December 10th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

You're being followed, Trump's staff infection, and Americans are rolling in paper towel...

Come on, it’s 2018. We get it. We’re giving up a certain amount of privacy to satisfy our ferocious tech addiction. We’re fine with it. But should we be? Do we really understand just how much we’re being tracked by the apps in our pockets? I bet you’ll be surprised by some of the findings in this NYT report: Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret. “The database reviewed by The Times — a sample of information gathered in 2017 and held by one company — reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day.”


Staff Infection

“It is at once shockingly corrupt, blatantly unethical, probably illegal, and yet, at the same time, shabby, small, and ineptly executed.”The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson on the really bad past few days for Individual One. The Ineptitude of Donald Trump’s Co-Conspirators.

+ Russians interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and transition.

+ Accused Russian spy Maria Butina has changed her plea (and appears to have had a change of heart about cooperating).

+ Trump first wanted his attorney general pick William Barr for another job: Defense lawyer. (That’s not surprising. For two years he was incensed with Jeff Sessions for not doing both of those jobs at once…)

+ With John Kelly on the way out, who wants to be chief of staff?


You Can Check Out Anytime You Like…

… but you can never leave. That seems to be the consistent message (the only consistent message on this topic) when it comes to Brexit. From BBC: “Prime Minister Theresa May has called off Tuesday’s crucial vote on her Brexit deal so she can go back to Brussels and ask for changes to it.” (It’s looking increasingly likely that May will be out of office before Britain is out of the EU…)

+ “We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns.” In France, President Macron pledges to cut some taxes and raise the minimum wage in response to widespread protests.


Same as the Old Boss

“Autocracy is making a comeback, seeping into parts of the world where it once appeared to have been vanquished. But it is a sleeker, subtler and, ultimately, more sophisticated version than its authoritarian forebears, twisting democratic structures and principles into tools of oppression and state control. It is also, quite possibly, far more potent and enduring than autocracies of old.” A troubling report from WaPo: The New Autocrats.


Wanna Get Away?

Here’s yet another example of a sentence that, under even marginally normal circumstances, would set off deafening alarm bells. “American officials and a Saudi briefed on their conversations said that Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed have continued to chat informally. According to the Saudi, Mr. Kushner has offered the crown prince advice about how to weather the storm, urging him to resolve his conflicts around the region and avoid further embarrassments.” (In short, the president’s son-in-law is giving the Saudi prince some tips on how to get away with murder.) NYT: The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House.

+ “Both the Obama and Trump administrations have supported the Saudi war in Yemen with a military partnership, arms sales, intelligence sharing and until recently air-to-air refueling. The United States is thus complicit in what some human rights experts believe are war crimes. The bottom line: Our tax dollars are going to starve children.” NYT on the state of things in Yemen: “Some 85,000 children may have already died here in Yemen, and 12 million more people may be on the brink of starvation.”


You’ve Got the Brains, I’ve Got the Brawny

“The U.S. spends nearly as much on [this product] as every other country in the world combined.” For adherents to the America First theology, here’s an area where we are most definitely first, and by a long way. The Atlantic: Americans Are Weirdly Obsessed With Paper Towels.


Them’s the Breaks

“Surfers have dreamed of creating the ultimate wave machine. The perfect setup would take surfing to every town in America and make the sport as mainstream as soccer.” That was Kelly Slater back in 2003. Today, that wave machine is up and running, but it’s unclear whether other surfers see the innovation as a dream or a nightmare. Perhaps the best surfing-writer ever on the best surfer ever and his quest to find the perfect wave, everywhere. The New Yorker: Kelly Slater’s Shock Wave.


I’ll Meet You Further On Up The Road

NPR: “People in their 70s who have been exercising regularly for decades seem to have put a brake on the aging process, maintaining the heart, lung and muscle fitness of healthy people at least 30 years younger.” (I’m hoping that just acting immature will have similar youthifying effects…)


When Shit Happens

“Citywide, about 20 billion gallons of combined sewer overflows are discharged annually into local waterways. Still, that is an improvement from nearly 110 billion gallons annually in 1985. The overflows can trigger beach closings and restrictions on recreational water use.” Which leads to this question from the NYT: What Happens When 25,000 Amazon Workers Flush Toilets? (If recent economic history is any indication, a bunch of local retailers will find themselves knee deep in sewage…)


Bottom of the News

“This is what happens when a Christmas movie plot unfolds in North Idaho: It’s a story that involves armed “patriots,” secret recordings, Fox News, claims of anti-Christian bigotry, reports of vandalism, a lawsuit, a countersuit, depositions and even — a la Miracle on 34th Street — Santa Claus on the witness stand.” How one man’s quest to spread Christmas cheer led to a miserable four-year war with his neighborhood.

+ Quartz: Researchers Found One Way That Long-Term Marriages Get Happier: “The first few years of a marriage are rife with conflicts, but the emotional weather eventually changes, according to a new study by psychology researchers at UC Berkeley. In time, humor—friendly teasing, jokes, and silliness—becomes more prevalent, and bickering and criticisms decline.” (In other words, it’s a barrel of laughs if you can just eek your way through the first 35 years or so…)

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