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Weekend Reads 5/25/19

How a 15th Century Book on Witchcraft Helps Make Sense of Trump’s Bizarre Baby Execution Story

The first fully developed medieval “blood libel” story is that of William of Norwich, a young boy whose mutilated body was found by the townspeople of Norwich in 1144 and whose murder was attributed to the local Jewish community by a fanatical Dominican monk. Soon though, stories of “blood libel” became divorced from even the most rudimentary burden of proof or narrative complexity. “BloodlLibel” became simply common knowledge; it was “what Jews do,” just as surely as witches steal penises and sacrifice babies to Satan. Just as in Trump’s world, American women wrap newborn babies beautifully, rock them briefly, and then cruelly execute them.

A sad raven bums out its friends

Ravens that had just observed their friend happily eyeing an expected treat did, in fact, behave optimistically, giving the mystery box a quick peck (this seemed to be their default behavior). But when they had just watched their friend scratch in frustration at the disgusting concept of a carrot, they pessimistically waited a couple of seconds. Some readers may appreciate the fact that the pessimistic guess was also the correct one, as the mystery box never contained a treat.

Climate crisis more politically polarizing than abortion for U.S. voters, study finds

The two major parties in U.S. politics experienced a major split over climate breakdown a decade ago, when the Tea Party helped drive a rightward shift among Republicans and candidates started to routinely dismiss mainstream science, aided by fossil fuel-funded groups that aimed to spread misinformation.

This scenario has helped scupper any sweeping federal action on climate breakdown, although some Republicans are now modifying their position in the face of growing public concern over dire scientific warnings and a string of punishing wildfires, storms, and flooding.

Decades Of Research About Depression Could Be Wrong

Using data on over 620,000 individuals, the biggest study of its kind concluded that 18 candidate genes for depression actually have little to no role in the development of depression. Reporting in last month’s issue of The American Journal Of Psychiatry, the study authors call on the scientific community to abandon the "candidate gene hypotheses” for depression.

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