Caffeinated Writer: Shaw’s Coffee

You know you’re in The Hill the moment you get off the major roads and enter the Italian-heritage neighborhood of St. Louis. Suddenly all the restaurants and other businesses have Italian names, the crosswalks and fire hydrants are painted red-white-green in the colors of the Italian flag, and you are suddenly aware that everywhere around you is good food.

In the middle of this is Shaw’s Coffee, a charming little coffeehouse in what used to be the Riggio Bank, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s even a private room with comfy chairs for four in the former safe deposit box. The ceiling is either the original restored tin ceiling with starred imprints or a very nice facsimile, and a few items on the menu reflect the Italian ambience of the neighborhood.

The rest is very much coffeehouse, with greenery (including full trees) more reflective of the tropical regions from which the coffee comes. I’ve rarely seen such a wide variety of coffee origins: you can get a whole bean bag from all across the Americas, the Pacific Rim and Africa, and the menu lists them by country of origin.

The drinks themselves are fairly standard, with a caffe mocha made with Ghiradelli catching my attention because I’m a sucker for an afternoon mocha. They have the usual Americanos, macchiatos and so on, with matcha and chai featured on the tea menu. But the beans make it special: they roast their own in the dark European style, and if you’re adventurous enough to roast your own, you can get green beans from them.

The regular menu is supplemented with Italian and French sodas, smoothies, and frozen coffee drinks. Actual food options are pretty slight: there’s quiche and kolaches (from St. Louis Kolache) on the menu and a few pastries, but it’s definitely not a lunch place. There are pastries provided by Sugaree, including scones and muffins, bagels from Companion and the cannoli are made fresh in house.

I chose a cannoli, in deference to the neighborhood, and an iced mocha that really hit the spot on a warm summer afternoon. The cannoli was lightly chilled but not frozen, which has been the case for many coffeehouse cannoli in the past. The ricotta was perfectly balanced in sweetness, though without the cherries and mini chocolate chips I prefer for my cannoli. One side of the shell was coated in chocolate, and of course it fell apart when I ate it because cannoli.

So as a coffeehouse where you might meet to chat, it gets great marks. But what about for writers?

Seating was available despite an inexplicable amount of dining room space taken up with a huge display of coffee bags and what looks like an older counter – perhaps for the whole bean sales? It’s hard to say. There’s also a nifty display of a giant coffee roaster, which looks too old-fashioned to be of use, but what do I know?

At first I was dismayed at the seating, as the tables clustered near the barista counter were those dreadful cafe-height glass tables. Now honestly: I know some people are more capable of perching on those stools than others, but does anyone actually prefer them? I can’t sit in them with my joint issues, but even when I was young and spry, I always disliked them. My nightmare scenario is showing up for a reading or signing and facing one of those damned stools on which I must perch like a damned bird.

Fortunately, that was only a handful of the tables. The other half of the coffeehouse was very pleasant, with a plethora of small tables and comfortable chairs. There are two booths in the front windows with padded benches, for those who want to look out on the neighborhood while they sip their coffee.

The wifi is free and mostly reliable, and the music was low and unobtrusive, but also familiar: Billy Joel, Meat Loaf, songs of my youth. You will definitely get to hear every detail of the next table’s conversation, but it’s low-key enough that it’s not overly distracting (and that’s why God invented earbuds).

In all, I enjoyed Shaw’s Coffee and got actual work done. It might lose a few points if those cafe-height tables were the only seating available, but gains them back for the other side of the room and the nifty vault room. It does lose a few more for closing at 4 p.m. in my ongoing search for non-Starbucks coffee available after sundown. But it gains a lot of points for ambience and energy, for a startling variety of coffee choices, and being the only coffeehouse i’ve visited yet to have cannoli. Bene!

June 2024 Linkspam

With the spring conferences done and the summer tour looming, it’s been kind of quiet here in the Tower. I’ve enjoyed this uncharacteristic spell of Not Traveling, being able to settle in and bake things and write things and… cough my lungs out?

Stupid bronchitis. This is why we can’t have nice things. 

Fortunately that’s over with, though my singing voice is still a bit more Froggy the Gremlin than I care for. Summer has begun here in sunny Illinois, with the song of cicadas and the mugginess of a swamp. It could just be that I have swamps on the brain, as the anniversary release of Dreadmire will take place on June 18. Check the Fiction section below for more details, but if you planned to pre-order a signed copy, do so this week! I really love the cover and my book designer, Kody Boye, did such a fantastic job on this special edition. I hope you like it as much as I do! You’ll never look at mosquitoes the same way again…

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that my Relay for Life team has exceeded our goal of raising $3,000 for the American Cancer Society. Our local Relay celebration will take place this coming weekend, and we are looking forward to celebrating another year of birthdays for our cancer survivors. Click here if you would like to donate to my campaign. Together we can beat the Beast.

 Publicity/Appearances

Unfortunately I had to cancel my appearance on May 9 to discuss the evils of A.I. in news and publishing, thanks to the bronchitis. Rest assured that when I’m not sick, I will happily rant away about how A.I. is threatening democracy and the ability of writers to make a living. 

Coming up this month is a return to the Collinsville Public Library, which is always one of my favorite locations. When I was a young reporter working for the Belleville News-Democrat, the Collinsville Library was just up the street a few blocks from my newsroom. There were many lunch breaks I spent in its quiet, cool lower level writing penny dreadfuls, and indeed some of my early novels were begun in that library. Thus it’s always a pleasant nostalgia to participate in their author and artist fairs. I’ll also be speaking to the National Federation of Professional Women this month, discussing opportunities and pitfalls in publishing. 

I am hopeful to be able to set up an event or two in late June, as I will be traveling to Georgia and back and what is travel for if not to sell books? The details are still being worked out, so keep an eye on my Facebook and website. Meanwhile, I’m chagrined to find that the Edwardsville Book Festival, Archon, and AuthorCon St. Louis are all happening the same bloody weekend in October! I have not yet managed to perfect cloning myself, so we’ll see how that sorts itself out. 

2024 calendar:
• Collinsville Author and Artist Fair, Collinsville, Ill. June 15 
• National Federation of Professional Women, St. Louis, Mo. June 20-22
• CAFE at Spine Books, St. Louis, Mo. July 7 
• TechWrite STL, St. Louis, Mo. July 10 
• St. Louis Writers Guild, St. Louis, Mo. July 13
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 19-21 
• Plethora of Pens, Glen Carbon Public Library, Aug. 5 
• Dragoncon, Atlanta, Ga. Sept. 5-9  
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Oct. 4-6  

Journalism
I was happy to add new client Hearst Corp. to my roster this month with my first byline in the Edwardsville Intelligencer, which is kind of funny since I’ve been living in and covering Edwardsville for nearly a quarter century. This means I officially do some level of work for all three major news chains in our area: Hearst, Lee, and McClatchy. One more and I get bingo! 

