When The Cover Is The Story

Apr 16 2014 @ 6:14pm

Jill Filipovic suggests that the Rolling Stone gaffe that has fact-checkers around the world snickering shows just how much magazine covers still matter:

Some of us still buy print magazines, but ever more of us are reading the articles on tablets or laptops instead. And the volume of accessible content online far exceeds that at your local newsstand or grocery store checkout. And yet, despite such an enormous quantity of high-quality, cover-worthy imagery, the photos on the covers we can actually hold in our hands are what become online content fodder.

That scarcity may actually be the point. There’s not a widely read website in Internet-town that keeps the same photo on the front page for more than a day, let alone a week or a month. Magazine real estate may be rendered more valuable by virtue of the fact that it’s more permanent – if you have a hard copy of a magazine you can store it away without the fear that you might go to read it one day and find an “Error: Page Unknown” message. And although fewer people may purchase a copy of Rolling Stone over the course of a month than click over to the homepage of a popular website, the eyes on a magazine cover may be more valuable than those on a quickly changing web page.

Even if you only look at magazine covers while waiting to check out at Walgreens or getting your nails done, your eyes are settling on a small handful of options, making each of them resonate more strongly than the hundreds of pictures in your 15 open browser tabs.

By the way, Julia Louis-Dreyfus set the record straight via Twitter:

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The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped some 100 teenage girls from a government school in the northeastern state of Borno on Monday. Zack Beauchamp expects the group to hold the girls for ransom:

“Their goal is almost certainly to ransom [the girls],” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation of the Defense of Democracies who follows Boko Haram, told me. ”Otherwise, they have chosen a target that will make everybody hate them. Killing [100] schoolgirls would be a huge PR hit even for some of the rougher jihadist groups.”

Boko Haram has been known to kidnap for money. Since the group launched a full-on uprising against the Nigerian government in 2012, it has kidnapped a number of foreigners in order to raise funds to continue the struggle.

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A Victory For Transgender Indians

Apr 16 2014 @ 5:08pm

Transgenders Welcome SC Verdict, Recognizing Transgenders As Third Gender

In a landmark ruling yesterday, India’s Supreme Court decided that transgender individuals need no longer identify themselves as “male” or “female” on official documents. The court also called for an expansion of rights:

Hijras are deprived of jobs, education and health care; turned away at hospitals, limited by the practice of male and female wards. India had taken steps to ensure their recognition when India’s Election Commission earlier allowed a third gender of “other” on voter registration forms for the national elections now taking place.

But the Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed concern over transgenders being harassed in society and said “it was the right of every human being to choose their gender.” It directed the government to bring them into the mainstream, ordering it to set aside quotas for jobs and education for transgender individuals, bringing them in line with the benefits already afforded other minority groups and lower castes. The court said hijras will be entitled to “all other rights,” including passports, voter cards and driving licenses.

Rama Lakshmi explains how to square this ruling with the decision the court handed down in December, reinstating a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality:

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Moore Award Nominee

Apr 16 2014 @ 4:42pm

“It seems the height of privilege blindness to schoolmarm gays about how to engage their aggressors when Friedersdorf, in point of fact, has no idea what omnipresent psychological torture feels like… I realize I’m coming down rather hard on an ally here, but as an ally, Friedersdorf and those like him need to recognize that their first responsibility is to listen, not to dictate,” – J Bryan Lowder, doubling down on his view that all opponents of marriage equality should shut up and be denied high-profile jobs and endorsing “a little retributive succor, when we can.”

I’d say there are two premises in there that are ludicrous over-reach. All gay people live in a world of “omnipresent psychological torture”? No straight person has any right to an incorrect opinion on this question, and deserve to be written out of the discourse. Unsurprisingly, Lowder then refers to our astonishing progress over the last couple of decades as a “recent miracle.” Miracle? It sure wasn’t that. It was the result of adhering to the norms of open debate, liberal argument in making our case – precisely the approach Lowder thinks is repellent.

Let’s just say that if we had followed Lowder’s illiberal advice, there would be no marriage equality in America and a hell of a lot more “omnipresent psychological torture.”

