In an attempt to discourage violence, a California elementary school hosted a "toy-gun buyback," during which students could turn in their play weapons for a free book. "If we want older kids to not think guns are cool, we need to start early," the school's principal said. Samantha Rollins
Congratulations, Queens! In addition to being the most diverse urban area in the U.S., boasting a massive beer garden, and hosting the city's best Chinatown, the borough of Queens is also home to seven of the 10 worst subway stations in New York City, according to a report by the Citizens Budget Commission.
The report evaluated the stations by the number of structural components in disrepair, weighted that against the total number of structural components at the station, then gave each station a percentage. Of the 33 stations in worst shape, roughly half are located in Queens, Capital New York reports. Here's the map:
(Citizens Budget Commission)
Lest non-Queens residents begin to gloat, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is ruining basically every New Yorker's commute. As New York notes, it will be 2067 before all 467 MTA subway stations are in a “state of good repair." Perhaps in the intervening 52 years, we can all learn to actually leave enough time for subway delays in our morning commutes. Kimberly Alters
The six Baltimore police officers who were charged with the death of Freddie Gray, 25, while in their custody have had their defense motions rejected by a Baltimore judge on Wednesday. The officers' trial will begin next month; a pretrial hearing on September 10 will decide whether the case should be removed from Baltimore due to its publicity, Reuters reports.
Earlier Wednesday, protesters gathered outside the Circuit Courthouse to wait for the judge's decision. Gray's death in police custody — which was ruled a homicide — has become one of several centerpieces in the national discussion over police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. Jeva Lange
Golden boy quarterback Andrew Luck isn't afraid of fans hating him one day: 'You have to have skin like an armadillo'
There are plenty of things that set Andrew Luck, 25, apart from other football players. As the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, Luck is posed to become the next football superstar in the vein of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — he's destroyed passing records, bringing his team closer and closer to the Super Bowl each year. And, maybe most noteworthy of all, Luck is actually immensely likable and down-to-earth, both on the field and off.
He's always been this way, too: Luck was a star player at Stanford, and graduated as his high school's co-valedictorian. In a profile by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, he humbly added that he had never thought, "I'm good enough to play in the NFL," taking his early successes and goals step by step. Now known for being bookish and weirdly friendly on the field ("Luck routinely compliments the NFL players who sack him or knock him down, saying things like 'Hey, nice hit!' as they try to beat his head in," Taibbi notes), Luck can't really imagine a time when the tides might turn against him:
Americans love to turn on their celebrities. In sports especially, we root for them on the way up, then pelt them on the way down. Once-adored superstars like LeBron and Brady became villains after too many years in contention. I ask Luck about that phenomenon given that it might be in his future. His answer is hilarious.
"I bet Tom Brady doesn't give a shit about what people think about him," he says. "Or Peyton. You play quarterback long enough, you hear some things. You have to have skin like an armadillo." [Rolling Stone]
Luck won't settle for simply being thick-skinned, like the rest of us mortals. Jeva Lange
President Obama isn't the only one making a visit to Alaska this week, according to a new report from Pentagon officials. The U.S. military has spotted five Chinese navy ships off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea, heading in the direction of the Aleutian Islands. The presence of the Chinese ships, including three combat ships, a replenishment vessel, and an amphibious ship, marks the first time that the U.S. military has reported seeing "any such activity in the area," The Wall Street Journal reports.
Although China's defense ministry could not be reached by the Journal for comment, the presence of Chinese warships close to U.S. territory is likely connected to China's efforts to ramp up its military activity as its economic power expands. "I don't think we'd characterize anything they're doing as threatening," one defense official told The Wall Street Journal.
Other officials theorized that the ships' presence could be due to China's growing interest in using the Northern Sea Route to transport goods, since that route between Asia and the West can be up to several days faster than the Suez Canal route. "It's difficult to tell exactly, but it indicates some interest in the Arctic region," one Pentagon official said. "It's different." Becca Stanek
Does Donald Trump cheat at golf? That's the subject of an investigation by The Washington Post, which offers a good amount of anecdotal evidence that he does. Trump, of course, denies the claims, and he does seem pretty confident in his prowess on the links, going so far as to say he would put the presidency on the line in a face-off with President Obama.
"His swing looks like it's coming along beautifully, his game looks much better," he told The Post. "I'd love to play him for the presidency." [The Washington Post]
Evolution usually allows animals to get better at avoiding death. However, new evidence reported by Vanderbilt University seems to find that the rise of early animals hundreds of millions of years ago was the cause of the first massive die-off of complex life — not a super volcano or a meteorite.
Scientists believe that for more than 3 billion years, microbes were the only life on Earth. At some point, a few of the microbes evolved to be able to photosynthesize, or convert sunlight into energy. The byproduct was toxic to most of the other microbes, who were used to an oxygen-free environment. But for the microorganisms photosynthesizing, the development allowed them to become complex, multicellular forms called Ediacarans, which took over the planet around 600 million years ago. Ediacarans were basically like plants: immobile marine life shaped like discs, tubes, fronds, or quilts.
Paleontologists call the ensuing period the "Garden of Ediacara," emphasizing the so-called peace of the era — that is, Ediacarans politely didn't eat each other. At least not until 60 million years ago, when they evolved even further into what we now call animals (vertebrates, mollusks, anthropoids, annelids, sponges, jellyfish).
It was these independently moving, hungry critters that caused the first extinction, by eating all the Ediacarans, the scientists say.
"This study provides the first quantitative palaeoecological evidence to suggest that evolutionary innovation, ecosystem engineering, and biological interactions may have ultimately caused the first mass extinction of complex life," Simon Darroch, the assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University, told Science Daily.
Perhaps that's just a fancy way of suggesting that it's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and may the hungriest mollusk win. Jeva Lange
Some Americans are so desperate to make a point about America's political system that they're willing to vote for Donald Trump to prove it, Politico reports. That's right: Even though Trump haters might find the real estate mogul's immigration policy "absolutely revolting," his persona to be "a joke," and his comments to be "racist" and "sexist," come time for the Republican primary they're still casting their ballot for The Donald.
"This is the candidate America deserves," Jeff DeFlavio, a small-business owner and registered independent, said of Trump to Politico. "His immigration policy is disgusting to me. It's absolutely revolting... I really don't want him to become president ever. Ever. He would destroy the world, which is what's so wonderful about him."
Another Trump hater, Rasheen Carbin, a Republican, explained that he's voting for Trump to push the Republican Party to the point of finally acknowledging its failings. "I'm going to vote for him because I want the Republican Party to finally acknowledge that it's broken, and if Trump is the nominee, I don't know how it could be more obvious. Sometimes things need to be broken so they can be remade stronger."
For others, the entertainment value Trump provides in a presidential field with which they're otherwise disenchanted is an attraction, Politico says. One such person explained: "Everything Trump says I don't agree with, like building a wall around the country, but I don't think it's going to happen... I don't think anything anybody else says is going to happen, and I'd rather have the guy who brings entertainment value." Another commented, "I think politics is kind of a joke in this country. I don't think it matters who will get elected president."
So far, pollsters don't know how strong the Trump hate vote is, or how likely it is that all these haters will actually follow through on their smack talk. A "real-life political mockumentary" might seem entertaining until it becomes, well, real. Becca Stanek