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Letter from Birmingham Jail

On the moral responsibility to break unjust laws.

“There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”
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A Few Too Many

On the centuries-long search for the perfect hangover remedy.

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Amen! (D'Angelo's Back)

A profile of the singer as he returns to the stage for the first time in a dozen years.

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The Trenchcoat Robbers

They robbed 27 banks in 15 years, one of the most prolific streaks in American history. Then they slipped up.

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Crush Point

Why people stampede, and what can be done to prevent “crowd disasters.”

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Home for the Holidays

Surviving a trip to see the family for Thanksgiving.

“How I envy people who enjoy the company of their parents without the aid of pharmaceuticals.”


Reprinted from for the Holidays and Other Calamities.

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New York Is Killing Me

A profile of Gil-Scott Heron.

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Downtown Is for People

On the then-new phenomenon of dead downtowns.

It is not only for amenity but for economics that choice is so vital. Without a mixture on the streets, our downtowns would be superficially standardized, and functionally standardized as well. New construction is necessary, but it is not an unmixed blessing: its inexorable economy is fatal to hundreds of enterprises able to make out successfully in old buildings. Notice that when a new building goes up, the kind of ground-floor tenants it gets are usually the chain store and the chain restaurant. Lack of variety in age and overhead is an unavoidable defect in large new shopping centers and is one reason why even the most successful cannot incubate the unusual--a point overlooked by planners of downtown shopping-center projects.
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Let’s Die Together

The rise of anonymous group suicide in Japan.

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Crimetown, U.S.A.

The corruption of Congressman James Traficant.

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Friday Night Lights

On the start of the high school football season in Odessa, Texas. An adaptation published alongside the release of Bissinger’s 1990 book of the same name, which led to the movie and the show.

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The Single-Mom Murder

She moved to Cape Cod to escape the glitzy Manhattan world she born into. The only witness to her murder was her 2-year-old daughter. Everyone she knew, it seemed, was a suspect.