• U.S. Steel merger postponed to December as USW accuses Nippon of empty promises (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Illinois takes action on worker safety (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Will new bill help towns rehire laid-off paramedics? (Highland News-Leader)
• Highland reopens Silver Lake after “oil” scare (Highland News-Leader)
• Highland closes Silver Lake for apparent oil spill (Highland News-Leader)
• Illinois passes bill banning ‘captive audience’ meetings (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland residents worried about lead in water should test (Highland News-Leader)
• Monroe County Democrats focus on redefining patriotism (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Foodie Bistro combines soul food traditions with high-end flair (Feast Magazine)
• Madison County remembers workers killed on the job (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Edwardsville kids earn bikes by reading (Edwardsville Intelligencer)
• City Hall reopens after a year of flood repairs (Highland News-Leader)
• New fallen officers memorial proposed in Madison County (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Labor council seeks nominations for Labor Awards (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Celebration of Mother Jones set for May Day (St. Louis Labor Tribune)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

Blogs
• The PRESS Act (St. Louis SPJ)
• We will miss the RFT (St. Louis SPJ)
• In which I run my mouth on someone else’s blog (Elizabeth Donald and Patreon)
• Adult writers, child readers? (Bad Girls Good Guys)

Fiction
A reminder that preorders are about to close for the re-release of Dreadmire in its 15th anniversary edition! Read here to find out more. And if you’re interested in a free sample from my dark romp through the swamp, click here!

I also have received a limited supply of the 2024 St. Louis Writers Guild Member Anthology and the December edition of parABnormal Magazine, both of which have pieces by me, so snag them while you can!
 
Patreon/Medium
• Nevermore (Medium)
• Words that lead us into mystery (Medium)
• Review: The First Omen (Patreon)
• Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adichie (Patreon)
• Poem: Once I was a girl (Patreon)
• Panic, caffeine and spite (Patreon)

Note: Patreon entries are indexed going back to its launch in 2018. I wanted new Patrons to be able to easily find the work that they’ve missed, and hopefully seeing how much work is on the Patreon might encourage some good folks to subscribe. (Hint, hint.) Seriously, subscriptions start at $1 a month, and I truly believe some of the best work I’ve ever done is on the Patreon. Check out the index here.

Photography
As has been the last few months, most of my shoots have been on assignment for my freelance clients. But I do occasionally get to go see pretty things…

• Sculpture roll: Laumeier Sculpture Park (Patreon)

Almost all of the images in the galleries are available for purchase, so if you see something you like that isn’t in the store, email kyates@donaldmedia.com and we’ll get you a quote. A few might not be available for purchase due to copyright issues.
Photograph of the Month

This is Loretta Williams, a reenactor portraying labor leader Mother Jones at the annual Mother Jones Festival in Mt. Olive, Ill. The original Mother Jones insisted on celebrating her birthday on May Day (the original Labor Day) rather than August when she was actually born, and requested to be buried in Mt. Olive next to the miners who were killed in the Virden Massacre after the mine owners retaliated against their strike. Mother Jones was a fascinating person, and I was delighted to write a historical feature about her that will appear in the coming weeks.

Show Your Work: The Pinocchio Test

While Politifact rates acts of fiction by public officials on a scale of True to Pants on Fire, WashPo uses the Pinocchios: how many wooden noses does it rank?

U.S. Sen. Katie Britt’s rebuttal to the State of the Union ranked four Pinocchios for bizarrely conflating a sex trafficking horror story with the policies of President Biden. WashPo dug in and found that the woman whose story she told – and who was brave enough to testify about the horrors she endured before Congress – was trafficked in Mexico, not over the border; had nothing to do with immigration but of a woman being tricked into sex slavery by a man she loved; and it took place in 2004-2008, which was during President George W. Bush’s tenure. It also had nothing to do with cartels, despite Britt’s later protestations that basically amounted to, “Facts? What facts?” Politifact also rated the claim false, with a great deal of detail.

Also, the lady involved is a tad peeved about it.

Biden’s speech took a few hits from the fact-checkers. One I find a tad nitpicky: WashPo points out that Biden was comparing the massive job creation in his first three years to the full four years of his predecessors; “he has no idea what will happen in his fourth year!” Okay, but I think we all get that he’s not psychic. However, his inflation numbers are a tad… inflated? (sorry.) And there are a few other Pinocchios in the numbers on the wealthy and taxes because corporate/millionaire taxes are complex. The poor poor dears. Here’s the roundup from WashPo.

Elsewhere this week, ProPublica dove into railroad safety and how the Federal Railroad Administration…. er, doesn’t. More than 130 deaths of workers never even reported, with no consequences.

Reuters found the darker side of OnlyFans: more than 120 cases of people being featured in explicit videos without consent, including a woman who was raped and the video sold on the site. Cases of stalkers and revenge porn are on the rise on the site. What makes this different than YouTube or other places where human monsters post this kind of material? OnlyFans’ paywall makes it nearly impossible for law enforcement to do anything.

Government: A.I. could pose an extinction-level threat to people who aren’t writers. Writers are already there.

The Detroit Free Press found that the people of Flint, Mich. may have clean water now, but still haven’t received a dime of the $600m+ they were awarded in the lawsuits.

Editor and Publisher dug into the upcoming merger between Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting/Reveal.

Poynter examines how political campaigns are pivoting away from the press to take their messages directly through social media, and how that dovetails with the rising anti-media hate on the right.

The two McClatchy papers in the Seattle area are moving to printing only three days a week. I wish people would stop seeing these moves as death knells. In an era where more than 80 percent of readers get their news from a device, continuing print editions is clinging to nostalgia. The best explanation I ever heard for it came from a newspaper editor and colleague, who was asked the question by my students a few semesters ago. He told them that we all know the print edition is going the way of movable type, not that any of them knew what that is. But there is a generation that still prefers paper newspapers, and it would unethical to leave them without news at all. But not to put too fine a point on it, that generation won’t be around forever. One interesting legal point: can you be the paper of record if your publication is online only? Some lawyers and scholars say no, but what will they do for legal ads when everyone is online?

Sadly, the Online News Association is making major programming cuts, including its Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab. They point out that there are fewer journalists in the U.S. and fewer still with time and money for professional organizations. As one who has been deeply involved with the venerable Society of Professional Journalists throughout her career, I know this one well. Of ONA’s 51 chapters, 35 are inactive and only four have held an in-person event in the last year.

