NPR's Planet Money explains the history of the sales tax in the United States by tracing what kinds of sandwiches get taxed and why: How the Burrito Became a Sandwich. Bonus: In-N-Out Burger history in the podcast.
A new study by Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann and others found that voice-hearing experiences of people with serious psychotic disorders are shaped by local culture – in the United States, the voices are harsh and threatening; in Africa and India, they are more benign and playful. This may have clinical implications for how to treat people with schizophrenia, she suggests.
In the past week, Germany has found and fired an American mole in their intelligence agency, investigated another suspect in their defense ministry, and asked the CIA station chief to leave the country. Media reports offer an interesting view of a post Cold War world grappling with the unexpected* - spy vs spy among friends and allies, while traditional intelligence targets Russia and China play the part of bemused bystanders. [more inside]
United States Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, has lost the Republican primary election in Virginia's 7th Congressional District to Dave Brat, a political newcomer and economics professor at Randolph-Macon College. [more inside]
Presdient Obama gave a speech (video, transcript) at the United States Military Academy last month that outlined American foreign policy. Reaction has been mixed. [more inside]
Last November, after five years of remarkable negotiations that unfolded far from the Delta, representatives from the U.S. and Mexico agreed to a complex, multi-part water deal that will give them desperately needed flexibility for weathering the drought. More surprisingly, the two nations will join the team of environmental organizations to release a flood of more than 105,000 acre-feet of water – 3.8 million big-rig tankers' worth – into the Delta's ancient floodplain, and chase it with a smaller, permanent annual flow to sustain the ecosystem.For High Country News, Matt Jenkins describes the most ambitious water sharing plan ever created between Mexico and the United States (single page print version). For much more about this project and the water issues surrounding it, there's Eli Rabett's roundup of John Fleck's blogposts about this. (Or read the tl;dr version by Alex Harrowell.)
It is the unlikeliest of times to pull off a deal like this. Rather than hoarding all the water for themselves in this drought –– the river supplies some 35 million people –– the West's largest water agencies have pledged to send some all the way to the sea. That move is, to some extent, a long-overdue acknowledgment that the U.S. bears responsibility for the impacts its dams have caused beyond its borders. And after years of fruitless court fights in the U.S. by environmental groups, the Mexican government finally insisted that water for the Delta be a cornerstone of the broader deal.
"NFL teams stepped easily into the creepy patriarch role. Today, they enforce expectations for the way their cheerleaders look (according to the suit, the Jills’ guidebook mandates everything from the cheerleaders’ nail polish color to how they clean their vaginas) while rewarding them, not with money, but with the supposed prestige of appearing as one of their city’s most desirable women."Amanda Hess for Slate writes about the cheerleader revolt against low pay and humiliating working conditions. (previously) [more inside]
"The old stereotype of cheerleaders as bimbos has also worked in the NFL’s favor. NFL cheerleading is such an obviously raw deal, some might assume that women must be stupid to agree to it. (Tell that to Dr. Monica Williams, who cheered for the Tennessee Titans while fulfilling a research fellowship at Vanderbilt.) That’s not a stigma that, say, coal miners fighting against unfair working conditions have to overcome to get what they’re owed."
Nik Freeman has created a map, based on census data, to illustrate the 47% of the United States where nobody lives.
In 1984, the Canadian branch of the United Auto Workers, represented by Bob White, and General Motors Canada, represented by Rod Andrew, sat down to negotiate a new wage agreement. GM had gotten the American UAW to agree to profit sharing and was dead-set on doing the same in the North; the Canadians were bitterly opposed to the idea. By the end of the negotiation, workers had struck, negotiators had been stabbed in the back, White and his allies had split from the UAW to form the CAW, and a compromise was reached that left everyone a bit unhappy - but the workers less so than their managers. Filmmaker Sturla Gunnarsson used his unprecedented access to both teams of negotiators to craft Final Offer, "the best collective bargaining film ever made." You can stream the movie in its entirety at the National Film Board's website.
"Debate has surrounded the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes for decades. Some have argued medical marijuana legalization (MML) poses a threat to public health and safety, perhaps also affecting crime rates ... we analyzed the association between state MML and state crime rates ... Results did not indicate a crime exacerbating effect of MML on any of the Part I offenses. Alternatively, state MML may be correlated with a reduction in homicide and assault rates, net of other covariates." (Press Release) [more inside]
Music Machinery presents a map of each U.S. state's most distinct favorite band or recording artist, as well as an app for playing with the data.
