• Biden’s Team Erases $5.8 Billion in Student Debt for Borrowers With Severe Disabilities

    Here’s a measure of hope after an excruciating week: The Biden administration is waiving $5.8 billion in student loan debt for 323,000 borrowers with severe disabilities, a significant step in a disability rights movement gaining momentum across the United States.

    The action “removes a major barrier that prevented far too many borrowers with disabilities from receiving the total and permanent disability discharges they are entitled to under the law,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement Thursday.

    This deserves parsing for how far it goes and doesn’t, how delayed but welcome it is, and how politically energizing it is for advocates of education as a human right. (More on that here.) But after a news cycle as acutely felt as this—the disintegration of Afghanistan, the earthquake in Haiti, wildfires’ surge, anti-vaxxers’ obstinance, Karl Rove’s resurgence—this is certainly good news.

    Share more at recharge@motherjones.com. And be sure to visit the National Center on Disability and Journalism’s page for periodic posts on how disability experiences and outcomes are affected by the pandemic, including Susan LoTempio’s excellent summary the other day of how outdoor dining—on the rise—can crowd city sidewalks that are vital ​to a range of people with vision and mobility disabilities. Challenges remain, but chronicling them is expertly done by the team at NCDJ. Bookmark away.

  • Tennis Star Naomi Osaka Pledges Winnings to Haitian Earthquake Relief

    Scott Barbour/Getty

    Naomi Osaka, the 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam champion, is pledging whatever winnings she makes from the Western & Southern Open to earthquake relief in Haiti, where her father is from. If she takes the title, she’ll donate more than $250,000. It’s nowhere near sufficient for the scope and scale of need, but she hopes the pledge will mobilize more sustainable steps.

    The death toll from the earthquake has risen to nearly 2,000, making it the deadliest in a decade. Half a million children are left with limited or no access to drinking water, food, or shelter. Hospitals are at capacity. Rescue workers are hampered by heavy rains. And the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban is dominating major US media attention. But aid efforts are advancing in Haiti.

    Her pledge shines a light on two axioms of action: Donations can work, but only because political systems don’t. The imperatives and half-life of media focus aren’t keeping pace with need. It’s a point best made by our Mother Jones colleague Nathalie Baptiste, who wrote just weeks ago, after the assassination of Haiti’s president, that crisis is too often the engine of attention: “My mother wishes she could spend more time talking about Haiti when there isn’t a crisis,” she wrote in an essay that casts a long light on the political, historical, and cultural dynamics of Haiti. “Only when there’s a disaster, that’s when people want to know about Haiti,” her mother tells her. “The questions always sound the same too. Why is there constant turmoil? Why are institutions continually failing the people? Who will decide Haiti’s future?”

    Read Baptiste’s insightful story here. And share your recharges when you have them at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • A Few Thoughts on Mike Pompeo and the Missing $5,800 Whisky Bottle

    Jacquelyn Martin/AP

    Ah, Mike Pompeo. Back in the news for his stage-setting role in the run-up to Afghanistan’s fall. Accountability could be coming, but as questions mount, don’t forget last week’s revelation that the State Department is investigating the disappearance of a $5,800 whisky bottle gifted to him by the Japanese government, with watchdogs wondering whether he or his staff is hiding or hiccuping something. Time will tell. Pompeo says he has no recollection of the bottle and no knowledge of its whereabouts.

    As the New York Times underscored, officials are not allowed to keep gifts valued above $390: “Under the Constitution, it is illegal for an American official to accept a gift from a foreign government, and gifts are considered property of the U.S. government.”

    As Fred Kaplan over at Slate called it back in January, Pompeo is “the worst secretary of state” in history, or second to ​​John Foster Dulles, the disgraced diplomat who’d offered France two nuclear weapons to use in Vietnam. But apparently the bar does get lower: Pompeo shrugged off the whisky’s whereabouts by saying, “I have no idea where this thing [is]…I wouldn’t know the difference between a $58 bottle and a $5,800 bottle…Had it been a case of Diet Coke, I’d have been all over it.”

    There you have it. The nation’s former top diplomat would gladly throw back $5,800 in gifted Diet Cokes without reporting that either. Yes, this week’s “good news” bar has scraped the floor. There’s your recharge. (And you did notice that “whisky” forgoes “e” in Japan, Scotland, India, and many countries other than the United States and Ireland.)

