Monday, October 21st, 2019


Emolumentally Challenged

"You people with this phony Emoluments Clause." Yes, we've reached the point in the story where the president is describing the Constitution as fake news as he vents over his decision to pull plans to host the G-7 at his own resort. The move came as Trump learned that impeachment-weary Republicans were tired of defending him on so many fronts. The hotel cancellation policy came shortly after Mick Mulvaney explained his boss's motivation: "At the end of the day, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business." (Tell that to the kids in cages.)

+ This leaves the GOP to focus its defense of Trump squarely on the impeachment proceedings and the Ukrainian scandal. Here's the latest from CNN and WaPo.

+ Regardless of the piling up of evidence, the administration's own release of incriminating evidence, and the public confessions from both the president and his chief of staff, don't expect the GOP defense to crater easily. "Of all Republican voters, two subgroups stand out for their unwavering support of Trump: those who primarily get their news from Fox, and white evangelical Christians." The Atlantic: Nothing Will Persuade White Evangelicals to Support Impeachment. (The one good thing about this era is everyone finally understands what irony means.)

+ "So, they said he was on the phone with some guy because he wanted to get dirt on Biden, but I don't know if they got any." WaPo heads to Staten Island, "a swath of the country as good a place as any to gauge how a defining moment in American democracy is playing out."


China Camp

"Twenty prisoners live in one small room. They are handcuffed, their heads shaved, every move is monitored by ceiling cameras ... Torture – metal nails, fingernails pulled out, electric shocks – takes place in the 'black room.' Punishment is a constant. The prisoners are forced to take pills and get injections. It's for disease prevention, the staff tell them, but in reality they are the human subjects of medical experiments. Many of the inmates suffer from cognitive decline. Some of the men become sterile. Women are routinely raped." Haaretz: A Million People Are Jailed at China's Gulags. I Managed to Escape. Here's What Really Goes on Inside.


Flight Club

"Trump's ignorance of the world has never been so blatant—or produced such bipartisan opposition. The House of Representatives voted 354–60 to condemn the pullout ... Yet Trump seemed delighted with his decision to let the Turks and the Kurds—both U.S. allies—fight it out. 'It was unconventional, what I did. Sometimes you have to let them fight like two kids. Then you pull them apart.'" (Unless your kids have bone spurs, in which case, they can just tweet the action.) Robin Wright in The New Yorker: Turkey, Syria, the Kurds, and Trump's Abandonment of Foreign Policy.

+ "Why did Trump shut down the entire peace process? It's possible that he'd always been ambivalent about the deal, and his misgivings ultimately prevailed. Or he might have wanted to punish the Taliban for snubbing him." The New Yorker: The Shattered Afghan Dream of Peace. "So far this year, more than eight thousand civilians have been killed or wounded. In much of Afghanistan, life has never felt more precarious, and the violence has never made less sense."


Bi(cycle) Curious

"In Golden Gate Park, horse riders and bicyclists quarreled over who had the right of way. A women's bicycling club called the Falcons opened a clubhouse in the wondrous sand-dune colony soon to be known as Carville ... an estimated 5,000 'wheelmen' and women held a great Bicycle Protest, riding down Market Street to demand better roads before a cheering crowd of 100,000." Like many other cities, San Francisco is currently undergoing a transformation to create more bike lanes. But this isn't the first time bicycles had their moment. SF Chronicle: Sex and cycling: How bike craze aroused passions in 1890s San Francisco. "In 1896, Susan B. Anthony said bicycling was doing 'more to emancipate women than anything else in the world ... Traditionalists argued that cycling would lead young women into fast living and eventual doom.'"


Street View

Protests, stirred by various issues (many related to the widening income inequality gap) are filling the streets of cities across the world. In Lebanon, there's a mass revolt against corruption and poverty. In London, thousands of people demanded another Brexit referendum. In Chile, the cost of living protests have taken a deadly toll. In Haiti, "a struggle between President Jovenel Moïse and a surging opposition movement demanding his ouster has led to violent demonstrations and barricaded streets across the country." Protests have rocked Spain's Catalonia region. And hundreds of thousands protested in Hong Kong again over the weekend. (If only Americans had something to get stirred up about...)


Netanyahu News

"Mr. Netanyahu is counting on Mr. Gantz to fail. That could force a third election, a prospect that few Israelis would relish aside from Mr. Netanyahu's most devoted supporters." NYT: Netanyahu Fails to Form a Government. Israel Turns to Gantz.


Cartel Tales

"There are two main factors driving the flow of refugees from small towns and villages like Vallecitos, and they are both tied to seismic changes in the cartel universe. The first has to do with an ongoing power struggle in the wake of Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán's capture and extradition to the U.S. The second is related to a profound shift in the habits of the cartels' best customers: American drug users." The Daily Beast: Mexico's Murderous Super-Cartel CJNG Is Winning the Narco Game of Thrones.

+ "El Chapo has a lot of sons: The official count is 15, but up to 24 people are rumored to be his offspring. Most of them aren't in the cartel business, but at least four are said to be key players — and they've been continuously staving off challenges to their power since their dad's imprisonment." Vice: Everything We Know About El Chapo's Sons.


Buy Curious

"What happens when companies use science and technology not only to refine our pleasures but to engineer addictive behaviors." Vox: Capitalism is turning us into addicts. Or why you buy stuff you don't really need. (My problem is a little different. I spend countless hours researching products I'll never really buy.)


Qantas Physics

"Down one side of the business-class section, six Qantas frequent flyers are following a pre-planned schedule for eating and drinking (including limiting alcohol), exercise and sleep. They wear movement and light readers on their wrists and have been asked to log their activities; they've already been under observation for a few days and will be monitored for 21 days in total." Bloomberg: I Just Took the World's First 20-Hour Flight. Here's What It Did to Me.


Bottom of the News

"Amusement parks are designed to deliver thrills. They are places for splashing and screaming and laughing, often on rides that defy common sense, not to mention the laws of physics. But a park in New Jersey routinely delivered a lot worse — bloody noses, bruises, broken teeth and bones, concussions and even death." NYT: People Were Bleeding All Over: America's Most Dangerous Amusement Park.

+ Nutella, Osama bin Laden, and Robocop are on this list of 35 Outlawed Baby Names From Around the World.

+ And in a preview of humanity's future, a minor league baseball player got thrown out a game for arguing a call made by a robo-umpire.