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SpaceX blasts off; Poland criminalizes the act of blaming Polish people for Holocaust complicity.
- Elon Musk’s SpaceX program launched the Falcon Heavy rocket from Florida today. [BuzzFeed / Dan Vergano]
- The launch was a success; the rocket, carrying Musk’s red Tesla Roadster, took off and went into orbit. Parts of the rocket later touched back down to Earth. [The Verge / Loren Grush]
- Falcon Heavy is a very large rocket; it weighs more than 1,500 tons and has the ability to carry more things into space than any other vehicle since Apollo-era rockets. [NPR / Colin Dwyer and Geoff Brumfiel]
- The rocket’s launch is significant for a few reasons. First, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful rocket currently in operation, second only to those in NASA’s Apollo era. [Guardian]
- It also heralds a new era in the private space industry, and it puts Musk ahead of his competitors including Jeff Bezos. [LA Times / Samantha Masunaga]
- Musk, the South African billionaire and inventor, has a bigger vision for what to launch into space ... most notably, people to live on colonies on the moon and Mars. [NYT / Kenneth Chang]
Poland tries to censor a dark part of its history
- On Tuesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed a bill that makes it a crime — punishable by up to three years in prison — for anyone who blames the Polish people for any complicity in the Holocaust. [Washington Post / Rick Noack]
- The Polish government is particularly upset about the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” to describe death camps operated by Nazi Germany on Polish soil; President Obama had to apologize after using the phrase in 2012. [Washington Post / editorial board]
- But the role of Polish citizens in tolerating, or assisting, Nazi extermination of Jews and other groups is still a matter of historical debate. Polish historians have worked to open up a space to discuss complicity in recent years, and they worry that the new law will shut it down. [Chicago Tribune / Anne Applebaum]
- Poland’s current right-wing government is already raising alarms in Western Europe for its populism and “illiberalism” — it was formally sanctioned by the EU in December after Duda signed a law that effectively put the courts under his party’s control. [NYT / Marc Santora and Joanna Berendt]
- Anti-Semitism is on the rise as well; an anti-Semitic march in Warsaw in November attracted 60,000 marchers. [JTA / Cnaan Lipshiz]
- It’s hard to know what’s scarier: that Polish state media defended the bill by claiming an Israeli “Holocaust industry” was trying to squeeze Poland of property, or that a protest in favor of the bill told Duda (a Catholic) to “take off your yarmulke and sign the bill.” [WSJ / Drew Hinshaw]
- On a small Greek island, there’s a small group of people who are the last practitioners of “sfyria,” a language composed entirely of whistling. [The Outline / Sarah Souli]
- Who is President Trump most afraid of (besides Robert Mueller)? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the “skilled prosecutor with an acid tongue” who is all up in memo mania these days. [Atlantic / Natasha Bertrand]
- It might not be a shock for those who live there, but Los Angeles (still) has the worst traffic congestion in the world. [USA Today / Kevin McCoy]
- One University of Chicago med student is learning his craft by literally knitting cute little organs out of yarn, with the correct scale and color. [Atlas Obscura / Jessica Leigh Hester]
“We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.” [President Trump to lawmakers, seemingly forgetting that we had a shutdown a couple of weeks ago / CNN]
Watch this: Why do taxpayers pay billions for football stadiums?
Cities want football teams. Owners want stadiums. [YouTube / Mallory Brangan and Dorotea Sotirovska]