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Longreads Member Exclusive: The Power of a Crisis

From our first member exclusive: An excerpt from New York Times writer Charles Duhigg's bestselling book, The Power of Habit, which examines the science behind how we form and change our habits, and how companies are profiting off of them (sign up here to join):

"'Some doctors were fine, and some were monsters,' one nurse who worked at Rhode Island Hospital in the mid-2000s told me. 'We called it the glass factory, because it felt like everything could crash down at any minute.'

"To deal with these tensions, the staff had developed informal rules — habits unique to the institution — that helped avert the most obvious conflicts. Nurses, for instance, always double-checked the orders of error-prone physicians and quietly made sure that correct doses were entered; they took extra time to write clearly on patients' charts, lest a hasty surgeon make the wrong cut. One nurse told me they developed a system of color codes to warn one another.

"'We put doctors' names in different colors on the whiteboards,' she said. 'Blue meant 'nice,' red meant 'jerk,' and black meant, 'whatever you do, don't contradict them or they'll take your head off."'"
PUBLISHED: Aug. 21, 2012
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8817 words)

How Companies Learn Your Secrets

The power of habits in guiding our behavior—and how companies like Target have used customer data to create new buying habits:

"There are, however, some brief periods in a person’s life when old routines fall apart and buying habits are suddenly in flux. One of those moments — the moment, really — is right around the birth of a child, when parents are exhausted and overwhelmed and their shopping patterns and brand loyalties are up for grabs. But as Target’s marketers explained to Pole, timing is everything. Because birth records are usually public, the moment a couple have a new baby, they are almost instantaneously barraged with offers and incentives and advertisements from all sorts of companies. Which means that the key is to reach them earlier, before any other retailers know a baby is on the way. Specifically, the marketers said they wanted to send specially designed ads to women in their second trimester, which is when most expectant mothers begin buying all sorts of new things, like prenatal vitamins and maternity clothing. 'Can you give us a list?' the marketers asked."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 16, 2012
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6835 words)

Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

The harsh working conditions inside factories that make products for Apple:

"'We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,' said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. 'Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice.'

“'If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?' the executive asked.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 26, 2012
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5493 words)

Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class

How the U.S. lost out on iPhone manufacturing work, and what it means for the future of job creation in the United States:

"But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

"Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

"Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

"Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. 'Those jobs aren’t coming back,' he said, according to another dinner guest."

PUBLISHED: Jan. 21, 2012
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4734 words)

Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering

Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her home near Charleston, W.Va. In fact, her entire family tries to avoid any contact with the water. Her youngest son has scabs on his arms, legs and chest where the bathwater — polluted with lead, nickel and other heavy metals — caused painful rashes. Many of his brother’s teeth were capped to replace enamel that was eaten away.
PUBLISHED: Sept. 12, 2009
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4849 words)