
Patriotism may be defined as a belief in the greatness, if not superiority, of one’s country relative to others. Depending on how one defines the term exactly, somewhere between 85 to 90% of America’s poor are “patriotic.” They would rather be citizens of their country, for instance, than of any other country on Earth, and …

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Treason Isn’t Just a Crime—It’s a Sin of the Heart

By | December 5, 2017

If you’re looking to nail someone for treason these days, don’t talk to a lawyer. The answer you’ll get will be short and likely disappointing: It’s hard to convict someone of treason and chances are the actions you’re describing won’t qualify for the charge. But if what you’re really trying to express is an emotional response, you’re better off turning to 14th-century Italian literature, not …

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Hiking Wisconsin With ‘Ghosts’ of the Ice Age

By | December 1, 2017

In “Marshland Elegy,” an essay in A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold described a dawn wind slowly rolling a bank of fog across a Wisconsin marsh. “Like the white ghost of a glacier,” he wrote, “the mists advance, riding over phalanxes of tamaracks, sliding across bog-meadows heavy with dew.” It’s a haunting image that enthralls me each time I read the essay. Even if you’re …

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Forget Fake News. Social Media Is Making Democracy Less Democratic.

By | November 29, 2017

Anxieties that new communications technologies and media formats would undermine democratic citizenship go back more than a century. In the late 19th century, critics worried about sensationalistic “yellow journalism”; a cartoon from that era even used the phrase “fake news. And indeed the newly cheap mass newspapers—in reckless disregard of facts—helped push the United States into war with Spain in 1898.
A generation later, …

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Why the Planet Should Fear North Korean Nuclear Testing

By | November 28, 2017

Fishermen in Japan peer wearily into the skies, fearful of the North Korean foreign minister’s recent warning that Pyongyang may conduct an atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific. Earlier this fall, sirens and “J-alerts” sent to millions of cell phones terrified Japanese citizens as two North Korean ballistic missile tests flew over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.
The North Korean threat to launch another …

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I’m Counting My Family’s Thanksgiving Blessings. My Neighbors Aren’t All So Fortunate

By | November 22, 2017

In November, 2013, Shanice Joseph wrote an essay for Zócalo about how her financially challenged family was preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving. This year we asked her for an update, and she obliged.
With the holidays approaching I thought that I couldn’t be any happier. Over the past four years everything has been going great. My family and friends are happy and healthy. I made supervisor at …

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Want to Take My Civics Class? Get Ready to Squirm

By | November 17, 2017

In many conversations, the topic of civics education comes with its own halo. The conventional wisdom is that it’s good, clean medicine, and if our children just get enough of its inoculation, the American body politic will be healthy enough to survive another generation.
But after nearly two decades as a middle-school and high-school history teacher, I’ve come to understand through teaching civics—and studying how it’s …