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A la Slate's "Today's Papers," I glean the best stuff from the country's top three newspapers so you don't have to:

"Forging Ahead in Moscow," from the LA Times
Persey Tours was barely keeping the bill collectors at bay before it started offering fake vacations last year. Now it's selling 15 a month — providing ersatz ticket stubs, hotel receipts, photos with clients' images superimposed on famous landmarks, a few souvenirs for living room shelves. ... Of course, it's not the real thing. But in Russia, this is a distinction that easily can drift into irrelevance. If there is a world capital of audacious fabrication, it must be Moscow, where fake is never a four-letter word.

"Tom Wolfe's Washington Post," from, duh
"At a Washington party," Thomas Wolfe once observed, "it is not enough that the guests feel drunk; they must feel drunk and important." Classic Wolfe! Piercingly funny and perceptive... instantly quotable... exposing the vanities of the elite. So why is it so... unfamiliar? Because you won't find the line in the familiar Wolfe canon -- "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," "The Right Stuff," "Bonfire of the Vanities." No, it was discovered in a vast unexplored trove: the daily journalism Wolfe produced as a police and features reporter for a full decade before he morphed, in the mid-1960s, into... Tom Wolfe.

"Flesh Trade," from the NYT Mag's Freakonomics column
How's this for a repugnant situation? Take someone you love, perhaps your spouse or your sibling, and find a stranger who will accept a really big bet that your loved one will die prematurely — and if indeed that happens, you pocket a few million dollars. This, of course, is how life insurance works. And most Americans don't find this idea repugnant at all. They used to, however. Until the mid-19th century, life insurance was considered "a profanation," as the sociologist Viviana Zelizer has written, "which transformed the sacred event of death into a vulgar commodity."

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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