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The Week in Ideas 2/3

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  February 3, 2014 09:00 AM

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Boston’s black-market cigarette problem: I wrote about the booming black-market for cigarettes in Boston. Organized traffickers buy cigarettes in low tax states like Pennsylvania, sell them under the counter in high tax states like Massachusetts, and pocket the difference. The illegal cigarette trade costs the state as much as hundreds of millions of dollars a year- and to date, officials have been unable to slow it.

Why Russians love biathalon: William Frank on how “biathlon in Russia is more than a sport: It evokes a multitude of cultural, social, and historical trends spanning more than a millennium.”

Sorry, dolphins aren’t uniquely intelligent: Emily Anthes interviews Justin Gregg, author of the new book, “Are Dolphins Really Smart? The Mammal Behind the Myth.” Gregg explains that while we regard dolphins as uniquely intelligent, in fact lots of animals- including lowly chickens- can do the same intelligent things they do.

A mob initiation, in secret code: Diego Gambetta on an encrypted document- discovered in the course of a recent mob murder trial in Italy- that details the mysterious initiation ritual of the Ndrangheta, the powerful international crime syndicate based in Calabria.

Plus: Kevin Lewis on how sickness, literally, stinks; how countries with higher levels of trustworthiness among their citizens get by with shorter constitutions; how moral judgment increases the less money you have; and more.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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