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Why We’ll Always Have (the) Paris (Accord)

By | June 20, 2017

The United States is out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Trump administration says we will burn coal and fossil fuels if we like, and no one will tell us otherwise.
The United States, we are told, will have a burst of economic growth, now that it is unshackled from an agreement that required (suggested is more accurate) our nation to do …

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Historian Kevin Starr Was an Affectionate Connoisseur of California’s Contradictions

By | June 16, 2017

California has had many chroniclers — some critics, some boosters, some cheerleaders, some dour polemicists. It’s only natural that a vast state defined by its extremes—political, geological, economic, and otherwise—would rarely be portrayed from the center.
But one of the paradoxes of the Golden State is that the greatest historian of California, someone who absorbed the writing of previous scholars and scribes, found a way to …

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For a More Prosperous Society, Keep the Internet Open

By | June 13, 2017

Why would someone who spent much of his career working for a multinational telecommunications company care so much about preserving “net neutrality?”
That someone would be me. I worked for Vodafone, the British telecom giant that serves Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania, while living in both London and The Hague. I went on to work with young technology companies, then at the U.S. State Department, and …

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California’s Single Payer Health Care Bill Is Dead on Arrival

By | June 9, 2017

I am a lifelong Democrat who has been working hard for more than a decade to improve the policies and build the coalitions necessary for the success of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. I believe the ACA didn’t go far enough and that the United States must do more to guarantee universal and affordable health coverage. My preference would be for America to …

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How Hospital Rooms Went from Airy Temples to “Inhuman” Machines

By | June 7, 2017

In the March 1942 issue of the journal Modern Hospital, Charles F. Neergaard, a prominent New York City hospital design consultant, published a layout for a hospital inpatient department that was so innovative he copyrighted it. The plan held two nursing units—groups of patient rooms overseen by a single nursing staff—in a single building wing. For each unit, a corridor provided access to a row …

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At “Constitution Cafés,” We, the People, Are Trying to Form a More Perfect Union

By | June 6, 2017

Are Americans finally ready to un-rig their Constitutional system?
I’ve spent nearly the past decade traveling the United States and talking with people about the Constitutional system, and I think the answer is yes.
My work on the question started in 2008, with an experiment called the Constitution Café. These were an evolution of the Socrates Café, public gatherings around the globe (from Tokyo to Sydney to …

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Our Real “Existential Crisis” Is Bigger Than Trump’s Presidency

By | June 2, 2017

Apparently, these are existential times. During the weeks leading up to last year’s presidential election, The New York Times columnist Charles Blow announced that then-candidate Donald Trump was “America’s existential threat.” A Time magazine opiner, doubling down, declared that Trump was an “existential threat” not just to America, but the rest of the world, too.
More modestly, other voices worried that Trump was an “existential …

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How William the Conqueror Became England’s Peacemaker

By | May 31, 2017

Since the publication of my William the Conqueror in the Yale University Press English Monarchs series in October 2016, I have often been asked how long it took me to write the book. In response, I usually say that it has taken 50 years and three years.
Both numbers are inaccurate, but they contain two essential truths. It was around 50 years ago, as a …

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Why Wiping out Monuments to the Confederacy May Not Be a Path to a More Inclusive Society

By | May 26, 2017

To better understand the historical and contemporary context of last week’s drama in New Orleans over de-Confederatizing the city’s public landscape, it might be helpful to shift our gaze from the banks of the Mississippi to the banks of the Tigris.
It may seem strange to compare Confederate statuary erected in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century South to the self-aggrandizing monuments built by former Iraqi …

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Were Mr. Darcy and Boo Radley Autistic? New and Old Books Are Reframing a Misunderstood Mental Condition

By | May 24, 2017

Is autism cool?
It is in literature, as novels featuring characters on the autism spectrum have become so frequent that they’ve spawned a new genre: “autism lit,” or “aut lit.”
Many of the works put a positive spin on autism. These autistic characters have abilities as well as disabilities; they exist not only as mirrors or catalysts to help others solve their problems, but as active agents …