A 'welfare mother' schools Mitt Romney. Plus, the best of the web this week.

A moving response to Mitt Romney from a mother who worked her way out of welfare. The biggest problem with the conservative movement. A powerful love story, told without a single word. A contest to determine the best word ever. And more! Enjoy.





Politics and World Affairs

I Was A Welfare Mother / Larkin Warren / The New York Times

Warren's personal story is a powerful and beautiful response to Romney's 47% comments.




Until Republicans Fix This Problem, They Can't Fix Any Problems / Conor Friedersdorf / The Atlantic

Highlights several honest and intelligent intellectual leaders within the GOP — and the broken discourse that prevents the party from absorbing their critiques and insights.




What Mitt Romney Doesn't Get About Responsibility / Ezra Klein / Bloomberg

"The problem is that he doesn’t seem to realize how difficult it is to focus on college when you’re also working full time, how much planning it takes to reliably commute to work without a car ... The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it."




The Incredibly Dumb Political Spending of 2012 / Ben Smith and Ruby Cramer / BuzzFeed

The effect of Citizens United and free-flowing PAC money may be the most important question of the 2012 campaign. So far, at least, the answer appears to be: less than anticipated.




Arts and Culture

A Love Story In 22 Pictures / TxBlackLabel / BuzzFeed

A powerful, powerful photo essay. Worth your time.




Best Word Ever: The Elite Eight / Ted McCagg / Questionable Skills

A brilliant idea: using a tournament bracket to decide the best word ever. From the comments section: "Phlegm over akimbo, what an upset!" I agree, Jacky. I agree.




The Spark File / Steven Johnson / Medium

One of my favorite writers shares a simple yet ingenious technique for capturing the fragments of ideas you have every day and turning them into truly meaningful ideas.




Architects Are The Last People Who Should Shape Our Cities / Jonathan Meades / The Guardian

An entertaining and often perceptive screed: "Architecture, the most public of endeavours, is practiced by people who inhabit a smugly hermetic milieu which is cultish."




Business and Economics

What Business Is Wall Street In? / Mark Cuban / Blog Maverick

Cuban isn't the first to argue that high-frequency trading and short-term ownership are damaging to capitalism. But he does so engagingly and offers both interesting perspective and policy proposals.




Startup = Growth / Paul Graham

A lucid explanation of why not all new companies are startups, and some very interesting practical advice on how to effectively grow a startup in its early days.




If I Ruled The World / Michael Sandel / Prospect

"If I ruled the world, I would rewrite the economics textbooks. This may seem a small ambition, unworthy of my sovereign office. But it would actually be a big step toward a better civic life."




An Empire Built On Short-Armed Shirts / Mel and Patricia Ziegler / Bloomberg

Fun story of how Banana Republic was founded, told by the founders.




Science and Technology

How Much Tech Can One City Take? / David Talbot / San Francisco

Excellent piece on the unintended consequences of the tech industry's success in San Francisco, and on the uneasy relationship between new wealth and old ways of life.




50 Years Of The Jetsons: Why The Show Still Matters / Matt Novak / Smithsonian

Fascinating post on how the cartoon, launched in a time of "techno-utopianism and Cold War fears," "has had a profound impact on the way that Americans think and talk about the future."




Friends You Can Count On / Stephen Strogatz / The New York Times

Ever seem like your friends on Facebook have more friends than you do? They do. Here's the simple arithmetic that explains why. (via Sarah)




Inside Paul Allen's Quest To Reverse Engineer The Brain / Matthew Herper / Forbes

A "mouse laser," a $100 million map of how the human brain works, and other elements of Allen's quest to understand the brain and unlock new advances and cures.




Power, Pollution, And The Internet / James Glanz / The New York Times

An investigation finds that data centers are using billions of watts of electricity — and wasting up to 90 percent of it, leading to major environmental costs for an industry with a reputation for being environmentally friendly. (via Lauren)




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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less