Why Stephen Colbert Isn't Connecting

    An interview with Bill O'Reilly Monday night distilled many of the struggles the Late Show host has had in his first year on the job.

    Almost 10 years ago, Stephen Colbert appeared on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor in character as the Colbert Report host—a pugnacious, egotistical super-pundit who tolerates no criticism. Colbert has frequently acknowledged that O'Reilly was the chief inspiration for his on-screen persona, and it was hilarious to see the imitation go up against the real thing. "What I do, Bill, is I catch the world in the headlights of my justice," Colbert bragged to a smirking O'Reilly. "I'm not afraid of anything. Well, I might be afraid of you." The same day, O'Reilly went on Colbert's show; the combative tension between the two remains genuinely thrilling to watch.

    On Monday night O'Reilly went on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to talk about the state of the Republican Party and Fox News. The conversation was civil, at times energetic, but mostly bland. O'Reilly, clearly far more at ease, pontificated on the state of the Trump campaign while dodging any discussion of some of its biggest controversies. Ultimately, it was a notable reminder of just how much things have changed for Colbert since he cast off his late-night character and joined CBS. To stand out in a crowded landscape, Colbert has pursued even-handedness and empathy, a drastic swerve away from his former public persona. It's an approach both noble and misguided, but a year into his Late Show run, it's kept him firmly out of the zeitgeist.

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    The Hot New Millennial Housing Trend Is a Repeat of the Middle Ages

    Communal living is hardly a departure from tradition—it's a return to how humans have been making their homes for thousands of years.

    For most of human history, people were hunter-gatherers. They lived in large camps, depending on one another for food, childcare, and everything else—all without walls, doors, or picket fences. In comparison, the number of people living in most households in today's developed countries is quite small. According to the Census Bureau, fewer than three people lived in the average American household in 2010. The members of most American households can be counted on one hand, or even, increasingly, one finger: Single-person households only made up about 13 percent of all American households in 1960. Now, that figure is about 28 percent.

    Belonging to a relatively small household has become the norm even though it can make daily life more difficult in many ways. Privacy may be nice, but cooking and doing chores become much less time-consuming when shared with an additional person, or even several people. Water, electric, and internet bills also become more bearable when divided among multiple residents. There are social downsides to living alone, too. Many elderly people, young professionals, stay-at-home parents, and single people routinely spend long stretches of time at home alone, no matter how lonely they may feel; more distressingly, many single parents face the catch-22 of working and paying for childcare. Living in smaller numbers can be a drain on money, time, and feelings of community, and the rise of the two-parent dual-earning household only compounds the problems of being time-poor.

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  • A U-2 plane at an airbase in South KoreaReuters

    Why the U.S. Military Still Flies Cold-War Era Planes

    The U-2 shows how old technologies die hard.

    On the morning on Tuesday, September 20, just after 9:01 a.m. local time, two pilots ejected from a U.S. Air Force training flight above California's Sutter Buttes, just north of Sacramento. One of them, Lt. Col. Ira S. Eadie, died; the other, whose name has not been released, is recovering. Though tragic, crashes during training flights are perhaps unavoidable. What's more surprising is that these pilots were flying a U-2 spy plane, an iconic aircraft first built in 1955.

    Most civilians associate the U-2 with the Cold War, not the War on Terror. Designed to fly at 70,000 feet, the glider-like U-2 allowed the United States to conduct aerial reconnaissance of the Soviet Union even before the satellite era. Its most famous moments came in 1960, when Soviet authorities downed and captured pilot Francis Gary Powers—a story Hollywood dramatized in last year's Bridge of Spies—and in 1962, when the images it collected over Cuba set off the Cuban Missile Crisis. Why, in an era of drones and reconnaissance satellites, is the U.S. Air Force still using Eisenhower-era planes?

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  • Students walk in front of a large, judicial-looking building on Harvard's Law School campus in the fall.Chitose Suzuki / AP

    How the LSAT Destroys Socioeconomic Diversity

    The Logic Games section forces test takers to master a new type of thinking—and that knowledge is not cheap.

    As soon as I told my friends and family about my plans to take the LSAT, the standardized law-school admissions test, people started warning me about one particular set of questions. Analytical Reasoning, or "Logic Games," is a section that tests your ability to order and group information. The questions are written to seem accessible and unintimidating—they ask you to analyze combinations of ice-cream flavors or animals in a zoo—but, every year, they stop tens of thousands of applicants from attending top law schools.

    To get into one of the best law schools in the United States (known as the "Top 14"), you generally need an LSAT score of 165 or higher, out of 180. The first time I took a practice Logic Games section, with no preparation, I only got one of the 24 questions right. That meant that, before I even started any of the other sections, I had a 160. That score wasn't going to get me into a top school.

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  • Sitting in front of a world map, U.S. President Barack Obama attends a meeting with the National Security Council at the State Department in Washington February 25, 2016. Carlos Barria / Reuters

    Is a Better World Possible Without U.S. Military Force?

    It's fiction to pretend that the most powerful nation can ever be truly "neutral" in foreign conflicts.

