Wednesday, April 12th, 2017


You’re on Jury Duty

If the United deplaning incident happened a few years ago, it's unlikely anyone other than the plane's passengers would know about it. Sexual harassment lawsuits against Bill O'Reilly go back more than a decade, but you likely became aware of them only recently. Today, in our always-recording and always-sharing society, events likes these can't be so easily swept under the rug; especially if they become a topic of interest (and more often, a magnet for a weird sort of hilarious meme-driven rage) among the social media masses that can almost instantaneously morph into a modern manifestation of mob rule -- with verdicts decided and sentences doled out a hundred and forty characters at a time. As WaPo's Kathleen Parker explains: The Twitter mob serves a purpose. Bill O'Reilly and United prove it. "What is true today is that social media has become the church lady and the party-line operator rolled into one. If somebody misbehaves, not just two people know about it. Within hours or minutes, millions do. Like a single organism endowed with the accumulated moral fortitude of human society, Twitter demands justice." And that all sounds perfectly reasonable. Unless you don't agree with people on Twitter (and who could imagine that?). It's interesting that in real life, most of us will do anything to get out of jury duty. But online, we've all been more than happy to accept a lifetime appointment.

+ The pressure of the online mob can be trying, even for those who are used to battling it out in the public arena. Last night, Bill O'Reilly abruptly announced that he's taking a vacation. (It reminds me of the vacation Bill Murray's character took in What About Bob?)


Food Fight

"Our world produces enough food to feed all its inhabitants. When one region is suffering severe hunger, global humanitarian institutions, though often cash-strapped, are theoretically capable of transporting food and averting catastrophe." Unfortunately, there's one thing that can prevent the food from getting to the people. War. And today, wars in four countries have left 20 million people on the brink. From WaPo: Starving to Death.


Verifying Distrust

"The current state of US Russia relations is at a low point ... the world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship." Rex Tillerson met with his Russian counterpart (and after some wrangling, Putin) to discuss Syria and attempt to cool tensions between the countries.

+ Of course, Assad was a topic of discussion. That is a familiar role for him, as it was for his father. Robin Wright on the Assad Family: Nemesis of Nine U.S. Presidents (and of their own people).

+ "The most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen." In an interview with a remarkably enthusiastic Maria Bartiromo, President Trump reflected on the moment he told Chinese President Xi Jinping about the Syrian strikes. At one point, Bartiromo confirms that the missiles were unmanned. (I'm no expert on military weapons, but I'm guessing that's the best way to send missiles.)


UN Helpful

"In the ruins of a tropical hideaway where jetsetters once sipped rum under the Caribbean sun, the abandoned children tried to make a life for themselves. They begged and scavenged for food, but they never could scrape together enough to beat back the hunger, until the U.N. peacekeepers moved in a few blocks away." But their help came at a very high cost. The AP with the disturbing story of sex rings run by UN peacekeepers. There are lots of victims, but no arrests.


Hyper Efficiency

"How is it that a group as disorganized as the Trump Administration has been so methodical when it comes to the (anti) environment? The simplest answer is that money focusses the mind." The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert on Earth Day in the age of Trump.

+ LA Times: Energy Star ratings are cheap, effective and popular. Why would anyone want to kill them?


Shirt Happens

"Agents didn't tear up the floorboards, toss cabinets or pull kitchen appliances from their wall connections. They didn't even search the lower floor. They simply asked, Do you have anything else? He did." It was an investigation that "spanned thousands of miles, involved two nations and unfolded against the backdrop of a tense geopolitical drama." Sports Illustrated on The Great Super Bowl Jersey Caper.


Spank the Flunky

"Robbinsville High School's policy allows students to request a paddling in place of in-school-suspension, or ISS. Last year, 22 students chose it. Most kids will tell you that they choose the paddling so they don't miss class." From NPR: Where Corporal Punishment Is Still Used In Schools, Its Roots Run Deep. (At my kids' school, a teacher would be fired for serving a snack that was not both organic and sustainable.)



"O'Reilly, a mechanical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, roped in two of his colleagues to help work it out. In a paper published on April 11 ... they show that a combination of forces act on shoelace knots to cause a sudden, runaway failure." Scientific American on Why Shoelace Knots Fail (and how that data could help surgeons).


Run ‘Til We Drop

"He created the anti-race. Virtually every aspect of his baby flies in the face of traditional race procedure -- how and when to apply for entrance are not published, nor are qualifications or requirements; many ultras have a $1,000+ fee, the Barkley's is $1.60 plus an item of Cantrell's choosing such as a pair of gold toes dress socks; runners will be apprised of the race date upon acceptance, and they don't know the course until the night before; the start time is again at Cantrell's whim within an 11 hour window; the race starts when Cantrell lights a cigarette." Deadspin on The Brutality Of The Barkley Marathons. (And yes, that's marathons with an S.)


Bottom of the News

"One's vagina should be steamed in the upright position. In a room that's lined wall-to-wall with real, actual jade, a woman (OK, me) dressed in a satiny, royal purple sheath that attaches just under the armpits -- like the world's least flattering strapless gown -- sits atop a throne. The throne is wood and looks like a toilet, with a deep, dark hole in the middle. The gown goes over the body and the throne, creating a little biodome. Once you're seated, steam from a container of mugwort tea and herbs rises and slithers up to its target." Let's take a spa day with Outside's Taffy Brodesser-Akner: We Have Found the Cure! (Sort Of...)

+ Time: "The sculptor of Wall Street's 'Charging Bull' statue is accusing New York City of violating his legal rights by allowing the 'Fearless Girl' statue to be installed facing the bronze beast, without his permission." (This entire week has been one long PR teachable moment...)

+ Dorothy Mengering has died at the age of 95. Most you know her better as David Letterman's mom.

+ What if Barry Bonds had played without a bat? (Spolier alert: Still good.)

+ A cat got onto a field and delayed a baseball game. (A major league baseball game.)