Privacy and its American Context

Our world − saturated by social media and artificial intelligence − has become increasingly public. Ever more willing to share intimate details, Americans young and old post very private, sometimes damning, information online with little regard for consequences. Partly as a result, both the government and private companies have access to unprecedented amounts of information that is compiled into databases and readily available to those willing to pay subscription fees. Given the sheer pervasiveness of technology and data collection, we ought to have an intensive national dialogue on an appropriate legislative response. Before that debate happens, however, we must have a firm theoretical understanding of what exactly we mean by “privacy.”

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The Future of Syria in the Wake of U.S. Withdrawal

The United States has had a long, varied approach to the crisis in Syria. Red lines have been drawn and ignored, missile strikes became commonplace, troops entered the region. Now it appears that we are leaving Syria. Contradictions and failed promises marked our time there. But even with the country’s chaotic recent past, it is unwise for the U.S. to leave Syria under Russian influence and the leadership of Bashar al-Assad.  

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Trump’s Last Gasp for a Wall


On December 22, the government underwent what turned out to be a 35-day shutdown, the longest in American history. At the center of the problem was a dispute over funding for a border wall. Eager to keep his promises in the 2016 primaries, and doubtful that the incoming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives would support his goals, President Trump insisted that Congress include $5.7 billion in funding for a wall in the new spending bill. Democrats refused to grant any money for the project and Trump refused to sign any bill without such funds, leading to a stalemate. Although a stopgap bill passed on January 25 reopened the government for three weeks, it merely bought time for negotiations and did nothing to resolve the fundamental impasse. With a new shutdown looming, Congress crafted a new compromise bill that would keep the government open, grant $1.3 billion for fencing on the border, and limit the number of people the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) can detain. Although he was reluctant to support legislation that gave him only a fraction of what he wanted, Trump ultimately decided, last Thursday, that he would sign the bill. Simultaneously, he revealed his intent to declare a national emergency so he could try to use his executive powers in order to build the wall.

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An Unappetizing Argument for Meatless Mondays

In the two weeks since Meatless Mondays started, there has been a smorgasbord of arguments for and against: It was an executive decision that in no way represents student preferences. But it can really help to reduce the campus’s environmental footprint. Meat is an important part of a healthy diet. No, meat increases your risk of chronic diseases. Supporting small, local livestock farms is a good thing. But animals have rights too. And so on and so forth. Here is an unappealing argument that is rarely offered: perhaps we don’t even have a right to eat meat.

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The Juul Epidemic

The electronic cigarette company Juul Labs states its mission as seeking to “improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes.” Unlike cigarettes, their products have not yet been shown to cause cancer, yet they still contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Even though the company markets a healthier alternative for adult smokers, the most troubling usage is in a much younger demographic. According to the Food and Drug Administration and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five high schoolers vaped in September 2018, a 78 percent increase from 2017. Shortly after these warnings, Juul Labs announced that it would suspend the sales of most flavored pods (for smoking e-cigarettes) in more than 90,000 retail stores in the United States except for mint, menthol, and tobacco.

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Jefferson and Buffon: Men of Science

Thomas Jefferson and the Comte de Buffon had fundamentally different understandings of the natural world, a discord that stemmed from Buffon’s “individualism,” that is, what Jefferson saw as a hesitancy to categorically classify species. Such an epistemology,  Jefferson argued, threatened to return the scientific community to the days of Aristotle and Pliny. It would undo the order that modern science had worked so diligently to instill in our understanding of the natural world. A belief in the importance of such an order was crucial to Jefferson’s very character. A man of science, he devoted much of his life to discovery, categorization, and systemization.

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