The Common Good

Weekly Wrap

Weekly Wrap 12.6.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Research Shows Those Who Give Feel, and Look, Better
Philanthropy isn’t just good for the soul; it’s good for our health and looks, too.

2. A Religious Sting Operation
A Mormon bishop goes church disguised as a homeless man in order to teach his congregation something about compassion

3. Hug It Out for YouTube
A YouTube mascot has been moving through Karachi, Pakistan, with a placard: "If you want me back, hug me.” The video service has been banned in Pakistan for more than a year.

4. In 1968, Minimum Wage Kept Family of Three Out of Poverty
Graph illustrates what would happen to the minimum wage in relationship to poverty if Congress passes a bill to gradually increase the minimum.

5. The Pope in Disguise?
Vatican officials deny reports the pope has been slipping out at night to visit the poor in Rome, but such tales seem in line with Francis’ unconventional and pastoral style.

6. Celibacy, Sex, and the Priest
While Pope Francis speaks a lot about change, clerical celibacy hasn’t gotten much attention. Bill Keller of the New York Times tells the story of one of his teaching nuns who married a priest later in life. Keller says, “If I’m an émigré from the country of Catholicism, the Hydars would be best described as dissidents who stayed. They ended up in one of the many small communities of disaffected Catholics.”

7. Tips for Jesus!
Forget 15, 18, or 20 percent tips for the wait staff, the anonymous person (or people) behind @TipsforJesus has been way more generous than that.

8. A Pastor's Confession on Immigration
A Pastor repents of his previous stance on immigration, telling of the story of those around him.

9. They’re Tough on the Outside, But Inside...
These mean looking bikers aren’t what you might have first thought. They’re helping protect children who have been sexually abused.

10. How the Media Treated Women in 2013
There was a lot to celebrate this year for women in the media. But some things aren't changing fast enough. Check out an overview of how the media treated women this year

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Weekly Wrap 11.27.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week (So Far)

(Editors Note: Due to Thanksgiving, we''ve compiled the stories from the week so far. Enjoy that turkey!)

1. What Americans (Still) Want From Immigration Reform
Sixty-three percent of Americans favor providing a way for immigrants who are currently living in the United States illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while 14% support allowing them to become permanent legal residents but not citizens.

2. Religious Americans Give More, New Study Finds
The more important religion is to a person, the more likely that person is to give to a charity of any kind, according to new research released by Connected America. Among Americans who claim a religious affiliation, the study said, 65 percent give to charity. Among those who do not identify a religious creed, 56 percent make charitable gifts.

3. High Stakes Raids on Religious Groups?
From Scientology to the Apostles of Infinite Love in Canada, the Pinnacle Rastafari in Jamaica and Hikari no Wa in Japan, an expert claims that governments are raiding nontraditional religious groups like never before.

4. Wear Pants to Church Day
Last December, a grassroots effort by Mormon feminists urged women to wear pants to church  — something that is nowhere forbidden by LDS doctrine but in some locations has been frowned upon by the conservative subculture of Mormondom. Women will be doing it again Dec. 15.

5. Looking to Australia to Celebrate Thanksgiving
Australia acknowledges its Aboriginal culture far more than America acknowledges Native American roots. This Thanksgiving, should we look for inspiration Down Under? 

6. The Macy''s Thanksgiving Parade Balloons Used to Be Extremely Creepy
Windy weather may ground the giant balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year, but decades ago, you might have preferred skipping these creepy-looking balloons.

7. The Supersized American Turkey
Those turkeys just keep getting bigger and bigger.

8. Solar-Powered Bikes
Here’s a way to give your two wheels extra power without relying on electricity — but balancing might be a bit tough.

9. Five Characteristics of Happiness
The science of positive psychology has revealed five character strengths especially connected with higher levels of happiness. Do you have any of them?

10. A new literary mash-up: Amish romance and vampire tales
Amish Vampires in Space is the latest literary mash-up to gain rave reviews and social media buzz. It’s part of a small but growing group of new bonnet and bloodsucker books that combine two of today’s best-selling genres: Amish romance and vampire tales. 

