Monday, August 28th, 2017


Rain of Terror

After nearly three days of unthinkable images coming out of Houston, this feels like a moment when we should be assessing what damage has been left behind by receding waters. But the water is still there in most places and some fear the worst flooding may be yet to come. "The Weather Service office serving Houston described the rain amounts so far as 'unfathomable.'" Officials are expecting as many as 30,000 people to be forced into shelters. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the damage will be "horrific" and FEMA says relief operations will be going on for years. From The Atlantic: The unprecedented flooding in Houston, in photos. And from the NYT: Harvey, in photographs. After seeing the images and video out of Houston, it seems amazing that more people weren't killed during the storm. But the images also show thousands of people from nearby communities arriving on powerboats, kayaks, and jetskis to rescue strangers stranded on the roofs of their homes. Maybe it took nature's wrath rising with the tides above the streets of Houston to remind us of the generosity and heroism of our neighbors. Here are the latest updates from Buzzfeed.

+ Scientific American: Hurricane Harvey: Why Is It So Extreme?

+ Quartz: Hurricane Harvey dropped so much rain the US National Weather Service added new colors to its maps.


Policy Paved the Way

This is not a good time to discuss climate change. It's a great time to discuss it. It was no secret that Houston was facing stronger and more frequent storms. But, like many regions, overbuilding and a lack of government oversight meant that the area's defenses diminished as the threat grew. Houston paved over its drain. Denying climate change is a political decision. Increasing flood risks by overbuilding is a political decision. Everything is political. Just a few months ago, the Texas Tribune and ProPublica teamed up to report on why Houston was in so much danger of exactly what we're seeing occur. Boomtown, Flood Town: "As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of floodwater during storms that chokes the city's vast bayou network, drainage systems and two huge federally owned reservoirs, endangering many nearby homes."

+ Poynter: These journalists forecasted catastrophe in Houston. Now, they're reporting on its aftermath.

+ "Although preventing damage is widely considered to be cheaper than mopping up after the fact, congressional accounting creates incentives to spend money exactly the opposite way." Politico Magazine: Why America Still Hasn't Learned the Lessons of Katrina.


Hammer Time

"It has rapidly expanded its realm of operations. It has sent legions of fighters to Syria. It has sent trainers to Iraq. It has backed rebels in Yemen. And it has helped organize a battalion of militants from Afghanistan that can fight almost anywhere. As a result, Hezbollah is not just a power unto itself, but is one of the most important instruments in the drive for regional supremacy by its sponsor: Iran." The NYT's Ben Hubbard on Hezbollah: Iran's Middle East Agent, Emissary and Hammer.


Quid Pro Joe

Even the raging waters of the Houston flood can't drown out Trump news. We'll start with this from WaPo: While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow. And this from the NYT: Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal Will Get Donald Elected: "Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process."

+ "The Arpaio pardon is a perfect conflagration of all of the ways that Trump has systematically undermined these authorities over the course of his first seven months in office. It is nothing less than a multipronged attack on the executive branch's own commitment to the rule of law." The New Yorker on Trump's pardon of Joe Arpaio.

+ "We've been covering Joe Arpaio for more than 20 years. Here's a couple of things you should know about him." (A must-read series of tweets from the Phoenix New Times.)

+ Meanwhile, the ACLU has sued the Trump administration over transgender military ban.

+ And during an interview on Fox News, Sec of State Tillerson responded to a question about Charlottesville and whether Trump comments represent American values: "The president speaks for himself." (Trump is now frantically demanding to know who Himself is and why he's getting all the attention...)



Amazon is now officially the owner of Whole Foods. And its first act as an offline grocer was to lower prices on some popular items, including a big cut in avocado prices (a move that has hipsters toasting). Of course, Amazon and the new breed of mega tech companies wants full access to your mind, body, and data, online and off; so it's not that big of a give to throw in a few avocados. (Whole Foods is also selling the Amazon Echo now.)

+ Uber surprised nearly all the prognosticators and hired Expedia's Dara Khosrowshahi for as CEO. Ben Thompson has a round-up of headlines and some good analysis of the hire.


Scientist Pumped About Anti-Inflammatories

"For the first time, we've been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk." From The Guardian: New heart treatment is biggest breakthrough since statins.


Antifa Tree Falls in the Forest

On Sunday, a hate group march was met by thousands of counter-protesters in Berkeley. And things got violent. Here's Berkeley Mayor Jesse ArreguĂ­n: "I applaud the more than 7,000 people who came out today to peacefully oppose bigotry, hatred and racism that we saw on display in Charlottesville. However, the violence that small group of protesters engaged in against residents and the police, including throwing smoke bombs, is unacceptable. Fighting hate with hate does not work and only makes each side more entrenched in their ideological camps." From WaPo: Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley.

+ The New Yorker: An Intimate History of Antifa. And The Atlantic on the rise of the violent left. "Antifa's activists say they're battling burgeoning authoritarianism on the American right. Are they fueling it instead?"

+ Reveal's Al Letson was covering the Berkeley protests and jumped in to protect a man being attacked. Here's his report on the events of the day, and the rise of a movement.


Pushback Notification

Joe Biden on Charlottesville and its aftermath: "The giant forward steps we have taken in recent years on civil liberties and civil rights and human rights are being met by a ferocious pushback from the oldest and darkest forces in America. Are we really surprised they rose up? Are we really surprised they lashed back? Did we really think they would be extinguished with a whimper rather than a fight?"

+ I've been arguing that we're seeing a pushback against recent gains for a while, most recently in a piece called Good: Trump didn't create this snapback. He is the product of it.


Fleece Lined Pockets

It wasn't a close fight, but it was certainly amazing that Conor McGregor lasted that long as a newbie against one of the greatest boxers ever. In the end though, neither fighter displayed as much flare with his fists as the NYT's Dan Barry did with his pen in Fleece of the Century: "Fitting, then, that the event took place in Las Vegas; staging it anywhere else would have been an affront to the mercenary gods. The match belonged here -- deserved quarantining here -- along the Strip, where any authenticity is often just another act of illusion that leaves you double-checking your wallet's whereabouts."


Bottom of the News

From Quartz: Technology is not ruining our kids. Parents (and their technology) are ruining them. (I don't buy that. Both Siri and Alexa told me they think I'm an excellent parent...)

+ So you just won a $759 million lottery. What's your biggest concern? Believe it or not, going broke should be on the list. From Barry Ritholz: How to Deal With a $759 Million Lottery Jackpot. (just in case...)

+ If you like drinking tea in your hotel room, you might want to bring your own kettle.