Tuesday, December 12th, 2017


Me, Myself, and In Focus

The other day I saw an in-store display that featured a model taking a selfie using a high-end digital camera with a flip up LCD screen. It struck me as the perfect metaphor for America in 2017. But, of course, I was being narrow minded. It's really a perfect metaphor for the world. In an era when our regional cultures can feel increasingly isolated, it's nice to know there's still at least one characteristic that binds us: Self obsession. And Americans aren't the only ones turning that obsession into a business. The New Yorker on China's Selfie Obsession. "Internet celebrities themselves—the name wang hong means 'Internet red'—are newly ubiquitous in China. The most famous of them rival the country's biggest pop singers, and outrank most TV and movie stars, in recognition and earnings."


Worth, Wind, and Fire

"This job is an engineer's dream. You get to build stuff, then you get to blow them up." If you're still on the fence about the nearterm threats posed by climate change, I suggest you follow the money and check in with the big corporations with the most to lose. Insurers and reinsurers don't need any more convincing that climate change is a real threat, and some of them see 2017 as a tipping point. The NYT takes you inside a lab where a team of researchers is destroying things — with wind, water and fire — to help insurers manage the increasing risks of extreme weather.

+ "You look at the media images and you see new subdivisions, new strip malls and new buildings with water up to the rooftop ... Those shouldn't be happening." Even if insurers come up with stiffer building requirements, it won't matter if people and politicians don't enforce those rules. Reuters: Unfettered building, scant oversight add to cost of hurricanes in US.

+ France trolls Trump by funding US climate scientists. (The program is called Make Our Planet Great Again...)


Takes One to Know One

"I believe that the conditions in the [North] Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps and in my long professional career in the human rights field." North Korea's prisons are as bad as Nazi camps, says judge who survived Auschwitz. (We spend so much time considering the possibility that Kim Jung Un could turn us into victims that we forget he already has millions of them.)


Alabama Shakes

After Democrats (and many Republicans) pulled out all the stops, Doug Jones might eke out a narrow victory over Roy Moore; an ill-informed, racist, misogynist, anti-gay, child molesting criminal. And that's the best case scenario. After a bitter campaign, the Alabama Senate race finally goes to voters.

+ An Alabama peanut farmer speaks about his daughter outside a Roy Moore campaign event: "I was anti-gay myself. I said bad things to my daughter, which I regret."

+ A Pro-Trump Super PAC Sent a 12-Year-Old Girl to Interview Roy Moore. (The only thing that could have made this more sick is if they had filmed it at the mall...)

+ Roy Moore's wife gave the last day of campaigning a fitting end: "One of our attorneys is a Jew." (Uh, Happy Hanukkah?)

+ "In 2011, Alabama lawmakers passed a photo ID law, ostensibly to combat voter fraud. But "voter impersonation" at polling places virtually never happens. The truth is that the lawmakers wanted to keep black and Latino voters from the ballot box. We know this because they've always been clear about their intentions." NYT: Why the Alabama Senate race may have already been decided.


Assad Ending to a Sad Story

You haven't been seeing nearly as many headlines about Syria in recent weeks. That's in part because the US is almost entirely out of the picture when it comes to negotiating a deal. And that Putin-driven deal will include Assad staying in power, maybe for years to come.


The Drug Deal

"Legislators continue to pass laws that emphasize punishment over treatment, even as rehab is seen as the answer to substance abuse. These policies have crowded jails and prisons, while making it harder for blacks to get help for addiction." There are two very different domestic drug wars in America. And their differences are as stark as black and white. The Sarasota Herald Tribune investigates the differences between the war on opioids and the war on cocaine. This is a culture war.

+ Vice: Teens are smoking less weed in states where it's legal.


Can I Get a Witness?

"In terms of the specific eyewitness accounts, there have been multiple reports, and I'd be happy to provide them to you after the briefing has completed." Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the White House would be providing eyewitness accounts that dispute the claims of the women accusing President Trump of sexual harassment. So WaPo is keeping a running list of those eyewitness accounts.

+ Meanwhile, Trump went after Kirstin Gillibrand on Twitter after the Senator called on him to resign.


Bear Necessities

"Polar bears depend on sea ice as a platform for hunting seals. As the planet warms, that ice cover melts earlier and earlier, limiting the amount of time polar bears have to hunt and build up their fat reserves before moving to land. As a result, they can end up skinny and in poor physical health by the end of long ice-free summers." NYT: Video of Starving Polar Bear Rips Your Heart Out of Your Chest.


Raising the Bar

"The business of professional bar and bat mitzvah party motivators—dancers, djs and emcees—is booming. But who are they?" Topic on The Bar Mitzvah Party Starters. (When I was a kid, you couldn't wait for your bar mitzvah party to end so you could take off the damn suit.)

+ 25 Questions about Hanukkah.


Bottom of the News

Some British markets are selling seedless avocados. Scientists, food researchers, and retailers have come together to keep you from getting drunk and cutting your hand off.

+ Sean Spicer is writing book about his White House tenure. (So be sure to save a little space in the fiction section.)

+ "The express lanes on Interstate 66 near DC, previously reserved for vehicles carrying two or more people, opened up to solo travelers. Except those single-occupancy vehicles have to pay a toll, one that fluctuates according to demand. The world watched, aghast, as tolling prices hit $40 for folks headed into the capital on Tuesday morning."

+ A Drone's-Eye View of NYC.