The National Rifle Association ended its week-long silence following the horrifying massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and they think it shows we need more guns. At least in schools.
That was NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre's big proposal at his press conference -- to put armed security in every public school in the country. Here are the top three facts you need to know about it.
1. Most people think it's the best approach. In the wake of the Newtown shooting, Gallup asked people what they thought were the best ways to stop school shootings in the future. Putting more police in schools topped the list, with 53 percent saying they thought it would be "very effective" at preventing these kind of tragedies. And this was unanimous across the political spectrum. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agreed on this in almost equal measure, as you can see below.
2. But studies have shown armed guards may make students feel less safe at school. As Brad Plumer of the Washington Post points out, a 2011 study found that visible safety measures in schools, like armed security, made many students feel less safe -- which can make learning harder.
3. It wouldn't be that expensive. Here's some simple math. The median salary for police officers is $55,010 and there are about 99,000 public schools in the country -- and of those, about a third already have armed guards. Putting police in the remaining schools works out to an annual cost of about $3.6 billion, which is really more like $4 billion or so when you factor in benefits as well. That's not even a rounding error when it comes to the federal budget. It's even smaller than the foreign aid budget -- a point LaPierre demagogued -- despite foreign aid making up less than 1 percent of overall spending.
But the NRA might be putting a different price-tag on this project: zero. It named former Arkansas representative Asa Hutchinson to lead this new school safety initiative, and he said it would use armed volunteers, not cops.
In either case, it's far from clear how much it would help. It's not exactly anywhere close to conclusive, but remember that armed security didn't stop the mass shooting at Columbine back in 1998.
There's a long list of possible actions to take in the wake of Sandy Hook, including but not limited to: banning certain types of guns; banning certain types of high-capacity magazines; increasing spending on mental health services; taxing ammunition; increasing police presences at schools, or many/all of the above. Just don't expect the NRA to endorse a solution that leads to fewer guns or ammo.
There’s a fiction at the heart of the debate over entitlements: The carefully cultivated impression that beneficiaries are simply receiving back their “own” money.
One day in 1984, Kurt Vonnegut called.
I was ditching my law school classes to work on the presidential campaign of Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate against Ronald Reagan, when one of those formerly-ubiquitous pink telephone messages was delivered to me saying that Vonnegut had called, asking to speak to one of Mondale’s speechwriters.
All sorts of people called to talk to the speechwriters with all sorts of whacky suggestions; this certainly had to be the most interesting. I stared at the 212 phone number on the pink slip, picked up a phone, and dialed.
A voice, so gravelly and deep that it seemed to lie at the outer edge of the human auditory range, rasped, “Hello.” I introduced myself. There was a short pause, as if Vonnegut were fixing his gaze on me from the other end of the line, then he spoke.
Russia's strongman president has many Americans convinced of his manipulative genius. He's really just a gambler who won big.
I. The Hack
The large, sunny room at Volgograd State University smelled like its contents: 45 college students, all but one of them male, hunched over keyboards, whispering and quietly clacking away among empty cans of Juicy energy drink. “It looks like they’re just picking at their screens, but the battle is intense,” Victor Minin said as we sat watching them.
Clustered in seven teams from universities across Russia, they were almost halfway into an eight-hour hacking competition, trying to solve forensic problems that ranged from identifying a computer virus’s origins to finding secret messages embedded in images. Minin was there to oversee the competition, called Capture the Flag, which had been put on by his organization, the Association of Chief Information Security Officers, or ARSIB in Russian. ARSIB runs Capture the Flag competitions at schools all over Russia, as well as massive, multiday hackathons in which one team defends its server as another team attacks it. In April, hundreds of young hackers participated in one of them.
Russian billionaire Yuri Milner says if the space rock 'Oumuamua is giving off radio signals, his team will be able to detect them—and they may get the results within days.
The email about “a most peculiar object” in the solar system arrived in Yuri Milner’s inbox last week.
Milner, the Russian billionaire behind Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, had already heard about the peculiar object. ‘Oumuamua barreled into view in October, the first interstellar object seen in our solar system.
Astronomers around the world chased after the mysterious space rock with their telescopes, collecting as much data as they could as it sped away. Their observations revealed a truly unusual object with puzzling properties. Scientists have long predicted an interstellar visitor would someday coast into our corner of the universe, but not something like this.
The candidacy of Roy Moore pits the GOP's populist insurgents against its establishment—with national implications.
For all the national attention that’s been paid to the grisly particulars of Alabama’s special election over the past few weeks—the lurid details of the sexual-abuse accusations against Roy Moore; the performative shrieks of “Fake News!” from the candidate and his defenders—the true political consequences of the race will likely reach well beyond a single Senate race in 2017.
In fact, many Republicans in Washington believe the voters who are heading to the polls on Tuesday could end up playing a pivotal role in the fight for the soul of the GOP.
Republican leaders have been keeping an especially wary eye on Alabama ever since former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon announced his intention to recruit primary challengers for (virtually) every Republican senator up for reelection in 2018.
Kristen Roupenian’s viral New Yorker short story is not an essay—but many have seen it as one.
In fiction-writing—before characters can be developed, before plots can be sketched, before tensions can be introduced, and attendant arcs molded and stretched—the author must first make a series of much more basic decisions: How will the story be told? Who, in the context of the story itself, will tell it? Who will be given a person and a voice within this hermetic little universe? Who will not? Why? Why not? These are the defining cosmological questions of every work of fiction, the ones that will shape everything else that comes to exist in the author’s—and the story’s—manufactured world.