Mental Health Break

Apr 16 2014 @ 4:20pm

Suburban dog-boarding:

(Hat tip: The Awesomer)

Leonid Ragozin explains why many Ukrainians are disillusioned with both Kiev and Moscow:

Southeast Ukraine may be the world’s most difficult and unwelcoming environment for fomenting a genuine protest—stability tops the list of local values and priorities. Many local residents admire Putin for bringing that to Russia, but what he is now peddling in Ukraine is instability, and that’s a very tough sell. 

Russia’s efforts are getting increasingly counterproductive. In fact, Putin has become the single biggest force helping to patch up the split between Ukraine’s nationalist west and Russophone east. While the West and many Ukrainian politicians continue to alienate Ukrainian Russophones by treating them as if they are an unfortunate historical error, Putin did more than all of them combined to awake many in Ukraine’s east to the fact that their country, however imperfect, is a better place for a Russian speaker than Russia proper is. A recent poll show that a majority of people in Ukraine’s Russophone regions don’t support separation.

Akos Lada and Maria Snegovaya note that the divide between supporters and opponents of the Euromaidan revolution “is becoming more generational than regional”:

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Beard Of The Week

Apr 16 2014 @ 3:42pm

A reader writes:

I’m surprised that Kristofer Hivju, who plays the wildling commander Tormund Giantsbane on Game of Thrones, has not made it into Beard of the Week.

Yes, it has been a lapse. Of all the GoT beards, Hivju’s is easily the Vikingest.

O’Malley’s March To 2016

Apr 16 2014 @ 3:20pm

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley put his signature on the state’s marijuana decriminalization bill on Monday. Katie Zezima sees this as another example of O’Malley “tacking to the left and burnishing his liberal credentials“:

While other potential 2016 candidates on both sides of the aisle have voiced their support for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana (we’re looking at you, Rand Paul), O’Malley is the first who has actually taken any action.

But Waldman doubts that the liberal agenda will decide the 2016 Democratic primary:

The problem is that the liberal scorecard may not be the basis for how primary voters usually make their decisions, especially Democrats.

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Tiptoeing Toward More Sanctions

Apr 16 2014 @ 3:02pm


Josh Rogin explains why the administration is taking so long to announce new sanctions on Russia in response to its provocations in Ukraine:

There is still some internal disagreement inside the Obama administration over whether to proceed with sanctions against broad sectors of the Russian economy or with more targeted sanctions against Russian politicians, oligarchs, and perhaps some of the institutions those politicians and oligarchs are connected to.  So far, the U.S. has sanctioned 31 Russian individuals and one Russian bank. U.S. officials believe the sanctions against Putin’s business associates have had some effect and could be expanded.

Stefan Wolff sticks up for the cautious approach:

[T]he incremental toughening-up of the West’s responses keeps the door open for diplomatic solutions and has not fallen into the trap of a tit-for-tat escalation, which is difficult to step back from and makes face-saving exits for both Russia and the West ever more difficult while being played out on the back of the people of Ukraine.

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What Does Bud Do To Young Brains?

Apr 16 2014 @ 2:41pm

Jason Koebler highlights a study linking pot to brain abnormalities in young people:

High-resolution MRI scans of the brains of adults between the ages of 18-25 who reported smoking weed at least once a week were structurally different than a control group: They showed greater grey matter density in the left amygdala, an area of the brain associated with addiction and showed alterations in the hypothalamus and subcallosal cortex. The study also notes that marijuana use “may be associated with a disruption of neural organization.” The more weed a person reported smoking, the more altered their brain appeared, according to the Northwestern University and Harvard Medical School study, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The finding already has the study’s authors calling for states to reconsider legalizing the drug. Hans Breiter, the lead author, said he’s “developed a severe worry about whether we should be allowing anybody under age 30 to use pot unless they have a terminal illness and need it for pain.”

Saundra Young gets the response of another researcher:

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Journalist Jo Becker has a new book out on the marriage equality movement. The revolution began, it appears, in 2008. And its Rosa Parks was a man you would be forgiven for knowing nothing about, Chad Griffin. Here’s how the book begins – and I swear I’m not making this up:

This is how a revolution begins. It begins when someone grows tired of standing idly by, waiting for history’s arc to bend toward justice, and instead decides to give it a swift shove. It begins when a black seamstress named Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in the segregated South. And in this story, it begins with a handsome, bespectacled thirty-five-year-old political consultant named Chad Griffin, in a spacious suite at the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco on election night 2008.

