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Mark Ruffalo a terror threat? Seems not.

Actor Mark Ruffalo has reportedly been placed on a terror advisory list by Pennsylvania officials after publicly criticizing natural gas drilling. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Ruffalo told GQ magazine that the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security put him on such a list after he organized screenings for “Gasland,” an HBO documentary about a type of natural gas extraction called hydraulic fracturing. “[It's] pretty f**kin’ funny,” Ruffalo, 43, told the magazine about the idea that he might be a security threat.

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Cancun or bust

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, left, presses the button to start a wind turbine that is planned to help power the U. N. Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.

By Kate Sheppard

The hope — and hype — surrounding the climate negotiations in Copenhagen last December was hard to miss. Even though the possibility of securing a new global climate pact was scaled back significantly in the weeks ahead of the summit, the level of engagement was unprecedented. President Obama and more than 60 other heads of state from around the world flew in for the brutal final days of the summit, and in the closing hours a deal of sorts was finally hashed out.

But a year later, there’s almost no build-up to the sixteenth annual climate negotiation hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The two-week negotiating session starts today, Nov. 29, in Cancun, Mexico. And while it’s happening much more quietly this year, the 2010 meeting could make or break the future of global negotiations. There could be an opportunity south of the border to reinforce commitments and establish new frameworks for cooperation — but if there’s no real agreement on what comes next, the summit could leave the path forward somewhat treacherous.

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Photo: Santa’s new ride

Santa debuted his new sleigh last year. Photo: AP Charles Sykes

What better way to celebrate Black Friday and the start of the holiday season than with a debate. Last year, while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I saw that Santa’s sleigh, the highlight of the parade and the “official” symbol of the start of the holiday season, had for the first time in 40 years, been changed. As described by a Macy’s press release, the new sleigh is “depicting Santa’s travel on Christmas Eve, we see good old St. Nick as he leaves the North Pole on his magical journey. The North Pole is showcased by Santa’s Toyshop home and by a giant ice and granite obelisk that is supported by ice sculptures of a Walrus and a Polar Bear. Santa’s Sleigh is a colossal float that measures 60-feet long, 22-feet wide and is 3 1/2 Stories tall. As Santa leaves the North Pole he flies over his home and begins his worldwide voyage sure to make children of all ages, BELIEVE!”

Well, I didn’t believe. I am a fan of the old sleigh. It was a gorgeous carriage, 50 feet long, lined with plush green velvet and trimmed with Swiss silver bells. It was the shape of a winter snow goose, with a crown around its neck and a bell in its beak. Pulling the sleigh were 12.5-f00t-tall reindeer with exaggerated 8-foot antlers. Behind it was a 25-foot wreath.

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Oh, and Happy Evacuation Day

He's open!: During an Evacuation Day celebration in 2008 on Wall Street, George Washington patiently waits for someone to pass him the ball. Photo: Mike Skliar

Thanksgiving happens to coincide this year with another holiday, one that has since been lost to the fickle tastes of ensuing generations. But November 25 was once widely celebrated as Evacuation Day, and it commemorated the day the British — our onetime bossy parents — beat their retreat from New York, leaving the new nation to finally get down to the business of becoming its bratty self.

The year was 1783, and although the American Revolution had effectively ended two years earlier with General Cornwallis’s “mortification” at Yorktown, it took another 18 months for a treaty to be signed, and still more weeks for the British army to pack its things and go.

On the appointed day — November 25 — the citizens of New York had good reason to feel festive.

In the seven years of British occupation, the redcoats had treated Manhattan less like a place they planned to keep forever than like a rock star’s hotel room. They had ransacked its orchards, uprooted its trees, drained its wells and pocked its streets with trenches. The city, of but 12,000 inhabitants, had suffered two terrible fires during that time, and the British had co-opted most of the buildings still standing for themselves and their Loyalists.

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Photo: The perfect turkey

This handsome fellow is a broad-breasted bronze turkey. The breed is the product of crossing domestic turkeys brought to America by colonists with the native wild turkey. There are two varieties of this turkey: the standard, or unimproved, bronze which conforms to the breed’s standard of perfection established in 1874 by the American Poultry Association, and the much larger broad-breasted bronze. Because of their greater size, broad-breasted bronze turkeys have lost the ability to mate naturally and all of the birds alive today are created and maintained entirely by artificial insemination.

If we erase our memories, do we erase ourselves?

About 270 years ago, the Scottish philosopher David Hume, in his seminal work “A Treatise of Human Nature,” offered what was, at that time, a radical notion of human identity: that the “self,” as we conceive of it, is not a single spiritual or psychological entity, like a “soul,” but rather a collection of discrete sensations and impressions — a “bundle,” as he called it. Connections between these individual perceptions give rise to the idea of a continuous “self.” And memory gives that self lasting force.

What, then, is a self without memory? Or, rather, what would happen if we were to remove some memories and add others? By Hume’s account, the bundle would change, and so necessarily would the self. We would be different people, in small but significant ways.

David Hume depicted in a painting by Allan Ramsay

These days, this thought experiment lives mostly in the minds of college freshmen taking their first philosophy seminars. But increasingly, the idea that altering one’s memory could alter one’s self is gaining relevance outside the confines of the Ivory Tower, as new scientific advances offer the promise of re-engineering one’s brain chemistry — and, possibly, re-engineering one’s self.

The most recent example is an announcement by two scientists at Johns Hopkins University that they may have discovered a way to erase traumatic memories from the mind by removing certain proteins from the amygdala, the brain structure that processes memory and emotional reactions.

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Photo: Journey to the Golden Temple

In Amritsar, India, Sikh devotees wait to pay homage at the Harmandir Sahib on Nov. 21, 2010, in celebration of the religion's founder, Guru Nanak Dev. Also known as the Golden Temple, it is Sikhism's most revered shrine. Photo: AP/Prabhjot Gill

Photo: Brink of war?

In Seoul, South Korea, people read an extra edition of a newspaper on Nov. 23, 2010, reporting that North Korea fired artillery onto a South Korean island. Photo: Ahn Young-joon

North Korea bombarded South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island with about 100 rounds of artillery Tuesday, setting buildings and forests ablaze, killing two marines and injuring several others, including civilians. South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak said, “The provocation this time can be regarded as an invasion of South Korean territory.” International diplomats appealed for restraint after he went on to say that “enormous retaliation” was needed if North Korea took additional action against its southern neighbors.

Viewer response: How the international community fights piracy

In response to our recent segments on piracy in Somalia, several viewers have asked us what, if any, action the international community is taking to combat piracy.

International bodies such as the European Union and United Nations have already taken collective action to patrol the waters along Somalia’s coast and authorize military action to protect civilian and commercial vessels from pirates. In January 2008, for example, the U.N. Security Council authorized countries whose ships have been targeted by pirates, such as France and the United States, to sail into Somalia’s territorial waters and militarily confront pirates there. And in December 2008, the U.N. expanded its authorization to include acts of military force against Somali pirates by land and air.

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