Friday, January 18th, 2019


Red Handed

This is it! We've felt that way time and again over the past two years as Trump-related breaking news has broken the internet (and nearly broken us). But this story really does feel different. Buzzfeed's Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier have been tracking the Trump Tower Moscow story for a long time. And they just published this blockbuster. "President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter. Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. 'Make it happen,' the sources said Trump told Cohen."

+ Why is this story different? What has changed in DC that should make you believe this is a bigger deal than the last two hundred shocking stories? Let me take a crack at answering those questions. Red Handed: Ten QuickThoughts on the Beginning of the End of the Trump Presidency.

+ Update: Then again, maybe not...

+ WaPo: Five big takeaways from the stunning report that Trump told Cohen to lie.

+ Susan B Glaser in The New Yorker: "Are We Really Where We Are?" Trump, Putin, and Washington's Unbelievable New Normal.

+ Meanwhile, back at the shutdown...


Grading Curveball

One in four of them failed to get a bachelor's degree within the next six years. A quarter of them wanted to become doctors, but none of them did. Forty percent of them make less than $50k a year. And four of them have been homeless. This wasn't how things were supposed to turn out for the valedictorians from Boston's high schools. The Boston Globe has a very interesting report on what happened to Boston's top students and what that means for high schools in the area and beyond (and provides some fuel to the argument that we put way too much emphasis on high school grades). The Valedictorians Project.


Weekend Whats

What to Hear: The other night at a bar mitzvah reception I asked a group of thirteen year-olds to tell me about some musical artists that should be in my queue. Their only offering was Billie Eilish. She was already in my rotation (go ahead and eyeroll, the kids did) and she should be in yours too. Check her out on Spotify or your music service of choice. If you're unfamiliar with her, start with You Should See Me in a Crown. If you're already a fan, become more of one with the acoustic version of that song recorded for SiriusXM.

+ What to Learn: The internet isn't all bad. Here are 400 free Ivy League university courses you can take online in 2019. And there will be a quiz. But don't worry. It's only a Buzzfeed quiz...

+ What to Get: The folks over at Morning Brew provide a quick, fun overview of the days business and market news -- with catchy headlines and pithy blurbs (and I know you like that combination). The market is getting crazy. This is a good time to subscribe to Morning Brew.


Children of the Corn

"She tried to put salt on her tomatoes. (Table salt has dextrose, a sugar derived from corn.) She tried drinking bottled iced tea. (It contains citric acid, which often comes from mold grown in corn-derived sugar.) She tried bottled water. (Added minerals in some brands can be processed with a corn derivative.) She ultimately gave up on supermarket meat (sprayed with lactic acid from fermented corn sugars), bagged salads (citric acid, again), fish (dipped in cornstarch or syrup before freezing), grains (cross-contaminated in processing facilities), fruits like apples and citrus (waxed with corn-derived chemicals), tomatoes (ripened with ethylene gas from corn), milk (added vitamins processed with corn derivatives)." How completely dominant is corn in our lives? Ask someone who has a corn allergy. The Atlantic: What Life Is Like When Corn Is off the Table.


Ice Capades

"When it's blue sky and you're on the polar plateau, you can feel so small. It's just endless, and you're like this tiny little speck. You can look 360 degrees, there's nothing. There's no tree, no building. You are the only tiny little thing out there in this endless sea of light." Two guys spent weeks racing across Antarctica. The NYT got them to share some reflections on the journey. (I can barely get motivated enough to take my dogs for a walk.)


Pullout of Control

"The president's decision to leave Syria was made without deliberation, consultation with allies or Congress, assessment of risk, or appreciation of facts. Two days after Pompeo's call, Trump tweeted, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria." But that was not true, and we have continued to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State. Days later, he claimed that Saudi Arabia had 'now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria.' But that wasn't true, either, as the Saudis later confirmed. Trump also suggested that U.S. military forces could leave Syria within 30 days, which was logistically impossible." The former presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS reflects on Trump's decision to leave Syria (which may have been the most pivotal decision of his presidency, as it led to the Mattis departure): Trump said he beat ISIS. Instead, he's giving it new life.


Microsoft dot Gov

"It really represents something almost unprecedented. What we're seeing Microsoft do is in effect privately assume the role that historically the federal government and the states have played." Microsoft will make $500 million available to help build affordable housing in Seattle. (That doesn't make up for IE 6, but it's a start.) It's a good move. But it's also a role usually played by government. NYT Upshot: Microsoft's Leap Into Housing Illuminates Government's Retreat.


I’ll Make Elon Story Short

"Tesla is now facing the same dilemma as the other major auto companies: mass-producing cars is a brutal business. The capital cost of factories and materials is astronomical. Margins are often thin to non-existent on many models, even for storied brands like Ford, which recently retired its entire lineup of sedans except the premium Mustang to focus on lucrative trucks and SUVs." Tesla makes cars, but Tesla stories feel more like a roller coaster. Quartz: Tesla lays off 7% of its employees as it faces the grim reality of mass-producing cars.


Dairy Errors

Don't give me your almond milk, oat milk, pea milk or other new-fangled replacements with my coffee. I want regular milk. No, scratch that. I want Super Milk. (Actually, just black is fine.)


Feel Good Friday

"'I made a big mistake to drive my car that day, and I'll never forget how much this hurt you, Tina,' he said in court. To the surprise of the court, and her family, Adams asked Taylor to join her in visiting schools, to talk about the impact impaired driving can have. Even more surprisingly, he agreed immediately." Montreal woman asks drunk driver who hit her to join her in speaking at schools.

+ A frog believed to be the last of its kind may have finally found a mate - after 10 years of searching.

+ "The British ultrarunner Jasmin Paris is celebrating after becoming the first woman to win the gruelling 268-mile Montane Spine Race along the Pennine Way. What made the performance even more extraordinary was that she shattered the course record by 12 hours – while also expressing breast milk for her baby at aid stations along the route."

+ Red Robin fed Pittsburgh TSA agents, Kraft opened a free grocery store for unpaid workers, and free groceries and pet food, deferred utility bills and donations abound. (But for a really feel good story, we need this nonsensical shutdown to end.)

+ Buddhist poker player donates $600,000 win to charity. (Related: 5 Things to Do With a Buddha's Hand.)

+ NYC will offer free eyeglasses to all kindergarteners and first graders.

+ WaPo: A 10-year-old boy had an idea to help poor people. Fourteen years and 8,000 bikes later, he's still at it. (At ten years old, I started thinking about something meaningful I could do with my life. I'm still thinking.)

+ Katelyn Ohashi's perfect 10 reminded America life could be fun again.