Wednesday, January 8th, 2020


Flame War

Remember when we used to worry that Trump would run a war on Twitter? Well, it's sort of happening. And, according to Garrett Graff, that might not be such a bad thing. "Both Trump and Iran's English-speaking foreign minister tweeted out Tuesday night that neither wished to escalate tit-for-tat attacks into a true war. Their exchange, what Middle East expert Ilan Goldenberg called 'real time deescalatory twitter,' came in the hours after Iranian rockets targeted Iraqi bases that housed US and allied personnel ... The tweets proved a remarkable modern-day answer to the long-running challenge world leaders have faced in struggling to communicate between nations during unfolding crises—communications necessary both to understand adversaries' intentions and to telegraph their own." Wired: Did Twitter Help Stop War With Iran? Yes, this spin on social media borders on hallucinatory techno-optimism, but I've been on the hunt for a more convincing way to explain my own Twitter addiction to my family, and Daddy's stopping war has a nice ring to it.

+ While Twitter may be preventing wars, Facebook's where the real action is. Buzzfeed: Trump Is Running Hundreds Of Facebook Ads Praising Himself For The Killing Of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

+ "The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases." President Trump suggested that Iran appears to be "standing down" following a series of missile strikes on US bases in Iraq. Here's the latest from WaPo.


Something Catastrophic

"When the data is lost at 8,000 feet suddenly that implies something catastrophic happened to that airplane and they could no longer communicate with the ground control. There is no indication at this stage of what may have caused a catastrophic incident on board the plane, and all options are still on the table." A Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 plane crashed after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board. Here's the latest from CNN.

+ ABC on the timing of the crash, coming just hours after Iran launched its missiles: "There was no immediate sign the two events were linked and some Iranian officials blamed the crash on a technical fault on the plane. But the cause of the disaster remained unclear, with Ukrainian authorities seeming unsure of the initial Iranian explanations on Wednesday."

+ Jeff Wise in NY Mag: "To be sure, there are ways other than a missile strike that a passenger plane can come to catastrophic grief soon after takeoff. In the case of Flight 752, however, none seem to fit very well."


Paso Doble

In a time of extreme American divisiveness, there's perhaps no issue that divides us more starkly than how we should be securing our Southern border. And the epicenter of that clash is in El Paso. This excellent episode of Frontline investigates "how El Paso, Texas became the Trump administration's immigration policy testing ground, and then the target of a white supremacist." Targeting El Paso.


Bucking Buckingham

Even the most stoic Queen's Guard had to flinch at this news. In a move that could be Harry's first step towards becoming the second person formerly known as Prince, he and Meghan Markle plan to step back as senior members of the Royal Family. (The Royal Wean?) "We intend to step back as 'senior' members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen." In other words, That kind of lux just ain't for us, we crave a different kind of buzz... (When I first heard that someone might be giving up their crown, I figured it was Ivanka…)


Altered States

"If you talk to most of the members and delegates at the conference, they haven't even heard of gene drives before now. And then they hear people saying that we're either going to end malaria with this or else it's going to destroy the planet and hand control to Big Ag. I mean, what do you do with that?" The Gene Drive Dilemma: We Can Alter Entire Species, but Should We?


Ghosn Stories

"Media reports have said that he left his Tokyo residence alone, skipping out on his $14 million bail despite supposedly rigorous surveillance. He met two men at a hotel, and then took a bullet train to Osaka before boarding a private jet, hidden inside a musical equipment case. He flew to Istanbul and was then transferred onto another plane bound for Beirut." And today, Nissan's fugitive ex-boss, Carlos Ghosn gave a multi-hour press conference complete with powerpoint slides. (Can a Ted Talk be far off?)


Keep Calm and Larry On

"I have, in the line of duty, met actors who seem like they are continuing to play their most famous roles in real life—Pierce Brosnan, say, who ordered a martini in the opulent hotel where we met without so much as a knowing Bondian wink. Never before David, though, have I been around a celebrity whose actual persona so immaculately and surreally matched their onscreen one." GQ: The Incredibly Happy Life of Larry David, TV's Favorite Grouch.


Tom Foolery

"Decline comes for us all. Rome fell. The British empire receded. The Romanovs, the Hapsburgs—gone. And on a fog-enshrouded night last weekend in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the most impressive and enduring sports dynasty of the 21st century sputtered to its inevitable end." (Phew, at first I thought he was talking about America...)
Scott Stossel: The fall of the Patriots' dynasty is everyone's loss. (Editor's note: Not really.)

+ The Patriots' dynasty may have ended, but beware of the GOAT. When Tom Brady says, "I know I still have more to prove," I tend to believe him.


A Chill Vibe

"In addition to being visually striking, Halley VI provides researchers with a more spacious and comfortable living and work environment. It is set on hydraulic stilts, allowing operators to lift it up out of accumulating snow drifts. And if the entire station needs to be moved — it sits on a drifting ice shelf — skis at the base of those stilts make that possible." NYT: The Coolest Architecture on Earth Is in Antarctica.


Bottom of the News

"Bengals and Browns fans are used to disappointment. A petition sent to the Ohio State Medical Board is asking for help. According to the medical board, they've received 28 petitions for qualifying conditions for medical marijuana treatment. Among those: being a Bengals or Browns fan." (No offense, but you might want to consider something stronger...)

+ This man has visited over 15,000 Starbucks in 22 years.