Stick to baseball, 9/16/17.

For Insiders this week, I wrote two pieces, one on eight top 100 prospects who had disappointing years in 2017, and my last minor-league scouting notebook of the season, covering Yankees, Pirates, Nationals, and Cardinals prospects. I held my regular Klawchat on Thursday. My next column for ESPN will be my annual “players I got wrong” piece; if you have suggestions, throw them in the comments. I try to stick to players who’ve beaten expectations for more than just one season, although sometimes I waive that if there’s a particular story I want to tell.

Over at Paste I reviewed Yamataï, the new boardgame from Days of Wonder, which hasn’t fared that well critically or commercially but which all three members of my family really liked. It’s also a gorgeous game, which never hurts around here.

My book, Smart Baseball, is out and still selling well (or so I’m told); thanks to all of you who’ve already picked up a copy. And please sign up for my free email newsletter, which is back to more or less weekly at this point now that I’m not traveling for a bit.

I have a ton of links from the NY Times this week, which requires a subscription above a certain number of free articles. I normally try to spread my links out across many sources, but the NYT had so much great content this week that I stuck with it. I’ve tagged a few of them as such for those of you who don’t subscribe (I do, obviously). And now, the links…

Half-Earth.

Biologist E.O. Wilson has won two Pulitzer Prizes for Non-Fiction, including one for, of all things, a textbook on ants, along with numerous other awards for his lengthy bibliography of popular and scholarly works on evolution, sociobiology, ecology, and conservationism. His 2016 book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life falls into the last category while drawing on multiple fields of expertise to make his case that we should preserve half of the area of the planet for conservation to maintain biodiversity and fight climate change, but for a work by a great scholar and professor, Half-Earth feels half-hearted, as if Wilson knows what he wants to argue but couldn’t be bothered to support his side sufficiently to sway the unconvinced.

The idea of preserving half of the planet, land and sea, for conservation isn’t new nor is it Wilson’s; he credits Tony Hiss with coining the term “half-earth” to describe the concept in a Smithsonian magazine article in 2014. And there’s little doubt that man’s impact on the planet – its environment and the millions of other species on it – has been a net negative for everyone but man, with the pace of change only accelerating as we continue to alter the compositions of the planet’s atmosphere, soil, and water supply. Wilson does well when describing what we might lose or have already lost as a result of our mere presence or our industrial activities, talking about habitats we’ve razed or species we’ve driven to extinction deliberately, through the introductions of invasive species, or through other changes to the environment. But he assumes that the reader will see these losses as significant, or even see them as losses, without sufficiently detailing why it matters that, say, we’re wiping out the world’s rhinoceros population, or various island birds and rodents have been exterminated by the introduction of non-native snakes.

What’s missing even more from the work, however, is a consideration of the costs of an endeavor like the one Wilson is proposing. Man is fairly well distributed across the planet, and setting aside 50% of its land mass for conservation would require resettling hundreds of thousands of people, possibly millions, many of them members of indigenous populations who live in the least-altered environments on the planet. Crowding the planet’s seven billion people (and rising) into less of the space will trade some environmental problems for others, as various forms pollution rise with population density, and many large urban areas already struggle under the weight of their people, with third-world megacities paralyzed by traffic and its attendant problems. Relocating people is expensive, difficult, and traumatic. There’s also the very real question of feeding those seven billion people and supplying them with fresh water, which we’re already struggling to do; if you reserve half of the world’s land and half of its oceans for conservation, those tasks become more difficult and likely more expensive – a cost few people will be willing to bear directly. It might be necessary, but Wilson glosses over the practical problems his solution would create.

There is, however, one good reason to read Half-Earth right now, at least in the United States, where the current federal administration is rolling back environmental protections left and right, including cutting funds for wildlife area acquisition and management. But I thought Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer-winning book The Sixth Extinction made the same general case more powerfully and thoroughly, describing the current, anthropogenic mass extinction that could rival the K-Pg event for sheer number of species exterminated if we don’t do anything about it. Kolbert goes into greater depth with more concrete examples of how man’s activity has altered the planet and moved species around to extinguish some species and threaten others, including a lengthy discussion of chytrid fungus, a thus-far incurable ailment that is killing off tropical frog species with alarming speed.

