History: February 19, 2019

1804
Aaron Burr is arrested for treason.
Burr was pushed out of favor with Thomas Jefferson after serving as Vice President for four years. After leaving the federal government, he murdered Alexander Hamilton in a duel, ending Burr’s political career. He headed to the south, where it was alleged he plotted with the Spanish to seize territory in the American Southwest and govern over a new country.
This would be like Donald Trump deciding to get rid of Mike Pence in his second term, Pence shooting Joe Biden over a political rivalry, then flying to Alabama to negotiate with Spain to become the president of New Mexico.
In September that year, Burr was acquitted of treason because he never executed his plot. The US Constitution qualifies treason as an “overt act” that Burr did not commit.
Burr fled to Europe for several years, then returned to New York.
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1847
A rescue party makes contact with a group from the Donner Party.
The pioneers had left Missouri to head westward the previous May. An early snowstorm trapped them in the Rocky Mountains, where they camped for the winter beginning in October.
In total, 23 people left with the rescue party. Many needed support and help for the trek out of there, suffering from gangrene, frostbite, and severe malnutrition.
The remainder would be collected on March 1st.
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1878
Thomas Edison is awarded a patent for the phonograph.
The device both recorded and played back sound. It culminated years of tinkering with sound devices by Edison.
Alexander Graham Bell would improve and modify similar technology, by cutting grooves into a wax cylinder — that’s where the term “cutting a record” comes from.
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1981
Less than a month after taking office, the Reagan Administration calls out the communist regime in El Salvador.
It was a sharp and aggressive turn from the languid foreign policy under President Carter.
The El Salvadorian government was fighting against far-left terrorists, which the State Department believed was supported by the Soviet Union.
Support to the anti-communist government would top $5 billion in the 1980s.
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1995
The New York Times and Washington Post publish the Unabomber’s 35,000 word manifesto. He promised more death if the newspapers didn’t comply.
Federal investigators actually approved the move. They thought increased public awareness would help capture the terrorist.
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2010
Tiger Woods publicly apologizes for his sensationalized affairs that had been haunting him since the previous November.
Over Thanksgiving in 2009, he crashed his car into a fire hydrant after a spat with his wife. Rumor swirled about why he was leaving at that hour, and what caused the collision.
In the ensuing weeks, at least a dozen women came forward alleging affairs with the golfer.
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The Hit List: February 19, 2019

  1. Four are dead after a shooting in Cedar Springs, Michigan. Police say they aren’t looking for a suspect and there’s no immediate threat to the community, suggesting a murder/suicide.
  2. When a substitute teacher in Florida asked an 11 year old student to participate in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, he refused, and explained to her why it’s “offensive to black people.” The sub didn’t know school policy doesn’t require students’ participation — but that’s not the problem. When the student would not settle down, the teacher got help from the school administration, who asked the boy into the hall. When he refused that, police were called, and the kid was arrested for disrupting a school function and resisting and officer without violence.
  3. Police in Mississippi shot dead a suspect who came out of his house with guns aimed at officers. They arrived on scene after complaints of a gun going out in the man’s house. The deceased’s family said he has a history of mental illness.
  4. Americans aren’t going to the movies like they used to. Year to date ticket sales have hit an 8-year low, after the worst Presidents Day weekend in 15 years. Insiders think the forthcoming “Captain Marvel” movie will get audiences back in theaters, though.
  5. Israel is going to the moon. The Beresheet spacecraft will launch from Cape Canaveral on Florida and put a lander on the lunar surface. It’s a shared project with NASA.
  6. The Siberian region of Kuzbass has been blanketed in toxic, black snow. The area is known for its coal production, and safety measures to protect the release of toxic dust and fumes malfunctioned, combining with seasonal snowstorms. But environmental experts say it’s nothing new — this time of year it’s harder to find clean, white snow than toxic black snow in the region.
  7. Courts are having trouble processing evidence based on emoji use in texts and direct messages. There’s no framework to record their use in legal databases, and judges are struggling to standardize how to interpret the digital expressions. In one case, an alleged pimp texted a woman “teamwork make the dream work” with high heels and a money bag emoji afterward. Prosecutors took the message to mean there was a working relationship; the defense said it was a romantic gesture. In another, an Israeli couple was charged with acting in bad faith after sending a champagne bottle, squirrel, and comet emoji to a landlord, signaling their enthusiasm to rent an apartment, only to welch on the deal and go elsewhere. There’s no immediate conclusion to this bizarre problem, in part because there are yet to be real “emoji experts” who can be called to testify.
  8. One California Uber driver may have unwittingly been an accomplice in a drug deal. He was hailed for a ride, expecting a woman, but a man appeared, asking him to take a box to the woman who called the ride. The driver was hesitant, but when the man knew the woman’s name, he obliged. While on his way, the intended recipient cancelled the ride; that’s when he found authorities and asked for their help. Inside was a tennis shoe, with suspected fentanyl hidden inside of it. The driver was not charged — he “wanted nothing to doit the shoes or drugs,” Fox News reports.
  9. Apple wants to be less reliant on the iPhone for its revenue. In an executive shakeup, new hires and promotions signal it’s betting bigger on AI and retail, as well as new hardware products.
  10. Amazon will continue to expand into New York, even if it doesn’t build a new headquarters there. It plans to move forward with 800 new hires.

