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Stormy Daniels is questioned by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger before Justice Juan Merchan during former President Donald Trump's criminal trial.

REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

Stormy embarrassments about the wrong things

Of all the salaciously sloppy moments in Donald Trump’s hush-money trial unfolding just a short walk from GZERO HQ — and there are a lot – one stands out.

No, it’s not the anecdote about Stormy Daniels allegedly spanking Trump with a magazine — a detail that unintentionally evoked nostalgia for the fading benefits of print media. Try spanking a candidate with a digital edition!

No, it’s something far more modest. As the adult entertainer poured out presidential peccadillos about his penchant for satin pajamas, Trump’s lawyer declared that it all was so embarrassing that the jury was now prejudiced against his client. He demanded a mistrial.

State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan had to rule on the nature of embarrassment. What level is so harmful that it erodes the system, in this case, forcing a mistrial? In a sense, this is the core question of our confessional culture: Are there conventions of decorum that preserve human dignity and, if so, how do we adhere to them?

Merchan didn’t ponder this too long. He denied the mistrial but admitted that much of Daniels’ testimony was “better left unsaid.”

It was a cultural comment on the age of oversharing and a flimsy protest against the strategy that Steve Bannon once called “flooding the zone with shit,” but it warrants some attention. Would it help our political culture if some things were left unsaid, or are we actually leaving the most embarrassingly important things unsaid?

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Graphic Truth: World literacy reaches new heights

It’s World Book Day! We’re big readers here at GZERO, and we suspect you might be as well. Alas, literature just doesn’t have the caché it once did, but in some ways we are living in a golden age of literacy. At no point ever in human history have so many people been able to read and write.

Some 87% of all people above age 15 were able to read as of 2022, up from 67% as recently as 1979. That’s a big bump, but wind the clock back a bit more to see just how far we’ve come. In 1820, the World Economic Forum estimates that just 12% of the world’s adults could read and write.

Have a look at recent progress in our chart, and don’t forget to crack open that book you’ve been meaning to get to today!

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