January 30th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

It's cold, Trump's bipolar vortex, FoxConn's snow job, and refrigerator section brain freeze.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That adage is not actually the official motto of the US Postal Service. It was sort of adopted as an unofficial credo following its inscription into the wall of the James Farley Post Office. And today, the key thing to know about the the James Farley Post Office is that it’s in New York. It’s not in Chicago, East Detroit, the Dakotas, or any of the other parts of ten states where it’s just too damn cold to deliver the mail. It’s not just the mail. Many businesses and schools are closed as parts of the Midwest are colder than Antarctica. For the first time in years, Americans can utter the phrase, Baby, It’s Cold Outside without stirring any controversy.

+ Here are some photos from Vox, HuffPo, and NBC.

+ CityLab: Thanks to extreme cold hitting the Midwest, Chicago is lighting the Metra commuter train rails on fire to keep the steel from contracting.

+ As several readers from Australia informed me, it’s hot as hell down there. So folks in the Midwest, take off your boots and gloves and gather around these photos of a January heat wave in Australia.

+ “In Chicago, officials warned about the risk of almost instant frostbite on what could be the city’s coldest day ever … on the other side of the planet, wildfires raged in Australia’s record-breaking heat.” NYT: This Is the Age of Weather Extremes.


Pole Position

“The Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility is a striking name for an absence. It is the point farthest from a sea or ocean on the planet. Located in China just east of the border with Kazakhstan, the pole gets you a good distance from harbors and coastlines — at least 1,550 miles in any direction — into an expanse of white steppe and blue-beige mountain that is among the least populated places on earth. Here, among some of the last surviving pastoral nomads in Central Asia, nestled between two branches of the Tian Shan range on the edge of Kazakhstan, the largest infrastructure project in the history of the world is growing.” The NYT Magazine: Can China Turn the Middle of Nowhere Into the Center of the World Economy? (I don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that this is what China is working on while America is still waiting for Infrastructure Week…)


Bipolar Vortex

Even with generationally low temperatures sweeping through the middle of the country, America’s most chilling news still comes out of the White House. President Trump took to Twitter to call out pretty much all of his top intelligence officials for being wrong about intelligence on North Korea, Iran, and ISIS. “The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran … Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” (If this disconnect with reality doesn’t scare you, you must have ice water in your veins.)


Refrigerator Section Brain Freeze

“Generally, animal welfare terms used on food labels are approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). But the USDA itself does not legally define most of the animal welfare terms you see on labels. Instead, it often allows producers to define the terms themselves, as long as they provide proof that they’re adhering to them.” Vox: Wild-caught, Organic, Grass-fed: what do all these animal welfare labels actually mean?


Relationship on Thin Ice

“Apple has shut down Facebook’s ability to distribute internal iOS apps, from early releases of the Facebook app to basic tools like a lunch menu.” The move comes after a report that Facebook has been paying teens $20 a month for total access to their phone activity. (At least they paid this time…)

+ Google has a similar app in the wild.


The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

“Two weeks after leaving her position as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. National Security Agency in 2014, Lori Stroud was in the Middle East working as a hacker for an Arab monarchy. She had joined Project Raven, a clandestine team that included more than a dozen former U.S. intelligence operatives recruited to help the United Arab Emirates engage in surveillance of other governments, militants and human rights activists critical of the monarchy.” Reuters: Inside The UAE’s Secret Hacking Team Of American Mercenaries.


Snow Job

“Announced at a White House ceremony in 2017, the 20-million square foot campus marked the largest greenfield investment by a foreign-based company in U.S. history and was praised by President Donald Trump as proof of his ability to revive American manufacturing.” But after giving Foxconn a sweet deal in exchange for a lot of promises, Wisconsin is getting the cold shoulder. Reuters: Foxconn reconsidering plans to make LCD panels at Wisconsin plant.


Bank Draft

“Late one night in 1998, Tom revisited his handwritten list. Over the years, he kept adding ideas and potential identities to it. Under ‘helicopter pilot’ and ‘lock picker,’ he’d scrawled two letters: ‘B.R.’ Bank robber.” From Chicago Mag and Epic, “Tom Justice was once a cyclist chasing Olympic gold. Then he began using his bike for a much different purpose: robbing banks.” The Bicycle Thief.


From My Cold Dead Hands

“They are all dead. Yet if city records are to be believed, they all walked into the office of a notary public and signed away their homes, which just happened to be in gentrifying neighborhoods with soaring property values.” Philly Inquirer: Stealing From the Dead.


Bottom of the News

“It’s almost too easy to satirize physical education, better known by its eye-roll-inducing abbreviation P.E. From Clueless to Superbad to Spiderman: Homecoming, parodies of gym class are a pop-culture darling. Perhaps that’s because they speak to one of America’s fundamental truths: For many kids, P.E. is terrible.” And it might be terrible from the school’s perspective too. The Atlantic: Gym Class Is So Bad Kids Are Skipping School to Avoid It.

+ Roomba now makes a lawn mower. (The only chore my kids will ever know is making sure our devices are charged.)

+ Step inside NYC’s competitive slotcar racing scene.

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