Semenya Case Shows Complex Ethics of Fairness in Sport

Caster Semenya, the 18-year-old track-and-field phenomenon from South Africa, is a woman whose hormonal chemistry is unusual for the average adult female. Test results are reported to show that her body naturally secretes three times the normal female levels of testosterone, the dominant “male” hormone, which some competitors say gives her an “unfair advantage”.

The issue has raised perhaps the most serious challenge to the notion of fairness in sport, and to conventional attitudes about gender. For instance, should Semenya be weaker than she is, if she were “fully” female? Is that idea in itself not demeaning to women? Is there even a specific provision in international sporting regulations that requires women to be notably weaker than or slower than men?

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Internet Access Must Be a Human Right

Access to the internet must be a basic human right, across the globe, for a number of reasons. First of all, legitimate, transparent democratic processes of government require in today’s world that information flow freely and that citizens be empowered to share information and to find information, according to their choices and their needs.

Socio-economic barriers to such free flow of information are just another kind of information control that establishes dangerous demographic stratification into privileged and marginalized groups. Governments across the world are using web filtering technologies to censor the information available to their citizens and crack down on dissent.

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The Radical Naïveté of Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is trying to reinvent, or rehabilitate, himself. And he’s doing it by trying to whip up reflexive anger across his party’s base. Without citing one single point of Pres. Obama’s policy or one single piece of historical evidence, he has classed Obama’s call for a world free of nuclear weapons as “a dangerous fantasy”. He is situating himself firmly in the camp of make-believe “values conservatives” whose world view is actually an adolescent reading of Machiavelli (and a fantasy already proven to be dangerous).

Values, if those who camp along this stretch of the ideological spectrum have any allegiance to them, must always come after and be subsumed by a regime of dark and cynical manipulations. To what end? To prove that one is dark and cynical enough to be feared. This is the adolescent part of their understanding of Machiavelli — whose philosophy we will not treat in detail here. They claim to know how to be better than the brutes, thugs and villains, by imitating them.

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Against the Good Nukes / Bad Nukes Fallacy, or: David Frum’s Prophecy Problem

David Frum likes to think he knows what he’s talking about, but here’s the main reason he so often does not: he tends to link ideological assumptions with cynical bad-faith arguments about geo-politics. He mixes willing naïveté with the radical pretense of cynical omniscience. Frum would have us commit to the dangerous gamble that is selective non-proliferation, because he can’t think a better way.

When David Frum writes about why the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons is not only “impossible” but also “dangerous”, he does so with two major obstacles to credibility: 1. he is arguing for the policies of an administration in which he served; 2. he is arguing that he can prove a negative (claiming to know what will never come to pass, what can never be expected from comprehensive global negotiations, the development of surveillance and inspections technologies, the enticements of a truly global regime of denuclearization).

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Unrelenting Soft Power: the Secret to Obama’s Poised Leadership

Lead by example. It’s a simple idea, and one that tends to be fully realized only by those who are most able. You lead by demonstrating the best qualities, because you are able to — 1. because you have them; 2. because you are in a position to do so; 3. because you are confident both of your ability to embody these qualities and of the qualities themselves, their virtue and their efficacy.

Soft power works, because one is able to use the social force of virtue —rooted in actual qualities and demonstrable value to those concerned— and because one shows proof of being closer to shared goals than the other party, leading the other party to follow one’s lead.

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Electronic Medical Records Could Help Find Cures, Speed Progress, Cut Costs

Electronic medical records (EMR), like health insurance, benefit from being spread over the widest pool possible. A system that aggregates and cross-references data from hundreds of millions of patients can find statistical evidence far more efficiently than today’s statistical modeling for health problems and solution improvement.

Allowing for non-identified EMR sharing across the system creates a universal pool of data in which drug side-effects, treatment failure or success rates, disease history, specific organ damage or healing, and all sorts of incidence of drug interactions and health specifics can be cross-referenced, spurring a massive amount of data-rooted research and improving quality of care and treatment success rates.

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How to Solve Healthcare: Focus on Coverage, Cost & Cure

We don’t have a good answer for how to solve healthcare in America. Let’s start there. Every interest group sees the problem differently, depending on immediate interests, learned perceptions, or advertised distortions. But the fact is, every interest group has some overlap with others, and there is a lot of common ground to be had, if we put ideology aside and try to focus on the problem itself.

The problem is severe enough that neary 50 million people are without healthcare coverage, and another many millions are underinsured, not guaranteed to have necessary treatments covered, for one reason or another. Some blame malpractice insurance costs, some blame pharmaceutical drug costs, some blame malpractice lawsuits, some blame greedy insurers, greedy doctors, or stingy public-funding programs. And they are all right. But the one group that is not ripping anyone off and that has no interest in costs continuing to escalate, is the average patient.

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‘Caramel’ in the Context of Cultural Understanding

The lush, emotional fabric of Nadine Labaki’s Caramel consistently hints at how our common humanity is nested in the strains and particulars of the everyday. Seen by some as not culturally expansive enough, not ‘Arabic’ enough, for not dealing directly with traditional cultural motifs or broader political problems, the film’s intimate approach to the humanity of its characters is itself a vital comment on the nature of the human experience.

Caramel is a film about women and about Lebanon, but it is not strictly or exclusively that; there is something that goes more directly to the core of what makes any of us what we are. Longing, and the problem of how to reach out for what makes us feel, without betraying our surroundings or ourselves, is central to the story Labaki tells in Caramel.

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‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is a Story About Us All

The thing about ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is that it is not specifically about life in the slums or about millionaires, nor is it about India or gameshows or making Bollywood into a new western movie genre. It’s about something much deeper, more universal, something that transcends class, caste or culture, and has everything to do with what weight one’s basic humanity has in this massified, globalized world of glitz and information.

The key question the film asks is: what do we know and how do we know it? Is culture organized to reinforce deeply unjust divisions and exclusions, to strip certain individuals of the opportunity to access the knowledge that makes a successful, secure life truly possible? Do such exclusions mask their own deficiencies, by depending as much on the upkeep of personal bias and deliberate exclusion as they do on discounting the value of certain unfortunate fellow human beings?

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