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"Donald Trump" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

President Donald Trump’s foreign policy has been labeled everything from isolationist to realist and everything in between. In maneuvering through the clues of policy that Trump has left us throughout his campaign and his presidency, a common thread can be found. This metaphorical thread is in some ways revolutionary — not necessarily in its existence, but rather in its blatant acknowledgement in recent mainstream American politics. This overarching theme is as harrowing as it is simplistic: American nationalism. Trump has centered his interactions with the outside world around the idea that Americans are the best, must be respected, are superior, and deserve more than their foreign counterparts — solely because of the land they happened to be born on.

"IBM Blue Gene P Supercomputer" by Argonne National Laboratory is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Twenty-one years ago (February 10, 1996), Deep Blue, an IBM Supercomputer, defeated Russian Grand Master Gary Kasparov in a game of chess. Kasparov ultimately won the overall match, but a rematch in May of 1997 went to Deep Blue. About six years ago (February 14-15, 2011), another IBM creation named Watson defeated Champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in televised Jeopardy! matches.

The capabilities of computers continue to expand dramatically and surpass human intelligence in certain specific tasks, and it is possible that computing power may develop in the next several decades to match human capacities in areas of emotional intelligence, autonomous decision making and artistic imagination. When machines achieve cognitive capacities that make them resemble humans as thinking, feeling beings, ought we to accord them legal rights? What about moral rights?

Screen Capture of the Implicit Association Test on Race.

In 1998, a team of researchers founded Project Implicit for the purpose of identifying, measuring, and correcting implicit (i.e. subconscious) biases in the general public. Project Implicit is organized around the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a psychometric evaluation used to probe the depth and nature of bias in individuals. By showing test takers various pairings of words and concepts (“white,” “black,” “pleasant,” “unpleasant”), the IAT can determine which associations takers make more readily. Consistent lags in pairing a category, like “black,” with positive concepts, like “pleasant,” indicate that the test-taker is biased against that category of people.

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"Women's March" by Voice of America is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

One piece of local advice to any newcomer to the D.C. metro area is this: avoid the metro like the plague during the Fourth of July, the Cherry Blossom Festival, or any major tourist-attracting event – especially an inauguration – unless you really, really want to be there. Getting in might not be an issue, but getting out can be next to impossible, unless you have the fortune to live within walking distance. I remember the time when I was fourteen that my parents decided to take me and my seven-year-old brother into the District for the Cherry Blossom Festival, only for us to be stranded and forced to walk two or more hours from the National Mall over the bridge into Virginia, in the hopes that the metro station in Rosslyn would be less crowded than those near the festival itself.

A protester confronts a police officer at a Black Lives Matter protest. Photos by Conner Gordon.

For many, the Women’s March on Washington began without climax. There was no unified call to action, no inspiring speech heard by all. Instead, the march began much as it had developed – somewhat haphazardly, brought on by the size of the crowd itself rather than unified action.

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"USW Carrier Rally" by United Steelworkers is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Flickr)

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s key campaign promises was to stop companies from shipping American jobs overseas. Since his election in November, he has already claimed credit for making progress on this promise. The President-elect has claimed credit for stopping Carrier from moving jobs in Indiana to Mexico. More recently, Ford announced that it had cancelled plans to build a new car manufacturing facility in Mexico. The January 3 New York Times article linked to above suggests that Ford’s decision was partially a response to Trump’s plans on trade policy.

"Pinochet en Historia Plitica BCN" by Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile is licensed under CC BY 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Just before Christmas, prisoners serving long terms for human rights abuses during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile received a mass and asked for forgiveness from the families of their victims. Some families of the victims protested the mass, and many human rights advocates dismissed these moves by the prisoners as empty, and not genuine steps towards earning forgiveness.

Forgiveness is often seen as a virtue, a good-making feature of a life well lived. To forgive is to let go of the blame we feel towards those who wrong us. Letting go of negative feelings can seem like an obvious good, a move towards a more positive way of living. When we hurt each other and let one another down, we make amends, apologize, and aim to get past states of blame and hurt. When someone who harms us apologizes, forgiving them is how the relationship can move forward.

"Comet Ping Pong Outside" by Elizabeth Murphy is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

On December 4th, North Carolina resident Edgar Welch walked into Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant, with an assault rifle strapped to his chest. Inside, he reportedly fired several shots and pointed his rifle at a Comet Ping Pong employee as the restaurant’s patrons scattered. No bystanders were injured, and once Welch failed to find what he came for, he surrendered to police.

This week, Welch will return to court in relation to the incident at Comet Ping Pong, a dramatic turn in what has become known as the “Pizzagate” conspiracy. For weeks prior to the attack, online conspiracy theorists had besieged the restaurant with baseless accusations that it has conspired with politicians like Hillary Clinton to traffic and abuse young children. Welch reportedly latched onto these conspiracies, ultimately deciding to take matters into his own hands through a vigilante “investigation.” While Welch’s legal guilt may seem straightforward, the ethical questions his case raises underscore the complexities of moral responsibility in the time of fake news.

As the parent of an inquisitive 2½ year old, I currently find myself fumbling to explain Santa Claus to him, of whom he is now quite aware. Should I emphasize that he is a storybook character, and not a real person? Would he even know what the difference between real and make-believe is yet? I am struck by the perennial parenting question that divides many a household: Should we lie to our kids about Santa Claus? My own parents always dutifully marked some Christmas presents as if they were from Santa Claus, even well after we kids were past the stage of believing in that jolly old elf. I do not personally feel damaged by my parents sustaining the myth of Father Christmas, but a recent essay in Lancet Psychiatry warns otherwise. Kathy McKay, a clinical psychologist at the University of New England, Australia and co-author claims: “The Santa myth is such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw. If parents can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about?”

"Mujer musulmana en Pamukkale, Turquia" by Edgardo W. Olivera is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

On Tuesday, December 6th, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech calling for a ban on the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women. Earlier this year, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere also called for a ban on the full veil in public places. In defense of the ban, politicians appeal to society cohesion, and adherence to the values of Germany.