From left to right: Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy deliver joint statements following the informal summit on Brexit in Versailles (Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images)

Off the Rock and under the radar March 1 – 8

Sorting through the media mud so you don’t have to

The Beachcomber offers this weekly collection of stories from everywhere but Washington D.C., for readers looking to climb out of the rabbit hole for a moment and re-connect to the world.


Europe: With Brexit looming large on its horizon, the European Union (in the form of its Commission) has been soul-searching lately and just issued a white paper outlining five scenarios for a united Europe moving forward. As reported by Politico, the Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker has said that the goal is for leaders to pick one the five as a road map for the EU before the end of the year. Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity, the “Big 4” — leaders from France, Germany, Spain and Italy — met in Versailles to endorse the third scenario from the white paper, which calls for greater integration, but only at each country’s chosen pace (often referred to as “multispeed Europe.”)


U.S.: In this piece for Quartz, Neah Thirani Bagri details the well-studied and very different ways in which female officers approach using force on the job vs their male counterparts, making at least one solution to the issue of police brutality glaringly obvious.


Space: Just when Neil deGrasse Tyson finally had us convinced that Pluto really isn’t a planet after all, a recent paper in the journal Planetary and Lunar Science suggests that planet status be determined by the geophysics of an object, not just its size and whether it orbits the sun on the “right” plane. Under the geophysical criteria, as argued by planetary scientists, our own moon would receive an upgrade in status and Pluto would be reinstated to its former planetary glory. Quartz has the story here, from a piece that originally appeared on The Conversation. Bear in mind, Alan Stern, lead scientist of NASA’s New Horizons mission and one of the paper’s authors, once famously said that the declassification of Pluto to a dwarf planet was “bullshit.”


Singapore: An architectural firm in Singapore rightly owns the bragging rights to building the world’s best bus stop. Transit users at the stop in Jurong are treated to swings, stocked book racks, a rooftop garden, bicycle parking, phone chargers, artwork and plenty of seating. The stop is also equipped with the ability for commuters to download e-books from the national library by scanning a QR code, and has screens that show arrival times, weather, maps, news and local events.


Los Angeles County: If you’re in need of a good long-read, try this story from Wired about a 752-pound emerald that has been sitting in an L.A. County sheriff’s department vault for eight years, and has the backstory of a bad crime novel.


Northern Ireland: With little progress being made in the negotiations to restore a power-sharing executive between Northern Ireland’s major political parties, BBC News reports that voters may well have to head back to the polls for a second snap election since January’s collapse of the province’s government, and face the possibility of power being handed over to the U.K. parliament in Westminster for the first time in a decade.


Sweden: With its voluntary armed forces numbers falling and growing unease over Russian aggression in the region, Sweden — which is a NATO partner, but not a member — plans to re-introduce military conscription beginning next year. Reuters has more on the story here.


Global Trade: The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal is host and correspondent of “Containers,” an eight-part, free audio documentary on the fascinating story of containerization and its effects on the global economy. DIGG has Madrigal’s written introduction, links to the episodes and an awesome video extra here.

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