Meta is decommissioning CrowdTangle and replacing it with a similar tool that will only be available to academic and nonprofit researchers. Journalists not allowed. CrowdTangle has been widely used to follow viral spread of content, including misinformation and conspiracy theories, as well as figuring out what people are clicking so we can give them more of it.

Speaking of misinformation…. to the surprise of *checks notes* absolutely no one, OpenAI is completely ramping up election-year fakery with AI-generated robocalls, deepfake videos and images that are already making inroads overseas and in the U.S.

And now, This Week in Total Bullshit:

• U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene did NOT retweet and support allegations that satellites are intercepting prayer to Jesus. That was a spoof account.

• Michael Moore did not endorse Trump. (Seriously?)

• No, non-citizens still can’t vote, and you can’t bring in busfuls of undocumented immigrants to make them vote for you, which former President Trump has declared often over the past four years. How anyone can believe this staggers me. It’s worth noting that in other countries, non-citizens can vote if they own property, because taxation without representation is kind of a bad thing. We fought a teeny little revolution over it. But not here. Also, there are no ballot drop boxes along the U.S. border.

• The Texas wildfires were not started by a mysterious green laser. Insert your own alien attack meme here.

• No, the CDC did NOT declare that “COVID is just the flu” and I am so, so tired. Also, when your ranting uncle declares at Easter that the CDC found 99 percent of COVID deaths were due to other causes, that’s also total bullshit.

March 2024 Linkspam: Return to the swamp

In the late 2000s, I wrote a media tie-in novel titled Dreadmire. It was a dark fantasy adventure tied to a d20 RPG published by Spellbinder Games, sourcebook by Randy Richards. The medievalesque high fantasy Randy created was inspired by the ecology and culture of the Louisiana bayous, and I found it a fascinating setting. I was hired to write a novel set in the world, a mixture of Randy’s creatures and my own machinations. It was a delightful romp in the swamp, and I was very pleased with its release. When it went out of print, Inkstained Succubus Productions picked it up for a re-release and it had a good run until Inkstained sadly went out of business.

From time to time I’d get questions about Dreadmire, and I always had to tell them their only hope was the used bookstores. However, as Dreadmire approaches its 15th anniversary, Randy and I have figured out the contracts and Dreadmire will be released once again on an unsuspecting public. 

More about this in the fiction section below, and there’s plenty more going on this month! I did some hard-news work on election coverage (and there will probably be more coming), got my first public-radio byline, did a deeper-dive in the growing epidemic of suicide among construction workers, and more! Read on…
 

Publicity/Appearances

This month was both AWP and Conflation, which thankfully had a week between them so I had a chance of catching my breath. AWP was an absolute delight, which I narrated daily in the Patreon, so check the links below for specifics. I didn’t do much in the way of photography in Kansas City, as I’ve hit that city several times to date, but mmm barbecue.

Conflation closed out the month, which is always like a big family reunion for me. I love the relaxacons, which allow me to sell books out of my room and close the door for a nap when I need it. I taught a writing workshop based on using images, which comes from some of my MFA work and the workshop I taught last year, and I’m continuing to refine it for con requests. 

Coming up this month is Midsouthcon! It was the first convention I attended as a pro, if I remember correctly, and the one I haunted as an undergrad lo these many eons ago in Memphis. We are deep in our mischief-plotting for our return to the weird Escher hotel where MSC will be hosted; the last time we were in the Hotel of Many Ramps was 2009, which doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. If you’re going to be in the area, please come by! 

2024 calendar:
• Midsouthcon, Memphis, Tenn. March 22-24 (guest author)
• Sigma Tau Delta conference, St. Louis, Mo. April 3-6 (attending)
• SPJ regional conference, St. Louis, Mo. April 13 (speaker/coordinator)
• National Federation of Professional Women, St. Louis,Mo. June 2022 (speaker)
• TechWrite STL, St. Louis, Mo. July 10 (speaker)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 19-21 (guest author)
• Dragoncon, Atlanta, Ga. Sept. 5-9  (guest author)
• Edwardsville Book Festival, Edwardsville, Ill. Oct. 12 (tent.)
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Oct. 4-6  (guest author)


Journalism

• Madison County Board chair calls censure for campaign finance ethics violation ‘a lynching’ (St. Louis Public RadioYahoo NewsBelleville News-Democrat)
• $18 million awarded to Illinois Works pre-apprenticeship programs (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Illinois workers owed more than $5 million in back wages (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Community rallies around Highland athlete fighting for life after car crash (Belleville News-DemocratAOLYahoo News)
• Suicide is growing national crisis; construction workers are at high risk (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Unions added 139,000 members in 2023, but density remains stubbornly low (PortsidePopular ResistanceSt. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Nippon pledges not to move production jobs overseas (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Foxes Boxes union bakery celebrates one-year anniversary (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland plans to extend two TIF districts, create a third (Highland News-LeaderYahoo News)
• Highland residents have mixed views of new ‘containerized’ trash service (Highland News-LeaderYahoo NewsAOL)
• United Steelworkers union files grievance over U.S. Steel’s plan to sell to Japan’s Nippon Steel (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Olin Winchester cited, fined over death of union worker (St. Louis Labor Tribune)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

Blogs

With the new year, I started two new blog features. Each week (more or less) I have posted on DonaldMedia.com a roundup of Show Your Work: updates in the journalism world and a rundown on what was total garbage on the internet this week. Like you, I am tired of seeing rampant misinformation mindlessly reposted on social media without the simple Google search that would show it’s completely false. I also have begun posting BookNotes on ElizabethDonald.com that not only updates on the latest kerfuffle in the publishing and speculative fiction universes, but follows the ongoing issue of book banning and censorship in the U.S.

This proved to be more work than I could reasonably keep up with given the rate of freelance work I’m getting and also had to be canceled on weeks when I travel. I am considering shifting them to Substack on a biweekly schedule, but that requires more research. As always, whatever I write is offered to Patreon subscribers for free, because they’re already paying for my work. (Which is why you should totally subscribe.) I intend to keep this up, as I believe both of these topics need attention, but the format might shift as we go forward.

• BookNotes: Don’t say race (Elizabeth Donald)
• BookNotes: Nevermore (Patreon)
• Show Your Work: Zappa to me (Patreon and Donald Media)
• Show Your Work: ProPublica kicks all the ass (Donald Media)
• Show Your Work: Sesame Street News (Donald Media)


Fiction

Dreadmire is leading the news this month! If you want a taste of my dark swamp (ew), you can read the prologue here for free. The image posted above is the preliminary cover; it may see some tweaking between now and the release, which I hope will be soon. Book publishing moves faster when it’s already been edited extensively by the staff of two (2) publishers, but it still takes some time. 

