January 9th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Evidence suggests the plane that crashed in Iran was shot down. Plus, some thoughts on Megxit, and the greatest presentation ever.

I’m not in the target audience for this story. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night to get a good seat on the couch for royal weddings, I don’t visit castles or stand in long lines to see the crown jewels, I don’t really know who’s who, I don’t watch The Crown, and my relationship to royal news can best be described as a conscious uncoupling. But there’s something remarkably compelling about Megxit; Harry and Meghan’s social media announcement that they plan to step back as senior members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent. The move is being viewed either as a spoiled abdication of duty or the Prince’s crowning achievement. But the story is about more than the royals. It’s about the media, celebrity culture, race, marriage, an obsession with fame, and ultimately, us. More importantly, it gives the world a topic to discuss other than Trump news. And what better way to bring Americans this royal story than by way of The Atlantic: Harry and Meghan Won’t Play the Game. “Harry has always been a royal rebel: smoking cannabis, partying in Las Vegas, admitting how close he came to a breakdown. With his wife by his side, he may now be making his most significant contribution to the royal family—by walking away from it.” (I once threatened that I was going to sever ties with my family, and within an hour my parents had listed my childhood bedroom on Airbnb…)

+ Prince Harry and Meghan: Where do they get their money? (And can a Netflix development deal be far off?)

+ Prince Harry and Meghan wax statues moved away from royal family at Madame Tussauds.

+ And speaking of British departures, “lawmakers approved legislation on Thursday which will allow Britain to leave the European Union on Jan. 31 with an exit deal, ending more than three years of tumult over the terms of the unprecedented divorce.”


Plane Shot Down

“Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadian officials have intelligence from their own sources and Canada’s allies that shows Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. ‘This may have been unintentional,’ Trudeau said today, adding that international partners should be involved in the investigation.” Here’s the latest from CNN. (What an unbelievable nightmare this is, and will likely continue to be, for the families of those lost.)

+ NYT: Video Shows Ukrainian Airliner Being Hit Over Iran.


Restraining Order

AP: House nears vote on restraining Trump’s actions against Iran. “The House vote comes a day after the Trump administration briefed lawmakers on its actions in Iran. Democrats and several Republicans called the briefings inadequate, adding that officials did not provide enough details about why the attack was justified … Trump said Thursday that he ‘had calls from numerous senators and numerous congressmen and women saying it was the greatest presentation they’ve ever had.'”

+ On NBC, even VP Pence admitted that the presentation may have only been the second or third greatest ever. “We’re simply not able to share with every member of the House and Senate the intelligence that supported the president’s decision to take out Qasem Soleimani … I can assure your viewers that there was — there was a threat of an imminent attack.”


Mississippi Earning

“It’s a futile system that penalizes the poorest residents of the poorest state in the country, said Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi. ‘Debtors prisons are an effective way of collecting money—as is kidnapping,’ he said. ‘But there are constitutional, public policy and moral barriers to such a regime.'” An investigative piece from The Marshall Project: Think Debtors Prisons Are a Thing of the Past? Not in Mississippi. “The corrections department took her paychecks, she said, giving her back just $10 a week—all in quarters—so she could buy things like soap and deodorant.”


Papers and Fire

“It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.” NYT: How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate. (Editor’s note: Rupert is not good.)


Compound W(TF)

In a disappointing, but not surprising, move, Facebook Said It Won’t Change Its Policies On Allowing Lies In Political Ads: “Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies, which is why we are arguing for regulation that would apply across the industry. In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies. We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.” (Here’s an idea. Lawmakers should tell Facebook to either regulate their platform or get broken up. In the meantime, maybe the rest of us should break up with Facebook.)


Compounding Assets

“In many cases, churches precede bankruptcy by transferring and reclassifying assets. The effect is to shrink the pot of money available to clergy abuse victims. That and Chapter 11’s universal settle­ments and protections from further claims have been an effective one-two punch for limiting payouts. A Bloomberg Businessweek review of court filings by lawyers for churches and victims in the past 15 years shows that the U.S. Catholic Church has shielded more than $2 billion in assets from abuse victims in bankruptcies using these methods.” Bloomberg: Catholic Church Shields $2 Billion in Assets to Limit Abuse Payouts. (When passing the plate turns into passing the buck.)


System Air

“If Gilraine’s result holds up to further scrutiny, he will have identified what’s probably the single most cost-effective education policy intervention — one that should have particularly large benefits for low-income children. And while it’s too hasty to draw sweeping conclusions on the basis of one study, it would be incredibly cheap to have a few cities experiment with installing air filters in some of their schools to get more data and draw clearer conclusions about exactly how much of a difference this makes.” Vox: Installing air filters in classrooms has surprisingly large educational benefits.


Short Story

“In regions that get cold and snowy in the winter, he’s a figure that’s equal parts familiar and bewildering to kids and teachers alike, and his clothing choices present an annual hassle for his parents.” The Atlantic: The Boys Who Wear Shorts All Winter. (FWIW, I suffer from the exact opposite affliction.)


Bottom of the News

“Still, I would’ve shared the raft.” Just a few days before Brad Pitt made this Titantic-referencing joke toward Leonardo DiCaprio, the latter saved a guy from drowning. “DiCaprio was vacationing with friends on a boat when they heard a distress call for a man who had fallen off a Club Med cruise ship. DiCaprio’s boat was the only one in the vicinity and able to look for him … the man had been treading water for 11 hours.” (Wait, this guy went from a Club Med cruise to Leo’s party yacht? He didn’t fall. He jumped.)

+ An Olympic First: Cardboard beds for Tokyo Athletes Village.

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