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Peter Savodnik on Evan Gershkovich’s year in Russian prison. Eli Lake on campus lunacy. Suzy Weiss on the  Vanderbilt sit-in. A Free Press Fight Club.
The sit-in at Kirkland Hall at Vanderbilt. (via X)

TamponGate. Babies in Bars. Plus. . .

Peter Savodnik on Evan Gershkovich’s year in Russian prison. Eli Lake on campus lunacy. RIP Joe Lieberman, Richard Serra, and Daniel Kahneman. And much more.

Hi all! Suzy here again, filling in for Olly Wiseman, who is on vacation (lazy, and unprofessional). Don’t worry, he’ll be back next week. And tomorrow we’ll bring your One True Queen, Nellie Bowles.

Now to the news:

Tomorrow marks one year since 32-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was thrown in Russian jail and charged with espionage. On Tuesday, his detention was extended for a fifth time. If convicted, he faces 20 years in a Russian penal colony. 

To commemorate this grim anniversary, the Journal is staging a 24-hour reading of Evan’s journalism, which you can watch here

Today in The Free Press, our Peter Savodnik writes about the young reporter stuck in Putin’s Russia: 

Ten Stories We’re Reading Now

  1. Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a new bill that does away with squatters’ rights in the state. (NewsNation) 

  1. After an internal—though occasionally on-screen—outcry, NBC News has cut ties with former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, who they’d hired as a contributor. CAA has also fired her, and yes, she’s looking to sue. (Deadline)

  2. Toronto mayor Olivia Chow is proposing a tax on property owners based on the amount of stormwater runoff they produce. In other words, a charge for how much rain falls on your home or business. Not The Onion. (National Post

  3. The hellish situation in Haiti continues to spiral, fueled in part by illegal guns pouring into Port-au-Prince. (BBC) 

  4. The era of the wonk—those ”learned and credentialed” professional elites—is coming to an end, according to Walter Russell Mead. Long, brilliant essay worth printing and reading. (Tablet

  5. Four people, including, most recently, a 16-year-old girl, have been fatally struck—two were deemed suicides— by subways in New York in the past 24 hours. (New York mag)

  6. A former troubled teen and foster kid sings the praises of standardized tests, and what they’ve afforded her. (New York Times)

  7. On Monday, Bibi Netanyahu canceled a trip by an Israeli delegation to the U.S. to protest the fact that the U.S. did not veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. Yesterday he reversed course and will now send a delegation to the White House next week to discuss military operations in Rafah. (Axios

  8. Wiener dogs—otherwise known as dachshunds—are under threat in Germany because of a proposed new law seeking to outlaw breeding dogs with “skeletal anomalies.” (CNN)

  9. The woman behind “equity-based algebra” in California stands accused of academic fraud. This one’s a doozy from our friends at (Pirate Wires).

A Few Good Men

Three giants in their respective fields have passed on to the next world. Daniel Kahneman, the grandfather of behavioral economics—he, along with his partner Amos Tversky, illuminated how and why we humans can be so irrational—has died at the age of 90. Rest in peace as well to the artist Richard Serra, a minimalist sculptor who worked in sweeping, monumental proportions. And then there’s Joe Lieberman, the longtime Connecticut senator and consummate mensch, who died Wednesday at 82.

All three left this country better. All three leave us with blueprints (literally, in one case) for how to make an impact for the good in our short time here. 

Tale of a Tampon

No one is ever going to let me guest-host this digest again, so I might as well tell you about some Vanderbilt girl’s tampon. This all started yesterday morning, when a wave of undergrad students rushed Kirkland Hall, where Vanderbilt’s chancellor’s office is located. Thus began their sit-in—a response to the college administration shutting down a student government vote over whether the school should divest funds from Israel. 

The protesters remained there for nearly 21.5 hours—blowing Harvard’s 12-hour “hunger strike,” also known as a good night’s sleep—out of the water, before police began removing and arresting students, some of whom have since been suspended. 

There are many dumbfounding moments from this latest campus frenzy—for example, when the students, arms linked, called the black police officers protecting the chancellor “puppets.” When food was brought in from Panera Bread by the administration for the officers but not the students, it was treated like a human-rights abuse.

But the tampon takes the cake. (Major props to Steve McGuire for compiling the best episode of the internet since yesterday.)

Here’s what went down: during one of those 21.5 hours of the protest, probably at an ungodly one, a few of the student demonstrators decided to call 911. That’s because their friend, who was part of the sit-in, had to change her tampon.

Specifically, she was “being denied the right to change her tampon that has been in for multiple hours, which leads to an increased risk of toxic shock syndrome.”

The frankly Zen-like 911 operator, who deserves a raise, was understandably confused. “Ma’am, do you have an emergency?” 

Um, yes?! The student on the phone requests urgent medical assistance. 

“You’re telling me your friend in Kirkland needs an ambulance. Is that what you’re telling me?” 

Then in another video, one of the protesters—in a keffiyeh and a mask—approaches the police and an administrator, who was indeed in a sweater vest, demanding to know WHAT. WILL. HAPPEN. to her friend, should she leave the sit-in to change the tampon in question. The adults calmly explain that she won’t be arrested if she leaves the building. But can they confirm that she will never be arrested, ever?! 

“She does not feel safe,” someone says off-screen, punctuating it with claps. 

