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Comments: Week of March 9, 2015

1. “We started ‘What It’s Like’ as a sort of serial inquiry into the fringe of human experience—a kind of anthropology by anecdote,” wrote Alexa Tsoulis-Reay in an introduction to her interviews with people who live on the social margins (“Atypical,” February 23–March 8), a project that began and continues as a web series on our site Science of Us. The stories elicited both sympathy and occasional disgust from readers, and some saw themselves reflected in the stories of others. To the interview with a women terrified of vomit, commenter hazelnoots responded: “I’ve been emetophobic my entire life … [Emetophobia] doesn’t get a lot of attention or understanding but I would wager it’s far more prevalent than we think.” “People are so cruel,” wrote commenter mexarico in response to the interview with a woman with awful body odor. “My heart aches for her, especially after all the terrible things she’s had to endure. I’m wishing her the best.” Another commenter applauded Tsoulis-Reay’s nonjudgmental approach to interviewing subjects. “I want Alexa, the interviewer, to know that this is one of the best interviews I have ever read,” wrote jack.jett in response to the piece on the man who dates his horse. “At no point did you show a lack of respect, nor try to make a joke out of it. I have a better understanding of the lifestyle and inner havoc these people go through.” The man who dates a horse drew particularly impassioned responses, mostly expressions of disgust at the descriptions of bestiality, though a few readers urged understanding. “I really don’t see how one can legitimately claim the consent of a creature that does not have human intelligence,” wrote rangerbagel. “However, I urge all of you to get your ‘gross out’ factor and your fear in check. Attacking people with these feelings, shaming them, and treating them like monsters is destructive, not constructive. Vitriol will not help the animals experiencing/enduring these kinds of ‘relationships’ … Even if they are ‘sick’ or somehow monstrous, calling them names and suggesting they should be thrown in jail or subjected to violence is still barbaric and childish. This article is fascinating. Read it for the information.”

2. Jeff Wise’s story on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, and his personal theory that the plane was hijacked by Russian operatives, became a viral hit, prompting amateur aviation sleuths to write in with their own ideas (“How Crazy Am I to Think I Actually Know Where the Malaysia Airlines Plane Is?” February 23–March 8). “The satellite provider simply faked the BFO data in order to make it look like the plane had gone south,” wrote SeanLamb. “Far easier than hi-tech hijackers spoofing the signal.” “I strongly believe someone stole that plane, and landed it intact,” commented bardgal. “They were after the techs on that aircraft and the 2 tons of unknown secret cargo, not to mention four of the passengers were about to submit a patent for the Kenisis microchip.” Indonesian aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman responded with detail about how the satcom system could be hacked into. “I am no fan of conspiracy theories, and I usually dismiss them when it comes to aircraft accidents, or in this case, a missing aircraft,” he wrote on his blog. “But in true crypto-investigation style, Jeff’s conspiracy was, while outlandish, set up in a way that shows it had a systematic flow. Of all of the conspiracies I’ve seen appear on MH370, this is the best one so far.” Russian news outlets were less impressed. Russia Today, a government-­controlled news site, wrote: “Anti-Russia propaganda over Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was bad enough. Now one CNN aviation analyst is blaming Russia for the missing MH370 plane as well … What’s next? Accusing Putin of controlling the weather?”

3. “Desertion is always a solitary choice, but it can be especially so for those who seek refuge in other countries,” wrote Wil S. Hylton in his piece on the dangers of living in Canada as an awol U.S. soldier (“American Deserter,” February 23–March 8). The story prompted a thoughtful discussion of the morality of desertion and the choices deserters face. “Unlike Vietnam, where people were drafted,” commenter virgil.kane wrote, “this group volunteered to serve in the military & understood the different scenarios they might face … this group for the most part is not deserving of the same compassion or empathy.” “That’s just it though,” responded mopsieb. “I don’t think they did understand the scenarios at all. One guy didn’t think he could be deployed abroad if he signed up for the National Guard.” “I do take issue with these men being singled out when many others who deserted or went awol but stayed within the United States face little chance of prosecution,” wrote trevor999. “How does one go about researching how to desert without instantly making themselves look suspicious?” ala5656 asked. “Who do you ask? I think most of these folks are so traumatized that rational thinking has left the building by the time they make a move.”