Thursday, March 14th, 2024


We Never Learn

There are few public intellectuals more closely associated with a topic than Jonathan Kozol is with education inequality in America. I remember reading his 1991 book, Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools, just before embarking on high school teaching stints in Brooklyn and Boston. Trust me, Kozol's research checked out then. And it checks out now. "Educational opportunity is still apportioned mostly by parents' ability to pay for housing in desirable ZIP codes. Some aging school buildings are still laced with lead. Black and Latino students are still disproportionately subjected to harsh forms of discipline: silent hallways, isolation closets, even physical restraint. 'I don't brook with forced optimism right now,' Mr. Kozol said in an interview. 'If we're talking about Black and Latino children in our public schools, I think it's unrealistic to be optimistic.'" In the NYT (Gift Article), Dana Goldstein catches up with a now 87 year-old Jonathan Kozol who is offering up one last new book and the same old school, singular message. Jonathan Kozol Fought School Inequality for Decades. Here's One Final Plea.


Açaí Clearly Now

"He tucked his machete into the waist of his shorts, and with a single jump wrapped his skinny legs around the trunk of a palm tree. He pulled himself up, scaling 20 feet up the palm before disappearing into the canopy. After some rustling, Lucas yelled, 'It's ripe!' The rustling increased, and leaves, sticks and tiny, rock-hard purple-black berries began to fall. Wengleston was pleased. "You got two!" Lucas slid down with two bunches of açaí, weighing about 10 pounds each. Lucas will do this dozens of times on a single day." Children in Brazil are climbing 70-foot-high trees so our children can eat açaí berries.


Mineral Deficiency

"When it came to Saudi Arabia's ambitions in the sector, Mudaifer did not beat around the bush: 'Our strategy is for minerals or mining to maximize their value to the kingdom.' He said Riyadh was focused on capturing 'the high end' of the EV manufacturing process, including battery making as well as the expensive and complex metals required to build modern cars. 'It's the entire value chain, whenever possible.'" The Saudis aren't sitting around watching the sands through the hourglass until their oil money spigots to run dry. They're digging for the next cash cow. Inside Saudi Arabia's plan to dominate mining.

+ Unlike oil, the mineral business will require digging beyond their borders. Saudi Arabia wants to be a minerals and industrial powerhouse. Key to that plan: Africa.


Head Case

"Fans had been set to receive bobbleheads at the Pens game against the San Jose Sharks at PPG Paints Arena tonight, but those plans had to be put on ice as local and federal authorities investigate." Entire shipment of Pittsburgh Penguins bobbleheads stolen, feds investigating cargo theft. What the puck were they thinking? This seems like it would be a pretty hard item to release into the market without ending up in the penalty box. Maybe the thieves should have targeted Trader Joe's Totes. They're selling for as much as 500 bucks on the secondary market.


Extra, Extra

Revictimized: "He introduced himself as Officer Rodney Vicknair. His New Orleans Police Department cruiser was waiting outside, ready to take her to the hospital for a rape kit. Early that morning, the girl said, a 17-year-old friend had forced himself on her.
Under the police department's rules, a case like this was supposed to be handled from the start by a detective trained in sex crimes or child abuse. But on this afternoon in May of 2020, it was Vicknair, a patrol officer with a troubled past, who knocked on the girl's door." WaPo (Gift Article): A police officer took a teen for a rape kit. Then he assaulted her, too. The reporting here is excellent. The numbers are horrifying. "At least 1,800 state and local police officers were charged with crimes involving child sexual abuse from 2005 through 2022, The Post found. Abusive officers were rarely related to the children they were accused of raping, fondling and exploiting. They most frequently targeted girls who were 13 to 15 years old — and regularly met their victims through their jobs." A related and must-watch piece of investigative journalism from the Center for Investigative Reporting: Victim/Suspect on Netflix. These rape victims came forward only to end up being charged with crimes. Unthinkable, but true.

+ Chuck Roasts: "Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called on Israel to hold new elections, saying he believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has 'lost his way' and is an obstacle to peace in the region amid a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza." I can't stand Bibi, but I'm not sure I can remember a top US official calling for new elections in another democracy.

+ Doctoring Nursing Home Books: "Meals were served from filthy meal carts on plastic foam trays, and residents struggled to cut their food with dull plastic cutlery. Broken tiles lined showers, and a mysterious black gunk marred the floors. The director of housekeeping reported that the dining room was unsanitary. Overall, there was a critical lack of training, staff and supervision." For-profit nursing homes are cutting corners on safety and draining resources with financial shenanigans.

+ Gang's All Here: "Prime Minister Ariel resigned not because of politics, not because of the massive street demonstrations against him over the years, but because of the violence gangs have carried out ... The situation totally changed now, because the gangs are now working together." Why Everything Changed in Haiti: The Gangs United. And you'll never guess where all the weapons are coming from...

+ Boxing Briefs: Forget about actually being president again. Tom Nichols explains why candidate Trump shouldn't even be given access to intelligence briefings. "Since 1952, the White House has allowed major-party candidates access to classified intelligence briefings so that they will be current on important issues if they win the election. Trump should be denied this courtesy."

+ Working in Concert: Contraceptives and morning-after pills have been handed out at US pop star Olivia Rodrigo's concert in Missouri, where abortion is banned. These young female artists can get a lot of young female voters to the polls. (And a lot of other voters, too.) Props to Olivia. If you care about reproductive rights, there's no morning after pill for a Trump win in November.

+ I Just Mnuched in My Mouth a Little: Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday he's assembling a team of investors to make a bid to buy TikTok. I'm not sure if this is an effort to make China look like a not so bad option or whether it's part of a strategy to get your kids off social media. Mine just asked if we can go back to using a landline. If you missed it yesterday, here's my take on the TikTok ban. House to Tiktok: Byte Me.


Bottom of the News

"Plenty of research has investigated the bond between humans and dogs, demonstrating that canine companions can improve people's moods, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Just looking dogs in the eye may even boost levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love and trust." Playing with dogs helps people concentrate and relax, brain recordings show. They tested my brain's reaction to my beagles' howling, but the dogs ate most of readout (and I ate the rest).

+ To celebrate Pi Day, here's our annual look back at my wife reciting the first 314 digits of Pi while taking tequila shots.