NYTimes on the newly-rebuilt Panama Canal: "In simple terms, to be successful, the new canal needs enough water, durable concrete and locks big enough to safely accommodate the larger ships. On all three counts, it has failed to meet expectations." [more inside]
Why ‘Transcending Race’ Is a Lie [The New York Times] Few American athletes have been as widely beloved as Simpson was. Even today, his popularity seems inconceivable. “O. J.: Made in America,” the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary [ESPN] directed by Ezra Edelman that is airing this week, busies itself with the making of the man at the myth’s center and with the country that helped him become a monster. It’s the best thing ESPN has ever produced. And it answers my question: Simpson’s story is that of a black man who came of age during the civil rights era and spent his entire adult life trying to “transcend race” — to claim that strange accolade bestowed on blacks spanning from Pelé to Prince to Nelson Mandela to Muhammad Ali. Which is to say, it’s the story of a halfback trying, and failing, to outrun his own blackness. [more inside]
Period. Full Stop. Point. Whatever It’s Called, It’s Going Out of Style by Dan Bilefsky [The New York Times] The period — the full-stop signal we all learn as children, whose use stretches back at least to the Middle Ages — is gradually being felled in the barrage of instant messaging that has become synonymous with the digital age So says David Crystal, who has written more than 100 books on language and is a former master of original pronunciation at Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London — a man who understands the power of tradition in language The conspicuous omission of the period in text messages and in instant messaging on social media, he says, is a product of the punctuation-free staccato sentences favored by millennials — and increasingly their elders — a trend fueled by the freewheeling style of Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter
Mecca Goes Mega [The New York Times] A building boom in the city’s sacred center has created a dazzling, high-tech 21st-century pilgrimage. [more inside]
J. K. Rowling Just Can’t Let Harry Potter Go [The New York Times] J. K. Rowling always said that the seventh Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” would be the last in the series, and so far she has kept to her word. But though she’s written many new things in the intervening nine years, including four adult novels, she’s never been able to put Harry to rest, or to leave him alone. [more inside]
"In the early hours of Jan. 26, 2005, one of two large Marine helicopters transporting troops for this expanded and therefore riskier mission crashed, killing all onboard: 30 Marines and a Navy corpsman....I promised myself that night that I would visit all 31 grave sites. I needed to get a sense of where these military service members came from: the schools and churches they attended; the streets where they learned to drive; the neighborhoods where many of their families still lived."
Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Trial Can Proceed, Judge Rules [The New York Times] Prosecutors in Pennsylvania on Tuesday crossed their final hurdle to bring Bill Cosby to trial on charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman he once mentored, with a judge ruling that enough evidence existed for the case to move forward. While Mr. Cosby is fighting numerous civil cases involving similar accusations, the ruling, by Judge Elizabeth A. McHugh, means that the once popular entertainer must face at least one of his accusers in a criminal proceeding, likely to take place here this year. [Previously.] [Previously.] [Previously.]
Which Rock Star Will Historians of the Future Remember? by Chuck Klosterman [The New York Times] The most important musical form of the 20th century will be nearly forgotten one day. People will probably learn about the genre through one figure — so who might that be? [more inside]
"Over a million people are buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island. A New York Times investigation uncovers some of their stories and the failings of the system that put them there." (SL NYTimes)
Inside Death Row: [New York Times] Between 2014 and 2015, the editorial cartoonist Patrick Chappatte and his wife, the journalist Anne-Frédérique Widmann, invited death-row inmates in the United States to draw their personal experiences in prison. Last year, the couple curated the drawings in an art and documentation exhibition in Los Angeles called “Windows on Death Row.” The prisoners’ stories became the basis of this five-part graphic journalism series. [more inside]
President Obama Weighs His Economic Legacy by Andrew Ross Sorkin [The New York Times] Eight years after the financial crisis, unemployment is at 5 percent, deficits are down and G.D.P. is growing. Why do so many voters feel left behind? The president has a theory. [more inside]
Not everyone has smiled benignly upon D&D. That is reflected in this offering from Retro Report, a series of video documentaries examining major news stories of the past
A Familiar Pattern in a Spouse’s Final Act by Benjamin Mueller, Ashley Southall and Al Baker [The New York Times] After years of violence, Nadia Saavedra finally told her husband to leave their Bronx home. Soon after, the police say, he returned to kill her and then himself. [WARNING: Article contains descriptions of physical violence, domestic abuse, assault, homicide.]
A Powerful Collective Rooting for You: On Vin Diesel’s Facebook by Muna Mire [The New York Times] Vin Diesel’s hugely popular Facebook page is a community for inspiration and fellowship. [more inside]
The structure of a crossword puzzle can be broken down into several characteristic elements, the most distinctive of which are its theme and its grid. With numerous independent puzzles published daily in various periodicals and in syndication one might expect these elements to be repeated occasionally through circumstance, but a recent analysis of tens of thousands of individual puzzles found far more replication than chance would explain in the puzzles produced by Timothy Parker for USA Today and Universal Uclick.
