March 1st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The weird Momo hoax, America's toilet paper abuse, Weekend Whats, and Feel Good Friday,.

Yesterday, our school sent a note suggesting we talk to our kids about the Momo Challenge. I’d heard of the meme, but I didn’t know much about it. When you regularly have 75 news browser tabs open, you have to learn to ignore the hoaxes. (Sometimes, you even have to ignore your kids.) So I ignored the Momo meme that supposedly encourages kids to take on death-defying dares. I ignored it this time. And I ignored it last time. These memes tend to repeat. The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz: Momo Is Not Trying to Kill Children. “To any concerned parents reading this: Do not worry. The ‘Momo challenge’ is a recurring viral hoax that has been perpetuated by local news stations and scared parents around the world. This entire cycle of shock, terror, and outrage about Momo even took place before, less than a year ago: Last summer, local news outlets across the country reported that the Momo challenge was spreading among teens via WhatsApp. Previously, rumors about the challenge spread throughout Latin America.”

+ The reactions to these hoaxes are often bigger than the hoaxes themselves. Here’s an outtake from the UK: “Children’s charities have said well-intentioned warnings from schools about a seemingly non-existent threat may have inadvertently caused young people to be genuinely scared by what was previously a hoax.”

+ WaPo: “The viral spread of this kind of story may say less about the danger these challenges pose to young people and more about the fear that the Internet inspires in parents.” The Momo challenge isn’t a viral danger to children online. But it sure is viral.

+ The scary part of this story is not the meme itself, but the way things spread online. From CNN: “While there appears to be little evidence that the Momo Challenge is something special to worry about, Mikkelson notes the attention surrounding the challenge may ironically lead people to create videos featuring the Momo content.” (Don’t talk to your kids about Momo, talk to them about irony.) For now, I’m going to keep my internet advice to my kids as focused as always. Don’t follow the president on Twitter. And don’t follow me either.


Everything is Relative

“In May 2018, the White House Counsel’s Office, which at the time was led by Mr. McGahn, recommended to Mr. Trump that Mr. Kushner not be given a clearance at that level. But the next day, Mr. Trump ordered Mr. Kelly to grant it to Mr. Kushner anyway.” NYT: Trump Ordered Officials to Give Jared Kushner a Security Clearance.

+ “Whenever I run into somebody who was there during that period, they still seem shaken and appalled by the experience. And it turned out to be a blueprint for the way the Trump administration planned to govern.” Inside the Chaotic Early Days of Trump’s Foreign Policy. We’re still getting insights into the first few days of the Trump era. It reminds me of this recent headline from The Onion: Mueller Investigation Nearly Done With First Day Of Trump Campaign.


Weekend Whats

What to Read: “Done right, his technique—daytime, no violence, performed like a magic trick, sometimes with guards in the room—never involves a dash to a getaway car. And done wrong, a parking spot is the least of his worries.” Michael Finkel in GQ: The Secrets of the World’s Greatest Art Thief.

+ What to Doc: I’m going to include the following caveats with this recommendation: You have to be really into tennis, really into John McEnroe, and really into weirdly obsessive documentarians. It will also help if you live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection.

+ What to Watch: “In a ‘winning is everything’ society, how do we handle failure? This series profiles athletes who have turned the agony of defeat into human triumph.” A Netflix original series: Losers.


The Land of Bilk and Money

“This was exactly what we would have expected from him, coming out swinging and blaming the left for having been incapable of beating him at the ballot box and instead trying to use underhanded methods to bring him down … But because of the mounting evidence, and because the people who are behind this indictment, the Attorney General and the chief of police, are clearly not stooges of the left but people handpicked by Netanyahu for their jobs, I don’t see it working this time. But it’s his only possible strategy if he wants to remain in power.” The New Yorker: An Israeli Journalist Explains the Coming Indictment of Benjamin Netanyahu.

+ AP: “But when the dust settles after the April 9 vote, the person most likely to emerge as prime minister remains Netanyahu.”

+ And Justin Case: Explained: the case that could bring down Canada’s Justin Trudeau.


This Story Has Layers

“At the time, in 1993, the Princeton professor was taking a break from academia to direct scientific research at the U.S. Department of Energy. He turned a skeptical eye toward one of then-Vice President Al Gore’s favorite issues: the risks posed by chemicals eating away at ozone in the stratosphere and letting in dangerous ultraviolet radiation. As the story goes, Happer went to the White House and told Gore’s staff he saw no evidence that the ozone hole actually was hurting anyone. Gore was annoyed, and Happer lost his job.” NPR: Meet The White House’s New Chief Climate Change Skeptic.


Reunifying with Reality

“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.” It’s incomprehensible that someone would have to explain this to the American president, but Otto Warmbier’s parents just did.


Northern America

“Americans are particularly to blame for this crisis. They make up just over 4% of the world’s population, yet account for more than 20% of global tissue consumption. The average four-person household in the US uses over 100lb of toilet paper a year.” The Guardian: America’s love of luxury toilet paper is destroying Canadian forests. (I want to be a North American team player, but does Canada absolutely need those forests?)


Box Spring

“It was around this point that Cohen saw a congressman on cable news discussing Trump’s financials, and he remembered that he had some of those documents. Federal agents had seized them from his former office in Rockefeller Center last April as part of a criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York. The boxes they’d returned were in a storage unit in the basement of his Trump-owned building—incidentally, the same building where Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner keep an apartment. So he went down to look.” Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox with some of the wild backstory leading up to Michael Cohen’s public testimony. (I guess it’s a good thing that Cohen prefers Storage Wars to Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.)

+ Vox: “President Donald Trump seems to believe he has a new line of defense in his rebuttal of Michael Cohen’s testimony: a book deal his former lawyer and fixer was previously shopping about his experiences in Trump’s orbit.”

+ This is all so weird. “Trump Tower’s condo board has made a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office over who will pay Paul Manafort’s condo fees.”


Penalty Double

“Geir Helgemo … has been suspended after testing positive for two banned substances: synthetic testosterone and clomifene (a female fertility drug).” Cycling? Weightlifting? Nope. World’s Top Bridge Player Suspended For Doping With Synthetic Testosterone. (I had no idea bridge took such a toll on players…)


Feel Good Friday

My wife and son just returned from a service trip to rural Senegal in West Africa with buildOn, a non-profit that builds schools in the world’s poorest villages. It was an amazing experience. Gina Pell shares the story and a lot of photos in The What V Cast – Africa Service Trip. (Thanks to all those who supported the cause last week. There’s still a chance to donate if you’re so inclined.)

+ NatGeo: How a one-handed champion is reinventing rock climbing.

+ Father-daughter duo completes rowing trip across Atlantic Ocean.

+ Teens hailed as heroes for rescuing young boy dangling from Grouse Mountain chairlift.

+ An Alabama newspaper editor who urged Klan to ‘ride again’ has been replaced by an African-American woman.

+ On these remote Pacific islands, children now get life-saving vaccines from drones.

+ WaPo: Why West Virginians in coal country are turning to beekeeping.

+ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar auctions off NBA championship rings and other memorabilia for STEM education. (This is a nice story, but they must have him confused with someone else. His name is Roger Murdock. He’s the co-pilot.)

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