FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
National Security
May 19, 2014
CHIP SOMODEVILLA/Getty Images

In a chilling New York Times article, James B. Comey, director of the FBI, is quoted saying the threat of terrorism is worse than he imagined before assuming his current position:

By Mr. Comey's own account, he also brought to the job a belief, based on news media reports, that the threat from Al Qaeda was diminished. But nine months into his tenure as director, Mr. Comey acknowledges that he underestimated the threat the United States still faces from terrorism.

"I didn't have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates had become," Mr. Comey said, referring to offshoots of Al Qaeda in Africa and in the Middle East during an interview in his sprawling office on the seventh floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. "There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated." [The New York Times]

One might interpret this information differently, based on preconceived notions.

Neocons, for example, might see this as further evidence that skepticism of the surveillance state is rooted in nothing but ignorance and naiveté. Meanwhile, folks on the other side of the debate might view this as yet another example of someone being co-opted once they gain a position of authority.

But Comey's credibility on this issue is hard to impugn. As the No. 2 in the Bush Justice Department, he famously refused to approve reauthorization of the N.S.A.'s domestic eavesdropping program.

I don't know about you, but I'd be more comfortable if his credibility on this issue weren't quite so solid. Matt K. Lewis

'first world problems?'
3:37 p.m. ET
Adam Bettcher/Stringer/Getty Images

The death of Cecil the lion — an animal supposedly beloved by the people of Zimbabwe — had many people in the capital city of Harare scratching their heads over the uproar in America.

"You are saying that all this noise is about a dead lion? Lions are killed all the time in this country," a used-clothes hawker on the streets of Harare told Reuters. "What's so special about this one?"

"It's so cruel, but I don't understand the whole fuss, there are so many pressing issues in Zimbabwe — we have water shortages, no electricity, and no jobs — yet people are making noise about a lion?" another resident of Harare, Eunice Vhunise, told The Chicago Tribune. "I saw Cecil once when I visited the game park. I will probably miss him. But honestly the attention is just too much."

Even the acting information minister of Zimbabwe, Prisca Mupfumira, was confused.

"What lion?" he said when asked for a comment. Jeva Lange

RBG and BIG
3:31 p.m. ET
Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg first heard her nickname, Notorious RBG, she had no idea where it came from.

"I will admit that I had to be told by my law clerks, what's this Notorious," Ginsburg confessed last July. Since then, Ginsburg has been studying up on the legendary late rapper Notorious B.I.G., and she proudly showed off what she learned Wednesday night at a Duke University School of Law event. The hip-hop artist has more in common with the Supreme Court justice than one would think, she said: "Both of us were born and raised in Brooklyn," Ginsburg told the audience. Becca Stanek

where are they now?
3:18 p.m. ET
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Former major league baseball DH Jose Canseco plans to dress like a woman in an attempt at solidarity with Caitlyn Jenner. Canseco's performance will be documented in his internet reality show, Spend a Day with Jose, and TMZ reports that the former Bash Brother will be golfing, playing softball, and going bowling "as a woman" for the seven days his project lasts.

"Move over, Caitlyn," Canseco — who is not transgender — tweeted Thursday morning.

It appears Canseco is, at least, well-intentioned: "In the beginning, I didn't understand [Jenner's transition], so I was kind of, like, against it," he told the New York Daily News. "Once I watched it more and more, and realized what it really entailed, what he was going through, I started supporting him." Jeva Lange

i guess that's why they call it game hunting
2:47 p.m. ET

A Minnesotan dentist isn't the only one wreaking havoc on the wildlife of Africa. Enter: Donald Trump's sons.

In a video that wont be posted here for its upsetting content, the younger Trumps, Eric and Donald Jr., are shown posing with their mammalian (and reptilian) trophies, whom they killed during their time on an African hunting safari.

Back in 2012, these pictures got a lot of people pretty upset. Trump Jr. responded to the outcries on Twitter:

Admittedly, that is a little difficult to decipher — but it would seem Trump Jr. believed he'd done everyone a favor. Jeva Lange

not as fun in real life
2:03 p.m. ET

High-speed police chases may look really cool in movies, but the reality is a whole lot uglier, according to USA Today. Their study reports that between 1979 and 2013, 11,506 people were killed in police chases — over 5,000 of whom were innocent bystanders.

The rate of high-speed chase fatalities is actually so high that, on average, they're responsible for the death of nearly one person a day. By comparison, one person a day on average is shot to death by the police, according to an FBI estimate from June (although that number is believed by many to be much higher).

Most chases begin with an attempted traffic stop (89 percent) and end quickly, USA Today reports; 76 percent were over in only five minutes or less in California. But of all the daredevils who try to make an escape, the California Highway patrol calculated 28 percent of high-speed chases ended in crashes; in Minnesota, that number was as high as 40 percent.

The grim long and short of it is, don't try this at home. Jeva Lange

Science!
12:15 p.m. ET

The recent Pluto probe presented a problem for NASA engineers. Spacecraft that are reasonably close to the sun, such as India's Mars Orbiter Mission, use solar panels to supply their electricity. But when you get out to Pluto, the sun is so dim it's barely distinguishable from the rest of the stars.

As Sir Martyn Poliakoff explains, as done before with the Voyager probes, the engineers substituted solar panels for a big hunk of radioactive plutonium. That produces heat, which can be used to generate electricity, and it also keeps the spacecraft warm. The whole thing is rather appropriate given that plutonium was named after the dwarf planet in the first place. Watch the full explanation in the video below. Ryan Cooper

17 for 2016
11:43 a.m. ET
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

As if the Republican presidential field weren't already big enough, one more candidate has decided to jump in at the very last minute. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore filed with the FEC on Wednesday, declaring his intention to run for president just eight days before the first GOP debate. Gilmore, who is now the 17th candidate vying for the GOP nomination, served as governor of Virginia from 1998 until 2002 and was chair of the Republican National Committee in 2001.

However, as the Daily Intelligencer notes, Gilmore is "such a long shot that he might not even qualify for the Fox News debate" — and that's after Fox decided to open the debate up to all "candidates who are consistently being offered to respondents in national polls." Gilmore has only appeared in one of five of the most recent national polls, Politico reports, and they, too, have called his launch "his longest of all long-shot presidential bids." Becca Stanek

See More Speed Reads