January 26th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

American Mass Murder, Empty Pickups, Meta's Poster Child

He tortured animals … He had intense mood swings and alcohol problems … He planned to commit suicide by cop … He was known for being paranoid with a short temper … He believed he was straying from his faith … He posted a series of disturbing videos on Facebook … He had been isolating himself from his online friends. Jillian Peterson and James Densley are criminologists who run The Violence Project, an org dedicated to understanding and ultimately reducing gun violence. They examined the details of more than 150 mass shootings in the US. “These events have become more frequent and more deadly over time. One-third of all the mass shootings in our study occurred in the last decade. This is no coincidence. The killings are not just random acts of violence but rather a symptom of a deeper societal problem: the continued rise of ‘deaths of despair.'” NYT (Gift Article): We Profiled the ‘Signs of Crisis’ in 50 Years of Mass Shootings. This Is What We Found. Of course, there’s also the political despair of the sane majority, including gun owners, who want common sense limitations on the sales of the killing machines that allow mass murderers to be so effective. Despair is not uniquely American. The killings are.

+ WaPo: Gun owners favor requiring parents to lock up weapons. It’s lawmakers who don’t. “After a 6-year-old shot a teacher in Virginia, there will be another push for safe gun storage laws across the country. Most will likely fail.” Again, this is not a gun-owner vs non-gun-owner issue. It’s not a good guy with a gun vs a bad guy with a gun issue. It’s bad officeholders and bad lobbyists vs decent people.


Hauling Assumptions

Maybe it was a midlife crisis, but I recently went through a period when I wanted to get a pickup truck. Since I had nothing to haul, I started researching hobbies that would require me to drive, for example, a Jeep Gladiator. When I mentioned this search for a pickup purpose to a friend from Texas, she laughed in my face. “Do you think all the dudes who parked their pickups in my high school parking lot ever used their trucks for hauling anything? Just buy a truck.” While I didn’t make the purchase, it turns out my friend’s anecdotal analysis was quite accurate. Axios on the incredible sales and rare use cases for Pickup Trucks: From Workhorse To Joyride. “With jumbo trucks, you’d think people were hauling and towing more than ever — not so. Survey data from vehicle research firm Strategic Vision shows a third of today’s pickup owners rarely or never use their truck for hauling, while two thirds rarely or never use it for towing. So what are people using their trucks for? Shopping, errands, commuting and Sunday drives.” (When I was a kid, I was terrified of unmarked white vans. Lately, I’ve been thinking I might get one of those.)


Meta’s Poster Child

“As a general rule, we don’t want to get in the way of open, public and democratic debate on Meta’s platforms – especially in the context of elections in democratic societies like the United States.” And with that, Meta announced that Donald Trump (whose public posts have only become more unhinged since he was banned from major social media sites) will be allowed back onto Facebook and Instagram. Whether or not you like this decision, it’s critical to acknowledge that it is entirely Meta’s choice. Unlike Trumpism supporters, let’s not pretend this move has anything to do with free speech. It’s a company deciding how it wants to enforce rules on its own platform.

+ So far, Charlie Warzel has the best take I’ve seen. Trump and Facebook’s Mutual Decay. “Each thrives by hijacking attention and monetizing outrage, and they’ve benefited each other: The Trump campaign spent millions of dollars on more than 289,000 Facebook ads over the span of just a few months in 2020, according to an analysis by The Markup. But lately, both appear to have lost the juice. Many people still support Trump, and many people still use Facebook products, but the shine is gone—and that matters.”

+ Beware of billionaire blowhards who pretend that social media is all about free speech. Twitter joined YouTube in caving to pressure to block links to a BBC documentary critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


Fiddle Me This

“A few feet away, Joshua Bell and James Ehnes, two of the most prominent solo violinists on the planet, hover over an Arts and Crafts–style wood table. Normally, Bell, a former child prodigy known for his virtuosic, animated playing, and Ehnes, a musician’s musician celebrated for his technical prowess, would be the superstars in the room. Both have won multiple Grammy Awards, and between the two of them, they have performed in nearly every major concert hall and with all the best orchestras in the world. But here, in Becker’s studio inside his office, another icon takes center stage. ‘I’m really nervous and excited,’ says Bell, his hands stuffed in his pockets. ‘It’s like meeting my wife again after two months. I’m a little overwhelmed.'” Chicago Mag: The Violin Doctor. (This is the guy to see if your F-hole is out of whack.)


Extra, Extra

Police Charges: “Five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in the arrest and death of Tyre Nichols, a Black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop.”

+ Tanks But No Tanks: The US is sending tanks to Ukraine. Once it makes them. And then gets them there. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. A Delicate Pact Was Forged to Get Ukraine More Tanks.

+ Eighth Grade Class-ified: “On a winter’s day in 1984, a briefcase stuffed with classified government documents showed up in a building in Pittsburgh, borne by someone who most certainly wasn’t supposed to have them. That someone was 13-year-old Kristin Preble. She took the papers to school as a show-and-tell project for her eighth grade class.” She was clearly ahead of her time. How classified documents became a schoolgirl’s show-and-tell.

+ Kavanaughty By Nature: “No matter how much evidence you amass, no matter how many tips you investigate, no matter how many people eventually turn up to corroborate your story, there is nobody to call.” Dahlia Lithwick on the new Brett Kavanaugh documentary that premiered at Sundance. The New Kavanaugh Documentary Changes Nothing.

+ WokeScreen: “Microsoft, the tech behemoth behind the video game console, said earlier this month it will update Xboxes to run more efficiently, saving users money on their electric bills and trimming the gaming industry’s carbon emissions.” That, it turns out, is a no-no. WaPo: Why conservatives are accusing the Xbox of being woke.

+ Djoker’s Wild: “Novak Djokovic’s father has been filmed posing with supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Australian Open, and appearing to say ‘long live the Russians.'”

+ Homes School: “He’d seen enough. He already thought both kids had Division I potential. He watched as they high-fived and walked away together, and it was the first hint that Cheatham and Mahomes were, in fact, best friends. All three left that day excited about the future. But they had no idea that one of the longest, most formative quarterback battles in the history of football had just begun.” The QB battle that unlocked Patrick Mahomes. These origin stories are great reminders of the small differences between superstars and those who are just great, and of how recently some of our sports heroes were just kids.


Bottom of the News

“The sold-out Mindful Drinking Fest was emphatically zero proof, but it offered plenty of proof that the movement to drink less alcohol is booming. And with an explosion of new choices, it’s also delicious.” This drinks festival doesn’t have alcohol.

+ ‘Authentic’ Splash Mountain water sells on eBay after ride closes at Walt Disney World. (Unlike the drinks above, this stuff can probably give you a bit of a buzz.)

+ Stop everything. We have a Succession season 4 release date and trailer.

+ This seems sadly poetic. It appears that a couple that met on a reality show broke up when one person left the other for another reality show.

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