Also out this month: the St. Louis Writers Guild 2024 anthology includes a short piece by me titled “Not.” I’m honored to be included in this anthology for the first time, and with a piece of literary fiction, which is a departure from my usual ghosties and beasties. You can preorder a dead-tree version here, or get it for Kindle here

Patreon/Medium

• Pearl-clutching at the restroom door (MediumPatreon)
• Review: Life Signs by James Lovegrove (Patreon)
• Your obituary, brought to you by robots (Patreon)
• AWP: Onward (Patreon)
• AWP: Success is making words (Patreon)
• AWP: The poetical political (Patreon)
• AWP: The long walk (Patreon)
• Review: The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (Patreon)

Note: All Patreon entries are indexed going back to its launch in 2018. I wanted new Patrons to be able to easily find the work that they’ve missed, and hopefully seeing how much work is on the Patreon might encourage some good folks to subscribe. (Hint, hint.) Seriously, subscriptions start at $1 a month, and I truly believe some of the best work I’ve ever done is on the Patreon. Check out the index here.


Photography

My shoots this month were pretty much work-related: union protests, lots of food shoots, a few pieces of future blackmail evidence from Conflation, some spot news photography, and KITTIES. Yes, I got to shoot a cat cafe for Feast Magazine, and it should be published sometime soon. I got to hang around adorable kittycats and eat espresso cookies for my job. Sometimes this gig rocks. 

Almost all of the images in the galleries are available for purchase, so if you see something you like that isn’t in the store, email kyates@donaldmedia.com and we’ll get you a quote. A few might not be available for purchase due to copyright issues.

Show Your Work: ProPublica kicks all the ass

Illinois is proposing some incentives requiring Big Tech to pay newsrooms for the content they produce, offering tax breaks and scholarships in the hopes of repopulating local newsrooms, and requiring four months’ notice before a local news organization can be sold to an out of state company.

This comes after the reveal that Illinois has lost 85 percent of its journalists in the last ten years. California and New York also are seeking to require Big Tech like Google and Facebook to support the actual journalists who do the actual reporting on which they make massive advertising profits. (This is why I always get salty when someone says, “I get my news from social media.” No, you don’t. The only social medium that has a dedicated staff of journalists is LinkedIn. The others are reposting work done by us underpaid hacks, and they’re making a fortune while we starve.) Check out the details here.

Meanwhile ProPublica is kicking ass all over the internet this week. Check it out:

ProPublica partnered with the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and the Marshall Project to uncover that a county in Mississippi has appointed lawyers for only 20 percent of felony defendants who came before the court. Approximately 80 percent of felony defendants need a court-appointed attorney because they can’t afford a private attorney, but despite the Sixth Amendment, Mississippi basically ignores the law and forces defendants to represent themselves. Against the law? Overruled by the state Supreme Court? Yes, but no one enforces it. Judges simply ignore it.

And in another report, ProPublica found a GAO report that indicates severe complications for pregnant veterans have doubled in the last 10 years, with even higher rates for Black women.

The Minnesota attorney general found substandard living conditions for dairy workers, which is a nice way of saying millions of dollars in unpaid wages, squalid conditions without heat or toilets infested with mold and cockroaches, and horrific abuses of undocumented workers because what are they going to do, call the police? If you can stomach it, here’s the full story, which ProPublica has been examining for a year – including the death of an 8-year-old boy from Nicaragua.

Elsewhere….

• Faced with the elimination of their entire budget for the student news magazine, the journalism students of Webster University are raising the money themselves as they work for free.

The trial of Robert Telles continues with hardly anyone besides the news media paying attention. This is a public official accused of stabbing Las Vegas reporter Jeff German to death in 2022. German was investigating allegations of misconduct on Telles’ part when he was found stabbed in his front yard. Seems German got death threats from other people too, which is unfortunately pretty common in our profession, but the defense is latching onto it as exculpatory.

This Week in Total Bullshit:

• No, Google is not sunsetting Gmail. The internet would collapse.

• Believe it or not, the GoFundMe raising money to help former President Donald Trump pay his enormous legal bills is not a violation of the terms of service. GoFundMe does not allow fundraising for criminal trials, but Trump’s fundraiser is specifically for his civil cases. Thus GoFundMe has confirmed it is not a violation of the TOS, according to the corporate spokesman who probably wishes he was working for Apple this week.

• President Biden did not sign an executive order giving $5,000 gift cards to undocumented immigrants. The order listed in the viral meme is 9066, which was actually the order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt interning the Japanese Americans, so bully for the idiots in doubling down on racism. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most federal programs, except for emergency medical care which any fucking human should agree is basic.

• The Kids Online Safety Act will not require you to upload your government ID to use the internet. (Sheesh.)

• The image of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and the Minnesota attorney general was photoshopped to make the senior citizens in the background hold “Defund the Police” signs.

• Your Stanley cup is not trying to kill you with lead poisoning.

• There is no evidence that the shooter who attacked Joel Osteen’s church was transgender, nor that there is some “trans terror” campaign beginning. Fox News has altered their headline since originally “reporting” thus.

• If you are in the habit of listening to Elon Musk for health information – and whyyyyy – you should know that there is no scientific consensus that hormonal birth control makes you fat and depressed and triples your risk of suicide. There is also no scientific consensus that the same effect can be reached by listening to Elon Musk.

• Nobody tried to kill Dr. Oz for developing a cure for diabetes, which by the way doesn’t exist. (The cure, that is; diabetes sadly still exists.)

• It’s not exactly bullshit, because the Wendy’s CEO did float the idea of “surge pricing” in a conference call with investors. But since the internet exploded with “Aw hell naw” they’ve changed their minds and will not be going forward. Naturally this hasn’t stopped anyone from yelling boycott.

What ISN’T total bullshit? The Peters class action about Apple family sharing is very real, and you should click the link to find out if you’re eligible for what I’m sure will be a very tiny payment.

Finally: Enjoy this gallery of Pulitzer Prize photography and the African American experience.

Show Your Work: Sesame Street News

• Two freelance journalists have won the American Mosaic Journalism Prize, which honors work about underrepresented groups. Dara Mathis wrote “A Blueprint for Black Liberation” for the Atlantic about growing up in a radical Black commune, and Tamir Kalifa won for his photographs of the aftermath of the 2022 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Kalifa is currently stationed in Israel covering the Israel-Hamas war. It’s not immediately clear how often freelancers have won the award, which is the largest dollar prize – $100,000 – given to journalists in the U.S.

• Cook County Ill. has dropped charges against the students who placed a parody wrap around the student newspaper at Northwestern University. The newspaper had condemned the act as vandalism, but its leaders intervened to stop prosecution. Of course, “parody” is kind of a stretch, since it was a serious protest regarding Gaza. However, at least 80 Daily Northwestern alums wrote a letter arguing that charges should be dropped on the altar of free speech.