I think Wilson also fell into the trap that William Easterley (among others) has identified in charitable and other “good intentions” efforts – aiming impossibly high, so that you can never meet your stated goal. You want to end world hunger? That sounds great, but it’ll never happen, and the only outcome will be the creation of a giant organization that absorbs donations without ever accomplishing much of anything. Micro-efforts yield more tangible results, and increase accountability for workers and donors alike. So while saying “let’s reserve half the planet to save it” is an admirable goal, and may even be the right strategy for the long term, it ain’t happening, and talking about it doesn’t get us any closer to solutions. If you want to help save the planet, work towards small, achievable goals. And right now, that probably means working for change in Washington.

Next up: Nina George’s 2013 novel The Little Paris Bookshop.

Stick to baseball, 8/21/17.

This week’s links post is late because I spent the weekend at GenCon in Indianapolis along with 70,000 of my closest friends. I’ll have a big wrap on all the new games I saw (including some upcoming app releases) later this week for Paste.

My annual look at the players with the best tools in MLB started today (for Insiders) with a look at the best hit, power, run, and plate discipline tools. The next two days will feature the best pitches and the best fielding tools. I also held a Klawchat last week.

Last month, I was invited to give a Talk at Google about Smart Baseball, which you can now watch online. My book also got a mention in my alma mater’s alumni magazine.

This morning, I was back at the helm of the Baseball Tonight podcast and was joined by Eric Karabell, Jerry Crasnick, and Alex Speier. I’m often asked by readers if I’ll podcast regularly again – I don’t have a good answer for that, but if you’d like to hear more of me, then spread the word about today’s show (and tomorrow’s, and maybe the three I hosted last week). A good audience for my guest-hosting shows won’t go unnoticed.

And now, the links…

Not a Scientist.

Dave Levitan’s 2017 book Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science couldn’t have come at a better time … or a worse one, I guess, if you’re at all rational-minded and believe that science is real and should inform policy decisions on science. Levitan’s book looks at the various ways our elected officials – really, our elected Republican officials in nearly every example in this book – either ignore science to suit their goals or twist it to justify bad decisions. He wrote the book last year, but it was published this spring, so while our Dear Leader doesn’t figure much directly in the meat of the book, Levitan has added an introduction to at least address the topic of anti-science, which is only growing in importance as the United States continues to cede any leadership role on global issues like climate change and ocean acidification.

This quick read will be pleasant enough for right-minded people who accept facts as they are, but it won’t tell you much you don’t already know. Levitan identifies about a dozen different tricks pols use to ignore scientific realities that interfere with their plans, and you won’t be surprised at the names that appear or the topics under discussion. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe – I’d identify these guys as Republicans, but you know they all are – makes various appearances for his climate denial, since he’s in the pocket of the oil and gas industries and gladly ignores the evidence that man-made activities are warming the planet or that fracking is harmful. Trump and Michelle Bachman both appear for their vaccine denialism. Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee also appear on climate denial. Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell both pushed the “global cooling” hoax – which was never a scientific consensus or proven hypothesis of any sort – as part of their denialism. Mo Brooks (Alabama) pushed some anti-science nonsense about immigrants spreading deadly diseases to justify his xenophobia. Rick Santorum appears for his bogus arguments against an EPA standard aimed at reducing mercury pollution in the water and air. George W. Bush gets quite a bit of ink here for the reasons he used for cutting funding for basic research. There are, to be fair, a couple of Democrats in here, including former DEA head Chuck Rosenberg, who threw out some serious bullshit on the topic of marijuana to try to rationalize the government’s treatment of it as a drug as dangerous as cocaine or meth. Even Barack Obama gets a little smackdown, although in his case, his error was overstating the benefits of a scientific endeavor, the Human Genome Project.