New York Times Magazine's The Work Issue: Reimagining the Office presents longform articles on questions regarding hiring, teamwork, meetings, automation, and more. Semi-permeable paywall. [more inside]
What It’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood* (*If you’re not a straight white man.) (SLNYTimes, Interactive)
In the deep stillness of a forest in winter, the sound of footsteps on a carpet of leaves died away. Peter Wohlleben had found what he was looking for: a pair of towering beeches. “These trees are friends,” he said, craning his neck to look at the leafless crowns, black against a gray sky. “You see how the thick branches point away from each other? That’s so they don’t block their buddy’s light."
The New York Times has obtained and published a video of a first grade teacher at the Success Academy, a charter school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, berating and ripping up the paper of a six year old after the child could not explain to the class how she solved a math problem. [more inside]
"Every day during Black History Month, we will publish at least one of these photographs online, illuminating stories that were never told in our pages and others that have been mostly forgotten.... other holes in coverage probably reflect the biases of some earlier editors at our news organization, long known as the newspaper of record. They and they alone determined who was newsworthy and who was not, at a time when black people were marginalized in society and in the media."
Critics warned that Citizens United would bring about a new era of corporate influence in politics, with companies and businesspeople buying elections to promote their financial interests. So far, that hasn’t happened much… Instead, a small group of billionaires has flooded races with ideologically tinged contributions. Zachary Mider profiles the enigmatic Bob Mercer, the single biggest donor of the current campaign, for Bloomberg: “What Kind of Man Spends Millions to Elect Ted Cruz?” [more inside]
It's an familiar fable in New York City: Dumped on the curb by the West Side Highway, a stranger to the city with no name and no connections, just a ferocious will. With a little luck and a lot of talent, a year later she's making her Broadway debut: The Story of Rose, a white rat. (SLNYTimes)
For Some Atlanta Hawks, a Revved-Up Game of Uno Is Diversion No. 1 by Scott Cacciola [The New York Times]
The Hawks, like many professional sports teams, have a lot of free time to kill, much of it spent on airplanes traveling to games. Some of the players keep busy by watching movies. Many sleep. Others play cards, a popular pastime for athletes who are competitive by nature. Yet the Hawks’ card game of choice might come as a surprise. Teammates who have resisted the urge to wade into the Uno fray know enough to keep a safe distance.
New York Times Sunday Review Opinion piece "The Selfish Side of Gratitude" by Barbara Ehrenreich "Perhaps it’s no surprise that gratitude’s rise to self-help celebrity status owes a lot to the conservative-leaning John Templeton Foundation. At the start of this decade, the foundation, which promotes free-market capitalism, gave $5.6 million to Dr. Emmons, the gratitude researcher. It also funded a $3 million initiative called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude through the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which co-produced the special that aired on NPR. The foundation does not fund projects to directly improve the lives of poor individuals, but it has spent a great deal, through efforts like these, to improve their attitudes."
Over 50, Female and Jobless by Paticia Cohen [The New York Times] A new study found that the employment prospects for women over 50 darkened after the Great Recession, as many now earn far less and use many fewer skills than they did before. [more inside]
Navy SEALs, a Beating Death and Claims of a Cover-Up by Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew and Matthew Rosenberg [The New York Times] U.S. soldiers accused Afghan police and Navy SEALs of abusing detainees. But the SEAL command opted against a court-martial and cleared its men of wrongdoing.
Abuse of detainees is among the most serious offenses an American service member can commit. Several military justice experts, who reviewed a Naval Criminal Investigative Service report on the case at the request of The Times, said that it had been inappropriate for the SEAL command to treat such allegations as an internal disciplinary matter and that it should have referred the case for an Article 32 review, the equivalent of a grand jury, to consider a court-martial.[more inside]
The Traveling Old-Fashioned Glasses (SL Metropolitan Diary)
Alan Dershowitz on the Defense (His Own) by Barry Meier [The New York Times]
Last month, demonstrators at Johns Hopkins University interrupted Alan M. Dershowitz as he was giving a fiery speech defending Israel. The disruption normally would not have fazed Mr. Dershowitz, a former Harvard Law School professor who thrives on controversy and relishes taking on opponents in and out of the courtroom. The protesters, however, were not challenging his Middle East politics. Instead, they held up a sign reading, “You Are Rape Culture.” Mr. Dershowitz knew what it meant. A decade ago, he had defended a friend, a money manager named Jeffrey E. Epstein, after authorities in Palm Beach, Fla., found evidence indicating that he was paying underage girls to give him sexual massages. The lawyer led a scorched-earth attack on the girls and, with a team of high-priced lawyers, cut a plea deal for Mr. Epstein that the local police said was too lenient.[more inside]
Take Flight [New York Times] [Magazine] The year’s best actors lift off in a series of tributes to the ultimate Hollywood magic trick. To watch in virtual reality on your phone, download our app. [more inside]
Internet trolls have learned to exploit our over-militarized police. It's a crime that's hard to stop — and hard to prosecute.
