Neanderthal DNA, Affirmative Action, and the Joe Biden Workout: The Week’s Most Interesting Slate Stories

The week's most intriguing stories.
Oct. 13 2012 6:30 AM

Neanderthal DNA, Biden vs. Ryan, and Why the Taliban Fears Teenage Girls

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden went on the offensive at the vice presdiential debate.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyImages.

The Joe Biden Workout: The vice president was everywhere at once. He probably won the debate. He definitely shed a few pounds,” by John Dickerson. Biden might have been over the top, Dickerson writes, but his exasperation might have helped him make people doubt Paul Ryan’s claims. For more debate coverage, read David Weigel on Biden as a “happy warrior,” Allison Benedikt on Paul Ryan’s bean moment, Rachael Larimore on Martha Raddatz’s brilliant moderating, and Fred Kaplan on the foreign policy dimension to the showdown.

The Neanderthal in My Family Tree: New genetic evidence shows our ancestors interbred with now-extinct species,” by Ann Gibbons. A genetic test revealed that Gibbons is 2.9 percent Neanderthal, and she’s not afraid to say it. And she explains why, if you’re European or Asian, you probably have Neanderthal DNA, too.  And get ready to learn about the Denisovans.

Why the Taliban Fears Teenage Girls,” by William J. Dobson. On Tuesday, the Taliban took responsibility for the attack on Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who advocated for female education. William Dobson explains that educated girls threaten the Taliban because “studies suggest that educating girls is about the closest thing we have to a silver-bullet solution for countries suffering from poverty, instability, and general inequity—or, in other words, the very conditions that allow a group like the Taliban to thrive. “

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 “Mitt Romney’s Most Dishonest Speech: When it comes to lies and half-truths, Romney saves his best stuff for foreign policy,” by Fred Kaplan. Fred Kaplan fact-checks Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute. “Watch Romney spin a daydream of himself as some latter-day George Marshall, bringing peace, prosperity, and hope to a chaotic world,” Kaplan writes.

Pay Up or the Hard Drive Gets It: What you need to know about ransomware, hackers’ latest trick to take over your computer and blackmail you for cash,” by Will Oremus. If a page pops up on your computer that claims to be from the FBI, warning you that you face prosecution and that your every move is being recorded on your webcam—it’s not the FBI. But it is scary. Oremus advises on how to avoid such malware and what to do if you end up with it anyhow.

Is the Republican Party Racist? It depends on race-baiting tactics and the votes of former Confederate states,”by Ron Rosenbaum. On the heels of a video of President Obama from 2007 addressing racial issues that was promoted by the Daily Caller and the Drudge Report, Ron Rosenbaum makes the provocative case that the Republican Party has relied on covert and structural racism to win Southern states since the Civil Rights era—and it’s time that the media acknowledges it.

 “To Hell With You, Matt Groening: A tribute to Life in Hell, with comics by Alison Bechdel, Tom Tomorrow, and others,” by James Sturm. This June, Matt Groening ended his popular comic, Life in Hell. Sturm rounded up a series of panels by other cartoonists honoring the strip.  

 “Why Your 4-Year-Old Is As Smart as Nate Silver: And if kids are so smart, why are adults so stupid about statistics?” by Alison Gopnik. Studies have found children to be better at intuiting statistical solutions than adults. Alison Gopnik explains why a 4-year-could might make better use of statistical methods than you.

Rage or Justice: The complicated emotions behind the Supreme Court’s upcoming argument on affirmative action,” by Emily Bazelon. Before heading to the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments for Fisher v. University of Texas, the case on affirmative action in college admissions, Emily Bazelon shared readers’ stories about their own experiences with affirmative action, from the white male who was rejected from a college because it had “too many white males” enrolled in his major, to a woman who struggled with whether to mark “black” on her college application and worried that she’d never know whether she got accepted for her grades or her race.

 “It’s Your Turn To Edit Slate: Give us your best ideas for the Slate Reader Takeover.” Slate is giving readers the chance to assign stories to Slate writers. Ask John Dickerson to write about a particular race, or tell Laura Anderson what she did wrong. You be the editor.

Kara Brandeisky is a Slate intern and student at Georgetown University

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