Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Looking back at the goth girls of 2009 / The U.S. Capitol lives on / Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump / A decade since the Arab Spring / The hellish three months ahead of us

This week: Looking back at the goth girls of 2009 / The U.S. Capitol lives on / Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump / A decade since the Arab Spring / The hellish three months ahead of us

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. After the insurrection
The Economist | January 2021
“The terrible scenes on Capitol Hill illustrate how Donald Trump has changed his party”

2. Our Capitol perseveres
By Greg Roney | Opinion :: The Washington Post | January 2021
“The Capitol Dome is topped by the Statue of Freedom, under which Lincoln lay in state for three days following his funeral. … The Union did not allow the South within the city limits, yet Wednesday’s lawless rioters trampled the Capitol’s sacred halls waving Confederate flags over the very spot Lincoln was bid farewell by a grateful nation.”

3. This impeached, one-term president refused to go to his successor’s inauguration. Now Trump will do the same.
By Robert G. Schafer | Retropolis :: The Washington Post | January 2021
“It’s been 152 years since Andrew Johnson decided not to attend the swearing-in of Ulysses S. Grant”

4. Raven, the Acid Bath Princess of the Darkness, Emerges from the Depths of Hell (the Internet)
By Clare Martin | Vulture :: New York Magazine | January 2021
“Their YouTube channel, xXblo0dyxkissxX, featured the girls and, occasionally, their friend Azer (who was briefly disowned after being spotted in a Hollister) dancing and singing along to the likes of Good Charlotte and Papa Roach, while also asserting their devotion to the goth lifestyle.”

5. The Next 3 Months Are Going to Be Pure Hell
By Timothy Egan | The New York Times | December 2020
“We are prisoners of our homes and our minds, Zoom-fatigued, desperate for social contact. As a nation, we are diminished and exhausted, and millions remain out of work.”

6. Pandemic-era Mardi Gras: No big crowds, but plenty of cake
By Rebecca Santana | Associated Press | January 2021
“The season is usually marked by extravagant balls and parades where costumed riders throw trinkets to the mobs of people packed along the parade routes. The coronavirus has put an end to those large events. But that has not stopped notoriously creative New Orleanians from coming up with socially distant ways to celebrate.”

7. How to Collect Salt
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | December 2020
“Find somewhere warm, near the sea, and fashion shallow evaporation ponds to concentrate salinity.”

8. Mapping Perspectives of the Mexican-American War
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: Effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade on the Americas | Russia’s October 1917 Revolution | The International Energy Crisis of 1973 | America and the Beginnings of the Cold War

9. ‘He ruined us’: 10 years on, Tunisians curse man who sparked Arab spring
By Michael Safi in Sidi Bouzid | The Guardian | December 2020
“Thanks in part to Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, Tunisians are freer than before, but many are miserable and disillusioned”

10. Fernando Pessoa
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2020
Also see: The Zong Massacre | Maria Theresa | Alan Turing | Macbeth

The Silent Enemy

The United States battled polio long before it ever faced the Soviet hegemonic threat, but only during the Cold War did the U.S. achieve significant victories in the battle against the virus.

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The United States battled polio long before it ever faced the Soviet hegemonic threat, but only during the Cold War did the U.S. achieve significant victories in the battle against the virus.

A review by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

******

Discussed in this essay:

Polio: An American Story. By David M. Oshinsky. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 342. $20.45

The United States battled polio long before it ever faced the Soviet hegemonic threat, but only during the Cold War did the U.S. achieve significant victories in the battle against the virus. The struggle, as David M. Oshinsky beautifully explains in Polio: An American Story, contributed to middle-class insecurities over real and perceived communist, nuclear, and social threats throughout the era, and it made superstars out of squabbling scientists determined to find a safe vaccine. But the story he tells also serves as a prism through which to view other aspects of U.S. history: the old racial and ethnic fault lines scarring twentieth-century America, the evolution of nationwide fundraising efforts, the heartstring-tugging advertisements needed to inspire donations, and the political maneuvering vital to ensure any historic scientific victory would be seen as a victory only a Western democratic and capitalism system was capable of bestowing to a war-torn world. Oshinsky’s book intertwines each thread to create a vibrant tapestry of tragedy and triumph, groundbreaking science and fleeting fame, and flawed and brittle greatness.1

Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jonas Salk are the two great mountains dominating the landscape Oshinsky paints for his readers. His narrative talents beautifully trace efforts predating the Cold War that marshaled the American people on a national scale to fight an illness from which no one, not even New York patricians, were safe. Roosevelt’s struggle and determination energized at-first modest efforts to help polio victims, like the Warm Springs rehabilitation center. He then inspired national efforts, like the multi-city celebration of his birthday to raise funds for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, one dime at a time, and like mothers marching through neighborhoods to collect donations. The March of Dimes demonstrated how to creatively organize a public grassroots fundraising movement. Advertisers conceived the poster child to promise what a thousand words could not. The “concept of philanthropy as consumerism” offered hope to Americans “investing” in their nation’s scientific talent, its ingenuity, and its predestined victory. They were funding their own protection.2

Politicians like Roosevelt pointed to the problem. Scientists like Jonas Salk worked on the solution. Oshinsky’s antiheroes are Salk, who focused on a killed-virus vaccine, and his arch-rival Albert Sabin, who worked on a live-virus vaccine. Oshinsky first celebrates their intellectual achievements and then darkens his portraits with their less-than-admirable qualities, like pettiness, selfishness, jealousy, and hypocrisy. Salk and Sabin are both diminished but also become fuller characters, and Oshinsky’s masterful management of this character development is one of the book’s great strengths. People build their lives with mistakes, aspirations, romantic decisions, and insecurities. Oshinsky argues that history is the result of that grinding process. By humanizing Salk, Sabin, and Roosevelt, the three most recognizable figures in the polio history, he makes their scientific and political achievements all the more extraordinary.

Salk’s emergence as the public face of the scientific effort to conquer polio, beginning with his face on the cover of Time magazine and interviews with leading journalist Edward R. Murrow, embodied the Cold War trend of Americans primed to accept expert advice and direction, and certainly expertise was desperately needed during such a health crisis. But Salk, Oshinsky explains, was more than an expert. He appeared to the public as the vanguard of America’s progress. He wasn’t the faceless, all-knowing narrator of films explaining how to get a date or how to endure a nuclear shockwave. Salk was seen, interviewed, trusted, and believed. He was a husband and a father willing to demonstrate his killed-virus vaccines on his own sons before he tried it on anyone else’s. He characterized the polio vaccine as “the people’s vaccine.”3

The massive 1954 vaccination trials signaled that the war on polio was progressing and demonstrated again how polio could marshal Americans on a national scale. Oshinsky notes that the trials shared front-page coverage with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, the Army-McCarthy hearings, and the Brown v. Board of Education court decision – each a key piece of the Cold War struggle with communism at home and abroad, each echoing the vague promises of American democracy. When the Francis Report declared that the Salk vaccine worked, “April 12 resembled another V-J Day.” Sadly, the 1955 Cutter incident shattered the euphoria over and public trust in the vaccine. Critics of the National Foundation’s private efforts to develop and distribute Salk’s vaccine felt vindicated, and they warned of the emergence of socialized medicine. But the Cutter incident’s consequences also included improved polio production, highlighted the effectiveness of the forerunner of today’s Centers for Disease Control, and moved more control over and responsibility for public health into federal hands.4

Oshinsky argues that Salk and Albert Sabin both had Cold War-era political value. Their vaccines symbolized American ingenuity and optimism. The Eisenhower administration sensed Salk’s political value to Republicans angling to not only appear Rooseveltian in their support of the polio war but also to diminish Democratic association with the polio war’s victories. The Sabin vaccine, first administered to millions of Soviet children in 1959, had value to both the U.S. and the Soviets. Sabin found himself angling to ensure news of the successful vaccination program — which he feared could be seen as “typical Soviet propaganda” — was shared with the world. As Soviets asserted that their approach nearly wiped out polio, Americans worried about not just a missile gap, but also a vaccine gap. Americans wanted their Sabin vaccine too.5

