The group blog of The New Republic

August 25, 2013

Today, we start a regular new feature on The Plank: Florida or Russia? Both places produce stories that boggle the mind: cannibalistic meth heads, people getting into bar fights so vicious they end in death when one guy puts his shoe-clad foot up another

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August 23, 2013

The country’s political class has been engaged in a rare bout of bipartisan self-congratulation of late over the growing consensus around the need for prison reform. Republican governors and state legislators who once championed lock ‘em up policies are now taking a softer line, citing the high cost of prisons and their personal belief in the power of redemption.

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Microsoft announced today that Steve Ballmer is stepping down as CEO some time in the next year, and you gotta feel sorry for the guy. In the theatre, they say: Never follow an act involving children. Ballmer had to follow an even tougher act: Bill Gates. Gates is a master of the second act, having done two star turns: first as a software entrepreneur (he pretty much invented the part, which has been widely imitated but never equaled) and CEO, and then as a philanthropist.

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If a new New York Times report is true, ESPN is worse than I imagined.

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The latest Obamacare story getting everybody’s attention is about the United Parcel Service. On Wednesday, Kaiser Health News and USA Today reported that UPS was making a change in its employee health plan—and that, as a result, 15,000 spouses of UPS employees would lose access to company insurance. One reason for the change, according to the company, is that UPS faces higher insurance costs from Obamacare.

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Yael Stone’s Lorna Morello is one of the most memorable characters on the hit Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” Lorna is a prisoner and temporary lesbian planning a wedding to her fiance back home, and perhaps the most notable part of Stone's performance is her accent: there is something noirish and gangster-film about it, its exact origin not quite clear. Stone is Australian; on the phone, it is startling to hear the genteel lilt of her actual voice. But she spent hours wandering Boston with a tape recorder to perfect Lorna’s cocktail of east coast sounds.

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“House Republicans have no idea how they’re going to lift the debt ceiling this fall,” Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan report in Politico. But, they make clear, there’s plenty of brainstorming going on among top GOP brass on what to ask for—in exchange for funding the government to avoid a shutdown, lifting the debt ceiling, and raising spending from sequester levels.

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August 22, 2013

“Frontline,” the prestigious, multiple-Emmy-winning investigative news show produced by Boston’s PBS member station, announced late Thursday afternoon that a 15-month-old partnership with ESPN in which they published a series of pieces exploring how the National Football League has (and has not) accounted for the relationship between playing football, head trauma, and brain damage, had come to an end.

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“We will not allow the Supreme Court's recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights.”

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One of the curious contradictions of the tech world is that—despite being an industry predicated on exacting, scientific attention to detail—when it comes to the bigger picture, many in Silicon Valley tend towards a Utopian impracticality. Don't-bother-me-with-the-factual limitations dreaming is a good thing for startups, but it can be less useful when applied to social problems.

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