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Weekly Wrap 11.22.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. 805 Speakers, 159 Women
Jonathan Merritt’s informal study of prominent evangelical conferences found that only 19 percent of speakers at plenary sessions were women led to a lot of buzz in the Christian world. Check out which conferences he looked at.

2. But Americans Don’t Have to Wait for Health Care ... Do We?
The Commonwealth Fund’s annual report on health care in 14 developed countries shows that America spends 50 percent more per capita than does Norway, the next-most-expensive nation. Yet, if you’re sick and need a same-day or next-day appointment, you’re more likely to get it in seven other countries.

3. Zombies 101? Colleges Offer Courses on the Undead
Monmouth University in New Jersey is the latest school to offer a course on the growing zombie phenomenon. "Zombies: Social Anxiety & Pop Culture" was among the first courses to fill up when students at the private university in West Long Branch registered for fall classes. But studying zombies also involves some serious scholarship, said Edward González-Tennant, the professor of the class.

4. Catholicism Gets Funny
Catholic humor is spreading — from Stephen Colbert and other comedians to Eye of the Tiber, the Catholic version of The Onion.

5. Charlotte Churches Get Cameos in ‘Homeland’
Ever wondered where some of the Middle Eastern scenes featured in Showtime’s Homeland really took place? Blogger Tim Funk tells about a few churches in Charlotte, N.C., used as film sets.

6. Santorum to GOP: You Can Learn Something From Francis
Rick Santorum, the former senator who ran for president, believes that Republicans should look to Pope Francis as a model for maintaining beliefs while agreeing to talk about common ground.

7. Vancouver’s Banning Doorknobs
Vancouver, Canada, is phasing out traditional round doorknobs in favor of easier-to-grasp levers in a nod to its aging population. Perhaps, it’s also a nod to the commandment to honor thy mother and father?

8. Restless America
Using 2012 census data, analyst Chris Walker gives an interactive kaleidoscope look at migration patterns in the United States.

9. Racial Preferences and Online Dating
Data from the Facebook dating app, Are You Interested?, finds, in a surprise twist, that all racial groups prefer another race over their own.

10. Preachers, Snakes and Salvation — Oh, My!
A Tennessee pastor pleads not guilty to keeping dozens of poisonous snakes that he and his parishioners touch during services. "This ain’t no longer just a fight for snake handling," Andrew Hamblin, pastor of the Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollette and a star of National Geographic’sSnake Salvation, said. "This is a fight for freedom of religion."

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Weekly Wrap 11.15.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. One Nation, Under God, With 11 Cultures for All.
The United States comprises 11 distinct cultures according to Colin Woodard, author of American Nations. See how different issues all stem from the earliest settling of the U.S. Which one do you belong to?

2. Why Faith Groups Are Rallying Behind Immigration Reform
As the 2013 legislative year winds to a close, immigration reform seems to be pushed down on the agenda once again. Here's a look at why, despite this, faith groups are embracing the importance of reform.

3. 'Super' Typhoon Haiyan: Suffering and the Sin of Climate Change Denial
Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite writes about the moral evil of storms such as Typhoon Haiyan that caused so many deaths and so much destruction in the Phillipines. For Thistlethwaite, the theological answer to climate change is simple: "confession, repentance, and change."

4. Pub Theology
Pub Theology brings together millennials, not in church, but in bars for beers and burgers. 

5. WATCH: Having a Bad Day?
What would it look like if we all cared more about each other? Here are seven things that everyone needs to hear every day.

6. For mothers of war dead, Arlington National Cemetery becomes a weekly ritual
In the wake of losing their sons, three women join weekly at Arlington Cemetery to remember their sons. Although they didn't anticipate finding community, the women found each other through the proximity of their sons' graves.

7. 'You Are Not a Princess'
A Kentucky Catholic school's focus on female empowerment has reignited a debate over feminism and religion.

8. Feminism Hurts Men
A satirical and fresh look at the many ways men are (not) harmed by feminism.

9. Urban-Climbing Adventures
A series of photos by Tom Ryaboi give dizzying views of city life. "It was important to include people in my photos," Ryaboi said, "because they are the real story here. The cities are beautiful, but how we use them is much more relevant."