The readers who would really benefit from Not a Scientist are the folks least likely to read it: The politicians I just mentioned and all of the people who vote for them. Science is not subject to your personal approval. Vaccines work, life evolved from a single common ancestor, the climate is warming and it’s our fault, GMOs are safe, chemtrails are fake. You don’t get a vote on any of this – but you do get to vote every November, and many people (probably not many of you specifically) vote for candidates who publicly disavow or attempt to discredit settled science, all in the name of pursuing other policy goals. Their words and actions put everyone at risk – literally everyone, when it comes to climate change, and more than just humans, but coral reefs, tropical frogs, even many microorganisms whose roles in the global ecosystem we don’t even yet understand. This stuff matters, much more than whether two men living 2500 miles away from you get a piece of paper that says they’re married, but the Republican Party of 2017 has got everyone convinced that gays and ISIS are the real threats and climate change is some sort of progressive hoax. People who don’t get this, who vote for Inhofe and McConnell and Brooks and Rubio and of course the guy in the White House, need to read Not a Scientist. But they won’t, and their celebrations last November and this past January were just another nail in our collective coffins.

If this stuff bothers you as much as it does me, check out 314 Action, a new nonpartisan science-advocacy group that encourages more STEM professionals to run for political office so that we get voices in Washington DC and every state capital who speak out in favor of science and fact.

Lab Girl.

Botanist Hope Jahren’s memoir Lab Girl, winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for the best autobiographical work of 2016, is a wildly compelling, inspiring read, the story of a woman who has fought mental illness, institutional sexism, and the indifference of a country that would rather fund wars than basic science to become a successful researcher and professor. It’s full of observations on the lives of plants, processes largely beneath our awareness because plants aren’t sentient or, in most cases, particularly mobile. But more than anything else, Lab Girl is the story of Jahren’s unusual, decades-long friendship with a lab partner and co-conspirator named Bill, who threatens to overtake Jahren in her own life story.

Jahren grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota where most of the local economy revolved around the town’s hog slaughterhouse, the lone daughter of a scientist father and frustrated-scientist mother, and was drawn to science from an early age. She chronicles her meandering path to her current post at the University of Hawai’i by way of undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota (where she also worked in the hospital’s pharmacy, filling bags and running them to patient rooms) and graduate work at Georgia Tech and Johns Hopkins.

The heart of Jahren’s story, however, is this quixotic relationship she has with the itinerant Bill, whom she first encounters while they work at a research lab in California and then takes with her to Atlanta, Baltimore, and now Honolulu. Bill appears only in anecdotes and his dialogue revolves largely around a certain Anglo-Saxon gerund, but he comes across as a character right out of Inherent Vice – witty, gifted, cutting, loyal, poorly dressed, and a stoner. Jahren has some career ambition, driven in part by the sexism she meets at every stop – some overt, most just subtle enough to not get every one of those assholes hauled in front of HR – but also by lessons of her childhood. Bill, on the other hand, wants to be in the lab. He wants to work in the lab, yes, but also to inhabit the lab, which he actually does at a few points over the course of their shared history. His limited personal needs become fodder for inadvertent humor, such as the time he cuts most of his shaggy hair off … and stores it in the trunk of a nearby tree so he can go visit it. Every time Bill shows up on the page, the book goes from good to great.

Jahren manages to wrest the spotlight back from Bill a few times, especially in her descriptions of her bipolar disorder, which she depicts as occasionally useful for her work but also disastrous for her life and a major problem for the first 26 weeks of her one pregnancy. (I didn’t get the sense she intends for there to be a second.) Bipolar disorder, often misnamed as manic-depressive disorder, is still a widely misunderstood mental illness, even as we creep toward greater societal acceptance of the most common diseases like depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. Jahren’s story doesn’t revolved around her illness, but it is a shining example of how much someone can achieve in spite of that obstacle.

Lab Girl won as an autobiography, and it is much more that than it is a science book. Jahren explains her love of plants (and soil – you can’t separate the two) with concise lessons on topics like leaf structure, plant sex (fertilization), or how plants survive in the desert. She also takes us to some widely varying settings and depicts them with evocative, bright language, from the greenery of Ireland to the barren terrain of a nearly plantless Arctic island north of Nunavut. As someone who reads and enjoys popular science books, I was hoping for a bit more of this, and given the book’s length (under 300 pages), there was certainly room for that. For one important example, Jahren talks at length about the scarcity of funds for basic science research like hers – research that won’t help us in war or directly lead to a cure or a product – but climate change gets the drive-by treatment in the last two chapters. In an era when one of our two political parties has embraced climate change denial, and has recruited swaths of the religious right to join them in this delusion, we need more voices like Jahren to speak out about the truth.

