What We’re Following: The Confirmation Battle Begins
President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, setting up a historic election-year showdown over the high court’s future. The decision bypasses more diverse and progressive choices in favor of a 63-year-old white man whom Republicans have supported in the past. But Senate leaders have vowed to block his nomination all the same. Garland’s appointment would give the Court’s liberal wing a five-justice majority for the first time in almost 50 years.
A Harsh Sentence: North Korea’s highest court convicted an American student of subversion for stealing a propaganda sign from his Pyongyang hotel. Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old student at the University of Virginia, has been sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor. The conviction comes amid increased tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over Pyongyang’s recent missile and nuclear tests. The U.S. has announced sanctions against the country in response to the launches.
Winnowing the Field: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton consolidated their leads in last night’s primaries in five states. Marco Rubio, who once seemed ordained to save the Republican Party from Trump, dropped out after losing in his home state of Florida. John Kasich won his home state of Ohio, but Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders left empty-handed.
“Several hundred million revisions or contributions don’t fall together as a high-quality encyclopedia just by accident.” —Aleksi Aaltonen, who studies Wikipedia
“It might have been a sort of … feeding apparatus, like the jawed tongue of the monster in Alien.” —Philippe Janvier, a paleontologist, on the anatomy of the prehistoric Tully monster
“In some ways it’s more terrifying to confront a world in which your baby could be affected by something you have no control over [than] to live in a world in which people are pulling strings behind the scenes to cause these unpredictable threats.” —Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist, on the conspiracy theories about the Zika virus
A Nordic person myself, I left my native Finland seven years ago and moved to the U.S. Although I’m now a U.S. citizen, I hear these kinds of comments from Americans all the time—at cocktail parties and at panel discussions, in town hall meetings and on the opinion pages. Nordic countries are the way they are, I’m told, because they are small, homogeneous “nanny states” where everyone looks alike, thinks alike, and belongs to a big extended family. This, in turn, makes Nordic citizens willing to sacrifice their own interests to help their neighbors. Americans don’t feel a similar kinship with other Americans, I’m told, and thus will never sacrifice their own interests for the common good. What this is mostly taken to mean is that Americans will never, ever agree to pay higher taxes to provide universal social services, as the Nordics do. Thus Bernie Sanders, and anyone else in the U.S. who brings up Nordic countries as an example for America, is living in la-la land.
But this vision of homogenous, altruistic Nordic lands is mostly a fantasy. The choices Nordic countries have made have little to do with altruism or kinship. Rather, Nordic people have made their decisions out of self-interest. Nordic nations offer their citizens—all of their citizens, but especially the middle class—high-quality services that save people a lot of money, time, and trouble. This is what Americans fail to understand: My taxes in Finland were used to pay for top-notch services for me.
1. __________ is the leading industry in paid parental-leave policies in the United States.
I say this as a gay man: Instead of paying for the privilege of attending a university that thinks you are an abomination—and thereby supporting them in their efforts to keep their awful beliefs alive—perhaps it would be wiser to attend one of the many (excellent) secular colleges and universities of our nation?
But another reader has an answer to that:
I am a lesbian who attended Olivet Nazarene University, which is part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and has a statement in its code of conduct prohibiting “homosexual acts.” … As someone who grew up in a Baptist church, who never missed youth group, who considered faith the most important part of her life, and wanted to attend a school that shared those values, it hurts to hear “why did you even come here?” As a bright student who wanted to be a music teacher and received a life changing scholarship to a school with a great music program, it hurts to hear “why did you even come here?”
But even more, as a kid who didn’t yet fully understand or reconcile my sexuality and just wanted to figure out what God wanted for me, who wanted to make my parents happy, it hurts that people can’t understand why a gay kid would end up at a school like Olivet. Students don’t choose where to go to college based on their sexual orientation.