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Dispatches From Israel, Cursing Mothers, and More on the Petraeus Scandal

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Israelis take cover in a large concrete pipe used as a bomb shelter during a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on Nov. 19, 2012 in Nitzan, Israel.

Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

I Didn’t Come Back to Jerusalem To Be in a War: What it’s like to be in Israel as the conflict escalates,” by Dahlia Lithwick. Lithwick writes about the intense sadness of life during wartime and wonders when both sides will finally reject war and talk about peace. From Tel Aviv, Jessica Apple discusses the challenges of raising children in a war zone, and the constant terror of air raids and bomb shelters. Janine Zacharia, meanwhile, posits that Israel’s Gaza campaign is doomed, destined only to bring further isolation to the region, and Sarah Tory explains the science behind the country’s high-tech iron dome missile shield.

Baby Blue Streak: Can I stop swearing before my daughter is born?” by Jessica Grose. Cursing around kids could get them into the habit for a lifetime. What about cursing around fetuses? Grose, many months pregnant, decided to experiment with a curse-free lifestyle for a month. She mostly succeeded—but was the trade-off worth it?

Bring Back Petraeus: He’s already been humiliated and rehabilitated. Obama should rehire him as CIA director,” by Emily Yoffe. Yes, Gen. David Petraeus had a tawdry affair that exposed his weaknesses to the world. But did he do anything illegal? Yoffe makes a case for Petraeus’ rehiring, believing it would strike a blow against America’s sexual puritanism while reconfirming our civil liberties. 

The Real Lesson of the Petraeus Scandal: We delude ourselves about the way we use technology,” by Christine Rosen. How could a top-ranking general in the U.S. military leave such a massive paper trail of his malfeasance? It helps that no actual paper was involved. Rosen explains how our online communications, freed from the constraints of in-person interaction, may be foolish and strange.

Who Said It: Marco Rubio or Barack Obama? Willful ignorance of science is a bipartisan value,” by Daniel Engber. In a recent GQ interview, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio refused to say how old he believed Earth to be. Liberals were furious, but his comments actually echoed President Obama’s own. Engber examines the startling equivalence of both parties’ denial of science, positing that politicians play by different rules than scientists and pastors.

 “Explain Away the Gay: Opponents of same-sex marriage went 0-for-4 in the election. But they have lots of excuses,” by William Saletan. The National Organization for Marriage—the most prominent and active anti-gay-marriage organization—lost all four statewide ballot initiatives. NOM actually “knew long ago” that it “faced a difficult political landscape” this year, according to their post-election spin. Saletan explores NOM’s various excuses for their massive loss at the polls, noting that somehow none of them involve the basic fact that more Americans accept marriage equality than ever before.

Do Coal Plants Really Kill People? Why Romney was right,” by Amanda Schaffer. Both presidential candidates declared themselves friends of coal during this year’s election—a challenge for Romney, who once said that coal production could be toxic. He repeatedly disavowed the comment, but Schaffer argues that he was, in fact, completely accurate: Coal plants release potentially deadly emissions into the air that can damage children’s brains and lungs. That won’t keep future presidential candidates from praising “clean coal,” though.

Tax Hike Nation: Republicans always talk tough about not raising taxes. Now they know they have to cut a deal,” by David Weigel. This election cycle, Republicans ran on a strict platform of no new taxes, even for the wealthy. They lost. Weigel discusses Obama’s newfound leverage in allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, and ponders whether GOP legislators will be wise enough to buck Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.

Don’t Worry About the Voting Rights Act: If the Supreme Court strikes down part of it, black and Hispanic voters will be just fine,” by Eric Posner and Nicholas Stephanopoulos. As Emily Bazelon recently noted, five members of the Supreme Court appear poised to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act designed to prevent voter suppression of minorities in many Southern states. Eric Posner agrees they might, but argues that this won’t spell doom for minority voters in the South: Another, more obviously Constitutional provision of the Act could be equally effective in preventing disenfranchisement of minorities.