July 9th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The minimum wage laid bare, Acosta's deal with the devil, and the murdering of New Coke.

What if there was one simple policy change that could lower suicide rates, decrease the likelihood of criminal recidivism, increase consumer spending, boost worker productivity, and reduce the number of people facing poverty? And what if that policy also had widespread support and addressed the income equality issues that are at the very heart of nearly every American malady? WaPo on the benefits of paying people at reasonable levels. It’s not just paychecks: The surprising society-wide benefits of raising the minimum wage.


Little Red (White and Blue) Riding Hood

“It’s no secret that American public policy throughout the 20th century endorsed the car—for instance, by building a massive network of urban and interstate highways at public expense. Less well understood is how the legal framework governing American life enforces dependency on the automobile.” In The Atlantic, Gregory H. Shill with an intriguing look at how America became the land of the car. Americans Shouldn’t Have to Drive, but the Law Insists on It.


Deal with the Devil

“The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific, and I am pleased that NY prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.” So tweeted current Labor Dept Secretary (and the former US Attorney who gave Jeffrey Epstein the deal of the century) Alex Acosta, in an effort to quiet the increasingly loud calls for him resign.

+ NYT: Seized Photos of Nude Girls Deepens Questions About Jeffrey Epstein’s 2008 Deal.

+ How ridiculous was the deal? Former federal prosecutor Ken White in The Atlantic: “Epstein’s team secured the deal of the millennium, one utterly unlike anything else I’ve seen in 25 years of practicing federal criminal law. Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges, register as a sex offender, and spend 13 months in county jail, during which time he was allowed to spend 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, out of the jail on ‘work release.’ In exchange, the Southern District of Florida abandoned its criminal investigation of Epstein’s conduct, agreed not to prosecute him federally, and—incredibly—agreed not to prosecute anyone else who helped him procure underage girls for sex. This is not normal; it is astounding.”

+ Vox: Jeffrey Epstein’s connections to Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. (Some of the partisan responses to the Epstein case have been a bit much. I don’t care if you’re red or blue, if you rape kids, you’re officially not part of my party.)


Environ Mental

“By now, we are used to Trump’s big-lie technique. Even by that standard, however, the claim that ‘we are working harder than many previous Administrations, maybe almost all of them,’ on environmental protection will be believed by exactly no one for whom words have not yet lost their common-sense meaning.” Bill McKibben in The New Yorker: Why Donald Trump Suddenly Decided to Talk About the Environment. (Following Trump’s remarks on keeping the environment healthy, Mel Gibson will be sharing some thoughts on this week’s Torah portion.)


Stick and Move

“Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor gave her strongest pledge yet on Tuesday morning when she declared the highly unpopular extradition bill that sparked several mass protests was dead.”

+ Quartz: “To their arsenal of hard hats, umbrellas, and goggles, Hong Kong’s protesters, who have been taking to the streets for over a month in response to a hated extradition bill, are now adding another item—Post-it notes. Hundreds and thousands of them.”


Secrets and Allies

“He tweeted that the ambassador was ‘wacky,’ ‘a very stupid guy’ and a ‘pompous fool’ and said that May’s ‘failed’ and ‘foolish’ efforts to deliver Britain’s exit from the European Union were a ‘disaster!'” President Trump is lashing out Sir Kim Darroch, “the British ambassador to the United States whose diplomatic cables leaked to a London tabloid this weekend.” From WaPo, here’s a look at some of Darroch’s observations. “Do not write him off. … Trump may emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of The Terminator.”


Kicking the Can

“The popular version goes like this: In the early 1980s, not content with producing the world’s most recognizable beverage, greedy executives tweaked the recipe for the first time in 94 years. They redesigned the can, launched a massive marketing blitz, and promised a better taste. But Americans wouldn’t stand for it. In the face of a nationwide backlash, the company brought back the old formula—now dubbed “Coke Classic”—after two months. The story of New Coke is eternal. It’s a parable of hubris. It’s also a lie. Far from the dud it’s been made out to be, New Coke was actually delicious—or at least, most people who tried it thought so.” Tim Murphy in MoJo: New Coke Didn’t Fail. It Was Murdered.


Going to the Yoga Mattresses

“As the tectonic plates of Buddhism and Islam collide, a portion of Buddhists are abandoning the peaceful tenets of their religion. Over the past few years, Buddhist mobs have waged deadly attacks against minority Muslim populations. Buddhist nationalist ideologues are using the spiritual authority of extremist monks to bolster their support.” NYT: Buddhists Go to Battle: When Nationalism Overrides Pacifism.


Beetle Juice

“It has been: a part of Germany’s darkest hours as a never-realized Nazi prestige project. A symbol of Germany’s postwar economic renaissance and rising middle-class prosperity. An example of globalization, sold and recognized all over the world. An emblem of the 1960s counterculture in the United States. Above all, the car remains a landmark in design, as recognizable as the Coca-Cola bottle.” AP on the end of the road for the Volkswagen Beetle. (I’ll never understand how hippies thought it was cool to drive Hitler’s “people’s car.”)


Bottom of the News

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Pete Alonso put on a show during Monday’s home run derby. But if the juiced ball and all these home runs aren’t your thing, you might want to try the Korean bunting contest.

+ “On Monday, Netflix announced on Twitter that 40.7 million household accounts have watched the show — and 18.2 million have already finished all eight episodes!” It turns out a lot of you spent the holiday weekend watching Stranger Things.

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