Cocktail Chatter

The Lululemon Murder, Robots, and Ancient Art-Filled Caves

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Stab in the Dark: A twist in the Lululemon murder story reminds us that most crime isn’t random,” by Chris Beam. In a news climate that tends to play up the freaky randomness of violence, Jayna Murray’s murder provides cold comfort: We have less to fear from strangers in the street than from our own co-workers.

The Robot Rule: Don’t start a nuclear reactor unless you have robots to stop it from melting down,” by Will Saletan. Domo arigoto for nothing, Mr. Roboto. The technology exists, so why haven’t nuclear power companies developed machines that can save the day when disaster strikes?

 ”The Key to Success in Libya is Setting Low Expectations: Obama’s reluctance to intervene is his most important tactical asset,” by Anne Applebaum. The POTUS weathered criticism for his hesitant treatment of Libya, but now that we’re in, his restraint looks like responsible leadership. The author claims that Obama’s lighter touch won him allies abroad and freed him from committing to another Iraq.

Too Late and Too Weak: The Republican candidates pummel President Obama’s Libyan strategy,” by John Dickerson. Meet “dithering,” gun-shy Barack Obama, America’s “spectator-in-chief.” Touring through recent criticisms of the President, Dickerson assesses whether the slams are likely to influence voters in 2012.

The Arab Powder Keg: An animated map of protests in the Middle East as they spread from country to country, updated with the most recent events,” by Elizabeth Weingarten and Chris Wilson. Press the Autoplay button, and the gray map of the Middle East and North Africa region will begin to erupt into taupe, orange and teal, each color symbolizing the different levels of revolution in each country. The animation offers a day-by-day guide from the revolution’s genesis in Tunisia to the current crisis in Libya. 

Hold the Phone: Why the proposed merger between AT&T and T-mobile is a bad idea,” by Annie Lowrey. If AT&T goes through with its plan to purchase T-mobile, the four wireless giants now dominating the marketplace become three. Such a loss of competition, argues Lowrey, “means higher prices, full stop.” 

Elizabeth Taylor, RIP: A farewell to the most fleshly of all actresses,” by Dana Stevens. Poised and radiant, Taylor so completely inhabited her body that her presence could be felt on movie screens around the world. So what if the notion of celebrity she nourished would later spit out Brangelina?

America’s Ancient Cave Art: Deep in the Cumberland Plateau, mysterious drawings, thousands of years old, offer a glimpse of lost Native American cultures and traditions,” by John Jeremiah Sullivan. Excerpted from the latest issue of The Paris Review, this essay casts some torchlight on the walls of Native American cavesin Tennessee, finally raising more questions about the lives of the people who gathered there than it is able to answer. 

How Did ‘Muffin Top,’ ‘LOL,’ and ‘OMG’ Get into the Oxford English Dictionary?” By Elizabeth Weingarten. Have you ever wondered how your fave slang abbrevs become Legitimate English Words? Weingarten has, and her quest for answers led her to the origins of OMG, a recent addition to the Oxford English Dictionary. The first person to use it: British Navy Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher. “In 1917, Fisher wrote this sentence in a letter,” Weingarten writes, ” ‘I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis—O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)­—Shower it on the Admiralty!’ He sent the letter to Winston Churchill.”

The Middle East’s Marie Antoinettes: How a handful of rulers’ wives became fashion magazine darlings here and symbols of inequality back home,” by Noreen Malone. Americans love chic, empowered women who hail from traditionally repressive Arab countries. But among their own people, glamorous queens can be seen as emblems of extravagance, not liberation.