    Share your good news, not about Mike Pompeo, at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Context and Strength From Our Archives on a Horrific Day in Afghanistan

    The picture in Afghanistan couldn’t be more devastating: vulnerable communities facing imminent threats, including in “the homes of two female journalists [who] were visited by Taliban fighters on Sunday,” CNN reported.

    Which is why there’s crucial context to call up. Fariba Nawa has long seen the stakes. She’s a resilient, powerfully justice-driven Herat-born refugee and journalist, host of the documentary podcast On Spec, and author of Opium Nation, who you should follow @faribanawa if you haven’t already. Her Mother Jones reporting from 2001, in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, is eerily prescient: “Advocates for Afghanistan’s women are increasingly worried that the rights and freedoms of women will once again be left off the negotiating table” and “are pushing to ensure that women’s freedoms are protected under a post-Taliban government,” she wrote. “Leading women’s activists, however, are unimpressed by the promises.”

    Revisit her story, “Demanding to Be Heard,” written 20 years ago. As more investigative light is cast on the forces of corruption taking hold in the region, the broader diaspora of Afghan voices and storytelling continues to expand. Share your stories at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Did You Change Your Mind About COVID-19 Vaccines?

    Sean Rayford/Getty

    Vaccine hesitancy is declining, and incentives for changing our minds are growing. So what changed yours? Or how did you change someone else’s? Convincing a vaccine-hesitant or anti-vax friend to get the jab takes more than citing stark statistics and chilling facts about COVID death. It takes motivating and persuading, appealing to mindsets as much as medical evidence. What tipped the scales for you?

    Tell us below what worked. Was it a trusted doctor or persistent friend? The scare of a close one getting sick? Work requirements or back-to-school mandates? $1 million lotteries and free beer and gift cards? Also tell us what failed to budge you, and what backfired so badly that it hardened your hesitation.

    Share your story, and let us know if you want anonymity or naming in a potential highlight:

  • Send Us Your Thoughts: Will Twitter Permanently Ban Marjorie Taylor Greene?

    Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly/Zuma

    A treacherous week, and only halfway there. Accountability on the horizon, at least, courtesy of a certain US representative from Georgia. Full story here. A taste:

    Twitter has suspended Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for one week after the first-term representative from Georgia falsely claimed COVID-19 vaccines were “failing” and ineffective at stopping the spread of the virus, violating the company’s rules on spreading COVID misinformation.

    This marks Greene’s fourth strike from the platform since she arrived in Congress, an impressive feat built upon a record interwoven with conspiracy theories, racism, and misinformation. According to Twitter’s policy on medical information, Greene’s next violation would get her permanently suspended from the platform.

    Place your bets at recharge@motherjones.com. Is she out?

  • The Most Iconic Photo in Music History Inspires the Co-Naming of 126th Street in Harlem

    A year ago this week, artists and activists staged a commemorative photo to celebrate the day, in 1958, when dozens of jazz giants gathered in New York City for an immortalizing reunion that became an Esquire cover spread. “A Great Day in Harlem,” the original, features more music legends than any photo before or since, from Mary Lou Williams to Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, and many others. The day is still getting its due: This Thursday, 126th Street between Fifth and Madison will be co-named after the photo.

    Place names, or place-names, can uncover and recover the past, a way of mapping meanings. That’s the rich terrain of the new book Names of New York: Discovering the City’s Past, Present, and Future Through Its Place-Names, by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, whose publication is well-timed as a backdrop to the street’s naming. Two saxophonists from the original, Rollins and Benny Golson, both in their 90s, have prepared remarks for this Thursday’s naming ceremony.

    In anticipation, get the week going with Rollins’ “Where Are You?” and Golson’s “Lullaby of Birdland.”

    More Recharges to propel the week:

    • Alice Coltrane’s devotional recordings from 1981 are out, with organ and voice, and an illuminating poem by Thulani Davis, featured by Recharge before. Davis’ outstanding profile in the New York Times is a must-read; she is, among immeasurably many highlights, the first woman to win a Grammy for best album notes.

    • The National Endowment for the Arts has named its 2022 Jazz Masters: Billy Hart, Cassandra Wilson, Stanley Clarke, and Donald Harrison Jr. Revisit our conversation with Hart in tribute to Roy Haynes’ 96th birthday.

