August 9th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Trump's word problem, the state of America's nukes, and one chart to explain everything...

A rabbi, a priest, and nuclear-armed reality show host walk into a bar… The world is still trying to figure out exactly how to react to President Trump’s warning to North Korea: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with the fire and fury that the world has never seen.” As The New Yorker’s John Cassidy explains: “Within minutes, news of Trump’s words had gone around the world. They were met with a mixture of astonishment, alarm, and gallows humor.”

+ While some wondered whether the brash wording was part of newly defined strategy, the White House made it clear that this was solely Trump‘s IED (Improvised Explosive Dialogue).

+ Sec of State Tillerson says that “Americans should sleep well at night.” (At least until 3am, when the next Tweet drops.)

+ Why is North Korea threatening Guam?

+ Beyond the hyperbole, what’s going on and what’s at stake? WaPo’s David Ignatius explains why this is the moment of truth on North Korea. “If Washington and Beijing manage to stay together in dealing with Pyongyang, the door opens on a new era in which China will play a larger and more responsible role in global affairs, commensurate with its economic power. If the great powers can’t cooperate, the door will slam shut — possibly triggering a catastrophic military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.” (For the sake of America and the world: No one serve the chocolate cake at Bedminster this week…)


Nuclear Con-Fusion

President Trump tweeted, “My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than before…” The claim that it was his first order is close to true (it was among his first). But what he ordered was something called a Nuclear Posture Review — or as one expert explained: “What he has done is set the Department of Defense some homework that hasn’t been turned in yet.” Overall, America’s nuclear arsenal has actually shrunk recently, so nothing has been renovated or modernized in the past 7 months (of course, renovations always take longer than they say…)


Chart Blanche

“Yes, the upper-middle class has done better than the middle class or the poor, but the huge gaps are between the super-rich and everyone else.” It might feel like the income gap is inevitable and that “it’s always been this way.” But the truth is that what we’re experiencing is not inevitable, and it’s highly unusual. From David Leohardt in the NYT: Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart.

+ Derek Thomson: Restaurants Are the New Factories. (The trouble is, they usually don’t pay as well as factories.)


Netflix Slipped a Mickey

“For several years, Hollywood studios and their owners have been making noises about keeping their stuff away from Netflix, which they used to view as a nice-to-have buyer for their old stuff, and now view as an incredibly powerful competitor.” And yesterday, Disney announced that they’d be pulling their content from Netflix and launching their own streaming service. (So in one week, Netflix lost Disney and added Letterman. Take that, you bratty kids!) The new TV ecosystem is starting to look like it will be made up of bunch of different apps — and finding content will be like changing channels, only more complicated.


Money See, Money Do

“Silicon Valley is dominated by a few titans, a development that’s fundamentally altering the nature of America’s startup culture. While it’s as easy as ever to start a company, it is getting harder to grow fast enough and big enough to avoid getting either acquired or squashed by one of the behemoths.” From the WSJ: How Facebook Squashes Competition From Startups. It’s not just Facebook, and it’s not just startups. The new boss is not the same as the old boss. The new boss wants much more and is much more agile.


Texas Tea Party

“First, fossil fuel subsidies are enormous and they are costs that we all pay, in one form or another. Second, the subsidies persist in part because we don’t fully appreciate their size. These two facts, taken together, further strengthen the case to be made for clean and renewable energy.” From The Guardian: Fossil fuel subsidies are a staggering $5 trillion per year.

+ Bloomberg: These Sugar Barons Built an $8 Billion Fortune With Washington’s Help.


Mueller Invites Himself In

“Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, said that while it’s unclear what the raid means for the broader Russia investigation, it represents a ‘pretty big development’ in Manafort’s legal situation.” A few weeks ago, FBI agents raided one of Paul Manafort’s houses in the middle of the night.


A Partial Eclipse of the Heart?

“Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.” Thinking about taking a roadtrip to view the upcoming eclipse? Anne Dillard’s classic essay might give you a little more motivation. Total Eclipse.


Jersey Boy

I’m definitely burying the lede here, as this is the only really important news of the day (although the threat of a nuclear war comes close). Bruce Springsteen is going to play Broadway for a few weeks this Fall. (Related question: anyone have a spare bedroom in NYC for a few weeks this Fall?)


Bottom of the News

The Atlantic’s Jon Emont goes deep in his examination of why there are no new major religions. (Unless you count tech…)

+ This is almost a new religion. “Justin Bieber and his favorite pastors have all started wearing the same mega-hyped clothes. What happens when a church becomes a streetwear brand?”

+ Everything you can do wrong when cutting a branch from a tree, in slo mo.

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