February 4th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

America's blood money, why the El Chapo case means nada, and hey, wake up, that Super Bowl is over.

In many strip malls, next to the dollar store, you’ll find another kind of shop targeting the same demographic. In this case, the customer is the one doing the selling, and the merchant is out for blood. The NYT’s Zoe Greenberg on American blood money: What Is the Blood of a Poor Person Worth? “Many developed countries have banned paying people for their blood, but not the United States. Blood products made up 1.9 percent of all American exports in 2016, more than soybeans, more than computers.”


Yada Yada Nada

The jury is headed for deliberations in the El Chapo case. Two predictions: First, Joaquín Guzmán Loera will almost certainly be found guilty and spend the rest of his life in prison. Second, it won’t make a difference. No one is better at writing about the drug war than Don Winslow. And he sums up the sad truth in Vanity Fair: The Dirty Secret Of El Chapo’s Downfall. “If you think that Guzmán’s incarceration has been a major victory in the War on Drugs, explain why heroin overdoses in the United States have risen dramatically, not fallen, since his capture. The drug problem has gotten worse, not better. It’s business as usual, because it’s set up to be.”


Ven Push Comes to Shove

“Nicolás Maduro has hit back at the ‘cowardly’ and ‘disastrous’ decision of a succession of European countries to recognise his rival, Juan Guaidó, as interim president, as Venezuela enters what many observers believe could be a critical week in its fast-escalating political crisis.” From The Guardian: Maduro hits back at gringo plot to overthrow revolution. “We will never, ever hand over our country … The people will never surrender.”

+ One of Maduro’s key challenges is that the people may not be on his side. “He may be the heir to Hugo Chavez, champion and defender of the poor like them, but now if Maduro happens to be on television, the banging is especially loud. It seems a small signal of the forces closing in on him.” Bloomberg: Venezuela’s Poor Now Despise the Socialist Leader.


Due Northam

“The meeting did not go Northam’s way. Not one person during the gathering told the governor that he should stay and fight, a source with knowledge of the conversation said.” Following a weekend when the public got a look at a racist photo in Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook, the Virginia Governor is hanging on by a thread. (This is like a weird zombie movie where the main character doesn’t realize he’s dead even though everyone else in the movie, and in the audience, does.)

+ Vox: A step-by-step guide to what happens if Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam steps down.


One for Tom’s Thumb

Well, there goes another Super Bowl (or as Patriots’ fans call it, Homecoming Weekend). In the past, there have been calls to make the Monday after the big game a national holiday so Americans could recover from all the excitement. This Monday morning, we could hardly be more rested since most of us have been asleep since midway through the second quarter. In the end, the Patriots did what the Patriots do. They found a way to win with what was probably the greatest defensive performance in Super Bowl history and just enough crunchtime excellence from Tom Brady to earn him a sixth ring. (Not too bad for a XXXXI year-old.)

+ The Ringer: Six plays that explain how Bill Belichick outdueled Sean McVay.

+ The game had a total of 1 play in the red zone. WaPo: 10 numbers that show just how ugly that Super Bowl was. (Another number: I bored-ate 3,000 calories in third quarter alone.)

+ Maroon 5 “did not enter this gig with the burden of great expectations. But the band still might have delivered neat arena gimmicks, like a giant swiveling The Voice throne or something. Instead they did the minimum, which perhaps was one of the things that the M-shaped stage stood for.” The Atlantic: Maroon 5’s Halftime Show Felt Designed to Be Forgotten. (Editor’s note: What halftime show?) And from The New Yorker: The Artless Spectacle of Maroon 5 at the Super Bowl. (Adam Levine is covered with tattoos and took his shirt off outdoors in February. Somewhere there is a very unhappy Jewish mother.)

+ Here’s a look at some of the most notable commercials.

+ All the news is not bad. Last night’s game was the least watched Super Bowl in a decade.


Teen Angst

You probably know more about the day to day experiences of that weirdo you barely remember from junior high than people with whom you have an active friendship. In related news, Facebook is 15. Julie Beck in The Atlantic: “The social network is 15 years old this Monday, and in taking stock of the effects of its decade and a half of existence on people’s social lives, this is what stands out the most: Facebook is where friendships go to never quite die.” (But privacy does…)

+ ReCode: From dorm room to global dominance, Facebook’s path to 2.3 billion users.


Historical Fiction

“I recently called a senior editor at a New York publishing company to discuss the experience of working with Mallory. ‘My God,’ the editor said, with a laugh. ‘I knew I’d get this call. I didn’t know if it would be you or the F.B.I.'” Ian Parker in The New Yorker: A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions.


Raising the Bars

“While it’s true that a Kind bar is mildly better for you than a candy bar—it’s made from real chocolate, and there’s way less sugar and no nasty fats—its chocolate offerings are essentially deconstructed Snickers for people who care about what they eat.” Outside: How Energy Bars Became America’s Favorite Snack Food.

+ Surprise. You don’t need sports drinks to stay hydrated. (Although they are useful when you’re looking for something to pour over the back of a winning coach…)


Cache is King

This could be the most cryptocurrency headline in cryptocurrency history. Gizmodo: Crypto Exchange Says It Can’t Repay $190 Million to Clients After Founder Dies With Only Password.


Bottom of the News

Following yet another White House leak, we now know that the president spends an amazing amount of his schedule on Executive Time. He basically spends most of his time watching TV and rage-tweeting. (And you thought he was out of touch with the average American…)

+ This Is What Happens When You Drunkenly Swallow a Live Catfish. (If you swallow a live cat, that’s drunk. Swallowing a catfish sounds more like a decent buzz…)

+ The ugly — and, yes, slightly gross — truth of stadium bathrooms.

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