I sell, share, or donate a lot of the books I acquire, because if I stored them all, I’d need a second room just to shelve them. (Also, books are heavy, and I’ve made two cross-country moves in the last seven years.) I’m going to keep Lab Girl for a few years; my daughter is eleven and enjoys science, so once she’s ready for the book’s vocabulary, she’ll devour it.

Next up: Fritz Lieber’s Hugo-winning novel The Wanderer, which is just $3.82 for the Kindle.

Stick to baseball, 6/3/17.

My second first-round projection (mock draft) went up on Tuesday, and I held a Klawchat, in which some guy got mad at me for answering a question about my first-round projections by including that link, on Friday. It’s bad enough civility is dead, but must we continue to mutiliate its corpse?

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the light detective/puzzle game Watson & Holmes, yet another game that uses those public-domain characters strictly for marketing purposes. It’s not a bad game, though, just a little too simple.

I’m told that Smart Baseball continues to sell well, although the sales figures I get mean nothing to me (since it’s my first book), but it wouldn’t hurt if you bought a dozen more copies to give out for Father’s Day to … um … your twelve fathers. Feel free to sign up for my email newsletter as well.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 5/20/17.

My one baseball post this past week was the annual ranking of the Top 25 MLB players under 25, which causes more “read the intro” violations than anything else I write every year. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday while in Minneapolis; I will do a quick eats post from there soon, but I’m about six topics behind here due to travel and lack of sleep.

For Paste, I reviewed the new puzzle game Shahrazad, which has a solo version and a two-player mode, both pretty clever with fantastic artwork and very few rules to learn.

My book, Smart Baseball, came out on April 25th from HarperCollins in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats. I traveled to Atlanta and the Twin Cities for readings/signings this past week, and am very grateful to all of you who came out to buy the book, have yours signed, or just say hello; we had 50+ folks at each event and Moon Palace Books sold out of the book Thursday night. Smart Baseball also got a very positive review from an unexpected source, the political site The Federalist.

I’m still sending out my email newsletter when I can, and the last edition, about some recent troubles I’ve had with my anxiety disorder and the medication I take for it, got the strongest response yet – so many replies and comments, in fact, that I haven’t been able to respond to the majority of them. I did see them all, though, and I really appreciate all the kind words.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 5/13/17.

My one Insider post this week was my first ‘mock’ draft for 2017, although it’s really too early for that sort of exercise. And I held a Klawchat on Thursday.

Smart Baseball is out now in the U.S. and Canada; you can order it here or get it at any local bookstore. We are working on getting an ebook version out in some international markets, but I can’t promise anything there yet.

I have two signings/talks this week, for which I’m very excited (and a little anxious, to be honest). The first is in Decatur, Georgia (Atlanta area), at the Georgia Center for the Book on Tuesday at 7 pm, and the AJC was kind enough to lead their book events page with a note about my appearance. The second is in Minneapolis at Moon Palace Books on Thursday at 6:30 pm. I hope to meet many of you at these events, both of which are free to attend.

I’ve been asked by many of you about organizing other events. If a bookstore reaches out to Harper Collins to invite me, and I can work it into my schedule, I’m certainly open to doing more. I do have further events scheduled for Toronto, Miami (July 8th), and Berkeley (July 19th), plus am hoping to do signings at GenCon and PAX Unplugged later this year.

I spoke with SUNY-Oswego Professor of Digital Media Brian Moritz about the book, analytics in sports, and being a writer. I joined The Young Turks’ video show to discuss the book and media resistance to advanced stats. I also spoke with ESPN Radio in Dallas, with ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati, and with SI Now about the book & Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame case.

And now, the links…

I Contain Multitudes.

You are currently covered in bugs.

That’s the fact that drives Ed Yong’s book I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, his highly acclaimed 2016 book about the microbiome, a relative neologism that refers to the interconnected world of microorganisms that exist in, on, and around all other life on earth. Without these bugs, we almost certainly wouldn’t exist, and the best estimates Yong has have bacteria and other microbes in and on our bodies outnumbering the cells of our actual bodies by a margin slighter over 1:1. You do not just contain multitudes, Yong quips (borrowing a line from Walt Whitman), but you are multitudes.

