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Welcome to the September issue of Vox’s The Highlight

With our latest issue, we explore the culture war over burgers, treating anxiety with apps that look like video games, and more.

Illustration of a person in a suit holding a microphone that looks like a burger. Illustration by Magoz for Vox
The Highlight by Vox logo

A battle over burgers began rather benignly this past winter, when Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quipped on late-night TV that no one should be “eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” Before long, Republican Utah Rep. Rob Bishop was chomping on a burger at a press conference, arguing that such an act would be “illegal” if the climate warriors had their way, and “cheeseburgers” had become a talking point in the 2020 campaigns. Meanwhile, plant-based, Silicon Valley-backed Impossible and Beyond burgers are ascendant.

The cover story of the latest issue of The Highlight delves into the juiciest battle of the year: the tug-of-war over meat — how much we eat; what it’s doing to the planet; and whether the burger is so elemental to the American diet (and psyche) that not even the new wave of tasty lookalikes could topple its dominance.

Also in this issue, we explore cheery phone apps such as SuperBetter and Mind Ease, which aim to arm anxiety sufferers with tools to manage their distress; the protracted fight between residents near New York’s Chinatown and developers erecting million-dollar apartments in what has historically been a working-class neighborhood; and how a wave of “heritage” tourism fueled by affordable at-home DNA testing raises many nuanced concerns for African Americans, whose connections abroad have been severed by slavery.

Read on:

Illustration by Magoz for Vox

The burger brawl

Plant-based meat and the knock-down, drag-out fight for the American diet.

by Brent Cunningham

A illustration of a phone in the sky that says “You beat anxiety!” surrounded by cheerful-looking clouds. Zac Freeland/Vox

Can you lessen anxiety by playing a game on your phone?

Popular apps are awarding points for beating “bad guys” and completing “power-ups” — and they’re drawing from real, clinically approved treatments. Do they work?

by Sigal Samuel

A woman standing on her roof in Chinatown with a new high rise behind her. Mengwen Cao for Vox

Will luxury towers edge out the last of the working-class Chinese in New York’s iconic Chinatown?

One of the city’s few remaining neighborhoods for lower-income residents is fighting to preserve a way of life.

by Sarah Ngu

An illustration of people, colorful patterns, and beads over a plane and a map. Christina Animashaun/Vox

“Heritage travel” is surging in the era of DNA testing. It has a special significance for black Americans.

Some travelers have long desired a chance to mend family trees broken by slavery. For others, it’s complicated.

by Nneka M. Okona

A GIF map of the United States gradually appearing one state at a time. Zac Freeland/Vox

The US almost tore itself apart to get to 50 states. Can DC make it 51?

Creating a state should be simple. America’s divisions make it a lot harder.

by Alan Greenblatt


Mud libraries hold the story of the Earth’s climate past — and foretell its future


How to talk to a loved one about their health


Why do we keep tabs on people we can’t stand?

View all stories in The Highlight