After that surreal opening, the book descends into more jaw-dropping distortion. For Becker, until the still-obscure Griffin came on the scene, the movement for marriage equality was a cause “that for years had largely languished in obscurity.” I really don’t know how to address that statement, because it is so wrong, so myopic and so ignorant it beggars belief that a respectable journalist could actually put it in print. Obscurity? Is Becker even aware of the history of this struggle at all? Throughout the 1990s, marriage equality had roiled the political landscape, dominated the national debate at times, re-framed and re-branded the entire gay movement, achieved intellectual heft, and key GAY MARRIAGElegal breakthroughs, such as the landmark Hawaii case that vaulted the entire subject from an idea to a reality. The man who actually started that revolution was Dan Foley, a straight man from the ACLU, who filed the key lawsuit. Foley does not make Becker’s index. Why would he? If the revolution only began in 2008, he is irrelevant. The courage and clarity it took to strike that first blow is nothing for Becker compared with that of two straight men, David Boies and Ted Olson, and one gay man, Chad Griffin, who swooped into the movement at the last moment and who were, not accidentally, Becker’s key sources for the entire tall tale.

The intellectual foundation of the movement is also non-existent in Becker’s book – before, wait for it!, Ken Mehlman and Ted Olson brought Republican credibility to the movement. Yes, that’s her claim. My own work – penning the first cover-story on the conservative case for marriage equality in 1989, a subsequent landmark re-imagining of the gay rights movement in 1993, and a best-selling book, Virtually Normal in 1995 – is entirely omitted from the book, along with the critical contributions from other conservatives and libertarians, from Jon Rauch and Bruce Bawer to John Corvino and Dale Carpenter. I suspect even Olson and Mehlman will reject Becker’s ludicrous thesis, if challenged on this point. But for Becker, all of this work contributed nothing but further obscurity. The astonishing achievement of turning what was once deemed a joke into a serious national cause and issue happened in the 1990s and then more emphatically after George W. Bush’s endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004. But for Becker, an obscure late-comer, Griffin, had a “unique ability” to leverage legal cases into a political rallying cry. This is so wrong and so contemptuous of the people who really did do that work I am at a loss for words.

More staggeringly, the critical, indispensable role of Evan Wolfson in pioneering this cause is actually treated with active contempt in the book. He is ludicrously portrayed by Becker as an obstacle to change, a remnant of a previous generation, a man who had led the marriage Senate Panel Holds Hearing on DOMAmovement nowhere. This is where the book becomes truly toxic and morally repellent. I’ve been a part of this movement for twenty-five years, either as an activist speaker/writer or as a close observer on this blog for the last decade and a half. What Becker writes about Evan and the movement is unconscionable, ignorant and profoundly wrong. Evan had the courage to create this movement, and empower it with legal rigor and strategy, when it was far, far less popular than it is now. Without him, quite simply, the movement would not exist for Griffin to now outrageously attempt to claim credit for. Yet this book sweeps Wolfson aside as an actual obstacle to progress because he was concerned that the Prop 8 case was a high-risk high-reward legal strategy that would not be the slam-dunk for national marriage equality that Boies and Olson believed it would be.

And here’s the thing: Evan was right about that. The Prop 8 case succeeded only in striking down California’s ban, and not changing the entire world, and it rested entirely on the legal and intellectual infrastructure Evan and I and others had been building for two decades. If Boies and Olson had been right, we would have federal marriage equality right now. But they weren’t and we don’t. Now I supported the case because I believed that it could add to the educational effort to expose the weakness of the arguments of those opposing equality – and – wh0 knows? – might even end marriage discrimination. But when I say “add”, I mean exactly that. Legal arguments take time to percolate up and about. And the Prop 8 case was deeply dependent on the cases that preceded it. It wasn’t a panacea, and was less potent than the Windsor case in changing America as a whole. So while I’m certainly no opponent of Boies and california-gay-marriage-supreme-court-map_580Olson, and was thrilled to have them on board,  it is simply bizarre to argue, as Becker does, that the marriage equality movement didn’t really exist until they and Griffin allegedly “re-branded” it.

