Listen Up
April 2, 2014

Why would you ask Samuel L. Jackson to recite a beat-style poem about the 1993-2000 ABC sitcom Boy Meets World? That would be a great question to ask Jimmy Fallon (isn't the upcoming sequel, Girl Meets World, on a rival network?) or Jackson himself (he's promoting a new Captain America movie, right?) — but ultimately it doesn't matter: Jackson's performance, on Tuesday night's Tonight Show, is answer enough.

Never seen Boy Meets World? It doesn't really matter. The Tonight Show could have done this with any 1990s sitcom — and hopefully will. James Earl Jones poetically recapping Friends? Bruce Willis doing Freaks and Geeks? How about Sarah Silverman waxing poetic about Family of Five? Any other suggestions? --Peter Weber

Let's not drink to that
12:14 p.m. ET
Global Health Data Exchange

The folks at the Global Health Data Exchange have all kinds of interesting maps. Here's one on general alcohol consumption of any kind. Red = relatively more drinkers, blue = relatively fewer:

Most people know Mormons are supposed to be teetotalers, so the fact that Utah doesn't drink much isn't surprising. But check out that blue zone in and around West Virginia! And while this is just measuring any sort of drinking, West Virginia also has a relatively low prevalence of binge drinking.

So contrary to the backwoods moonshine stereotype, it turns out that Appalachia tends to avoid drinking almost as much as Zion. Make sure to check out the interactive map here. Ryan Cooper

strong words
11:50 a.m. ET
Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

The debate over Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that was attacked by terrorists in January, re-entered the spotlight today, after six prominent authors announced that they would not attend the Pen American Center's annual gala in May because the magazine would be awarded the foundation's Freedom of Expression Courage Award. The authors — who include Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole, and Rachel Kushner — are reportedly uncomfortable with celebrating a magazine that is best known for its attacks on Islam.

The controversy has spread beyond the rarefied air of the literary award circuit to reignite debates about freedom of expression and religious tolerance. A polite example of this back-and-forth can be found at The Intercept, which has published a letter to PEN by the writer Deborah Eisenberg questioning the award, and a response by PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel defending it.

But others have been less civil, most prominently Salman Rushdie, who was famously the subject of an Iranian fatwa calling for his death. He asserted on Twitter that the objecting writers are "six pussies."

He later told The New York Times, "If PEN as a free speech organization can't defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name. What I would say to both Peter [Carey] and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them." Ryu Spaeth

This just in
11:35 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Attorney General Loretta Lynch was sworn into office Monday, making her the first African-American woman ever to hold the Justice Department's top job.

"I am honored beyond words to step into this larger role today," Lynch said.

President Obama nominated Lynch in November to succeed Eric Holder, who announced last year he would step down after a six-year tenure. A longtime federal prosecutor, Lynch then had to wait months for a confirmation vote as the Senate stalled over an unrelated human trafficking bill. Last week, the Senate finally voted 56-43 to confirm Lynch. Jon Terbush

11:24 a.m. ET

This week's award for really poor marketing decisions goes to the police association of Kenosha, Wisconsin, whose latest billboard features a local officer, Pablo Torres, who is currently on leave for shooting two people in March. Torres also has a record of nine citizen complaints for inappropriate use of force.

A local paper, the Kenosha News, argued that the billboard should come down while Torres is under investigation, noting that he regularly appears at police events with his police dog, which likewise may unfairly bias public opinion in his favor.

A representative of the family of Aaron Siler, the second shooting victim, also questioned what the billboard was intended to communicate during the ongoing shooting investigation: "What are they trying to say? Are they trying to say he's not guilty and they know that for a fact? Why are they thanking him?" Bonnie Kristian

11:01 a.m. ET

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been subjected to heavy criticism following a New York Times story which explained how, as secretary of state, Clinton approved the sale of uranium to Russia around the same time the Clinton Foundation received big-money donations from interested parties. Compounding this scandal is hypocrisy, as it seems Clinton criticized then-Senator Barack Obama for backroom political deals while on the campaign trail in 2008:

"Senator Obama has some questions to answer about his dealings with one of his largest contributors, Exelon, a big nuclear power company," Clinton said. "Apparently he cut some deals behind closed doors to protect them from full disclosure in the nuclear industry."

Clinton was ultimately right about Exelon's close ties to the Obama camp; after Obama took office, the power company secured frequent meetings in the White House and was able to manipulate regulations to its own advantage. Bonnie Kristian

10:53 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It's common knowledge that the Islamic State boasts an arsenal of American-made weapons, which were seized after the group routed Iraqi forces in its sweeping rampage across the country. But it turns out the group's arms originate from countries around the world, which make their way to the Islamic State via conflicts in South Sudan, Libya, the Balkans, and elsewhere, according to C.J. Chivers of The New York Times:

The list of the Islamic State's inventory reads like a roll call of arms-exporting nations: cartridges from Russia and the United States; rifles from Belgium and a host of formerly Eastern bloc states; guided anti-tank missiles from MBDA, a multinational firm with offices in Western Europe and the United States. Moreover, some of the manufacturing dates on ammunition from Kobani [in Syria] were remarkably recent. Investigators found Sudanese, Russian, Chinese and Iranian small-arms ammunition made from 2012 to 2014 — showing that the militant organization is a long way from being logistically isolated, no matter the forces arrayed against it. [The New York Times Magazine]

As Chivers notes, it's the latest evidence that providing arms to even friendly groups can eventually result in them landing in the hands of enemies. Ryu Spaeth

10:52 a.m. ET
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Alex Rodriguez mashed his 659th career home run Sunday, putting him one behind Willie Mays on the all-time dinger list. And though the home run helped the Yankees eke out a win, the team's front office may wish A-Rod kept the ball in the park.

That's because Rodriguez's contract includes a series of $6 million bonuses for various home run milestones, the first of which kicks in when Rodriguez ties Mays at 660. The Yankees are reportedly eyeing legal action to deny A-Rod those bonuses, which would be petty for any organization, but especially so for one with the deepest pockets in baseball.

Considering how well he's swung the bat in the season's first month, Rodriguez should tie Mays in short order. No one came out of last year's litigation between A-Rod and the Yankees looking good, and there's no reason to expect a different outcome from the looming legal fight either. Jon Terbush

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