Netflix Bails on Marvel

Netflix is getting out of the super hero business.

It announced Monday it is cancelling “The Punisher” and “Jessica Jones,” which will air a final third season on a date to be determined. The streaming giant also recently axed “Daredevil,” “Luke Cage,” and “Iron Fist.”

But there’s speculation that the Marvel series may end up on Disney’s streaming service, set to launch later this year.

MEANWHILE — Steven Spielberg hopes theaters don’t die out. He says “there’s nothing like going to a big dark” theater with strangers to watch movies.

R Kelly Grand Jury

A grand jury has convened in light of video evidence suggesting R Kelly sexually assaulted a minor. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office did not confirm, however — they’re supposed to be a secret.

MEANWHILE — Attorney Michael Avenatti, who’s represented some of R’s accusers, says his 2008 child pornography acquittal in 2008 was rigged after witnesses were intimidated.

Becktube

Victoria Beckham has launched a Youtube channel to promote her various fashion initiatives. She says it’s so fans have an “opportunity to see the real me.” A seven minute behind the scenes video went online to correspond with the launch, revealing she keeps a fairly messy hotel room — she called it “a dump,” with sheets strewn around and garbage on the floor. She also revealed she uses an “edge brush” that looks just like a toothbrush to keep her hair extra glossy.

Andy Cohen Snubs Kim Zociak

Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kim Zolciak is ticked she didn’t get invited to Andy Cohen’s baby shower. The reality star pressed Cohen on his show Watch What Happens Live — and he admitted she didn’t get an invite. He says the shower was thrown by current cast members, and she’s a former star. Also that she was laid up from back surgery and probably wouldn’t have been able to attend anyway.

Smoll Ball Crap

An insider tells CBS 2 Chicago that Jussie Smollett staged his attack after a racist letter containing white powder sent to the “Empire” offices didn’t cause more public uproar. Police are now investigating whether those letters were sent by the brothers, where paper and stamps were collected as part of the raid on their apartment.

MEANWHILE — the public backlash against Smollett is building. Cardi B says he’s ruined Black History Month and that while she’s not convinced he’s lying, he “really [effed] up.” And The Reverend Al Sharpton said on his MSNBC show that Smollett should be held accountable if it’s found he did stage the attack: “they ought to face accountability to the maximum.”

THERE’S MORE — Smollett appeared in a reading of the play “Take Me Out” just hours before the alleged attack. In that story, a biracial baseball player comes out and is called all kinds of names — the same ones Smollett accused his alleged accusers of making toward him. The flight he was supposed to take from New York to Chicago was delayed, so sources say he used his Instagram to alert the alleged accomplices that he was running behind.