Oshinsky subtly weaves ethnicity, class, and race into his polio story. Before the vaccine’s development, Americans blamed immigrants for bringing disease to America (Irish and cholera, Jews and TB) and viewed lower-class slums as cesspools of infection. And yet the poor and rich were struck equally. The wealthy blamed their immigrant servants for bringing infection into their sanitized homes. Polio defied the assumption that disease was found only in the slums. It also shattered the hope that leaving the slum life behind – ascending the class ladder — also meant leaving any risk of crippling disease behind. Scientists thought black Americans were less susceptible to polio, so they received less attention during outbreaks. During the 1954 trials, black Alabama children took their shots outside the white school, where they were banned from the restrooms. And by the mid-1950s, polio, once the scourge of suburban middle class, now ravaged the lower classes who could not afford the three-shot-plus-booster vaccination. Oshinsky also offers a detailed examination of women in this story, particularly killed-virus scientist Isabel Morgan. But there are too few of their stories, which leave the reader yearning for a better gender balance throughout the narrative. Surely, more could have been said about how mothers endured the anguish of crippled or dying children, how wives feared or embraced the sudden publicity burning onto their scientist husbands, or what motivated women to volunteer for fundraisers and vaccination efforts.6

Stylistically, Oshinsky’s decision to explore in narrative form the complex history of the polio struggle is a daring one. He manages a raucous crowd of fascinating and controversial characters with Dickensian elegance, moving them forward in compelling ways through scientific developments that would easily put most readers and historians to sleep, and punctuating his smooth writing style with moments of drama, foreboding, and the ragged endings every life experiences. His devotion to personal details sometimes goes too far, particularly with minor characters, but overall, his focus on the people guiding, experiencing, and enduring the polio struggle humanizes the entire era for readers who may never experience a similar epidemic.

His notes are a mixed bag of secondary and primary sources. Scientific histories and biographies complement letters, diaries, news reports, web links, official reports, and a few interviews, including Salk’s sons, journalist John Troan, and Salk’s embittered underling Julius Youngner. These are the doors Oshinsky leaves open for any curious readers yearning to learn more and for critics who challenge his approach to this history.

Oshinsky’s work is a lavish and intelligent introduction to America’s struggle with the polio virus. Academic readers may sniff over his narrative talents, scoff at his characterizations, and stomp over his less-than-intense analysis of the era’s social and economic themes, but to do so misses the point of his book. Oshinsky’s work is meant to invite readers unfamiliar with the story, to explain the otherwise-intimidating scientific detail, and to celebrate the men and women who achieved great things for mankind. Oshinsky’s overall message to his readers is hopeful and trusting. Americans can make the world a better place. They have done it before, he says, pointing at his book, and they will do it again and again and again.


1. David M. Oshinsky, Polio: An American Story (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
2. Oshinsky, Polio, 5, 40-55, 72. Warm Springs, a 2005 HBO movie, illustrated Roosevelt’s struggle with polio, his efforts to establish the Georgia facilities, and his cinematic journey from aristocratic politician to a man of the people ready to assume a role of national leadership.
3. Oshinsky, Polio, 205-211.
4. Oshinsky, Polio, 188-199, 203, 238.
5. Oshinsky, Polio, 215-216, 253, 266.
6. Oshinsky, Polio, 20-23, 65-67, 256.

The Battle for Boricua

Is Puerto Rico the battleground for America’s intellectual future?
A review by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

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Is Puerto Rico the battleground for America’s intellectual future?
A review by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

******

Discussed in this essay:

Laura Briggs. Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Pp. 304. $29.95.

I.

