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Saturday links

- Elizabeth Drew's Washington Journal is as good as everyone says. It's a reported diary Drew kept through the Watergate period, and it summons the confusion and terror of the time in a way that no neat history can match. At one point, Carl Albert, then the Speaker of the House, is asked for his reaction to a new batch of revelations. "I have passed the point of reacting," he replies.

In the introduction, Drew says that legendary New Yorker editor William Shawn told her, "write it so that forty years from now people can say, ‘So that's what it was like.'" She did.

- Members of Congress are saying the word "Obamacare" less often. At least judging by their press releases. At the Upshot, Derek Willis mined congressional press releases for the word "Obamacare." In June, July and August of 2013, "Obamacare" was mentioned 530 times. This summer, it only showed up 138 times. And this summer, unlike last summer, is an election year. It's suggestive evidence that members of Congress think Obama is losing its potency as a political issue.

- The New Middle East Cold War. "The leading countries of the Middle East and North Africa are engaged in an intense, multipolar, and multidimensional struggle for influence and power," write Brian Katulis and Peter Juul. "This competition goes beyond Shia-Sunni sectarian divisions and involves traditional tools of power projection — such as military aid and economic assistance — as well as new forms of power projection, including direct investments in media outlets, non-state actors, and political movements. The region's wealthier, more politically stable states compete with each other by proxy — and in some cases, directly — on the ground in poorer and politically polarized states."

- There's a good reason the airline canceled your flight. And it wasn't to save money. Amy Cohn, a professor of industrial and operations engineering, lays out the hard math behind flight cancellations. "Strategically canceling a small number of flights and inconveniencing a small number of passengers can prevent delays and other hassles for a far larger number of passengers," she writes. But canceled flights are a lot more annoying today than they used to be because airlines leave fewer empty seats, and so they're not able to easily rebook the passengers they strand.

- About three-quarters of the images in today's Ikea calendars are actually CGI. This anecdote is amazing: "The real turning point for us was when, in 2009, they called us and said, 'You have to stop using CG. I've got 200 product images and they're just terrible. You guys need to practise more.' So we looked at all the images they said weren't good enough and the two or three they said were great, and the ones they didn't like were photography and the good ones were all CG!"