10. Can God Take a Tweet?
And, finally – "The Twible," lets you tweet the Bible, chapter and verse in 140 or fewer characters.

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Weekly Wrap 11.8.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. America’s Homeless Kids Crisis

Department of Education data says the number of homeless youngsters in our country has hit a record high, topping 1 million and representing a 72 percent increase since the beginning of the 2008 recession.  

2. 13 Things I Learned About Church History From ‘The Story of Christianity, Vol. 2’

Rachel Held Evans in responses to her readings around Reformation Sunday. Among them, Teresa of Avila is the only woman in the history of the church to have founded monastic orders for both women and men, and King James, as in the King James Bible, was probably gay.

3. Are Stereotypes Keeping Women Away From Science?

We’ve come a long way in our work for women’s rights, but women still make up only 24 percent of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) workforce. Giving females confidence in science from a young age may stem the tide.

4. ‘12 Years a Slave’ Has Hidden Environmental Lesson

Land exploitation went hand-in-hand with the subjugation of human beings – and it’s still happening today.

5. Incarceration in the United States

This infographic from Boston University, explores the numbers behind the high prison population in the U.S. Why is our country’s prison population so large?

6. Shots Heard Around D.C.

The city is listening through its Shotspotter — sensors that pick up the sounds of gunshots, distinguishing them from firecrackers. In the past eight years, it’s detected 39,000 outdoor gunshots.  

7. Uncensored in North Korea

In a glimpse into a country typically cloaked in secrecy, AP photographer David Guttenfelder shows daily life in North Korea … through Instagram.  

8. Edenics, the Theory That Every Language Came From Hebrew

An eccentric Jerusalem-based researcher says the secret to the origin of languages lies in the Bible. Isaac E. Mozeson has dedicated his life to exploring the similarities of languages.

9. Look, She Can Shrink, She Can Grow

She’s the newest superhero — a Muslim girl who faces familial conflicts and religious tensions, along with supervillians. Kamala Khan, a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey City, will be the latest addition to the Marvel Comics universe. Her creators say the series will explore “the universal experience of all American teenagers, feeling kind of isolated and finding what they are.”

10. Awesome Art Made From Recycled Skateboards

And finally what Friday would be complete without some fun colored sculptures. You’ll never believe these sculptures started as skateboards. 

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Weekly Wrap 11.1.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. 17 Stunning Images of All Saints Day Around the World
The Guardian pictorially circles the globe to offer beautiful images of All Saints Day celebrations and remembrances. In Western Christianity — mainly Catholicism — this Nov. 1 holy day is meant to honor all of the saints, known and unknown.

2. Is Youth Ministry Killing the Church?
Churches and denominations continue in their pursuit of truly diverse congregations. But are we missing one area of diversity — age — by offering separate youth programs? Here's one former youth minister's take.

3. Germany OKs 'Indeterminate' Gender At Birth
Germany has become the first European country to allow parents to leave "gender" blank on their child's birth certificate when they exhibit characteristics of both sexes.

4. Pastor Says Ministers Who Voted For Obama Should Resign. Maybe He Should Go First
In his Faith & Culture blog, Jonathan Merritt takes on Pastor Doug Wilson, who says ministers who voted for a second President Barack Obama term "should not be entrusted with the care of souls." 

5. 'Oh No Canada:' Check Out the 6 Posters Illustrating Canada's Alleged Silencing of Tar Sands Critics
Franke James claims her name was found on a Canadian government "enemy list" because of her anti-tar sands activism. So, the artist created this series of posters, now up at Washington, D.C., bus stops. Take a look at the slideshow.

6. WATCH: 'Princess Bride' Star Mandy Patinkin Reveals His Favorite Line in the Film
The star of screen and stage — and now hit Showtime series Homeland — takes us back to the classic film The Princess Bride to talk about his favorite line … and the poignancy behind it may surprise you. Watch, if only to surface nostalgia when he recites lines in the Inigo Montoya accent.

