Monday, October 7th, 2019


Unhealthy Rebound Relationship

We open with a geopolitical controversy that involves world superpowers and was triggered by a tweet (but in an unexpected twist, the tweet was not authored in the White House). The tweet came from Houston Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey. It was only up for a short time before Morey deleted it and began apologizing: "I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China ... I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives." What was the content of the tweet? "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong." James Harden, standing next to his teammate Russell Westbrook, took to the airwaves to apologize for his GM's deleted tweet. "We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love." Why were even NBA stars, in league "that encourages free speech and commentary on politics and other social issues," dribbling all over themselves to dunk on democracy? Because the most important love Harden speaks of is money, geopolitics has been corporatized, and there's no more important play in basketball than the bank shot. NYT: N.B.A. Executive's Hong Kong Tweet Starts Firestorm in China.

+ CNN: China suspends business ties with NBA's Houston Rockets over Hong Kong tweet.

+ Related (sort of): South Park Scrubbed From Chinese Internet After Critical Episode.


Bracket Racket

"Whatever Buffett's specific situation, most wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. 'Is it the norm?' the fact-checking outfit Politifact asked. 'No.' Time for an update: It's the norm now." NYT: For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate ... than any other income group.


Dropping Kurds

"I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home." President Trump is taking heat from some of his strongest backers following his decision to pull troops from Syria and give Turkey the go-ahead to invade. The move "was condemned, too, by Kurdish fighters who would be abandoned to face a likely Turkish assault after fighting alongside Americans for years against the Islamic State." Trump has warned Turkey not to go too far. "If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey." (That's a real quote.)

+ BBC: Turkey vs Syria's Kurds explained. Kurd leaders say they feel like they've been "stabbed in the back." (I guess it's too bad for the Kurds they don't have any dirt on Hunter Biden.)


Military Quite Contrary

"In a written statement Monday, Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the U.S. does not endorse a Turkish military operation in Syria and will not support it." AP: Pentagon warns Turkey not to invade Syria.

+ Wait, does that suggest the Pentagon isn't on the same page as the president? If history is any indicator, the country's top brass probably found out about the Syria decision at the same time you did (assuming you follow Trump on Twitter). Mark Bowden with an extremely troubling report about the steps top military officials take to protect America from the American president. Top Military Officers Unload on Trump. "In 20 years of writing about the military, I have never heard officers in high positions express such alarm about a president. Trump's pronouncements and orders have already risked catastrophic and unnecessary wars in the Middle East and Asia, and have created severe problems for field commanders engaged in combat operations. Frequently caught unawares by Trump's statements, senior military officers have scrambled, in their aftermath, to steer the country away from tragedy. How many times can they successfully do that before faltering?" (Let's hope that question remains rhetorical...)


Gun Run

"Today, millions of weapons are in private hands — in direct violation of Mexico's strict gun laws. Some of those firearms once belonged to the military or police and were sold into the underworld. But the vast majority were smuggled from the world's largest gun market: the United States." LA Times: An arms race in Mexico is driving record killings. American guns are to blame.


Predict Pict

"Until now I'd always finished my thought by typing the sentence to a full stop, as though I were defending humanity's exclusive right to writing, an ability unique to our species. I will gladly let Google predict the fastest route from Brooklyn to Boston, but if I allowed its algorithms to navigate to the end of my sentences how long would it be before the machine started thinking for me?" John Seabrook in The New Yorker: The Next Word. Where will predictive text take us?


Traffic Court

"Ten years ago, Judge Paul Herbert was sitting in a courtroom when he noticed a trend. He was seeing lots of women who were abused and forced into sex work, but they were being treated like criminals. 'The sheriff brings the next defendant out on the wall chained up, and it's a woman and she's all beat up, she's looking exactly like one of these victims of domestic violence except she's in handcuffs and a jail suit. I look down at the file and it says prostitute.'" NPR: A Pioneering Ohio Courtroom Helps Trafficking Victims Find Hope.


Cell Tactics

"When we breathe in, oxygen breaks down (or oxidizes) chemical bonds in calories, for example, and releases the energy for use by our cells. The product of the process is CO2. While this basic exchange has been understood for centuries, what wasn't known is how cells adapt and respond to changing oxygen levels. How, for example, do our cells know to ramp up breathing when we exercise and need more energy — and oxygen — to keep going? How do humans live at high altitudes?" Vox: William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, and Gregg L. Semenza have jointly been awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovering how cells sense and adapt to changing oxygen levels in the body.


Hemp Job

"The alternative crop, he says, may be especially important this harvest. Flooding in the Midwest kept some fields wet late into the planting season. And farmers are struggling with the effects of a trade fight with China, which has crippled exports of American agricultural commodities like soybeans." NYT: Amid Trade War, Farmers Lean on a New Crop: Hemp. (I'm glad I'm not the only one turning to formerly illegal crops to get through the Trump era...)

+ China's Breeding Giant Pigs That Are as Heavy as Polar Bears.


Bottom of the News

NPR: It's Fat Bear Week In Alaska's Katmai National Park — Time To Fill Out Your Bracket. "This isn't fat shaming ... It is fat glorifying as the biggest bear has done the best job getting ready. 'They lose a third of their body fat over the winter. So they need all that fat to survive.'" (Here's a livestream of a live stream, that often features some bears.)

+ Sharon Van Etten: Tiny Desk Concert. (I just listened to Seventeen seventeen times.)

+ A fun fact to keep in mind while you're reading the latest conspiracy theories about the Bidens. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Made $82 Million While Working in the White House Last Year.