ALEXANDER COCKBURN: 1941–2012. We’re deeply saddened by the loss of longtime Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn—who passed away Friday night at age of 71 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Alexander’s last column—on the machinations of Libor and bankers—was as elegant, polemical, provocative and tough-minded as the hundreds he’d written since joining The Nation some three decades ago. He inspired a generation of journalists in this country—including the many Nation interns who served as his research assistants. Our thoughts are with the Cockburn family, and especially with his daughter, Daisy. “Alex shared Tom Paine’s faith in the necessity of information and insight, of speaking truth to power, as an essential element to the activism that would behind the world over again,” writes John Nichols. Read Nichols’s tribute to Alexander, here.

TRAGEDY IN COLORADO. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of Thursday night’s tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado—where twelve are dead and fifty-nine are injured after a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie. Although we don’t yet know the full details of what led 24-year-old James Holmes to commit such a heinous crime, nor how when and how he obtained the means to do so, Nation columnist Gary Younge was right to tweet Friday that “there’s no plausible conversation about the shootings in Colorado that does not engage with gun control.” Here’s what we do know: existing gun control laws in Colorado are inadequate and likely led to Holmes obtaining an assault weapon with relative ease, reports George Zornick. Thanks to years of successful lobbying, the NRA and other gun groups have led a rollback of gun control regulation in the state. Zornick has more.

THE BIG LIE ABOUT MEDICAID EXPANSION. Though the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, it let states decide whether to enroll in one of the ACA’s key provisions—the expansion of Medicaid coverage. No fewer than six Republican governors have already refused to implement the expansion citing soaring costs and state deficit woes. But as executive editor Richard Kim points out this week in a detailed analysis of six state tax policies where governors irresponsibly exaggerate costs and deficits, simply closing a single tax loophole or giveaways would more than cover the costs of the expansion. “What the false debate over the cost of Medicaid expansion obscures,” writes Kim, “is the real choice the GOP refusniks are making—to insure millions of Americans or to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy and cheer while those around us just die.” The following infographics offer a closer look at what these six states can and cannot afford.

THE ANATOMY OF A SUCCESSFUL RAPE JOKE. Last week, comedian Daniel Tosh found himself embroiled in a firestorm of criticism after making a female audience member the target of an inappropriate rape joke. Nation blogger Jessica Valenti was out front of the story with a post arguing that jokes about rape can actually be funny—when executed correctly. “Jokes about rape that work,” writes Valenti, “subvert rather than terrify.” Comedians like Wanda Sykes and George Carlin made jokes that “…shed light on what’s wrong with rape—what they don’t do is threaten.” Valenti went on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry to discuss the anatomy of the controversy. Watch the video here.

A LETTER FROM THE NEXT GENERATION OF NATION READERS. I was delighted and moved to receive a letter from ten fifth-grade students from Reservoir Avenue Elementary School in Providence, Rhode Island. They shared their experiences reading The Nation, and in particular an editorial I wrote from the May 23, 2011, issue. These bright, young students sat down with Principal Socorro Gomez-Potter to discuss what they had learned. In the letter, they wrote reading the editorial “was challenging, but it made us feel powerful.” For more on their reaction, and to glimpse inside the budding minds of the next generation of Nation readers, read the letter here.

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE NATION’S DYNAMIC CROSSWORD DUO. The Guardian talks to Joshua Kosman (Trazom) and Henri Picciotto (Hot), the dynamic duo behind The Nation’s cryptic crossword puzzle. After the death of Frank W. Lewis, who for nearly sixty years vexed puzzlers around with world with his cryptic crosswords in the pages of The Nation, Kosman and Picciotto competed in and won The Nation’s second historic cryptic crossword contest last year. The two discuss how they came to The Nation, as well as how to establish a revival of cryptic crosswords here in the United States and around the world.