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Mexico’s ’85 Earthquake Didn’t Start a Revolution

By | September 29, 2017

Can the shaking of earthquakes upend political power?
This question often has been answered by referencing Mexico. Political scientists often link Mexico City’s devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake on September 19, 1985, to the end of the PRI’s seven-decades-long rule of the country 15 years later. Their argument is not that the party was responsible for the loss of some 10,000 lives, but rather that the disaster …

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How Trump’s Staff Could Save Him from Himself

By | September 27, 2017

The stupefying deeds of the Trump White House are passing in such a blur these days that it is hard to parse the incompetence. From policies foreign and domestic that churn without solidifying, to presidential tweets that seem the products of insult comedians, to an obsession with fixing blame before even knowing results, this seems more a Three Stooges comedy than a functional administration.
One piece …

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The 1918 Flu Pandemic That Revolutionized Public Health

By | September 26, 2017

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1918, the world experienced the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death, possibly in the whole of human history. We call that tidal wave the Spanish flu, and many things changed in the wake of it. One of the most profound revolutions took place in the domain of public health.
The world was a very different place in the …

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The Trump Administration Wants Uranium Mining in Utah—but What About the Dinosaur Fossils?

By | September 22, 2017

The United States has an extensive system of amazing parks. From the Shenandoah National Park, close to where I grew up, to Sequoia National Park, where I am a trustee for Lost Soldier’s Cave, our national parks connect Americans to our remarkable landscapes and wilderness areas.
I have annual passes to both the U.S. and the California Parks and Recreational Areas. So when someone asks …

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How Mexico and India Fused in My L.A. Kitchen

By | September 21, 2017

It’s a paradox, both of our globalized culture and of Los Angeles: My mother’s quest to cook authentic Indian food when she visits here has taught me a lot about Mexican and Mexican-American cuisine.
I’m not the only one benefiting from this lesson. When my mother, Alicia Mayer, flies in from India and stays with us at our home in West L.A., my friends invite themselves …

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Risk-Taking Is Profitable—but Perilous in Our Interdependent World

By | September 20, 2017

Risks are inherent in life and so, over the centuries, people have devised many mechanisms to pool and reduce risks.
These institutions range from families to religious tithing to formal insurance contracts and diversification strategies for market investing. But, whether formal or informal, social or financial, all serve to ensure that those of us who are unfortunate enough to face adversity at any one time …

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From Paradise Lost to Harry Potter, Fanfiction Writers Reimagine the Classics

By | September 15, 2017

As Game of Thrones looks to its eighth season, the show—strictly speaking—is no longer filming the books of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Of course, it is still using the characters, world, and settings that Martin established (though its sometimes-drastic departures from the source material have been the cause of controversy before). But as the show has passed the timeline covered …

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What the Gender Reveal Fad Says About Modern Pregnancy

By | September 13, 2017

My youngest daughter often asks me to tell her about the day when, pregnant with her, I was riding to work on the subway and wondering whether she would be a boy or a girl. Just at that moment, I looked up and saw a deliveryman holding a bouquet of pink balloons and a sign that said, “It’s A Girl.”
Now, both my daughter and …

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When You Live Online, Will Anyone Know When You Die?

By | September 12, 2017

I suspected that something was wrong on the Sunday morning when I saw the beginning of a Facebook post in my newsfeed sidebar that said, in French, “Our dear AJ has given up …” I was unable to read the rest because it was removed as I looked at it, but I was concerned that it might actually mean that AJ was hurt or in …

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Is Batgirl the Next Great Feminist Superhero?

By | September 8, 2017

Last year, DC Comics’ bestselling graphic novel was Batman: The Killing Joke. Originally published in 1988, it’s one of the most famous, and infamous, superhero stories of all time. The book began with the Joker attacking Barbara Gordon and leaving her paralyzed, spurring Batman on a campaign of vengeance. Now, decades later, this assault could define the direction of a blockbuster cinematic franchise. Barbara Gordon …