    The eight years of the Obama presidency have offered us a natural experiment of sorts. Not all U.S. presidents are similar on foreign policy, and not all (or any) U.S. presidents are quite like Barack Obama. After two terms of George W. Bush's aggressive militarism, we have had the opportunity to watch whether attitudes toward the U.S.—and U.S. military force—would change, if circumstances changed. President Obama shared at least some of the assumptions of both the hard Left and foreign-policy realists, that the use of direct U.S. military force abroad, even with the best of intentions, often does more harm then good. Better, then, to "do no harm."

    This has been Barack Obama's position on the Syrian Civil War, the key foreign-policy debate of our time. The president's discomfort with military action against the Syrian regime seems deep and instinctual and oblivious to changing facts on the ground. When the debate over intervention began, around 5,000 Syrians had been killed. Now it's close to 500,000. Yet, Obama's basic orientation toward the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has remained unchanged. This suggests that Obama, like many others who oppose U.S. intervention against Assad, is doing so on "principled" or, to put it differently, ideological grounds.

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  • Rubber masks in the likeness of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are stacked at a factory in Saitama, Japan. Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty

    A Computer's Hot Take on the 2016 Election

    An artificial intelligence found Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton seemed to get "happier" coverage than Donald Trump. But is that evidence of media bias? Not necessarily.

    Donald Trump's message of the week, in case you've somehow managed to avoid it, is that the election is rigged by a corrupt (and apparently monolithic) media.

    "The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary," Trump wrote in a tweet on Sunday night.

    Trump has said repeatedly he's been treated unfairly by news organizations. But is that true?

    Back in July, I asked the computer scientist Andy Reagan if he could help me design an experiment that might begin to gauge the tone of media coverage about various presidential candidates. I knew Reagan, who is working toward his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Vermont, from his fascinating research into how a computer identified the six main arcs in storytelling across literary fiction. For that work, he and his colleagues had developed a database of more than 10,000 frequently-used words, all ranked by how "happy" they were perceived to be. (The happiest word on their list: Laughter. The saddest: Terrorist.)

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    Masters of Love

    Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.

    Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say "I do," committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth.

    Except, of course, it doesn't work out that way for most people. The majority of marriages fail, either ending in divorce and separation or devolving into bitterness and dysfunction. Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages, as psychologist Ty Tashiro points out in his book The Science of Happily Ever After, which was published earlier this year.

    Social scientists first started studying marriages by observing them in action in the 1970s in response to a crisis: Married couples were divorcing at unprecedented rates. Worried about the impact these divorces would have on the children of the broken marriages, psychologists decided to cast their scientific net on couples, bringing them into the lab to observe them and determine what the ingredients of a healthy, lasting relationship were. Was each unhappy family unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy claimed, or did the miserable marriages all share something toxic in common?

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  • Olaf Blecker

    The Binge Breaker

    Tristan Harris believes Silicon Valley is addicting us to our phones. He's determined to make it stop.

    On a recent evening in San Francisco, Tristan Harris, a former product philosopher at Google, took a name tag from a man in pajamas called "Honey Bear" and wrote down his pseudonym for the night: "Presence."

    Harris had just arrived at Unplug SF, a "digital detox experiment" held in honor of the National Day of Unplugging, and the organizers had banned real names. Also outlawed: clocks, "w-talk" (work talk), and "WMDs" (the planners' loaded shorthand for wireless mobile devices). Harris, a slight 32-year-old with copper hair and a tidy beard, surrendered his iPhone, a device he considers so addictive that he's called it "a slot machine in my pocket." He keeps the background set to an image of Scrabble tiles spelling out the words face down, a reminder of the device's optimal position.

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  • Alana Semuels / The Atlantic

    How the 'Losers' in America's Trade Policies Got Left Behind

    The U.S. has not figured out how to help people whose jobs were outsourced overseas. Can the problem be solved?

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  • Carolyn Kaster / AP

    Donald Trump's Last-Ditch Plan to 'Drain the Swamp'

    His proposals for tough restrictions on lobbying may be late in coming, but they're drawing praise from government-reform advocates.

    Donald Trump is, to put it delicately, an imperfect messenger for the cause of lobbying and ethics reform.

    The men who managed his campaign for months, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, were top lobbyists accused of working as foreign agents in possible violation of U.S. law. His campaign and transition teams are littered with prominent industry lobbyists. And in his trafficking in falsehoods and disregard for Constitutional boundaries, Trump himself has not exactly been a paragon of high ethical standards.

    And yet the Republican nominee's 11th-hour, five-point plan for ethics reform is winning decent reviews from good-government advocates in Washington.

    The proposals would ban executive-branch officials along members of Congress and their staff from lobbying for five years after they leave the public sector. It would also expand the definition of "lobbying" to cut off lawmakers who immediately join big lobbying and law firms without formally registering as lobbyists. Trump's bullet points are characteristically short on details, but in some cases they go well beyond what reformers have proposed.

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  • We've Reached the End of White Christian America

    The decline of a once-powerful majority is going to have profound implications.

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  • How to Raise Creative Children

    Three rules that might make your child a future Nobel Prize winner

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  • How an Editor Stays at Inbox Zero

    A few simple rules could help you spend less time answering emails.

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