    • The team behind Bodeguita bar in Bushwick is renaming it Ornithology Jazz Club, co-owner Rie Yamaguchi-Borden tells me. The no-cover venue’s grand opening is planned for August 29, the birthday of its namesake, Charlie Parker.

    More good news welcome at recharge@motherjones.com. Now back to your regularly scheduled peril.

  • What’s Behind the Deep-State Plot Against National Happiness Day This Weekend

    The deep state is coming for National Happiness Happens Day this Sunday, observed every August 8 since 1999, according to senior government officials with knowledge of the matter, who say the day is in jeopardy.

    Five independently corroborated whistleblowers at the highest levels of office warn of a cabal of conspirators operationalizing a plot to torpedo happiness day and replace it with National What’s the Fuss Day, National Go Back to Bed Day, and National Don’t Even Bother Getting Out of Bed Day. The plan’s adherents, according to screenshots from an internal slide deck posted on encrypted anti-happiness message boards, obtained by Mother JonesRecharge editors, claim that “more happiness for more people would destabilize our designs on the consolidation of capital and power.”

    But a Justice Department official, on condition of anonymity, tells us, “Don’t rush to conclusions. There are even-deeper-state countermeasures underway to interrupt this lurid anti-happiness plot by expanding National Happiness Happens Day to two (2) days a year. Three (3) is also on the table.”

    This is a developing story. Enjoy the day. Send Sunday flares to recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Olympic Hope Shines Through a COVID Surge

    Jordan Chiles and Simone BilesMother Jones illustration; Patrick Smith/Getty

    Scrolling through my news feed this week, I saw a whole lot of grim headlines about COVID outbreaks, wildfires, and the federal eviction moratorium whose expiration, if not for a last-minute extension, would have been disastrous for already vulnerable tenants and deepened housing inequality. But there was a bright spot in the chaos for me: moments of solidarity and hope at the Olympics.

    As an athlete heading into my junior year of high school, I’ve been watching the Olympics with a mix of relief and remorse: Simone Biles, undeniably gymnastics’ GOAT, pulled out of the finals and her teammate Jordan Chiles stepped up for her. What some viewers might not realize is that they’ve been best friends for years, with Biles acting as Chiles’ mentor. Three years ago, Chiles was close to pulling out entirely due to her fading passion for competition and the grind’s impact on her personal time and space. But Biles convinced her to leave an intense coach and train at Biles’ own gym, where coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi emphasize giving gymnasts rest to balance their strict workouts and lives outside the gym. Chiles quickly regained her love for it, and her comeback landed the team a silver medal. “I discovered that gymnastics doesn’t always have to be about strictness and being so hard on yourself and having so much doubt. I realized this when I saw Simone compete. She looks like she’s having fun out there…I was like, ‘You know, I’m going to try that one of these days and see how it turns out.’”

    Intense competition also saw spirit-lifting friendship when two high jumpers agreed to share gold for the first time in history. After tying at 2.37 meters, instead of a jump-off, Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Essa Barshim prized mutual respect. Solidifying their bond was the fact that they had survived similar injuries before the Olympics. “I respect all the high jumpers…but Mutaz passed through the same problem as me, and I know what it means to come back from that injury.”

    His words struck a chord with me as an athlete who recently returned to soccer from a serious injury. Being sidelined from the sport you love can be taxing physically and emotionally, no less hard for a high schooler than an Olympic medalist, and I know the satisfaction of recovery. The only bounceback more inspiring than overcoming an injury is returning with your best friend at your side, scoring gold together.

    As Biles and Chiles supported each other and Tamberi and Barshim lifted each other to greater heights, I saw more overlap between competition and friendship than the pressure of performance used to have me believe. I’m not heading to the Olympics anytime soon. But I’ll take that with me into my next semester of school, soccer season, and everything else that lies ahead.

    —Maya Mukherjee is a Mother Jones intern entering junior year of high school. Share comments and Recharge boosts at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Two Olympians Share Gold for the First Time in High-Jump History

    Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim of QatarMother Jones illustration; Zuma

    Now this is how you take gold. Hats off to Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy for agreeing to split the title down the middle, an unprecedented act in high-jump history. Their mutual respect and abiding friendship broke through the tense would-be tiebreak, the first time since 1912 that the Olympics saw joint gold winners—by choice.

    Here’s how it went down, according to HuffPost:

    Both Barshim, 30, and Tamberi, 29, ended with jumps of 2.37 meters. Neither had any failed attempts.

