Friday, October 27th, 2023


Home is Where the Heart Is

Can a good guy with a gun stop a bad guy with a gun? How about a few thousand good guys? Entire communities in Maine are still in lockdown. Hundreds of police officers are searching for the well-armed madman who killed at least 18 people in Lewiston. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is involved. So is the FBI. So is the Coast Guard. So are SWAT teams. So are state police officers and highway patrolmen from multiple states. There are drones, helicopters, military vehicles, and helmeted law enforcement officials in body armor. The White House is being kept abreast as the situation unfolds. How can this many people be risking their lives to stop a lone gunman? Because, we have fully legal weapons that can turn a single person into a one-man army. There are now reports of a suicide note. Maybe the bad guy with a gun killed the bad guy with a gun. Here's the latest on the manhunt.

+ Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine changed his views on assault weapons this week. "I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war, like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime. The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure. Which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine." It was someone's hometown last time. It will be someone else's hometown next time.

+ "Today, as my wife and I stay locked in our home—the gunman, still on the loose, is the subject of a sprawling manhunt—I am filled with nothing so much as rage. Rage at my gun-nut friends from home who will see this tragedy as a reason for less gun control, rather than more of it. Rage at every conservative pundit who has ever uttered the phrase 'good guy with a gun.' Rage at the state of Maine, which has some of the most lax gun laws in the country. Rage at the politicians here and beyond who have refused to solve a problem for which solutions readily exist. Rage at myself for being so blind." Tyler Austin Harper in The Atlantic: I saw the gun-violence epidemic—and my relationship to it as a gun owner—as an abstraction. Then a mass shooting happened in the little city where I work.

+ Can we count on Congress to finally do something, even something insignificant or performative, this time? I'll let this quote from new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson answer that question. "At the end of the day the problem is the human heart, it's not guns." (At the end of the day, the problem is that the human heart isn't bulletproof.)


Bible Stumper

"When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Diana Greene Foster made a painful prediction: She estimated that one in four women who wanted an abortion wouldn't be able to get one. Foster, a demographer at UC San Francisco, told me that she'd based her expectation on her knowledge of how abortion rates decline when women lose insurance coverage or have to travel long distances after clinics close ... But now, more than a year removed from the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, Foster has revised her estimate. After seeing early reports of women traveling across state lines and ordering pills online, she now estimates that about 5 percent of women who want an abortion cannot get one." Dobbs's Confounding Effect on Abortion Rates. (As many predicted, the biggest impact is on those with the fewest resources.)

+ Abortion will be a key issue in the 2024 election. That was the case last week, but it's even more the case now that Mike Johnson has been elected Speaker. The religious right controls SCOTUS. And now it controls the top spot in the House. Don't take my word for it. Ask Mike Johnson: "Someone asked me today in the media, ‘People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue?' I said, 'Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That's my worldview.'" Christian right cheers new House speaker, conservative evangelical Mike Johnson.


Underground Zero

Let's start today's Middle East coverage with a hint of hope (and a reminder that there are people on both sides of the conflict who have wanted and worked for peace for years). A group of Jews and Arabs in Israel has a ‘radical' idea — protecting one another as fear reigns. "Their mostly leftist movement is a fringe one, a relative speck of cooperation in a land where ethnic and territorial strife is once again reaching a crescendo. But on a recent humid night, their task was mixing: Israeli Arabs and Jews — and wallpaper paste."

+ Dennis Ross who has spent decades on peacemaking and conflict resolution in the Middle East and elsewhere, in the NYT (Gift Article): I Might Have Once Favored a Cease-Fire With Hamas, but Not Now. "Israel is not alone in believing it must defeat Hamas. Over the past two weeks, when I talked to Arab officials throughout the region whom I have long known, every single one told me that Hamas must be destroyed in Gaza. They made clear that if Hamas is perceived as winning, it will validate the group's ideology of rejection, give leverage and momentum to Iran and its collaborators and put their own governments on the defensive. But they said this in private. Their public postures have been quite different."

+ Getting rid of Hamas may be a widely held goal in the region. It's not an easy task and it will cost countless innocent lives. The Hamas tunnel city beneath Gaza - a hidden frontline for Israel.

+ The growing worry about the conflict spreading: "U.S. fighter jets launched airstrikes early Friday on two locations in eastern Syria linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Pentagon said, in retaliation for a slew of drone and missile attacks against U.S. bases and personnel in the region that began early last week."

+ Ground operations are expanding, progress (though hard to believe) reported in hostage negotiations, world leaders call for humanitarian pause as not nearly enough aid is getting through, the IDF says Hamas has an underground headquarters beneath a major hospital, UN chief says Gaza faces ‘avalanche of human suffering.' Here's the latest from CNN, BBC, and Times of Israel.


