1. This might sound weird…
These days, we’re used to people inventing alternative facts. But usually, beneath all the hubbub, there is a known reality. Such is not the case when it comes to what ProPublica calls The Mystery of the Havana Embassy. A sound (at least it might have been a sound) did some kind of damage to the brains of American diplomats in Cuba. Beyond that, there are a lot of questions. “Even in a realm where secrets abound, the Havana incidents are a remarkable mystery. After nearly a year of investigation that has drawn on intelligence, defense and technology expertise from across the U.S. government, the FBI has been unable to determine who might have attacked the diplomats or how. Nor has the bureau ruled out the possibility that at least some of the Americans weren’t attacked at all. Officials who have been briefed on the inquiry described it as having made strikingly little progress in answering the basic questions of the case, with frustrated FBI agents reporting that they are running out of rocks to overturn.”
2. Florida shooting
“Then also I hear, ‘Boom, boom, boom.’ I hear screaming everywhere … I just got underneath my teacher’s desk.” ABC News Florida high school shooting leaves “numerous fatalities,” superintendent says; suspect in custody. Here’s the latest from CNN.
+ This is America’s 18th school shooting this year.
3. A wall order
“The measure would include $25 billion for the president’s proposed wall at the Mexican border and offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million of the young immigrants, but would preclude their parents from becoming citizens.” A group of Senators is racing against an end-of-the-week deadline to come up with an immigration deal. But as the NYT reports, President Trump has threatened to veto any deal that doesn’t largely match his hard-line proposal (even if it includes the wall, which at this point, seems like a given).
+ Meanwhile, today in scandal news, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is in hot water after an investigation found that he “improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and his staff lied that he was getting an award in order to justify his wife accompanying him at taxpayer expense on an 11-day European trip.” EPA head Scott Pruitt explained that “he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions with other travelers.” (Same.) DC insiders are jockeying for the White House Chief of Staff gig (should it become available). Trump announced that he’s totally opposed to domestic violence. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen said he paid Stormy Daniels $130K out of his own pocket, and Daniels says that acknowledgement breaks her NDA and she’s therefore free to tell her story. (The most amazing part of the Stormy Daniels story is that someone who provided Trump with a service actually got paid…)
4. L.L. Beancounters
“Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.” People were abusing L.L. Bean’s beloved return policy, so the company decided to end it. Now (of course), L.L. Bean is being sued for the decision. (It’s amazing how quickly participants in this class action went from selling their soles to selling their souls. Sorry, but hey, if the shoe fits…)
5. Five ring circus
“If we screw up we’re on the front page of every newspaper in Norway. We become idiots, overnight.” The NYT on the thankless job of being Norway’s ski wax chief.
+ WaPo: Who knew a Tongan cross-country skier could be so engaging with his shirt on? “If my ancestors could sail across the Pacific Ocean for a thousand years, not knowing where the next piece of land was going to be, not knowing where their next meal was going to be, going to war, then I can walk for 25 minutes through an opening ceremony without a shirt on [in the frigid cold] and represent a thousand years of heritage.” (My ancestors overcame horrific challenges so that I would never, ever have to disrobe in public…)
+ “Jamaican Women’s Bobsled Coach Sandra Kiriasis Quits, Owns Team’s Sled.”
+ FiveThirtyEight: What if men and women skied against each other in the Olympics?
+ How many calories do Olympians eat? (Chloe Kim had me at Churro…)
+ At the Winter Games, love is in the air for Valentine’s Day athletes.
+ NPR: Finland Takes Olympic Chill To The Next Level: Team Knitting.
6. Ryan, see crest
“The history of this moment is not lost on me. I am a gay kid from Indiana who moved to Hollywood in 1989 with $55 in savings in my pocket, so the fact that my dreams have crystallized and come true in such a major way is emotional and overwhelming to me.” Ryan Murphy is a talented TV producer with an excellent track record. Like many people in the entertainment business, he’s also in the right place right now as Netflix (and its lenders) is leading a full on war for the future of TV. Hence, Murphy’s five year pact that could be worth as much as $300 million.
7. Numb nuts
“This number gives the impression that I am distinguished, which helps me get business, especially among officials in the state ministries who I am dealing with. If I call them from a regular number, they wouldn’t answer my call, but when they see this number, they can’t ignore it because they know a VIP is calling them.” From WaPo: In Iraq, the best digits cost a mint. (I’d pay $867,5309 for the right number.)
8. True Brit
“A landmark study from 1842 found that even low-income country dwellers in the U.K. lived longer than their more-affluent urban neighbors; 175 years later, the story hasn’t changed much.” From CityLab: Why Rural Brits Outlive Rural Americans.
9. Gram crackers
“It installed cameras and hired photographers to advise on the best poses to showcase the background of verdant hills and a shimmering blue reservoir. Images are uploaded directly to visitor’s phones.” They used to come for zip lines and adventure courses. Now they come for the perfect Instagram shot.
10. Bottom of the news
“In a neon-lit pocket of Tokyo’s Shibuya district, BDSM equipment, mirrored ceilings, vibrating beds, and condom vending machines paint a different reality. Welcome to Love Hotel Hill, where Japan’s sex industry is flourishing.” Let’s ring in Valentine’s Day with a look inside Japan’s secretive Love Hotels.
+ Actually, opposites don’t attract.
+ “The research scientist Janelle Shane has collected every phrase you can find on real candy hearts and used them to teach a machine learning algorithm to generate new phrases.” And that makes this Time 2 Wank.