Saturday, August 8th, 2020


It’s in the Hole

Millions of Americans need Washington to hit a long drive and get a stimulus deal done, but officials have been puttering around for weeks. Trump gave an update from his private golf club (optics be damned), suggesting he'd sign an executive order to keep eviction bans up and keep safety net money flowing. But he also said he was going to sign an executive order mandating that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions (they are already mandated to do that by the law that Trump has spent three years trying to get rid of). In other words, his performance was par for the course. Unlike many other political items on the agenda, this one hits directly at the pocketbook of people living on the edge. You can't take a mulligan if you miss your shot on food and shelter. And if Washington screws this up, the divot could take years to replace. NYT: Without $600 Weekly Benefit, Unemployed Face Bleak Choices. "For many of the 30 million Americans relying on unemployment benefits, it could already be too late to prevent lasting financial harm. Without the extra $600 a week, which ran out at the end of July, they will need to get by on regular state unemployment benefits, which often total a few hundred dollars a week or less. For many families, that will not be enough to prevent eviction, hunger or mounting debt that will make it harder to climb out of the hole." And saying "I'm in the hole" in life doesn't mean the same thing as it does in golf.


Making Money

"Printed on postcard-sized sheets of planed maple veneer by Tenino's only resident expert using an antique 1890 Chandler & Price letterpress, these "wooden dollars" are being handed out to locals suffering financial hardship. Pegged at the rate of real U.S. dollars, the currency can be spent everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations and child care centers, whose owners can later exchange them." CityLab: Short on Money, Cities Around the World Try Making Their Own. (I've got news for you, the Treasury Department is doing the same thing...)


Russian Dressing

"Under Trump, intelligence officials have been placed in the unusual position of being pressured to justify the importance of their work, protect their colleagues from political retribution and demonstrate fealty to a president. Though intelligence officials have been loath to admit it publicly, the cumulative result has been devastating." Robert Draper in the NYT Mag: Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump's Battles With U.S. Intelligence Agencies. "Last year, intelligence officials gathered to write a classified report on Russia's interest in the 2020 election. An investigation from the magazine uncovered what happened next." (How could so many institutions we counted on have let us down so dramatically in such a short time?)


Origin Unknown

"I had been isolated since April 1st. Scientists state that the incubation period can be anywhere from two to fourteen days, although fourteen days, or longer, is rare. Where would I have picked it up? I had had almost no exposure to any other person for more than two weeks. In any case, by the second week, I started to feel a little better. Still unusually exhausted, but I thought that might just be quarantine malaise." Carolyn Kormann in The New Yorker: How Did I Catch the Coronavirus? Most people who get it are wondering the same thing, and will never know the answer.

+ Buzzfeed: Convalescent Plasma Is Looking Like A Coronavirus Success Story.


Flags and Poles

"A group of Polish opposition MPs wore the rainbow colors of the LGBT flag in protest against President Andrzej Duda at his swearing-in ceremony on Thursday." Meanwhile, three people accused of hanging LGBT rainbow flags off statues in Warsaw have been arrested and charged. While we've been hyper-focused on Trump's slide toward authoritarian tendencies, there's a much bigger move taking place in parts of Europe.


Yacht See

"Students on Liberty's campus are forbidden from drinking alcohol, and are instructed to dress modestly. A poster on Reddit compiled Falwell Jr.'s potential violations in the yacht photograph and an accompanying video, and calculated that a student captured in the same scene could have accrued more than $9,000 in school fines and 900 hours of required service, and possible expulsion." Jerry Falwell Jr. is taking a leave of absence from Liberty University. Why That Falwell Jr. Yacht Photo Was the Final Straw. Wait, a public moralist who isn't so moral behind the scenes? Sorry, folks. I've seen this one before.


Rolling the Dice

"People rode from across the country to a state that offered a reprieve from coronavirus restrictions, as South Dakota has no special limits on indoor crowds, no mask mandates and a governor who is eager to welcome visitors and the money they bring. 'Screw COVID,' read the design on one T-shirt being hawked. 'I went to Sturgis.'" AP: Harleys everywhere, masks nowhere: Sturgis draws thousands. (In an effort to find common ground, I bought a Screw Covid shirt and just erased the part about Sturgis.)


Who’s Your Daddy?

"Yes, the agency's analysts told the White House, it is possible that the Chinese intelligence authorities could intercept data or use the app to bore into smartphones. But there is no evidence they have done so." Is TikTok More of a Parenting Problem Than a Security Threat? My parenting problems are also my security threat. And so far, none of the executive orders I've signed in my house have made a damn bit of difference.

+ WaPo with an inside look at how months of wrangling led to a decision that surprised pretty much everyone. TikTok's fate was shaped by a ‚Äėknockdown, drag-out' Oval Office brawl. (From the sounds of it, it would've made one hell of a viral Tik Tok.)


Stubble Trouble

Wired: Why Do Razor Blades Get Dull So Quickly? Here's a theory about why it hasn't been a focal point for manufacturers. "Customers surveyed by Harry's who use the firm's products have an emotional connection to changing their shaving cartridge. 'When they throw away an older cartridge and click on something new, it signifies something fresh.'" Ha! Everyone knows you get that feeling my restarting your laptop.


Bottom of the News

"Benjamin Careathers, a man from America, believed that the slogan is dishonest and therefore sued the company on the accusation of false advertising!" The Man Who Sued Red Bull for Not Growing Wings. (I'm not judging. I brought similar lawsuits after I ate just one Lay's potato chip, my cat never asked for Meow Mix by name, and when, after several hours, M&Ms melted in my hand.)

+ Two companies learn the Maori word for pubic hair the hard way. (I couldn't decide whether to put this story in the bottom of the news or with the shaving story.)