Weekend Box Office: 2/18/19

10. Green Book: $2.7 million (down from 7)

9. The Progidy: $3.15 million (down from 6)

8. Glass: $3.85 million (down from 5)

7. The Upside: $5.6 million (down from 4)

6. Cold Pursuit: $6 million (down from 3)

5. Happy Death Day 2 U: $9.8 million (new)

4. What Men Want: $10.9 million (down from 2)

3. Isn’t It Romantic: $14.2 million (new)

2. The LEGO Movie 2: $21.2 million (down from 1)

1. Alita: Battle Angel: $27.8 million (new)

The Amazon House Is For Sale

The house where Jeff Bezos started Amazon.com while renting in 1994 is up for sale. The listing says it was rebuilt in 2001. Company lore says Bezos launched the website on a desk made from a door and four pieces of wood. It was worth $135,000 while he rented, and is listing for nearly $1.5 million. The agent says that price is below the median for the area and doesn’t include any historical significance.

Academy Awards, Revisited

The Academy has scrapped plans to show the awards for hair and makeup, cinematography, editing, and live-action short on tape. They announced plans to present the awards during commercial breaks, and air the announcement and acceptance speeches later in the show, in order to cut down on time it takes for winners to get to the stage. Those who really wanted to see the live announcements could have done so by watching live feeds online or on social media. But the backlash was too much, and these categories will air live alongside all the others.

The Hit List: February 18, 2019

  1. Five are dead after a shooting in Aurora, Illinois. Seven were injured. The shooter reportedly started after a meeting with Human Resources did not go well.
  2. Jussie Smollett is now a key suspect in his own attack case. More in Cell Block >
  3. Anthony Weiner is out of prison, but he’s not a free man yet. His recent prison stint was for texting with a minor. He’ll be either in a halfway house or under house arrest as he transitions to freedom.
  4. Drop and give me 40: a new study suggests men who can do more than 40 pushups have a 96% less likely chance of getting heart disease.
  5. The Chi-Comms are watching: An unprotected online database discovered by a Dutch non-profit revealed the Chinese government actively digitally tracking 2.5 million people in Western China. Each person’s record included data points about where they were going, noting places like “hotel” or “internet cafe.” The database was totally unprotected, if you’re a whiz who knew where to look would have no trouble accessing it.
  6. Your toaster could be killing you: Researcher Marina Vance found that smoke coming out of a toaster from burnt toast and crumbs collected at the bottom of the appliance create a greater pollution concentration in a standard home than you might find outside.
  7. An exact replica of the Titanic built in China will soon be completed. The $161 million project won’t ever set sail, but be a tourist attraction at a resort.
  8. Fear the blind: they’re suing at unprecedent rates if a website isn’t easily accessible by “screen reader” technology, which reads website content out loud in a robotic voice. There were 814 such lawsuits in 2017 but 2,250 in 2018, nearly triple the number.
  9. When you book a flight, you’ll have new options soon, if you’re not sure what your biology is. X for “unspecified” and U for “undetermined” as well as the totally old fashioned “male” and “female.”

Save Dina!

Lindsay Lohan wasn’t thrilled that mom Dina was kicked off Celebrity Big Brother. In a since-deleted Instagram post, Linds wrote, “@cbs_bigbrother you suck and get no Valentine’s from @lohanbeachclub @mtv. My mother is an AMAZING woman and she did so well.” She added that the secrets she learned from Dina would “#EXPOSE #YOUALL” — but no word on what the secrets are or who would be exposed.

Will Trolls Kim (and Kanye)

Kim Kardashian-West and Kanye West took plenty of flack after Kanye’s Valentine’s Day tribute to his wife featuring Kenny G playing sax in person surrounded by single roses in vases. Will Smith piled on in an Instagram post over the weekend, photoshopping himself, as the Fresh Prince, over Kenny G in the picture. He captioned the pic, “Ye – I’m available next year.”

MEANWHILEKenny G has weighed in about the experience. He said Kanye asked him to pull the stunt off for Kim, and the timing just happened to work out. Kenny says Kim didn’t know what to do with herself for about a minute after she walked into the room, and was totally surprised. Kenny also said Kanye couldn’t have been nicer.

Red Hot Rock Stars

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are consumate professionals. While playing in Tasmania, the venue lost power after just one song into the set. But while techs worked on the problem, bassist Flea did handstands on stage and frontman Anthony Kiedis got down to the front row to tell fans to spread the word that the mics weren’t working.

The problem was fixed about 15 minutes later.