June 25th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

I fee dead people, how the virus won, and why your toilet paper choices are destroying the planet.

In The Sixth Sense, Haley Joel Osment famously whispers to Bruce Willis: “I see dead people.” This would have been a useful skill for Steve Mnuchin and the folks at the Treasury Department. As WaPo reports: Treasury sent more than 1 million coronavirus stimulus payments to dead people. The “Post previously reported that the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service disbursed some payments of up to $1,200 each to dead people. But the astonishing scope of the problem had not been known.” (In fairness, it is an election year and, thanks to the administration’s Covid response, dead people are one of America’s fastest growing demographics.)


The Invisible Plan

“We traced the hidden spread of the epidemic to explain why the United States failed to stop it.At every crucial moment, American officials were weeks or months behind the reality of the outbreak. Those delays likely cost tens of thousands of lives.” The NYT with an amazing, and depressing, visualization of How the Virus Won. “Invisible outbreaks sprang up everywhere. The United States ignored the warning signs.”

+ WaPo: “Dozens of Secret Service officers and agents who were on site for President Trump’s rally in Tulsa last week were ordered to self-quarantine after two of their colleagues tested positive for the novel coronavirus.”

+ And here’s a big shock: Coronavirus cases rise in states with relaxed face mask policies.

+ Meanwhile, Trump plan to cut federal support for Covid-19 testing sites sparks alarm. (That’s really taking his supposed joked about testing too far…)


The World Will Pay for the Wall Now

“Donald Trump built his political identity around exclusion. In his depiction, foreigners are always scheming to steal Americans’ jobs and bring sickness and physical harm into the country. A wall on the southern border would be a visible symbol of Trump’s outlook. American exceptionalism would be nurtured through the nation’s ability to keep others out. Trump’s unwillingness to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously is resulting in a much different kind of wall—one protecting the rest of the world from an endangered America and its citizens.” The Atlantic: Trump Turns the U.S. Into a Pariah. “Other countries are judging America by its sickest states and most reckless politicians.”

+ And the world is seeing craziness like this scene from Florida: “Before holding a vote to mandate the wearing of masks in public places to stop the spread of coronavirus, Palm Beach County commissioners were harangued by residents who accused them of obeying the devil, imposing a communist dictatorship and dishonouring the American flag.” They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out.


Blade Gunner

“The modified Hellfire missile carried an inert warhead. Instead of exploding, it hurled about 100 pounds of metal through the top of Mr. al-Aruri’s car. If the high-velocity projectile did not kill him, the missile’s other feature almost certainly did: six long blades tucked inside, which deployed seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path.” U.S. Used Missile With Long Blades to Kill Qaeda Leader in Syria.


A Coming of Age Story

“For the class of 2020, even the near future is a question mark. The pandemic has already taken over 100,000 lives in the US and no one can predict when it — or the economic collapse in its wake — will end. Temperatures are soaring to record highs, an ominous sign for the coming fire season. Persevering through compounded crises is the new rite of passage for graduates across the US. The town of Paradise, California just happened to have an early baptism by fire.” First they had the fires that burned much of their town to the ground. Then came the pandemic. The Verge: Surviving Paradise.


Live and Let Ply

You didn’t realize it, but when you were using that harsh, thin ply toilet paper in the office restroom, you were saving the planet. “Nearly 60% of at-home toilet paper in the U.S. comes from so-called virgin material, which is sourced from Canada’s northern forests. The NRDC for years has highlighted the impact of tissue that uses non-recycled content.” Bloomberg: Working at Home Means Softer Toilet Paper — and a Climate Toll.


Recusal Refusal

“Appearing before a House Financial Services subcommittee, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton sought to deflect Democrats’ questions about his selection for the job and the circumstances under which Berman was removed over the weekend, characterizing the Senate confirmation process as ‘way down the road.’s But when pressed by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) to ‘commit, right here, to recusing yourself’ from matters in which the president has a personal stake, Clayton demurred.” WaPo: Trump’s pick for Manhattan U.S. attorney refuses to say he would recuse from probes of president’s associates. (Well, that would sort of defeat the purpose of firing Berman…)


Ante Hero

“Three years ago, Seidel began to teach me how to play poker. Why on earth would a professional poker player—the professional poker player—agree to let a random journalist follow him around like an overeager toddler? It’s not for money or exposure. Seidel is notoriously reticent, and he hates sharing his tactics. I was, however, an ideal pupil in a few ways. Most important, I have a Ph.D. in psychology, and so I was well positioned to understand Seidel’s style of play. I also never had much of an interest in cards, meaning Seidel wouldn’t have to rid me of any bad habits.” Maria Konnikova in The Atlantic: How I Became a Poker Champion in One Year. (She learned to bluff so well she should run for office…)

+ This is excerpt from Maria’s excellent book: The Biggest Bluff.


Tater Nots

“The recent collapse of the restaurant industry has disrupted the U.S. food supply chain, and many of the crops grown specifically for restaurants have no place to go. Instead of letting his harvest rot, a farmer in Idaho came up with a creative outcome for his mountain of potatoes.” A short video from NPR: A Mountain Of Potatoes With Nowhere To Go. (There goes the title of my memoir.)


Bottom of the News

“More than 30% of civilian pilots in Pakistan have fake licenses and are not qualified to fly, the country’s aviation minister revealed Wednesday. Addressing Pakistan’s National Assembly, Ghulam Sarwar Khan said 262 pilots in the country ‘did not take the exam themselves’ and had paid someone else to sit it on their behalf.'”

+ Devin Nunes can’t sue Twitter over statements by fake cow, judge rules. (This leaves suing the real cow as his only recourse…)

+ Starbucks employee receives more than $16K in tips after refusing to serve a customer who wasn’t wearing a mask.

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