Nora Caplan-Bricker

Staff Writer

Early in her medical career, Dr. Elizabeth Miller counseled a 15-year-old girl who was afraid of getting pregnant but wasn’t using birth control. She gave the patient some routine advice: Talk to your boyfriend about using condoms. “Two weeks later, she was in our ER with a severe head injury, having been pushed down the stairs by her boyfriend,” says Miller, now the chief of adolescent medicine in Pittsburgh’s children’s hospital. It hadn’t occurred to Miller that the teenager wasn’t using condoms because her controlling boyfriend wouldn’t allow it.

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As the shutdown drags on—and almost one million furloughed federal workers sit at home without pay—public outrage has burned hot at the congressional lawmakers who will continue receiving their $174,000 annual salary no matter how long this lasts. As of Thursday afternoon, 176,000 people had signed a petition at MoveOn.org calling for Congress to go without pay until they get the government up and running again.

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Among its many unhappy effects, the shutdown has sparked an overwhelming number of rhapsodies for Washington's halcyon, bipartisan past. Throughout Barack Obama's presidency, the dysfunction has bred nostalgia for an era "when politics worked" (the tagline of news anchor Chris Matthews' new book), and the events of this week have made those ruminations all the more effusive. We culled some examples of pundits recalling days gone by. Prepare to get lost in the rosy glow.

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The word on everyone’s lips on Capitol Hill is “essential.” If Congress fails to fund the government, aides and Hill staffers of all varieties will be designated “essential”—meaning they will keep reporting to work—or “non-essential,” which translates into furloughed without pay. I overheard a blue-badged staffer ask a security guard how he was faring. “At least we’re essential,” he replied jovially.

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There are plenty of reasons the noxious Ken Cuccinelli is trailing lackluster Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race. A new poll released by Bloomberg last night reiterated the conventional wisdom: Cuccinelli has championed Republicans’ losing social ideology, and now he’s going to pay.

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In her new book, The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World, British economist Alison Wolf argues that as the gap between genders has narrowed for the affluent, the gap between rich and poor women has broadened. 

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These maps from AIDSVu, a group that turns annual HIV infection rates data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) into interactive displays, show exactly where new cases were diagnosed between 2008 and 2011—information that the CDC has never mapped before, and which has big implications for public health. 

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When it passed a bill to cut $39 billion from the food stamp program, or SNAP, the House of Representatives put the worst of the Republican party’s illogical Randism on display.

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The new documentary After Tiller, about the only four doctors in America who still openly provide third-trimester abortions in the wake of George Tiller’s murder in 2009, emphasizes that its subjects are living under siege. LeRoy Carhart recounts the night anti-abortion activists set fire to the stable he runs with his wife and daughter, burning 21 of their horses to death. Susan Robinson, standing in her sunlit kitchen, remembers that a federal marshal once tried to comfort her by pronouncing her house “a hard shot even with a sniper rifle.”

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