• Speaking of which… this one takes some real gall. The Los Angeles Police Department released photos of officers after they were sued over a public records request. The officers then sued the department over it alleging violation of their privacy, and the LAPD retaliated with legal action against a journalist and a watchdog group for publishing the photos. The photos that the LAPD itself released. A public statement condemning this action has been co-signed by the Society of Professional Journalists (national and the L.A. chapter); the Asian Americans Journalists Association; Latino Journalists of California; Los Angeles Press Club; Media Guild of the West; National Association of Hispanic Journalists; Radio Television Digital News Association and the Freelancer Journalist Union.

• A reporter has finally sued over last year’s police raid on a small newspaper office. If you’ll recall, police raided the office and the owner’s home because a local restaurant owner was mad at the paper. Literally. That’s all they had. “Identity theft” was the official statement, from publishing public records.

• On a lighter note, Grover of Sesame Street has apparently joined the profession. His announcement on the Artist-Formerly-Known-as-Twitter that he is now a journalist was greeted by fellow journalists with predictable cynicism.

“I regret to report a hedge fund has since purchased Grover’s paper and laid him off,” wrote S.P. Sullivan, a reporter with NJ.com. “Unfortunately, Grover was fired for not hitting his three story a day quota,” said Scott Nover, a contributing writer for Slate.

Ouch. But Grover’s not the first Muppet to join the Fourth Estate. Old people like me will remember Kermit’s many years in a trenchcoat reporting for Sesame Street News. And who could forget Cookie Monster’s tough negotiations?

And now, this week in total bullshit:

• The NOAA is not “cooking the books” on climate change. Once again, TB originates with a Fox News host who alleged that NOAA was basing its temperature collection on thermometers left on urban concrete and asphalt. Politifact dealt with this.

Former President Trump alleged that Wisconsin’s 20-week limit on abortion access is “way outside international bounds.” However, the majority of European countries range from 10 weeks (Portugal) to 24 weeks (U.K.). Wisconsin is currently considering narrowing it to 14 weeks.

• Nope, Texas can’t secede from the U.S. There was kind of a little war about that, you might recall, if you live in a state that still lets you learn about it.

• No, radiation poisoning is not the cause of COVID-19. Also, Mr. DeSantis, the boosters do not make it more likely you’ll get COVID. Is it unconstitutional to require all voters to take a remedial science class?

And what was not (completely) bullshit? The U.S. homicide rate has declined significantly, with preliminary data showing about a 10-12 percent drop in homicide. However, PolitiFact research indicates some politicians are a little too quick to credit the crime reduction bill with the drop and there may be multiple factors behind it.

February 2024 linkspam: The First Duty

I have traditionally taken January off from public appearances and traveling, in an increasingly vain attempt to maintain my sanity. That means January is usually pretty quiet. In this case, it was quiet, gray, and very very cold. January is not my favorite month.

However, I have AWP to look forward to! The annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs is coming up early in February, and I couldn’t be more excited. AWP is more literary-focused than the other conventions I go to, with a heavy emphasis on literary fiction and creative nonfiction and oh so much poetry. I attended my first in-person AWP last year in Seattle, and immersed myself in words for five days. It was wonderfully creative and the energy was so invigorating, I can almost forget that I came home with pneumonia. Yay! 

This time it’s in Kansas City, which is a short drive from my home base in St. Louis. It’s good that it’s so close in the year that I am most impoverished, so I am saved any tough choices. I will be blogging daily from AWP on my Patreon, so if you were ever thinking about subscribing, now is a great time! It’s a dollar a month, which is $12 for a whole year – such a deal! Short stories, poetry, travelogues, writing articles, essays, photography. Click here to find out more. 

I’ve also launched two new blog features, fiction is progressing and there’s a bunch more to share, so read on, MacDuff.

Publicity/Appearances

I’m delighted to announce that I have been accepted as an attending professional once again at Dragoncon. DC is notoriously selective, and I’ve been honored each time they have accepted me. So I’ll be spending Labor Day weekend in Hotlanta once again, to meet and greet my 70,000 closest friends!

Before that, however, the schedule is shaping up for the year. First we have Conflation, which takes place in St. Louis later this month. This year’s theme is Apocalypse, which I think means I get to wear pants. We’ll be bringing the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar, of course, and I’ll be running a writing workshop using apocalyptic images to spur writing sprints. It should be a nifty exercise, and I’m looking forward to it.

The journalism side has been pretty busy as well. Unfortunately we had to postpone the Student Boot Camp where I was to talk journalism ethics with undergrads, but it’s being rescheduled for September. In the meantime, we are deep into planning the Society of Professional Journalists’ Regional Conference right here in St. Louis, and I’ll be neck-deep in that project for the next couple of months. 

Added to the schedule: the National Federation of Professional Women has asked me to speak at their conference on June 20-22. The topic hasn’t been decided yet, but it’ll be either freelance writing or fiction. Or both. Whichever! I can run my mouth forever. 

Unfortunately, I had to opt out of ConCarolinas this year. It’s always a blast, and I know that weekend I will have some serious FOMO for missing it. But alas, it’s a plane flight and hotel on my own, and something had to give with the budget this year. My best wishes to the Carolinas Crew and all my good friends at Falstaff Books, which always has a big presence at that show. 

2024 calendar:
• Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Kansas City, Mo. Feb. 7-10 (attending)
• Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 23-25
• Midsouthcon, Memphis, Tenn. March 22-24 
• Sigma Tau Delta conference, St. Louis, Mo. April 3-6 (attending)
• SPJ regional conference, St. Louis, Mo. (date TBA)
• National Federation of Professional Women, St. Louis,Mo. June 2022 (speaker)
• TechWrite STL, St. Louis, Mo. July 10 (speaker)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 19-21
• Dragoncon, Atlanta, Ga. Sept. 5-9 
• Edwardsville Book Festival, Edwardsville, Ill. Oct. 12 (tent.)
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Oct. 4-6 


Journalism

• Highland extends two TIF districts and create a third (Highland News-Leader and Yahoo News)
• State settles with Illinois contractor over unlawfully deducted wages (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland residents have mixed opinions of new trash service (Highland News-Leader and AOL News)
• United Steelworkers file grievances over U.S. Steel’s plan to sell to Nippon (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Durbin, Duckworth call for non-unionized automakers to stop interfering in unionization efforts (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Projected increase in property values should lower tax rate in Highland (Highland News-Leader and AOL News)
• A year of workers’ rights in Illinois (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• As work continues at water-damaged city hall, Highland officials try to pin down costs (Highland News-Leader and AOL News)
• Federal legislators seek answers in sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• We’re Outside levels up al fresco dining in Alton (Feast Magazine)
• Steelworkers concerned about sale of U.S. Steel to overseas owner (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Identity of woman who died in Highland fire is released (Belleville News-Democrat)
• Steelworkers reach settlement with U.S. Steel over Granite City layoffs (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Two labor giants pass away in one week (with Ed Finkelstein) (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Congresswoman moves to expand relief to UFCW grocery workers (St. Louis Labor Tribune)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

Blogs

With the new year, I’ve started two new blog features. I used to do an annual post titled Show Your Work, where I would highlight instances where journalists uncovered badness and brought about real change. The problem was that I was forever forgetting to update my file, and so the post was generally limited to the major award winners.

