Cocktail Chatter

Sarah Palin Election Predictions, Annoying NPR Listeners, and the Birth of Jewish Humor

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Did you miss a day of Slate? Here is a look back at the most interesting stories of the week.

Sudan Cracks Up” by Dan Morrison. Insurrections, human rights abuses, and fraudulent economic policies wrack the African nation, on the verge of separating in July, but its  problems continue to slip under most Americans’ radar.

” ’We Listen to NPR Precisely To Avoid This Sort of Stupidity’: The tedious, annoying complaints of public radio listeners,” by Farhad Manjoo. Manjoo loves NPR, but his fellow listeners? Not so much. “Oh, I hate them, hate them, hate them,” he writes. “Every time one of their narrow-minded, classist letters makes it on the air, I contemplate burning my tote bag in protest.”

The Sunny, Cloudy, Warm, Freezing Jobs News: The latest jobs reports is good news, even if the overall jobs environments is still pretty bad,” by Annie Lowrey. As unemployment rates fall amid talk of more layoffs, the American labor market looks rosier but still bleak. Here are the important trends, prognoses, and weather metaphors.

Que Será, Sarah? Is Sarah Palin going to run for president or not? We track her signals so you don’t have to,” by Noreen Malone. Double X launches a Wasilla-or-Washington meter to predict Sarah’s move come election season. Stay current with the most recent post.

Poem About Heaven,” by David Blair. In his eerie and beautiful contribution to Slate’s weekly poetry column, Blair conjures “That feeling you get/ when somebody is wearing a nightdress/ by the freezer section of the supermarket.” 

Bring Back the Poison Squad: A hundred years ago, our food-safety regulators were willing to eat formaldehyde on our behalf. What are they doing now?” by Deborah Blum. In the early 20th century, USDA scientist Harvey Wiley created volunteer poison squads to test the nation’s food. They tried borax, copper sulfate, and formaldehyde. With food-poisoning outbreaks causing 3,000 deaths annually, Blum argues that we need the FDA to stick its neck out like that again.

Berkeley Prof Pinpoints Exact Birthdate of Jewish Humor,” by Nina Rastogi. A council of 17th century rabbis wrestling with the darkness of persecution may have given rise to today’s caustic, hapless schlemiel. 

Naughty by Nature: What should we think of people whose addled brains are driving them to nymphomania?” by Jesse Bering. A neurological disorder that transforms patients into sex fiends presents a challenge to traditional morality. Will “my brain made me do it” fly as an excuse?

Friends in Embarrassing Places: Saif Qaddafi’s connections with the British establishment are typical of the links between wealthy dictators and Western politicians,” by Anne Applebaum. It’s past time for Western statesmen to cut their gold and oil-slicked alliances with the baddies of contemporary political history. How long will the post-revolutionary world be willing to wait?    

Do You Have Tiger Blood?: What it takes to keep cool under pressure,” by Taylor Clark. In a moment of crisis, some people will leap to neutralize a bank robber, and others will hide under the teller’s desk. Is it nature or nurture? Can we learn to have grace  under pressure? The author of a new book, Nerve, explains his findings.