It was good enough for Jesus, as the coming holiday season reminds us—not to mention Prince George, who got his first intro to the public wrapped in a white muslin version by Brooklyn’s own Aden + Anais brand. The swaddling blanket has become haute bébé couture, with new moms from Sandra Bullock to Beyoncé pledging allegiance to the ancient practice of tightly wrapping infants from head to toe—albeit in au courant versions of swaddling blankets from companies like Little Giraffe, Munchkin and Summer Infant. The soothing technique has undergone a major revival; nine out of 10 American infants now get the wrap treatment in their first six months of life. Evidence has shown it reduces crying and colic and helps lull babies to sleep.
It was the juxtaposition, I think, that got to me.
The first story in the Wall Street Journal told how the headmistress of that school in India where kids died last July from eating lunches tainted with insecticide has been charged with murder. I remembered the story from this summer. But the details in this update were heartbreaking. Apparently, the cook who prepared the food told the headmistress it smelled off; the headmistress told her to serve it anyway. The kids complained that it tasted strange; the headmistress told them to shut up and eat their soybeans, rice and potato curry. Forty-two of them, plus the cook, were hospitalized; 23 subsequently died. The state government has paid the affected families $3,273 per dead child.
Even in this era of political cynicism, the brazenness of Republicans’ recent redistricting efforts—especially in Pennsylvania—seemed breathtaking. To demonstrate the absurdity of the revisions, Slate created a jigsaw-puzzle game challenging readers to put the dissected districts back together in state-shape.
Nobody loves herpes simplex virus type 1, the bug that causes those wretched cold sores. And yet it runs in families, since it tends to be spread by common signs of affection, like kisses and hugs. So maybe it’s fitting that researchers have now used HSV-1 to trace the path of the human family around the globe.
A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison collected strains of HSV1 from America, Europe, Africa and Asia, teased them apart to decipher their genetic codes, and then compared the strains to one another. Their findings? The African strains all grouped together genetically, as did the European ones, the Asian ones, and all but one strain from America. “What we found follows exactly what the anthropologists have told us, and the molecular geneticists who have analyzed the human genome have told us, about where humans originated and how they spread across the planet,” according to lead researcher Curtis Brandt.
The scientists used HSV-1 for their study because it isn’t usually deadly, it’s easy to collect, and the latent infection it causes in unlucky sufferers lasts for life.
Um—but what about that one outlier American infection? It hailed from Texas, and its closest genetic relative was an Asian HSV-1 strain. Because it had genetically diverged from that Asian strain some 15,000 years ago, the researchers surmise it came from a Native American whose ancestors once walked across the Bering Strait land bridge.
It’s been a bad couple of weeks for computer glitches.
Yesterday morning, President Obama publicly apologized in the Rose Garden for the frozen screens and other software flaws that have plagued the Affordable Care Act’s online sign-up system since its debut on October 1st. He pledged to do “everything we can possibly do” to get the system up and running the way it was intended, and to bring in computer experts from inside and outside government to tackle the challenge.
Initial reports of sign-up trouble got lost in the clamor over the Capitol shutdown; now that the government’s reopened, Republicans are taking the opportunity to hammer on the system’s flaws in their fruitless-but-relentless quest to repeal Obamacare. Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius is taking heat for the system’s woes, with Republicans demanding that she appear before a House committee to explain the website’s failures. Michigan Congressman Fred Upton dubbed the rollout “a complete mess, beyond the worst-case scenario,” and Senator John McCain declared it a “fiasco.” Read more »
The White House has announced a “tech blitz” to take on the glitches at HealthCare.gov that have been thwarting millions of Americans attempting to sign up for health insurance. The team of computer experts from inside and outside government—the “best and the brightest,” according to administration officials—is putting the pedal to the metal to find fixes for the balky system, and that means one thing: The best and the brightest will be getting less sleep. Read more »
When I heard earlier this month about the decision by the New Hope-Solebury school board to cancel nighttime sporting events at their high-school stadium, I couldn’t believe it. Who would mess with Friday night high-school football? It’s … American. It’s wholesome! Why, it’s so iconic that there have been a best-selling book, a movie and a beloved, long-running TV series on the subject. You can’t just pull the plug on something like that.
Okay, bitch, let’s talk.
Just now, I was in the elevator with you, riding up. You got off a few floors below me. You had your phone out. You were checking it for something—something momentously important, I’m sure. I know it was important because you were totally engrossed, which caused you not to exit the elevator in a timely manner, but rather to meander slowly toward the open doors, thumbs busily hitting the screen, while the rest of us stood. And waited. For you to get through the goddamned elevator doors so they would shut behind you and we could be on our way.
You are a worthless human being.
So yesterday John Boehner and President Obama sat down for a face-to-face chat, and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED. Throughout the country, journalists lamented: How can this be? Isn’t a good old-fashioned tête-à-tête the best recipe for resolution in a standoff? Shouldn’t two reasonable men of wildly divergent opinions sitting eyeball to eyeball be able to work out a compromise?
Uh, no. The results of new research at Germany’s University of Freiburg show just the opposite, in startling contrast to the advice I’ve been giving my kids from the day they were born. (You know: Firm handshake, look the other person in the eye … ) Note to said kids: If you’re in search of compromise, look ’em in the mouth instead.
A female student reported a sign of a harassing nature. Upon further investigation, it was determined the communication was not to be directed in a harassing manner.
—Swarthmore College campus police blotter, 9/21/13
The paperback version of Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men: And the Rise of Woman came out this month, with a new epilogue, adapted for an article on Slate, that muses further on the peculiar role-reversal the author sees the genders currently undergoing. Rosin has accumulated a host of evidence to support her view that males have become obsolete–from the dearth of men on college campuses to the explosion in female-headed single-parent households. Yet when she appears at book events, she says, there’s an inevitable moment when a woman in the audience starts sniping about “the patriarchy.”