Perhaps the most critical legal events in this long struggle took place in New England. Getting actual marriage equality in one state, Massachusetts – and then exporting it to an entire region – had always been our Holy Grail and was indispensable to our long-term success. There were many architects of that vision – but one stands out to anyone with any knowledge of the matter. That’s Mary Bonauto, the woman who won the right to marry in Vermont in 1997 (only to be foiled by the legislature), and who made marriage in Massachusetts happen. To quote Roberta Kaplan, who argued the Windsor case in front of the Supreme Court, “No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto.” Yet in Becker’s book, she too is shunted aside, and airbrushed out of history. In fact, any figure of any note apart from Boies and Olson and Griffin are excised in this book in Stalinist fashion as if they didn’t exist.

For me, then, the key question about this book is how on earth such a distorted and ahistorical and polemical attack on the architects of the marriage equality movement can have been written. Becker could have presented the material in this book merely as the experience of a few people who came very late to the movement – a small snapshot of the last few years through the eyes of a small group. But she doesn’t. She virtually-normalcredits them with the entire movement, and treats all those before as obstacles to it. That’s such a distortion you have to wonder how it came about.

The answer, I think, is access-journalism. It’s clear from the notes in the book that an overwhelming amount of the material comes from the sources she embedded herself with. Other figures with real knowledge of the movement barely get a phone call. (Wolfson got one peremptory one late in the day; I got none.) In other words, this is access-journalism at its most uncritical and naive worst. There is no indication that Becker has any clue about anything that happened before 2008, and every indication that thereafter, she simply parroted the spin of those she had access to. And so the book is best seen not as as act of journalism, but as a public relations campaign by Boies, Olson and Griffin to claim credit for and even co-opt a movement they had nothing to do with until very recently. It’s telling that the Human Rights Campaign – an organization that opposed aggressive efforts to pioneer marriage equality until the early 2000s – is now sending out emails touting Becker’s book for its preposterous hagiography of its executive director. Money quote about the NYT magazine excerpt:

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Le Pen, Farage, Putin

Apr 16 2014 @ 1:39pm

Timothy Snyder, whose historic analysis of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is worth reading in full, situates Putin’s ideology within the rising tide of far-right nationalism in Europe:

More than anything else, what unites the Russian leadership with the European far Right is a certain basic dishonesty, a lie so fundamental and self-delusive that it has the potential to destroy an entire peaceful order. Even as Russian leaders pour scorn on a Europe they present as a gay fleshpot, Russia’s elite is dependent upon the European Union at every conceivable level. Without European predictability, law and culture, Russians would have nowhere to launder their money, establish their front companies, send their children to school, or spend their vacations. Europe is both the basis of the Russian system and its safety valve.

Likewise, the average Heinz-Christian Strache (FPÖ in Austria) or Marine Le Pen (Front National in France) voter takes for granted countless elements of peace and prosperity that were achieved as a result of European integration. The archetypical example is the possibility, on 25 May, to use free and fair democratic elections to the European parliament to vote for people who claim to oppose the existence of the European parliament.

In an equally weighty essay, Pádraig Murphy explores the intellectual heritage of Eurasianism:

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Iraq Is Still FUBAR

Apr 16 2014 @ 1:20pm


Ned Parker previews the April 30th elections:

For months, suicide bombers have been dynamiting themselves in crowded Shiite markets, coffee shops, and funeral tents, while Shiite militias and government security forces have terrorized Sunni communities. The Iraqi state is breaking apart again: from the west in Anbar province, where after weeks of anarchic violence more than 380,000 people have fled their homes; to the east in Diyala province, where tit-for-tat sectarian killings are rampant; to the north in Mosul, where al-Qaeda-linked militants control large swathes of territory; to the south in Basra, home to Iraq’s oil riches, where Shiite militias are once more ascendant; to Iraq’s Kurds, who warn that the country is disintegrating and contemplate full independence from Baghdad.

More than 2,500 Iraqis have been killed since the start of the year, including nearly three hundred in the first ten days of April; in the capital itself, which has become a showcase for the country’s multiplying conflicts and uncontrolled violence, there have been several brazen attacks on government buildings, and a terrifying string of car bombings, including eight on April 9 alone.

It looks like Maliki, who is running for a third term, will remain in power:

With elections now two weeks away the prime minister appears confident.

