Richard Spencer is a troll and an icon for white supremacists. He was also my high-school classmate.
On December 17, 2007, the libertarian magazine Reason held a Christmas bash—a “Very Special, Very Secular Christmas Party”—at its office in Washington, D.C. The guest of honor, the late Atlantic book critic Christopher Hitchens, tugged liberally on his drink and gave a speech about how the holiday season was oppressive (“like living in fucking North Korea”). Then near the height of his powers as an anti-theist pamphleteer, Hitchens led the crowd in a tuneless rendition of Tom Lehrer’s “A Christmas Carol,” before slipping away and leaving the guests to the open bar and the mistletoe.
Among those guests was a figure from my past. I had not seen Richard Spencer in more than 10 years. He was not yet known as our generation’s most prominent white supremacist. I remembered him as my eighth-grade-chemistry lab partner and high-school classmate. We spotted each other and walked closer, circling uncertainly for a few seconds, before he spoke my name and confirmed that a wormhole had indeed opened from late-1990s North Dallas.
Please take a moment to look back at some of the events and sights from around the world a century ago.
A century ago, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, as much of the world was still recovering from the devastation of World War I. Rebuilding was just beginning, refugees were returning home, orphans were being cared for, and a global influenza outbreak was being battled. In other news, the Lincoln Memorial was nearing completion in Washington, D.C.; Vladimir Lenin was working to solidify the Soviet Republic; the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed—guaranteeing women the right to vote; a molasses disaster struck Boston; and much more. Please take a moment to look back at some of the events and sights from around the world 100 years ago.
Emails obtained using a FOIA request reveal how naval officers really feel about critical reporting.
At first, the 2014 crash of a U.S. Navy helicopter off the coast of Virginia seemed like an unfortunate—but nevertheless fairly routine—training accident.
But after reading Navy investigative reports, meeting with sources, and speaking with colleagues who’d been researching the case, my team and I quickly realized that there was more to it. The crash was a symptom of much deeper problems related to how the Pentagon works, and it was clear that we needed to bring these problems to light.
And so after nearly three years of production, involving dozens of interviews, more than 50 public-records requests, and more than 150 hours of footage shot, the investigative documentary Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? finally screened for the public in October 2018.
University libraries around the world are seeing precipitous declines in the use of the books on their shelves.
When Yale recently decided to relocate three-quarters of the books in its undergraduate library to create more study space, the students loudly protested. In a passionate op-ed in the Yale Daily News, one student accused the university librarian—who oversees 15 million books in Yale’s extensive library system—of failing to “understand the crucial relationship of books to education.” A sit-in, or rather a “browse-in,” was held in Bass Library to show the administration how college students still value the presence of books. Eventually the number of volumes that would remain was expanded, at the cost of reducing the number of proposed additional seats in a busy central location.
Little-noticed in this minor skirmish over the future of the library was a much bigger story about the changing relationship between college students and books. Buried in a slide deck about circulation statistics from Yale’s library was an unsettling fact: There has been a 64 percent decline in the number of books checked out by undergraduates from Bass Library over the past decade.
In 16th- and 17th-century Europe, physicians, butchers, and executioners alike hawked the salutary effects of Axungia hominis.
One night in 1731, Cornelia di Bandi burst into flames. When the 62-year-old Italian countess was found the next morning, her head and torso had been reduced to ash and grease.
Only her arms and legs remained intact. After examining what was left of her body, a local physician concluded, in a report cited years later, that the conflagration “was caused in her entrails” by the variety of combustible materials to be found there, including alcohol and fat, “an oily liquid … of an easily combustible nature.” An early instance of what would come to be known as “spontaneous human combustion,” di Bandi’s case was one of many later studied by the French agronomist Pierre-Aimé Lair. If there was a common denominator to these otherwise unexplained phenomena, Lair concluded, it was the fact that most of them involved corpulent older women with a penchant for drink, thus combining fat and alcohol in a literally explosive mix. In addition to the fuel provided by excess body fat, which was rendered even more combustible when “penetrated by alcoholic substances,” surplus fat was said to create higher levels of hydrogen, making the body especially flammable. Lair concluded:
The president has been intervening in the process of producing a border wall, on behalf of a favored firm.