    When the bar was raised to 2.39 meters, the Olympic record, neither jumper could clear it. The competition was tied.

    After three failed attempts each at that height, an Olympic official offered them a jump-off to decide the winner.

    “Can we have two golds?” Barshim asked him.

    “It’s possible. If you both decide…” the official said.

    He’d barely finished his sentence before the two men had looked at each other, slapped hands and Tamberi leapt into Barshim’s arms.

    After initially tying, Barshim said, “He look at me. I look at him. We just understood. There was no need to go [again]. That’s it.”

    If you score big one day, reader, at “sport” or any other endeavor, don’t hog gold. I promise the same.*

    Share your stories of gold, silver, bronze, honorable mention, and abject failure at recharge@motherjones.com.

    *Exclusions apply. Void where prohibited. Not valid on Saturdays or Sundays, when promiser is sole winner at all athletic events. Promise expires at 11:59 p.m. E.T. on date of promiser’s choice, and may be revoked without notice.

  • “It Has Saved My Life”: MoJo Readers Reflect on 100 Years of Insulin

    The discovery of insulin 100 years ago “transformed diabetes from a death sentence to a chronic condition,” went the unflinching headline of a powerful look back at the strides and disparities in treatment and outcomes by the Endocrine Society last week. The centennial was acutely personal for many MoJo readers who wrote us with a mix of outrage at the obscenely high costs, celebration of the medical advances that save lives, and recognition of the vast work ahead. “Air” is how one reader describes the medicine that another reader says she has to “ration” to stay alive.

    Your responses got to the heart of the relief, anger, strength, and stamina that diabetes demands, but there was also big-picture acknowledgment of the milestone: “Each year on July 27, I toast Frederick Banting and Charles Best,” insulin’s discoverers, a reader tells us. “It has been 50 years since I started injecting daily doses, and it has saved my life.”

    Still, “the real expense is up to $1,000 a month” for a reader whose out-of-pocket cost is exorbitant. By contrast, an American living in the Netherlands tells us “there is no way I can afford to move back to the States” and keep getting insulin.

    “I’m lucky to live in the UK,” writes a reader whose insulin is subsidized. “I am enormously grateful for this and frankly horrified at the situation in the US, where one’s ability to control this condition, and remain alive, is related to wealth.”

    Care for family is a constant: “Insulin means that my little brother’s diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at age 7 wasn’t a death sentence.” “My son’s blood will turn acidic within hours and he will die” without insulin. “I’m grateful for the discovery. But his insulin retails at $339.99 per vial.” Which is why policy debates are so visceral for the reader who points out that “General Wesley Clark famously said when he announced his presidential candidacy that every American deserved the same excellent medical care he got. I’ve always believed that his statement, with which I very much agree, is what brought out the long knives to end his brief political career.”

    After co-pays and deductibles, “I still can’t afford” it, a reader writes, a pain point stemming from insulin’s patent: “Important for the story and often neglected is that the researchers who discovered insulin were reluctant to patent their process on grounds of medical ethics. Anyone suffering from the high cost of insulin needs to know that its discoverers at least wanted to ensure that it be widely available at low cost.”

    Our colleague Steve Katz, MoJo’s publisher, told me after I ran our centennial piece last week that his son, Noah, who is diabetic, advocates for insulin justice. In a letter Steve shared with me that he’d written to thank a diabetes camp his family went to years ago, Steve summed up the tangible impact of support systems that “probably saved my son’s life. Noah was diagnosed with Type 1 [that] summer [and] we could see that it wasn’t about camp per se…It was about the fact that, being there, Noah had to face directly that he really did have this disease, it wasn’t going to go away, and his life had changed forever…Each [counselor] would sit with him at a meal or hang out with him in the ‘shot line’ where kids get their blood sugars checked and insulin dosed, and give their story of how it was for them and how it is and will be for him. And Noah saw that he could survive this. The experience was literally transformative.”

    Steve wrote these words eight years ago. Reading it now makes me look ahead: In eight more years, on the 108th anniversary of insulin, will readers tell us again how you’ve survived not just diabetes itself but the staggering costs of its treatment in the wealthiest country in the world? As another reader tells us, “We should not need a coupon or ‘program’ to” stay alive.

    Happy 100th.