Yong spends as much time dispelling myths as he does explaining the new science of the microbiome because everyone who reads this has probably grown up believing one of two things about bacteria and other microbes: They’re dirty and bad and cause illness and death; or, some bacteria are good and we want lots of them but not the bad ones. Yong says neither is accurate; there aren’t “good” or “bad” microbes per se, but that the effect a microbe can have depends entirely on where it lives and thus what it’s able to do.

Microbes make the complexity of life on earth possible, sometimes serving as the difference between life and not-life, as in creatures that live in inhospitable, lightless environments at the bottom of the ocean near steam vents that bring geothermal heat out into the water. Scientists discovered creatures there that seemed to have no business existing in the first place, such as a worm that had no mouth or digestive tract. It turned out that the worm in question plays host to bacteria that provide it with all of the energy the worm needs by converting sulfur compounds found in that dark environment into chemicals the worms can use.

He also explains how evolution works differently – and apparently faster – in bacteria than it does in multicellular organisms, thanks to something called HGT, Horizontal Gene Transfer. (As opposed to, say, the Mariners moving Segura to second base if Cano is hurt; that would be a Horizontal Jean Transfer.) Bacteria have the ability to swap genes with other bacteria in their environment, meaning they can alter their genome on the fly while still alive, as opposed to humans, who are stuck with the genes that brought us to the dance.

Perhaps most relevant to the lay reader are the two chapters near the end of the book where Yong talks about how probiotics don’t work and how we might use bacteria, including their HGT superpowers, to fight diseases like dengue and Zika. Probiotic products are all the rage now, but there’s no evidence that swallowing these bacteria – which appear in tiny amounts even in products like yogurt – alters your microbiome in any way. Your gut flora are largely a function of what you were born with, meaning in turn what you got from your mother in birth (vaginal delivery exposes the infant to the bacteria in the mucosal lining) or via breast feeding (which contains more bugs plus compounds that encourage the growth of helpful bacteria in the cut), and what you eat now (more fiber, please). So skip the kombucha and eat more plants.

Mosquitoes that spread disease often do so with the help of bacteria they host, but there’s an effort underway in Australia – a country far less hostile to science than the United States is – to release mosquitoes of the same species that carries viruses like dengue or chikungunya, A. Aegyptes, that have been infected with a Wolbachia bacterium that renders the critters immune to the viruses. These mosquitoes would then move into the environment, mate with other mosquitoes, and thus spread the bacterial ‘infection’ through the population, thus dramatically reducing the number of bugs flying around with the disease in the first place. A separate but related endeavor aims to do the same with the mosquitoes that carry the parasite that causes malaria in people, a disease that has proven particularly obstinate to the development of a vaccine (in part because it’s neither viral nor bacterial).

Yong’s book seems comprehensive, although I came into it knowing extremely little about the subject. He gets into fecal transplants, including why they’ve helped people with deadly C. dif infections where traditional treatments failed. He discusses antibiotic resistance, of course. He provides copious examples of symbiosis and dysbiosis in the wild, and how many species, including animals, deprived of their normal microbiomes fail to thrive. And he gets into how climate change is altering microbiomes worldwide, leading to mass deaths on coral reefs and the spread of a fungus (also highlighted in Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, the most recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction) that has already wiped out numerous species of tropical frogs.

Most important, however, is that Yong keeps this all so accessible. I find the subject interesting anyway, but his prose is readable and his stories quick and quirky enough that the audiobook held my attention throughout, including during some rather dreadful trips between spring training sites in Florida. Granted, it might make you think very differently about shaking hands or touching various surfaces, but I Contain Multitudes might also encourage you to eat better, get a dog, and throw out all your triclosan, while giving you a new appreciation for germs.

Stick to baseball, 9/17/16.

For Insiders this week I wrote about eight top 100 prospects who had down years in 2016; that’s not all prospects who had off years, just eight I chose to discuss. I held my usual Klawchat on Thursday. For Paste I reviewed the fun, family boardgame Saloon Tycoon, where players build across their boards and also add up to three levels as they build upward.