Updated at 10:20 a.m. ET on May 25, 2019.
Many of the tales of controversy to emerge from the Trump administration have been abstract, or complicated, or murky. Whenever anyone warns about destruction of “norms,” the conversation quickly becomes speculative—the harms are theoretical, vague, and in the future.
This makes new Washington Post reporting about President Donald Trump’s border wall especially valuable. The Post writes about how Trump has repeatedly pressured the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Homeland Security to award a contract for building a wall at the southern U.S. border to a North Dakota company headed by a leading Republican donor.
The story demonstrates the shortcomings of Trump’s attempt to bring private-sector techniques into government. It shows his tendency toward cronyism, his failures as a negotiator, and the ease with which a fairly primitive attention campaign can sway him. At heart, though, what it really exemplifies is Trump’s insistence on placing performative gestures over actual efficacy. And it is a concrete example—almost literally—of how the president’s violations of norms weaken the country and waste taxpayer money.
Boosting your ego won’t make you feel better. Instead, try talking to yourself like you would your best friend.
In 1986, California state assemblyman John Vasconcellos came up with what he believed could be “a vaccine for major social ills” like teen pregnancy and drug abuse: a special task-force to promote self-esteem among Californians. The effort folded three years later, and was widely considered not to have accomplished much.
To Kristin Neff, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, that’s not surprising. Though self-esteem continues to reverberate as a pop-psych cure-all, the quest for inflated egos, in her view, is misguided and largely pointless.
There’s nothing wrong with being confident, to answer Demi Lovato’s question. The trouble is how we try to achieve high self-regard. Often, it’s by undermining others or comparing our achievements to those around us. That’s not just unsustainable, Neff argues, it can also lead to narcissism or depressive bouts during hard times.
Almost none of our friends has spoken to me since.
After 29 years of marriage, I asked my wife for a divorce. We had some discussions and agreed we had been living like roommates for years. We told our two adult kids a few days later. We remained friends of a sort; we continued to live in the same house and share the marital bed (as roommates) for another year before I moved out.
For close to 20 years we have had several couple-friends whom we befriended after our children became friends. A couple of months after the Discussion, our college-age daughter told me that one of our friends said, “Don’t worry. We’ll support your mom.” My daughter didn’t like that this friend was “choosing sides.” I asked my wife what she was saying to our friends. She said, “All I’ve been saying is you left the marriage and couldn’t find your way back.” I said I didn’t agree that’s what happened, but I wouldn’t control how she wanted to tell the story. When I moved out, I sent each of the couple-friends a card saying that I had moved out and both of us were fine.
One half of the entertainment duo Penn & Teller explains how performance and discomfort make education come alive.
Education, at its most engaging, is performance art. From the moment a teacher steps into the classroom, students look to him or her to set the tone and course of study for everyone, from the most enthusiastic to the most apathetic students. Even teachers who have moved away from the traditional lecture format, toward more learner autonomy-supportive approaches such as project-based and peer-to-peer learning, still need to engage students in the process, and serve as a vital conduit between learner and subject matter.
Teachers are seldom trained in the performance aspect of teaching, however, and given that every American classroom contains at least one bored, reluctant, or frustrated student, engagement through performance may just be the most important skill in a teacher’s bag of tricks.
Jes Kast, a minister in the United Church of Christ, believes the procedure should be fully legal and accessible. Her path to that position has been complicated.
In America, the debate about abortion is often reduced to binary categories. Religious versus secular. Misogynists versus murderers. Even “Christian theocracy” versus, presumably, everyone else.
With abortion once again in the headlines this month, after Alabama and several other states passed near-total bans on the procedure, Jes Kast, a pastor in the United Church of Christ, spoke up as someone who does not fit those categories. She supports abortion rights, and is representative of her denomination on this issue: According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of people in the UCC, a small, progressive denomination with a little less than 1 million members, think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Kast also serves on the clergy-advocacy board of Planned Parenthood, which works to “increase public awareness of the theological and moral basis for advocating reproductive health,” according to its website.
A grandson discovers a treasure trove of memories buried in an unusual sketchbook.
If you’re a parent, you probably "sharent." Is it ethical?
For a generation of poor, rural Chinese children, living like orphans is the price of literacy.