Don’t let their name fool you: real patriots don’t root for the Patriots. And I’m not just talking about the fact that the Seahawks were recently revealed to be Barack Obama’s secret weapon in the war against ISIS. No. This is about who we, as Americans, can trust to secure our Super Bowl rings. And while the Seahawks can obviously be trusted to handle international affairs, the same cannot be said about New England.
In John Oliver’s acclaimed evisceration of the Miss America pageant, HBO’s new host investigated the pageant’s oft-repeated claim that it makes $45 million in scholarship money available to contestants on an annual basis. Unsurprisingly, he concluded that the stated figure substantially overstates reality.
But he was wrong,* and it’s all because his fact-finding elves didn’t dig deep enough into the types of people who compete in the pageant — and particularly, into their educational proclivities (emphasis added):
The FAA just extended its ban on American airlines (lower-case “a”) flying to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport for an additional 24 hours, but — at least under present circumstances — the precaution appears to be overkill.
And I have some pretty good evidence to support that contention.
No, not the fact that Michael Bloomberg flew commercial — oh, the humanity! — to TLV in order to express his support. And not even the fact that John Kerry felt comfortable flying directly into the ostensibly-banned airport.
What makes me so confident — again, at least for now — that all those cancellations were probably unnecessary appeared at the very end of an article in Haaretz describing Israel’s plan to temporarily open an additional civilian airport in its south to international traffic [emphasis mine]:
The first time a Malaysian Airlines flight disappeared under mysterious circumstances, news media had themselves a field day: at least a month of wall-to-wall MH370 coverage, much of it idle speculation — or worse — due to the near-complete lack of hard information about the missing plane.
A second plane was tragically shot down today over Eastern Ukraine, but unlike the original missing flight, the circumstances under which it disappeared are far less mysterious. We have the body, we have the bodies, and now, we have the black boxes. I imagine that, pretty soon, we’ll have the full story.
Which means that if there are going to be batshit crazy theories about what happened and why, we’d better get moving in a hurry. What follows is my contribution to the concoction of crackpot. You’ve been warned.
While some are looking to tomorrow’s special event as some sign of apocalypse, I’d be the first to admit that I’m pretty excited for the coincidence of Thanksgiving and Chanuka. What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than by encroaching upon its native turf? (Zing.)
This post was prompted by a recent email that turned up in my inbox, with a deceptively-simple subject line — one word: “Thanksgivikah.” I didn’t think much of it as I got to typing my reply, but the moment I pressed send, I noticed something a little off. You see, I had concluded my email in kind, by wishing the recipient a “Happy Thanksgivvukah!” and couldn’t help but do a double-take at my own spelling of the word: Two v’s? That couldn’t possibly be right.
Or could it?
Two years ago, this blog thoroughly covered the debate over the proper spelling of Hanuka/Chanuka/Hanukah/Chanukah/Hanukkah/Chanukkah/Hanukka/Chanukka in a post titled Google’s War on ‘Chanuka’. One of the highlights of that post was Avidan Ackerson’s deterministic finite automaton that helped define all of the possibilities (for Google to declare war against).
This year, Avidan and I have again teamed up to compile all the possible spellings of the seemingly-simple but deceptively-diverse portmanteau of Thanksgiving and Chanuka. Behold, DFA v2.013:
$1.2 million evaporated on a flight from Switzerland to New York.
Edward Snowden is doing his best to disappear on a flight from Moscow to Ecuador.
And at Snowden’s destination, August Reiger just pulled off a vanishing act of his own.
The 18 year-old National Merit Scholar (lol) and high school valedictorian disappeared from an Ecuadorian bathroom a hiking trail in Banos, Ecuador, just minutes ahead of his family. I initially took interest in the case soon after Reiger disappeared because if you say “August Reiger” out loud, he basically shares my last name — days before Barack Obama followed suit and designated him a “missing patriot.” (I was a bit ahead of the curve, is what I’m saying.)
At first, the disappearance seemed like a complete mystery. The family and government officials offered no leads:
“Whatever happened to him was in the space of five or 10 minutes. We were right behind him,” his father says. “He couldn’t have gotten lost. The whole of the trail is visible from the hotel. You can see the way down. It’s a tourist area, and it’s not isolated at all. If he was hurt on the trail, somebody would have seen him.”
Police, firefighters, volunteers, and even the military have been searching for the teen; his father says authorities believe he either fell off a ledge or was kidnapped. [Editor’s note: authorities apparently have very limited imaginations. He could have also been eaten by a jaguar.]
But like any good game of Clue, the passage of time helps eliminate certain possibilities. For one thing, we know he didn’t fall off the cliff (or become dinner for a jaguar) because he was spotted Monday night in a truck headed for the Amazon — alive. For another, it seems unlikely he was kidnapped: the family has not been contacted by kidnappers, nor have they been asked for a ransom.
Of course, ruling out those options leave one other obvious alternative: that Reiger ran away. That possibility struck some who knew him as unlikely:
Close cousin to August Reiger, Laura Laporte, said their family is small and close.
“He’s sweet,” Laporte said. “People love him. He has big plans.”
She wants everyone to know the family believes Reiger disappearing on his own terms is out of the question.
“What we know in our hearts is that he’s not runaway,” Laporte said. “I have read that a couple of places that some people feel like he has done this intentionally. We know August and that’s just not something that could have been possible.”
Well add another notch to your Reiger counter: Paper Treiger is another place that suspects he did this intentionally. I arrived that conclusion through a combination of the process of elimination — not a cliff, not a jaguar, and not a kidnapping — and logical deduction. That logic kicked in when I came across one other quote intended to reassure the public that August did not run away — but which, in fact, accomplished precisely the opposite:
“He has got a full ride scholarship to OU [University of Oklahoma — I know it’s backwards, but at least it’s kosher]; he’s got a full life waiting for him in OKC.”
Did you just say Oklahoma City? Run, August. Run.
This one will be short. These two, really.
First up, an amazing article you’ve probably seen because everyone should have seen it by now. A Russian’s first taste of American football: Deafening, incendiary, confusing was written by “Ivan Yurchenko, a 27-year-old journalist from Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Moscow newspaper, is visiting the United States on a one-month internship with The Seattle Times.” Here’s a taste:
Yesterday was my last working for the Penn Institute for Urban Research, my first paying job since graduating in May 2010, December 2010, May 2011, or August 2011 – or, if you consider my graduation May 2012,* my only paying job in college.
*I didn’t end up going to graduation, but my name was apparently printed in the program. If anyone has an extra copy, I’d love to get my hands on one.
As you might expect from a place called ‘Institute for Urban Research’, a lot of my time there was devoted to research, and in the course of said research, I learned many interesting things. I shared a few – the ones I thought worthy of posts – but not all of them. This list won’t include every interesting thing I learned in the course of my job, but it will include some of them. In absolutely no particular order whatsoever:
1. Philadelphia is – without a doubt – the crappiest city in America: