Afghan Girl from National Geographic Cover Evacuated to Rome

From a Washington Post story by Adela Suliman headlined “Afghan Girl from National Geographic cover evacuated to Rome”:

Two piercing green eyes and a penetrating stare stopped the world in its tracks in 1985. A photograph of Sharbat Gula became immortalized on the cover of National Geographic magazine, jolting governments and society to acknowledge the human price of the conflict in Afghanistan.

The haunting expression, a mixture of pain and resilience, of a child thought to be around 12, was dubbed the “Afghan Girl.” She became a symbol of war, displacement and defiance after American photographer Steve McCurry captured her image in a refugee camp in Peshawar, on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Walter Kirn: “American life has invariably had a tension between the hicks and the sophisticates”

From a Wall Street Journal story by Tunku Varadarajan headlined “Walter Kirn Is Middle America’s Defiant Defender”:

The Kyle Rittenhouse case reminds Walter Kirn of an incident from his youth in rural Minnesota. “I remember one night, as a Midwestern kid out in the country, sitting with a loaded gun at the top of my stairs,” he says. A violent inmate had escaped from a nearby prison and was hiding in people’s barns. “I was 16,” Mr. Kirn chuckles, “and I sat up with a shotgun, probably somewhat delusional, convinced I could protect our farm.”

Lazlo Bito: “He returned to his homeland for a second career as a novelist, philanthropist and public intellectual”

From a New York Times obit by Sheryl Gay Stolberg headlined “Lazlo Z. Bito, Scientist, Novelist, and Philanthropist, Dies at 87”:

Lazlo Bito, a research scientist who fled communist oppression in Hungary, discovered a breakthrough treatment for glaucoma while at Columbia University and then returned to his homeland for a second career as a novelist, philanthropist and public intellectual, died on Nov. 14 at his home in Budapest….

The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, said his wife, Olivia Carino, who attributed the illness to Dr. Bito’s work as a forced laborer in a coal mine in his late teens. He escaped after he and his fellow slave laborers disarmed their guards during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and headed to Budapest to fight the occupying Soviet forces.

“Now nonprofit, The Salt Lake Tribune has achieved something rare for a local newspaper: financial sustainability”

From a story on by Sarah Scire headlined “Now nonprofit, The Salt Lake Tribune has achieved something rare for a local newspaper: financial sustainability”:

The Salt Lake Tribune has plenty to celebrate in 2021. The first major newspaper to become a nonprofit is financially sustainable and, after years of layoffs and cuts, is growing its newsroom. Executive editor Lauren Gustus announced the news in a note to readers in which the relief of escaping hedge fund ownership was palpable.

“We celebrate 150 years this year and we are healthy,” Gustus wrote. “We are sustainable in 2021, and we have no plans to return to a previously precarious position.”

People With a Greater Sense of Humor Show Less Anxiety and Stress. Those Who Engage in Cynicism…

From a story on by Eric W. Dolan headlined “New study identifies which types of humor are linked to reduced worry and increased wellbeing”:

New research indicates that people who use humor to arouse sympathy for human imperfections or act silly to make others laugh tend to experience less pathological worry. But the findings, published in Personality and Individual Differences, suggest there can also be a dark side to humor.

“Humor is one of the most effective forms of communication that humans employ, and it is of interest in the case of applied research into mental and physical health,” said study author Alberto Dionigi, a member of the International Society of Humor Studies who received his PhD from the University of Macerata.

Ben Zimmer: Where Did the Word “Thanks” Come From?

From a Wall Street Journal column by Ben Zimmer headlined “An Expression for a Thought of Gratitude”:

Leave it to the sagacious Linus Van Pelt to strip away the trappings of the Thanksgiving holiday tradition and find its essence. In the classic 1973 TV special “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” Linus explains, “Thanksgiving is a very important holiday. Ours was the first country in the world to make a national holiday to give thanks.”

Linus may have overstated the case a little, but he does raise the question: What is the nature of the “thanks” we give? We can follow ancestors of that word of gratitude back to the earliest known roots of our linguistic history.

BBC on Track to Reach Half a Billion People Globally

From a BBC news release on headlined “BBC on track to reach half a billion people globally ahead of its centenary in 2022”:

The BBC has achieved the highest ever global audience, according to the Global Audience Measure (GAM) published today, which records the total weekly number of adults accessing the BBC around the world.

In 2020/21, the BBC achieved record figures with an average audience of 489 million* adults every week, an increase of over twenty million from the previous year.

Charles Moose: “I have not received any message that the citizens want Channel 9 or The Washington Post or any other media outlet to solve this case”

From a Washington Post obit by Matt Schudel, Emily Davies, and Peter Hermann headlined “Charles Moose, Montgomery County police chief during 2002 D.C. sniper attacks, dies at 68”:

Charles A. Moose, the Montgomery County police chief who led a three-week manhunt for snipers who killed 10 people in the Washington area in October 2002 and later resigned amid controversy over payments he received for a book he wrote about the investigation, died Nov. 25.

In a Facebook post, Chief Moose’s wife, Sandy, said he died at home while watching a football game. According to public records, he lived in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Stephen Sondheim: “One of Broadway’s songwriting titans, whose music and lyrics raised the artistic standard for the American musical”

From a New York Times obit by Bruce Weber headlined “Stephen Sondheim, Titan of the American Musical, Is Dead at 91”:

Stephen Sondheim, one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans, whose music and lyrics raised and reset the artistic standard for the American stage musical, died early Friday at his home in Roxbury, Conn….

His lawyer and friend, F. Richard Pappas, announced the death, which he described as sudden. The day before, Mr. Sondheim had celebrated Thanksgiving with a dinner with friends in Roxbury.

Molly Roberts on Pandemic Language: “The impulse to breed a vocabulary that makes bad things seem even worse seems perverse”

From a Washington Post column by Molly Roberts headlined “The pandemic has scarred our language”:

Remember back in quarantine, when we self-isolated except for a few socially distanced meetups — unless, of course, we were essential workers?

This sentence reads smoothly enough today, but back before March 2020, it would have been mostly undecipherable. The coronavirus has obviously changed the way we live and the way we work. It has also changed the way we talk.

Some called it the novel coronavirus at the start. Soon, it became merely the coronavirus….After that, came covid-19, our name for the disease. Then, just covid.