Thursday, August 1st, 2019


Crime in Progress

"The man turns and approaches the coach, raising his cellphone to record the encounter. 'You're going to f---ing jail!' the man says. The man lays into the coach for what seems like forever. Benjamin tries to focus on his workout, but it's no use. He gathers his stuff and walks off the track, trying to process the stranger's words: He molested me at UCLA. What the stranger didn't know was that Benjamin himself had been molested by Mainwaring -- only nine hours earlier. Nor did the stranger realize that he had just pulled a thread that would begin unraveling the mystery and misdeeds of Conrad Mainwaring, a former Olympian who coached Olympic-level athletes, including a two-time gold medalist." An Outside the Lines report from Mike Kessler And Mark Fainaru-Wada: 44 years. 41 Allegations. How the past caught up to a former Olympian. (This story's terribleness stands on its own. But it also brings up a critical question: How can these crimes go on, unpunished, for so damn long? Cosby, Epstein, Nassar, R. Kelly, Sandusky, Mainwaring ... the list goes on and on, and it often takes heroic acts of journalism, to bring down a perpetrator. What about the stories that don't get coverage?)

+ Buzzfeed: Olympic organizations and the FBI knew Larry Nassar was abusing young gymnasts but didn't do anything for over a year.

+ USA Today: Sex trafficking is behind the lucrative illicit massage business. Why police can't stop it. "Law enforcement's tough-on-trafficking rhetoric fizzled after initial headlines. Charges were dropped or pleaded down. Spas often popped up in the same or new locations. And any notion of going after higher-ups who profit from trafficking, including international crime figures bringing women from overseas, never materialized."


Corner Case

CBS News: "Two women involved with a group called Mothers Against Senseless Killings were shot dead Friday on a South Side Chicago block where moms gather to help curb gun violence. Police say they don't believe the two young mothers were the intended targets." (Mass-shootings get endless coverage, but their death numbers can amount to an average night in certain American neighborhoods, where kids grow up in something like a war zone, but where the war never ends...)


The Streets of San Francisco

More than 8,000 people in San Francisco are homeless. In recent years, the problem has gotten dramatically worse, even as countless organizations are focused on the issue, and the city spends $300 million a year trying to slow the crisis. SF Chronicle: One Day, One City, No Relief: 24 hours inside San Francisco's homelessness crisis.


Sweep Stakes

"Despite the one-in-292-million odds of winning the multi-state Powerball jackpot (you have a greater chance of dying from a falling coconut, which is one in 250 million), Americans spent $71.8 billion on lottery tickets in 2017. The bulk of this revenue was generated by the largest consumers of lottery tickets, who also happen to be the poorest Americans." Leah Muncy in The Outline: It's Time to Get Rid of the Lottery. (My dad has been saying this for years, and he's right. But the chances of states getting rid of the lottery might be as long as the odds of you winning it.)


Jailhouse Crock

"I would have done the same thing if it was my kid. I would have spent every dime if I thought I could get him out." The Marshall Project with a long look at a con artist's elaborate scheme to rip off families who were trying to get their kids out of prison. The King of Dreams: "A Texas con artist made millions promising prisoners' families the thing they wanted most: To bring their children home."

+ "After John Looker announced he had brain cancer, he became a star fund-raiser and the heart of Pelotonia, a charity event in Ohio that raises millions of dollars. But something wasn't right." NYT: He Was the Face of a Bike-a-thon to Fight Cancer. He Was Also a Fake. (Unlike the story above, this scam wasn't even about money...)


Where Everybody Knows Your (User)Name

"First, there was the car crash. A bystander said he was all right, just a little banged up, but he still had to go to the hospital. A friend tried to cover for him, saying he was texting while driving, but everyone in town knows Lenny has a drinking problem, a problem that's only gotten worse since he lost his side gig as a gravedigger. Some townspeople felt bad and brought him a bouquet of magnolias in the hospital. It turns out, he was mostly worried about his pet baby raccoons, so one kind soul promised to take care of them for him. Once he got out of the hospital, he mostly dropped off the map, but that wasn't too unusual — Lenny Crabbitz is always a tough guy to find. But don't feel too bad for Lenny; he doesn't really exist." The Verge visits a town built on Reddit. Welcome To Lower Duck Pond, A Fake Town Of 82,000 People. (Even in a fake town, I'd get complaints about my beagles barking too much...)


A Few Good Mentions

"Navy Secretary Richard Spencer ordered seven Navy Achievement Medals and three letters of commendation given to the prosecution team be rescinded, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Jereal Dorsey said Wednesday, hours after a pair of scathing tweets from the president." NPR: Navy Rescinds Awards To Prosecutors In Case Of SEAL Acquitted Of Murdering Captive.


Heir 404

NPR: "Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, is reported dead." The heir apparent to the al-Qaida top spot was killed several months ago. But don't feel like you're the only one out of the loop. "He was killed before February 2019 when the State Department announced a $1 million reward for information about his whereabouts before U.S. officials could confirm his death."


Bespoke Screen

"The nostalgia for small-town life and 'mom and pop' stores stands in stark contrast not only to an urbanized population but the power of large companies. Capitalism is an engine of choice-making and competition, but very often the competition is between brands owned by the same company, or between small numbers of large economic players. Smallness rules the imagination; bigness rules the high street." The Guardian: Starbucks v Dunkin': how capitalism gives us the illusion of choice.


Bottom of the News

"Among other things, it would ban infinite scroll and autoplay on their apps and websites, and it would automatically limit a user's time on a platform to 30 minutes a day." Vox: Josh Hawley's bill to limit your Twitter time to 30 minutes a day, explained. (It takes me that long just to admire my work from the day before.)

+ Yuka Nakajima, the Guinness World Record-holder, has freed 3,500 teddy bears from those arcade claw machines. Here's everything else you want to know about the claw.

+ Quartz: Major universities are starting to offer cannabis degree programs. (I wonder if one can earn a degree from home...)

+ July was hot. Really hot. Here are some photos.

+ "It was meant to signify a pause of a length somewhere between that of the comma and that of the colon, and this heritage was reflected in its form, which combines half of each of those marks." The Birth of the Semicolon. Who knew it would become a legend ;-)