William Langewiesche, “The Million-Dollar Nose”; Carl Elliott, “A New Way to Be Mad”; Barbara Ferry and Debbie Nathan, “Mistaken Identity? The Case of New Mexico's 'Hidden Jews'”; Stephen Budiansky, “The Physics of Gridlock”; and much more.
The phenomenon is not as rare as one might think: healthy people deliberately setting out to rid themselves of one or more of their limbs, with or without a surgeon's help. Why do pathologies sometimes arise as if from nowhere? Can the mere description of a condition make it contagious?
With his stubborn disregard for the hierarchy of wines, Robert Parker, the straight-talking American wine critic, is revolutionizing the industry -- and teaching the French wine establishment some lessons it would rather not learn.
Imagine descendants of Jews pursued by the Spanish Inquisition, still tending the dying embers of their faith among peasant Latinos in the American Southwest. The story has obvious resonance, and it has garnered considerable publicity. The truth of the matter may turn out to be vastly different, and nearly as improbable.
Other countries swear by brooms, mops, and sponges. The U.S. prefers something more disposable.
Every day, as Americans dry their hands, soak up their spills, and wipe their counters, they are—whether they know it or not—contributing to their country’s dominance. In an era of waning American exceptionalism, inhabitants can at least pride themselves on an underratedly important, probably shameful distinction: They reside in the paper-towel capital of the world.
This status is unquestioned. According to data shared with me by the market-research firm Euromonitor International, global spending on paper towels for use at home (but not in office or public bathrooms) added up to about $12 billion in 2017, and Americans accounted for about $5.7 billion of that total. In other words, the U.S. spends nearly as much on paper towels as every other country in the world combined.
An eight-year campaign to slash the IRS’s budget has left the agency understaffed, hamstrung, and operating with archaic equipment. The result: a hundred-billion-dollar heist.
In the summer of 2008, William Pfeil made a startling discovery: Hundreds of foreign companies that operated in the U.S. weren’t paying U.S. taxes, and his employer, the Internal Revenue Service, had no idea. Under U.S. law, companies that do business in the Gulf of Mexico owe the American government a piece of what they make drilling for oil there or helping those that do. But the vast majority of the foreign companies weren’t paying anything, and taxpaying American companies were upset, arguing that it unfairly allowed the foreign rivals to underbid for contracts.
Pfeil and the IRS started pursuing the non-U.S. entities. Ultimately, he figures he brought in more than $50 million in previously unpaid taxes over the course of about five years. It was an example of how the tax-collecting agency is supposed to work.
Proving white-collar crimes is an exceedingly difficult task for prosecutors. Trump is doing his best to make it easier.
Donald Trump can’t stop telling on himself.
Just two years into his presidency, the New York real-estate mogul turned politician faces at least two separate criminal investigations, while half a dozen former advisers, including his former campaign chair, deputy campaign chair, national-security adviser, foreign-policy adviser, and personal attorney have all pleaded guilty to or been convicted of serious crimes. That’s even more remarkable when you consider that the American legal system makes white-collar crimes difficult to prove, by making guilt conditional on a defendant’s state of mind, a notoriously high standard.
Nevertheless, Trump has done his best to ensure that we all know what he’s thinking, even as his legal peril grows. Last Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York claimed in a filing that Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, had been directed during the campaign to pay hush money to women who claimed to have had affairs with the president. Those payments, according to the filing, were laundered through shell corporations and reimbursed by the president’s private company. Effectively, the president’s own Justice Department accused him of ordering his personal attorney to commit a felony.
The untold story of how anger became the dominant emotion in our politics and personal lives—and what we can do about it.
I. An Angry Little Town
Soon after the snows of 1977 began to thaw, the residents of Greenfield, Massachusetts, received a strange questionnaire in the mail. “Try to recall the number of times you became annoyed and/or angry during the past week,” the survey instructed. “Describe the most angry of these experiences.” One woman knew her answer: Recently, her husband had bought a new car. Then he had driven it to his mistress’s house so she could admire the purchase. When the wife found out, she was livid. Furious. Her rage felt like an eruption she couldn’t control.
The survey was interested in the particulars of respondents’ anger. In its 14 pages, it sought an almost voyeuristic level of detail. It asked the woman to describe the stages of her fury, which words she had shouted, whether punches had been thrown. “In becoming angry, did you wish to get back at, or gain revenge?” the survey inquired. Afterward, did you feel “triumphant, confident and dominant” or “ashamed, embarrassed and guilty”? There were also questions for people like her husband, who had been on the receiving end: “Did the other person’s anger come as a surprise to you, or did you expect that it would occur?”
Research suggests that elite colleges don’t really help rich white guys. But they can have a big effect if you’re not rich, not white, or not a guy.
This year, more than 2 million Americans will apply to college. Most will aim for nearby schools without global brands or billion-dollar endowments. But for the tens of thousands of families applying to America’s most elite institutions, the admissions process is a high-cost, high-stress gantlet.