But there’s a lot of work that never wins an award or any special attention, but it blows the lid off something awful. And once the light is on, they can’t pretend it’s not happening. As P.J. O’Rourke used to say, journalists turn on the light and watch the roaches scurry.

Thus each week I have posted on DonaldMedia.com a roundup of Show Your Work, along with updates in the journalism world and a rundown on what was total garbage on the internet this week. Like you, I am tired of seeing rampant misinformation mindlessly reposted on Facebook without the simple Google search that would show it’s completely wrong. Thus the quote above: the first duty is to the truth. 

As a corollary to that, I have begun posting BookNotes on ElizabethDonald.com that not only updates on the latest kerfuffle in the publishing and speculative fiction universes, but follows the ongoing issue of book banning and censorship in the U.S. I was worried at first that I wouldn’t find enough information to make that a weekly post. Alas. 

This is a longer intro than usual, but suffice to say, there will be more blog posts in the future. They will be cross-posted to Patreon to make it easier for my Patrons. Note that neither blog feature will appear next week unless I get super ambitious, as I will be at AWP. 

• BookNotes: Nevermore (Elizabeth Donald)
• Show Your Work: Zappa to me (Donald Media)
• BookNotes: Gang aft a’gley (Elizabeth Donald)
• Show Your Work: Malarkey! (Donald Media)
• BookNotes: AI and book banning, once again (Elizabeth Donald)
• Show Your Work: Snow truth to it (sorry) (Donald Media)
• Show Your Work: It’s not like they didn’t know the schools were falling down (Donald Media)
• Show Your Work: January is off to a banging start (Donald Media)


Fiction

I am happy to say the manuscript for Blackfire Rising is now in the hands of my editor at Falstaff Books. I can’t wait to (re)introduce you all to the Blackfire crew. They are always so fun to write, and with the new characters being introduced – wait, I’m ahead of myself. Suffice to say I think you’re really going to enjoy it. More to come… 

Patreon/Medium

• The snake rule, or words we keep in newsrooms for no good reason (Patreon and Medium)
• Review: The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store (Patreon)
• Review: Wonka and the taste of nostalgia (Patreon)
• The White Star Line wineglass (Medium)
• Review: Falling by TJ Newman (Patreon)
• To be a writer, one must also read (Medium)
• Those writer’s resolutions… (Patreon)
• The 2023rd top-ten list you’ll see this week (Medium)

Note: All Patreon entries are indexed going back to its launch in 2018. I wanted new Patrons to be able to easily find the work that they’ve missed, and hopefully seeing how much work is on the Patreon might encourage some good folks to subscribe. (Hint, hint.) Seriously, subscriptions start at $1 a month, and I truly believe some of the best work I’ve ever done is on the Patreon. Check out the index here.


Photography

• Fly like an eagle (Patreon)

I have also added a whole new gallery to the webstore. I have so much travel photography now that I decided to put together some galleries for the places I’ve visited. Baltimore, Yosemite, Paris, Notre Dame, Las Vegas, Seattle, Washington D.C…. okay, really, my job does rock. Almost all of the images in the galleries are available for purchase, so if you see something you like that isn’t in the store, email kyates@donaldmedia.com and we’ll get you a quote. 

Get this monthly newsletter with bonus discount codes and Photo of the Week!

Show Your Work: Zappa to me

Top of the week: The Riverfront Times reports that a number of landlord corporations cashed in on COVID relief funds and then evicted the residents of apartment complexes they failed to keep up.

Eighty tenants in Ferguson, Mo. were given three days to move out of their apartments, only weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the federal eviction moratorium. The owners received financial aid to cover rent and utilities for tenants, on the level of millions. But for some reason the residents got evicted anyway.

Mike Fitzgerald’s investigation was cofounded by the River City Journalism Fund, filing FOIA (Sunshine Law) requests in the notoriously FOIA-averse state and compiling some damning evidence. Read the whole thing at the link, with names of the landlords who received the most money – as much as $1.5 million.

The River City Journalism Fund is a nonprofit paying grants and stipends to St. Louis writers to increase public-interest coverage; supporting paid fellowships and internships; and other activities to promote public service journalism in the St. Louis region.

In other news:

The 2024 First Amendment Awards have been announced: Lauren Chooljian with New Hampshire Public Radio and ProPublica. Chooljian is honored for her reporting on sexual misconduct allegations against the owner of a New England addiction treatment conglomerate, for which she was targeted with vandalism and threats as well as attempts at legal intimidation. And as you’ve seen in just a few weeks of this blog feature, ProPublica consistently funds the kind of investigative journalism we desperately need across the country.

• An employee of the Worthington Globe in Minnesota has been subject to harassment and vandalism, because they *checks notes* reported on the display of pride flags in public schools. This led to homophobic messages spray-painted on their car. The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists has issued a public statement in support of the staff for continuing their coverage and not backing down in the face of intimidation and harassment.

Freelance journalist Tim Burke’s home was raided by the FBI after he reported on outtakes of a Tucker Carlson interview with Kanye West on Fox News. Eight months later Burke has not even been given the affidavit used to secure the search warrant and his equipment is still being withheld. Burke was using publicly accessible websites to report, and SPJ is assisting with his legal team, which includes the founder of the Department ofJustice Cybercrime Unit.

Writers at New York Daily News, Forbes and Conde Nast walked off the job for the first time in a century. Likewise the Los Angeles Times had a one-day walkout, followed by a layoff of 115 employees; and then there’s the hell going on at Sports Illustrated. Meanwhile, the staff of the late Messenger have filed a lawsuit alleging a violation of the WARN Act in the sudden layoff of every employee with no notice, adding to the 500+ journalists laid off in the last month.

And I can’t even bear to read this report, though I will: Illinois has lost 85 percent of its newspaper journalists, the highest percentage in the country, and 38 of 102 counties have one or zero local sources of news. (Though I often quibble with complaints that reliance on freelancers means there is no local news. We freelancers do just as well or sometimes better than we would as full-timers. Where do you think those 85 percent went?) More in-depth looks at that report when I have the spoons and bourbon to get through it.

