Monday, November 27th, 2017


The Almighty Dollar

"Both sides agree that repealing or dialing back the Johnson Amendment seemed improbable at best as recently as a year and a half ago. That was when Mr. Trump's surprising embrace injected new life into it, and helped spark an alliance that benefited his campaign and the religious right." As the debate over the GOP tax plan kicks into high gear, one key bargaining chip is the potential repeal of "a 1954 law that bans churches and other nonprofit groups from engaging in political activity." Basically, money that is currently given to political campaigns could be funneled through religion organizations, providing donors with a significant tax break. We'd have less separation of church and state ... and likely more churches being formed solely for political purposes. Of course, these days, people are much more religious about politics than they are about religion.

+ The CBO is out with it latest report on the Senate tax plan. Bottom line: It's pretty bad if you're poor and really good if you're rich.


Let Them Eat Accurately Labeled Cake

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is the food industry's most powerful lobbying group. But they've been struggling lately, and the hard times got worse when Nestlé left the association last October. At least part of the problem is that consumers have more access to information and a better idea of what they want. And what they want is transparency in the industry and healthier food on their plates. Politico on The Big Washington Food Fight.

+ "For only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old is increasing ... Sixty-nine percent of the surveyed young farmers had college degrees — significantly higher than the general population." Caitlin Dewey in WaPo: A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm. (And I thought using a standing desk was going to extremes...)


From Chad to Worse

When you think of the world's most challenging problems, certain issues come to mind: Hunger, climate change, poverty, terrorism, violence, droughts, disease carrying insects, tribal warfare, corruption, over-population. All of these things have converged in Africa to create a perfect storm of crises. From Ben Taub in The New Yorker: Lake Chad: The World's Most Complex Humanitarian Disaster.


Sheet Pile

"The first and third incarnations of the Klan—the cross-burning lynch mobs and the vigilantes who beat up and murdered civil rights workers in the 1960s—seem beyond the pale of today's politics, at least for the moment. But the second Klan, the Klan of the 1920s, less violent but far more widespread, is a different story, and one that offers some chilling comparisons to the present day. It embodied the same racism at its core but served it up beneath a deceptively benign façade, in all-American patriotic colors ... On economic issues, it took a few mildly populist stands. It was heavily supported by evangelicals. It was deeply hostile to science and trafficked in false assertions. And it was masterfully guided by a team of public relations advisers as skillful as any political consultants today." In the New York Review of Books, Adam Hochschild takes a look at various iterations of the KKK, and what connects those movements to today's political moment: Ku Klux Klambakes.


Donut Pass Go

"Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is 'already hard at work' as acting director of the nation's top consumer protection agency, his spokesman said Monday morning. Mulvaney's first move? An email telling staff to ignore all communication from the other acting director." Things are always weird in the Trump administration. But you have to give them credit for consistently coming up with new ways to be weird. The latest: Two acting directors at the same organization. Complicating matters, Trump's selection has referred to the whole bureau as "a joke." On the other hand, he brought donuts for everyone.

+ NPR: John Conyers steps down from judiciary committee role amid sexual misconduct claims.

+ "If you had asked me two weeks ago, would any woman come forward with an allegation like this, I would have said 'no.' This has been a shock, and it's been extremely humbling." Al Franken addresses sexual harassment allegations.


Mom Genes

"You can't discuss what happened to me without discussing abortion. In what's called a wrongful-birth case, plaintiffs sue a medical practitioner for the failure to diagnose or inform them of a disease or disability possible to detect in utero; it is understood that in almost all cases, the plaintiff would have aborted the pregnancy had she been able to make an informed decision. The money awarded in wrongful-birth cases goes toward the cost — usually astronomically high — of the child's medical care. In other words, a mother desperate to help her child declares that she would not have had that child." Jen Gann: Every Parent Wants to Protect Their Child. I Never Got the Chance.


Time is on Their Side

Over the weekend, Meredith Corporation completed its acquisition of Time, Inc (including titles such as Time, People, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated). Meredith was able to close the deal with a big cash boost from the Koch brothers who added $650 million to the deal. "Meredith said in a statement that the Koch brothers will not have seats on the board 'and will have no influence on Meredith's editorial or managerial operations.'" Well, let's put it this way. If the Koch brothers bought into the print business, I'm guessing they're not doing it for the profits.


Egg Role

"His hypothesis – that the egg could woo sperm with specific genes and vice versa – is part of a growing realization in biology that the egg is not the submissive, docile cell that scientists long thought it was. Instead, researchers now see the egg as an equal and active player in reproduction, adding layers of evolutionary control and selection to one of the most important processes in life." Quanta Magazine: Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm for Their Genes.


Not My Type

"I used natural language processing techniques to analyze net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC from April-October 2017, and the results were disturbing." Jeff Kao: More than a Million Pro-Repeal Net Neutrality Comments were Likely Faked. There's a broader story here, and it's about fake email accounts. As any newsletter writer can tell you, these fake accounts are a scourge that sweeps across the internet. The first step towards faking an identity online usually means faking an email address. The bots are getting much better at doing this. And the email providers have little incentive to stop them.


Bottom of the News

Last week's NextDraft Good News Only Pre-Thanksgiving Extravaganza was a major hit. I received a many reader submissions and the edition got a ton of postive responses. Maybe we need to make a habit of sharing good news. Feel Good Fridays? If you missed the issue, don't worry. It works just as well as a Good News Only Post-Thanksgiving Extravaganza.

+ Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged. "The fifth in line to the throne will marry Ms Markle in spring 2018."

+ According to Dictionary dot com, the word of the year is complicit. (I'm not sure I can go along with that...)

+ 12 Secrets of FedEx Delivery Drivers.

+ Chinese startups bought more bikes than they needed for the coming bike sharing boom. By a lot.

+ Only a few days left to score your new NextDraft shirt in time for the holidays.