7. Why Forgiving Others is So Hard Yet So Liberating
A beautiful reflection by Chad Bird: "They didn’t owe me an apology; they didn’t owe me repentance, tears, promises of improvement, vows never to repeat what they’d done. Nothing is what they owed me. So I crawled out of the hollow divinity I’d fashioned, threw it in the trash to rust, and said those frightening yet liberating words: I forgive you."

8. WATCH: Photographer Puts Two Strangers Together for Intimate Photographs, and the Results Are Surprising
If a photographer stopped you on the street and asked you to pose with a complete stranger as if he was a boyfriend, brother, or best friend, what would your response be? Watch these fascinating results.

9. Lamenting My Prejudice Against Beautiful Women
Is overt femininity, by definition, shallow? While many of us wouldn't put it quite so starkly, it tends to be an underlying, if unconscious, assumption. (See: blowback against Zooey Deschanel "girly girl" image). Over at Christianity Today's her.meneutics blog, Katelyn Beaty confesses her own blown assumptions after attending an all-women's conference. "They gave me a new model for what it means to lead as a woman—not as a woman trying to hide their femininity, like so many women in leadership, especially in male-oriented workplaces, feel they must do."

10. WATCH (Again): Boy Won't Leave Pope Francis' Side
Because it's adorable — and it's Friday; that's why.

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Weekly Wrap 10.25.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. All of Christendom Responds to Mark Driscoll's Jesus Was Not a 'Pansy' Remarks
But this one in particular, from Eternity Bible College's blog, comes from a writer who views himself as generally likeminded to Driscoll. And yet he states,"Mark’s assumption that pacifists are pansies is historically naïve, theologically horrendous, and shows that Mark’s been more influenced by the worldview of those who put Jesus on the cross rather than the One who hung on it."

2. Women Gain as Gender Gap 'Narrows'
According to a World Economic Forum report, the gap between men and women has decreased in most places around the world, taking into account political participation, economic equality, and rights to health and education. Check out which countries made the top 20, and which are sadly lagging behind … 

like … 

3. Saudi Police Warn of Crackdown on 'Day of Female Driving' Protest
Saturday has been organized as the 'Day of Female Driving' in Saudi Arabia. While women were given the right to vote in 2011, they still are subject to a driving ban in the kingdom. 

4. NSA Monitored Calls of 35 World Leaders After U.S. Official Handed Over Contacts
The Guardian reports on the latest round of Edward Snowden leaks that reveal the National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 unnamed world leaders. This comes on the heels of allegations from Der Speigel that the U.S. monitored phone calls of German chancellor Angela Merkel — allegations that the White House has denied.

5. For When You Marry Wrong
Grace at A Deeper Story brings us the gut-wrenching truth of a marriage based on love and good intentions that devolves through no one's fault, and examines what to do with that reality in a Christian context. "What, for example, does God suggest for two people with the personality of freight trains heading right for one another with ALL the world’s stubborn pride embodied in these two married souls?"

6. WATCH: 'American Jesus' Trailer
Can Christianity be rescued from Christians? That's the question posed in the trailer for an upcoming film exploring the various facets of American Christianity, and how our culture shapes how faith in Christ is viewed. 

7. Twitter, Women, and Power
As Twitter preps to go public, Nick Kristof at The New York Times points out the disappointing fact that their board consists of seven white men, and interestingly, "Research suggests that what matters is having a critical mass of about 30 percent women. In Twitter’s case, if it added three women, its board would still have as many men named Peter as it had women."

8. The American Church's Absence of Lament
Writing for a Sojourners blog series on the conversation of race in America, Soong-Chan Rah examines the American church's need for, and shrinking away from, true lament — lament for past wrongs, and the ones we continue to inflict whether intentionally or through our own apathy.