• Speaking of layoffs, the Society of Professional Journalists has assembled a number of resources to help journalists hit with the first-quarter layoffs. Membership fee waivers, job listings, discounts for insurance, support from fellow journalists and more can be found in We’re In This Together.

• On the good side, Mother Jones has merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, formalizing a partnership that has produced a number of investigative pieces in years past: an investigation last year about how the nation’s largest chain of psychiatric hospitals harms foster kids; a report in 2022 about national efforts to restrict people’s ability to vote; and an investigation in 2021 about labor abuses at sugarcane plantations in the Dominican Republic, according to Editor and Publisher.


This Week in Total Bullshit:

• If your feed is full of whiny manbabies complaining that NFL games are now the Taylor Swift Show, you could choose to point them toward this study that shows exactly how many seconds of a three-hour football game features an image of a player’s very very famous girlfriend. Spoiler alert: it’s 25 seconds. That’s how little coverage of a successful woman is necessary to make some men lose their damn minds. The responses have included AI-created degrading porn images of Swift, complaints that “NFL Media” is”forcing Taylor Swift” on football fans, idiot vids on TikTok burning a Chiefs jersey and Swift album cover; and my favorite: allegations that Travis Kelce’s $70,000 Superb Owl bonus check is her motive for dating him. Boys, Kelce is worth about $40 million; Swift is worth $1.1 BILLION. As was wearily pointed out on BlueSky: a woman can run her own freaking entertainment empire and kick off a massive uptick in an entire athletic industry just by going to the games, and she’ll still be accused of being a gold-digger. I can’t even touch “Swift is a psy-op asset of the DoD” and “The Super Bowl is fixed to help Swift so she can endorse Biden.” I honestly gave up collecting the most ridiculous of the memes halfway through the week, because there’s only so many times I can wade into incel bullshit. Go Chiefs.

• I see it’s once again making the rounds, that infamous Frank Zappa quote where he shakes his fist at the clouds and insists that once upon a time, kids were taught civics in school, and then they took it away and replaced it with “social studies,” and now we’re a bunch of ignorant clods who don’t understand basic government. Also, it was a conspiracy.

First: There is no proof that Zappa actually said this asinine thing. Instead, it sounds very much like the sort of thing spread on the internet to cast shade on teachers, public education, intellectual curiosity, you know, things Zappa was generally in favor of.

Second, and far more important: It’s garbage. Every state in the union requires civic learning in its standards or curriculum, whether they call it that or American government etc. Nearly every state specifically says civics. More than 35 states require students to demonstrate proficiency, such as Illinois, which requires all students to pass a test on the U.S. Constitution in order to graduate high school, regardless of grades in any American government or social studies course.

The Zappa quote tends to dance in partnership with the “kids oughta learn how to balance a checkbook and change a tire and all that stuff insteada this dumb book-learnin they gotta do on the computerz” crap we get from time to time. It comes down to blaming the teachers for the sheer quantity of ignorance and gullible knee-jerk outrage we see on the internet, as people take a meme or some rando’s Facebook post at face value instead of doing a simple Google search, and finding the civic education study by the Education Commission of the States in 2016.

No, we don’t have any handy scapegoats for what we see on Facebook. The teachers were speaking. Some folks just weren’t listening.

For extra credit: Mother Jones details why teaching civics is important, and notes areas for improvement.

• Speaking of which, a particularly viral bit of nonsense is asking “why y’all aren’t mad your retirement is moving to 70?” Of course, the collective response to that from my generation is, “What’s retirement?” We grew up being told that Social Security was going to be bankupt by the time we were old enough to think about it, and nobody likes to talk about the fact that Social Security has been quietly saved by undocumented immigrants.

(Yup. Approximately 95 percent of undocumented immigrants are employed, paying $100 billion into Social Security through illicit SS numbers from 2000 to 2011 and creating a $35 billion surplus, according to an actuarial note developed by the office of the Chief Actuary that makes for good insomnia treatment. In 2016 alone, they contributed $13 billion to Social Security and $3 billion to Medicare. Say thank you.)

Back to the point: The other reason why no one’s mad about the retirement age moving to 70: it isn’t happening. Not yet, and probably not for a while. The age of retirement is as it has been for a long time: 65 to 67 for maxed-out Social Security. Also, even with the age-67 max-out, the average American retires even earlier, at age 62, even though Medicare doesn’t kick in until 65. The average worker plans to retire at or after 67, yet they actually skip out earlier – though, as USA Today points out, it’s often spurred by life. Layoffs, physical limitations, illness, etc. cause 56 percent of retirees to throw in the towel sooner than they had planned.

The only basis for this meme I can find is the everlasting GOP proposal to raise the retirement age to 70. It’s been 67 since 1983, and we live a lot longer now, they argue. Where did I see this before? Oh yeah, in 2016. And pretty much every year, including this year. GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley says people in their 20s should have a retirement set in accordance with life expectancy, while former President Donald Trump says he won’t make any cuts to the programs but will not give them additional funding, which is some interesting math with rising numbers of retirees.

So, why aren’t people mad? Because it never actually happens. Like retirement.

• The COVID-19 vaccine’s spike protein does not replace sperm in men who receive it. Add biology to the classes where people weren’t paying any damn attention. It also doesn’t “shut off” your heart, and Travis Kelce’s hand gesture doesn’t have a damn thing to do with vaccines.

• There is no secret video footage implicating former President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, Bill Gates and •checks notes• Oprah Winfrey in the death of Jeffrey Epstein. I’m almost embarrassed to have to debunk this stuff.

Note: Next week I am back on the road, attending the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Kansas City. Daily travelogues and convention write-ups will appear on Patreon, so now is a great time to subscribe! There will be no Show Your Work or BookNotes next week due to the conference, unless I get super ambitious. But I’ll be back the next week!

Show Your Work: Malarkey!

First up: WBEZ has found that the suburb of Ford Heights has collected more than $100,000 in taxpayer money for a library that hasn’t existed for 30 years.

The station requested records that showed the public library district has received more than $121,000 from property taxes as distributed by Cook County. That’s a surprise to the all-volunteer Ford Heights Library Board, which operates out of a temporary space in a community center since its building failed to meet codes and has never received the collected funds. And because the library district exists, the residents of the majority-Black high-poverty suburb can’t get full-access cards at other libraries.

The story has been picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times. Shockingly enough, officials have not returned calls requesting disclosure of where the money has gone.