    Keep stories coming to recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Upon Further Review, the US Men’s Basketball Loss to France “Could Be Good News”!

    A quick plug for our colleague Tim Murphy’s sharply spun take on the US men’s basketball defeat at the hands of France. Give it a read. The stunner “could be good news,” he writes. Murphy cuts, connects, and delivers—everything the US team didn’t. Rest assured, Vince Carter’s immortal dunk over 7-foot-2 French center Frédéric Weis, a mere two decades ago, still reigns. Carter here, Murphy here.

  • Today Is the 100th Anniversary of Insulin. Let Us Know How It’s Affected Your Life.

    Until the discovery of insulin a century ago today by two Canadian researchers who injected a pancreatic extract into a diabetic dog and watched its blood sugar drop, diabetes had been deemed fatal. Kids and adults “most often died within days to months,” Dr. Chris Feudtner of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said today in a striking portrait of the discovery’s impact. “With the advent of insulin therapy, this timeline was extended to decades.”

    More than 460 million people have diabetes. The number is rapidly rising, most prevalently in lower- and middle-income populations. It’s hard to unequivocally celebrate any life-saving medicine whose demand exceeds its affordability and accessibility for the millions struggling to obtain it; the politics and economics of insulin are points of fierce criticism. (See our colleague Tim Murphy’s callout last year.) But insulin, as Feudtner says, has improved, extended, and saved countless lives. It remains “one of the leading medical miracles of the 20th century, on par with antimicrobials and cancer treatments.”

    Let us know what insulin means to you and your family on a daily basis, and how much you pay for it (if you do), at recharge@motherjones.com. Also let us know, if language interests you, whether you’d say “I’m diabetic” or “I have diabetes” or if each is interchangeable.

  • A Dose of Radical History

    Recharge is back after a week offline. Did we miss much? Anything? Oh. Devastating news: “The Stuff of Nightmares.” “US Is Headed in ‘Wrong Direction’ on COVID-19.” “Floods.” “Petty Fascism.” “Catastrophic Summer.” “Prison Population Is Growing.” “Cashing in on Disinformation.” “6 Weeks in the Hospital.” “Environmental Damage.” “Overturn Roe v. Wade.” Welcome back!

    Pick-me-ups abound, too, so don’t skimp on the other end of the ledger, but I’m thinking a big-picture boost is in order to enter the week, something more fundamentally fortifying than a sugar-high recharge. Here’s just the thing: Daily Radical History. I’m not saying you’ve gotta glue yourself to Twitter, but DRH is solid. It feeds daily doses of radical revolutionary headlines, from anniversaries to key milestones in the struggle for justice, democracy, and human rights broadly defined. Not every tweet is a recharge (some surface trauma and tragedy), but many show how change is made and gains are secured. It’s an aggregate portrait of progress, resistance, solidarity, and strength, if you need all four.

    Bracing for the week. Share your daily boosts at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • The National Spelling Bee Finals, Canceled by COVID Last Year, Are Tonight. Take Our Very Serious Quiz.

    Last year was the first time since World War II that the national spelling bee was canceled. The bee is back. Finals are tonight at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.

    I’m no fan of the bee. You can have it. Why would I want to watch you fumble “pococurante” in front of millions of eyes as beads of terrified sweat light up your crunched forehead like an athlete grunting against the weight of a defender? Still, I’m a Professional Haver of Interest in spelling and grammar and language and accuracy and education, the whole mess of obsessive word-squinting. All for the idea. But if I’ve learned one thing from this spelling racket, it’s the right to informed dissent: The bee is a sugar high.

    I’ve read the arguments for and against, and I’m not swatting or punching “down” at your intrepid bee—bee health matters—but if you catch me in the elevator at an annual copy-edit conference (real event) and ask me to spell “succedaneum” or “guetapens” or “autochthonous,” I’ll inch away and take a “phone call.”

    “Succedaneum” and “guetapens” and “autochthonous” are winning words from spelling bees of years past. Take a look at the winners from every contest since 1925. Knock yourself out.

