I forgot to note that it was two years ago yesterday when I learned that Grania died, though she had died the day before—on June 16. It’s better late than never, though, to pay tribute to someone who was not only a good friend and counselor, but a valuable contributor to this website. She was also one of the founders of Atheist Ireland and its first secretary. I never met her, but we spoke via Skype nearly every day. And I still often think about what she’d have to say about today’s events.
Here are photos of Grania young and old (though she was never old, since she wasn’t even 49 when she died); both sent by her sister Gisela.
News of the Day:
It may seem weird that a conservative Supreme Court could issue a ruling supporting Obamacare, and by a vote of 7-2 (Alito and Gorsuch dissented), but the decision (here) was based solely on “standing”. The state of Texas, the court ruled, hadn’t shown that it suffered a direct injury by the contentious bit of Obamacare: the requirement that all Americans be insured. The court avoided ruling on that issue, which is a big one. Courts often rule on standing when they’re not comfortable about making a big, meaningful decision. But in effect they said that Obama care is probably here to stay.
From the WaPo’s piece on this decision:
The case posed three questions: Have the challengers — 18 states and a couple of individuals — suffered injuries that give them legal standing to bring the challenge? Did changes Congress made in 2017 render unconstitutional the ACA’s requirement for individuals to buy insurance? And if so, can the rest of the law be separated out, or must it fall in its entirety?
Breyer [who wrote the opinion] said that answering the first question negated the necessity of deciding the others.
I’ve mentioned before that several big publishers assert that they won’t consider publishing Trump’s memoirs, though he says that he’s had two offers from prestigious publishers and turned both down. According to a new short piece in Vanity Fair, though,
According to Politico, none of the editors and publishers contacted at the Big Five publishing houses—Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster—said they were aware of any such offer. One source was openly “skeptical” of his claims. “He’s screwed over so many publishers that before he ran for president, none of the big 5 would work with [him] anymore,” the source told Politico.
The reason, beyond a fear of a mass staff walkout, is in the tweet below from CNN’s chief media correspondent:
Major publishing houses are wary of publishing a Trump memoir. "Their reluctance is driven by several factors, though the underlying fear is that whatever Trump would write wouldn’t be truthful," @dlippman and @meridithmcgraw write https://t.co/qrtPULO3cr
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 15, 2021
Speaking of enforced patriotism, the Washington Examiner reports that Republican senators are pursuing a Constitutional amendment that would ban burning the American flag. Doing so now is perfectly legal, regarded as a form of free expression protected by the First Amendment. This new proposal, surely doomed to failure, would presumably carve out an exception for Old Glory. The paper adds, “In 2019, former President Donald Trump called the amendment a “no-brainer,” saying he was “all-in” for the proposal.” The amendment is doomed as it requires passage by 2/3 of both houses of Congress and then passage by three-quarters of state legislatures. (h/t Ken).
Amazing biology news: A study of the coelacanth, a “living fossil” fish whose appearance hasn’t changed much in 400 million years, revealed that the females don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re 50 years old, and males between 40 and 69. They can live to be 100 and, oddly enough, the embryos appear to have a gestation period of five years. Now this appears based on an somewhat questionable way to age fish using scale “rings” (only dead fish can be analyzed since they’re rarely caught) and on a very small sample. The paper is here in Current Biology, and I haven’t read it yet.
Here are unborn embryos up to five years old taken from caught fish. The bottom fish was already free-living:
Author Janet Malcolm died, one of my favorite writers for The New Yorker. She was 86.
Here are the top searches that got readers to my website yesterday. Number four is a hoot. I’ve never written about that in my life!
Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 600,524, an increase of 312 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 3,858,704, an increase of about 9,400 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on June 18 includes:
- 1178 – Five Canterbury monks see what is possibly the Giordano Bruno crater being formed. It is believed that the current oscillations of the Moon‘s distance from the Earth (on the order of meters) are a result of this collision.
Geologist Jack B. Hartung believes that the monks’ account explains the crater’s formation, probably by impact with a comet or an asteroid. From Wikipedia:
Five monks from Canterbury reported to the abbey’s chronicler, Gervase, that shortly after sunset on 18 June 1178, (25 June on the proleptic Gregorian calendar) they saw “the upper horn [of the moon] split in two”. Furthermore, Gervase writes:
From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were in anxiety, and to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the Moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then, after these transformations, the Moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.
Here’s an “LRO mosaic” photo of the crater:
- 1429 – French forces under the leadership of Joan of Arc defeat the main English army under Sir John Fastolf at the Battle of Patay. This turns the tide of the Hundred Years’ War.
- 1812 – The United States declaration of war upon the United Kingdom is signed by President James Madison, beginning the War of 1812.
- 1858 – Charles Darwin receives a paper from Alfred Russel Wallace that includes nearly identical conclusions about evolution as Darwin’s own, prompting Darwin to publish his theory.
