The Darwin Challenge
In the Netflix film "Bird Box," a mysterious force overtakes Earth, causing masses of people to do suicidal things. The only protection is to wear a blindfold for all outdoor activities — canoeing, driving, shooting guns — because the force enters people's brains through their visual cortex.
So, of course, there's a new fad called the "Bird Box" challenge, in which people around the country are attempting incredibly dangerous things while blindfolded, like driving or giving each other tattoos. It's almost as if their brains have been seized by a mysterious force that makes them do suicidal things.
The results have been as disastrous as you might expect, including a Utah teenager who crashed her car into another vehicle while driving blindfolded. Netflix felt compelled to issue a plea to all viewers to be careful (translation: "Stop being stupid").
And that also goes for anyone thinking of a twerking challenge, too. Do not ride atop a car going down an interstate highway while twerking (as happened in St. Louis this week). Just don't.
Good Morning, Nashville!
President Donald Trump tweeted that he was really excited about his address to farmers during his Monday trip to Nashville, Tennessee. "Love our farmers, love Tennessee — a great combination!" he tweeted. Just one problem: His scheduled speech to the American Farm Bureau's annual convention that day was in New Orleans.
The presidential gaffe couldn't have come at a worse time for that particular sector of the electorate. Trump is trying to shore up flagging support among farmers after his shutdown sharply curtailed U.S. Department of Agriculture services and forced suspension of payments to farmers under a $12 billion bailout package he arranged after provoking a trade war with China.
Previous administrations maintained strict policies requiring multiple layers of review before presidential communications were released to the general public. Under Trump, no one but the president is to blame for his communication screw-ups — or his shutdown.
So Long, George
A Hawaiian land snail named George died recently at age 14, apparently taking his whole species with him. George was of the species Achatinella apexfulva, which once covered the Hawaiian island of Oahu. He lived in Kailua, Hawaii, in a terrarium. He is believed to have been the last of his kind.
Scientists who publicized George's plight hope it will wake people up to the real-world impact of climate change.
Many types of once-plentiful land snails and other species have gone extinct on the Hawaiian islands in recent years, with the effects of climate change among the culprits. For George's relatives (the ones who didn't have benefit of an aquarium), the drying of the Hawaiian ecosystem proved too much to handle.
"He's been a constant for a really long time," David R. Sischo, who directs the state-run Snail Extinction Prevention Program, told The New York Times. "If anything good comes out of this extinction, it will be the recognition that we have a lot to lose, and we don't have a lot of time."
The King of Bigotry
Rep. Steve King, the Iowa Republican, has long shown himself to be arguably the most irredeemable bigot in Congress. But a recent interview, in which he expressed genuine befuddlement about what was so wrong with being a "white supremacist," was too much even for the previous enablers in his party.
House Republicans this week stripped King of his committee assignments. Some top GOP leaders have suggested he should resign. In case he doesn't, efforts are underway to recruit a 2020 primary challenger.
This burst of Republican wokeness is welcome — though it's worth asking what took them so long. This is the same Rep. King who for years has cozied up to Nazi sympathizers and who enthusiastically promoted the racist "birther" movement. He once tweeted, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." The list goes on. King's tenure in Congress should not.
What About Concealed Dogs?
New Missouri House rules prohibiting lawmakers from bringing their dogs to work make sense, even though a lot of politicians could use the examples of sincerity and loyalty that dogs provide.
The new rule is especially ironic given that, even as officials are barring man's best friend from the Capitol, they're considering letting visitors bring in concealed guns.
The gun proposal, by Gov. Mike Parson's administration, has whipped up some strong public opposition that, hopefully, will get him to back off on this plan. Some opponents have said, reasonably, that they won't let their kids go on field trips to the Capitol if they allow guns in.
Parson was right to reject a request to transfer state workers out of a downtown St. Louis office out of concern over crime. Crime is a concern downtown, but the solution — especially for a state government — isn't to run from it. That would've sent a terrible message.
As the Post-Dispatch's Kurt Erickson reported, the Missouri Department of Revenue sought to move seven employees out of the Wainwright State Office Building downtown to an office in Clayton. The reason, said the written request, is that employees are "increasingly concerned about their safety while walking to the parking garage and the Metrolink station."
Parson's office has effectively said to the employees, "Stay put," which is exactly right. As the region's economic engine, where many others work (and live), St. Louis needs the state to set that kind of example. If the city wants to continue counting on that, it would do well to continue working to make downtown safer.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH