January 10th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

More wall news, El Chapo's IT guy, and other things to distract you while you wait for Michael Cohen to testify before Congress.

It started as cheap (but clearly effective) marketing line used to stir up mouth-breathing xenophobes at packed rallies. It evolved into an imaginary threat buoyed by invented stats and outright lies. It was brought back from the dead by extremist blowhards screaming from talk radio’s fringe. It revealed the limits of the self-touted negotiating skills of a fictional businessman and bankruptcy king. It led to a shutdown that is causing direct harm to apolitical government employees who have already suffered through two years of embarrassment, chaos, and verbal attacks. And now it has taken us to the precipice of an American president declaring a state of emergency (which doesn’t exist) to fund a wall (which wouldn’t protect us even if it did). So maybe it makes perfect sense that the unreality associated with this wall is the hill on which Donald Trump is making his grand political stand. Here’s the latest on the debacle.

+ Trump on the few hundred times he promised Mexico was going to pay for the wall: “When during the campaign, I would say that Mexico is going to pay for it, obviously I never said this and I never meant they’re gonna write out a check.” And don’t miss these inspiring presidential words: “The buck stops with everybody.”

+ NPR: How Is The Shutdown Affecting America?

+ WaPo: Border Protection officers sue Trump administration over pay missed during shutdown. (Getting sued over missing paychecks… Finally a presidential duty that allows Trump to draw upon his life experiences.)


Soda Jerk

“I was surprised here at the extent to which Coke was able to penetrate the government … The study gives us an interesting and important insight on the extent to which corporations can influence public policy in other countries where there is less scrutiny.” NPR on How Coca-Cola Shaped China’s Efforts To Fight Obesity. Or in this case, to not fight it. “The percentage of obese Chinese adults more than doubled over two decades, from 20.5 percent in 1991 to 42.3 percent in 2011.”

+ NYT: Research Details How Junk Food Companies Influence China’s Nutrition Policy.


America Grabs Popcorn

NYT: Michael Cohen is going to testify to Congress: “In furtherance of my commitment to cooperate and provide the American people with answers, I have accepted the invitation by Chairman Elijah Cummings to appear publicly on February 7th.” (That gives Twitter less than a month to buy more servers…)


I.T. Phone Home

“At one point, Mr. Rodriguez told jurors, Mr. Guzmán asked him to install a feature on the phones that allowed him to remotely — and secretly — activate their microphones. Then Mr. Guzmán would play a little game, Mr. Rodriguez said. He would call people who had the ‘special’ phones and chat with them for a while then hang up, activate the microphone and listen to what they said about him.” It turns out, El Chapo wasn’t the only one who would get to hear these conversations. NYT: Kingpin Used Spyware to Obsessively Monitor His Wife and Mistress. (Then the FBI flipped his IT guy.)



“America is a force for good in the Middle East … The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering.” In Cairo, Pompeo Slams Obama’s Mideast Policies.


What’s Your Major (Food Group)?

“The report shows ‘that food insecurity is a college-completion issue … We’re undermining our federal investment in financial aid by not paying attention to this. We have to stop pretending like living expenses are not educational expenses.” The Atlantic: Millions of College Students Are Going Hungry.


False Start

“Older users shared more fake news than younger ones regardless of education, sex, race, income, or how many links they shared. In fact, age predicted their behavior better than any other characteristic — including party affiliation.” The Verge: People older than 65 share the most fake news. (These numbers might be skewed by a certain 72 year-old…)

+ Buzzfeed with a lede that summarizes an era: “A study that claimed to explain why falsehoods go viral — findings that were widely covered by the media — has turned out to itself be false.”


Don’t Blame Canada

“She turned down Cornell and Duke in the U.S. Her reasons were clear: The anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Trump administration made her nervous. And Canada had an additional draw: She can stay up to three years after she graduates and doesn’t need a job offer to apply for a work permit. ‘I wanted to be sure that wherever I go to study, I have the opportunity to stay and work for a bit.'” How foreign talent is powering Canada’s economic boom.


The Weighting is the Hardest Part

“Some days, when I see that disaster staring back, I get so mad that I pound my gut with my fists, as if I could beat the fat out of me. Other times, the sight sinks me into a blue fog that can ruin an hour or a morning or a day. But most of the time what I feel is sadness over how much life I’ve wasted. When I was a kid, I never climbed a tree or learned to swim. When I was in my 20s, I never took a girl home from a bar. Now I’m 50, and I’ve never hiked a mountain or ridden a skateboard or done a cartwheel. I’ve missed out on so many adventures, so many good times, because I was too fat to try. Sometimes, when I could’ve tried anyway, I didn’t have the courage. I’ve done a lot of things I’m proud of. But I’ve never believed I could do anything truly great, because I’ve failed so many times at the one crucial challenge in my life. What the hell is wrong with me?” Tommy Tomlinson in The Atlantic: The Weight I Carry – What it’s like to be too big in America.


Bottom of the News

“Despite the fact that they’ve moved on in other ways — covering their own bills, paying off student loans, contributing to retirement accounts, getting married, even having children — both parents and the adult children whose data usage they’re paying for are reluctant to change the status quo.” Why so many financially independent adults are still on their parents’ phone plans. (I’d still be using my parents’ rotary phone, but the cord isn’t long enough…)

+ Mental Floss: Fifty things turning fifty in 2019.

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