March 20th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Nobody wiretapped Trump. And other news, some of which is more surprising.

“I have no information that supports those tweets.” It’s come to this. FBI Director James Comey appeared in front of a congressional committee to testify that (like everyone else) his organization has encountered no evidence that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Comey added that no president could order such surveillance.

+ Comey also testified that there is an ongoing investigation into potential contacts between between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

+ President Trump attempted (but failed) to control the day’s headlines with a series of tweets and claims of fake news. (Trump blaming his current crisis on fake news is like a Kamikaze pilot blaming his crash on air traffic controllers.)

+ It’s getting so crazy that the FBI director was asked to debunk a presidential tweet that was published during the hearings (and he did so).


Gorsuch and Such

“The nominee himself, Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, seemed almost an afterthought at times, sitting alone at the witness table, occasionally nodding or taking notes, as the 20 members of the Judiciary Committee took turns delivering lengthy and partisan opening statements.” That was how the AP described the opening scenes of the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination hearing; an event that is as much about Merrick Garland as it is about Gorsuch.


What a Difference a Day Makes

“Only 6 percent of patients prescribed a one-day supply of opioids were still taking the drugs a year later, but that number doubled to 12 percent if patients were prescribed a six-day supply and quadrupled to 24 percent if patients were given a 12-day supply.” From Vox: The risk of a single 5-day opioid prescription. It’s worth noting that this urgent crisis is receiving almost no attention in the health care debate.

+ Gizmodo: An alarming number of kids are getting their hands on opioids.


Ladder Climbers

According to the UN’s annual survey, Norway is the happiest place on Earth. The data is drawn from the answers to this question: “The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?” (A plurality of Americans denied the existence of the ladder).

+ “While Italy is among the most developed countries, growth has stagnated for decades, almost 40 percent of its youngsters are out of jobs and it’s saddled with one of the world’s highest debt loads relative to the size of its economy. Yet Italians are in way better shape than Americans, Canadians and Brits, who all suffer from higher blood pressure and cholesterol and poorer mental health.” From Bloomberg: Italy’s Struggling Economy Has World’s Healthiest People. (I see this as a win for carbs.)


Shove Thy Neighbor

“This is what divides them at the dawn of the Trump era: for the president to keep his promise to millions of working-class white voters like Estes, he is threatening millions of working-class immigrants like the family next door.” WaPo provides an interesting look at a two families for whom the deportation fight hits close to home. Like, right next door. On a Texas prairie, distance grows between neighbors over an American birthright.


Generalized Anxiety

“His belief was rooted in a personal struggle. He later made public, in a radically un-Army-like moment, something that could have seriously jeopardized a career that some say was destined for the upper echelons of the military: that he had sought mental health care for depression. People who worked at the fort say Pittard’s openness made it easier for soldiers to seek treatment.” Major General Dana Pittard came up with a series of programs that dramatically cut suicides in the army. So why was his program dropped? Politico Magazine: The General Who Went to War On Suicide.

+ And there’s an opioid connection here as well.


New York Stories

“Jimmy Breslin, the New York City newspaper columnist and best-selling author who leveled the powerful and elevated the powerless for more than 50 years with brick-hard words and a jagged-glass wit, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 88 and, until very recently, was still pushing somebody’s buttons with two-finger jabs at his keyboard.” The NYT: Legendary New York City Newspaper Columnist Dies at 88. (He was a great New York storyteller who became one of the great New York stories.)

+ “It’s news reporting, and that consists of using your two feet. The only lesson, then, that you could give people is how to climb stairs, because there are no stories on the first floor. Anything you’re looking for is four and five flights up.” NY Mag: He Knew How to Play This Game.

+ The rest of us just started writing about Trump and the media. Jimmy Breslin was writing about the topic, and getting it exactly right, decades ago. Here are three Breslin columns on Trump. “Donald Trump, who must have been spending about half of each day on the phone with reporters and editors, owned the news business.”


The Shadow Knows

“Most members of President Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged — above all — with monitoring the secretaries’ loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.” From WaPo: White House installs political aides at Cabinet agencies to be Trump’s eyes and ears.


Following the Party Line

“Welcome to the party line, a group phone call where teens went to meet strangers.” Back in the 80s, social media was already in full-swing. But participants weren’t connecting via computer or mobile device. They were using good old landlines.


Bottom of the News

“Think about it: Trump hasn’t properly executed a handshake with any visiting foreign leaders. Before Trump, none of us had any idea that not being able to do the handshakes was even a thing.” A smart, entertaining, and hilarious reflection on Trump’s historically low approval rating: This is 37%.

+ “The jersey was recovered in Mexico by the Houston Police Department with help from the FBI and Mexican authorities.” Tom Brady’s Missing Super Bowl LI Jersey Has Been Found. (Atlanta’s second-half defense is still at large.)

+ Want to perform CPR properly? Make sure you push down to the beat of the right song. Interestingly, Staying Alive is one of the songs that works. The heart wants what the heart wants…

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