9. 'Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus' YouTube Sensation Releases New Book (READ EXCERPT)
Jefferson Bethke became a YouTube celebrity with his 2012 spoken-word video 'Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.' MSNBC's Morning Joe welcomed the 23-year-old this morning and released an excerpt of the book, Jesus>Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough. In it, Bethke says, "We’ve lost the real Jesus — or at least exchanged him for a newer, safer, sanitized, ineffectual one. We’ve created a Christian subculture that comes with its own set of customs, rules, rituals, paradigms, and products that are nowhere near the rugged, revolutionary faith of biblical Christianity. In our subculture Jesus would have never been crucified — he’s too nice."

10. The Bishop of Bling
A $20,000 bathtub and heated roof on a private chapel are just a couple of the expenses that earned a German Catholic priest the moniker "Bishop of Bling." He's now been suspended by Pope Francis. Will other spend-happy clergy take note?

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Weekly Wrap 10.18.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. WATCH: Shrinking Women - Lily Myers
There's a reason this bit of slam poetry has been making the rounds on Facebook over the past couple of days. It calls out the unsung truths of womanhood — truths, like the poet describing her mother as, "a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled, deciding how many bites is too many, how much space she deserves to occupy." Powerful words. 

2. This Map Shows Where the World's 30 Million Slaves Live. There Are 60,000 in the U.S.
Based on a report from the Walk Free Foundation, The Washington Post has mapped out the concentrations of people living in real slavery across the world, in situations like forced prostitution, child soldiers, and more. The highest rate is Mauritania, but the numbers that exist in the places we live should astound you.

3. The Asian-American Awakening: That Moment When You Realize You're Not White
A great read: "I believe that as Americans, we’re scared to accept difference, even in this day and age. We tell ourselves that we are more tolerant and accepting, looking to how far we have come, but in reality, we’re currently stuck in a rut." 

4. My Harassers
Photographer Hannah Price takes shots of the men who catcall her on the streets of Philadelphia. The results are stunning. Check out her images and an accompanying interview with The Morning News

5. Stephen Colbert Roasts the Pope
CNN Belief Blog brings us the highlights of Stephen Colbert's appearance at the Al Smith Dinner. "Being Catholic is like being in the Admiral's Club of Christianity: Membership has its privileges," Colbert joked. "But if even atheists can be redeemed, what's next, Lutherans?  It's madness."

6. Of Wedding Vows and Sinners Prayers
If you've ever been to an evangelical youth camp — or said the sinner's prayer on multiple occasions just to make sure it stuck — you should read this. "When we stand before the Lord someday I don’t think he’s going to ask us if we’ve said the sinner’s prayer. But he might ask us what he asked Peter that day by the seashore, the kind of thing people have been asking each other for centuries before taking the plunge of marriage: 'Do you love me?'"

7. WATCH: Tattooed Jesus: Blasphemous or Powerful Witness?
Billboards all over Lubbock, Texas display images of a tattooed Jesus — emblematic of his taking up our sins. The illustrations are causing mixed reactions. What do you think?

8. Why I Don't Want a Progressive or Conservative Church
Sound about right? "Church is supposed to be family. It is not supposed to be progressive, moderate, conservative, or whatever label you would like. Church is a word that literally means community, and communities are diverse." 

9. How Feeling Each Other's Pain Changes Everything
"May our expanded selves and pierced souls energize and direct our actions." 12 Years a Slave comes out in limited release today, and in her piece, Christena Cleveland builds on the theme of understanding and learning to love the other by first learning their stories. Read the whole series on the film and Sojourners' contributors' reactions HERE.

10. Study: Almost Half of Public School Students Are Now Low-Income
Take a look at these startling maps, courtesy of The Atlantic Cities. "[T]he worst thing about these numbers may be that they're a glimpse of the future. … students from low-income families tend to end up parents of low-income families. And on it goes." 

Sojourners Job Opening
Sojourners is seeking a Director of Communications in its Washington, D.C. office. Check out the job description at the link above, and share with others!

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Weekly Wrap 10.11.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

Bonus Link! 
WATCH: God's Justice Never Shuts Down: Jim Wallis on #FaithfulFilibuster

1. Better When. 
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary offers a helpful reminder for our daily lives: "Every time I tell myself 'It will be better when,' I'm giving myself permission not to believe that Now can be good."