Meanwhile, a New York Times analysis of the Alaska Airlines incident where a door flew off the plane found that the door plug relied on two pairs of bolts and metal pins to stay in place, and it’s likely a manufacturing lapse in the bolts caused the door to fly off. A door plug, by the way, is basically a replacement for the emergency door that was removed because the plane didn’t have enough seats. By the way, they’ve found loose bolts on many other Boeing Max 9 planes. Happy flying!

Also, Reuters found that North Korea is developing artificial intelligence for pandemic response and … wait for it… wargaming simulations. Okay, it wasn’t much of an investigation – they found the study – but still. Shall we play a game?

And This Week in Total Bullshit:

• President Biden did not record a robocall telling New Hampshire Democrats to “save their votes for November.” Dubbed “malarkey” by Politifact, a faked recording filled voicemails telling them to skip the primary, and gave a number for them to be removed from the call list that goes to the cell phone of the former chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. The state attorney general is now investigating the case, as it is a felony to use fraudulent information to deter someone from voting. Side note: Politifact has dug up the various ways that AI can be used by overseas operators to disrupt the political process. Of course, we do a great job of that on our own without AI “help.”

• A pro-Trump ad aimed at GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley misrepresented her comments on immigration, amnesty and “criminals.”

• And what was not total bullshit? No-longer-candidate Ron DeSantis said as president, Trump deported fewer undocumented immigrants than former President Barack Obama, and he was right.

However, in his farewell speech posted on the Artist Formerly Known as Twitter, DeSantis quoted Winston Churchill as saying, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Very nice words, except Churchill never said that, according to the International Churchill Society, the Churchill Project at Hillsdale College and a Churchill historian, as researched by Politifact.

Light week! See something you think I should include? Feel free to send it to us.

Show Your Work: Snow truth to it (sorry)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger did a background run on the drone company user who decided he was going to solve St. Louis crime with drones, never mind laws or the wishes of the actual residents of this city. Funny enough: the drone guy has two corporate addresses, neither of which has an office from him.

• ProPublica found that Walmart financial services have been used by scammers to bilk consumers out of more than $1 billion by exploiting Walmart’s lax security. Apparently as people were being scammed, Walmart has resisted enforcement, broken promises to regulators and avoided tougher training. Apparently it makes more money with the scammer transactions than it would by enforcing only legitimate transactions. The FTC has sued Walmart over this practice.

• Who broke the story of former Harvard president Claudine Gay’s battle? The student journalists of the Harvard Crimson, who had a series of exclusives on that particular mess and scooped the national press several times. Go kids.

• The Chronicle of Higher Education found that Liberty University has systematically failed to adhere to federal crime disclosure laws and is now on notice with the U.S. Department of Education. There were at least 12 violations of the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires colleges to publicize campus crime statistics and notify students and employees of threats to their safety. Violations included destroying records of sexual assault investigations, forbidding police from issuing timely crime alerts, punishing survivors of sexual assault for reporting, and more.

• In 2022, a Texas school superintendent called a meeting with the school librarians. He told them that the city was very conservative and anyone who had different political beliefs “better hide it.” This was his preamble for ordering them to remove any books he considered explicitly sexual, which included any mention of LGBTQ people, even if those books did not include sex. He also stated that “there are two genders. There’s male and there’s female… I don’t have issues with what people want to believe, but there’s no place for it in our libraries.” When someone asked if books on racism were acceptable, he said books on different cultures were great but anything about trans or LGBTQ people was out. This was investigated by the Texas Tribune via a recording obtained by the Tribune, ProPublica and NBC News, and on the basis of that analysis, the ACLU filed suit. What’s new: now the U.S. Department of Education is opening its own investigation under the office for civil rights.

• WABE and ProPublica found that in more than 700 cases over five years, the state of Georgia took children from their unhoused parents even though it would be cheaper to help the families get housing than put the children in foster care.

• Last week we talked about the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s investigation on the FDA’s failure to issue warnings about Philips breathing machines; this week the GAO will launch an inquiry under the direction of U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

This Week in Total Bullshit:

• I’m a tad concerned that there were a grand total of two journalists attending Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ town hall in New Hampshire, and both were Politifact fact-checkers. I know it’s snowy and the last debate was canceled, but where was the rest of the road crew? Anyway, they fact-checked all of DeSantis’ claims.

• Somehow 25 percent of U.S. adults still believe the FBI organized the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. This week the House committee investigating it detailed yet again that it’s TB, and yet. If you need details, here they are. Oh, one of those U.S. adults is U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), who made the claim during a committee hearing.

• Birther claims have a new target: GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley. Allegations are circulating on social media that Haley’s parents weren’t citizens when she was born, which has absolutely no basis in fact, not that that ever stops social media. She was born in South Carolina. It’s been circulated in a couple of conservative news websites and former President Trump shared it on Truth Social. So Haley joins the Birther Target Club whose members include former President Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and the late U.S. Sen. John McCain.

• German highways did not get blocked by electric cars running out of charge in the cold. The picture in that viral post was Chicago, not Germany; 2011, not this week; and there’s no evidence that the vehicles are electric. The 2011 snowfall was two feet of snow and the vehicles were abandoned after collisions between a city bus and other vehicles blocked the lanes.

• The Times Square billboard reading “Ceasefires are anti-semitic” is not only misspelled, but never appeared in Times Square as alleged. The Israeli-American Council paid for billboards that read “Be human. Stand for Israel.”

• No, Tom Hanks did not flee to Israel after the release of the Epstein documents. Seriously? HANKS? You have to be kidding, liars. He’s one of the few saintly humans we have left. Also, he hasn’t converted to Judaism that we know of, not that that would matter.

• As referenced in this piece about A.I. girlfriends, it is NOT true that Elon Musk is creating Stepford-type robot wives for lonely incels. The image of Musk kissing a robot woman were digital AI creations by the same guy that created an image of Pope Francis wearing a Balenciaga coat. (The reason for such creations is an exercise left for the reader.) A.I. girlfriends, however, do exist…

• Lil Nas X was not accepted into Liberty University’s Biblical studies program. Seriously?

• And finally, what was NOT total bullshit? Yes, Mississippi and Alabama still celebrate Robert E. Lee Day on the day the rest of us celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. President Reagan declared it a national holiday in 1983, but Mississippi held on to Lee Day as it had celebrated since 1910. Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana and Alabama also had Lee Day or Lee-King Day, but the others have finally dropped it from their official calendars. In 2018 and 2023, a Mississippi state legislator introduced bills to separate MLK and Lee. The bill died in committee. In Alabama, a bill to eliminate Lee Day was introduced and died the same day – this year. Note: As late as 1997, my first husband was attending a community college in northern Mississippi that still had “Robert E. Lee Day” listed on its calendar as a day off school.

Whew. This is just one week, folks. It’s gonna be a long election year.