Puerto Rico was one of the prizes the U.S. won in its 1898 victory over the Spanish Empire. The U.S. made Puerto Ricans citizens in 1917 and granted the territory an upgrade to commonwealth status in 1952. Debate has raged ever since over how, when, or if Puerto Rico should attempt to move in a new political direction, and over how it should cope with the degree of control the U.S. still wields over its economic and political systems. Like a moon trapped in planetary orbit, bathed only in the solar light reflected from that planet’s surface, struggles for self-definition and conflicting political visions dominate the island’s history.1

Laura Briggs extravagantly explores key components of Puerto Rico’s lurching political evolution in Reproducing Empire, a 2002 book based on her 1998 doctoral thesis composed at Brown University. Her book, standing tall among the work uniting colonial control and gender roles, illustrates Anglo American rulers at first disgusted with Puerto Rico, viewing the island territory as a cesspool of tropical subhumans blinded by rampant sexual desires and staggered by venereal disease, overpopulation endangering their natural and imported resources, and desperate, whether they knew it or not, for American guidance.

Puerto Rico’s social and economic problems were both caused and worsened, Briggs argues, by colonizing Americans who only saw themselves as solutions to those problems. She creatively examines the grinding conflict between the colonizer and the colonized through the prism of Puerto Rican sexuality, particularly the symbolically sexual body of the working-class Puerto Rican woman, whose propensity for sexual “deviancy” was blamed for spreading disease, for having too many children, and for essentially standing in the way of Puerto Rico’s proper Americanization. The fights waged over her sexual body became, Briggs argues, fights over Puerto Rican identity, political autonomy, ethnic equality, forced modernization, and Puerto Rican resistance. The Puerto Rican woman was the greatest battlefield in the titanic struggle over the island, which Briggs calls “the most important place in the world,” where she believes today’s essential debates over globalization issues are rooted in U.S. colonial attitudes.2

Americans saw prostitutes swarming over the men training to fight in World War I, posing their own venereal threat not just to the men but also to the women and children on the mainland, who would eventually be infected by the hapless victims of female Puerto Rican sexuality. U.S. incarceration policies on prostitution, Briggs argues, were one more supplement to colonial control and one more way Americans saw Puerto Ricans as foreigners, as people of lesser value to be kept apart from Americans, and as primitives who needed benevolent guidance. Puerto Rican women were either threats or weaklings needing protection. Islanders protested these prostitution policies, and Briggs sees in the rhetoric islander resistance not simply to the policies but also to the overall colonial project and later over their muddled citizenship.3

Americans saw overpopulation as also caused by these naturally promiscuous and illiterate women, prone to disease, doomed to poverty, and overly attached to the ideal of large hungry families. So, Briggs explains, American scientists developed new sterilization and birth control methods – diaphragms, contraceptive foams and jellies, and eventually the pill – and tested their effectiveness on Puerto Rican women, turning the island into “a social science laboratory.”4

II.

Throughout the Cold War, Briggs argues that Puerto Rico became a “political showcase,” advertising to Latin American nations vulnerable to Soviet seduction the beauty of a society that could result from an alliance (re: economic and military control) with the U.S. Puerto Rico was subjected to development projects — population control, industrialization, export control — again serving as a laboratory where models were analyzed before being sold to Third World nations.5

But the islanders had direct effects on the mainland too. Most importantly, Americans saw a huge post-World War II movement of Puerto Ricans into mainland cities, particularly into New York. The arrival of so many people in only a few decades permanently changed the racial and ethnic makeup of countless neighborhoods, sparked ethnic and political tensions, and re-engineered political activism. New arguments and alliances were born as these citizens struggled to live alongside Americans who saw them as anything but citizens and anything but white.

Overall, despite its strengths and creativity — particularly her intriguing view that the tentacles of colonization in Puerto Rico were only shorter and younger versions of the long American tentacles of globalization now strangling the globe — Briggs could have used a better editor to tighten a muddled narrative that often seems off balance and that could have been much shorter. Briggs often repeats the same points again and again, as if chapters were written months apart and she had to remind herself of the main thesis the latest chapter was supposed to be supporting. Also, the narrative needed more biographical sketches to bring alive the issues of sexuality, gender, and colonial victimization. Her ideas would have been so much more effective if the consequences of colonial decisions were shown in the wreckage of Puerto Rican lives, identities, and outlooks. Briggs bases her arguments on an impressive mountain of essays, books, and governmental studies. She complements a generally solid book with thirty-one pages of entertaining and informative notes and a 23-page bibliography.

