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.