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The Westing Game is a kid’s book that respects you enough to tell you Uncle Sam is a liar

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The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin Puffin Books

Ellen Raskin’s 1978 novel is a technically perfect mystery. It’s also ideal reading for when you need an escape.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Wow, I wish I could experience Knives Out for the first time all over again, but this time I would like it to also be an extremely charming children’s book”? Then friend, you are in luck, for such a book does indeed exist. It is called The Westing Game, written by Ellen Raskin in 1978, and it is the perfect antidote to the quarantine anxiety blahs for readers of any age.

Like Knives Out, The Westing Game revolves around the will of a mysterious billionaire. Paper products tycoon Sam Westing — who would certainly have cleaned up in this, the era of toilet paper scarcity — has been found dead in his mansion. And 16 strangers have been named Westing’s joint beneficiaries, much to their bewilderment.

Adding to the mystery: All 16 of them have also recently moved into Sunset Towers, a glittery new apartment building on the shores of Lake Michigan that faces (the narrator points out helpfully) east rather than west, and has no towers. They were all rented their new units by one Barney Northrup, who, the narrator interjects, does not actually exist.

“Who were these people, these specially selected tenants?” Raskin writes. “They were mothers and fathers and children. A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake. Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.”

As the body of Sam Westing holds state in the hall of his mansion, dressed as Uncle Sam, his lawyer divides the 16 heirs are divided into eight teams of two. (No two family members can be on the same team.) Each team gets a set of “clues,” a collection of apparently random words written on slips of paper. The aim of the game, they are told, is simple: “to win.”

Baffled, the heirs retire in their teams back to Sunset Towers and try their best to work their clues out, each working through the lens of their own expertise. Perhaps the words are code for a chemical notation, suggests one heir. No, they’re stock market symbols, says Turtle, who is 11 years old and determined to be a businesswoman.

What ensues is a technically perfect puzzle-box mystery, one that baffled me when I was 9 and probably would baffle me today if I picked up The Westing Game without already knowing the plot. But it’s also a rich, paranoid allegory of American capitalism. There’s Sam Westing, the domineering and all-seeing Uncle Sam, dangling the opportunity for wealth over the heads of his resentful heirs. And there are the tenants of Sunset Towers, each one from a different social group, competing against their closest family members for the chance at $200 million.

Each of the heirs believes that to win, they have to work against one another. But the solution to the puzzle they finally reach suggests that to get their hands on the money, they’ll need to work together.

And in the end, it’s only precocious Turtle who grasps the true solution: to win the Westing Game, you have to understand that the point of the game was never to do what Uncle Sam told you to do in the first place. It’s to understand that the game is rigged and played by liars, and pass it by entirely.

But Ruskin, who trusts her child readers with hard truths, would never lie to us, and even though capitalism is a cheater’s game, she never cheats, either. That’s why this book endures: Ruskin tells us the truth when she builds her mystery, and she tells us the truth in her allegory, too. So whether you’re reading The Westing Game as a child or as an adult, you’ll always walk away feeling that you’ve been reading a book that respects you.

One Good Thing is Vox’s recommendations feature. In each edition, find one more thing from the world of culture that we highly recommend.


Support Vox’s explanatory journalism

Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.

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InShaneee
2 hours ago
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Police responce to protests against police brutality with more brutality

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Over a weekend of protests against police brutality, America's police (with exceptions) responded with as much brutality as they could muster, targeting protestors, media and bystanders alike with rubber bullets, tear gas and random prepemptive violence.

The New York Times:

Videos showed police officers in recent nights using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders and journalists, often without warning or seemingly unprovoked. The footage, which has been shared widely online, highlighted the very complaints over police behavior that have drawn protests in at least 75 cities across the United States.

In Salt Lake City, officers in riot gear shoved a man with a cane to the ground.

In Brooklyn, two police S.U.V.s plowed into a crowd of protesters.

In Atlanta, police officers enforcing a curfew stopped two college students in a car, fired Tasers on them and dragged them out of the vehicle.

And in Minneapolis, where there have been six consecutive nights of protests and clashes, a video appeared to show officers yelling at people on their porches to get inside and then firing paint canisters at them. “Light them up,” one officer said.

The photo below shows a cop removing the face-mask of an obviously peaceful protestor so that he can mace him in the face. The cop has concealed his badge number to prevent easy identification.

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InShaneee
5 hours ago
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Chicago, IL
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1 public comment
HarlandCorbin
4 hours ago
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It's not going to get better until the police are held accountable for their actions consistently. The cop that started this should be fired, barred from being a cop ever again, and charged with the death. There should be no question about this happening. It should be automatic.

