Wednesday, January 13th, 2016


You Take That Back

The gifting season has come to an end. That means the action is just beginning for the liquidators who handle the millions of products you return because of defects, disappointments, or because, upon reflection, you didn't actually need anything new. In general, those who sold the product don't want it back, in part because, as one liquidator explains: "You don't know where the product went after it left your store, so you can't put it back on your shelf." Wired's Davey Alba takes you inside the hidden world that handles your holiday returns. Thankfully, during this segment of the gift buying cycle, no one gets trampled to death.


A Dear Don Letter

Here's one quote: "When politicians insult Muslims . . . that doesn't make us safer. That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world." And here's another: "During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country." The first comes from Obama's final State of the Union Address. The second comes from Governor Nikki Haley's rebuttal. The most interesting thing about the evening was that both speakers clearly sought to distance themselves and their parties from Donald Trump.

+ "The fascinating, unresolved question about polarization -- in many ways it is the great question of this Presidential election -- is whether the bitter atmosphere is an artifact of politics alone, or whether the country itself is more deeply split." The New Yorker on a State of the Union for the age of polarization.

+ One of the biggest lines of the night was when Obama touted his anti-terrorist resolve by saying, "Just ask Osama bin Laden" (at which point I pictured Sean Penn grabbing a Mic and heading for Pakistan). Here's a full recap of the SOTU.


Seamen Released

"That this issue was resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong." So said John Kerry after Iran released 10 U.S. sailors following their detention for supposedly drifting into Iranian waters.

+ While still in custody, a U.S. Navy sailor apologized on Iranian State TV.


Flint Water

In an effort to get clean drinking water to residents of Flint, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has called in the National Guard and requested help from FEMA.

+ Slate: Flint sends overdue notices to residents who aren't paying for their water, which is poison.

+ "Everybody does. The National Institutes of Health can't find somebody to test that doesn't. You just can't find a person that doesn't already have C8 in their blood at this point in time." From The Awl: DuPont agreed to phase out C8 last year, but it's already in all of us.


Musical Chairs and Hollywood Squares

Joaquin Guzmán got used to moving from place to place when he was on the run. But he might be moving around even more now that he's been locked up (in the same prison from which he escaped six months ago). El Chapo has been moved from cell to cell at least eight times since checking back in at Altiplano prison.

+ NBC News: "A batch of newly published text messages purportedly shows how former fugitive Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán was eager to set up a clandestine meeting with Latin actress Kate del Castillo -- and apparently had never heard of actor Sean Penn."


Cash Pad

"We are concerned about the possibility that dirty money is being put into luxury real estate. We think some of the bigger risk is around the least transparent transactions." The U.S. Treasury Department, concerned about money laundering and other shady financial transactions, has announced that it will "begin identifying and tracking secret buyers of high-end properties."


All A Bored

"He found himself working with about 20 young men who had also suffered traumatic brain injury. Thinking of his brother, he asked them whether they, too, got bored more easily than they had before. 'And every single one of them ... said yes." In Nature, Maggie Koerth-Baker explains why studying boredom is anything but boring. (My kids would think studying boredom while playing with an iPad on a roller coaster was boring...)


Sunny Came Home

For the past four years running, the most Googled person in India has been a Bollywood star who had a former career in the adult movie business. Her rise (and ours) provides key insights into "the tectonic shifts reshaping India's cultural landscape." Shikha Dalmia on the bizarre rise of a massively popular p*rn star in ever-prudish India.

+ Manisha Aggarwal-Schifelitte: The New Daughters of Bollywood.


Financial Planning

The NYT has some advice for you. After you win the Powerball lottery tonight, "take our advice and take the annuity." (And who knows how to handle money better than those who run newspapers?)

+ And here's a primer on the odds and a look at where the lottery money goes. (I love that the same states who run the lottery are moving to shut down fantasy football sites because that's, you know, gambling.)


Bottom of the News

Have you found yourself lamenting the fact that baby carrots had to be killed just so your kid would consume a small portion of vegetables? Well, relax. Baby carrots are not baby carrots.

+ "When the offers of backstage passes and bikini pics started blowing up his phone, Jonathan Nichols knew something was up." Verizon gave this guy Sir Mix-A-Lot's old phone number.

+ Here's scientific proof that your dog can read your emotions. (This is less compelling than the evidence that your cat doesn't give a shit.)