January 29th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

It's cold, intel officials contradict Trump, outtakes from the El Chapo trial, and it's now colder.

Today, we return to a distant age (that ended about 27 months ago) when the news topic that most obsessed human beings was weather. In short, it’s cold. Temperatures are already so low that boiling water is freezing instantly, and weatherworn, childish, global warming hot takes have been frozen in time. Those hoping to melt their misery in the warm embrace of sympathetic friends and family in warmer climes are instead getting the cold shoulder because nearly everyone else is cold too. “By the end of Wednesday, 85 percent of U.S. land area and 230 million Americans will experience temperatures of 32 degrees or colder.” Around eighty million Americans are expected to feel below zero temperatures. (I live in the Bay Area. If it drops below 58, I let my dogs pee in the house.) Here’s the latest on the polar vortex.

+ “Fargo, North Dakota, for example, is expected to hit an overnight low of minus 33 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday. At that temperature, vodka freezes solid” (and Frozen’s Elsa and Anna admit that sometimes the cold does bother them…) Vox: The Midwest is facing record-breaking cold. Blame the polar vortex.

+ How cold? Colder than Mars.

+ How frigid polar vortex blasts are connected to global warming.

+ “The continental United States is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was a century ago. Seas at the coasts are nine inches higher. The damage is mounting from these fundamental changes, and Americans are living it.” That isn’t the opening from a sci-fi version of some dystopian future. That’s what’s already happening. From WaPo: Gone In A Generation.


Not Milk?

“To converts, almond and oat milk are the next wave in a fundamental shift towards a more conscious, sustainable way of living. To critics, they’re little more than cleverly marketed nut juice with additives – a symptom of everything that’s wrong with modern food culture. And so a strange battle has emerged, between an industry trying to replace something it says we don’t need in the first place, and dairy, a business that for a century sold itself as the foundation of a healthy diet, while ignoring the fact that most of the world does just fine without it.” Oliver Franklin-Wallis in The Guardian: White gold: the unstoppable rise of alternative milks.


Figures with Facts

“North Korea is ‘unlikely to give up’ all of its nuclear stockpiles, and that Iran is not ‘currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity’ needed to make a bomb, ” and ISIS “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.” Those claims directly contradict the ones that underpin some of President Trump’s key foreign policy directives. They also come from America’s own intelligence officials. NYT: US Intelligence Chiefs Contradict Trump on North Korea and Iran.


Ven Push Comes to Shove

“Venezuela’s chief prosecutor asked the pro-government Supreme Court on Tuesday to prohibit opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó from leaving the country and to freeze his bank accounts, a day after the United States slapped sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company.” WaPo: Venezuelan officials seek to block US-supported opposition leader Juan Guaidó from leaving the country.

+ Bloomberg: When Guaidó Speaks, Maduro Turns Off Venezuela’s Social Media.


Huawei or the Highway

“Americans are generally unfamiliar with Huawei because the U.S. government has tried to keep the company out of the market. Around the world, however, Huawei and a few Western companies are vying to become the preferred backbone of the world’s wireless infrastructure. It’s a huge business, and it’s core to every country’s national security.” Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic: America’s Cold War With Chinese Tech Turns Hot.

+ Huawei Is Blocked in the US, But Its Chips Power Cameras Everywhere.


Asset Hound

“The intent is to give law enforcement a tool to use against nefarious organizations by grabbing the fruits of their illegal deeds and using the proceeds to fight more crime.” Asset seizing makes sense when the assets are being seized from criminals and being used to prevent more crimes. But an investigation from The Greenville News found that in South Carolina, a lot of property is being seized from folks who are never even found guilty of a crime. Taken: How police departments make millions by seizing property.


Cartel All

“Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía — better known as Chupeta or Lollipop — was an unforgettable witness. A leader of Colombia’s Norte del Valle cartel, Chupeta had so much plastic surgery during his time as a fugitive that he now looks like a narco Nosferatu. Despite his ghoulish appearance, he was an incredible storyteller, particularly when it came to recounting what happened with 20 tons of cocaine that sank off the coast of Mexico.” As the trial enters closing arguments, Vice looks back at the 10 most insane moments and stories from El Chapo’s trial. (Otherwise known as fodder for the next ten Netflix series…)

+ An infographic guide to how El Chapo once escaped prison.


Boss Mode

“In his world, everything was for sale. Pure methamphetamine manufactured in North Korea. Yachts built to outrun coast guards. Police protection and judges’ favor. Crates of military-grade weapons. Private jets full of gold. Missile-guidance systems. Unbreakable encryption. African militias. Explosives. Kidnapping. Torture. Murder. It’s a world that lurks just outside of our everyday perception, in the dark corners of the internet we never visit, the quiet ports where ships slip in by night, the back room of the clinic down the street.” Wired: Meth, Murder, and Pirates: The Coder Who Became a Crime Boss.


A Straw Man

“Warning letters in hand, Zach Rybarczyk patrolled the food court at Union Station, looking for offenders. Past Auntie Anne’s, past Johnny Rockets. At Lotus Express, a Chinese food joint, Rybarczyk peeled the wrapper from a red straw and bent the end — the telltale giveaway. Plastic.” WaPo: On patrol with the enforcer of D.C.’s plastic-straw ban.


Bottom of the News

“This one’s easy to miss, but Colette has an oven rack burn on her forearm — a common injury among professional chefs.” Buzzfeed: 15 Easy-To-Miss Details That Prove Ratatouille Is The Best Pixar Movie Ever.

+ Apple is working to fix a bug that lets iPhone users listen in on others via FaceTime. (Facebook is looking to add that as a feature.)

+ Clue Heywood on where he likes to put his Peloton (if you haven’t seen this, see it).

+ Deep State: “What I see when I look at the Rectal Toolkit is a great example of problem solving in the intelligence world.” (What I see is a decent way to bring one’s vape to states where pot isn’t yet legal.)

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