August used to be a slow month in politics. Instead we’ve seen simmeringanger over healthcare, fiery debates over the future of the Democraticparty, and breakthroughs in two major Nation investigations. Here arefive items of note this week:

•Melissa Harris-Lacewell has been following the disturbing racialundercurrents to the healthcare town halls. Her segment from Tuesday’sRachel Maddow Show is a must-see:

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•Speaking at this week’s Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh, TheNation‘s Chris Hayes sought to make sense of the details (rather thanthe debate) around health care. Here is his response to a question aboutexactly what the public option is and how it would work:

The Nation‘s Ari Melber also played an important role at NetrootsNation, moderating Friday’s Senate debate between Pennsylvania SenatorArlen Specter and Congressman Joe Sestak. You can watch video ofthe whole debate here (it’s about an hour) or read some of thecoverage.

Our investigation into Blackwater, USA has started to break through to themainstream, raising tough questions about why the US State Departmentcontinues to renew Blackwater contracts. Still, the issue has largelybeen relegated to the internet and to opinion forums. It’s our hope thateven as healthcare and the President’s vacation (certain to be a hottopic on cable news) take center stage, some courageous outlets willpress the Obama administration about Blackwater’s continuing role in theMiddle East. Here’sJeremy’s latest reporting.

•The investigation into vigilante violence in New Orleans is movingforward. Last week the FBI raided the New Orleans PoliceDepartment homicide unit, seizing police records of alleged vigilanteshootings firstreported by A.C. Thompson in The Nation last December. As the fourthanniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, we’ll have more updates onthe investigation.

•If you’re out on Long Island this Friday, I’ll be doing a reading anddiscussion with Contributing Editor (And, full disclosure: my husband)Stephen Cohen at Sag Harbor’s fantastic Canio’s Books. We’ll be talkingabout Steve’s new book, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives, and ourperspective on the evolving relationship between President Obama andprogressives. The reading is 6PM on Friday, August 21; get directions and moreinformation here.

Finally, if you’re an Editor’s Cut reader in New York City and you’dlike to host a polite, intelligent and very grateful Nation internstarting…next month, we’re looking for a few good hosts and somelow-cost housing options. Our interns all work full-time for TheNation in our New York City office. Single rooms in houses, apartmentsor short or long-term house-sitting arrangements would be appropriateand appreciated. Any help you could offer would mean a great deal. Ifyou or anyone you know can help, please email here.