The News Not Noise Letter: News That Doesn't Suck
Florida says that Michelangelo guy might have some potential. Plus: a unique new shape discovered, and how Pokémon GO saved a landmark.
We’re starting today’s newsletter with an update on the Tennessee Three. On Thursday, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to expel two of the “Tennessee Three,” a group of lawmakers who led protests on the House floor calling for gun reform after a March 27 school massacre in Nashville. The GOP-led house voted to remove Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) and Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis), both Black men. The third member of the Tennessee Three, Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), a white woman, narrowly survived the same vote. Now, the Representatives’ home counties’ legislative bodies will appoint interim Representatives who will serve until special elections can be held to permanently fill these vacancies.
I’m getting a lot of DMs from people worrying that this expulsion marks a troubling erosion of democracy. I hear your frustration, and I’d also like to offer a different perspective. Many people have been denied access to the full rights of a democracy since America’s founding. To some folks, this expulsion wasn’t surprising — because versions of it have been happening for centuries. But this time, this is playing out in the era of TV cameras and social media, plunging the incident into an international spotlight. More people are seeing this harsh reality and taking action.
To that point: at least 28 of the 40 members of Nashville’s Metro Council say they will re-appoint Rep. Jones, returning him to the House where he can continue to represent his Nashville constituents. And the Chairman of the Shelby County Commission, which will appoint a Representative to fill Rep. Pearson’s vacancy, said the Commission will consider reappointing Rep. Pearson. Jones and Pearson are also both eligible to run in the special elections. It’s very possible that all of the Tennessee Three will be reunited in the state House of Representatives soon.
If you’re fretting about this, consider the platform the crisis has provided these Representatives and how the spotlight creates an opportunity to realize positive change.
Here’s some news that doesn’t suck:
Big Win for Michelangelo: The Florida Department of Education officially declared that Michelangelo’s David sculpture has “artistic and historical value.” Why does a state government agency have to declare that a Renaissance masterpiece by one of the most famous artists of all time has merit? The work’s aesthetic significance isn’t so apparent to one Florida parent who complained to the Tallahassee Classical School that sixth graders who were shown a photo of the David in an art lesson were exposed to pornographic material. That school’s principal was forced to resign because of that art lesson, a symptom of the “culture wars” going on throughout the state. Florida’s restrictive laws have made it nearly impossible to teach children accurate (if uncomfortable) US history and inclusive sex education, but the Department of Education felt the need to clarify that they draw the line at Renaissance art, saying the firing of the principal was “between the school and an employee, and is not the effect of state rule or law.” (Worth noting: Tallahassee Classical School bills itself as a champion of the “centrality of the Western tradition,” a tradition we’d like to point out has included artistic nudes for millennia.) The Florida Department of Education wasn’t the only one who didn’t get the fuss — even David himself weighed in on the controversy:
A Surprising Model of Resilience: Who doesn’t love an underdog — or in this case, an undertree? Meet Stumpy, a hollowed-out stump of a cherry tree in Washington, D.C. that won’t let anything stop it from blossoming. Stumpy isn’t just missing most of its center, it’s also growing in the brackish water of D.C.’s Tidal Basin, where salty seawater and river water mingle. The high salt content is toxic to much plant life, but Stumpy persists, blooming annually and enduring D.C.’s swampy summers and the occasional biting winter freeze. Above, see Stumpy in full bloom this week, an abundance of pale pink blossoms decorating its branches. Though a weekend of storms and wind will likely strip Stumpy’s branches bare, Stumpy has faced steeper odds and come back blooming.
Perfect “Einstein'' Discovered: Looking for a unique tile backsplash for the kitchen or bathroom? Look no further. A nonprofessional mathematician David Smith discovered the world’s first perfect “einstein,” a shape that can tessellate, or be arranged into tiles, infinitely without repetition. This is extremely rare and mathematically difficult to achieve. Also, an elegant look! He calls it “The Hat.” Aside from tiling your kitchen, The Hat may have practical applications in the realm of materials science, where engineers use molecular geometry to create materials with new, useful properties. Still confused by this one? It’s also being used for some fun art. Check out this post and this one to get a sense for the design. The key distinction: it will never repeat a pattern.
LA’s Brighter Future: This is a topic close to my heart since I grew up in Los Angeles. There’s a new initiative, LA2050, to give away over $2 million in grants this year to LA-based organizations chosen by local residents. If you are an Angeleno, you can vote to decide who gets that funding. Visit https://la2050.org/grants-challenge/vote now to vote for what issues you feel are most important to the future of LA, and once the issues are selected, you’ll be able to vote for organizations. A Note: I’d love to include items like this periodically. If you know of positive community-changing initiatives in your area, please send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll consider others to include in the future.
Blown Away: We are spinning up a lot of wind power in the US. Here’s a fast fact. According to @USAfacts, an average of 3000 wind turbines were installed every year across the US since 2005. Wind and solar are the fastest growing renewable sources of energy in the US.
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