What would happen if the killer cop found a crowd around his house, chanting "I CAN'T BREATHE" as they firebomb the house?
nocko
2 hours ago
"For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change." -Audre Lourde. While "charging" the officer might be some kind of justice, it reinforces the idea that the solution to the racist police/prison industrial complex is more applications of that obsolete system. I think any real solution will preferentially feature defunding police and removing qualified immunity as a prelude to complete abolishment. While some kind of organization to investigate major crimes maybe required in the future, it's quite clear that the state violence of the slave catchers is not.

How to more safely protest in a pandemic

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Protesters are at risk of retaliation from police as well as of contracting Covid-19. | Stanton Sharpe/LightRocket/Getty Images

Tips for reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus in a mass gathering, from public health experts.

As protesters take to the streets in dozens of US cities to mourn the death of George Floyd, resist police violence, and demand justice, many are wondering whether it’s possible to protest safely with the Covid-19 pandemic still spreading and taking lives.

On social media, there’s been a lot of discussion of the intersecting risks: how protesters risk retaliation from police, risk violence at the hands of counterprotesters, and risk Covid-19 infection, which they could then spread to others. And many have judged the protesters harshly for taking all of these risks.

But looming above these immediate risks is the long history of police violence as a wretched public health crisis of its own.

As the basketball legend and writer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in the LA Times, “African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands.”

August Nimtz Jr., who joined protests in Minneapolis on Tuesday, told Time, “I’m a 77-year-old African-American male. I’ve gotta be concerned [about catching COVID-19], but at the same time there’s the importance of coming out into the streets. We had to do this. If we don’t do it the cops will get away with it again.”

Fears that the protests may lead to more Covid-19 infections, and set the US back further in its fight against the virus, are understandable. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN Sunday she was particularly worried the protests might fan outbreaks in communities of color already disproportionately impacted by the virus. “I’m extremely concerned we are seeing mass gatherings,” Bottoms said. “We’re going to see the other side of this in a couple of weeks.”

One obvious reason the gatherings may be risky is that it can be very hard, if not impossible, to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others in large gatherings. Some health departments are still urging people to try:

The good news, according to epidemiologists and doctors, is that there are many ways (besides wearing a mask) to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus or being infected in the streets while exercising the right to protest. The risk will not be zero, but protesters can minimize harm to themselves and others.

Eleanor Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, summed up the tips in this Saturday tweet:

As they’ve disseminated this advice, Murray and several other health experts have been accused of hypocrisy — for condemning the anti-lockdown protests of April and early May as a Covid-19 risk, but not doing same for the police violence protests.

Murray clarified her position: “Yes, I condemned the anti-lockdown protests,” she wrote. “Yes, I support the #BlackLivesMatter protests. No, those aren’t contradictory views. COVID is a public health emergency. So is racism. We need to fight both.”

Here’s how Tara Smith of Kent State University put it:

Other health experts have been jumping in with additional helpful advice for protesters, who may be exposed to pepper spray and rubber bullets in confrontations with police:

To protect the eyes from rubber bullets, protections like face shields, umbrellas, safety glasses, and goggles are recommended:

As the protests gain momentum, some government officials and businesses are helping to mitigate the risks by supplying protesters with masks and hand sanitizer.

Meanwhile, some protesters are reminding each other that they should stay home if they feel ill or have a fever, helping to reduce the risk of spread for everyone.


Support Vox’s explanatory journalism

Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.

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InShaneee
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Images of police using violence against peaceful protesters are going viral

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New York City police officers tackle a protester on May 30. Many officers were filmed using excessive force toward demonstrators. | Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Police responded to protests across the nation with excessive force.

Video footage is going viral of police officers responding to protests Saturday night with excessive force, including battering and pepper-spraying peaceful demonstrators.

Most of the nationwide anti-police brutality protests started peacefully Saturday afternoon, but many took a more volatile turn on Saturday night. Some images show protesters vandalizing property, including setting fire to police cars and businesses.

But other videos show officers aggravating lawful participants with batons and, in one case, driving a police SUV into a crowd.

The protests began in Minnesota last week in response to a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer killing a local black man, George Floyd. The protests have spread globally and taken on a broader call for an end to police brutality.

Some images in this article may be graphic.

Police pepper-sprayed protesters

In New York, a police officer pulled down the mask of a peaceful protester, who had his hands up, and pepper-sprayed him in the face. The police in the video had intentionally covered their badge numbers.

