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Twin Takeover, Taxing the Poor, and an East Coast Earthquake

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Twins: A Slate Special Issue.” In the last three decades, the incidence of twins has increased by more than 70 percent, raising unanswered questions among the rest of us singletons. Where are they all coming from? And perhaps more importantly, are they all as creepy as the pair in The Shining? Slate works to make sense of the rise in multiple births, the phenomenon of “twin speak” and parasitic twins.

The Crimes of Col. Qaddafi: In the euphoria of the current celebrations, we must not lose sight of the former leader’s foul deeds,” by Christopher Hitchens. After months of violence and instability, Libyans finally have reason to celebrate: It looks like they’ve finally witnessed the collapse of Qaddafi’s dictatorial rule. Still, Hitchens says, even in the midst of jubilation and relief, there must be a decisive condemnation followed by consequences for war crimes committed during the Leader’s 40-year reign. 

Republicans for Tax Hikes: Republicans have finally found a group they want to tax: poor people,” by David Weigel. The GOP says raising taxes on the rich would be “class warfare,” Weigel writes. But raising taxes on the poor? According to a growing number of historically anti-tax Republicans, it’s only fair. Zealous supporters of this new “GOP orthodoxy” say the working poor families and seniors that comprise the majority of Americans exempted from income taxes aren’t doing their part for the country.

Is Washington as Earthquake-Proof as Los Angeles? No,” by Brian Palmer. Alright, jaded Los Angelenos, mock the East Coast residents all you want for the hysteria that followed Tuesday’s earthquake. But perhaps the quake-virgins had a valid reason to shake in their boots when they felt tremors: Some areas of the country, Palmer reports, are in fact more vulnerable to quake-damaged buildings than others. Building codes everywhere have seismic provisions, but regions deemed less dangerous (ie: most of the East Coast) don’t require the same preventative measures.

How Hard Is It To Get a Cartoon Into The New Yorker? Hard,” by James Sturm. A graphic novelist with the “mid-career blahs” forces himself to draw one cartoon everyday for three months. His goal? A coveted spot in the pages of TheNew Yorker. Sturm chronicles his foray into the magazine’s cutthroat cartoon world—an established fraternity of die-hard artists who have become accustomed to constant rejection. Will he get his work published in the prestigious magazine?  We won’t ruin the ending, but here’s a sobering fact:  Each week, about 500 cartoons are submitted to The New Yorker to fill between 12 and 20 slots.

Who Needs Him? Apple will do amazingly well without Steve Jobs,” by Farhad Manjoo. Steve Jobs might have run the show at Apple when the tech giant churned out game-changers like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, but his resignation won’t be the end of the company’s success, Manjoo writes. Instead, Manjoo predicts that the product lineup—unparalleled in terms of both prices for consumers and overall company profitability—will keep Apple firmly at the head of the pack.

All the President’s Signatures: The constitutional quibble with the autopen. (It’s not what you think it is.),” by Terry L. Turnipseed. Mechanical autopens that have been programmed to sign documents for busy presidents, congressmen, and other important people are nothing new in Washington. But President Obama became the first chief executive to authorize the use of an autopen to enact a law in Washington while he was away. Now, Turnipseed writes, he’s entered into murky constitutional territory.

Navel Gazing: In the post Eat, Pray, Love world, the yoga memoir—or yogoir—has become its own lively sub-genre,” by Laura Moser. Are you both super flexible and vaguely unfulfilled in life? Increasingly omnipresent yoga memoirs, which neatly weave together a quest for self-improvement with a healthy smattering of down dog and sun salutations, could be just the thing to help find your inner-zen. With the rising number of worldly yogis “elevating spiritual transformation into a mass-market paperback,” Moser predicts the yogoir is here to stay.

Unbreakable: The women’s track and field record book needs to be expunged,” by Edward McClelland. Broad shoulders, flat chests and burly underarms: Elite female runners of the 1980s —before the days of routine steroid testing—were a special breed. So special, in fact, that many of their world records haven’t been broken for decades, leaving today’s fastest women in a futile struggle toward unachievable goals. To level the playing field, McClelland writes, the record books must be expunged.

Are There Hidden Messages in Pronouns? James Pennebaker says computers reveal secret patterns,” by Juliet Lapidos. Looking to tell a more convincing lie? Beef up your vocabulary. As Lapidos explains, a new study shows that even seemingly inconsequential pronouns used in speech could help determine the Pinnochios among us. For those taking notes, using bigger words, more complex sentences, exclusive words (except, but, without), and I-words (me, my), are usually indicators of a truth-teller.

Correction, Aug. 29, 2011: This article originally carried an incorrect byline.