Thursday, January 23rd, 2020


Quarantine Age Wasteland

The Coronavirus outbreak in China (and now beyond) hasn't yet been declared a global health emergency by The World Health Organization. But as WHO's director general explains: "Make no mistake, this is an emergency in China." Whether or not it goes global depends on China's ability to lock it down. Here's the latest from CNN and the NYT: "The authorities expanded travel restrictions to several Chinese cities near Wuhan hours after announcing that the death toll and number of cases had risen sharply. Currently, at least 18 victims have been confirmed dead and more than 600 infected. The restrictions on train and other forms of travel will apply to tens of millions of people and come just days before the Lunar New Year holiday."

+ "In an outbreak, by the time you try something as ambitious as quarantining a megacity, it's already too late to quarantine the megacity." Wired: Would the Coronavirus Quarantine of Wuhan Even Work?

+ Vox: The evidence on travel bans for diseases like coronavirus is clear: They don't work.

+ Doctors used a robot to treat first known US patient.



WaPo's Scott Wilson looks at the damage from the Australia inferno, starting from the perspective of a lone koala. "The bend in the eucalyptus branch seemed like a custom home-design feature given how perfectly it fit his tiny form. There in the crook of the tree was a koala, mildly burned and all alone. His patch of wood, shared once by hundreds of other koalas, kangaroos and the occasional wombat, had been scorched black in the recent wildfires. For the moment, he was safe there about 50 feet up. But there was no water or food; the eucalyptus leaves that koalas eat had vanished in the flames." On Australia's Kangaroo Island, a fight to stay alive.

+ As Australia burned, climate change denialism got a boost on Facebook.


Adam Balm

We already know most of the (available) facts of the impeachment case. Adam Schiff summed up what's at stake. "There's nothing immutable about this. Every generation has to fight for it. We're fighting for it right now. There's no guarantee that this democracy that has served us so well will continue to prosper." Schiff concluded the multi-hour presentation with a shout-out to those who risked it all to testify. "Some courageous people came forward. Courageous people that risked their entire careers … They risked everything … And yes I know what you're asked to decide may risk yours, too. But if they could show the courage, so could we." Chuck Schumer called Schiff's performance one of the ten best speeches he's seen in the Senate, and there was a general consensus among top legal minds that Schiff is delivering a remarkably impressive performance. Will it make a difference in the trial's outcome? Maybe not. But it's inspiring to see someone with the intelligence, preparation, and strength to stand up and tell the truth. And inspiration and truth are in short supply these days. In the end, every American is on jury duty. Thursday's arguments will focus on the president's abuse of power. The House Managers should have plenty of material to work with. Here's the latest from WaPo and CNN.

+ NYT: Two Legal Teams With Contrasting Strategies Face Off in the Capitol. "The contrasting amount of material the two legal teams brought into the Senate chamber to support their initial arguments foreshadowed a broader difference in their approaches to the trial." (One side has facts and ethics, the other side has tweets...)

+ "'Everybody's calling, they've got to talk to me, and the office [says], ‘I know he wants to talk to you, he just can't,' he said with a smile. 'I love it.'" Buzzfeed: Senators Love Being Freed From Their Phones For Trump's Impeachment Trial. (Let's hope they can have their editions of NextDraft read into the record.)

+ In other executive branch news, the Trump Administration is cutting back federal protections for streams and wetlands, Trump will be the first president to attend the March for Life (Grab 'em by the pussy ... to protect the fetus?), and Steve Mnuchin ripped Greta Thunberg for saying investors should divest from fossil fuel stocks. WaPo: Mnuchin said Thunberg needed to study economics before offering climate proposals. So we talked to an economist.


Plumb Crazy

"American exceptionalism takes on many forms, both flattering (our immigrant-founded start-ups) and unfortunate (our health-care prices). But perhaps no part of life in the United States is more unambiguously exceptional than this: We have so many damn bathrooms." Derek Thompson: In the past half century, the number of bathrooms per American has doubled. (If my experience in the public restrooms in my office building are any indication, we still need more.)


Bail Out

"The policy, in which prosecutors will use a 'risk-based system' that weighs whether a defendant might flee or poses a threat to public safety, fulfills one of Boudin's key campaign pledges before his election in November. The former public defender has often said the cash bail system unfairly affects indigent defendants and people of color." SF Chronicle: San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin ends cash bail for all criminal cases.

+ "They've known that ad seg drives people crazy since the 1800s. I can tell you all kinds of stories of those I've seen come back here normal and slowly go crazy." Michael Barajas on a "a uniquely American form of punishment." The Prison Inside Prison. "Texas has banished hundreds of prisoners to more than a decade of solitary confinement, an extreme form of a controversial punishment likened to torture. Many of these prisoners aren't sure how—or, in some cases, if—they will ever get out."


Separation Anxiety

"The reunion was a powerful reminder of the lasting effects of Trump's separation policy, even as attention and outrage has faded amid impeachment proceedings and tensions with Iran. But it also underscored the fact that hundreds, potentially thousands, of other parents and children are still apart nearly two years after the zero-tolerance policy on unauthorized border crossings took effect." ABC: Nine parents who were deported as the Trump administration separated thousands of migrant families landed back into the U.S. to reunite with children they haven't seen in a year and a half. And according to one of their lawyers, "They all kind of hit the lottery."


Ad Naseum

"Up until 2013, the search engine gave its ads an entirely different background color to distinguish them from its organic search results. But even after that, it continued to use unique colors that effectively let users quickly see where its ads ended and organic results began." The Verge: Google's ads just look like search results now.


Getting Clerked Around

"First, the Detroiter sued his employer alleging racial discrimination in a lawsuit that settled confidentially. Then he went to the bank this week to cash his settlement checks, but the Livonia bank refused to cash or deposit his checks. Instead, they called the cops and initiated a fraud investigation." Detroit Free Press: Detroit man settles race discrimination lawsuit, then bank won't cash his check.



With an injury confining him to the bench for the start of his wildly anticipated NBA debut, the buildup for Zion Williamson's first game was almost absurd. So his first game had to be a letdown. "Zion had played less than five minutes in each of the first three quarters and had totaled only five points. That rocky performance was a reminder that even with all the hype and anticipation, patience was in order." It turned out that those fifteen minutes were all the patience Pelican fans would need. The Ringer: Zion Williamson Just Gave Us the Most Exciting Seven Minutes of This NBA Season.

+ Participation In High School Sports Is Falling ... But Not In Girls' Wrestling.


Bottom of the News

A dad recorded his son making baby noises, figured out the notes he made, and arranged them into Thunderstruck by AC/DC. (The good internet is still out there. You just have to look a little harder.)

+ Getting honored by the Grammys should be a time of celebration. But this is Aerosmith, so, uh, dream on. Instead, it's a time of lawsuits and security guards. Aerosmith drummer loses legal bid to rejoin band for Grammy honors.

+ 7 Tasty Facts About Tater Tots.

+ And happy 20th birthday to my old school blogging pals over at Boing Boing. (Pssh, 20. Nice work, kids.)