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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Telling it like it is: opening up about my vulnerability

It was quite a shock for me when the independent psychiatrist asked me during my forced stay in the mental hospital what I thought of my diagnosis “schizophrenia”. It was the first time I heard my diagnosis. For the rest of our conversation the diagnosis “schizophrenia” echoed in my head. I associated “schizophrenia” with: being […]

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Monthly gleanings for September 2019

Some more finger work: in the posts for September 25 and October 2, 2019, the etymology of the word finger was discussed. Some comments on the first one require further notice.

Final -r. I deliberately stayed away from the origin of -r in fingr-, though I did mention the problem.

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The journalist who created Jack the Ripper

Many of us know the name Jack the Ripper. Perhaps we associate it with a dark shadow wearing a top hat and holding a knife in the middle of a foggy street in Victorian London. But not many of us know that this image is very far away from any reliable fact that has reached us about the 1888 tragic events that took place in Whitechapel.

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Natural disasters make people more religious

Philosophers once predicted that religion would die out as societies modernize. This has not happened. Today, more than four out of every five people on Earth believe in God. Religion seems to be serving a purpose that modernization does not replace. New research finds that people become more religious when hit by natural disasters. They are more likely […]

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The moral mathematics of letting people die

Imagine that, while walking along a pier, you see two strangers drowning in the sea. Lo and behold, you can easily save them both by throwing them the two life preservers located immediately in front of you. Since you can’t swim and no one else is around, there is no other way these folks will […]

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The underrated value of stargazing

When did you last look up at the night sky? Before the advent of streetlights, paying attention to the heavens above us would have been an everyday part of existence, as commonplace as noticing the weather. Now, as many of us hurry from brightly lit office buildings to the cosy lights of home, few remember […]

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What American literature can teach us about human rights

The arrival of a new child destroys a household’s ordinary sense of time. At least, it did for us. When our first son was born last fall, two leading scholars had just published books that each, in their own way, describe how contemporary US fiction has been shaped by the dramatic rise of human rights in global politics since the 1970s.

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Feeling fingers, part 2

Finger seems to be a transparent word, but this transparency is an illusion, for what is fing- (assuming that we understand what -er is)? Our story began last week (see the post for September 25, 2019), and I attempted to show that one of the two best-known etymologies of finger, namely, from the numeral five, is “less than fully convincing” (a common academic euphemism for “nearly unacceptable”).

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Banking regulation after Brexit

It is a truism that Brexit will have a significant impact on banks and the wider financial services industry. The loss of passports by UK firms has received some attention from the non-specialist media, and is relatively well-understood. However, the loss of passports, significant as it is, is just one of many issues. Others have received no or little coverage outside the industry. In this blog, we will touch upon some of them.

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How Congress surrenders its constitutional responsibilities

If there is a single overriding narrative about the current Congress, the institution America’s founders considered the first and most important branch of government, it is that partisan warfare has rendered it almost impossible for Republicans and Democrats to agree on anything, and especially on any question of significance.

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How to talk to your political opponents

Imagine that you are having a heated political argument with a member of the “other” party over what the government should or should not do on various issues. You and your debate partner argue about what should be done about immigrants who want to come into the country. You argue about what should be done about the never-ending mass murder of people in schools, places of worship, and entertainment venues by killers using assault weapons. You argue about what should be done to improve employment and to improve the healthcare system.

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The trouble with disease awareness campaigns

In October, pink ribbons promoting breast cancer awareness decorate everything from sneakers to buckets of fried chicken. In addition to breast cancer, October is simultaneously ADHD Awareness Month, AIDS Awareness Month, Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Rett Syndrome Awareness Month, and Selective Mutism Awareness Month. Campaigns to raise awareness about diseases have been a major feature […]

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