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Thousands watch binge-eaters on a webcam

Rachel Ahn, who goes by 'Aebong-ee,' is among the top 100 most-watched mukbang stars in South Korea. (Credit: NPR/Elise Hu)This headline caught my eye: "Koreans Have An Insatiable Appetite For Watching Strangers Binge Eat."  Live-streamers who consume massive amounts of calories in front of webcams (a practice known as mukbang) have become celebrities in their South Korean culture.  There are as many as 3,000 mukbang stars, some of which make up to $10,000 each month through their broadcasts.

Why are they so popular?  One celebrity explains: "Viewers who watch my mukbang are on a diet.  So you call this a sort of gratification through others."  A mukbang media manager believes that such shows provide a sense of community around a dinner table, even if the table is only virtual.  An East Asian studies professor adds that, in an age of plastic surgery and artificial celebrities, audiences hunger for something real—and eating is "identified as being natural, and spontaneous."

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Pilots refuse to fly after tragedy

Germanwings employees cry as they place flowers and lit candles outside the company headquarters in Cologne Bonn airport, Germany March 25, 2015 (Credit: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay)Flight 4U 9525, an Airbus A320 en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, Germany, crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday.  All 150 on board were killed, including 16 German schoolchildren.  The flight was operated by Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, the main airline of Germany.  The crash was France's worst accident in 34 years.

After the tragedy, I read this headline: "Germanwings staff refuse to fly, forcing airline to cancel flights after crash."  I assumed that the staff were afraid for their safety and that of their passengers.  It turns out, their refusals to fly were motivated by something else entirely.

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Taylor Swift purchased adult website name

Singer Taylor Swift attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Special in New York (Credit: AP/Evan Agostini)A slew of new Internet domain names will be made available on June 1.  Among them are suffixes such as .porn and .adult.  So Taylor Swift's publicity team has reportedly purchased TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult, acting to protect her from those who would use such sites for pornographic purposes.  Clearly our culture needs genuine love to replace the counterfeits purveyed by Satan and his evil forces. (Tweet this)

Meanwhile, Time magazine reports that "there could soon be a pill to make us more compassionate."  Researchers have discovered that taking a brain chemical called dopamine can make people more caring.  Can't the Holy Spirit do that and more?

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Is the Islamic State losing?

Kurdish peshmerga forces celebrate as they take control of the town of Sulaiman Pek, that had been occupied by ISIS militants for three months, September 1, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal) The Islamic State (IS) claims to have posted online the names, U.S. addresses and photos of 100 American military service members.  It is calling on its "brothers residing in America" to kill them.  Last month, U.S. law enforcement officials arrested three IS-related suspects for conspiring to attack New York's Coney Island and assassinate the president.  Officials are also concerned about Americans fighting with IS who could return home as terrorists.

For months it has seemed that IS is winning.  Last June its fighters captured Mosul, forcing Iraqi armies to flee.  They advanced close to Baghdad, taking captives and executing prisoners along the way.  Groups in Nigeria, Libya, and Afghanistan have since joined their declared caliphate.  Terrorists loyal to IS recently killed 19 tourists in Tunisia.  It seems that every day's news brings bad news in this global battle.

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Will March Madness torpedo the economy?

NCAA and Capital One March Madness Bracket Challenge logo (Credit: NCAA/Capital One via Facebook) The NCAA men's basketball tournament began last Thursday.  It is estimated that more than 60 million Americans have completed tournament brackets predicting the winners and losers.  Across the country, employees are spending workday time monitoring games, and discussing predictions and results with colleagues.  Many are waging bets.

According to one estimate, the cost of lost wages paid to unproductive and distracted employees could reach as high as $1.9 billion.  Stacked as one dollar bills, that amount would reach 129 miles into the sky, more than half the way to the International Space Station.  That's a lot of money.

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