December 21st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

All hell breaks loose. Plus, Holiday Weekend What's and Feel Good Friday.

Here’s the NextDraft 2018 Year in Review: WTF? … And that was before the past forty-eight hours during which a chaotic Trump presidency went from scary but almost funny, to scary and sort of horrifying. Between the declaration that the US will pull out of Syria and the departure of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Donald Trump has managed, against all odds, to unify Republicans, Democrats, and American allies: We’re all freaking out. US foreign policy is in shambles. Allies have lost all faith in America. Matters of war and peace are being handled via Fox News pundit-fueled Twitter whims. Experts are being ignored. Dictators are being exalted. Markets are collapsing. The government is teetering. This is not a drill. America is in crisis. The Trump we all worried about is here. If history marks this as the week when things went from bad to worse, then the Mattis resignation letter will be the document that marked the pivot. For politicians, citizens, and allies alike, the Defense Secretary’s departure is the lump of coal none of us wanted to find in our Christmas stockings (and it’s not even clean coal). A few outtakes: “While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies … Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours … My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues … Because you have the right to a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.” A document for the ages (and because of its audience, written at a level that can be understood by children of all ages): James Mattis’s Letter of Resignation.

+ Think I’m exaggerating about the ignoring of experts and the exalting of dictators? I present this lede from AP: “Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies … Trump stunned his Cabinet, lawmakers and much of the world with the move by rejecting the advice of his top aides and agreeing to a withdrawal in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

+ Santa is making a list, checking it twice, and finding out who’s been naughty or nice. Only this year, the naughty ones on the list are getting all the presents. NYT: Glee in Russia Over Trump’s Foreign Policy Largess.

+ The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins: James Mattis Is Out; What Comes Next?

+ And a partial answer from The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg: “James Mattis knew who Trump was, and joined him anyway, because he is a patriot. And because he is a patriot, he would have remained with Trump if he thought he could influence Trump’s policies. But whatever influence he had, he lost. And now the dangerous part begins.”


Turn Out the Lights…

The House has acquiesced to President Trump’s demand that money for the wall be included in any funding deal. The Senate doesn’t have the votes. And thus, the countdown to a government shutdown is on. Here’s the latest from CNN.


Holiday Weekend Whats

What to TV: Looking for some TV escapism over the holidays? I’d say my four favorite binges from 2018 were Homecoming, Succession, Barry, and Killing Eve. Need to kill a few more hours? Thrillist shares its list of the 60 Best TV Shows of 2018. (Editor’s note: There aren’t 60 best of anything…)

+ What to Watch: Ken Block basically invented an entertainment genre and he remains that genre’s sole superstar. What’s the genre? Driving around like a maniac. Enjoy Gymkhana Ten: The Ultimate Tire Slaying Tour. Not your speed? You might prefer Pixar’s latest short film: Bao, now streaming on YouTube.

+ What to Read: Need to load up the article queue for the holidays? Here are a couple rundowns of the best feature writing of the year from Longform and The Sunday Long Read. Had enough of your thought provoked for one year? Try one of these lists instead: Instagram’s Favorite New Yorker Cartoons of 2018, and the 100 best memes of 2018.


The Key Masters

“Imagine you’re A burglar. You’ve decided to tackle a high-end luxury apartment, the kind of building with multiple Picassos in the penthouse. You could spend weeks or months casing the place, studying every resident’s schedule, analyzing the locks on all the doors. You could dig through trash for hints about which units have alarms, run through every permutation of what the codes might be. Or you could also just steal the super’s keys.” Wired’s Brian Barrett with an interesting look at How China’s Elite Hackers Stole The World’s Most Valuable Secrets.


Don’t Be Ruthless

“Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York found ‘no evidence of any remaining disease’ and scans taken before the surgery showed no cancerous growths elsewhere in her body, the court said in a statement. No additional treatment is currently planned, the court said.” AP: Justice Ginsburg has surgery to remove cancerous growths.

+ Here are the 10 top questions you had for Dr. Google in 2018. (I’m a lifelong hypochondriac, but this year, I probably spent more time searching about RBG’s health than my own.)


It’s Over My Head

Here’s a topic that might come up for many of us over the holidays. Vox: Why airlines make you check your carry-on bags. It’s partly because of storage size limitations and partly because you’re slow as hell.


Above Average

“The average American man is 5-feet, 9-inches tall and weighs 198 pounds; an average woman is 5-feet, 4-inches and 171 pounds, based on CDC data. That compares with 189.1 pounds and 163.6, respectively, at the start of the century.” The bad news: The Average American Is Edging Closer to Being Obese. The good news: We all have a great diet and exercise plan that kicks in on January 1.


Small Victories

Vice News takes you inside The Masters of Mini Golf. “The whole thing — the tournament, and the USPMGA itself — is the brainchild of Bob Detwiler, a businessman who’s been pushing his Masters tournament for over 20 years. And he’s hoping that one day his event will be in the Olympics.” (Hey, if curling can be in the Olympics, then why not…)



“Perhaps at some point over the past two years… you have idly wondered, Wait, how did this happen? Who is responsible for plunging America into this dystopian fever dream in which the resolution of every issue of global consequence hinges on the whims of an angry old man, expressed 280 characters at a time, with no regard for standard capitalization conventions?” We have have an answer. From GQ: The Guy Who Taught Trump to Tweet Owes Us All a Goddamn Apology.


Feel Good Friday

“The words ‘2018,’ ‘good’ and ‘tech’ probably don’t seem like they belong in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. But stay with me here.” NYT: The 2018 Good Tech Awards.

+ Illustrator Mauro Gatti illustrated 59 good things that happened in 2018.

+ WaPo: This man donated 200,000 miles to strangers so they can go home for the holidays.

+ Dutch church holds six-weeklong marathon Mass to shield family from deportation.

+ Later School Start Time Pays Off For Teens.

+ Delivery workers across the US are finding free food and drinks on shoppers’ doorsteps.

+ 200 workers at a floral-supply business in Michigan got a surprise at the company’s holiday lunch: $4 million in year-end bonuses, or about $20,000 per worker.

+ They make excellent bowling partners, despite their 96 year age difference.

+ Have a great holiday season. Thanks for reading NextDraft. And thanks to my fearless sponsor Mozilla for making NextDraft free for readers, and for making the internet a better place.

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