The week's most interesting Slate stories.

The week's most intriguing stories.
Aug. 14 2009 11:10 AM

Death Panels, Bullies, and McEconomics

The week's most interesting Slate stories.

1) "Cost of Living: Sarah Palin is afraid Obamacare will put a price on human life. But we already do," by Christopher Beam. Whether they're based in fact or not, Sarah Palin's ominous warnings about "death panels" have Americans scared of the specter of the government assigning value to people's lives. But insurance companies put a price on human life all the time. And for an example of government doing the same, we need only look across the pond.

2) "Seeking: How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting. And why that's dangerous," by Emily Yoffe. Some of us couldn't stop Googling, Twittering, Facebooking, or texting to save our lives. But it's not because we're lazy or crazy; it's because our brains are structured to engage in "seeking" behaviors, even if all we're seeking is the latest on Jon and Kate.

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3) "Who Won the Recession?McDonald's," by Daniel Gross. While Starbucks shuttered stores, the keepers of the Golden Arches expanded their brand, opening new outlets in the United States and abroad as the recession forced food snobs to trade down. But it remains to be seen whether the chain's dominance will continue as the economy recovers.

4) "Time-Traveling for Dummies: A physicist looks at The Time Traveler's Wife," by Dave Goldberg. A scientist explains why, no matter how ridiculous the plot, there are a few physics-based rules of time travel that science-fiction tales should follow. Rule No. 3: You can't kill your own grandfather.

5) "A Lousy Day's Work: Was Bill Clinton's visit to North Korea worth the time, energy, and prestige? No way," by Christopher Hitchens. Democrats and Republicans alike drooled over President Obama and the Clintons after they managed to wrest two American journalists away from the North Koreans. But that's not such a great victory when you consider that the North Koreans intended to release them all along.

6) "The Medicare-Isn't-Government Meme, Part 2: Why Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are complaining about possible spending cuts," by Timothy Noah. Right-wing health care reform protesters continue to blur the line between Medicare and "government-run health care." Meanwhile, conservative radio and TV pundits ignore the fact that Medicare is a government-run health program while sowing fear of reform among their fans.

7) "The Structure of Scientific Evolutions: Evolution's place in a created universe," by William Saletan. New research is beginning to separate evolution from biology. Now, scientists are talking about biological evolution, cultural evolution, and political evolution. And this new conversation has implications for the idea of religious evolution, or the origins of faith.

8) "Watching Art-House Movies in Tehran: Iran after the journalists were silenced." An anonymous reporter in Tehran finds that despite the virtual silencing of journalists and continued oppression of civilians by the Iranian regime, a quiet rebellion continues. Young people are watching art-house films in mixed company and chatting about Molotov cocktails as they chafe under the basij.

9) "Bullies: They Can Be Stopped, but It Takes a Village," by Alan E. Kazdin and Carlo Rotella. It is possible to reduce bullying in schools. But it requires the cooperation of teachers, parents, and administrators. Tough as it is, reform is necessary, because none of the things that you've been taught to say to your kids about bullying is going to do any good.

10) "What's Inside a Big Baby Head? New research brings surprising revelations," by Paul Bloom. Most people think babies are less conscious than adults. However, new research indicates that babies might be more conscious: aware of a staggering amount of stimuli, and therefore more susceptible to distraction