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Big Brother, Drowning Dangers, and the Future of Online Shopping

This week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Portrait of J. Edgar Hoover taken on September 28th, 1961.
Portrait of J. Edgar Hoover

Photo by Marion S. Trikosko/Library of Congress

Somewhere, J. Edgar Hoover Is Smiling: The FBI director and notorious snoop would have loved PRISM,” by Beverly Gage. The U.S. has a long history of “intelligence abuses,” dating back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover and COINTELPRO. Gage, a professor at Yale University, recounts the controversial uncovering of this “counterintelligence program” in 1971, explaining that the discovery of such abuses of power led to a “new system of oversight.”* Today, Gage argues, what is troubling isn’t that PRISM exists but rather that “what the NSA is doing appears to be legal—and nearly every branch of the government is complicit.” Elsewhere in Slate, Emily Bazelon explains why the news is worrying and Ryan Gallagher discusses the scope of the surveillance. Fred Kaplan interviews a counterterror expert who is worried about government overreach, and Farhad Manjoo asks: Will the top secret data-mining operation ruin Silicon Valley? And as far as that summit between President Obama and Xi Jinping about cyber-hacking? Awkward, says Will Dobson.

Emperor Erdogan: Turkey’s prime minister is a popular, democratically elected leader—who rules with the back of his hand,” by Cinar Kiper. Last week, protesters gathered in Taksim Square, a public park in the heart of Istanbul. A small protest that began in response to the government’s decision to turn the park into a shopping mall quickly grew in scale as Prime Minister Erdogan and his administration scoffed at protesters’ complaints. Kiper claims that the uprisings speak to Prime Minister Erdogan’s “authoritarian branch of democracy.” Elsewhere in Slate, a protester shares his first-hand account of the protests.

The GOP’s Free Pass: It’s almost impossible for Republicans to overplay their hand on the IRS scandal. And they are just getting started,” by John Dickerson. Though many Democrats argue that the Republican response to the IRS scandal is overblown, particularly in light of next year’s midterm elections, Dickerson claims that, in factthe public largely supports further investigation of the IRS mess.“Right now, the public wants Republicans to make their case.”

The Darkest Year of Medical School: Students come in altruistic and empathetic. They leave jaded and bitter,” by Danielle Ofri. It comes as no surprise that students do not emerge unscathed from the pressures of medical school. Ofri identifies the third year of medical school as a key moment; as students make the move from the classroom to the hospital, they are faced with higher stakes and a new set of pressures. Many lose important qualities that may have played a part in their decision to attend medical school in the first place, such as “altruism, empathy, generosity of spirit, love of learning, high ethical standards.”

“The Curious Case of Gayface: Should straight actors play gay roles?” by J. Bryan Lowder. Straight actors playing gay roles—problematic? Maybe not. Lowder argues that, ultimately, it matters less who is playing what role than “what kinds of gay roles are being written for anyone to play in the first place.”

 “Louisiana’s Latest Anti-Scientific Folly, on Video: Lawmaker says faith healing should be allowed in science class,” by Zack Kopplin. It’s bad enough that the Louisiana Science Education Act, allows schools to teach creationism.Now state senators are defending the law so that “faith-healing” is not seen as “pseudo science.” ” Kopplin writes: “Guillory explained that he wouldn’t want to keep the ‘science’ behind an experience he had with a witch doctor—who ‘wore no shoes, was semi-clothed, used a lot of bones that he threw around’—out of a public school science classroom.”

 “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning: In many child drownings, adults are nearby but have no idea the victim is dying. Here’s what to look for,” by Mario Vittone. Former Coast Guard member Vittone warns readers that drowning doesn’t look like most people expect: It isn’t loud, it isn’t dramatic and, usually, people don’t even realize that it’s happening. Know what to look for at the beach and pool this summer.

Housebound: Does one person staying at home always make the household more efficient?” by Emily Oster. Setting power dynamics aside, what is the most efficient way to run a household? Oster makes a case for specialization rather than parents splitting the various tasks 50-50, but she suggests that rather than embrace a stay-at-home parent model, parents should consider “outsourcing” to ensure that household duties don’t slip through the cracks.

The Glorious Future of Shopping: You order online. Your stuff comes the same day. You never have to leave your house again,” by Farhad Manjoo. New services like Google Shopping Express and Amazon Fresh point to the future of Internet shopping. Manjoo suggests that while, logistically, fulfilling all our shopping needs through the Internet will be tricky (ahem, perishables), it could be amazing.

 “Will Your Dog Mourn Your Death? Or just hop into the next warm lap?” by Brian Palmer.  A photograph of a police dog placing its paw on its partner’s casket recently went viral, prompting the question: “Do dogs mourn the loss of their owners?” Palmer explains that while dogs definitely react to their owner’s deaths, “evidence of mourning is far stronger for other members of the animal kingdom,” such as elephants or chimpanzees.

Correction, June 11, 2013: This article originally misidentified Beverly Gage as a professor at Yale Law School. Professor Gage is a historian and teaches in the History Department at Yale University. (Return to the corrected sentence.)