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John Lennon and Yoko Ono, hurkle-durkling on their honeymoon before it was cool. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Megan Markle’s Next Turn. Drama at the New York Times. Plus . . .

Self-caring ourselves to death. Why Florida just banned lab-grown meat. Neuralink’s breakthrough. And much more.

Every year, the World Happiness Report releases its rankings of the happiest countries in the world. And every year, it causes Americans to wonder what the blissfully contented people in some Northern European backwater have that we don’t.

Universal healthcare? Saunas?

The 2024 survey was published this week and sure enough, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland take the top three spots, while the U.S. has slipped out of the top 20 for the first time since the rankings began in 2012. Who’s dragging America’s score down? The young’uns. According to The Wall Street Journal, “[S]elf-reported happiness has decreased in all age groups, but especially for young adults. Americans 30 years and younger ranked 62nd globally. . . . Older Americans ranked 10th.” 

In other words, it’s the generation most focused on their well-being who are most miserable. Fear not, though. The Zoomers have a new happiness hack that’s going to turn their frowns upside down. 

It’s all over TikTok and it’s called hurkle-durkle. As Suzy Weiss reports, the concept comes from Scotland and involves “staying in bed past the time you’re supposed to be up. . . . it means to hit snooze, curl up under your duvet, and relax. To hurkle-durkle is to be at rest but not exactly sleeping. Kind of like you’re in a coma.” 

If you’ve ever been to Scotland, you’d probably note that its dour natives aren’t the best folks to advise on happiness. And, as Suzy argues, hurkle-durkle isn’t really a happiness cure—but a symptom of the problem. 

Read Suzy’s full takedown of hurkle-durkle, and the mistaken idea that being idle means being well. Then get out of bed and get on with your day, you lazy oaf.

Ten Stories We’re Reading

  1. Can Germany’s far right be stopped? Jeremy Stern asks an uncomfortable question and discovers some uncomfortable answers. (Tablet

  2. Governments across the U.S. are handing people cash—no strings attached. A pilot program in Houston is offering low-income residents $500 per month. (WSJ)

  3. House Republicans are considering inviting Bibi Netanyahu to address Congress. When Netanyahu last spoke before Congress, in 2015, then–vice president Joe Biden did not attend. (Axios)

  4. The big questions of 2024. Matthew Continetti on the known unknowns that could decide the election. (Commentary

  5. Why are voters so frustrated? It’s the house prices, stupid. (AP)

  6. Italian PM Giorgia Meloni is suing two men for €100,000 over deepfake porn videos. According to Ban Deepfakes, a global campaign group, the amount of falsified sexual content more than quadrupled between 2022 and 2023. (Daily Mail)

  7. The most dangerous source of misinformation is the government. Matt Taibbi on the censorship case argued in the Supreme Court on Monday. (Racket)

  8. San Francisco cited this professor’s research to justify ending eighth grade algebra. Now, a complaint alleges her papers had “reckless disregard for accuracy.” (Free Beacon)

  9. A pro-Israel musician’s shows keep getting cancelled amid security concerns. The protesters’ veto is all too effective. (Washington Post)

  10. How an epic friendship born out of quaaludes, comedy, and a shared love of R&B paved the way for The Blues Brothers. On a mission from God. . .  (Air Mail)

Why Is Florida Banning Lab-Grown Meat? 

On March 6, the Florida House of Representatives passed legislation prohibiting the manufacture and sale of lab-grown meat. Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the legislation into law and other red states are set to follow suit. Florida’s lab-meat ban is the latest example of the strange inversion of the politics of food: once upon a time it was liberals who were suspicious of GMOs, but these days, it’s Republicans leading the charge against scientific tinkering that means we can now produce meat without slaughtering an animal. 

What’s going on? Is the conservative war on lab-cultivated meat a matter of protecting consumers, protecting the beef lobby, or just owning the libs?

To find out, reporter River Page spoke to the protagonists in the fight over Florida’s ban. 

Drama at The New York Times

If you’ve read anything about the tumult at The New York Times in recent years—here’s one account by James Bennet, who was ousted as opinion editor at the paper in 2020—you’ll know many Times employees see themselves as activists first, and reporters and editors second. You’ll also know that Times’ leadership has usually cowed before those activists. 

Now, the paper’s staffers are locked in a new internal fight—over an investigation that Hamas committed horrifying sex crimes and rapes against Israeli women on October 7. But in this case, the Times’ top brass appears to have grown a backbone. Will they hold firm? Eli Lake reports.

Earlier this year, anti-Israel activists crowded in front of the New York Times building in midtown Manhattan to protest against the paper’s December 28 article, “Screams Without Words”—a deeply reported investigation into mass rapes during Hamas’s October 7 massacre. As soon as that story hit the internet, a few pro-Hamas outlets began to attack it. The sister of one of the dead rape victims posted on social media that the story was wrong. One of the sources in the investigation had changed some details in different interviews about what he’d said. But none of this stopped the Times from nominating the story in a package of its coverage of the Gaza war that won the Polk Award last month. And, at the time of writing, the Times has not issued any major corrections to its investigation. 

On the surface, the controversy looks like outside activists working the refs. But the protesters who regularly gather in front of the Times offices also have allies in the newsroom. This became clear on January 28, when The Intercept reported that the Times’ flagship podcast, The Daily, had decided against producing an episode about “Screams Without Words.” The Intercept based its reporting on leaked, internal drafts from The Daily, which could only have come from Times staffers. 

But this time, instead of caving to the radical faction, the paper launched an internal investigation to find who disclosed the internal documents. Led by Charlotte Behrendt, the Times’ director of policy and internal investigations, and her team of lawyers, employees at the paper described the probe as a “terrifying” experience. Reporters have been asked to turn over their phones, according to two Times staffers. Others have said they expect the leakers, if they are found, to be fired. The investigation prompted the Times’ reporters’ union, the Guild, to issue a stern letter to management accusing it of profiling Arab and Muslim journalists in “a witch hunt.” 

