1. Cultural literacy thoughts: I wonder…how many Millennial Americans—or among the post-boomer generations—recognize the context of the photo above? On this date in 1964, a brash 22-year-old black boxer named Cassius Clay (1942-2016) pulled off one of the great upsets in sports history, defeating world heavyweight boxing champ Sonny Liston, an 8-to-1 favorite, in a seventh-round technical knockout. The now iconic photo above captured the dramatic finale of the 1965 rematch, ending the speculation that Clay’s victory over the previously frightening Liston had been a fluke.
Indeed, the 1964 fight was just the beginning of a remarkable story.
After his stunning victory, the sudden celebrity attended a victory to a private party at a Miami hotel. In attendance was Malcolm X, the outspoken leader of the rising African American Muslim group known as the Nation of Islam. Two days later, Cassius Clay announced he was joining the Nation of Islam, and renounced his “slave name” to adopt the Muslim name, Muhammad Ali. As Ali, he became one of the most influential social and political figures of his era, affecting civil rights, politics, public attitudes, language and culture…and sports, of course, as professional boxing’s greatest champion. After successfully defending his title nine times, Ali surrendered it in 1967 after he refused induction into the U.S. Army on the grounds that he was a Muslim minister and thus a conscientious objector. His stand against the Vietnam War galvanized national opposition to the war, especially among students and the young. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali’s draft evasion conviction, and in 1974, he regained his heavyweight title in a match against George Foreman in Zaire, enshrining his phrase “rope-a-dope” in our lexicon. Eventually Ali became the first boxer to win the heavyweight title three times. His post-retirement diagnosis of pugilistic Parkinson’s syndrome and the sad spectacle of the once loquacious and witty athlete’s slow decline into near speechlessness and impaired motor functionscontributed to the collapse of boxing’s popularity. Ali was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan, and lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremonies of the1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
My mother, who like virtually everyone in her first generation Greek family was uncomfortable around blacks, once met Ali, who was seated next to her at a Harvard College function when she was Assistant Dean of Housing. She said later that he was the most charming, charismatic, beautiful man she had ever met in her life.
2. You can lead an idiot to child-proof packaging, but you can’t make him think. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics aimed at figuring out why there has been a steep rise in accidental poisonings of U.S. children according to CDC figures has come to a disturbing conclusion. Researchers analyzed nearly 4,500 calls to five U.S. poison centers in Arizona, Florida and Georgia over an eight month period in 2017. They found more than half of the prescription medicine poisonings occurred because parents and grandparents removed pills and medicines from child-proof packaging to make them more easily accessible, to help the adults remember to take them, or more convenient for travel.
3. Speaking of idiots—well-paid idiots—New Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Madison Bumgarner admitted that he has been competing in rodeos under a fake name. This injury prone activity violates the standard contract for star pitchers like Bumgarner, who last year ended up on the injured list with a sprained pitching shoulder from a mishap while riding his dirt bike. it is wildly irresponsible. The Diamondbacks recently signed the former San Francisco Giants ace to a five-year, $85 million contract.
4. Well all righty then! Point made! California’s controversial AB5 law, (discussed here) has had well-documented terrible consequences for tens of thousands of California professionals who make a living or supplement their incomes as independent contractors. Participants in more than over 150 industries and occupations, including actors, writers, court translators and interpreters, court stenographers, wedding planners, photographers, and more have been adversely affected. Lawmaker Lorena Gonzalez, the bill’s author, attended an event scheduled to give members of the public an opportunity to air their strenuous opposition to the law’s unanticipated effects. The room was filled with citizens holding signs protesting the law’s restrictions on their liberty and their “pursuit of happiness.” When Gonzalez went to the podium to speak and saw the messages on the signs, she interrupted her remarks to shout out, “Fuck Trump!”
In fact, the opposition to her law in the room was bipartisan.
5. “You keep using that phrase “take a stand.” I don’t think it means what you think it does.” Destiny McDermitt, a junior at Hill McCloy High School in Montrose, Michigan, was given an assignment along with the rest of her class to write a speech discussing an issue she felt strongly about and to “take a stand” for or against it. She is the daughter of “two mothers,” so Destiny decided to take her stand on the issue of same sex marriage.
The teacher, whose name has been withheld by the school district, told McDermitt she couldn’t take a stand on that topic because it might offend another student. The student wrote a letter to school administrators and left dropped the class. Linden Moore, Montrose Community Schools superintendent, said the district investigated the incident and concluded McDermitt’s topic was not the only legitimate one the teacher haddenied. “The teacher was thinking smaller and the kids were thinking bigger,” Moore said.
It’s supposed to be the other way around.