"Mass Standards 005" by National Institute of Standards and Technology is licensed under CC0 Public domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

To establish a standard of physical measurement — the meter, the newton, the kilogram — is to establish the possibility of objective answers to questions such as, “Am I allowed to carry my luggage on,” “How much will I have to work to cram my overstuffed suitcase into the overhead bin,” and “Is my luggage allowed in the cargo hold?” But what about the standards themselves? Is there, say, an objective answer to the question, “Is it good to use this definition of the kilogram?”

"Car Seat Safety Check" by Brittany Barker is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Moody Air Force Base)

Every year, an average of 37 children die from heatstroke as a result of having been trapped in hot vehicles. Statistically, most of these children are under the age of three. These very young children lack either the ability or the knowledge to operate car door handles or to unlock doors. Many of them die in a desperate attempt to escape from the vehicle.  This year, deaths due to children stuck in hot cars reached an all-time high for this point in the year, according to a CNN report, with 29 deaths reported so far.

"Nicolas Maduro" by Hugoshi is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Is Venezuela a dictatorship? The words democracy and dictatorship should be defined on a continuum. But, it should by now be clear that Venezuela is closer to the latter than to the former. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro clinched power in a contested election in 2013. He promised a recount on national TV, but only hours later, he retracted. Ever since, he has claimed American imperialism is the real power standing behind opposition forces in Venezuela.

"Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House" by Pete Souza is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

For the moment, Republicans are setting aside their seven-year effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  A slew of bills failed in the Senate, and now President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress plan on turning to tax reform.  But doubtless, before long we’ll be hearing about the Affordable Care Act again. Not only do conservatives despise it, but even Democrats think it needs work. What I’d most like conservatives to rethink, during this interim peace, is their opposition to the individual mandate.

"Sex Shops (Paris)" by Ricardo Martins is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s note: sources linked in this article contain images and videos that some readers may find disturbing.

From self-driving cars to smartphones, artificial intelligence has certainly made its way into our everyday lives. So have questions of robotic ethics. Shows like Westworld and Black Mirror have depicted some of the more controversial and abstract dangers of artificial intelligence. Human sex dolls have always been taboo, but a new development in the technology of these sex dolls, specifically their upgrade to robot status, is especially controversial. The whole notion of buying a robot to have sex with is taboo to say the least, but can these sexual acts become unethical, even if they are perpetrated upon a nonliving thing? Is using a sex robot to simulate rape or pedophilia morally permissible? And to what extent should sex robots be regulated?

"Long Border Fence" by Steve Hillebrand is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

On July 23, 10 people were found dead in the bed of a swelteringly hot tractor-trailer found in a WalMart parking lot in San Antonio, Texas. Authorities found 39 people in the vehicle, but had reason to believe that there had at one time been as many as 100 in the small space.  All of the individuals appeared to be suffering from heatstroke, and many will likely have related injuries and other health problems from which they will suffer for the rest of their lives.  It appears that the individuals involved were undocumented immigrants, seeking to gain access into the country illegally.

"Wheelchair" by Anne-marie is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

Back in 1994, Sarah Dunant published a collection of essays titled The War of Words: The Political Correctness Debate, and it was met with a great deal of media coverage. A large portion of the country had been moved by a sensitivity to language that could offend or contribute to an undesirable power schema, and this sensitivity had been met with scorn or doubt by another large portion of the country, often along party lines.

"Isolation" by Derek Key is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)"

In prisons throughout the United States, a total of somewhere around 80,000 prisoners are isolated from human contact for 22 to 24 hours a day. These prisoners are kept in very small cells—spaces of roughly 80 square feet.  In the cell is a bed, a toilet, and very little else.  Prisoners in solitary are fed three meals a day and are often allowed outside every day for an hour, with no contact with other prisoners.  The practice, commonly known as “solitary confinement” has come to be known by a number of euphemisms, including “restrictive housing” and “segregation.”

"Pyongyang North Korea Monument to the Founding of the Workers Party" by Joseph Ferris III is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Even after his passing, Otto Warmbier continues to make headlines. Over 17 months ago, Warmbier, an American college student, was detained while attempting to leave North Korea after a trip with Young Pioneer Tours. According to The Daily Beast, Warmbier was accused and found guilty of stealing a propaganda sign from his hotel, and was sentenced to remain in the country for 15 years of hard labor. A few weeks ago, Warmbier was returned home under mysterious circumstances and in a comatose state, before eventually dying.