Still, the Times has stood by the story. A March 2 letter to the newsroom from the paper’s publisher A.G. Sulzberger, editor-in-chief Joe Kahn, and managing editor Carolyn Ryan said: “Our reporting continues to show that the details included in that story and the broader pattern of sexual violence connected with the assault are accurate.”

Meanwhile, on January 9, the editorial leadership instituted a new newsroom policy aimed at ending the leaking of Slack messages that have driven so much negative coverage of the Gray Lady. “What once was occasional criticism is a constant flow that often veers into harassment and abuse aimed at intimidating our reporters and editors into changing their coverage,” Sulzberger, Kahn, and Meredith Kopit Levien, CEO of the New York Times Company, wrote.

Companywide Slack channels were essentially public spaces, the letter said. “Public criticism by Times employees of our colleagues for their work product outside of designated feedback forums, as described below, is not permitted,” the new policy says. Now when a Times staffer posts a personal attack on Slack, they are given a warning to remove it. If they do not, the paper’s “Slack community manager” will delete the message.

Already, though, activists in the Times newsroom have figured out ways around the new policy. One Times journalist told The Free Press, “They will do silly junior high things to get around it.” For example, actual journalists or pieces will not be mentioned, but they will use italics in messages to signal that it’s a response to someone’s work without naming them. “They are trying to obey the policy to the letter, not spirit,” this journalist said.

Former Times journalists have also been a conduit for grievances on social media. Soraya Shockley, a former producer for The Daily, took to Twitter on February 10 and claimed many in the newsroom were “ringing the alarm bells for the last four months” about “Screams Without Words.” Another former Times journalist who resigned in November after signing a letter protesting Israel’s war in Gaza, Jazmine Hughes, has been another channel for discontent in the newsroom. In February she first posted to X a screenshot of the message Slack users receive when attacking colleagues.

One Times reporter confirmed that during the editing process of “Screams Without Words,” reporters and editors in the newsroom voiced objections to the article. “This piece was closely edited and bulletproofed,” this reporter said. “It was subjected to a high degree of internal hostility, and everyone knew they couldn’t afford to get it wrong.”

It’s unclear if the newspaper will eventually cave as it did in 2020. One factor that is different, though, is that the Times has at least officially warned its 5,800 employees that defaming colleagues on Slack will no longer be tolerated.

The problem for the Times is that many of its own staffers do not want to investigate the sexual violence that occurred on October 7. They see it as a vulnerability to their own side in the information war about Gaza.

“There are a huge number of people at the Times who are activists, and it is their job to tell a particular story,” one Times reporter told The Free Press. “The precedent was set that this works. If it doesn’t work through one means, they will find another.”

Meghan Markle’s Next Turn

What exactly is “American Riviera Orchard?” asks Tanya Gold

Recently, while the entire world was wondering, “Where the hell is Kate Middleton?” her sister-in-law Meghan Markle took to Instagram to remind us all where she still is: in the business of selling herself.

The self-exiled princess’s new initiative is called American Riviera Orchard, which sounds like an address given by an immigrant to a taxi driver, asking to be taken to paradise. It isn’t memorable—it’s a word salad—but it has that fragile quality of yearning, like “Over the Rainbow” or “Is it benign, doctor?” Trademark applications reveal that American Riviera Orchard plans to sell home goods like linens, cookbooks, and fruit preserves. But as with anything royal, there’s a deeper message. 

The Instagram account associated with American Riviera Orchard is nine squares, stitched with the name in gold. It looks like a napkin, but luxe. I don’t know much about glossy women—I have never snuggled in an Hermès Avalon throw blanket (camel) or married a prince under a curse, but I have always believed that some women use beautiful things to express to the world a poise they do not feel. 

A spokes-acolyte told People magazine it will “reflect everything that she loves—family, cooking, entertaining, and home décor.” A promotional video had Meghan stirring a pot. This is a metaphor too: What is she stirring? History? 

Meghan has always presented as a woman who doesn’t know where she belongs. She wrote about it once for Elle: she described filling in a form about ethnicity, but there was no box for her own: biracial. “I left my identity blank,” she wrote, “a question mark, an absolute incomplete—much like how I felt.” Now we know where she thinks she belongs: in an orchard by the sea in America. 

Sussex Goop (it’s easier to call it that) will sit at Meghan’s sweet spot: where rank materialism meets bogus activism. “While my life shifts from refugee camps to red carpets,” she once said, “I choose them both because these worlds can, in fact, co-exist, and for me, they must.” 

Except they can’t. There is no such thing as a progressive duchess. As with all dreamlands, Sussex Goop will be smaller in daylight. I expect napkins and spoons, and oils and sauces, and possibly gloves for handling chickens. I wonder what the bent of the bogus activism will be: environmentalism or social justice? 

Everyone who attaches themselves to royalty collapses to a fantasy of some kind. This is Meghan’s. 

Meghan presumably hopes American Riviera Orchard is the next Goop. People laugh so hard at Gwyneth Paltrow they forget that her wellness business is worth $250 million. But success takes hard work, and princesses are not made for that. Their job is to be, not to do.

One last, amazing thing: In January, Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company that develops computer interfaces that can be implanted in the brain, placed a device in a patient for the first time. Yesterday, in a livestream on X, the first human trial patient—a 29-year-old quadriplegic named Noland Arbaugh—played a game of chess without using his hands. “It’s not perfect. I would say we have run into some issues. I don’t want people to think that this is the end of the journey. There’s a lot of work to be done, but it has already changed my life,” he said. It’s unbelievable. Watch here

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

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