You can pre-order my book, Smart Baseball, ahead of its scheduled release on April 25, 2017. I promise I’ll have it written by then.

Several people I know have new books out recently, and while I haven’t read them yet, I wanted to highlight the titles here:
• Jessica Luther’s Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape
• Alan Sepinwall’s TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time (with Matt Zoller Seitz)
• Geoff Schwartz’s Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith (with his brother Mitch)

I’ve been sending out a weekly email newsletter with links to all of my content and some additional notes or thoughts that don’t fit anywhere else; you can sign up here if you just don’t have enough Klaw in your life.

And now, the links…

  • Scientific American asked the four remaining Presidential candidates to answer twenty questions on major topics in science and has published the answers of the three who responded. (Gary Johnson hasn’t deigned to reply.) My takeaway: Trump remains a terrifying anti-science candidate, particularly in his denial of climate change (note the scare quotes), while Stein comes off as a serious person here as opposed to the pandering crackpot she’s been playing on Twitter.
  • VICE’s Noisey site has an outstanding piece on the history and music of Homestar Runner, one of my favorite cartoons from any medium.
  • BuzzFeed is capable of some great investigative journalism (when they’re not stealing other people’s content on the Tasty or for their videos), like this piece on police departments “closing” rape cases without investigating them. They focus on Baltimore County, Maryland, where even men convicted of previous assaults were getting away with rapes because the cops couldn’t be bothered.
  • More great investigative journalism, this time from the Houston Chronicle: The backwater known as Texas has been denying special education services to special needs kids because they arbitrarily capped the rate of kids eliglible to receive those services at 8.5%.
  • Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stands accused of, but not charged with, taking cash for favors from large donors, according to court documents obtained by the Guardian despite a court’s irregular order that the documents be destroyed.
  • Mother Jones writers about the dwindling numbers of black teachers in urban areas and the potential impact on black students.
  • How did a young power couple in Afghanistan, including the youngest woman in that country’s nascent Parliament, end up in Nebraska? The Omaha World-Herald has their harrowing story, from death threats in their home country to entry-level jobs at McDonald’s and Home Depot as refugees here.
  • Experts on hate groups say white supremacists see Donald Trump as their “last stand.” Well, when he’s bragging about the 88 military advisors helping him, how could they think otherwise?
  • I don’t even know what to make of the story that Peter Thiel says Trump will nominate him to the Supreme Court if elected. Thiel is the billionaire who funded the lawsuits that took down Gawker and Nick Denton; perhaps he believes that, but as much as I find Trump as President a horrifying prospect, this seems like Thiel’s own fantasy.
  • Speaking of Gawker, Univision, the new owner of Gawker Media, chose to delete a handful of posts related to ongoing lawsuits (some baseless); the chief news officer at Univision agreed to a long conversation with Gizmodo about these decisions. It’s long and meandering but there’s a lot of meat in here, and while the deletions don’t look good at a glance, I think Univision is also offering some strong support for its writers going forward, too.
  • The Scientific Parent explains why the “too much, too soon” anti-vaxxer argument is wrong. It’s ignorant of basic science: Your kid is ingesting more pathogens in a typical day than s/he’ll get in all the vaccines s/he ever receives, and the metals that vaccine deniers freak out over are present in food, water, even breast milk.
  • Dr. Bob Sears, who’s been accused of ‘selling’ medical exemptions to California’s new mandatory schoolkid vaccination law, may lose his license for medical negligence instead. Whatever gets these charlatans out of the medical business is fine with me.
  • Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 New Jersey schoolkids skipped vaccinations this year. If you live there, call your state legislator and ask him or her to sponsor a bill eliminating non-medical exemptions.
  • Trump’s campaign claims he’s given “tens of millions of dollars” to charity but the Washington Post found no proof.
  • A writer for the National Review claims that the left is “weaponizing” sports, citing the NCAA’s decision to pull championship events from North Carolina as a result of that state passing Hate Bill 2. He drops the ball (!) in sentence two, however, since HB2’s biggest effect is that it local governments from making sexual orientation a protected status in any anti-discrimination ordinances. It’s not about bathrooms; it’s about saying you can’t be fired just because you’re gay.