Kristen Roupenian, in “Cat Person,” the New Yorker short story that has been, and continues to be, going viral, selected as her storyteller a classic, third-person omniscient narrator: the Godlike entity, seeing all and telling some. And then Roupenian—the subsidiary, and yet much more complicated decision—focused that narrator’s attentions on her protagonist, a 20-year-old college student named Margot. It is from Margot’s perspective—her perspective as filtered through this particular story’s author-God—that Roupenian’s story unfolds: Margot meets a man named Robert, several years her senior, and then successively flirts with him, texts with him, goes on a date with him, sleeps with him, and, finally, breaks up with him.
The Trump administration could soon approve a proposal from Governor Scott Walker to drug test food-stamp recipients.
If Scott Walker has his way, poor people in Wisconsin will have to undergo drug testing, one way or another.
Last week, the Republican governor forged ahead with a plan to require testing for some recipients of the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps. That measure would come on top of another proposal to test Wisconsin’s Medicaid enrollees, which is pending federal approval, as well as a law already on the books requiring drug screening and testing for non-custodial parents receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds. If both ofWalker’s proposals pass federal scrutiny, it’ll mean all three of the major welfare programs in the state will have drug-testing components.
Polling has been all over the place in the final days of the race, making reliable predictions impossible.
In Tuesday’s Alabama Senate race, no one knows who will come out on top—and that’s unusual in a reliably conservative state.
Thanks to a strange set of circumstances, the special election to fill the Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become a competitive race. Republican Roy Moore had been viewed as a strong favorite, but that changed when multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers.
The allegations, which Moore denies, have shaken up the race and given Democrat Doug Jones a shot at winning, though Moore maintains a slight edge in polling averages. Pundits and pollsters now deem the Alabama special election “impossible to predict.”
Special elections that take place in a year when midterms aren’t held are difficult to poll under any circumstances. It’s hard for pollsters to predict exactly who will show up to vote when they can’t turn to past turnout data in comparable election cycles. The controversy that has engulfed the Alabama senate election as a result of the allegations against Moore adds even more volatility to the race.
How filler words and tiny pauses keep conversations from going off the rails
When one person asks another a question, it takes an average of 200 milliseconds for them to respond. This is so fast that we can’t even hear the pause. In fact, it’s faster than our brains actually work. It takes the brain about half a second to retrieve the words to say something, which means that in conversation, one person is gearing up to speak before the other is even finished. By listening to the tone, grammar, and content of another’s speech, we can predict when they’ll be done.
This precise clockwork dance that happens when people speak to each other is what N.J. Enfield, a professor of linguistics at the University of Sydney, calls the “conversation machine.” In his book How We Talk, he examines how conversational minutiae—filler words like “um” and “mm-hmm,” and pauses that are longer than 200 milliseconds—grease the wheels of this machine. In fact, he argues, these little “traffic signals” to some degree define human communication. What all human languages have in common, and what sets our communication apart from animals, is our ability to use language to coordinate how we use language.
Read some 'Hitler-at-home' stories from the 1930s. Then, don't do what they did.
Why is it that, in America in 2017, the question of how not to normalize Nazis provokes heated debate? Is there a way to discuss the everyday life of fascists without normalizing?Although there are no quick and easy rules to follow, there are lessons—plenty of them—to be gleaned from history. The most powerful lessons emerge from the press coverage of the Third Reich, especially the soft-focus profiles of Adolf Hitler published in the 1930s. These stories set the journalistic gold standard for how not to write about Nazis.
Yet, as the row triggered by a recent New York Times profile of the “Nazi sympathizer next door” reveals, many of us are still not sure what it means to avoid normalization. Richard Fausset wrote about Tony Hovater, a white nationalist living in Ohio, in a style that enraged thousands of readers. In their eyes, the focus on the commonplace—Hovater’s wedding registry at Target, say, with its muffin pan and pineapple slicer—resulted in distraction rather than analysis. The Times’s national editor Marc Lacey defended the need to illuminate “the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them.” But in a follow-up piece, Fausset himself admitted that the “quotidian details” he’d collected didn’t explain much about Hovater. Perhaps that was the point: Human lives and motives are opaque. Some readers applauded him for his journalistic courage and the newspaper for breaking new ground.
The depiction of uncomfortable romance in "Cat Person" seems to resonate with countless women.
Recent months make it seem like humanity has lost the instruction manual for its “procreate” function and has had to relearn it all from scratch. After scores of prominent men have been fired on sexual-assault allegations, confusion reigns about signals, how to read them, and how not to read into them. Some men are wondering if hugging women is still okay. Some male managers are inviting third parties into performance reviews in order to avoid being alone with women. One San Francisco design-firm director recently said holiday parties should be canceled, as The New York Times reported, “until it has been figured out how men and women should interact.”
Into this steps “Cat Person,” a New Yorker fiction story by Kristen Roupenian that explores how badly people can misread each other, but also how frightening and difficult sexual encounters can be for women, in particular. “It isn’t a story about rape or sexual harassment, but about the fine lines that get drawn in human interaction,” Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker’s fiction editor, told me.