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: Starstruck on Max is a lighthearted, comedic series about a relationship that develops after a woman has a one-night stand with someone she later learns is a famous actor. Watch Starstruck on Max.

+ What to Cam: Need even more of a break from all the recent bad news? Try the Baby Animal Cam on Netflix.

+ What to Read: "Johnson's favorite words are 'algorithm' and 'AI,' used in the context of the phrase 'We need to align with AI.' He says this a lot. He also loves talking about his penis. At night, he attaches a small jetpack-like device to his groin to track his erections. His penis is usually erect for two hours and 13 minutes. This is good but not great. If Johnson wants to achieve his goal, which is to have the penis and heart function of an 18-year-old, he'll need to maintain erections for at least an hour longer, on average." Zoë Bernard in GQ: At RAADfest, a gathering devoted to 'radical life extension,' no pathway to eternal life is off the table. (I think the goal of this movement is to be so irritating that others become less concerned about death and more concerned about learning more about the movement.)


Extra, Extra

Under the Radar: "What made Otis so dangerous was not just the fact of its strength but the surprise of it. As recently as Monday evening, it was classified as a tropical storm, and forecasts had it strengthening only slightly before hitting the coast. It wasn't until after midnight on Tuesday that the first hurricane warning for the region was issued; at that point, Otis was expected to make landfall as a Category 1 storm. Then Otis really got busy." (As you know, I visit a lot of news sites every day. I didn't notice any headlines about Otis in the days before it hit. That's a first.) Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker: Hurricane Otis and the World We Live in Now.

+ The Melting Pot: "It was a choice to melt down Robert E. Lee. But it would have been a choice to keep him intact, too. So the statue of the Confederate general that once stood in Charlottesville — the one that prompted the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017 — was now being cut into fragments and dropped into a furnace, dissolving into a sludge of glowing bronze." (Better melt the statue than the constitution.) WaPo (Gift Article): Charlottesville's Lee statue meets its end, in a 2,250-degree furnace.

+ Unfriendly Fire: A reminder that the victims of murderous authoritarians often include their own people. "The White House on Thursday said Russia is executing soldiers who have failed to follow orders and threatening entire units with death if they retreat from Ukrainian artillery fire."

+ Driving Towards the Finish Line? "Forty days after the United Auto Workers went on strike against Detroit's Big Three automakers, the union has reached a tentative agreement with one of the companies in question: Ford. It means deals with General Motors and Stellantis may soon be on the horizon, too."

+ Clear Eyes, Full Coffers: "Spectators gather at a stadium with 12,000 seats, a two-story press box, fancy digs for college scouts and a 60-foot-wide video scoreboard — a venue that cost about $50 million. These high school football games don't always fill the seats, but a local hospital chain paid $2.5 million for the stadium's naming rights anyway." And it's about to be the second most palatial high school football stadium in its school district. Clear Eyes, Full Hearts and a $94 Million Texas High School Stadium.

+ Mama M.I.A. "There is no provision in the legislation which attributes to the adult child the unconditional right to remain in the home exclusively owned by the parents, against their will and by virtue of the family bond alone." So said an Italian judge as a mother won a court case to evict two sons in their 40s. (Does it seem weird that my mom forwarded this article to me?)


Feel Good Friday

"The two newborn babies had the same critical heart condition and were placed in intensive care rooms next to each other at a Texas children's hospital. Both sets of parents were told their infants had about a 40 percent chance of survival." They both survived. And now they're college roommates.

+ The first vaccine approved to fight malaria cut deaths among young children by 13% over nearly 4 years.

+ 14-year-old who invented soap to treat skin cancer named America's Top Young Scientist. (Kid, please don't apply to the same colleges as my children...)

+ You know how older folks complain about having to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways? Well, this guy was understating it. "He was known as the Skiing Mailman of the Sierra Nevada and called "the most remarkable mail carrier in the world," for delivering mail on skis across the treacherous and snow-covered mountains around Lake Tahoe in the 1860s. He'd ski up to 45 miles a day on the type of skinny wooden skis that today you only find on the walls of vintage diners and ski home rentals." Behold Snowshoe Thompson, Tahoe's wolf-fighting, skiing mailman.

+ A sea otter who captured hearts and surfboards this past summer has become a mother. (A lot of locals can't wait until this kid starts acting up and giving mom a hard time.)

+ "Falling in love was gradual, but we formed a connection." Luckily, it wasn't too gradual. WaPo (Gift Article): At 96, they fell in love playing pool. She rejected his first marriage offer.