Numbers don't lie
August 13, 2014

New York is the unhappiest city in America, according to a recent study from researchers at Harvard and the University of British Columbia. New York City was joined by Gary, Indiana, and three cities from Pennsylvania — Scranton, Erie, and Pittsburgh — in the Top 5 unhappiest cities. The five happiest? They're all in one state. NBC's Brian Williams does the honors:

The economists who analyzed the CDC data — Harvard's Edward Glaeser and Oren Ziv, and Joshua Gottlieb at the Vancouver School of Economics — weren't trying to bum out New Yorkers or create a buzz-worthy listicle, they were trying to figure out something much more interesting: Why are some cities persistently unhappy, and why do people choose to live there anyway?

Their tentative answer to the second question is that "the desires for happiness and life satisfaction do not uniquely drive human ambitions," and "humans are quite understandably willing to sacrifice both happiness and life satisfaction if the price is right." People in New York and other "unhappy" cities are compensated for their "misery," the authors write, and the residents of Louisiana — plus Charlottesville, North Carolina; Naples, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota — should be glad they stay there:

If we choose only that which maximized our happiness, then individuals would presumably move to happier places until the point where rising rents and congestion eliminated the joys of that locale. ["Unhappy Cities," via Harvard Gazette]

How does your city stack up? Here's their map, from the paper "Unhappy Cities," published by the National Bureau for Economic Research. Blue is happy; red is sad. --Peter Weber

1:31 a.m. ET

Animals like elk, wild boar, red deer, and roe deer are flourishing in an unlikely place — Chernobyl.

It's been nearly 30 years since the 1986 nuclear disaster, and scientists wrote in a study published Monday in the journal Current Biology that radiation contamination is not keeping wildlife from thriving in the 1,600 square mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, where people cannot live. "When humans are removed, nature flourishes — even in the wake of the world's worst nuclear accident," Jim Smith, a specialist in earth and environmental sciences at Britain's University of Portsmouth. "It's very likely that wildlife numbers at Chernobyl are now much higher than they were before the accident."

Earlier studies conducted in the zone showed major radiation effects and a decrease in wildlife populations, Reuters reports, but Smith and his fellow researchers found that now, the population rates of elk, roe deer, red deer, and wild boar were close to those in four uncontaminated nature reserves in the area. The team also discovered that the number of wolves living in and around the site is more than seven times greater than in similar nature reserves. "These unique data showing a wide range of animals thriving within miles of a major nuclear accident illustrate the resilience of wildlife populations when freed from the pressures of human habitation," co-leader Jim Beasley of the University of Georgia said. The researchers said by looking at Chernobyl, it might give insight into the long-term impact on wildlife following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. Catherine Garcia

Late Night Antics
12:59 a.m. ET

"You're looking at me so disappointed, Alex," Jimmy Fallon told Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, after shoving him in a phone booth with NBA giant Shaquille O'Neal on Monday's Late Night. "You're looking at me, like, 'This is a game show?'" It is, called "Phone Booth," and it's probably a lot more fun to watch than play. Now, you'd think having Trebek in your booth would be a big plus — and it was — but it didn't save the Shaq booth from losing a round over the Spice Girls. Fitting O'Neal in the phone booth by himself was enough of a stretch, and by the end things got a little silly. Watch below, and feel a special pang of sympathy for Blacklist star Megan Boone. Peter Weber

hollywood 411
12:26 a.m. ET

Goodbye River Heights, hello New York City: CBS is developing a new series on everyone's favorite titian-haired girl detective, except now Nancy Drew is in her 30s and working for the NYPD.

Grey's Anatomy writers and executive producers Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, with Dan Jinks, are working on the show, Entertainment Weekly reports, describing it as a "contemporary take on the character from the iconic book series." In her role as an NYPD detective, Nancy "investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world." If the show gets picked up, it won't be Nancy's first time on the small screen — ABC aired The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries in the late 1970s, and a 2002 made-for-TV movie about the girl detective starred Maggie Lawson.

