November 28th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The infamous plea deal that set a serial abuser free, the real immigration numbers, and is it Mueller Time?

“The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to ‘any potential co-conspirators’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.” Miami police worked hard to a put a wealthy and well-connected (and I mean really well connected) serial sex abuser behind bars. Prosecutors worked hard to cut him a break. The Miami Herald rips the lid off some of details behind one of the most mysterious, high profile legal deals in recent memory; and explains how the case is directly connected to today’s politics. Perversion of Justice: How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime. “Wild still had braces on her teeth when she was introduced to him in 2002 at the age of 14. She was fair, petite and slender, blonde and blue-eyed. Wild, who later helped recruit other girls, said Epstein preferred girls who were white, appeared prepubescent and those who were easy to manipulate into going further each time.”


Sports Bar Still Low

“Obviously, there are gay players in these sports, surely dozens of them. But they are nowhere to be seen or heard. There has been no progress made in this area at all.” Will Leitch in NY Mag: The Weird Dwight Howard Saga Shows the NBA Still Has a Problem With the Closet. (And every other major men’s professional sports league has the same problem. And it’s 2018.)


Border State

“The recession and the housing bust were certainly important events driving down these numbers, but it’s also possible that several other things were important as well … We know that border enforcement was stepped up during this period too, and smuggling fees increased. And we also know there has been a rise in deportations.” Illegal immigration dropped pretty dramatically during the Obama years. “In 2016, as President Barack Obama left office, the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States was at its lowest level in a decade.” All that happened before the talk of a wall and before a US president sent real life American soldiers to defend the nation against an imaginary threat.

+ Here’s the full report from Pew: US Unauthorized Immigrant Total Dips to Lowest Level in a Decade.


It’s Mueller Time

“Beyond the surprise twist in the Manafort case, a number of signs in recent weeks indicate that Mueller might be moving toward further indictments—and perhaps even some big ones, an end-of-year denouement.” Garrett Graff in Wired: Robert Mueller’s Endgame May Be In Sight.

+ Trump’s tweets seem to suggest the same thing as he’s now describing the Mueller investigation as “our Joseph McCarthy Era!” (It’s worth noting that Trump was a disciple of Roy Cohn — Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel and right hand man — until Cohn got AIDS; then Trump largely abandoned their relationship.)

+ Manafort’s Lawyer Said to Brief Trump Attorneys on What He Told Mueller.



“Because insects are legion, inconspicuous and hard to meaningfully track, the fear that there might be far fewer than before was more felt than documented. People noticed it by canals or in backyards or under streetlights at night — familiar places that had become unfamiliarly empty. The feeling was so common that entomologists developed a shorthand for it, named for the way many people first began to notice that they weren’t seeing as many bugs. They called it the windshield phenomenon.” NYT Mag: The Insect Apocalypse Is Here.


Gene-y Babies

“We said ‘don’t freak out,’ when scientists first used Crispr to edit DNA in non-viable human embryos. When they tried it in embryos that could theoretically produce babies, we said ‘don’t panic.’ Many years and years of boring bench science remain before anyone could even think about putting it near a woman’s uterus. Well, we might have been wrong. Permission to push the panic button granted.” The scientist who Crispr’d babies bucked his own ethics policy. And today, He Jiankui told a conference that another gene-edited baby may be on the way.


Social Class

“If you’re a teen, or have spent much time actually talking to teens, the findings are unsurprising and a little heartwarming. If you fall into neither of those categories, they might be a little more surprising. Social media: It’s good!” NY Mag: Teens Would Like You to Know Social Media Is Actually Good So Leave Us Alone, Mom. (And, seriously, who knows what’s better for them than a teen?!)

+ Pew: Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences. (These researchers from Pew should be given credit for getting teens to talk to them at all…)


Brilliant Disguise

“I have come close enough to [mental illness] where I know I am not completely well myself. I’ve had to deal with a lot of it over the years, and I’m on a variety of medications that keep me on an even keel; otherwise I can swing rather dramatically and … just … the wheels can come off a little bit. So we have to watch, in our family. I have to watch my kids, and I’ve been lucky there. It ran in my family going way before my dad.” Ahead of the Netflix special version of his Broadway show, Bruce Springsteen reveals that his bravest journey has been wrestling with his own mental health. (Editor’s note: That’s everyone’s bravest journey. It’s the human condition and it doesn’t care if you’re a rockstar.)


Your Cave or Mine?

“The story of how modern humans came to be is still complicated and murky, but there’s one thing that’s become very clear over the last decade of research: humans loved to get down, even with other species—that’s why nearly everyone whose ancestors migrated out of Africa possesses at least some lingering bits of Neanderthal DNA.” Popular Science: Early humans hooked up with other species a whole bunch.


Bottom of the News

“Other sounds that reach 70 decibels include freeway noise, an alarm clock, and a sewing machine. But it’s still quiet for a restaurant. Others I visited in Baltimore and New York City while researching this story were even louder: 80 decibels in a dimly lit wine bar at dinnertime; 86 decibels at a high-end food court during brunch; 90 decibels at a brewpub in a rehabbed fire station during Friday happy hour.” Kate Wagner explains How Restaurants Got So Loud.

+ Holy cow, this is a big steer.

+ The elite cabal of mall Santas making up to $20,000 every Christmas season.

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