What We’re Following: Harper Lee, 1926-2016

The reclusive Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most iconic books in 20th-century American literature read and beloved by millions of U.S. schoolchildren, died Friday in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, her publisher announced. She was 89 years old.

The Department Strikes Back: The Justice Department filed a motion Friday to force Apple to comply with a judge’s order to help the FBI unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino attackers. On Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook called the government’s request for access “chilling” and said it would fight the order. The tech giant is expected to file a reply in court next week.

Warplanes in Libya: A series of U.S. airstrikes in Libya on Friday have reportedly targeted a Tunisian ISIS commander, according to multiple news organizations. U.S. officials told The New York Times and other outlets that the target, Nourredine Chouchane, is believed to have died in the strikes. He is suspected of masterminding a series of deadly attacks in neighboring Tunisia last year.


A model sits in an art installation by artist Shigeki Matsuyama, titled “Dazzle Room,” at the Room 32 fashion and design exhibition in Tokyo on February 19, 2016. See more photos from the week’s news here. (Shuji Kajiyama / AP)


“He’s a zero. He’s a commie. He’s as useless as tits on a boar hog.” —Harry Jones, a Baptist and Donald Trump supporter, on Pope Francis

“It’s almost as if museums have become churches.” —Sharon Gerstel, who studies the acoustics of ancient churches, on the silence in modern museums

“You’re in a no-win situation. Often you see institutional barriers that you can’t quite prove are racist or sexist, but you get the sense that you’re being treated differently. And when you do succeed at something, people try to take that away from you.” —Arwa Mahdawi, a New York-based advertiser, on being a minority in the business world

Evening Read

Jeffrey E. Stern on a teacher in Afghanistan:

Aziz had no formal training as a teacher. He had no formal training as anything really, because in 1979 the Soviets invaded, and Aziz had to leave the country before finishing fifth grade. When he first returned it was as a holy warrior, and he was never given the chance to return to school, swept up like so many others by the wave of violence that had started rolling across the country.

So as a teacher, he was improvising. He built a curriculum based on (what he thought was) the concept of “humanism,” which to him meant that value was within people, rather than passed down by some deity or leader. He predicted resistance, so he hid it within a Trojan horse of religion, selecting the ideas from the Quran that best fed the mindset he wanted for his students. He would point to the verse about man’s creation—“When I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, bow before him in homage”—to argue that the human being is the bearer of God’s soul, that the human being is entitled to dignity and freedom of choice.

His trick was using reverence for a holy book to teach irreverence in general. Given the battles and massacres he had lived through—some barely—he wanted students incapable of participating in such things. If they believed that humans had value because they were humans, not because of money or religion or family name, it would be harder for them to kill. They would be less easily swayed by the war cries of powerful men. He didn’t want students who could recite passages of the Quran. He wanted students who—the next time a tribal leader, or a cleric, or a warlord, said: “Fight”—asked: “Why?”

News Quiz

1. Nearly half of skinny people say they don’t __________, a new study found.

(Click here or scroll down for the answer.)

2. ________’s 1996 campaign website, one of the oldest survivors of its kind, is still online.

(Click here or scroll down for the answer.)

3. In 2050, half of the world will be ___________.

(Click here or scroll down for the answer.)

Reader Response

A short documentary about teen love at a small-town county fair brings up memories for this reader, who grew up in a small town in Kentucky:

Growing up Catholic, I realized that my affections for other boys wasn’t a thing to flaunt or act upon. … While the concept of “love” was something I never really considered (though I did the usual thing and dated girls—disastrously), I found that some elements of sex were not all the difficult. Indeed, I had trysts, of a sort, with at least two friends from that neighborhood. … I had the usual problems, however. I am sure I was “suspect” by virtue of not having a regular girlfriend and the like. I am sure I was part of a particular whisper campaign, to the extent people cared to talk about my situation. …

I didn’t know where this county fair was, but it looked similar to the one my county in Kentucky still holds each year in June. It’d take very strong kids to walk around a place like that (small town North Carolina) displaying affection as openly as the straight kids you profiled. It would require equally “cool” parents and equally “cool and understanding” citizens in general.  

But that’s just my opinion. I can see an unspoken suppression of that kind of thing in small towns like ours. It’s not hostility per se—we KNOW gay people exist and live among us even—but it’s just a “don't make us see it” and “deal with it" attitude.

Read the full story, and share your own, here.


British croissants straightened, gelatinous sea snails fly, Australia’s “hairy panic” strikes, Albert Woodfox freed.

Answers: Diet, Bob Dole, Nearsighted.