Full disclosure: I am a hardcore fan of the Nancy Drew series, who read every single book as a kid and was brainwashed into thinking all houses have secret passages and spooky secrets. Because of my devotion, there are several things I think this new show needs to have (are you listening, producers?). First, Nancy's family, friends, and blue roadster must make appearances; I especially want to see her lawyer father Carson Drew, housekeeper Hannah Gruen, and "special friend" Ned Nickerson (and while we're at it, make sure he doesn't stray from how he's described in the books — handsome, smart, and willing to do whatever Nancy says without asking any questions). Also, keep the paranormal element, as Nancy thrived when she was investigating a haunting or going to a seance. Finally, don't strip Nancy of the spunk and spirit that makes her so enchanting — she's going to need it in the big city. Catherine Garcia

October 5, 2015
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

After finding out some of its gluten-free products may contain wheat, General Mills announced Monday a voluntary recall of about 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios.

The affected boxes were produced in Lodi, California, and shipped across the country. In a statement, Jim Murphy, president of the General Mills cereal division, explained that the "Lodi production facility lost rail service for a time and our gluten-free oat flour was being off-loaded from rail cars to trucks for delivery to our facility on the dates in question. In an isolated incident involving purely human error, wheat flour was inadvertently introduced into our gluten-free oat flour system at Lodi."

The recalled boxes of Cheerios have a "better if used by" date of July 14, 15, 16, or 17, 2016, and an "LD" plant code, and the Honey Nut Cheerios boxes have a "better if used by" date of July 12-25, 2016, and an "LD" plant code. People with wheat allergies, celiac disease, or gluten intolerance should not eat cereal from those boxes, and affected customers can call 1-800-775-8370 for a replacement or full refund. Catherine Garcia

October 5, 2015
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday, President Obama will go to Roseburg, Oregon, to visit with the families of those killed last week at Umpqua Community College.

His schedule has not been finalized yet, White House officials told USA Today, but he will meet with the families privately. On Thursday, police say a 26-year-old man shot and killed eight classmates and an instructor on campus before killing himself during a gunfight with officers. This will be Obama's first trip to Roseburg as president, but in 2008, he made a surprise campaign stop in the southern Oregon town. Catherine Garcia

oregon school shooting aftermath
October 5, 2015
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Saying that Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin holds "extremist" views on gun control, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is calling for his resignation.

As sheriff, Hanlin is leading the investigation into last week's deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, which left nine people and the gunman dead. In 2013, he wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden saying: "Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings.... I will refuse to participate in, nor tolerate enforcement actions against citizens that are deemed unconstitutional." Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said in a statement that "in pledging not to enforce the new law, John Hanlin has clearly demonstrated that his political ideology trumps his responsibility to protect his community."

Hanlin also posted on his personal Facebook page a link to a video called "Sandy Hook Shooting — Fully Exposed," which suggested that the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people in Newtown, Connecticut, were staged by the government in order to take guns away from people. The now-deleted post was captioned: "This makes me wonder who we can trust anymore." On Friday, Hanlin said that he now thinks Sandy Hook was not a conspiracy, the BBC reports, and he told The Oregonian that his "focus right now is on getting this investigation completed and taking care of the victims and the victims' families. Now is not an appropriate time to have those conversations."

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) noted Monday that Hanlin "is an elected official accountable to the voters of Douglas County," adding through a spokeswoman: "The evaluation of his performance, past and present, is up to them." Catherine Garcia

October 5, 2015

Grace Lee Boggs, a longtime civil rights activist, died Monday at her home in Detroit. She was 100. Her trustees said she died "as she lived, surrounded by books, politics, people, and ideas."

Born in Rhode Island in 1915 to Chinese immigrants, Boggs graduated from Barnard College in 1935 and received her PhD from Bryn Mawr in 1940. Because she was a woman and a minority, she was unable to land a position in academia, so she turned to social justice activism. Along with her husband, James Boggs, she was active in several movements, supporting labor, civil, tenants, and women's rights, NBC News reports. Boggs was one of the organizers of the 1963 march down Detroit's Woodward Avenue with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Grass Roots Leadership Conference with Malcolm X.

Boggs and her husband founded Detroit Summer, which gives kids the opportunity to participate in projects that revitalize Detroit neighborhoods, and the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. "As the child of Chinese immigrants and as a woman, Grace learned early on that the world needed changing, and she overcame barriers to do just that," President Obama said Monday. "She understood the power of community organizing at its core — the importance of bringing about change and getting people involved to shape their own destiny."

The author of several books, including The Next American Revolution — Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, she was the subject of a 2014 documentary by filmmaker Grace Lee, which aired on PBS stations across the United States. "I love that she was a woman of action and reflection, someone who learned from the past but would not get stuck in it," Lee told NBC News. Catherine Garcia

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