After coming it at #19 in 2012, the great state of North Dakota was the happiest state to live in for 2013, according to The Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. [more inside]
Thomas Scully, the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President George W. Bush, once said, “Fifty percent of the social safety net was created by Henry Waxman when no one was looking.” After 40 years and 17 consecutive terms, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) is retiring from Congress. [more inside]
In 2002 Henry Louis Gates jr. published The Bondwoman's Narrative. It was the first publication of a novel written in the 1850s by a former slave who wrote under the name Hannah Crafts. The original manuscript has been digitized by Yale's Beinecke Library. The book caused a splash at the time, sold well and was reviewed widely, including an essay by Hilary Mantel in the London Review of Books. The identity of Hannah Crafts was uncertain, which cast a slight shadow on its provenance, but Prof. Gregg Hecimovich discovered the writer's true identity. Her name was Hannah Bond and after escaping slavery she became a teacher in New Jersey. Journalist Paul Berman further fills in the story of Colonel Wheeler, the slaveowner whose family was depicted in The Bondwoman's Narrative. Wheeler was the US ambassador to Nicaragua in the 1850s and played a major part in the administration of General Walker, the American who became a short-lived dictator of Nicaragua and tried to set it up as a slave state.
The Littlest Boy - Twenty years after Hiroshima, elite American troops trained to stop a Soviet invasion -- with nuclear weapons strapped to their backs. [more inside]
The secretive business havens of Cyprus and the Cayman Islands face a potent rival: Cheyenne, Wyoming. At a single address in this sleepy city of 60,000 people, more than 2,000 companies are registered. The building, 2710 Thomes Avenue, isn't a shimmering skyscraper filled with A-list corporations. It's a 1,700-square-foot brick house with a manicured lawn, a few blocks from the State Capitol.[more inside]
"I was startled and encouraged to see that under current policies, we are at a two decade-year low in the prison admission rate. To provide historical perspective, peg the change to Presidential terms: When President Obama was elected, the rate of prison admission was just 3% below its 2006 level, which was very probably the highest it has ever been in U.S. history. But by the end of Obama’s first term, it had dropped to a level not seen since President Clinton’s first year in office." -- Good news everybody, prison admissions in the US are at a two decade low, with total prison population decling for the fourth year in a row, leading Keith Humphreys to wonder why this hasn't been reported more widely.
Jesse A. Myerson described five economic reforms millenials should be fighting for in Rolling Stone. Conservatives were generally aghast at the suggestions. Dylan Matthews at Wonkblog wrote a response, "Five conservative reforms millenials should be fighting for". Liberals disapproved. Both articles argued for I. Employer of Last Resort II. Basic Income III. Land Value Tax IV. Sovereign Wealth Fund V. Public Bank. Ezra Klein discusses the trolling.
Here you will find one of the greatest historical atlases: Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright's Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, first published in 1932. This digital edition reproduces all of the atlas's nearly 700 maps. Many of these beautiful maps are enhanced here in ways impossible in print, animated to show change over time or made clickable to view the underlying data—remarkable maps produced eight decades ago with the functionality of the twenty-first century.
Following the state Supreme Court's decision in Griego v. Oliver [pdf], New Mexico has become the 17th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. [more inside]
We were left wondering why a man who served 16 terms in Congress and who bravely came out as gay all the way back in 1987 felt the need to hide his atheism until he was out of office. Was it really harder to come out as an atheist politician in 2013 than as a gay one 25 years ago? Incredibly, the answer might be yes. For starters, consider that there is not a single self-described atheist in Congress today. Not one.
Researchers have located a sunken World War II Imperial Japanese submarine on the ocean floor off the coast of Hawaii. [more inside]
"There’s never been an America, but rather several Americas—each a distinct nation. There are eleven nations today. Each looks at violence, as well as everything else, in its own way." " [more inside]
From 1949 onwards, the closed city of Semipalatinsk (now Semey, Kazakhstan) was the test site for 456 nuclear devices. The test site was known as "The Polygon." Testing was stopped in 1989, but the long term effects remained. [more inside]
Can't decide where to go trick or treating? Jonathan Hull has created an interactive map of all the places in the U.S. with words like Devil, Hell, or Satan in the name. [more inside]
World War I in Color is a documentary designed to make the Great War come alive for a 21st-century audience. The events of 1914-18 are authoritatively narrated by Kenneth Branagh, who presents the military and political overview, while interviews with historians add different perspectives in six 48 minute installments annotated within. [more inside]
Which (US) state matches your personality? A fun little quiz based on an exhaustive psychological study of American attitudes.
Simultaneous video and selectively played audio of every Apollo lunar landing on one screen. (via Collect Space) [more inside]
Scrapple, Half-smokes, Marionberry Pie, Cowboy Cookies and Akutaq: Deadspin responds to Slate's wonderful state-by-state sports map (previously) with a map of regional foods, complete with highly opinionated rankings and commentary.
Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
In 2003 there was the 2003 Harvard dialect survey. (Previous) which was taken up by Joshua Katz for a PhD project looking at regional dialect variation in the continental US (previous). Now he has created a quiz that takes this data and tells you where in the continental US they speak like you. For the ambitious, there's also the full 140 question version.
