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Seven Reads Weekend

| September 22, 2012

Russian evenings. (Alexander Lyubavin)

Unemployment rates rise in 26 states in August: “Unemployment rates in August rose in 26 states from July, but most states showed lower rates than a year ago, the federal government reported Friday. Nevada continued to lead the country with the highest unemployment rate, 12.1% in August. Rhode Island had the second-highest rate, 10.7%, and California was next at 10.6%. Oil-rich North Dakota had the lowest at 3%.” Florida’s was unchanged at 8.8%. From USA Today.

How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us: “Medical mistakes kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets. But these mistakes go largely unnoticed by the world at large, and the medical community rarely learns from them. The same preventable mistakes are made over and over again, and patients are left in the dark about which hospitals have significantly better (or worse) safety records than their peers. [...] t does not have to be this way. A new generation of doctors and patients is trying to achieve greater transparency in the health-care system, and new technology makes it more achievable than ever before.” From the Wall Street Journal.

From the Economist, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on Taxes:

Poor Americans Pay Double The State and Local Tax Rates Of the Top One Percent: “Nearly every U.S. state taxes the poor more than the rich, according to a 2009 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Overall, the poorest 20 percent of households paid an average 10.9 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes in 2007, while the top 1 percent on average paid just 5.2 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes, according to the study. Most state and local tax systems are regressive, the study found: that is, tax rates become higher as income becomes lower. This regressiveness hits the middle class, too: The middle 20 percent of families paid a 9.4 percent state and local tax rate in 2007, according to the study. State income taxes are the most progressive part of state and local tax systems, according to the study: that is, when it comes to state income taxes, richer people pay a higher tax rate than poor people. Sales and excise taxes, on the other hand, are very regressive, and property taxes are somewhat regressive. This combination forces poor people to pay a higher share of their income in state and local taxes than the rich.” From Huffington Post.

The Tea Party’s Jim Crow-Era Tactics at the Ballot Box: In an ostensible hunt for voter fraud, a Tea Party group, True the Vote, descends on a largely minority precinct and combs the registration records for the slightest misspelling or address error. It uses this information to challenge voters at the polls, and though almost every challenge is baseless, the arguments and delays frustrate those in line and reduce turnout. The thing that’s different from the days of overt discrimination is the phony pretext of combating voter fraud. Voter identity fraud is all but nonexistent, but the assertion that it might exist is used as an excuse to reduce the political rights of minorities, the poor, students, older Americans and other groups that tend to vote Democratic.” From the Times.

Iran bans women from 77 majors at 36 universities: “Thirty-six universities across Iran have banned women from 77 different majors, including accounting, counselling, and engineering, for the school year that begins on Saturday, Iran’s Mehr news agency reported in August. There was no official reason given for the move, but Iranian officials have expressed alarm in recent months about the country’s declining birth and marriage rates, seen as partially caused by women’s rising educational attainment in the last two decades. In a statement released on Saturday, Human Rights Watch, the New York-based watchdog, urged the Iranian government to immediately reverse the more restrictive policies, and said they were a violation of the international right to education for everyone without discrimination.” From Al-Jazeera.

When a ‘sacred’ text is not so much the word of God as the word of man: “Christians have, in a sense, become all too accustomed to the rewriting of Jesus. He has been rewritten from the time of his death. He has, in fact, suffered the fate of all historical figures. So why hasn’t Mohamed suffered the same fate? He is in many ways, after all, a far more solidly established historical figure than Jesus was. It was Paul – bandy-legged, touchy, brilliant theologian – who began the process still with us today of refashioning Jesus. Paul transformed the religious holy man into the divine Christ and created Christianity. [...] And the reason that most Christians can accept this ever-changing Jesus, while most Muslims find any reinterpretation of Mohamed utterly intolerable, is, I believe, because of the two religions’ very different attitudes to their respective sacred texts. Of all the “religions of the book”, Islam treats its sacred text as outside the pressures of history. It was revealed by the Angel Gabriel to Mohamed over a period of 23 years. Mohamed the living man is important only as the mouthpiece of the text itself which comes from God. The Koran is outside the human earthly realm. For Christians, the Bible is a sacred text, revealing the word of God but, crucially, it is revealed through the insights of particularly spiritually gifted men. The Bible is human as well as sacred. That means it can be fallible and so can be subject to interpretation. But as the Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol says, “If you say the Koran is a human text, then you cease to be Muslim.”” Selina O’Grady in the UK Independent.

The truth about dishonesty (from Brain Pickings): “From the fantastic RSA Animate series comes an illustrated distillation of behavioral economist Dan Ariely’s new book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves, which you might recall. Here, Ariely highlights some of the fascinating psychological mechanisms that steer our moral compass — and often do so in directions different from our self-conception as righteous people — explaining everything from why we cheat on our diets to how the world ended up in a massive financial crisis, and offering lab-tested behavioral insights on what we can do about it all.”

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