One of the book’s best moments comes at the end, when Briggs argues that Puerto Rico illustrates “the explicit disalignment of the components of a nation.” The multidimensional identity of the Puerto Rican man and woman, Briggs seems to say, transcends maps, definitions of nationality, and concepts of national and international place. Imagine a map of the world laid out on a picnic table next to neatly typed definitions of every aspect of foreign affairs, U.S. government, and Latino identity. And then imagine the aurora borealis glowing in the night sky above. Puerto Rico, Briggs essentially argues, is the aurora. The rest of the world is the boring, ordered, defined arrangement on the table far below that celestial beauty.

Alternatively, the unique people of Puerto Ricans must find a unique solution to their unique “ethno-nation” quandary, effectively placing them on the cutting edge in terms of designing effective political entities for the twenty-first century. In that sense, at least, Briggs is absolutely right: Puerto Rico truly is the most important place in the world.6


1. Juan Gonzalez, Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (New York: Penguin, 2000), 62-63. The Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 granted citizenship to all Puerto Ricans and established a three-branch government system. An online image of the bill is accessible here: http://tinyurl.com/93rbfx4. A PDF of the commonwealth constitution is accessible here: http://tinyurl.com/yjvo25z.
2. Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 194.
3. Briggs, 17.
4. Briggs, 9.
5. Briggs, 2.
6. Briggs, 195-196.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Unfit college students / Putin’s dreams / Wisdom from Tony Bennett and Eddie Izzard / Nutritious acorns

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Fitness often not a priority for college students
By Dorene Internicola | Reuters | Jan. 2
“Along with mother’s cooking and the family dog, regular exercise is too often among the childish things young adults leave behind when they make the move from home to college.”

2. Russia’s Putin dreams of sweeping Eurasian Union
By Peter Leonard | Associated Press | Jan. 3
“Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has a vision for a Soviet Union-lite he hopes will become a new Moscow-led global powerhouse. But, his planned Eurasian Union won’t be grounded in ideology: This time it’s about trade.”

3. This much I know
By Michael Odell | The Guardian | November 2008
“Tony Bennett, singer, 82, London”

4. This much I know
By Tom Templeton | The Guardian | January 2009
“Niall Ferguson, historian, 44, London”

5. Is the World Really Safer Without the Soviet Union?
By Mikhail Gorbachev | The Nation | Jan. 9
“What happened after the Soviet Union ended in 1991? Why were the opportunities to build what Pope John Paul II called a more stable, more just and more humane world order not realized?”

6. This much I know: Eddie Izzard
By Megan Conner | The Observer | December 2011
“The comedian, 49, on the Iron Man triathlon, spiders and doing stand-up in French”

7. A Call Against Arms
Activate :: Al Jazeera | November 2011
“Activist Sung Hee Choi is the leader of the resistance and, despite periods spent in detention and police brutality, she is determined to stop the project.”

8. Truth, Lies and Self-Deception
By Stephen A. Diamond | Psychology Today | November 2008
“None of us are beyond deceiving ourselves.”

9. Mighty Acorns
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | October 2009
“Can people eat acorns the way squirrels do?”

10. How Can You Increase Your IQ?
By Brian Palmer | Explainer :: Slate | October 2011
“Stay in school (or just play some memory games)”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Cold War myths / Classics’ future / Talking to yourself / Boozy writing / Gossipy grandma

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. In 2012 race, both sides seek middle-class voters
By Erica Werner | Associated Press | Dec. 24
“Fighting to win over unhappy American voters, President Barack Obama and his Republican challengers are seizing on one of the most potent issues this election season: the struggling middle class and the widening gap between rich and poor.”