And in Seattle, a child was hit with pepper spray, too. In the video, she is screaming as other protesters pour milk on her face.

In Columbus, Ohio, Rep. Joyce Beatty, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce were also pepper-sprayed by the police while trying to ease a conflict between protesters and the police.

A police SUV rammed into a crowd

In Brooklyn, a New York Police Department SUV rammed into a crowd of protesters, knocking them to the ground. It’s unclear whether anyone was seriously injured. In a press conference later in the day, Mayor Bill de Blasio blamed protesters for not getting out of the way and putting the police in an “impossible” situation.

Rubber bullets hit a bystander

In Dallas, a woman’s face was covered in blood after she was hit with a rubber bullet while walking home with groceries.

Officers appear to assault peaceful participants

In Salt Lake City, an older man walking with a cane was pushed to the ground by an officer.

In Brooklyn, a video captured multiple officers converging on a protester and hitting the individual with a baton.

In Atlanta, the police dragged a young couple out of a car while using a Taser. Officers also flattened the tires and broke the windows of their vehicle. Multiple officers were involved in the incident.

Police open-fired paint canisters at people on their own property

In Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Police Department and National Guard marched down the residential streets of Whittier neighborhood. Tanya Kerssen, who lives in the neighborhood, tweeted that the officers shot paint canisters at the residents while shouting “light ’em up.”

Excessively used tear gas

In Dallas, the police tear-gassed City Hall, where peaceful protests were being held.

In Denver, the police fired multiple tear gas canisters just minutes after the city’s 8 pm curfew passed.

Washington, DC’s Lafayette Square, just across from the White House, was also flooded with tear gas.


Support Vox’s explanatory journalism

Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.

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InShaneee
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What Would The Internet Look Like If America Repeals Section 230?

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"REVOKE 230!" President Trump tweeted Friday, and NPR reports that the movement to revoke its safeguards "is increasingly becoming a bipartisan consensus... But experts caution that eliminating the legal protections may have unintended consequences for Internet users that extend far beyond Facebook and Twitter." "We don't think about things like Wikipedia, the Internet Archive and all these other public goods that exist and have a public-interest component that would not exist in a world without 230," said Aaron Mackey, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties nonprofit. Without Section 230, experts argue, sites would have less tolerance for people posting their opinions on YouTube, Reddit, Yelp, Amazon and many other corners of the Internet... The tech industry, unsurprisingly, is fighting hard to preserve Section 230, said Jeff Kosseff, the author of a book about Section 230, The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet. "The major platforms came into existence because of 230," Kosseff said. "Without 230, their operations would have to be substantially changed." In particular, Facebook, Twitter and Google would likely become aggressive about removing content and may side more often with complaining users, Kosseff said. Mackey with the Electronic Frontier Foundation agrees."It could create a prescreening of every piece of material every person posts and lead to an exceptional amount of moderation and prevention," Mackey said. "What every platform would be concerned about is: 'Do I risk anything to have this content posted to my site?'" Another possible ripple effect of repealing, Kosseff said, is making it more difficult for whatever company is hoping to emerge as the next big social media company. "It will be harder for them because they will face more liability at the outset," Kosseff said. Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University Law School and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute, said rescinding Section 230 could reduce the number of online platforms that welcome open dialogue.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Western Digital Gets Sued For Sneaking SMR Disks Into Its NAS Channel

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: All three of the surviving conventional hard drive vendors -- Toshiba, Western Digital, and Seagate -- have gotten caught sneaking disks featuring Shingled Magnetic Recording technology into unexpected places recently. But Western Digital has been the most brazen of the three, and it's been singled out for a class action lawsuit in response. Although all three major manufacturers quietly added SMR disks to their desktop hard drive line-up, Western Digital is the only one so far to slip them into its NAS (Network Attached Storage) stack. NAS drives are expected to perform well in RAID and other multiple disk arrays, whether ZFS pools or consumer devices like Synology or Netgear NAS appliances. Hattis Law has initiated a class action lawsuit against Western Digital, accordingly. The lawsuit alleges both that the SMR technology in the newer Western Digital Red drives is inappropriate for the marketed purpose of the drives and that Western Digital deliberately "deceived and harm[ed] consumers" in the course of doing so. Hattis' position is strengthened by a series of tests that website ServeTheHome released yesterday. The results demonstrate that although Western Digital's new 4TB Red "NAS" disk performed adequately as a desktop drive, it was unfit for purpose in a ZFS storage array (zpool).

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