Even though I’ve sold out Madison Square Garden as a standup comedian and have appeared in several films and a TV series, when my phone rings, the roles I’m offered are often defined by ethnicity and often require accents. ~ Aziz Ansari on Acting, Race and Hollywood [SLNYT]
We Mapped the Uninsured. You'll Notice a Pattern. By Quoctrung Bui and Margot Sanger-Katz [The New York Times]
Two years into the health care law, clear regional patterns are emerging about who has health insurance in America and who still doesn’t. The remaining uninsured are primarily in the South and the Southwest. They tend to be poor. They tend to live in Republican-leaning states. The rates of people without insurance in the Northeast and the upper Midwest have fallen into the single digits since the Affordable Care Act’s main provisions kicked in. But in many parts of the country, obtaining health insurance is still a problem for many Americans.[more inside]
Veganism has been edging into the mainstream for years now, coaxed along by superstar believers like Bill Clinton and Beyonce. But lately, as plant-eating has blossomed and gained followers, influential vegans are laboring to supplant its dowdy, spartan image with a new look: glamorous, prosperous, sexy, and epidermally beaming with health.
In the United States today, thousands of children under 18 have recently taken marital vows — mostly girls married to adult men, often with approval from local judges. In at least one case, a 10-year-old boy was legally married. [more inside]
It came up rain, a gray somber rain that put a frown on the careworn face of Pittsburgh. My window was streaked with erratic wet lines that made me think of a small child crying. Rain meant disappointment to thousands of fans—and a doubleheader to broadcast—and it meant that on that wet afternoon, I was face to face with the biggest enemy on the road… time…In September 1965, legendary broadcaster Vin Scully wrote guest column for the times.
To Revoke or Not: Colleges That Gave Cosby Honors Face a Tough Question by Sydney Ember and Colin Moynihan [New York Times]
Few people in American history have been recognized by universities as often as Mr. Cosby, whose publicist once estimated that the entertainer had collected more than 100 honorary degrees. The New York Times, in a quick search, found nearly 60. But now, as dozens of women have come forward to accuse Mr. Cosby of sexual assault, colleges across the country are confronting the question of what to do when someone who has been honored falls from grace.[more inside]
Henning Mankell, Dean of Scandinavian Noir Writers, Dies at 67 [The New York Times]
Henning Mankell, the Swedish novelist and playwright best known for police procedurals that were translated into a score of languages and sold by the millions throughout the world, died Monday morning in Goteborg, Sweden. He was 67. Mr. Mankell was considered the dean of the so-called Scandinavian noir writers who gained global prominence for novels that blended edge-of-your-seat suspense with flawed, compelling protagonists and strong social themes. The genre includes Arnaldur Indridason of Iceland, Jo Nesbo of Norway and Stieg Larsson of Sweden, among others.[more inside]
The Understated Elegance of the Airline Scarf by Troy Patterson [New York Times]
“Though the scarf coordinates with contemporary gender politics, it also conjures an old romance of the skies, stirring visions of aviators in open cockpits with white silk rippling at their throats and of fighter pilots wearing flight scarves printed with roaring beasts. It is also polymorphously practical. Heather Poole, a flight attendant and writer, has described scarves deployed as ad hoc bikini tops, improvised curtain ties and all-purpose utility tools: “I’ve seen a scarf used as a lanyard, a belt, a sweatband, a ponytail holder, a napkin and a compression bandage.”
Can’t Swallow a Pill? There’s Help for That [New York Times]
Most children start swallowing pills around age 10, said Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician in Calabasas, Calif., and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. And 20 percent to 40 percent are unable to swallow a standard-size pill or capsule, according to a recent study in the journal Pediatrics. [...] Many never outgrow the problem.[more inside]
Death in Syria by Karen Yourish, K.K. Rebecca Lai and Derek Watkins [New York Times]
“With each passing day there are fewer safe places in Syria,” Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, chairman of the United Nations panel investigating human rights abuses in Syria, wrote in a recent report. “Everyday decisions — whether to visit a neighbor, to go out to buy bread— have become, potentially, decisions about life and death.”
Letter of Recommendation: Fanny Packs by Jaime Lowe [New York Times]
“For too long, the fanny pack’s cultural baggage has prevented potential adoptees from embracing its sheer practicality. To the unenlightened, fanny packs are synonymous with the ugly American: the perfect accessory for extra-large, convenience-obsessed people. But to me they promote the greatest of our nation’s ideals: freedom.”
"I suspect that the way I feel now, at summer's end, is about how I'll feel at the end of my life, assuming I have time and mind enough to reflect: bewildered by how unexpectedly everything turned out, regretful about all the things I didn't get around to, clutching the handful of friends and funny stories I've amassed, and wondering where it all went. And I'll probably still be evading the same truth I'm evading now: that the life I ended up with, much as I complain about it, was pretty much the one I chose. And my dissatisfactions with it are really my own character, with my hesitation and timidity." (slNYT)
Can a Novelist Be Too Productive? by Stephen King [New York Times] [Op-Ed]
“No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.”
Americans have traditionally looked to Canada as a liberal haven, with gun control, universal health care and good public education. But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.