Although Darwin kept nearly all his correspondence, this most famous letter is missing. It’s thought that Darwin handed it to his colleagues for their joint publication in the Journal of the Linnean Society in 1858, and it was lost or destroyed at the printer’s.
Here’s Anthony, who dressed in black for 50 years; the color was because of her Quaker religion and also as a symbol of her suffragism:
- 1928 – Aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly in an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean (she is a passenger; Wilmer Stultz is the pilot and Lou Gordon the mechanic).
- 1940 – The “Finest Hour” speech is delivered by Winston Churchill.
Here are 5.5 minutes of that speech. The famous phrase occurs at 4:47. What a speechwriter he was!
- 1945 – William Joyce (“Lord Haw-Haw“) is charged with treason for his pro-German propaganda broadcasting during World War II.
Here’s Joyce (he had been shot in the leg while being arrested). He was the last person to be executed for treason in the UK, and died an unrepentant Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite:
- 1948 – Columbia Records introduces the long-playing record album in a public demonstration at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
- 1983 – Space Shuttle program: STS-7, Astronaut Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space.
Here’s Ride on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. She died at only 61.
Notables born on this day include:
We still don’t know if Mallory and Irvine made it to the summit of Everest. His body was found in 1999, but with few clues about whether he’d made the top. Here’s a photo of the 1924 expedition on which Mallory and Irvine died; Mallory is highlighted:
- 1918 – Franco Modigliani, Italian-American economist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2003)
- 1942 – Roger Ebert, American journalist, critic, and screenwriter (d. 2013)
- 1942 – Paul McCartney, English singer-songwriter and guitarist
Here’s McCartney doing one of my favorite of his songs (2004 at Glastonbury):
- 1952 – Isabella Rossellini, Italian actress, director, producer, and screenwriter
Those who paid their fee to Charon on June 18 include:
- 1464 – Rogier van der Weyden, Flemish painter (b. 1400)
- 1902 – Samuel Butler, English novelist, satirist, and critic (b. 1835)
- 1936 – Maxim Gorky, Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright (b. 1868)
Here’s Gorky in 1906, when he was about 38:
- 1982 – Djuna Barnes, American novelist, journalist, and playwright (b. 1892)
- 1989 – I. F. Stone, American journalist and author (b. 1907)
- 2020 – Vera Lynn, English singer who was the “Forces’ Sweetheart” in World War II (b. 1917)
Lynn, known as “The Forces’ Sweetheart” for boosting morale of UK troops in World War II, was perhaps most famous for the song below:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili once pretends to be a “green cat”. But I suspect her”care” involves removal of rodents:
A: What are you doing?Hili: Be quiet, I’m caring for the environment.
Ja: Co robisz?Hili: Cicho, dbam o środowisko.
A photo of Szaron:
Reader Rupinder found a good cat Twitter site, “place where cat shouldn’t be“. There are a gazillion moggies in unseemly places, like this pair:
— place where cat shouldn’t be (@icatshouldnt) June 16, 2021
The famous “dress illusion” tweeted by Steve Stewart-Williams. Is this for real? You be the judge.
"Perceptual illusions show us in a clear and unambiguous way that we don't directly perceive the world around us. Perceptual experience is a simulation—a mental model—that doesn't always correspond to the reality it aims to depict." https://t.co/4E8xM71g5p pic.twitter.com/FgjgjyFU5p
— Steve Stewart-Williams (@SteveStuWill) June 4, 2021
Tweets from Matthew. This one, made by the good Dr. Cobb himself, came with a note, “I made a meme to open with (this is a very fashionable meme right now, and shows what happens when you tell your family you have published an article). Indeed, I had exactly this conversation with my mom when I published my first paper!
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) June 16, 2021
There was an old picture in Life magazine similar to this. The dairyman has good aim (and a good heart)!
Tap for milkhttps://t.co/kY6seGMSh0
— KaraCHoover (@KaraCHoover) June 17, 2021
Watch the whole video; it’s heartwarming.
Stray mama cat was so feral that her rescuer had to wear long gloves around her — weeks later she's the sweetest indoor cat who sleeps curled around her son ♥️ pic.twitter.com/icxSWSRjLq
— The Dodo (@dodo) June 17, 2021
Another tweet by Matthew himself. His note: “My tweet of wisdom today. It was after I spent some time explaining something to Ollie, to no avail.” Matthew doesn’t realize that catsplaining doesn’t work.
It is fruitless arguing with a cat.
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) June 16, 2021
Click on the “visit the cave” link for a fabulous virtual tour of Lascaux. It’s closed for good, so this is the only way you can really see it. The paintings are estimated at about 17,000 years old.
If you need a brief escape today, spend a few minutes in this stunning fly through of Lascaux – perhaps one of the most famous Palaeolithic cave art sites in the world! #IceAgeArt https://t.co/sLn47EUooW
— Izzy Wisher (@izzy_wisher1) June 16, 2021
This goalie should be fired, if not shot:
Oh no. 😫
One of the worst concessions in goalkeeping history, and #CanMNT take a 1-0 lead over Haiti
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) June 16, 2021