Whatever Gets You Through the Night

Note: NextDraft is on vacation until Jan 3. Happy New Year.

"Imagine that an insect is eating your crops. If you have a gene drive and you understand how olfaction works in that pest, you could just reprogram it to go on its merry way. The pest would still be in the ecosystem, but it would just dislike the taste of your crop. That is a much more elegant way of interacting with nature than anything we do now." We are approaching an age in which the technology to alter DNA will become more widely available. That's great news. Unless it's not. According to one researcher at MIT: "My greatest fear is that something terrible will happen before something wonderful happens. It keeps me up at night more than I would like to admit." (So we either need to be really careful, or alter our DNA to be better at sleeping through the night.) From The New Yorker's Michael Specter: Rewriting The Code Of Life.


Court Fester

The Senate Republicans famously refused to even hold confirmation hearings on Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. But that kind of obstructionism wasn't limited to the nation's top court. As a result, Donald Trump will inherit more than 100 court vacancies



After a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements (the first of its kind allowed by the US), Benjamin Netanyahu is lashing out at those who supported the vote. As he pressures the international community, he is facing his own challenges at home. Meanwhile, Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer says he has evidence that Obama was behind the resolution. "We will present this evidence to the new administration through the appropriate channels. If they want to share it with the American people they are welcome to do it."

+ After believing some fake news, Pakistan's defense chief directed a nuclear threat towards Israel. From a prominent TV journalist in Pakistan: "Our nuclear program is too serious a business to be left to Twitter-addicted politicians." Umm...


Sharing is Caring

We are divided. Angrily divided. And few issues reflect that divide more than our perspectives on gun laws. In partnership with a non-profit, NY Mag brought together "more than a dozen others on both sides of the gun debate -- a hunter; two Baltimore cops; a criminal-court judge from New Orleans; a couple of high-schoolers who grew up in the ganglands of Chicago's South Side -- [who] had agreed to meet face-to-face, tell each other their stories, and try to understand one another's points of view, in an experiment in radical empathy." (These days, any empathy is pretty radical.) Those involved listened to each other, and then told each other's stories in their own voice. The encounter had a huge impact on the participants: An Experiment in Empathy.


Vlad is Rad

Trump's approval of Putin might make him an outlier in the US, but he'd fit right in among young people in Russia. NatGeo's Julia Ioffe explains why many young Russians see a hero in Putin. "Much is made of Putin's stratospheric popularity -- at the time I reported this article, Putin had the approval of 80 percent of Russians polled. But Russians between the ages of 18 and 24 approve of him at a higher rate than any other age group: 88 percent. More than any other generation, they are proud of their country and its stature in the world, associate its military prowess with greatness, and believe in its future ... Today 58 percent of Russians would still like to see a return of the Soviet order, and some 40 percent see Stalin favorably."


Dam if You Don’t

"To keep it stable, hundreds of employees have to work around the clock, pumping a cement mixture into the earth below. Without continuous maintenance, the rock beneath would wash away, causing the dam to sink and then break apart. But Iraq's recent history has not been conducive to that kind of vigilance." And if it fails, a million and a half lives could be at risk. The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins on the Mosul Dam: A Bigger Problem Than ISIS?


Losing Faith

"I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend - the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist." So said Elton John upon learning that 2016 had claimed another musical artist. Over the weekend, pop superstar George Michael died at the age of 53.

+ A look back at a life of pictures.


Experience is a Plus (and a Minus)

"Jensen is the man companies call when the worst happens. The 'worst' encompasses all the events that are so frightening and chaotic that most people don't like to think about them -- plane crashes, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters among them. Jensen has no special gift for collecting bodies, identifying personal effects, or talking to victims' families. What he does have is experience." From GQ: The Man Who Cleans Up After Plane Crashes.


Look Both Ways

"These days, drivers count on mapping apps for more than getting from one place to another. The apps serve as in-car bulletin boards, alerting drivers in real time about their surroundings. Navigation apps such as Waze provide warnings for traffic jams, broken-down vehicles, roadway debris or even lurking police officers." But as the NYT reports, most of these apps don't warn you when you're near a railroad crossing. This story is cautionary tale about our potential over-reliance on apps when it comes to driving, and beyond.


Bottom of the News

For many of us, the holidays brought new gaming consoles or computers (which explains where my kids have been for the past 48 hours.) So this is the ideal time to check out Ars Technica's guide to best video games of 2016.

+ The Ringer celebrates its 28 favorite sports moments of 2016.

+ And this has to be the biggest wave surfed in 2016.

+ It feels great when you time things perfectly and hit a bunch of green lights in a row. Imagine how fun it would to hit 240 of them. In NYC.