"The story of how the nation’s third-busiest commuter railroad declined so rapidly is a tale of neglect and mismanagement that represents an ominous symbol of the challenges facing mass transit systems across the United States in an era when governments are loath to raise taxes." On September 29, a New Jersey Transit train headed into the Hoboken terminal crashed, killing one woman, and injuring 108 others.
July 1939. The world teetered on the brink of war as Hitler menaced Poland. The 11 millionth visitor passed through the turnstiles of the New York World’s Fair. Baseball fans still reeled after Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech at Yankee Stadium. But many Americans could think only of Donn Fendler, a 12-year-old boy lost on Mount Katahdin in Maine, the object of a frantic search and rescue operation that dragged on for nine days, monopolizing the radio airwaves and newspaper headlines. [more inside]
A Bad Week for Samsung [The New York Times] “Samsung Electronics is killing its troubled Galaxy Note 7 [wiki] smartphone, a humbling about-face for the South Korean giant and its global brand. In an unprecedented move, the company will no longer produce or market the smartphones. The demise of the Galaxy Note 7 is a major setback for Samsung, the world’s largest maker of smartphones. The premium device — with a 5.7-inch screen, curved contours and comparatively high price — won praise from consumers and reviewers, and was the company’s most ambitious effort yet to take on Apple for the high-end market.” [more inside]
Losing a large number of individuals is a tragedy, but what happens when we lose an entire whale culture? What do we lose when we lose a way of life? Every culture, whale or otherwise, is its own solution to the problems of the environment in which it lives. With its extirpation, we lose the traditional knowledge of what it means to be a Caribbean whale and how to exploit the deep sea riches around the islands efficiently. And that cannot be recovered.
Congress Votes to Override Obama Veto on 9/11 Victims Bill [The New York Times] “Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to override a veto by President Obama for the first time, passing into law a bill that would allow the families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot. Democrats in large numbers joined with Republicans to deliver a remarkable rebuke to the president. The 97-to-1 vote in the Senate and the 348-to-77 vote in the House displayed the enduring power of the Sept. 11 families in Washington and the diminishing influence here of the Saudi government. The new law, enacted over the fierce objections of the White House, immediately alters the legal landscape. American courts could seize Saudi assets to pay for any judgment obtained by the Sept. 11 families, while Saudi officials have warned they might need to sell off hundreds of billions of dollars in holdings in the United States to avoid such an outcome.” [more inside]
ARTS MacArthur Foundation Announces 2016 ‘Genius’ Grant Winners [The New York Times] This year’s winners of the MacArthur fellowships, awarded for exceptional “originality, insight and potential,” and publicly announced on Thursday, include writers, visual artists, scientists, nonprofit organization leaders and others, who are chosen at a moment when the recognition and money — a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 distributed over five years — will make a difference. [more inside]
"Comments on Times stories are moderated by a team of 14 people known as the community desk. Together, they review around 11,000 comments each day for the approximately 10 percent of Times articles that are open to reader comment. To help illustrate how our moderation works and how a new system might help, we have arranged for you to take a Times moderation test."
‘Five-Second Rule’ for Food on Floor Is Untrue, Study Finds [The New York Times] “You may think your floors are so clean you can eat off them, but a new study debunking the so-called five-second rule would suggest otherwise. Professor Donald W. Schaffner, a food microbiologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said a two-year study he led concluded that no matter how fast you pick up food that falls on the floor, you will pick up bacteria with it. The findings in the report — “Is the Five-Second Rule Real?” — appeared online this month in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology.”
Two weeks ago, workers announced the highly publicized formation of Stardust Family United under the Industrial Workers of the World, which is supported by over 70 employees of Ellen's Stardust Diner, a restaurant in midtown Manhattan recently profiled for by the New York Times. Ken Sturm, owner, then fired six long-time employees in retaliation for their efforts to form a union to protect and improve their working conditions. Ellen's, a diner which primarily employs Broadway and off-Broadway singers, has been a mainstay source of income for many since 1995.