2. 12 Things Congress Can't Shut Down
While Congress does a whole lot of nothing, here's a look at the movement that can't be stopped. 

3. Get Ready for Record Temperatures — For the Rest of Your Life
Cue ominous music. According to this The Atlantic Cities report, some cities will be warmer every year than their hottest year on record beginning in 2043.

4. WATCH: Jon Stewart to Malala Yousafzai: 'Can I Adopt You?
Happy International Day of the Girl! Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for women’s rights and access to education, rendered America's jester Jon Stewart tongue tied when he hosted her this week on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Watch the clip here.

5. Government Shutdown May Drive More Young Christians from GOP
In his Religion News Service blog, Jonathan Merritt, author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars, points out that young Christians try to resist partisan battles and attempt to rise above the fray — attributes current GOP leaders aren't offering. 

6. So, Monday is Columbus Day
And The Oatmeal nails it with a slight correction to "history." "The point I'm trying to drive home is this: Christopher Columbus was awful …"

7. The Trouble With Bright Girls
Why do young girls with the same equal or better ability as young boys give up more quickly on difficult concepts? Psychology Today posits the answer may lie in the feedback they receive from parents and teachers at a young age.

8. The Crime of Poverty: Some Homeless People Face Arrest for Asking for Help
The number of anti-panhandling and anti-solicitation laws has increased 7 percent. Cities across the country are making it illegal to ask for help. What does that say about our society? Check out this piece from Take Part.

9. The Great American Water Crisis
From Sojourners magazine, "cities and towns across the country are in the midst of an epic fight to keep water as a public trust." Find out more about the battle.

10. Drunk Dial Congress
(Must be 21 or older to read on.) 
Fed up with this mess we're in? Someone has made it really easy to "call and yell at a random member of Congress," complete with talking points and drink recipes. 

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Weekly Wrap 10.4.13: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. An Orientation For Single Sexuality: The 'Do's' of Purity
Here's a thoughtful piece from The Mennonite: "As singles become a larger proportion of the total population, our society needs a church that models what holiness looks like in relationships—for teens in love, single thirtysomethings, and people who are married."

2. WATCH: How Social Networks Explain Violence in Chicago
"What if you could predict your chances of being shot from your social network: who you know and how you know them? Turns out, maybe you can." Check out this video from illustrating the relationships inherent in violence.

3. WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel: Do You Prefer Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act?
People have such strong opinions about Obamacare … but not so much about the Affordable Care Act. 

4. 'This Doesn't Go Away'
Appropriate for this time in our nation — an excerpt from Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission. Read the excerpt at Sojourners magazine.

5. Is the 'Communion Burger' in Poor Taste?
Do you agree with the Chicago restaurateur, that God "has a sense of humor"? Or is the burger sacrilegious? Read the CNN Belief Blog story for more. 

6. Sinead O'Conner Pens Open Letter to Miley Cyrus
After the former Hannah Montana star referenced the Irish songstress as inspiration for her latest video, O'Conner responds. Poignant or inappropriate? Read it for yourself: "Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent."

7. Proof the Voting Rights Act Has Helped Boost Black Political Representation

Now that the Voting Rights Act is effectively gutted, a new study shows that it did, in fact, work and was continuing to — based on national city council numbers from the years 1981-2006. 

8. What It Takes: Does Wendy Davis Have a Chance in Texas?
Texas Monthly examines Wendy Davis' chances against Republican Greg Abbott in what may be one of the most "optically fascinating" gubernatorial races next year. Filibuster extraordinnaire to some and "Abortion Barbie" to others, the Texas Democrat stepped onto the national scene this year after talking for nearly 11 hours to stop a Texas legislature vote. 

9. What if Mahatma Gandhi Had An Instagram Account?
In honor of his 144th birthday, Buzzfeed has the #nofilter and #superfluouslyhashtagged photo collection. 

10. In Memoriam: Tom Clancy
"Very few writers can lay claim to creating a genre but the techno-thriller — that all falls at the feet of Tom Clancy. He was so ahead of the curve." Read more from The Baltimore Sun.

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