May 16th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Trump fires another watchdog, the waiting for pandemic stats in the hardest part, and the Nod Father.

We all want a return to normalcy. This just wasn’t the normal we had in mind. “President Donald Trump has removed State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and replaced him with an ally of Vice President Mike Pence — the latest in a series of moves against independent government watchdogs in recent months.” Politico: Trump ousts State Department watchdog. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs: “I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo. Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation.”

+ The move came late on a Friday night. It turns out the guy most famous for saying, “You’re fired!” in primetime likes to do his real life dirty work after hours. WaPo: Trump’s slow-moving Friday night massacre of inspectors general. “It’s the third time in six weeks that such a move has been announced on a Friday night, with each inspector general having done something to pretty obviously alienate Trump. The unprecedented spate of removals has reinforced how Trump is rather obviously seeking to undermine independent oversight of his administration — and the timing of each of them only reinforces that.” Some of the Friday night victims dared to tell the truth about the coronavirus. (There’s a certain sad irony to utilizing the old school strategy of issuing damaging news on Friday nights. What difference does it make at this point? It’s not like we’re out.)


Middle Skids

“Minimum wage, in real terms, is more than thirty per cent lower than it was fifty years ago. (Since the nineteen-eighties, most of the benefits of America’s growing economy have gone to the wealthy.) Meanwhile, housing costs have more than doubled since 2000. ‘When people say they live paycheck to paycheck, it’s not that they’re managing their money poorly,’ Sharon Parrott, a senior vice-president at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told me. ‘Instead, their housing costs are taking up a disproportionate share of their incomes.’ The result is a slim margin of error: forty per cent of Americans don’t have four hundred dollars cash to spare in an emergency.” Eliza Griswold in The New Yorker: How the Coronavirus is Killing the Middle Class. (Hint: It’s wasn’t really the middle class before the pandemic hit.)

+ Related from The New Yorker: Have the Record Number of Investors in the Stock Market Lost Their Minds?


Lag Screwed

“The speed at which cases of the disease become known to the medical system, government monitors, and the general public depends on how hard a state or country is trying to find them.” The biggest question we have when it comes to the pandemic is: what happens if we start to open up? We all want out. But we want to know the risks. And for a variety of reasons, that question takes a long time to answer (and if it’s the wrong answer, it’s too late). The Atlantic: The Horror of the Coronavirus Data Lag.


The Nod Father

“American arms makers who sell to the Saudis say they are accountable to shareholders and are doing nothing wrong. And because weapon sales to foreign militaries must be approved by the State Department, the companies say they don’t make policy, only follow it.” NYT: Why Bombs Made in America Have Been Killing Civilians in Yemen. (It’s nothing personal—or even poltical—it’s strictly business.)


Thin Ice

“He is also among at least 149 ICE detainees who have contracted the disease while detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, a prison in the San Diego area that is home to the largest coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. immigration detention system.” CBS: Fear mounts over largest coronavirus outbreak in ICE detention. And it’s not just those being held: “At least 11 ICE employees assigned to the facility and 24 staffers with the for-profit prison company that runs it have also tested positive for the virus.”

+ Reveal: Families are standing by to take in migrant kids, but the government won’t let them out.


Ante Science

Bloomberg: “Casino operators also plan to open with every other slot machine closed and will impose limits on how many people can play at a table. In some cases, they’ll do temperature checks. One post making the rounds on social media shows Hialeah Park Racing & Casino in Florida testing a poker table with customers wearing masks and playing behind a giant sneeze guard.” (If you play at one of these tables, you’re really into poker.)


Cover Me

“Criminals, they’re smart and this is a perfect opportunity for them to conceal themselves and blend right in.” AP: Coronavirus masks a boon for crooks who hide their faces. (My wife wrote our names on our masks so we wouldn’t get them mixed up. Foiled again.)


Bleacher Creatures

When professional sports return to the airwaves, there will likely be no crowds. Joe Buck says that Fox Sports plans to pipe in artificial crowd noise and “they’re looking at ways to put virtual fans in the stands, so when you see a wide shot it looks like the stadium is jam-packed and in fact it’ll be empty.” (Too bad this technology wasn’t around in time for the last inauguration…)


Feel Good Saturday

“Beer and soft drinks could soon be sipped from ‘all-plant’ bottles under new plans to turn sustainably grown crops into plastic in partnership with major beverage makers.”

+ In a new study, blind people could ‘see’ letters that scientists drew on their brains with electricity.

+ Missouri Penguins Enjoy ‘Morning Of Fine Art‘ At Local Museum. (Just for fun, I’m gonna tell my kids that the governor said the first thing he’s going to allow to open is art museums.)

+ Vanity Fair: Movie Theaters Are Still Dark. Long Live Their Marquees.


Beached Fail

We began with normalcy, so let’s end with it. A New York tourist was arrested in Hawaii after posting beach pictures on Instagram. “He arrived in O’ahu on Monday and quickly posted numerous pictures of himself on the beach on Instagram. He allegedly used public transportation to get to the many places he was pictured.” (Sadly, there’s no WiFi in the joint.)

+ Reminder: The NextDraft Store is open and awesome.

+ Damon Lindelof’s Something Something Something Murder story’s final chapters will be here at the end of the month. In the meantime, the first 15 chapters are here.

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