America’s longest and darkest chapter, Florida shooting, and eight other stories you might have missed

At least 17 people were killed and 14 others were hospitalized when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida yesterday.
At least 17 people were killed and 14 others were hospitalized when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida yesterday.
Image: AP Photo/ Gerald Herbert
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1. Play it again, Uncle Sam

During my rounds to various news sites on Wednesday afternoon, I noticed that several stories from the archives were trending. That often happens on days when America experiences another chapter in one of its bleakest and longest running narratives. The old articles trend because we already know this story. We know it’s insane to make weapons of war available to citizens. We know the availability of these weapons and the resulting carnage is what makes America different from all other countries. We know kids regularly get murdered in their schools and that more efficient hardware is making the problem worse. We know we’ll hear about acts of heroism from people who sacrificed their bodies to shield others. We know that no such heroics will happen in DC. When a kid who survives a mass shooting pleads with us to get something done (“We’re children. You guys are, like, the adults.”), we know our leaders will offer thoughts and prayers and not much else. We know there won’t be satisfactory response to Steve Kerr’s comments: “It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death day after day in schools. It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater; it’s not enough, apparently, to move the people who are running this country to actually do anything.” We know not to expect any answers about this national disgrace in a political environment where even asking the questions has been repeatedly stifled. We know that the death of 17 people at a high school in Florida is unlikely to lead to gun restrictions, but very likely to lead to a loosening of gun restrictions (and, of course, a temporary pop among gun stocks). Yes, we know all of this. We’ve known it for a long time. We’ve seen this story before. And we go back and read and share the old stories because we’ve got no new words.

2. Mental breakdown

President Trump lamented that there were “so many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed.” One of Trump’s first acts as president  made it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns.

+ Paul Ryan repeated the familiar refrain that we shouldn’t immediately respond to such mass murders with a conversation about taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens. “Right now (rat-a-tat tat), I think (rat-a-tat tat) we need to take a breath (rat-a-tat tat) and collect the facts.”

+ Here’s the latest on what we know about the investigation.

3. Border lines

“President Trump had threatened to veto the bill—which shielded the young immigrants in exchange for $25 billion in border security—because it did not include the curbs on legal immigration he sought.” LA Times: Senate fails to advance bipartisan bill to help Dreamers amid strong opposition from Trump.

+ Vox: Three Trump properties posted 144 openings for seasonal jobs. Only one went to a US worker.

4. Home a loan

“Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in lending, African-Americans and Latinos continue to be routinely denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts.” A yearlong study from The Center for Investigative Reporting finds that, for people of color, banks are shutting the door to homeownership.

5. Five ring circus

The New Yorker on Noriaki Kasai, the Japanese Ski-Jumping Legend Going for Gold at Forty-Five. “Over the past week, as I spoke with élite ski jumpers in the U.S. about Kasai, I kept hearing comparisons to the ageless New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady.” (Ironically, the ski jumper participates in the safer sport.)

+ “An M.I.T. grad from Brookline competing for Israel in skeleton; a Duke doctoral student from North Carolina on the Korean women’s hockey team and a former American Olympic skier from Colorado now whizzing down the mountain for Mexico.” One of America’s biggest 2018 exports: Olympic athletes.

+ Great photos from the first few days of Pyeongchang 2018.

+ “Ice is solid water. You know that. But what happens when it becomes a solid makes this substance unusual and fascinating.” The surprising science of why ice is so slippery.

6. Clearance present danger

“More than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including the president’s daughter, son-in-law and his top legal counsel.” NBC News: Scores of top White House officials lack permanent security clearances.

7. Family guise

“Two branches of the family control Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin but, unlike their company, none of the Sacklers are personally being sued over it. Lawyers hope that might be about to change, however, as litigation engulfs the company, and the effects may end up rippling all the way to the society circles and venerable arts and science institutions where the billionaires spend the proceeds. What some call philanthropy, others, such as Stanford University ethics professor Rob Reich, call reputation laundering.” From The Guardian: Meet the Sacklers: the family feuding over blame for the opioid crisis.

8. Outdoor ed

“Now Jonatan, Lin, and I had 72 hours to find our way back to town. To get there, we would have to ski across the ice in harnesses, towing heavy pulks—fancy sleds, basically—loaded with all the gear we needed to stay alive in extreme cold. We would have to navigate using all the tools at our disposal: compass, maps, sun, wind, and the sastrugi, lines carved into the snowpack by the prevailing northwest winds. We would melt snow for water, pitch our tent in gale-force gusts … in temperatures as low as minus 40 Fahrenheit. And we would do it all while dodging dehydration, frostbite, hypothermia, injury, navigational error, loss of critical gear, fuel spills, a tent fire, and a good old-fashioned societal breakdown in our civilization of three.” Outside’s Eve Holland got schooled in the no-nonsense art of survival. (I get freaked out if my hotel doesn’t have turndown service…)

+ The Secret Life of a Search and Rescue Volunteer.

9. Stent double

“Stents still have a place in care, but much less of one than we used to think. Yet many physicians as well as patients will still demand them, pointing out that they lead to improvements in some people, even if that improvement is from a placebo effect.” NYT Upshot: Heart Stents Are Useless for Most Stable Patients. They’re Still Widely Used.

10. Bottom of the news

“Within an hour of being allowed in the same room, they mated. The match was no accident. It was years in the making—the result of a complex algorithm for pairing gorillas that may be more reliable than dating Web sites for humans.” There’s a Matchmaking Site for Gorillas, Too.

+ McSweeney’s: In order to keep our editorial page completely balanced, we are hiring more dipshits.

+ What Color Is a Tennis Ball? (An investigation into a surprisingly divisive question.)

Quartz now syndicates NextDraft, a daily roundup for the day’s most fascinating news curated by Dave Pell. Read the archive here. Sign up to get the newsletter or download the app here.