This whole thing makes the Nick Christakis Halloween costume struggle session look like a teachable moment. It must be seen to be believed. Watch all the videos in Steve’s thread here

For starters, if having a tampon in for “multiple hours” is grounds to call for an ambulance, I should have been dead years ago. Second, this student was being denied no such right. All she had to do was get up, leave the protest, and find one of the hundreds of bathrooms that she had access to elsewhere on campus. Pro tip: wear a pad to the all-night protest. The First Amendment doesn’t come with a heating pad. 

It’s all very Karen, to borrow a trope from 2020, especially when a protester demands the administrator find someone who can get them some answers. Just like middle-aged women who think dressing down the manager will somehow earn them a full refund, these students have convinced themselves that by linking arms and screaming “shame” at their college’s chancellor, they are stopping a war in the Middle East.

Don’t these authority figures realize they are standing in the way of a global intifada, which is also—obviously—a totally good thing? 

We find out in a subsequent video that indeed the tampon was removed, though not in any bathroom. Reader, it came out at the sit-in, like so much urine in so many plastic water bottles. A woman on the microphone calls it “the most depraved shit I’ve seen in my entire life.” 

Hard agree. 

If you haven’t noticed, a specter is haunting American college campuses. And no, I’m not talking about Tampon-gate, but Jew-hate, which has led to some 50 probes and lawsuits. Today, Eli Lake asks if these lawsuits actually work—do they change the culture on campus? He speaks to Kenneth Marcus, the legal force behind many of them.

Free Press Fight Club: Babies in Bars?

Should you bring your baby to a bar? It’s a question as old as bars themselves, and earlier this month the argument came to a fiery head when a bar patron screamed at a couple with a crying baby at a pub. In a video, she calls them idiots and adds “Why would you do that to the poor kid?” The mom offered weakly, over the kid’s wailing, “He’s having fun.” 

Eventually, a server arrives and asks the woman, the one without a baby, who seems pretty drunk, to leave. “You’re harassing them. They have children.” 

“Yeah,” she responds, “in a bar.” 

Who’s in the right? The parents? The offended woman exercising her legal right to get wasted? The baby? We asked TFP editors Margi Conklin and Olly Wiseman to duke it out. 

Margi Conklin says, Just Say No to Babies in Bars 

I like kids. Some of my best friends are kids! And almost all of my closest friends have kids, so I understand why a lot of parents need a drink. But more than that, adults need adults-only spaces. 

Increasingly, our society has become a confusing morass where kids are allowed to go to nice restaurants and fancy resorts and treat them like playgrounds, and adults are allowed to go to Taylor Swift concerts and read Harry Potter and treat them like high art. 

This. Must. Stop.

Kids need places where they can be silly and goof off without adults getting in their way or—worse—trying to join in and act cool. And adults need places where they can enjoy the soothing effects of alcohol, a good jukebox, and intelligent conversation without children crying or shouting or—worse—trying to hijack the discussion and make it all about them

What I’m proposing is not that hard for parents: if you want to drink, get a babysitter. Or have a drink at home.

Alternatively, if you really must bring a baby to a bar, give them the full experience and let them drink, too. That’s what they do in Germany, and it keeps the vibe chill. Don’t believe me? Here’s my pal Otto and me at a pub in Bavaria kicking back with a cold one about 12 years ago. From what his mother tells me, he has turned out just fine.

And now, to Oliver Wiseman, who pleads, Please Let Parents Bring Babies to Bars—Please! 

I hate to sound dramatic, but the future of humankind might depend on parents’ right to bring their baby to a bar. 

Birth rates are falling. To avoid extinction, drastic steps must be taken. While child tax credits might help, finances are only part of the story. Parenting doesn’t just need to be more affordable. It needs to be more fun. 

Sometimes that fun might involve blowing raspberries on your newborn’s belly. But sometimes it means eschewing sweatpants and the sofa, putting some proper clothes on, and taking your kid to a place where a professional will fix you a drink while your little darling bobs on your knee—or sleeps in a bassinet under the table. 

It’s not just bars—society needs to break down barriers between family and non-family spaces. And not just for the sake of the parents. Kids need to realize the world doesn’t revolve around them and learn how to behave in the grown-up world. The childless will benefit too. Margi rightly worries about adults who haven’t grown out of music and books made for children. Adult millennials playing Quidditch and spending a month’s pay on Taylor Swift tickets is infantilized idiocy, but it isn’t because there are too many babies in their lives. Quite the opposite, in fact. 

Babies should be welcome everywhere—to make lives easier for parents and to remind other adults that they are adults, and should start acting like it. 

By “welcome” I mean nothing more than tolerated. A certain kind of parent is part of the problem here too: the perfectionist fusspots who expect any establishment to bend over backward for them just because they have a child—and refuse to leave when their toddler has a meltdown. I’m not suggesting bars offer coloring books and soft play areas. Just that, from time to time, tired parents should be able to enjoy the civilizing taste of a professionally mixed drink—without having to fork out for a babysitter. 

Last but certainly not least:

Our first installment of our America Debates, presented in collaboration with FIRE, is only a few weeks away! Should the U.S. close its borders? Ann Coulter and Sohrab Ahmari will take on Nick Gillespie and Cenk Uygur at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas on April 11. Get your tickets here.

Suzy Weiss is a reporter at The Free Press. Follow her on X @SnoozyWeiss.

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