Thursday, May 25th, 2017


Punch Drunk Gov

"We're at a loss for words. And as people who wrangle words on a minute-by-minute basis, that doesn't happen often." That was the opening salvo from the Billings Gazette as the newspaper pulled its endorsement of GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, who reportedly body slammed a reporter from The Guardian (and broke his glasses) on the eve of Montana's special election. The incident swiftly spread across social media, and Ginaforte was cited for misdemeanor assault hours before the polls opened. It's somewhat ironic that Gianforte "grabbed [Ben] Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground" after the reporter asked a question about healthcare coverage. This was the action of a single person in a city far from Washington, DC; and in general, the media is too quick to try to shoehorn entirely unrelated issues into a unified storyline. But in this case, the shoe fits. Donald Trump's hands were nowhere near the Montana incident, but his fingerprints are all over it. The president has relentlessly attacked the press, helping to foment an anti-media fervor. The Montana incident is a natural outcome of Trump's self-serving, anti-media crusade. And while this media-bashing strategy is reckless at home, the outcomes have undoubtedly been worse in other countries where reporters are in constant danger of suffering much worse than a pair of broken glasses at the hands of dictators and thugs who have been given the symbolic green light by what they hear coming out of the Oval Office.

+ Here's why Gianforte might still win today's election. And he may have raised a lot of money online, after the news of the body slam.


Quack Hammers

"Odinists worship ancient Norse gods such as Thor and Odin. They typically wear pendants of Thor's hammer around their necks and meet for rituals in the woods, where they drink mead from a communal horn, read ancient poetry and occasionally slaughter animals in sacrifice to the gods." It sounds like a scene out of Game of Thrones, or just a bad joke. But the renaissance of Odinism is anything but funny. Here's the always excellent Reveal on how an ancient Nordic religion is inspiring white supremacist jihad. "Today's racist Odinists say it is the only pure religion for white people, one not 'mongrelized' by the Jewish prophet Jesus. They see themselves as warriors, ready to reclaim America for the white race and fight against a white genocide, driven by Jews, that has left the greatest country on Earth in tatters."


Shark, Nato

President Trump did not refer to NATO as obsolete in his speech to NATO member-nations in Brussels, but he did admonish them to pay their fair share. And, while many expected him to do so, the president "did not specifically commit to honor Article 5, which stipulates that other NATO allies must come to the aid of an ally under attack if it is invoked."

+ Meanwhile, in a response to a troubling series of leaks to the media, UK police investigating the Manchester Arena bomb attack have stopped sharing information with the US. President Trump promised to put an end to the leaks which he said "have been going on for a long time."

+ "Then-candidate Trump's campaign statements reveal that on numerous occasions, he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his intent, if elected, to ban Muslims from the United States." In a 10-3 decision, another appeals court deals another blow to Trump's travel ban.


Shields Down

"She had presided over 35 deaths since the law passed, each intimately different from the next. One man got dressed in his amateur clown costume, complete with wig and red nose, and died telling her jokes. He had insisted on being alone in the room with her, but most of her patients died surrounded by loved ones. Many were too sick to devise elaborate rituals, but others had chosen the location, attendees, readings and music as if planning a wedding. Dr. Green called them something she picked up at a conference on euthanasia in the Netherlands: 'choreographed deaths.'" The NYT's Catherine Porter with the interesting story of one of those deaths. "Tormented by an incurable disease, John Shields knew that dying openly and without fear could be his legacy, if his doctor, friends and family helped him."

+ BBC on a radical alternative to burial and cremation: Dissolving the dead.


Brazilian Tax

A corruption scandal involving one president would be bad enough. In Brazil, investigators still haven't gotten to the bottom of a scandal that involves three presidents (including the current one). And that's just the beginning. "Hundreds more legislators, governors, mayors, political bosses, and business executives are caught up in Lava Jato (named for a Brasília gas station where some of the payoff cash was laundered). They're part of an epic network of bribes, kickbacks, hush money, and money laundering focused mainly on Brazil's state-run oil company, Petrobras." From Bloomberg: Brazil's Car Wash Scandal Reveals a Country Soaked in Corruption. (You're gonna want to go through the rinse cycle a few times after reading this...)


Reds Leave Feds Scratching Heads

"The Russian document cited a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter. If true, the revelation of such an understanding would have undermined the integrity of the FBI's investigation." That document is said to have played a role in the decision by James Comey to go public with the FBI's findings related to Hillary Clinton's private email server. But get this... "According to the FBI's own assessment, the document was bad intelligence -- and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau." From WaPo How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI's handling of the Clinton probe.

+ The Russians don't just hack elections. Here's Wired on how Russians engineered a brilliant slot machine cheat that the the casinos don't know how to fix. (Maybe we can find some common ground on this issue...)


Waltered States

"Now, as I prepare to retire at the end of that very long and world-changing stretch, it seems appropriate to ponder the sweep of consumer technology in that period, and what we can expect next." The excellent Walt Mossberg drops the last weekly column of his storied career: The Disappearing Computer.


Cheese Whiz

"It took the nut industry more than two years to realize that it was under attack. In late 2015, a month after the Horizon theft, the Western Agricultural Processors Association held a meeting for nut companies and law enforcement, which it called, perhaps melodramatic­ally, the Emergency Nut Theft Summit. 'We thought we'd hold it for just a couple of people, because we'd had two companies that had been hit,' the association's
Roger Isom told me. 'We had 147 people register. We realized right then, about the first of December, that this was way bigger than we'd been led to believe.'" Outside's Peter Vigneron on The Curious Case of the Disappearing Nuts. (That's the same title I planned to use for my book on life after forty...).

+ Forbes: This secretive billionaire makes the cheese for Pizza Hut, Domino's and Papa John's.


These Little Town Blues (and Reds)

"Just 2,500 people live in Haines -- a small town in southeast Alaska surrounded by water. The scenery is incredible, with snowy mountains and lush green forest beyond. The city center is just a few blocks, with several bars, a few restaurants and a beautiful, award-winning library." It all sounds pretty idyllic, until you hear this stat: "In the 2016 presidential election, Haines split right down the middle: Hillary Clinton eked out a four-vote margin of victory over Donald Trump, getting 374 votes to his 370." Welcome to a small, politically-divided town that serves as a metaphor for the whole country.


Bottom of the News

As we've come to expect, there was weirdness during Trump's meeting with NATO allies. Some of it new (what looked like a gentle shoving aside of Montenegro's prime minister), and some familiar (this time, the handshake battle was with French President Emmanuel Macron).

+ Reuters: A Singapore 'vending machine' dispenses Ferraris, Lamborghinis. (It says a lot about me that I still find myself drawn to the vending machine with ice cream sandwiches.)

+ Why are doughnut boxes (At least in some places) pink?

+ Feeling alienated? Tell the world about NextDraft.