Monday, December 9th, 2019


A Day in the Life of Yegor Zhukov

Masha Gessen in The New Yorker: "Instead of writing my own column, I have translated Zhukov's final statement, delivered in court on Wednesday. I did it because it is a beautiful text that makes for instructive reading. Parts of it seem to describe American reality as accurately as the Russian one. Parts of it show what resistance can be. All of it, I hope, will make readers think twice before they use the word 'Russians' to mean goons." The New Yorker: A Powerful Statement of Resistance from a College Student on Trial in Moscow. (In the same spirit offered by Masha Gessen, I'll skip my usual commentary and leave it all to Yegor Zhukov who "stood accused of 'extremism,' for posting YouTube videos in which he talked about nonviolent protest.") "I will endeavor to take joy in having this chance—the chance to be tested in the name of values I hold dear. In the end, Your Honor, the more frightening my future, the broader the smile with which I look at it."


Surge Protectors

"The documents ... contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting. Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case." WaPo on the release of a secret trove of documents that reveal US officials consistently "failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable." (Being rosy about a war that's taken 18 years was a key indicator we weren't getting an accurate picture.) Just because it's not surprising doesn't mean it's not a really big deal. At War With the Truth. (Oh, well, let's give it one more surge...)


Dope Fiends

"The leaders will attempt to end five-and-a-half years of fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and separatist rebels backed by Russia.
It comes after a big prisoner swap and the withdrawal of Ukraine's military from three key areas on the front line. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are co-hosting the talks at the Élysée Palace." BBC: Putin and Zelensky hold landmark talks in Paris.

+ "Russia has been handed a four-year ban from international sporting competition for a doping cover-up that means the country will not feature at the Tokyo Olympics next summer or the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar." Russia banned from Tokyo Olympics and football World Cup.

+ "WADA's executive committee concluded Moscow had planted fake evidence and deleted files linked to positive doping tests in laboratory data that could have helped identify drug cheats." (Before this is over, the Trump administration will blame the doping on the Ukrainians.)


Until We Meet Again

"For a few months, they managed to be each other's escape, but they knew these visits wouldn't last. Around them, death was everywhere. Still, the lovers planned a life together, a future outside of Auschwitz. They knew they would be separated, but they had a plan, after the fighting was done, to reunite. It took them 72 years.?" Keren Blankfeld in the NYT: Lovers in Auschwitz, Reunited 72 Years Later. He Had One Question.


Every Witch Way But Loose

"The FBI was justified in opening its investigation into ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia and did not act with political bias, despite 'serious performance failures' up the bureau's chain of command, the Justice Department's internal watchdog said in a highly anticipated report Monday. The findings undercut President Donald Trump's claim that he was the target of a 'witch hunt.'" AP: FBI's Russia probe justified, no bias found. (Within a few hours, this report will be twisted and turned every which way possible. Oh sorry, did I say hours? I meant seconds...)

+ "When constitutional scholars explained the case for impeachment last week, they cited the Founders' phobia of foreign manipulation. The fear was that other countries might secretly influence a president to act contrary to the national interests, that interests from abroad would distort policy outside the public's view. Behavior that terrified the Founders seems to be the very core of Giuliani's business model. Donald Trump's lawyer is Benjamin Franklin's night sweats." Franklin Foer in The Atlantic: Rudy Giuliani Is Living the Dream. "Don't let his butt-dials distract from his cunning."

+ "Before the 2016 election, Rudy was running around hawking Life Lock on commercials that ran at 2 a.m. on channel 83." NYT: The Indispensable Man: How Giuliani Led Trump to the Brink of Impeachment.

+ Meanwhile, we've got more hearings. Here's the latest from the impeach pit from WaPo.


Almighty Dollar Store

"In many communities, the Dollar Store is a real asset, a convenient place to grab detergent or batteries. But in some small towns and urban areas, the Dollar Store is also the closest thing to a grocery store, and this can be a problem." CBS: Dollar Stores and food deserts. "There are now more Dollar Stores in the U.S. than Starbucks and McDonald's combined – 30,000 of them."



"Authorities believe fewer than 50 New Zealanders and international tourists were on or near White Island — about 30 miles off the coast of New Zealand's North Island — but the exact number of people unaccounted for is unclear." NPR: At Least 5 Dead After Volcano Erupts Off New Zealand's Coast.

+ "Every year thousands of tourists take boat trips and helicopter tours to view the White Island's dramatic landscape. Some have questioned whether the privately owned island, which is New Zealand's most active cone volcano, should have been operating as a tourist destination." Questions arise as to why tourists were on White Island after scientists noted volcanic activity. Here are some photos from BBC.


We Were All Yellow

"Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending." Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney has died at 85. You want range from a puppeteer? Spinney was both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Here's more from Kottke.


When I’m Out on the Street

"From MeToo and Black Lives Matter to the Arab Spring and Hong Kong protests, here are the tremendous moments in activism that have defined this past decade." Buzzfeed: 67 Pictures Of Protest That Defined The Decade.

+ A baby seal in the back of a patrol car? Maybe I should have led with The Atlantic's Hopeful Images From 2019.

+ In Friday's edition (which had a lot of good and fun stuff), I included a collection of the news photos of the year and decade.


Bottom of the News

"The retail giant also issued an apology over a sweater offered by the third-party seller Fun Wear that featured an image of a bug-eyed Santa Claus seated in front of three white lines." WaPo: Walmart pulls Christmas sweaters that mixed Santa with sex and cocaine. (The guy has to deliver toys to every kid in the world in one night. What did you think he was on, Red Bull?)

+ 2019 Sportsperson of the Year: Megan Rapinoe.

+ THR: Golden Globes: Full List of Nominations. (Leave Watchmen out of the nominations, and you get shoved to the very bottom of the news...)