Will the New Apple iPhone Have a Headphone Jack? Rumormongers Say It Won’t [The New York Times] “When the latest iPhone is unveiled here on Wednesday in a 7,000-seat auditorium, it probably will instead be more like Christmas for a sneaky 10-year-old who long ago peeked at his present. Thanks. That’s it? Anyone who cares enough about the iPhone to know that a new model is being released this month already knows what it is supposed to be like: a little thinner, a little faster and equipped with superior cameras on the Plus model. By far the most controversial feature, however, is the one that will be missing: a headphone jack. A standard element of technology that can be traced back to 1878 and the invention of the manual telephone exchange, the jack is apparently going the way of the floppy disk and the folding map. The future will be wireless.” [more inside]
One of the Most Important Crosswords in New York Times History - the story behind a very special puzzle
Subway Reads: Free E-Books, Timed for Your Commute [The New York Times] “On Sunday, Subway Reads started delivering novellas, short stories or excerpts from full-length books to passengers’ cellphones or tablets. The idea is for riders to download a short story or a chapter and read it on the train. Subway Reads will even let riders choose what to read based on how long they will be on the subway — a 10-page selection for a 10-minute ride, a 20-page selection for a 20-minute excursion, a 30-page selection for a 30-minute trip. Delays not included.”
Meet Octobot: Squishy, Adorable and Revolutionary [The New York Times] “This squishy eight-armed machine is the world’s first fully autonomous soft-bodied robot. Researchers at Harvard University created the octopus by three-dimensional printing, using silicone gel, which gives it its flexible, rubbery texture. On Wednesday, they unveiled their adorable step toward the robot uprising in the journal Nature [.PDF]. The scientists said in their paper that their creation could be a foundation for the future of soft-bodied robots.”
Rosemarie Garland-Thomson writes for the New York Times: "Disability is everywhere once you start noticing it. A simple awareness of who we are sharing our public spaces with can be revelatory. Wheelchair users or people with walkers, hearing aids, canes, service animals, prosthetic limbs or breathing devices may seem to appear out of nowhere, when they were in fact there all the time."
How Did People Migrate to the Americas? Bison DNA Helps Chart the Way [The New York Times] “Two teams of scientists have succeeded in dating the opening of the gateway to America, only to disagree over whether the Clovis people — one of the first groups from Siberia to reach the Americas — ever used the gateway to gain access to the New World.” [more inside]
If you live in the US, EU or Japan, and feel like economic growth today has not been like it was for your parents' or grandparents' generation, you are correct. Growth in mature markets has been very slow since the late 1960s. Economist Robert J. Gordon calls 1870-1970, the "Special Century" because of how abnormally strong the growth was in that period. [more inside]
Of Thee I Read: The United States in Literature [The New York Times] Reporters and editors on the National Desk of The New York Times were asked to suggest books that a visitor ought to read to truly understand the American cities and regions where they live, work and travel. There were no restrictions — novels, memoirs, histories and children’s books were fair game. Here are some selections. Recommend a book that captures something special about where you live in the comments, or on Twitter with the hashtag #natbooks. [more inside]
The Bedazzling of the American Gymnast [The New York Times] So it begins: the flag-waving excitement, the teeth-grinding anticipation, the blinding sparkle. The Olympics. Wait … hang on. The sparkle? Indeed. Because if Simone Biles — the 19-year-old American who is often called by sports pundits the best female gymnast ever, and whose performance in Rio de Janeiro will be among the most watched of these Olympics — does what most everyone seems to expect and makes off with multiple gold medals, it is very likely that when she climbs the podium, the shininess of the discs around her neck will pale in comparison to the shininess of something else. Her leotard.
$7 for Corn Flakes? Cereal Gets Makeover at Kellogg’s Store in Times Square [The New York Times] In a brave new world of breakfast food, replete with to-go bars and microwaveable sandwiches, companies like Kellogg’s and General Mills have seen their cereal sales decline over the past decade. Now, in hopes of helping its customers to rethink cereal, Kellogg’s plans to open a branded boutique in Times Square on Monday, charging Manhattan prices — as much as $7.50 — for bowls of Frosted Flakes and Raisin Bran. The cereal will be garnished with foodie flair — like lemon zest and green tea powder — to help justify those prices. “It’s all about honoring tradition but looking differently at a bowl of cereal,” said Anthony Rudolf, who will operate the store, called Kellogg’s NYC.
‘The Arrangements’: A Work of Fiction by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [The New York Times] The New York Times Book Review asked the acclaimed novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to write a short story about the American election. A second work of election fiction — by a different writer — will follow this fall. [more inside]
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]