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  • What humans and prairie voles have in common — a tendency to divide the world into Us and Them

    What humans and prairie voles have in common — a tendency to divide the world into Us and Them

    Sometimes, even the most inspirational among us share some disheartening traits with other animals. Humans have a remarkable capacity for empathy and compassion. We help strangers a continent away, donate anonymously, bequeath money to help people who will be born after our deaths. We can even...

  • Why on earth do we have Confederate statues in the U.S. Capitol?

    Why on earth do we have Confederate statues in the U.S. Capitol?

    The American Civil War sputtered to its brutal finish more than 150 years ago, with the United States battered but still united. Yet in some ways we’re still fighting it, or at least fighting over how we remember it. The latest front: Statues in the U.S. Capitol building provided by the states...

  • It's a life-or-death matter to run for president in Russia against Vladimir Putin

    It's a life-or-death matter to run for president in Russia against Vladimir Putin

    With the Russian presidential election coming next March, the political atmosphere for Kremlin critics has turned hostile, even downright dangerous. Earlier this month, Yulia Latynina, one of Russia’s most prominent journalists and a fierce detractor of Vladimir Putin, announced she had left Russia...

  • Free speech is a virtue. Spending millions to enable hatred isn't

    Free speech is a virtue. Spending millions to enable hatred isn't

    On Dec. 9, 1964, Mario Savio and the original Free Speech Movement claimed victory in Berkeley: “We’ve finally gotten into a position where we have to consider being responsible, because now we have the freedom within which to be responsible. And I’d like to say at this time, I’m confident that...

  • The Northgate secession movement, and what it means

    The Northgate secession movement, and what it means

    Leave your heart in San Francisco, if you’d like, but if you have children, you may well decide to take the rest of your corporeal self to one of the Bay Area’s suburbs, either east or south of the city. Many families elect to venture “through the tunnel” to Walnut Creek, Orinda and Moraga, the...

  • Politics are boring. Accept it

    Politics are boring. Accept it

    Before I started writing speeches for Barack Obama, his words had already changed my life. On the morning of January 3, 2008, I was a typical college senior, barely interested in politics. That night, I saw the long-shot presidential candidate address his supporters after winning the Iowa caucuses....

  • Life in prison? Interrogation without a lawyer? Kids aren't little adults. Stop treating them that way

    Life in prison? Interrogation without a lawyer? Kids aren't little adults. Stop treating them that way

    On a May morning in Riverside six years ago, 10-year-old Joseph H. pulled a Rossi .357 magnum revolver from his parents’ closet and shot his abusive, white supremacist neo-Nazi father to death. Police read Joseph his rights — to remain silent, to have an attorney present, and all the rest — and...

  • Repeal and replace is back, and scarier than ever

    Repeal and replace is back, and scarier than ever

    Like the villain in a slasher movie, Senate Republicans keep coming for the health insurance of tens of millions of Americans. After Sen. John McCain’s dramatic “no” vote seemed to finish off this year’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a proposal by two senators with mostly unearned...

  • Good riddance to California's 'mission project'

    Good riddance to California's 'mission project'

    Watch out, sugar industry. California’s schools are about to deal you a major blow. Not by teaching students about the terrible health problems caused by the overconsumption of your product. It would be nice to think so, but no. Rather, we’re talking about the impending death of the fourth-grade...

  • California's bullet train isn't just fast transit, it's a way to bridge the divide between rich and poor

    California's bullet train isn't just fast transit, it's a way to bridge the divide between rich and poor

    In the seesaw battle over California’s bullet train, it’s easy to overlook the reasons why the project should be built — and why there’s still a good chance that it will be. On the seesaw’s upside, construction for the train’s first phase, which will connect Silicon Valley and the Central Valley,...

  • Border agents want to search a traveler's laptop and phone? Get a warrant

    Border agents want to search a traveler's laptop and phone? Get a warrant

    American travelers returning to the United States probably understand that customs officials might search their luggage looking for contraband or weapons. But many would be shocked to learn that agents also have been inspecting the contents of smartphones and laptops, devices that can contain a...

  • Are Democratic and Republican healthcare proposals really equally 'extreme'?

    Are Democratic and Republican healthcare proposals really equally 'extreme'?

    Will the real moderate party please stand up? On the same day that socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced his “Medicare for All” healthcare plan, Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced a last ditch effort to sorta-kinda repeal and replace Obamacare. Despite...

  • The oil-drunk Trump administration needs to leave Alaska refuge alone

    The oil-drunk Trump administration needs to leave Alaska refuge alone

    The Trump administration thinks it would be a good idea to allow seismic testing in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to assess how much oil and gas might lie underground, a possible prelude to drilling in a pristine wilderness that provides a vital habitat for polar bears and a variety...

  • Don't expect the insurance industry to protect you from climate change

    Don't expect the insurance industry to protect you from climate change

    Banks and insurance experts are reporting that, with 2 ½ months to go, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is already one of the most expensive to date for the insurance industry. Here’s the weird part: Insurance companies are quietly happy about this. About the time that Hurricane Irma was making...

  • How to boost Cal State graduation rates without cheapening the degree

    How to boost Cal State graduation rates without cheapening the degree

    California State University officials vowed in 2014 to more than double the system’s four-year graduation rate by 2025, but their own policies for bringing students up to college-level speed were getting in the way. Students who were assigned through placement tests to remedial classes in English...

  • Now's the time to talk about flood insurance, and moral hazard

    Now's the time to talk about flood insurance, and moral hazard

    Q: What do you call a congressman who votes against emergency aid for hurricane victims? A: A “piece of … .” Sure, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce later apologized for that particular characterization of the libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who was one of just three members...

  • Are you too old to find work?

    Are you too old to find work?

    Terri had been laid off recently when her company decided to downsize, and she was having trouble finding a new job. “It’s all about adaptability, ability to learn new things and thrive with change, and being able to work in this dynamic, constantly changing environment with lots of opportunity...

  • Release Leslie Van Houten. If she hadn't been a Manson follower, she would have left prison long ago

    Release Leslie Van Houten. If she hadn't been a Manson follower, she would have left prison long ago

    As a young journalist in 1969, I was assigned to cover the highly sensational trial of the so-called Manson family. They were accused of the gruesome murders of, among others, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Almost 50 years after the killings here in Los Angeles, former Charles Manson follower Leslie...

  • Why the wiring of our brains makes it hard to stop climate change

    Why the wiring of our brains makes it hard to stop climate change

    Houston has barely begun to dry out from Hurricane Harvey, and Florida faces a massive rebuilding effort after the Irma catastrophe. These two storms, among the most powerful in American history, are typical of the extreme weather events that are likely to become more common as the planet warms....

  • Does Bernie Sanders' single-payer plan have a shot?

    Does Bernie Sanders' single-payer plan have a shot?

    Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan, unveiled last week, is an ambitious and (to many) enticing idea: a single, government-run health plan with generous benefits for everyone — just like most industrialized countries have enjoyed for decades. If only it were feasible in today’s United...

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