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Anti-abortion rights protest, 2016. Drew Angerer/Getty
In an age of profound mistrust, few matters stir greater hope, satisfaction and fury among Americans than the Supreme Court and its often-decisive role as the last word across a vast number of divisive issues.
What's happening: In a remarkable series of cases spanning more than six decades, the court and other federal judicial bodies have fundamentally altered how we speak to each other, how we vote and elect our leaders, and how we stay safe. They also may have helped to deepen political polarization.
One marker for the court's modern, transformational age is Brown vs. Board of Education, which in 1954 upended racial segregation in schools, and over the subsequent decades roiled American society. The decision came under Chief Justice Earl Warren, who championed an activist court that sought to correct societal flaws that it said otherwise were going untended.
But the last three decades have been a court counter-revolution: Warren and his successor, Chief Justice Warren Burger, rankled conservatives, said Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA. As president, Richard Nixon vilified court decisions expanding the rights of prisoners, and Ronald Reagan vowed to appoint only justices who would overturn Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion.
While the court has both fed and stoked political anger, constitutional law experts said the sources of polarization are many, and that it is difficult to pick out any one reason for the divided country.
What's next: The court is poised to drop some political bombshells in the 2020 election campaign, writes Axios' Sam Baker. At the top of its list may be abortion, guns and immigration — among the most inflammatory issues in the country.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Our world is increasingly designed using granular data about us: Apps are informed by our habits, advertising by our preferences, gadgets by the dimensions of our bodies, Kaveh writes.
The big question: Who is all that data about?
What's happening: We've written about facial recognition that misidentifies women more often than men, or policies that could protect men from job loss because of automation, but not women. In the book "Invisible Women," journalist Caroline Criado Perez describes dozens more instances.
Today, Axios' Joann Muller writes about another jarring, potentially fatal example: a study that found women face a much higher risk than men of being seriously injured or killed in a crash.
By the numbers: Females were 73% more likely than males to sustain a serious or fatal injury in a collision — even after controlling for the fact that women tend to be smaller and sit closer to the steering wheel.
The good news: The likelihood of sustaining a serious or fatal injury in newer cars was 55% lower compared to older vehicles.
The reasons for the discrepancy aren't entirely clear, because there's a lack of female-specific crash safety data, says Jason Forman, principal scientist at UVA's Center for Applied Biomechanics.
What to watch: NHTSA says new, more lifelike dummies are in development, but at several million dollars apiece, change comes slowly, notes Forman.
Photo: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty
Here are a couple of letters from this week's mailbox. The first responds to our post Monday on the changing culture of trucking:
"I own a firm that moves dozens of loads of hardwood products across the country each week and have siblings who are truck drivers. Your trucking automation story misses the mark in a big way. The story implies that the working environment for drivers has worsened when in fact wages are higher and working conditions have improved due to severe shortages of drivers and the tighter log-book restrictions that were implemented last year. These federal requirements reduce the number of hours that drivers can be required to drive each day and in most fleets are now monitored electronically. The final statement about a 94% turnover rate in long-haul drivers is very misleading. The vast majority of that turnover is voluntary ‘quits’ as the demand and pay rates for short-run drivers are so strong that trucking firms can’t hire enough drivers to staff the long-haul positions."— Jeff Hardcastle, Chelsea, Michigan
Next, a response to Monday's post on the ballooning cost of live music:
"I was surprised that your analysis of the music industry didn’t acknowledge one of the key drivers of the spike in ticket fees — a changing revenue model. Ever since Napster, Spotify and the other on-demand streaming services took off, the music industry lost its primary revenue stream — album sales — and is clearly trying to recover those losses in ticket sales. Try adding up the cost of an album in 1981 (adjusted for inflation) and combine that with the adjusted cost of a ticket. Those numbers look a lot closer, right? People may be paying more for concerts, but they’re paying about the same to support one artist."— John Pacini, Richmond, California
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
As we've reported, the rise of plant-based meat and laboratory-invented patties is chipping away at the dominance of the all-American burger, writes Erica.
What's happening: A new Mississippi law went into effect at the beginning of the month that bans plant-based meat manufacturers from labeling their products as "vegan sausage" or "veggie burgers," reports Vox. Only those who sell real meat can use the terms "burger" or "hot dog" — and those who violate the law could get jail time.
What's next: The fake-meaters are firing back. They've filed a lawsuit stating that putting "vegan" or "veggie" on the packages sends a clear message that the patties are not made from slaughtered animals.
If you've ever been so confused by these labels that you accidentally picked up a vegan burger when you were jonesing for beef, we want to hear from you! Reply to this email.