Sunday 6.30.2019 New York Times Digest

1. What, Exactly, Do We Mean by ‘Democracy’ Anyway?

“The most consequential manifestation of American political narcissism is the extent to which the United States Constitution is exempted from critique.”

2. The Deception Of a Biden Site That’s Not His.

“Meddling by foreigners is illegal. But trolling or disinformation spread by American citizens is protected by the First Amendment.”

3. Subway Got Too Big. Franchisees Paid a Price.

“Subway is the largest fast-food company in the world by store count, with more than 24,000 restaurants in the United States alone. It got that way thanks in large part to entrepreneurial immigrants. Unlike at chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King, where many franchises are operated by investment firms, Subway owners are mostly individuals and families. The company’s co-founder, Fred DeLuca, made stores easy to open; most new franchisees are charged a $15,000 initial fee, compared to $45,000 at McDonald’s. In exchange, Subway operators must hand over more revenue than at many other chains — 8 percent of gross sales — while also agreeing to other fees and stipulations.”

4. Want to Be Less Racist? Move to Hawaii.

“In theory, racial categorizing is supposed to work like a shorthand, helping us determine how to interact with people while expending minimal energy figuring out who they actually are. The problem, though, is that our perception of race and what it means is based on a model of the world that’s almost always incorrect, and often entirely fabricated.”

5. Elegant Lives Built on the Backs of Slaves

“When many Americans think of slavery, they have the misconception that it was strictly an agricultural institution, with black people forced to labor on farms, picking cotton, sugar and tobacco. But historians say that by 1860 slaves made up 20 percent of the population in major cities, and in Charleston black people outnumbered whites. Urban slaves, like Ms. Katin, were forced to work night and day for wealthy families. Many of the houses where they labored were home to prominent politicians of the day, and are both popular tourist and school field-trip destinations.”

6. Jill Lepore Argues for American Patriotism

“Lepore defends a version of civic patriotism against the three alternatives: illiberal nationalism, identity politics and liberal nationalism.”

7. Generic Drugs Are Poisoning Us

“In the United States, imports from India now make up 40 percent of all generics used, and 80 percent of the active ingredients used in both generic and brand-name medications come from India and China. In 2007, when scores of kidney patients across the United States died from allergic reactions after dialysis, experts traced the cause to a contaminant in the blood thinner heparin provided by a Chinese plant contracted by Baxter, the leading American supplier. The F.D.A. had never inspected this plant. Someone there, it seems, had intentionally added a chemical to stretch the drug’s yield and profitability.”

8. How to Be a Bouncer

“The demographic most likely to get violent at bars are men between 21 and 28 years old.”

9. Sperm Donors Can’t Stay Secret Anymore

“In 1884, an older wealthy man and his younger wife sought treatment from a doctor at Jefferson Medical College because they were struggling to conceive. The doctor determined that the husband was infertile, likely from gonorrhea; but rather than explain that uncomfortable fact, he anesthetized the wife under false pretense, and inseminated her with the sperm of another man — a medical student deemed, in a vote held for this undertaking, the best looking in the class. The doctor eventually told the husband, who kept that secret from his wife; but years later, in 1909, the medical student revealed all in an article in the journal Medical World. The story could be seen as an early parable for the industry over all: Eventually the truth will out.”

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