2. The Forgotten Cold War: 20 Years Later, Myths About U.S. Victory Persist
By Leslie H. Gelb | The Daily Beast | Dec. 23
“This month is the 20th anniversary of its end, but few remember how it dominated our lives. What does stick in people’s heads, writes Leslie H. Gelb, is wrong — that Reagan won the war with big military spending and toughness.”

3. Do the Classics Have a Future?
By Mary Beard | The New York Review of Books | January 2012
“[H]ow do we make the ancient world make sense to us? How do we translate it?”

4. For Joplin, a Love Letter in Ruins
By A.G. Sulzberger | The New York Times | Dec. 25
“The reason this house has so far survived the wrecking ball can be found scribbled on its walls, on its floorboards, in its closets and along virtually every other remaining surface. They are personal messages, thousands of them, handwritten by the volunteers who flooded the community to help sift through and cart out the debris.”

5. Thinking Out Loud
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | September 2009
“Why do ‘normal’ people talk to themselves?”

6. Barcode Scanning Apps
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Nov. 16
“Once scanned, most apps present a list of places and prices the scanned item can be found, which makes comparison-shopping even easier on the go.”

7. The Dreamers
By Amie Williams | Activate :: Al Jazeera | September 2011
“Roughly two million young people in the US are unaware that they are classified as illegal immigrants.”

8. Does Alcohol Improve Your Writing?
By Brian Palmer | Explainer :: Slate | Dec. 16
“Putting Hitch’s theory to the test.”

9. I can’t get along with my grandma, who loves to gossip, criticize
Troubleshooter :: The Yomiuri Shimbun | Dec. 16
“When we all sit down for dinner, she loves to gossip and speak ill of people, talking about how much money they have or their level of education.”

10. Isherwood in Berlin
Witness :: BBC News | March 18
“The English author Christopher Isherwood lived in Berlin throughout the 1930s. His vision of the city has been linked with the German capital ever since.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Cold War secret unveiled / How not to kiss / Cuba’s historic 2011 / Hard nipples / Your dreams

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Decades later, a Cold War secret is revealed
By Helen O’Neill | Associated Press | Dec. 25
“The scale, ambition and sheer ingenuity of Hexagon KH-9 was breathtaking.”

2. The Non-froofy Side of Wine: A Drinking Man’s Intro to Wine
By Jack Busch | The Primer | September 2011
“Red goes with what? Fish? You can’t serve what in what glass? Wine can be damn intimidating. We proudly introduce a new series that will give every beer and whiskey drinker out there an excellent primer to the world of wine.”

3. How NOT To Kiss
By Judy McGuire | The Frisky | Dec. 26
“For your edification, I have rounded up the different varieties of bad kissers and broken them down by the traits they share with members of the animal kingdom.”

4. A woman who teaches men to weld provides other life lessons too
By Matt Stevens | Los Angeles Times | Dec. 26
“An associate professor at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Lisa Legohn relies on candor and toughness to reach her students.”

5. Cuba wraps up dramatic year of economic change
By Paul Haven | Associated Press | Dec. 25
“A year that President Raul Castro described as make or break for the revolution is ending after a dramatic flurry of once-unthinkable reforms that are transforming economic and social life.”

6. 7 Mind-Bending Facts About Dreams
By Jeanna Bryner | LiveScience | December 2011
“Why do some people have nightmares while others really spend their nights in bliss?”

7. Mosquito Menace
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | September 2009
“This summer I was bitten alive by mosquitoes, but my dog didn’t seem to be. Do dogs get mosquito bites?”

8. Challenging Chavez
By Luis De Valle | Activate :: Al Jazeera | September 2011
“In a country divided between those who see Chavez as a hero and those who see him as a dictator one man is speaking out.”

9. A Tit Bit Nipply
By Forrest Wickman | Explainer :: Slate | Dec. 20
“Why do nipples harden in the cold?”

10. Madrid train bombings
Witness :: BBC News | March 11
“Bombs planted on Spanish commuter trains and detonated at the height of the morning rush hour caused chaos in Madrid.”