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Reduction Abortions, Why Slang Words Stick, and the Fall of the Postal Service

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Half-Aborted: Why do ‘reductions’ of twin pregnancies trouble pro-choicers?” by William Saletan. Is it wrong for a woman to abort one fetus from a pair of twins but allow the other to survive? Saletan explores the murky ethics of “reduction” abortions and attempts to explain why even some ardent pro-choice advocates are uncomfortable with the controversial procedure.

Wolf Blitzer, Null Set: The CNN anchor remains the standard reference unit of dullness,” by Jack Shafer. Can Wolf Blitzer get any more monotonous than he already is on television? Yes he can, Shafer writes, taking  CNN’s Situation Room anchor to task for his soul-crushing charisma deficit. Shafer slogs through Blitzer’s most recent online advice write-up for journalists—and needs to check his own pulse by the time he’s done.

Obama’s FDR Moment: Americans are looking to the president for bold ideas. Here are two,” by Eliot Spitzer.  Some argue that President Obama hasn’t been a bold enough leader during his White House tenure. Now is the time to change that approach, Spitzer writes. He argues that the president should set up programs offering immediate assistance to debt-laden homeowners and the unemployed.

The GOP’S New War on Schools: The rise of Michele Bachmann reflects a shift in the party’s education agenda,” by Dana Goldstein. Bachmann’s rise to superstar status in the GOP doesn’t bode well for education policy, Goldstein writes. The Minnesota congresswoman is piloting a charge against government-sponsored education reform: She sees it as a violation of the right of Christian families to teach children what they want.

That’s So Mysto: What makes slang stick?” by Juliet Lapidos. Why do some slang words, like “cool,” withstand the test of time, while others, like “groovy,” fall into the linguistic wastebin? Lapidos explores the question and concludes that certain traits help make a word stay in the lexicon. Some helpful tips for anyone hoping to make a new slag word popular: put an “ooh” sound in it, assign a judgmental meaning to it, and get it mentioned in a blockbuster movie.

Deliverance: The U.S. Postal Service must make massive changes if it is going to survive,” by Annie Lowrey. Having a letter delivered by the U.S. Postal Service is an astonishingly good deal, remarks Lowrey. For 44 cents, you can send a piece of mail from Honolulu to Miami. But the recession, along with the Postal Service’s worsening cash position, have left the institution in dire straits. If snail mail is going to survive, Lowrey writes, the Postal Service will need to reinvent itself.

Baby Fat: Do birth control pills make women gain weight?” by Christie Aschwanden. Many women on birth control pills think the drug makes them put on pounds. But a new study calls this conventional wisdom into question. When researchers tested birth-control pills alongside placebos to determine whether the drugs caused weight gain, there was no significant difference between the real pills and the placebos.

The Secrets of Winged Architects: A look at some of the most incredible nests in the bird world,” by Heather Murphy. What does prime real estate look like in the bird world? Murphy takes readers on a tour of some our winged friends’ most well-designed homes, offering a look at the pictures of Peter Goodfellow, who photographed a series of bird nests for his new book, “Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer and Build.”

The Two Rick Perrys: When it comes to policy, the Texas governor is both confident and tentative,” by John Dickerson. Rick Perry has made some provocative statements so far on the campaign trail.  He’s claimed that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would be “treasonous” if he printed more currency and  argued  that global warming is supported by scientists who manipulate their data for funding.  But despite these fervent statements,  Dickerson writes, his policy proposals have been lacking. If the Texas governor wants a shot at the presidency, he’ll have to start offering more concrete plans to improve the state of the country rather than simply pointing out its alleged weaknesses.

The Top Right in Design: Slate selects five American designers who are both wildly inventive and incredibly practical.” In the final installment of its Top Right series, Slate picks the innovators who are bulldozing the design status quo, reinventing everything from eco-friendly skyscrapers to affordable furniture. Plus, find out why Apple designer Jonathan Ives thinks even a computer can be sexy.