Friday, January 12th, 2018


Shithole, USA

Hey guys, I don't think he's gonna pivot. Trump got warmed up with birther racism. He launched his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists. He described the many fine Nazis in Charlottesville. And this week, during a meeting at the White House, he complained about all the immigrants from Haiti and African countries: "'Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?' He suggested that America should allow more people from countries like Norway instead." Aside from habitual lying and relentless self-aggrandizement, racism is Donald Trump's most consistent trait. Here are my ten quick thoughts on Trump's shitholing of America: Shithole, USA.

+ Trump denies the remark. Senator Dick Durbin was in the meeting and says the president said what was reported, in addition to other "things that were hate-filled, vile and racist."

+ The New Yorker: A Racist in the Oval Office.

+ It's probably a reasonable time to take another look at a December NYT article in which Trump complained that Haitians "all have AIDS" and said that once Nigerians saw America, they'd never "go back to their huts."

+ "By many measures, the most-educated immigrant group in the U.S. isn't East Asians. It's Africans." As for getting more Norwegians to come to America, there are two key limiting factors. First, they don't do that well when they come here. And second, there are these stats: "Norway is the world's happiest country (the U.S. ranks 14), the place with the most political freedom (the U.S. ranks 45), most press freedom (the U.S. ranks 43rd), and most prosperity (the U.S. ranks 18)."

+ Among cable and broadcast news outlets, there was a lot of handwringing about whether or not to quote the president directly. The point isn't that they used the word shithole. It's that they finally used the word racist.

+ "Countries where birds don't lay eggs." One bright spot for America's image abroad: It turns out it's pretty hard to translate shithole into other languages.

+ Somewhat lost in the hubbub of a remarkable day, the president also gave an interview in which he described his "very good relationship with Kim Jong Un" and canceled his trip to London (citing false reasons).

+ Oh, and the WSJ is reporting that a Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star's Silence.


Keeping It in the Friend Zone

"We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness." So said Mark Zuckerberg as he announced a new Facebook newsfeed that would emphasize friends over popular content from the around the web. In other words, more interacting with each other, and less interacting with (often fake) news. From Wired: Facebook tweaks newsfeed to favor content from friends. (Unfortunately, we all got so heated about politics that we don't have any friends left...)

+ Buzzfeed: The comment is the new share.

+ "Instead of clobbering Facebook one more time, media should now thank it." Franklin Foer: Facebook Finally Blinks.


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which just won the Golden Globe) is an Amazon series about a Jewish housewife turned stand-up comedian. It takes a little while to warm up, but I've been digging it so far. Give it a try.

+ What to Welcome Back: David Letterman is back on television with a very different vibe (and that beard). My Next Guest Needs No Introduction kicks off Letterman's interview series with Barack Obama. It's not particularly funny. And it's nothing you haven't heard before. But it's a lot of things you haven't heard for a while.

+ What to Consider: "Once Jennifer was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), she and her new husband, Omar, were left to grapple with how to shape a future together in the face of a lifelong illness." It's brutal to deal with a debilitating illness or pain syndrome. Matters are made worse if that syndrome can't be effectively diagnosed or treated. Filmmaker Jennifer Brea shares her stories (and finds many others who are suffering from similar symptoms): Unrest on PBS.



If all goes well, they could eliminate herbicides, replenish topsoil, and reduce carbon consumption -- all while feeding the world. Bloomberg's Amanda Little on the army of AI robots that will feed the world. (Unless, you know, they decide they don't want to feed you anymore...)

+ While we're on the topic of bots, listen to this excellent episode of the podcast IRL: Bot or Not. IRL is presented by NextDraft's fearless sponsor, Mozilla, the makers of Firefox, the browser that's on your side (and also the best browser).


Nuke Warm

"A senior administration official said Trump wants the deal strengthened with a follow-on agreement in 120 days or the United States will unilaterally withdraw from the international pact." Reuters: Reluctant Trump grants sanctions relief to Iran one last time.



"When the first major storm of the season slammed into the coast Monday, the thundering deluge of mud, car-sized boulders and trees that fell upon Montecito was beyond anything they expected." The LA Times on the brutal mudslides in Montecito (where up to 43 people are still missing): The same elements that made the Thomas fire such a monster also created deadly debris flows.

+ InFocus: Photos of California's Deadly Mudslides.


Mex Hex

"The mountainous state of Michoacan was so ravaged by cartel violence and absent authorities that citizens created their own police force, known as autodefensas, a movement that spread to other unstable states like Guerrero and are often accused of perpetrating the same violence as the criminals they sought to defend against." WaPo: Why the US considers parts of Mexico just as dangerous to visit as Syria and Yemen.


Death Wishes

"Once merely the inevitable, death has become a new bourgeois rite of passage that, much like weddings or births, must now be minutely planned and personalised. Not since the Victorian era's fetishisation of death, with its all-black attire, elaborate mourning jewellery and seances, has death been so appealingly packaged. Every death must be in some way special and on-trend. Finally, the hipster can die as he lived." The Guardian explains how death got cool.


Number Two For the Show

"While a pencil is sophisticated enough to track every gradation of the human hand, it is also simple enough for a toddler to use. Such radical simplicity is surprisingly complicated to produce." The NYT takes you Inside One of America's Last Pencil Factories.


Feel Good Friday

Twitter as a tool of compassion? It seems unthinkable. But Sarah Silverman actually made it happen this week.

+ "Amid the face-freezing misery, one phenomenon that is a staple of winter has drawn greater attention in an era of prolific social media use: the frozen pond rescue." The NYT with a collection of frozen pond rescues.

+ How about a blood test instead of a colonoscopy?

+ Someone just donated $100 million to Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, anonymously.

+ A Rockhurst senior who built a prosthetic arm for metro boy is now going to teach other kids how to do it too. And Paralympian Kate Gray caught a ball with a hand she doesn't have.

+ BBC: Black pudding saves butcher trapped in freezer. (This is an interesting twist on one of the better episodes of the Brady Bunch.)

+ And I might link to this short video of the world's smallest wild cat every day.