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Your Merch, Your Ideas, Ctd

Apr 16 2014 @ 1:05pm


Our updated poll is embedded below (if you are using a mobile phone or tablet, please click here). Based on your votes, we have removed some of the least popular ideas and added in some more. In addition to many of your submitted slogans, we have added a multiple-choice section where you can indicate your preference for various types of merch (totes, dog bowls, hats, etc). The most popular picks will be mulled over by the Dish staff and mix-and-matched with other ideas, and we will have an professional graphic designer whip up the final versions.

If you could take a minute and give us your final input on this poll, even if you’re already filled it out before, we would be most grateful. Just mark “Sweet” if you could see yourself purchasing an item with that slogan or “Lame” if you definitely would not. For the second section, check off as many items as you like – as many items as you could see yourself purchasing at some point. Thanks to everyone for your help; we really appreciate it.

A straight female reader chimes in:

As I was listening to Dave Cullen discuss Truvada I could only think … well, welcome to my world!  The birth control pill was “unleashed” on women in 1960.  I graduated from college in 1967 and moved to Chicago to work.  When I went to my doctor to get a prescription for them, boy did I get a lecture. “Now, you aren’t going to have an affair with a married man are you?” At that point I was dating a divorced man, so maybe that was the same?  But the feelings about the pill and women were almost exactly the same as Cullen was talking about and which Limbaugh expressed when Sandra Fluke testified about the contraceptive requirement in the ACA.  We were going to be irresponsible; we were sluts – all because we wanted to protect ourselves from getting pregnant when we had sex, just like Cullen wants to protect himself and others from HIV when he has sex.

We haven’t gotten very far, have we?

The comparison to the birth control pill brings to mind this great quote from Jim Pickett, the director of advocacy for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago:

You’re here because people barebacked. Your grandmother was a barebacker. That secretary in your truvadaoffice, when you’re invited to her baby shower, she’s a barebacker. You’re bringing gifts for someone who engaged in risky fucking behavior. What the fuck are you doing? She’s a bad person. We would never [say] that. We’re like, ‘Yay! You’re pregnant! What is it? Woohoo!’ With a gay man, it’s like, ‘Oh my God. You’re reckless, you’re careless, you’re insane, you’re self-destructive, you want to hurt yourself and others.’ And we ignore the fact that gay men have the same needs to feel close and intimate and pleasure. 

Another reader asks:

How is Gardasil – an intervention to prevent a potentially incurable disease – somehow morally correct and non-contributory to increased sexual activity, and yet Truvada is not? In the name of prevention and facing the realities of sexual behavior, we have railed against Christianists’ opposition to sex education, condoms for teens and now a vaccine. It’s time we are consistent about ourselves.

Another responds to this video from Dave Cullen:

As a straight female, I have real issues with the whole “it feels better bare so why not do it that way.”

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Growing Up In Syria’s Civil War

Apr 16 2014 @ 12:21pm

Syria Deeply is publishing the diary of a teenage girl living in Syria. A moving passage from the first entry:

I remember well the day cattle food, or fodder, was smuggled into the city. We milled the animal feed to make dough.

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Obama’s Meep Meep On Healthcare

Apr 16 2014 @ 11:40am


There are plenty of imponderables left on the fate of the ACA, Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. Premiums could still spike later this year; the full data on the numbers with actual, paid-for health insurance via the exchanges is not yet known; the resistance on the right to it is still mighty; in many states, the lack of Medicaid expansion guts a key part of the law’s intent. If you want to read an attempt to argue that Obamacare is as big a liability for Obama this fall as the Iraq War was for Bush in 2006, well go read JPod. My reaction after reading his screed was: seriously?

There’s simply no denying that the law has been rescued by an impressive post-fiasco operation that did to ACA-opponents what the Obama campaign did to the Clintons in 2008 and to Romney in 2012. Obama out-muscled the nay-sayers on the ground. I have a feeling that this has yet to fully sink in with the public, and when it does, the politics of this might change. (Since the law was pummeled at the get-go as something beyond the skills of the federal government to implement, its subsequent successful implementation would seem to me to do a lot to reverse the damage.) There are some signs that this is happening. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds the following:

Nearly one-third of respondents in the online survey released on Tuesday said they prefer Democrats’ plan, policy or approach to healthcare, compared to just 18 percent for Republicans. This marks both an uptick in support for Democrats and a slide for Republicans since a similar poll in February.