    Before you send us pointed rebuttals to recharge@motherjones.com, prove your mettle/metal/meddle/medal by acing this quiz:

    1. misspelled or mispelled

    2. hydroxychloroquine or hydroxychloroquin

    3. incumbant or incumbent

    4. gerrimandering or gerrymandering

    5. caronavirus, coronavirus, or coronovirus

    6. predeliction, predilection, or prediliction

    7. desperate or desparate

    8. annually or anually

    9. buoyant or bouyant

    10. separate or seperate

    11. concensus or consensus

    12. embarrass or embarass

    13. guage or gauge

    14. miniscule or minuscule

    15. occurrence or occurance

    16. persue or pursue 

    17. siege or seige

    18. sieze or seize

    19. vacuum or vaccuum

    20. withhold or withold

    Look at you—20 out of 20! Congratulations. You didn’t even buckle and search. Tune in tonight if you must. Before you go, a bonus for playing: Get in on Mother Jones’ latest newsletter, David Corn’s This Land, for our DC bureau chief’s sharp insights, scoops, recommendations, and behind-the-scenes accounts from Washington and beyond. I guarantee each newsletter is spelled perfectly—and perfectly spelled. Get on it.

  • “A Vegetable Oasis in an Urban Landscape”

    Earlier this week, we ran a beautiful series of photographs from Los Angeles. It showcases how residents are using previously industrial spaces for greenery and parks. As the writer says:

    This reuse of industrial space, often spearheaded by communities of color that have historically lacked easy access to parks and gardens, provides an inspiring blueprint for how to reclaim and replenish the land, both for ourselves and the generations to come.

    One park, they also write, in a lovely turn of phrase, showcases a “vegetable oasis in an urban landscape.”

    You should go take a look here.

    Interspersed are nice stories throughout, drawn from chats with parkgoers. I hope that cheers you up for the long weekend.

  • 60 Years After the Yankees Told Her the Dugout Was No Place for a Girl, She Threw Out the First Pitch

    Gwen for the win! Kathy Willens/AP

    Beyond Paul O’Neill hitting two home runs for a sick kid at Kramer’s (maybe) behest, I don’t have great feelings about the Yankees. They’re easy villains, I’m not from New York, and I never liked A-Rod. But! Last week, they did something so thoroughly incredible that even the most strident Yankees haters will have to deeply appreciate it.

    The story goes like this: Gwen Goldman was 10 years old when she wrote to the Yankees asking to be a bat girl. The letter they wrote back is pretty heinous, though not surprising given that it was, well, 1961: “While we agree with you that girls are certainly as capable as boys, and no doubt would be an attractive addition on the playing field, I am sure you can understand that in a game dominated by men a young lady such as yourself would feel left out of place in a dugout.”

    Exactly 60 years later (to the month!)—through a decades-long marriage, the raising of two daughters, the spoiling of two grandkids—Gwen still has that letter. It’s become something like family lore. I know this because my friend Abby is Gwen’s younger daughter, and told me as much recently: “It was all just known, part of the family’s storybook,” she texted me. “I don’t remember my mom first telling me because it was something that was totally woven into the seams of our family. Playing softball with my mom and my papa, going to baseball games, mom’s dream of being a bat girl and my papa telling her to write and ask. And The Letter—that was hung in our basement bathroom!”

    So Abby had the idea, without her mom’s knowledge, to write another letter to the Yankees, asking them to rectify this wrong.

    Then, finally, they actually did. Last week, Abby and her family tricked Gwen onto a Zoom. Instead of a video feed celebrating the end of her grandson’s school year, squares popped up with Yankees GM Brian Cashman and star pitcher Gerrit Cole. Cashman read Gwen the new letter the organization had just sent: “Some dreams take longer than they should to be realized, but a goal attained should not dim with the passage of time.”

    Yesterday was Gwen’s big day. 

     

    The icing on the cake: Not only did Gwen get to be a bat girl, but she threw out the first damn pitch, looking like a total pro in that uniform.

    More than an attractive addition, I’d say?

    This all melted even my cynical, hardened heart. If you don’t tear up…I truly give up on humanity.

  • An “Avalanche” of Foster Care Donations Breaks Records After a Reddit Post Goes Viral

    For all the sweeping injustices embedded in the foster care system—my colleague Julia Lurie’s investigation is invaluable—take a moment for this boost. A children’s charity site nearly crashed with record-breaking donations after a Reddit chat drove traffic, causing what the small nonprofit, One Simple Wish, called an “avalanche of support.”

    The thread was titled “What is something you’ve done purely out of the goodness of your heart, but have never told anyone?” A commenter said they’d bought a bike for an 11-year-old through the wish site. Hundreds of replies poured in. Tens of thousands of upvotes immediately followed, and small donations reached almost $100,000.

