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The Resurrection of Gabby Giffords, the Latest Non-Romney, and Lessons From Penn State

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Penn State students at candle light vigil.
Penn State students gather for a vigil for the victims of Jerry Sandusky. The scandal brought terrible reminders for victims of child abuse.

Photograph by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

The Cruel Lesson of Penn State: How what happened in State College forced me to confront my own abuse,” by Mark P. McKenna. The details of the Jerry Sandusky abuse case might have been hard for anyone to stomach, but they were far more nerve-wracking for the author, who was abused as a child in circumstances similar to the Penn State scandal. “, I no longer think every single day about that terrible winter night. There are still plenty of reminders, to be sure, and there are some things that will never be normal for me. But most days, the wound is insulated by lots of scar tissue. Not this week, though.  The story hit me at a bad time, during a year that was already very difficult. And the similarities were too hard to ignore.”

The Mouse Trap: The dangers of using one lab animal to study every disease,” by Daniel Engber. We often take for granted the furry rodents researchers use to test new medical technology. But are there negative consequences that come from relying so heavily on lab rats and mice? In a three-part series, Engber explains how the “cheap, efficient and highly standardized” rodents used in modern research could be exposing consumers to unforeseen danger. Read the series to learn more about the trouble with the best-selling specimen (an inbred mouse called Black-6), and to see Engber’s  examination of potential anti-mouse candidates like the naked mole rat.

Occupying the First Amendment: What the actions over Zuccotti Park teach us about public spaces and citizen protest,” by Raymond Vasvari. Tuesday’s overnight police raid on the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York’s financial district had implications far greater than the 200 highlypublicized arrests: The right of the city to protect the park trumped the right to peacefully assemble. Vasvari argues that this conflict is rooted in the different ways protesters and city officials interpret the First Amendment. If OWS protesters continue to assemble, they could force officials into a moral choice between stifling free expression and allowing a protest with no end date in public space.

We Won’t Rock You: The sad, unwarranted decline of rock music on FM radio,” by Christine Pawlak. From Los Angeles to New York, rock stations on FM radio across the country are being replaced by everything from gospel to talk radio. Pawlak, a seasoned D.J., argues that rock’s decline on FM isn’t related to its actual moneymaking potential. It’s the result of a decision to move away from the genre by a few influential radio moguls. Read Pawlak’s piece to find out why they’re taking this strange approach.

The Resurrection of Gabby Giffords: The congresswoman’s recovery, documented on video, shows how a brain reconstructs itself,” by William Saletan. Less than a less year after a bullet pierced the skull of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords—severely damaging the parts of the brain that enable speech and language comprehension —video taken recently by Giffords’ husband captured the brain’s remarkable ability to regenerate itself during rehabilitation. As Giffords steadily regains knowledge and the ability to learn new things, Saletan says she proves that “Where there’s a will, the brain finds a way.”

Soulless Soul Mates: Can an atheist and a believer have a happy marriage?” by Jesse Bering. Only 1.6 percent of the population self-identifies as “atheist.” That can make it very difficult for single atheist to find a fellow nonbeliever. But can a marriage between an atheist and a religious person work? In the past, studies have shown that religious discord often leads to less stable marriages. However, Bering explains, the modern result of belief disparity in couples is more difficult to predict in our increasingly secular society: Today, people are no longer as religious as previous generations. So, atheists, there just might be hope for marital bliss—if you choose to believe it.

Where Do Leaders Come From?” by Josh Levin, Matt Dodson, Dan Check, and Erin Nichols. America has many different categories of leaders: Fortune 500 CEOs, government officials and university presidents. Slate decided to lump 1,410 of them together, graph and map a few data sets (birthplace, college, distance from birthplace to current location) and see if any notable similarities or differences emerged. A few of the discoveries: Governors rarely end up at a college far from home. And mayors tend to attend state universities. Check out the maps and graphs for more surprising findings.

The Latest Non-Romney: First it was Bachmann. Then Perry. Then Cain. Can Gingrich last?” by John Dickerson. Until now, the revolving door of GOP candidates posturing as the anti-Mitt Romney have suffered varied but equally speedy falls from grace. With this in mind, Dickerson examines the recent rise of Newt Gingrich—and the gaffes the former speaker of the House has already made on the campaign trail. Dickerson predicts that the Gingrich campaign’s “Doomsday clock” may already be ticking. 

Sex on the Brain: Are boys’ brains different from girls’ brains? Scientists debate the question,” by William Saletan. Gender stereotypes, faulty comparisons and even “neurosexism” can all contribute to misunderstandings of the possible differences in the way male and female brains operate. Saletan’s quest to resolve the ultimate battle of the sexes took him to the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, where debate on the question remains intense. Read the article to see what issues continue to fuel the controversy.

How Many Presidents Have Been Accused of Being the Antichrist?  Hint: It’s not just Obama,” by Forrest Wickman. Investigators on the case of the attempted assassination of President Obama last week say the suspect believed Obama is the “Antichrist.” But is the insult unique to Obama? Nope. Other presidents, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt and JFK, dealt with similar slurs from some religious opponents. However, Obama may have the dubious honor of being called the Antichrist most often: The heckling dates back to the 2008 campaign trail.