  • The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is chaired by an anti-science Republican and Christian Scientist, Lamar Smith (TX). Physicist Lawrence Krauss writes that Smith’s been politicizing scientific research, including that related to climate change and ocean acidification, in his little reign of terror, which will likely continue as long as Republicans control the House. And don’t be fooled by the religion’s name – Christian Science is about as anti-science as any cult can get, eschewing medicine and claiming that sickness is caused by an absence of “right thinking.”
  • Media Matters writes about ongoing criticism of the NY Times‘ perceived bias against Hillary Clinton. I’ve always thought of the Times as a clear, left-leaning publication, so their coverage of HRC’s campaign has surprised me this year.
  • Somalia is a failed state and has been without a real central government for a quarter century now. The northern section of the country calls itself Somaliland, and is seeking internal recognition of its independence. There are some recent examples in east Africa that argue against it, as Eritrea and South Sudan have been plagued by fighting and corruption since their secessions from Ethiopia and Sudan, respectively. Somaliland isn’t leaving a real country, however; there is no competing authority to their own bootstrapped government.
  • The U.S. ended sanctions on Myanmar, but it’s not clear Myanmar (ex-Burma) has actually earned this economic reward. Aung San Suu Kyi’s acquiescence has left many observers puzzled, and the linked piece from the BBC tries to explain it.
  • Author Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin)’s address to the Brisbane Writers Festival on cultural appropriation caused a substantial backlash against her claims that the term is the result of “runaway political correctness.”
  • The Washington Post‘s editorial board wrote that the Hillary Clinton email story is “out of control” relative to its actual importance. I agree; she made a mistake, a significant one, but one that pales in comparison to those of her opponent in this election, such as Trump calling again for Hillary’s assassination.
  • U.S. colleges continue to protect athlete rapists because sports. At UNC a rape victim went public to force the school and the county to stop delaying their investigation. Two women at the University of Richmond did the same, one revealing that a school administrator said the rapist had a right to “finish.”
  • New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose stands accused of gang-raping a woman, and Julie DiCaro writes for Fansided about the civil suit that’s going on right now – including his lawyers’ strange choice not to try to settle the case.
  • Mental Floss shows six math concepts demonstrated via crochet, with the first two (the hyperbolic plane and the Lorenz manifold) the most interesting.
  • Apple’s been getting killed – rightly so – for the iPhone 7’s lack of an analog headphone jack, but VICE’s Motherboard points out the iPhone 6+ has its own very serious engineering flaw.
  • Back in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard researchers for favorable results, part of a decades-long nutritional con that had us afraid of fat but thinking sugar was mostly harmless.
  • Colin Kaepernick’s protest is working, writes Josh Levin at Slate. Given the widespread conversation he started, I’d have to agree: He used a non-violent, non-disruptive act to make his point, and we’ve spent several weeks talking about all aspects of it, from race in America to the purpose of jingoistic displays at sporting events where many of the players aren’t even from the U.S.
  • Bayer’s pending acquisition of Monsanto has raised questions about Monsanto’s GM seeds business as some farmers find the returns don’t justify the higher costs. This piece from the WSJ is remarkably balanced, avoiding “frankenfoods!” hysteria and discussing pros and cons of genetically modified seeds. One point of note: Weeds that are or have evolved to become resistant to glyphosate have already started invading farms with GM seeds.
  • You’ve probably heard a lot about the Native Americans’ opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which will cross much of their land, but before this NPR piece I hadn’t heard much from the pipeline company’s side. For example, I didn’t know that this pipeline will cover the same route as an existing natural gas pipeline installed in 1982, or that the areas the tribes affected say are sacred may not be so.
  • Why did the Governor of Kentucky speak before a hate group and threaten armed sedition if Clinton wins? Why does nobody care about an elected official doing this?
  • Radiolab had a great podcast describing the ordeal of a girl who turned 18 without any documentation to prove she exists. It has taken her over a year just to acquire some of the things we take for granted, and she’s still fighting for a social security number.
  • A man in nearby Smyrna, Delaware, reports that this relaxing tea better fucking work, according to The Onion.