The new British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her cabinet today.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Pages

Baseball's Great Equalizer: The Knuckleball

Jul 20, 2013

If Bugs Bunny had a pitch, it would be the knuckleball. It weaves and bobs, zigs and zags, and acts like it has a mind of its own. Catchers have trouble catching this pitch. It leaves hitters dazed. Even the pitcher can't really say for sure what it's going to do. And that's the idea. It isn't a power pitch. It isn't a control pitch. It is, precisely, an uncontrol pitch.

The idea is to throw the ball with as little spin as possible. This lets the play of the air and wind along the ball's seams determine its trajectory. A good knuckleballer doesn't so much place the ball as he acts like a ball whisperer.

Here's the curious thing: no one in baseball sets out to be a knuckleballer. By and large, it is a pitch of last resort. You turn to it when all else fails — when the fastball no longer pops and when no one is fooled by the change. Certainly this was the case with R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games and the Cy Young award last year pitching for the Mets. He may be the only knuckleballer in today's Major Leagues. He turned to the knuckleball — started the long arduous process of learning to throw it — to save a sagging career.

If the knuckleball can be so devilishly effective, why don't more pitchers cultivate it as part of their working arsenal? Or, at the very least, why aren't knuckleball specialists a more everyday part of the game?

The only answer I can come up with is that baseball, like life, isn't rational; things aren't always what they are supposed to be. In the culture of baseball — at least our American baseball culture — the knuckleball just isn't sexy.

But what if a young pitcher, someone still in little league, did set their sights on this pitch. What if someone devoted a whole career to it? This would be a species of baseball flower that may have never been seen before.

Watch the ESPN video below to learn about an unstoppable young pitcher, out of Florida, who is doing just this. The video's from 2010, but there's been no lag in the development of this young talent.

It's a long road from little league stardom the major leagues. But this knuckleballer has a better chance than most and her name is Chelsea Baker.

(Hat tip: Thanks to David Temple's excellent podcast Stealing Home, where I first learned about Chelsea Baker.)


You can keep up with more of what Alva Noë is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @alvanoe

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.