In 2009, Penguin Group, one of the most successful publishers in the world, printed a charming history called The Book of Penguin, in the slim, orange paperback format that the company made famous in the mid-20th century. It begins: “This is a book about the most advanced form of entertainment ever. You can pause it at any time. Rewind and replay it if you miss a bit … It’ll fit in your pocket. It’s interactive … It’s pretty cheap. It’s completely free to share. And it lasts a lifetime. This is a book about books.”
I’ve sat through three big, super-secret, well-orchestrated Facebook press events in the last year. Or at least I think there were just three; they all kind of blend together, and there might have been one or two I didn’t attend due to previously scheduled dental work. But of the ones I remember, there was the time Facebook unveiled a new search engine. Another time, it redesigned the news feed. Oh, and then this one time, like two months ago, it launched a home screen app for Android phones. That event was in a big new auditorium at Facebook’s headquarters. I remember the housemade sushi being particularly delicious that day.
After you’ve seen World War Z, come back and listen to our Spoiler Special:
Actor James Gandolfini died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack. A Gawker requiem praised him for changing the way fat characters are portrayed in pop culture. But it added, “Let’s be honest, even if tomorrow an official report comes out of the hospital in Rome saying it wasn’t a heart attack, James Gandolfini died of obesity.” ABC News also used his death to highlight heart attack risks. However, Gandolfini was also a cigar smoker. As Daniel Engber pointed out in 2012, and as research since then has emphasized, the health risk from smoking is much, much greater than the risk from obesity. Engber’s original article is below.
JERUSALEM—One of Israel's new political stars is a successful businessman turned politician: Naftali Bennett, 41, whose party, Habayit Hayehudi (the Jewish Home), won 12 seats in Parliament in the last election, making him a key Cabinet member. Some Israelis describe Bennett as extreme—he admits he wants to annex parts of the West Bank. Others, including many young Israelis, subscribe to his views. This past week, he spoke at length to the Washington Post's Lally Weymouth in his office in Jerusalem. Excerpts:
Mark Garrison also reported on the growth of sour foods for the public radio program Marketplace. Listen to the audio companion story here:
JERUSALEM—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Lally Weymouth on Thursday in Jerusalem about how he sees the situation in Israel and across the region. Excerpts:
JERUSALEM—Yair Lapid, 49, a former television anchor and journalist, is a rising political star in Israel. He surprised Israelis in the recent election when his new party, Yesh Atid, became the country's second largest. His voters were secular young people and the middle class; their focus was not Iran but domestic affairs. Now the finance minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, Lapid spoke with Lally Weymouth this past week in Jerusalem. Excerpts:
The new Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, known as MERS-CoV, may be deadlier than severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, according to an article published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Older infectious diseases carried simpler names like “mumps” and “tuberculosis.” Now acronyms predominate. Who’s picking these names?
My film Pandora’s Promise has, not surprisingly, generated a heated debate among my fellow environmentalists. That’s a good thing. But the guardians of environmental orthodoxy are up in arms because my film questions their perceived wisdom about how to tackle the danger of climate change. They don’t want you to see this film.
Listen to George Packer discuss his new book, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America:
It’s such an amazing pleasure and privilege to dive into this year’s Supreme Court rulings with you. This is a venerable Slate tradition, begun by the amazing Dahlia Lithwick with (of course) you, Walter. The rest of us late-comers will do our best to uphold it. Today, the court didn’t do anything blockbuster. So that gives us a chance to look back before we get to chew over the decisions on affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act, and gay marriage next week.
The conventional wisdom on the Tesla Model S—the most hyped, decorated, and controversial new car in memory—is that it’s a technological marvel, but prohibitively expensive and ultimately impractical, especially for road trips. For all the accolades (Motor Trend Car of the Year, Automobile Automobile of the Year, the highest rating in Consumer Reports history), the review that sticks most in people’s minds is the one by the New York Times’ John M. Broder. You know, the one where the car ran out of batteries on the freeway and had to be towed to a charging station.
Charisma is measured in contradictions, and Tony Soprano possessed two sides of all of his qualities. He was terrifying and vulnerable, relatable and unfathomable, cuddly and cold. He was a sociopath and a sympathetic victim of his environment. He was a bullying mob patriarch whose mama was the monster in all of his nightmares. He was a master strategist in a fuzzy bathrobe yelling at his lazy kids. He killed men with his bare hands and ate his feelings straight out of the fridge. He was, like many a parent or sibling or old friend, someone we kept hoping might change and kept never changing, someone we loved against our better judgment.
Super-absorbent diapers are a fantastic invention, saving parents hours upon hours of time, laundry loads, and stinky clean-ups. (Just ask your grandparents.) But they’re also the source of much controversy and angst. Baby Dry or Cruisers? Eco-friendly or regular? Pull-ups or unassembled? To make matters more complicated, now there’s Honest, a diaper and baby product company founded by actress Jessica Alba in 2012, which claims that it makes “safer” diapers. Cue immediate feelings of parental paranoia: Wait, safer diapers? Are other diapers dangerous? To help you answer those questions, the Honest website devotes a page to describing just how scary traditional diapers really are, with questions about diaper companies like, “What are they trying to hide?” (Answer: “From what we gleaned, a lot.”)
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States suffered through a skyjacking epidemic that has now been largely forgotten. In his new book, The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking, Brendan I. Koerner tells the story of the chaotic age when jets were routinely commandeered by the desperate and disillusioned. In the run-up to his book’s publication on June 18, Koerner has been writing a daily series of skyjacker profiles. Slate is running the final dozen of these “Skyjacker of the Day” entries.
Recent revelations about the federal government’s PRISM program have sparked widespread debate about the benefits and harms of state surveillance of Americans in the name of national security. But what about the surveillance we submit to in the service of more mundane activities, like improving children’s vocabularies or increasing student engagement in the classroom? This growing world of social-engineering surveillance has garnered far less attention and controversy but poses significant challenges to the future of privacy.
BUNCE ISLAND, Sierra Leone—Twelve American presidents owned slaves, eight while serving in office, and at least 25 presidents count slave owners among their ancestors. But new historical evidence shows that a direct ancestor of George W. and George H.W. Bush was part of a much more appalling group: Thomas Walker was a notorious slave trader active in the late 18th century along the coast of West Africa.
It’s difficult to overstate how completely we Americans are ruled by television. On a typical day, you and your fellow countrymen watch about four hours and 39 minutes of live TV, plus an additional 26 minutes of “time-shifted” (i.e., DVR’d) programming, according to Nielsen. That’s more time, by far, than we spend with any other technology: more than we surf the Web, more than we use our phones, more than we play video games. In a given week, the average American child will spend more than a full day—nearly 27 hours—in front of the tube. And children don’t even watch as much TV as adults. Generally, the older you get in America, the more television sucks you in. The average senior citizen spends more than two full days of every week in front of the TV.