March 14th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Student Walkout, Remembering Stephen Hawking, more White House Churn, and a Pi Day Celebration.

Turn on, tune in, walk out. From Columbine to Parkland, students from thousands of schools across the country took off the kid gloves, busted out of class, and participated in a nationwide walkout to take a stand against gun violence and demand changes to America’s laws. Walkouts included 17 minutes of silence, 17 seconds of kneeling, or 17 empty chairs to honor the victims of the school shooting in Florida that killed 17 victims — and ignited a teen movement. Here are live updates from CNN and Buzzfeed. And here some photos from around the country. These are inspiring walkouts. But they’re just babysteps in what promises to be a long slog towards political change.

+ Step one is allowing researchers to actually study the issue. Why Studying Gun Violence Matters (and how the NRA and Congress stopped the studies). “22 years and more than 600,000 gunshot victims later, much of the federal government has largely abandoned efforts to learn why people shoot one another, or themselves, and what can be done to prevent gun violence.”

+ Sometimes reality plays a lot like a scripted series: AP: Teacher accidentally fires gun in California class, 3 hurt. “Dennis Alexander, who is also a reserve police officer, was pointing the gun at the ceiling to make sure it was not loaded when the weapon discharged.”

+ ‘In a head-spinning contradiction, famously liberal Massachusetts — with among the strictest gun-control laws and the lowest shooting-death rate — is the king of guns.” One Town Makes — and Hates — Guns Like No Other Place in the US.


Black Hole Son

“For fellow scientists and loved ones, it was Hawking’s intuition and wicked sense of humour that marked him out as much as the fierce intellect that, coupled with his illness, came to symbolize the unbounded possibilities of the human mind.” From The Guardian: Stephen Hawking, science’s brightest star, dies aged 76. Even if you didn’t understand any of the science, you couldn’t help but be inspired by Hawking’s incredible mix of intelligence, fortitude, and determination. And the sense of humor was impressive as well, and maybe, as Hawking suggested, even necessary. “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”

+ “Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world.” NYT: His Mind Roamed the Cosmos.


Some Nerve

“May told MPs that Russia had provided ‘no explanation’ as to how the nerve agent came to be used in the UK, describing Moscow’s response as one of ‘sarcasm, contempt and defiance.” BBC: The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats (and take other steps) after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on a former spy. Nice to see an ally standing up to Russian aggression just like the US did over the weekend. (Oh wait, that was Tillerson…)


Feel the Churn

“In public statements, Pompeo has taken positions identical to—and in some instances tougher than—the President’s on four pivotal issues: Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Jerusalem. On each, Tillerson tried to talk Trump down from irrational, impulsive, or controversial moves.” The New Yorker’s Robin Wright: With Mike Pompeo at the State Department, Are the Über-Hawks Winning? (This administration has more churn than Land O’Lakes…)

+ WaPo: How Trump soured on Tillerson as his top diplomat. “More than three hours after his tweet, Trump finally called Tillerson from Air Force One. The call was brief and cordial, according to people with knowledge of it, and Trump decided to make it to try to defuse more tensions. Trump reiterated that Tillerson would be happier outside the department.” (Trump said Tillerson would be happier now. Tillerson called Trump a moron. Maybe they’re both right.)

+ “A television host from New Jersey, Kudlow is seen as temperamentally and politically similar to the president.” Bloomberg: Trump Picks Larry Kudlow as New Top Economic Adviser.

+ Meanwhile, “former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was set to officially retire on March 18, but according to a source familiar with the matter, he could be fired just days before and lose his pension after a more than two-decade career at the bureau.”


Lamb Shanks the GOP

These days, all elections are huge news. And just about all elections are close. The special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District was not an exception to either rule, as cable news outlets provided nonstop coverage for hours on Tuesday night, but it took until midday Wednesday to officially declare Democrat Conor Lamb’s upset victory (by 627 votes) in a region that votes heavily GOP.

+ Ron Brownstein with a look at the broader messages associated with this race.


Finnish First

Step aside Norway. Finland just unseated you as the world’s happiest country. As for the US … we fell four spots to number eighteen. From the report’s editor: “I think there really is a deep and very unsettling signal coming through that U.S. society is in many ways under profound stress, even though the economy by traditional measures is doing fine. The trends are not good, and the comparative position of the U.S. relative to other high-income countries is nothing short of alarming.” (Hmm, I wonder what it could be…)


Jonesing For Indiana

“There are few signs of lingering resentment. The calls threatening the restaurant stopped long ago, as did the ones in support of Beristain. A local businessman bought Eddie’s, gave it a new name and a new look. Beristain is now in Mexico, desperate to return.” WaPo’s Robert Samuels with very interesting look at a deportation in an Indiana town. His American Dream died. His town got over it.


Raising the Energy Bar

“It’s not that we aren’t building clean energy fast enough to address the challenge of climate change. It’s that—even after decades of warnings, policy debates, and clean-energy campaigns—the world has barely even begun to confront the problem.” James Temple in MIT Tech Review: At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system. (Weird, my contractor promised we’d be done in 2 weeks…)


Tube Topic

“The feature, which will launch ‘in the coming months’ will at first focus on ‘well-known’ conspiracy theories that have significant debate on YouTube, for example videos suggesting that Nasa’s Moon landing was a hoax.” YouTube introduces a plan to use Wikipedia to help solve its conspiracy theory problems. (Because nothing can convince a rabid partisan of the truth like an opportunity to do some further reading on a subject…)


Bottom of the News

OK, I buried the lede. After all, it’s Pi Day! There’s no better way to celebrate than by watching the multitalented Gina Pell recite the first 314 digits of Pi in front of a live audience (with a few tequila shots thrown in).

+ Even After 22 Trillion Digits, We’re Still No Closer To The End Of Pi.

+ New Yorker: Why Pi matters.

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