Wednesday, January 29th, 2020


Friends with Benefits

"As they reach middle school, children drift away from the pure play of running in the yard at recess or building with Legos. Middle school brings the beginnings of puberty for some, first crushes for many, and a shift from child to teenager for all. It brings higher levels of academics. But if you want to know whether your child is going to be happy or miserable, confident or anxious, being a fly on the wall at lunch would probably tell you a lot." Lydia Denworth in The Atlantic: The Outsize Influence of Your Middle-School Friends. (My middle school friends are still my adult friends. We used to think that was due to the combination of a deep connection and extreme loyalty. Then we realized we all had something in common: An inability to make new friends as adults.)


Q Cards

We've reached the Q and A portion of the Impeachment Trial. Senators will submit questions to be read by the Chief Justice. But for now, most people only have one question: Can I get a witness? The other questions may tell us a lot about which way people are leaning, and how some are looking for any way out of hearing witnesses. But just in case that doesn't work, President Trump and his minions are working nonstop to disparage their once beloved John Bolton. Here's the latest from WaPo and CNN.

+ The White House has issued a formal threat to Bolton to keep him from publishing book. (Too late. We already read the good parts...)

+ That's the TV fight. The online fight is being played in different ways. The Guardian: One year inside Trump's monumental Facebook campaign.


Peace Out

"It was warned that transferring the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem could prompt massive anti-American protests in the Arab and Muslim worlds. The move was greeted with the equivalent of a diplomatic shrug. The administration was then cautioned that killing Soleimani would trigger dangerous Iranian retaliation, potentially leading to yet another costly U.S. war. Thirty Iranian ballistic missiles but no American deaths later, Trump's team can yet again depict its critics as unduly alarmist." Of course, given the timing, the Bibi/Trump "peace" plan had obvious political purposes. But its contents also tell us something about power shifts in the Middle East. An interesting analysis from Robert Malley and Aaron David Miller in Politico Magazine: The Real Goal of Trump's Middle East Plan.


The Only Thing to Fear is Beer Itself

"Wuhan has gradually shut down all transportation channels for entering and leaving the city — no flights, trains, buses or boats. Movements within the city have become highly restricted as private cars are banned from traveling on the streets unless explicitly authorized by the government." NPR takes you inside (or as close as they could get) to the quarantined zones. The Thinking Behind China's Quarantines ... And (Illegal) Village Blockades.

+ Meanwhile, new cases in China surpass SARS epidemic as infections grow abroad, and WHO calls for emergency committee meeting. Here's the latest from WaPo.

+ Vice: A disturbing number of people think coronavirus is related to Corona beer. Oddly, that makes me feel a little better about what a disturbing number of people think about American political issues. (On the plus side, I hear you can immunize yourself with a little squeeze of lime juice.)


Nafta Ever Afta

"Much of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement simply updates the 25-year-old NAFTA, with new laws on intellectual property protection, the internet, investment, state-owned enterprises and currency. But the 2,082-page pact also includes significant changes in several key areas, including provisions designed to incentivize car production in North America and open Canadian markets for American dairy farmers." NYT: Trump Just Signed the U.S.M.C.A. Here's What's in the New NAFTA.


Sling Shot

"The idea that an object weighing thousands of pounds can punch its way into space after spinning in circles on Earth's surface can be hard to fathom. It might even sound crazy, and the company has a lot to prove to shake its critics. So far it has managed to spin an 11-pound dummy payload at more than 4,000 miles per hour and send it crashing into a steel wall. Between those tests and the edge of space, however, are roughly a hundred miles and a whole lot of air resistance. Never mind the engineering work needed to build a centrifuge 100 yards wide, with an arm strong enough to support a roughly SUV-sized rocket." Wired: Inside SpinLaunch, the Space Industry's Best Kept Secret. The company is building a massive centrifuge to accelerate rockets and send them screaming into space. (I wonder if it could be used for humans...)


There’s a Map For That

"I write about all this now to refocus attention on the substance of the interviews, which has been overshadowed by Mr. Pompeo's subsequently swearing at me, calling me a liar and challenging me to find Ukraine on an unmarked map. For the record, I did. That's not the point." Mary Louise Kelly, the NPR journalist who became a target of Sec Pompeo's attacks (which the president applauded): Pompeo Called Me a ‘Liar.' That's Not What Bothers Me. (Nor should it. In this administration, the word liar could hardly be intended as a criticism.)


Hell Bent for Leather

"Ada is a small town even by small-town standards, occupying an area of just 2 square miles with about 6,000 residents. The Wilson Factory was built in 1955, and each and every NFL football that's been used since was made right there in Ada." This Small Crew in Ohio Makes All 216 Official Super Bowl Footballs by Hand.


Hotel Space Invaders

"Atari has licensed its name for a number of brand partnerships in the gaming space, but the company's latest deal to build eight Atari-branded hotels marks its foray into the hospitality industry." Between Breakout and Donkey Kong, this might not be the ideal spot to get away from it all for a quiet game of Pong.


Bottom of the News

From Mel Magazine: The Dudes Exploiting Legal Loopholes to Settle Disputes — and Divorces — by Swordfight. "In the Heartland, there's a 40-year-old man who's asked a judge for the right to legally settle his divorce from his wife with a sword fight. Specifically, with samurai swords. In his legal brief, the plaintiff, David Ostrom of Paola, Kansas, wrote to the court: 'Respondent and counsel have proven themselves to be cravens by refusing to answer the call to battle, thus they should lose this motion by default.'" (At least his former wife won't have to explain what she means by irreconcilable differences.)

+ While I cover political news, I try to avoid the day to day coverage of political races and official endorsements. At least, I tried until I heard about this dish, which gets both my coverage and my endorsement: "In a series of events that began in New Hampshire last summer and continued this month in Iowa, Ms. Klobuchar has been feeding her recipe, blanketed in Tater Tots, to voters at gatherings the campaign calls Hot Dish House Parties."