August 29th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The heroes of Houston, Assessing the role of Climate Change, and paying Homage to the Tater Tot

The forecast in Houston calls for more superlatives. But we’re quickly running out of ways to describe the storm, flooding, and rainfall levels that have now made Harvey the most extreme rain event in US history. Overflowing reservoirs and breached levees are adding additional neighborhoods to the list of those experiencing severe flooding, as more than a trillion gallons of rainfall have hit Harris County. And it’s not over yet. Harvey is expected to head out to sea before making landfall again on Wednesday.

+ While we’re running out of superlatives to describe the storm, we’re also running short of them when it comes to describing the heroism being displayed by ordinary people, working tirelessly to rescue strangers from their flooded neighborhoods. John Brown, who searched flooded areas on his 16-foot fishing boat put it best: “I think it’s beautiful, everybody coming together to do this.”

+ “I was young during Katrina and I know how it feels to lose everything. So being able to help others going through this situation that I have experienced, there’s no way — no way — I could pass up helping.” The ‘Cajun Navy’ races from Louisiana to Texas, using boats to pay it forward

+ Quartz: Iconic images of rescuers and good Samaritans spotlight the heroes of Harvey. And here’s a look at some pet rescues that have taken place.

+ Here are the latest updates from The Guardian as President Trump touches down in Texas: “We love you, you are special, we are here to take care of you. It’s going well … What a crowd, what a turn out.” (The “I” of the storm…)

+ Texas isn’t the only the place experiencing massive flooding. “Extreme rainfall has led to devastating floods across Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, killing nearly 1,200 people and displacing millions.” Here are some images.


Let’s Talk About the Weather

What role did climate change play when it comes to Harvey’s intensity? I wanted some answers to that question (the scientific version, not the political version). Here’s what I found. “When you add in the climate’s natural variability and then the right conditions come along, you can get a storm which is stronger than you might otherwise have expected.” From NatGeo: How Climate Change Likely Heightened Harvey’s Fury.

+ Vox: “It is grossly irresponsible to leave climate out of the story, for the simple reason that climate change is, as the US military puts it, a threat multiplier.”

+ Eric Holthaus in Politico: “We knew this would happen, decades ago. We knew this would happen, and we didn’t care. Now is the time to say it as loudly as possible: Harvey is what climate change looks like. More specifically, Harvey is what climate change looks like in a world that has decided, over and over, that it doesn’t want to take climate change seriously.”

+ WaPo: Moving away from the coasts doesn’t mean you’re safe from flooding.

+ To make matters worse, about 85% of Houston homeowners don’t have flood insurance. From AP: Most Harvey flood victims on hook to pay for home repairs.


Missile Over Bullet Train

“Right now a North Korean missile is flying over Japan. It’s very dangerous. Please seek cover inside a train or in a waiting room.” That’s what commuters in Tokyo Station heard over loudspeakers on Tuesday morning, as North Korea launched yet another missile, this one over Japan.

+ President Trump responded to the missile test by saying “all options” are on the table.


Here We Go Againistan

“In truth, no great empires perished solely because of Afghanistan. Perhaps a better way to put it is that Afghanistan is the battleground of empires. Even without easily accessible resources, the country has still been blessed — or cursed, more likely — with a geopolitical position that has repeatedly put it in someone or other’s way.” The NYT’s Rod Norland on Afghanistan: The Empire Stopper.


Tower of Power

“Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower-Moscow project in Moscow City.” Michael Cohen, a top Trump Organization executive (and the ultimate Trump confidante) asked Putin aide for help on business deal during the campaign.

+ President Trump said that, since he pardoned Joe Arpaio during Harvey, he “assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.” Nathan Robinson wonders: Do people actually know just how evil Joe Arpaio is?

+ You’re probably shocked that the people on the other side of the political aisle don’t see things like you do. That’s partly because they are not seeing the same things at all. With some great data from the MIT Media Lab, here’s a look at our left-right media divide told through Charlottesville.


Keycard Sharks

“Cashatt didn’t have a keycard. Instead, he reached underneath the lock on the door until his finger found a small, circular port and inserted the plug of his device. Then he held a frayed wire coming off the board to one end of the battery, completing an electric circuit. Instantly, the lock whirred as its bolt retracted, and a green light flashed above the door handle. For a moment, Cashatt stared in shock, almost disbelief. ‘It was like the heavens had opened,’ he’d say of the moment years later.” Wired’s Andy Greenberg takes you Inside an Epic Hotel Room Hacking Spree.



“I never even thought about taking performance enhancing drugs—my ambitions just aren’t that grand, and I’m frankly too lazy to go to the trouble. But as the publisher of an independent tennis magazine, I am asked about Sharapova’s ban all the time. Was it fair? Did the drugs actually help her performance? When a friend who had been traveling in Riga jokingly brought me back a box of Mildronats, a Latvian brand of the generic drug meldonium, it seemed like a good way to find out.” Caitlin Thompson in Deadspin: I doped like Maria Sharapova and it was actually pretty great. (I’m guessing that’s why athletes dope…)


Cheerio, Trademark

“The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board also pointed out that Cheerios hasn’t been particularly consistent in their use of the color yellow. Their bestselling Honey Nut variant, for instance, is sold in a predominantly red-orange box.” Cheerios just lost its bid to trademark the color yellow.


Roll Out the Barrel

“The Yoders’ journey began nearly 40 years ago in Nashville. Of course, back then it wasn’t their goal to eat at every Cracker Barrel.” From USA Today: Couple completes quest to eat at every Cracker Barrel in USA. (I think I might try this with Dim Sum in San Francisco.)


Bottom of the News

“So they got creative, smashed those bits together with some new machinery, blanched, formed, cooked in oil, and froze what would become their company’s namesake.” From Eater: The Tater Tot Is American Ingenuity at Its Finest. Hard to argue with that one…

+ Sean Spicer finally got his audience with the Pope.

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