Sunday 7.2.2017 New York Times Digest

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1. The Constitution, By Hand

“Hand copying a document can produce an intimate connection to the text and its meaning. The handwriter may discover things about this document that they never knew, a passage that challenges or moves them. They may even leave with a deeper connection to the founders and the country, or even a sense of encouragement.”

2. Counseled by Industry, Not Staff, E.P.A. Chief Is Off to a Blazing Start

“He reversed a ban on the use of a pesticide that the E.P.A.’s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children’s nervous systems.”

3. It’s Not Just Mike Pence. Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex.

“A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.”

4. Retirement Savings, the Muslim Way

“Investments are banned in companies with too much debt as a percentage of their assets. Interest on loans (known as riba) is also haram, which rules out investing in conventional banking and insurance sectors. Investing in companies earning a minimal amount of interest, typically 5 percent or less, may be allowed, so long as the dividend income derived from that interest is donated to charity.”

5. What Cookies and Meth Have in Common

“Even people who are not hard-wired for addiction can be made dependent on drugs if they are stressed. Is it any wonder, then, that the economically frightening situation that so many Americans experience could make them into addicts? You will literally have a different brain depending on your ZIP code, social circumstances and stress level.”

6. The Problem With Participatory Democracy Is the Participants

“Cheap participation reflects a troubling infirmity in how partisans of both parties engage in politics. In fact, it is not because of gerrymandering, Citizens United, cable news or any of the other common scapegoats that our system is broken, but because of us: ordinary people who are doing politics the wrong way.”

7. That Diss Song Known as ‘Yankee Doodle’

“The song is an insult. It’s not just any insult, either. With ‘Yankee Doodle,’ the Redcoats were delivering the most puerile, schoolyard insult in the schoolyard insult book. They were suggesting that American soldiers were gay.”

8. Why Can’t We All Just Go to the Pool?

“In 1950, there were only 2,500 in-ground residential pools in the country, but by 1999 there were four million.”

9. Forgot Where You Parked? Good

“Our retrieval failures help prune away memories that we don’t really need.”

10. Ticktock as Taskmaster: A Show About Metronomes and Musical Time

“Beginning in the 17th century came attempts to link musical time to the motion of a clock. Around the same time scientists discovered that the length of a pendulum affects the speed of its motion, with a pendulum of just under one meter swinging at one second each way. Instrument makers seized on this to build musical timekeeping devices in which the length of a pendulum is adjusted according to specific gradations to make it swing at a desired speed.”

11. How an Agency of Oddballs Transformed Modern War and Modern Life

“This small Pentagon enclave has spawned some of the transformative inventions not just of modern war but of modern life: the Saturn rocket, stealth aircraft, armed drones, biofeedback systems and — biggest of all — the internet.”

12. Whose Fault Is It Anyway? Three Books on the Shifting Nature of Responsibility in American Politics

“Where ‘responsibility’ once referred to the duties of the nation to its citizens, or of the citizens to the nation, or of fellow citizens to one another, it now came to mean the obligations of the individual to himself.”

13. Why the Far Right Wants to Be the New ‘Alternative’ Culture

“There is no burgeoning right-wing ‘alternative’ Facebook or YouTube yet, but that development feels inevitable. The structures and communal ideals of the internet’s biggest platforms — the closest thing that exists to a dominant culture online — are just waiting to be inverted, seized and used for new ends, like the liberal discourse before them.”

14. Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us.)

“They caution that an assumption of interstellar friendship is the wrong way to approach the question of extraterrestrial life. They argue that an advanced alien civilization might well respond to our interstellar greetings with the same graciousness that Cortés showed the Aztecs, making silence the more prudent option.”

15. Can a Tech Start-Up Successfully Educate Children in the Developing World?

“The company’s pitch was tailor-made for the new generation of tech-industry philanthropists, who are impatient to solve the world’s problems and who see unleashing the free market as the best way to create enduring social change.”

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