That’s mainly because of renewed confidence and support from previously demoralized Democrats. But it’s also a reflection, it seems to me, of the political vulnerability of Republicans who have failed to present a viable alternative to the law, and indeed seem set, in the eyes of most voters, merely to repeal ACA provisions that are individually popular. And this bad position is very likely to endure because of the intensity of the loathing for Obama/Obamacare among the Medicare recipients in the GOP base. It seems to me that right now, the GOP cannot offer an alternative that keeps the more popular parts of Obamacare without the air fast leaking out of their mid-term election balloon. And so by the fall, the political dynamics of this may shift some more in Obama’s direction. By 2016, that could be even more dramatic. One party – the GOP – will be offering unnerving change back to the status quo ante, and the other will be proposing incremental reform of the ACA. The only thing more likely to propel Hillary Clinton’s candidacy would be a Republican House and Senate next January.

It’s that long game thing again, isn’t it? Like the civil rights revolution of the Obama years, it seemed a close-to-impossible effort to start with, and then was gradually, skillfully ground out. It also seems true to me that the non-event of the ACA for many, many people will likely undermine some of the hysteria on the right. The ACA-opponents may be in danger of seeming to cry wolf over something that isn’t that big a deal. Yes, they may have premium hikes to tout as evidence of the alleged disaster. And every single piece of bad news on the healthcare front will be attributed to the ACA, fairly or not. But the public will still want to know how premiums can go down without people with pre-existing conditions being kicked out of the system, or without kids being kicked off their parents’ plan, and so on. I think, in other words, that the GOP’s position made a lot of short-term political sense in 2010 and even 2012. But it’s a much tougher sell in 2014, let alone 2016. Once again, they have substituted tactics for strategy. Every time they have done that with Obama, they have failed.

Or maybe I’m biased because my own insurance situation has gotten better. Here’s what’s happened in my individual case.

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Viruses On The Loose

Apr 16 2014 @ 11:22am

Martin Furmansky chronicles the history of dangerous viruses escaping from labs. The bottom line:

Looking at the problem pragmatically, the question is not if such escapes will result in a major civilian outbreak, but rather what the pathogen will be and how such an escape may be contained, if indeed it can be contained at all.

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Want To Brush Up On Your Potions?

Apr 16 2014 @ 10:58am

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.31.06 PM

Alex Heimbach points Harry Potter superfans to Hogwarts is Here:

The website works as a sort of cross between a MOOC (massive open online course) and an RPG (a role-playing game, like Dungeons & Dragons). You start by creating an account and choosing a house. (No sorting hat here, unfortunately.) I went with Ravenclaw, which seemed fitting for an optional intellectual endeavor. I wasn’t alone in that decision: Ravenclaw is the second most popular house (after Gryffindor, of course) and has the most house points (which you gain by completing assignments).

Once you enroll at the virtual Hogwarts, you can join a dorm, buy books from Flourish and Blotts, and even write for The Daily Owl. Though you might be drawn in by these social trappings, the curriculum itself is surprisingly rigorous. As a first year student, you are expected to complete seven courses: Charms, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Herbology, History of Magic, and Transfiguration. Every course consists of nine lessons, each of which involves a written introduction, some supplemental reading, and a number of assignments.

Ted Trautman explores America’s public toilet regulations, which still mandate gender-segregated restrooms in most states and cities:

Many states follow the guidelines laid out in the Uniform Plumbing Code, which stipulates that “separate toilet facilities shall be provided for each sex,” with exceptions for very small businesses as measured in square footage and/or customer traffic. In the eyes of the law in these places, a business with two unisex toilets can be considered to have no toilets at all, since neither facility explicitly serves men or women.

Such laws date back to 1887, according to Terry S. Kogan, a University of Utah law professor and a contributor to the book Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing. One hundred and twenty-seven years ago, Massachusetts passed the first law mandating gender-segregated toilets, and many states quickly followed suit. Many of those laws have never been substantially modified, with obvious exceptions in progressive enclaves like D.C. and San Francisco, meaning that much of the United States’ toilet-related building codes reflect a literally Victorian prudishness that we might mock in other contexts.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown delves deeper into this regulatory morass:

These days, America’s public restrooms are regulated by two separate federal agencies.

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