To a Chinese Scrap-Metal Hunter, America's Trash Is Treasure: Johnson Zeng is a Chinese trader who travels across the U.S. in search of scrap metal. By his estimate, there are at least 100 others like him driving from scrap yard to scrap yard, right now, in search of what Americans won’t or can’t be bothered to recycle. His favorite product: wires, cables, and other kinds of copper. His purchases, millions of pounds of metal worth millions of dollars, will eventually be shipped to China. [more inside]
Massive earthquakes in Chile and Japan have been found to cause the dramatic increase in violent quakes around fracking's largely unregulated wastewater injection wells observed in the Midwest in the past two years, where injected water acts as a lubricant for geological faults that were previously thought to be "dead" or stable for millions of years.
A team of economists from Harvard and UC Berkeley studying the effects of tax expenditures on economic mobility has released data showing that economic mobility in the U.S. varies dramatically between different geographic areas. The authors' website includes a summary of their findings. According the NY Times article on the study, which has a nifty map and tools to play with the data, the authors only found relatively small correlations between tax credits for the poor and higher taxes on the rich and economic mobility. However, the following four factors did correlate with greater economic mobility in a region: the size and dispersion of the middle class, more two-parent households, better schools, and more civic engagement (measured through membership in religious and community groups). Matthew Yglesias comments on the study at Slate. [more inside]
Utah State Sen. Aaron Osmond (R-South Jordan) has introduced a proposal to abolish compulsory education for children in his home state. [more inside]
our highly speculative proposal for the reconfiguration of the political geography of the United States to better conform to the spatial distribution of various water resources, such as rivers, aquifers, and man-made infrastructures.[more inside]
"It's a lesson that many of us got from out folks at some point, often before we got that other uncomfortable parent-child conversation about the birds and the bees. Don't move suddenly. Answer questions clearly, and with yes, sir and no, sir. Don't raise your voice. If you're handcuffed, don't say anything until we [your parents] get there. The details differed depending on where you lived and your parents' particular concerns, but the point was for us to get through any encounter with the police without incident." [more inside]
A month after its release, Naughty Dog's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us is being hailed as one of the best games of all time, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics. Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps fungus (previously), leaving behind lush wastelands of elegant decay teeming with monsters and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies. Into this bleak vision of desperate violence journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future. Boasting tense, immersive gameplay, compelling performances from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite and Half-Life 2 as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages. And don't miss the 84-minute documentary exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
Robert Penn Warren's book Who Speaks for the Negro? was a collection of interviews with various men and women involved in the Civil Rights Movement published in 1965. Vanderbilt University has made all the interviews available as audio and transcripts, taken from the original reel-to-reel recordings. Among the interviewees were Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Septima Poinsette Clark, Ralph Ellison, Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin. On the page for each interview there are links to related documents, such as letters, photos and contemporary news articles.
“There’s always that joke that there’s a Starbucks on every corner," says Justin Grimes, a statistician with the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington. "But when you really think about it, there’s a public library wherever you go, whether it’s in New York City or some place in rural Montana. Very few communities are not touched by a public library.”
'It could have been us, but things happen. Sometimes it's better to be patient than right." Mindy Cradell has little regret about letting an older woman in front of her, while standing in line for the lottery. That woman, Gloria Mackenzie, became the sole winner of the $590 million Powerball jackpot, the largest in the history of American lotteries.
During the decade 2000-10 in the USA, for the first time the number of poor people in major metropolitan suburbs surpassed the number in cities. Between 2000 and 2011, the poor population in suburbs grew by 64% — more than twice the rate of growth in cities (29%). By 2011, almost 16.4 million residents in suburbia lived below the poverty line, outstripping the poor population in cities by almost 3 million people. These are some of the grim findings of ‘Confronting Suburban Poverty in America’, a report by the Brookings Institution, and the implications of this report and its contents are that much more significant for Brookings is conservative in its outlook and advocacy. via
Dan Grover and Mike Belfrage have mapped transit inequality in the Bay Area after reading a New Yorker piece on the New York City subway (previously). The ways in which a widening income gap are changing the demography of San Francisco have been widely reported of late (previously, previously). The project's code is available if you'd like to try mapping your own city.
"The Human Rights Record of the U.S. in 2012 is hereby prepared to reveal the true human rights situation of the U.S. to people across the world by simply laying down some facts." Chinadaily.com, among others, has the full text of the report published by The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China. Last year's report on MeFi.
In 1960 or so, Professor Perry C. Van Arsdale was helping his 7-year-old granddaughter researching the Santa Fe trail. He found his granddaughter's textbook to have some number of errors. He set off to create a map of pioneer history (prior to the 1900's), using his own knowledge and information from judges, sheriffs, and descendants of historical figures. This was his start in creating the Pioneer New Mexico map, which would contain 300 towns that no longer exist, old trails of all sorts (including the three historic Santa Fe trails and various camel routes), locations of minor squabbles and major battles, and because he couldn't fit everything on the maps, he also included extensive notes in the corner of the map. [more inside]