1

Gord Knows

Oh my Gord. The Gord Rails are Off. The Gord and the Stone. The Gord of Damocles has dropped. It's Decorative Gord Season, Motherf--kers. Today's impeachment testimony was so bad for the President (and others) that no single pun could possibly suffice. Not only was the president implicated in a quid pro quo by his own appointee, Americans also got a depressing glimpse at how its foreign policy is being run — by a smirking ambassador making unsecured cell phone calls to a president whose primary objective is that his ass be loved; and by shadow officials who roam, untamable by career diplomats, around the world representing America as if it were a country that falls somewhere on the spectrum between a banana republic and a banana peel slip. (And I'm not even including the Trump team members who are already in jail.)

+ From The New Yorker: 'We Followed the President's Orders': Gordon Sondland's Testimony Likely Assures Trump's Impeachment.

+ The moment Sondland says explicitly that there was a "quid quo pro" at play.

+ The Atlantic: The Two Most Important Sentences of the Impeachment Hearings. "Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret."

+ Sondland's testimony shows Mike Pompeo was far more central on Ukraine than we knew.

+ During the hearing, Sondland just said he donated to Trump's inaugural committee "to secure tickets." He donated $1 million. (At those prices, it's no wonder that event was so empty...)

+ WaPo: Trump's sweeping rebuttal to Sondland's testimony? Quoting his own denials of quid pro quo. (Including his notes. That he just wrote.) Trump has also said of Sondland, "I hardly know the gentleman." Nothing about that lie surprised anyone. Nor should anything about today's testimony. Nor should the tired, pathetic retort that through all of this, it is Trump who is being treated unfairly. And please, don't misunderstand. There's no joy in any of this. Just anguish at seeing America dragged through the mud and a political party selling its soul to defend a self-dealing, narcissistic, conman. Come on. Enough.

+ Here's the latest from impeach pit from CNN and WaPo.

+ As Lt Colonel Vindman said yesterday, "Right Matters." Let's hope that's true. If you missed my take on Vindman, his solid testimony, and the poor treatment he received, it's right here: Alex Vindman, America, and the Truth.

2

Guac-a-Mole

"The newcomers, members of a criminal group, were almost certainly clearing the forest to set up a grow operation. They wouldn't be planting marijuana or other crops long favored by Mexican cartels, but something potentially even more profitable: avocados." LA Times: Inside the bloody cartel war for Mexico's multibillion-dollar avocado industry.

3

Laser Focused

"The vote will be seen as boost for Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, and a challenge to the Chinese government at a time of strained US-China relations, marked by a protracted trade war and geopolitical jostling." US Senate unanimously passes Hong Kong rights and democracy bill. (At least we're still unanimous about democracy.) The House is expected to pass a similar bill. Next stop, the president's desk.

+ "For the past decade, as inexpensive laser pointers have become more available, protesters around the world have added them to their tool kits. They are used to distract or obstruct riot police and their cameras and drones, as a colorful way to celebrate and show solidarity in groups, or as a method of communication." A photo collection. The Lasers of Discontent.

4

Under the Influencer

"Long a product sold primarily by historically disenfranchised young men risking prison sentences, weed is now the province of A-list actors and Super Bowl champions. Drake wants to sell you weed grown locally in his native Toronto. Football stars like Rob Gronkowski and Ricky Williams offer cannabinoid products to ease your aches and pains. As the legal-weed market floods with corporations vying to be the Coca-Cola of cannabis, companies are betting that celebrities might be a shortcut to mainstream success." The Atlantic: America's Best Drug Dealers Are A-List Celebrities. (Gotta be pretty weird to watch all this unfold if you're sitting in a jail cell for possession...)

5

Norway… Way!

"Norwegians are eating less sugar than at any time in the last 44 years, the health directorate in Oslo has said, announcing that annual consumption per person had fallen by more than 1kg a year since 2000." With sugar taxes and other efforts, Norwegians cut sugar intake to lowest level in 44 years.

6

Track Marks

"Nightmares, anxiety, and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can follow. Some drivers leave railroad work forever. Transit agencies typically grant just three days off after a fatality. With a therapist's approval, workers can get additional time, but train engineers often choose to just go back to work." The Philadelphia Inquirer: Death by Train. "Almost half of America's engineers have operated a train that killed someone on the tracks."

7

The Camera Will See You Now

"At the cubicle to Skow's left, another doctor was examining a head injury in Kansas. To his right, a physician monitored a possible heart attack at a critical-access hospital in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Skow used a remote control to move the high-resolution camera in Montana, zooming in to check the patient's pupils for dilation and using a microphone to listen for breathing sounds." WaPo's excellent Eli Saslow on doing medicine from cubicles and the most remote emergency room: Life and death in rural America.

8

Panda Express

"America's connection with giant pandas began almost by accident. In February, 1972, during President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China, First Lady Pat Nixon made small talk at dinner with Premier Zhou Enlai. She mentioned her fascination with the giant pandas that she had just visited at the Beijing Zoo. The Nixon trip was the first diplomatic thaw between the United States and China since the 1949 Communist revolution, so Zhou seized the moment. 'I'll give you some,' he replied." The New Yorker's Robin Wright on Washington's Other Drama: The Unbearable Departure of Its Last Panda Cub. (This is a first for Washington: A black and white case.)

9

Billie Doesn’t Lose That Number

Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X led today's Grammy nominations. "Other notable mentions included Ariana Grande with five noms and Michelle Obama for best spoken word album, while Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga were both shut out of the album and record of the year category." Here's a look at all the noms.

+ Pitchfork: 5 Takeaways from the 2020 Grammy Nominations.

+ Who are we kidding. A$AP Rocky won the day in the music biz.

10

Bottom of the News

"I couldn't think of a better film to kick off my exploration of the Disney archives than Gus, a heartwarming tale about a farm mule from Yugoslavia who becomes an NFL place-kicker for the fictional California Atoms ... One brave staffer streamed Mouse House content for half a day and found some … pretty strange stuff in the archives." The Ringer: Place-Kicking Mules, Alien Cats, and a Surplus of Gambling: 12 Hours of Watching Disney Plus. (For the record, not as a child, nor now, do I find anything strange about a place kicking mule named Gus. Though, the movie was a clear and cheap ripoff from my favorite childhood book, The Horse That Played Center Field.)

+ GQ: Robert De Niro and Al Pacino: A Big, Beautiful 50-Year Friendship.

+ 'No one will know the difference': years ago, a studio wanted Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman. (Next, you're gonna tell me that she played the lead role in a feel good story about prostitution...)