Cocktail Chatter

The Exoneration of Bennett Barbour, the Disappearance of _why, and the Audacity of Mope

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Bennett Barbour

The Exoneration of Bennett Barbour: Virginia knows it has DNA evidence that may prove the innocence of dozens of men convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. Men just like Barbour. So why won’t the state say who they are?” by Dahlia Lithwick. Lithwick looks at why numerous former convicts, who have been exonerated by DNA testing, and their families have not been contacted by the state of Virginia to tell them of their innocence.

Are Innocent Parents Being Prosecuted for Killing Their Babies? The doctor who came up with ‘shaken-baby syndrome’ thinks so,” by Emily Bazelon. Cases like that of a 4-month-old whose death was attributed to “shaken-baby syndrome” despite his being ill since birth, has the pediatric neurosurgeon who first identified the syndrome worried that innocent people are being accused of killing their children. 

Where’s _why? What happened when one of the world’s most unusual, and beloved, computer programmers disappeared,” by Annie Lowrey. In this absorbing longform piece, Lowrey decides to demystify her image of the computer as “a glowing, magic box” by learning computer programming through the “Ruby on Rails” application. She interlaces her learning experience with an investigation into what happened to a Ruby programmer, who despite a cult following mysteriously dropped out of society in 2009 without explanation.

Badgers or Grizzlies? Cyclone or Huskies?: If the NCAA Tournament were a fight to the death between mascots, who would win?” by Will Oremus. While the NCAA’s best meet on the basketball court, Slate imagines the outcome of battles between the team’s college nicknames/mascots. If you think the Iowa State Cyclones would whirl away the Connecticut Huskies, you’re underestimating these hardy sled dogs.

Mad Men and Black America: The critics are wrong: The series’ handling of race has been brave—and painfully accurate, by Tanner Colby. Colby looks at whether Season 6 of Mad Men will take a closer look at 1960s race relations. And he explains why the show’s lack of black characters is actually an accurate depiction of the advertising world during that era.

Expensive, Useless, Exploitative: Why we should celebrate the end of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s print edition,” by Farhad Manjoo. Now that the Encyclopedia Britannica has discontinued its printed volumes, Manjoo says he won’t miss the iconic reference books at all. The better alternative to him are free Google and Wikipedia searches which get you ready “for the real world, while learning to use Britannica teaches you nothing beyond whatever subject you’re investigating at the moment.”

Leprechaun vs. Lucky Charms: Did leprechauns start out scary or cute?” by L.V. Anderson. Before they were hawking breakfast cereal and terrorizing movie victims, the leprechauns of traditional Irish folklore had a mixed reputation as cute but tricky.

The Audacity of Mope: In 2008, Obama ran on hope and change. Now he’s running on bad memories,” by William Saletan. A new Barack Obama re-election video “wants to push the recession’s losses onto the books of the Bush administration” and focus on how the president has helped the country’s economic recovery.

Guarding the Fox House: A famous animal experiment is in peril, after 54 years of work,” by Ceiridwen Terrill. A scientific project attempting to tame foxes to, make them as domesticated as dogs may shut down because of a lack in funding. Terrill writes that the premature end to this experiment would be missing “an opportunity to understand the mechanisms of domestication.”

Why Elon Musk Wants To Bring People to Mars—and Go There Himself,” by Torie Bosch. Does space tourism stand a chance? One man is betting you’ll be willing to sell your house and move to Mars, and his name isn’t Newt Gingrich.