American parents now spend almost half a billion dollars each year on “independent education consultants,” and that’s not counting the cost of test prep or flights and hotels for campus visits. These collegiate sweepstakes leave a trail of frazzled parents and emotionally wrecked teens already burdened with rising anxiety, which raises a big question: Does it really matter whether you attend an elite college?
Trying to keep other kids from finding out the truth can cause a holiday-season-long headache.
In 2018, the measures parents can take to protect a child’s belief in Santa are impressively sophisticated. In addition to the old “Leave a note signed ‘S.C.’ alongside some half-eaten cookies” trick, and the slightly more advanced Oh-look-a-tuft-of-red-and-white-fabric-caught-on-the-fireplace! maneuver, parents can now also set their kids up to follow @Santa or @OfficialSanta on Twitter, quickly doctor webcam footage so that it appears to show Santa in their living room through an app, and make “video calls” to Santa through another app. They can even enable a Google Chrome extension that filters out any pages that might reveal the truth about Santa while kids browse the internet. (This article, I assume, would be detected as a threat, but let’s just make sure it gets filtered out: KIDS, SANTA ISN’T REAL.)
What Big Pharma knows about people’s hardwired instinct to reciprocate when given a gift
Early in Dopesick, a book examining how Purdue Pharma helped addict an alarming number of Americans to opioids, Beth Macy writes about the army of drug reps who pushed the painkiller OxyContin. In its approach to sales, Macy shows, Purdue was scientific. Using information purchased from a data-mining firm, the company determined which physicians were prescribing the most of its competitors’ painkillers, and dispatched sales reps to their practices. The more likely a doctor was to prescribe, the more often the reps darkened his door. The reps were highly motivated: Their bonuses were pegged to the milligrams of OxyContin a doctor prescribed.
The reps, traditionally known as “detail men”—though since the mid-1990s, when OxyContin was introduced, the field has become more associated with young women—usually arrived bearing gifts. A rep might invite a doctor out to a fine restaurant, or on a junket in a desirable vacation destination. For doctors too busy for such gifts, work-arounds were devised. “Reps began coming by before holidays to drop off a turkey or beef tenderloin that a doctor could take home to the family—even a Christmas tree,” Macy writes. To bend the ear of the most harried physicians, reps would invite them to meet at a nearby gas station, where they would buy the doctors a fill-up and pitch them on their wares as the fuel flowed into the tank.
In the 19th century, cold rinses and days-long baths became a way to treat—and control—psychiatric patients.
The 19th century was a time of great innovation in plumbing. Cities got the first modern sewers, with tunnels that snaked for miles underground. Houses got bathrooms, with ceramic toilets, tubs, and sinks that you would easily recognize today. And, not to be left behind in this period of infrastructure overhaul, psychiatric hospitals got hydrotherapy: the method of using water to treat madness.
By then, this curious idea was not new. In the 17th century, for example, the Flemish physician Jan Baptist van Helmont would plunge patients into ponds or the sea. His inspiration came from a story he’d heard of an escaping “lunatic” who ran right into a lake. The man nearly drowned, but when he recovered, so did his mind, apparently. Van Helmont concluded that water could stop “the too violent and exorbitant Operation of the fiery Life.” His began stripping his patients naked, binding their hands, and lowering them headfirst into the water, according to van Helmont’s son, who wrote a book about his father.
New technologies are making war even more horrific.
War is won by breaking an enemy’s morale until their ability to resist collapses. In Iraq, the U.S. military employed “shock and awe,” demonstrating overwhelming force while using superior technology and intelligence. It was a new term for an ancient approach: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt,” Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, centuries before Christ. Strike suddenly, brutally, and with the element of surprise to sow confusion and encourage surrender and retreat—or to stage annihilation.
The Third Reich’s blitzkrieg techniques did the same (“the engine of the Panzer is a weapon just as the main gun,” the German general Heinz Guderian noted), along with the shrieking “Jericho Trumpet” sirens its Luftwaffe attached to planes making dive-bomb attacks on cities. The aim was not just the shattering of buildings but the shattering of nerves.
Somehow, a man coughed up an intact blood clot shaped like a lung passage.
On Tuesday, The New England Journal of Medicine tweeted the most recent addition to its photo series of the most visually arresting medical anomalies. The image is of a mysterious, branchlike structure that, posted elsewhere, would probably pass for a cherry-red chunk of some underground root system or a piece of bright reef coral. But this is no creature of the deep. It’s a completely intact, six-inch-wide clot of human blood in the exact shape of the right bronchial tree, one of the two key tubular networks that ferry air to and from the lungs. And it was coughed up in one piece.
The clot is beautiful, and it’s also kind of gross. The tweet received a slew of replies from those frightened that the photo showed an actual coughed-up lung, which is about as likely to happen as your brain falling out of your butt. But even the doctors who treated the 36-year-old man who produced the clot aren’t entirely sure how it could have emerged without breaking.