Jeff Bezos exposing the Enquirer's attempt to blackmail him was good and right. But everything else about the story is so, so wrong.

Apparently 2019 is on a mission to outdo the past two years on the "How is this real life?" front.

If you've missed the big news this week, the National Enquirer tried to blackmail and extort Jeff Bezos with embarrassing photos, but Bezos published their threats in a blog post instead. But that's really not the whole story, because that's simply not absurd enough for this day and age.

The biggest headline in America right now is that the richest man in the world, worth an estimated $137 billion, is being blackmailed by the most ludicrous and illegitimate tabloid paper because they got a hold of his dick pics. That's an actual news story.


And that's not all. The publisher of this ludicrous and illegitimate tabloid, whose unbelievable name is David Pecker, has a special relationship with Donald Trump—the philandering billionaire reality TV star who also happens to be the President of the United States.

You can't write this stuff. Seriously, if I had sent this storyline as a book proposal to a publisher five years ago, I'd have been laughed out of the writing business. And yet, here we are. Welcome to 2019.

I don't understand why we're not all running around and screaming, "THIS IS NOT NORMAL!"

I'm not sure where to start with how bonkers literally everything about this is. Since I'm not quite ready to take on Jeff Bezos' pants tent yet, let's take a look at what $137 billion actually is instead.

There's rich, then there's filthy rich—and then there's Jeff Bezos. I mean, good for Bezos for building up a business from scratch in his garage (yay, capitalism!), but wealth hoarding in a world where billions of people struggle to put food on the table is obscene. And make no mistake, anyone worth $137 billion is a big ol' hoarding hoarder.

To illustrate, if you did nothing but count dollars for 16 hours a day, guess how long it would take to count $137 billion. Just guess.

Did you guess somewhere in the vicinity of 33,000 years? If not, you'd be dead wrong. Most of us have no concept of how large even one billion actually is. And while wealth isn't bad, that extreme amount of wealth is obscene, especially when your own employees pee in bottles and live in fear in the workplace.

Now that that's out of the way, back to the story of Jeff Bezos' junk pics.

Bezos exposing the National Enquirer's attempt to blackmail him was good and right. But everything else about the story is so, so wrong.

Bezos is being hailed a "hero of democracy" for taking on the all-powerful tabloid and not giving in to extortion attempts. And yes, good on him. But the fact that Bezos was cheating on his wife seems to be getting lost in the "He's a hero!" narrative.

Of course, rich and powerful men have been unfaithful throughout history. But should we just accept that as normal? Perhaps we have no choice in an era where my 10-year-old son can click a button and listen to the President of the United States say he "tried to f*ck" a married woman and that he can grab women "by the p*ssy." Good times, America!

And how about this absurd little tidbit: The letter threatening to publish Bezos' private photos if he didn't make the statement they wanted him to make came from the National Enquirer's lawyer. And the way it's written makes it sound like a legally binding contract. Seriously? Aren't these shady threats supposed to take place in a seedy bar someplace? If we have to be living in a badly written crime story, at least give us the level of drama we expect—and frankly, deserve—at this point.

I don't know, y'all. Everything has become so bizarre and dumb and surreal. Forgive me if I don't have the will or energy to cheer on a billionaire adulterer's spat with another billionaire adulterer, both of whom are embroiled with a gossip tabloid run by a man who makes his millions selling salacious stories about celebrities.

We don't have to keep living like this, America. We can do better, even if it is 2019. I promise we can.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less