    “We’re a small team with big hearts and…are truly about the kids first, so I am just so proud the world is hearing about us,” said founder Danielle Gletow, a children’s rights activist, adding that the donations met every wish on the site’s list before overloading it. The site was “not able to handle all the attention.”

    The galvanizing power and long arm of Reddit cut both ways—for good and ill, sometimes called the Reddit Hug or the Hug of Death, when the large site links to a smaller one and spikes it. For its part, Reddit is both hero and villain—and supervillain. Take your cheer where you can. And then read Julia’s investigation.

  • “I Gave Him a Big Hug”: Let Us Know How You Marked Father’s Day

    Other than former blogger and twice-impeached former president Donald Trump wishing Happy Father’s Day to “the Radical Left” and “other Losers of the world,” yesterday saw an outpouring of good wishes, selfless salutes, mutual aid, and charitable giving. There was an 11-year-old raising thousands for COVID relief in honor of dads in India. There was a father-daughter reunion after 40 years apart. There were fundraisers for medical research and an organization that houses families of firefighters and other first responders killed in the line of duty, thanks to a father who completed 1.5 million pushups for charity, breaking the single-year world record.

    But not everything was eventful. There were quiet reconnections, Zooms, phone calls, vaccinated hugs, and remembrances: pandemic essays and personal ones (read Terrell Jermaine Starr’s reflection on family discovery at The Root), and archival gems (John McPhee’s “The Patch”). Let us know how you marked Father’s Day:

  • More Chess Stars Are Denouncing a Cheating Billionaire

    It started with good intentions: Raise funds for pandemic relief in India, the world’s hardest-hit country in measures of death and devastation by COVID. The biggest names were set to play, including five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand. Among his opponents was the country’s youngest billionaire, Nikhil Kamath, who made his fortune by co-founding a brokerage company.

    But as the game progressed, Anand, who was universally expected to lay waste to his billionaire opponent, faced a series of suspiciously flawless moves from Kamath. They were so computerlike that onlookers wondered if Kamath was running an engine in violation of the rules. Miraculously, the billionaire won. The game of a lifetime.

    And sure enough, soon after public pressure and a global outcry, Kamath confessed to cheating: “I had help from…computers,” he announced. “It is ridiculous that so many are thinking I really beat Vishy in a chess game. That is almost like me waking up and winning a 100mt race with Usain Bolt.” “This was fun for charity,” Kamath added. “In hindsight, it was quite silly” to deceive the legendary champion and supporters of COVID relief on the global stage. “Apologies.”

    His cheating has come under scrutiny as an affront to Anand, who graciously said, “I just played the position on the board and expected the same from everyone,” and called it a “fun experience upholding the ethics of the game” from one side. But it gets worse before it gets better. Chess.com’s chief chess officer and Fair Play Team leader shared a statement making heads spin, saying the cheating billionaire would not stay banned: “Given…that not all the rules were properly understood, neither Chess.com nor Anand himself see any reason to uphold the matter further,” in effect relaxing the site’s strict rules against cheaters and letting a billionaire slide on account of prominence, a gesture scarcely afforded to nonbillionaires and noncelebrities.

    But there’s good news. Top players are speaking out against it, among them five-time US champion Hikaru Nakamura, who blasted the decision: “There have been people caught cheating against me…and I don’t think they get unbanned, so I don’t really buy this. It just feels like [a] slap on the wrist.” “I thought the rules would be the same for billionaires. I was naive. They can cheat,” said Lichess.com founder Thibault Duplessis.

    Nakamura agreed: “I’m definitely associated with Chess.com but I have to say I actually do agree with Thibault here. This is just ridiculous. If someone cheats in a game of chess, you can’t have a separate set of rules just because they happen to have a lot of money. I guarantee you that if [the player cheating] was someone who’s not of prominence, they would have stayed banned. Plain and simple.”

    “Too bad Bill Gates was not aware of the billionaire club rule back then: engine help allowed,” chess historian Olimpiù G. Urcan said, recalling 23-year-old Magnus Carlsen’s defeat of Bill Gates in nine moves in 2014.

    Happy Thursday. (Our Recharge department welcomes fundraisers against chess-dabbling billionaires, with no engines allowed, at recharge@motherjones.com.)