A stealth space flight, if black America were a country and the silver lining of Robin Williams' death

The weekend stories that caught our eye

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A top-secret space plane phoned home after spending nearly two years orbiting Earth on a classified mission. No, this isn’t the recap for an upcoming sci-fi flick.

The plane, called X-37B, apparently resembles a mini space station. It touched down Friday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

According to the Associated Press, what exactly the plane was doing during its 674 days in orbit is unclear. Some experts suggest that it was responsible for carrying spy gear. In a written release, the Air Force said the plane had been conducting “on-orbit experiments,” whatever that means.

Speaking of coming back to Earth, in Theodore Johnson of The Atlantic asks the question, "What if black America were a country?" In response to recent missteps by some conservative pundits, Johnson provides a fascinating statistical comparison of where this “country” would stack up in the world order.

Johnson describes two pictures that emerge after a statistical analysis. First, “ black America” would be a strong nation with substantial manpower and purchasing power. The second picture is that of a “troubled, fragile state suffering from socioeconomic disparities and structural subjugation in ways that degrade life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He finds that black America resembles countries like Russia, Brazil and China, and arrives at this conclusion:

“Essentially, what we’re witnessing is a nation that is comparable in certain ways to a regional power existing in the state of Disparistan (or, perhaps, Despairistan). This is more than an inconvenient truth, it fundamentally undermines the United States’ greatest contribution to humanity: the American idea.”

And, lastly, if a new report in Newsweek is to be believed, the media might be credited with doing some actual good in the world.

In the wake of actor Robin Williams' suicide, calls to prevention hotlines have sustained an unprecedented spike. Though at first that may be cause for concern, the report finds that it means more people are reaching out for help. And that, in turn, can be partially attributed to the media’s coverage of Williams' death and the subsequent effort of getting the hotline number out.

The article quotes psychologist John Draper, the director of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (NSPH), who told Newsweek, ‘“Because of the way in which the media responded to this event, at least in terms of getting the [hotline] number out about 30,000 callers who might not have gotten help are getting help.”’

Rest in peace Genie, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Peter Pan.

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