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The Week Magazine

July 26, 2019

The Week makes sense of the news by curating the best of the U.S. and international media into a succinct, lively digest.

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mad’s subversive lessons

Tim Kreider The New York Times Mad magazine taught an entire generation to distrust authority, said Tim Kreider. The humor magazine has announced it will no longer publish new material, leaving millions like me with wistful memories. During the 1960s and ’70s, when Mad “was at the height of its influence,” the magazine’s zany, irreverent, and wildly talented artists and writers produced withering satire that confirmed what Baby Boomer adolescents had suspected. We “learned from Mad that politicians were corrupt and deceitful, that Hollywood and Madison Avenue pushed insulting junk, that religion was more invested in respectability than compassion, that school was mostly about teaching you to obey arbitrary rules—that it was, in short, all BS.” Our parents and teachers viewed Mad as “a subversive influence, undermining the youth of America’s respect…

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the land wedded to quack medicine

FRANCE Klaus Taschwer Der Standard (Austria) Are the French finally going to start listening to science? asked Klaus Taschwer. Their government is prodding them in that direction. French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, who is a doctor, has decreed that government health insurance will no longer pay part of the cost of homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy uses tiny amounts of a plant or mineral with the aim of stimulating a patient’s natural immune responses. Buzyn has rightly concluded that this so-called alternative medicine is not worth subsidizing, because study after study has shown that homeopathic pills are no better than a placebo. “Which is to say, no good at all.” Yet the French consume these hocus-pocus potions in vast quantities—their government reimbursed them $143 million for homeopathic treatments last year. During the 18th century, France…

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obamacare: another gop attempt to kill it

“The Affordable Care Act and health insurance for tens of millions of people are suddenly in jeopardy again,” said Jonathan Cohn in HuffingtonPost.com. After the Supreme Court seemed to settle the constitutionality of the ACA—commonly known as Obamacare—in 2012, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has again taken up the question. Last week, the Trump administration–backed lawsuit brought by GOP officials in 20 states “got a credulous, sympathetic-sounding hearing” from two Republican-appointed judges during oral arguments. That’s “hard to fathom.” The lawsuit claims the whole ACA is now void after the Republican-controlled Congress eliminated the penalty on the uninsured in 2017; in ruling the law constitutional, the Supreme Court had said the penalty functioned as a tax, which was within Congress’ powers. Now, in an argument that most legal…

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the vagabonds: the story of henry ford and thomas edison’s ten-year road trip

(Simon & Schuster, $28) In publishing, as in the real world, “summer is the season of road trips,” said Rachel King in Fortune.com. Best-selling author Jeff Guinn has found a good one: a summer jaunt that Henry Ford and Thomas Edison took not once, but annually, during the first decade after the first Model T rolled off an assembly line. Tire magnate Harvey Firestone and naturalist John Burroughs often came along for the lengthy journeys, too, and the Vagabonds, as they called themselves, attracted reporters and photographers wherever they went. Their outings weren’t made just for pleasure, of course: “They were essentially advertising not only Ford cars but also a new national lifestyle.” Guinn’s “amiable” but inconsequential book can become a bit repetitive, said Edward Kosner in The Wall Street Journal. Though…

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sword of trust

(R) A pawnshop owner mingles with wingnuts. Marc Maron is turning out to be a multiple threat, said Mike D’Angelo in AVClub.com. The comedian’s work in this loose new comedy “proves his turn on GLOW is no fluke: He’s a real actor, equally at home with caustic wit and understated heartbreak.” Maron plays Mel, a Birmingham pawnshop owner who smells money when a customer brings in an antique sword that a loony fringe believes provides proof that the South won the Civil War. A four-person road trip to negotiate the sale follows, and the “goofy” plotting provides “a springboard for first-rate improvisation.” The “dazzling centerpiece” of the movie is the rambling four-way conversation that unfolds in the back of a box truck headed for Tennessee, said Stephanie Zacharek in Time. Though no…

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the bottom line

Foreigners are leaving U.S. real estate. Foreign purchases of U.S. homes dropped 36 percent in the past year, to 183,100. Sales to Chinese buyers fell the most, dropping to $13.4 billion last year, from $30.4 billion. MarketWatch.com Bitcoin value fell back below $10,000 this week after President Trump tweeted that he was “not a fan” of cryptocurrency. The volatile virtual currency is still up 160 percent since the start of the year. CNBC.com The black homeownership rate has fallen 8.6 percentage points since 2004, dropping to its lowest level on record. Homes in neighborhoods with a concentration of black borrowers are worth 6 percent less than they were in 2006. The Wall Street Journal In 2018, combined circulation for print and digital newspapers was 28.6 million on weekdays and 30.8 million on Sundays,…