March 27, 2014

In this corner: A Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist. In the other corner: A statistics whiz and founder of the data journalism site, FiveThirtyEight.

If that matchup sounds like the driest, most staid battle imaginable, well, it kind of is. And it's one that's been playing out ever since Nate Silver left the Times for his own venture. To condense the tiff: Silver said many columnists were "worthless" and predictable; Paul Krugman suggested FiveThirtyEight erred in vaunting numbers as infallible, accusing the site of "sloppy and casual opining." In the latest, weirdest salvo, Silver wrote a tongue-in-cheek analysis categorizing Krugman's references to FiveThirtyEight as either favorable or unfavorable, purportedly to show that Krugman has mysteriously turned on him and his work. There's even a chart.

The headline — "For Columnist, a Change of Tone" — is a nice joke on the Times' stylistic inclinations. But in racing to needle his former colleague with snark and numbers, Silver is exemplifying the exact criticism Krugman and others have made, that the site is cherry-picking data to reach preconceived, sometimes flawed conclusions. (As others have pointed out, Silver's latest broadside misses some key variables.) Worse though, the spat, which started as a couple of mild media critiques, has now completely devolved into a petty, personal slap fight between two very smart people. At this rate, the next round in the imbroglio may well be a Krugman article titled, "I know you are but what am I?" followed by a Silver analysis of metaphorical rubber and glue.

For such respected analysts and writers, is this really the best work they could be doing? Jon Terbush

Only in America
October 9, 2015

Officials in Blount County, Tennessee, considered a resolution asking God to "pass us by in His coming wrath" over the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage and "not destroy us as He did Sodom and Gomorrah." The resolution pledged that county residents would defy the court ruling. A motion to hear the resolution was rejected by a vote of 10-5, as angry residents booed and yelled, "Cowards!" The Week Staff

refugee crisis
October 9, 2015

Mohamed, 27, was fleeing from Syria on a boat with 50 other people when he woke up one morning to find the boat's engine had fallen off, leaving him and his fellow migrants helplessly adrift at sea. Mohamed, however, was carrying a pair of iPhones he planned to pawn, and when he unwrapped one he realized he had a signal — and a chance to save their lives. He texted his cousin Danya, who lives in Hawaii, and Danya was able to get in touch with the Greek coast guard, who in turn found the refugee boat based on coordinates Mohamed was able to pull up on an app.

While the story is miraculous on many accounts, Mohamed is not the first refugee to find his life depending on the signal of an iPhone:

Data coverage is a lifeline for migrants. Though aid workers stemming the crisis of Syrian migration are yet to officially classify it as such, technology has been recognized by those on the ground as a necessity on par with food and warm clothing. Migrants need phones to help navigate between bus stations once they reach land, aid workers say.

Paul Donohoe, press manager at the International Rescue Committee, said the mobile phone has also become a “fundamental” tool in surviving the harrowing water-crossing from Turkey to Greece, which has claimed almost 3,000 lives in 2015 alone, according to the U.N. Human Rights Council. (Some half a million migrants have tried their luck this year, by the same study.) Donohoe, who recently traveled to Lesbos, said Greek coast guard employees have been overwhelmed with calls from migrants stranded at sea and using the communication service WhatsApp. [The Huffington Post]

The Huffington Post recreated the iMessage conversation between Mohamed and his cousin Danya, which you can watch below. For the rest of the story, visit The Huffington Post. Jeva Lange

October 9, 2015

Earlier this week, Facebook announced it's testing "Reactions," a set of six emoji-based buttons that will allow users the long overdue ability to respond to content in a more emotionally sensitive way. On Friday, USA Today, clearly feeling the buzz around the impending debut, decided to give the emoji a test run on its own front page:

That's right, in case you were unsure how to feel about the day's news, Friday's edition of the paper uses the emoji to provide handy emotional cues, like a sad face next to a story about a stabbing, an angry face next to an article about Russia's misdirected missiles, and a big wow face next to an item about Kevin McCarthy's decision to drop out of the race for House speaker.

AdWeek reached out to USA Today Editor-in-Chief David Callaway for a little more information behind the editorial decision:

Was there any concern about these emojis seeming too flippant next to serious content like the stabbing or Syria?
Yes, of course there was discussion about being too flippant.

Whose decision was it to use the emojis? Was there much debate among the editorial team?
My feeling (as editor-in-chief) is that a billion FB users may soon start using these to share stories—all kinds of stories—which of course is Facebook's intention. Social media and its icons are becoming a dominant form of communication in our world. We wanted to show what they would be like if transferred to print. [AdWeek]

Head over to AdWeek to read the rest of the interview. Stephanie Talmadge

For those who have everything
October 9, 2015

"People love lounging in hammocks, and people love soaking in hot tubs, and finally the two have become one," said Andrew Liszewski at Gizmodo. The Hydro Hammock ($1,495) is a sling built for two that holds 50 gallons of hot, bubbling water. A full setup includes a pump, a portable water heater, and all the hardware required to turn the hammock into a hot tub, though you'll need to find a pair of "extremely large and strong trees" to string it up between. If you can afford the whole kit, "you may never feel stressed ever again." The Week Staff

Only in America
October 9, 2015

A publisher has apologized for language in a geography textbook, written to meet Texas' pro-American standards, that referred to African slaves as "workers." The parent of a student called attention to the passage, which stated that Africans were brought to this country "to work on agricultural plantations." Publisher McGraw Hill said it would reword the passage. The Week Staff

This just in
October 9, 2015

Two people were shot at Texas Southern University on Friday in the second campus shooting of the day. One student has died while the other is reported to be in stable condition. The attack reportedly took place "at a student housing complex," according to KPRC 2 Houston. Police reportedly have a person of interest in custody.

"It's crazy," the school's associate vice president of communications, Eva Pickens, told The Los Angeles Times. "It's broad daylight."

Students at TSU are not allowed to have firearms on campus and the motive behind the attack is not clear. Earlier Friday morning, one person died and three were wounded at Northern Arizona University in a shooting that stemmed from an argument outside a dorm. Jeva Lange

Hard pass
October 9, 2015
John Gress/Getty Images

Seemingly out of options after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unexpectedly dropped out of the race for House speaker Thursday, Republicans have been loudly urging Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to run, calling him the only potential candidate who would be able to unite the increasingly divided House. Though he politely turned down the offer Thursday, Ryan was forced to double down on his refusal Friday as the pleas for his candidacy reached a fever pitch.

"Chairman Ryan appreciates the support he's getting from his colleagues but is still not running for speaker," a spokesman for Ryan told NBC News Friday. Becca Stanek

See More Speed Reads