On the Psychology of Safety and Danger

It’s easy to feel as if safety has a universal definition. Freedom from want, freedom from fear—aren’t those what everyone means when they think of safety? Perhaps, but the routes through the world to that state of being are circuitous and varied. Smoke alarms, for instance, have been required in every American bedroom since 1993. We rarely think about them, except to grouse when they go off while we’re cooking. France, however, only began requiring residential smoke alarms in 2015. Switzerland, rated the safest country in the world in 2015 by one consumer-research firm, has not mandated them at all. There is not a simple, one-way progression from a state of nature to a state of safety. Even within nations, there are fundamental divisions about how we want to deal with risk.

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Veronique Greenwood — VQR

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Rosi’s Choice


Who deserves sanctuary in the US?

Rosi is one of millions of people who have fled the Northern Triangle of Central America, a dense, dangerous, impoverished slip of land between Nicaragua and Mexico, which includes Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Many of these migrants are fleeing violence, but others simply want an education for their children, or to earn money to support their families back home. For most, the only legal option is to insist they fear for their lives and apply for asylum. In 2014, the United States trailed only Germany in the number of people seeking asylum within its borders, with over 121,000 applications—a 44 percent rise from the previous year, attributed largely to people fleeing the Northern Triangle. Among them, Salvadorans had the second-highest asylum-denial rates nationwide between 2011 and 2016, with nearly 83 percent of claims rejected, followed by Hondurans and Guatemalans. (Mexicans topped the list.)

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Justine van der Leun — VQR

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Dogs of Character


“It’s hard for me to talk about the emotional stuff sometimes,” she said. “I’m not good at that shit. But when I thought about it, I wanted you to know something.” She sat down next to me. “I look to these dogs for how I want to live my life. That’s what it comes down to. You can’t be around pit bulls and not be inspired by how brave they are. How much heart they have. How cheerful and loving they are, even when they are sick or hurt and feel terrible . . .” Her voice trailed off for a second, and she looked down at the floor, spinning the silver Celtic band she wore on her ring finger. “I know these guys run my life. My parents can’t stand the fact that I don’t have a husband and kids, that I grew up to be a broke, messy dog person. Everyone thinks I must be so sad and lonely. But I’m not. I have had a better life than anyone I know. The dogs are Peter Pans that keep me in touch with things that are exciting, with the woods, with nature.”

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Bronwen Dickey — VQR

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Cookie Jar


Today’s needull is a short story by the master story teller Stephen King.

“That she was getting worse. She’d chat away about other worlds, right next to ours, and the alien races that lived there, and how something was out to get her. It talked to her through the electrical sockets, she said, so she unscrewed all the lightbulbs at night and put playing cards over the plug-in plates on the floor. She said the celluloid backs on the cards were very effective at stopping that voice. Only then she’d laugh, like it was all a big joke.”

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Stephen King — VQR

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