Thursday, August 20th, 2020


You’ve Been Warned

In 2004, I was among the first bloggers to be given a press pass to a major political convention. The speaker at our small "Blogger Breakfast" in a drab breakout meeting room was some guy named Barack Obama. Back then, I was a political blogger. It was a relief for me to ultimately switch to covering all news and exit the political screaming match. Faced with the Trump election, his subsequent dismantling of norms, decency, and America's role in the world; along with the sad display by the lickspittle, power-hungry, obsequious sycophants who enable him, I reluctantly changed my course. And so, like everything else in America, including the air we breathe, NextDraft became political. On Wednesday night, a former president named Barack Obama validated my decision. Obama delivered the saddest, scariest, and most needed speech of his career, arguing that American democracy itself is stake. It's distressing that Obama had to explain democracy at this point in our country's history. But I'm glad he did. "This president and those in power -- those who benefit from keeping things the way they are -- they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can't win you over with their policies. So they're hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn't matter. That's how they win. That's how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That's how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That's how a democracy withers, until it's no democracy at all. We can't let that happen. Do not let them take away your power. Don't let them take away your democracy." Here's the full speech. Watch it. Last night, an American president warned that our very democracy is at risk. Any news outlet that led with anything else is doing you a disservice.

+ "I keep thinking about that 25-year-old Indian woman—all of five feet tall—who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California. On that day, she probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now speaking these words: I accept your nomination for Vice President of the United States of America." Kamala Harris Accepts Vice Presidential Nomination.


Meat Blinder

"It was an unmitigated disaster for food processors, and it didn't have to be ... There are things that could have happened in a pandemic that would have been novel, but this has unfolded pretty much as the pandemic plan has suggested it would." ProPublica: Meatpacking companies dismissed years of warnings but now say nobody could have prepared for Covid-19. (More troubling than the lack of preparation has been the response since the pandemic hit.)


Greenland of the Lost

"Greenland lost a record amount of ice during an extra warm 2019, with the melt massive enough to cover California in more than four feet (1.25 meters) of water, a new study said." AP: Record melt: Greenland lost 586 billion tons of ice in 2019.

+ Greenland's ice sheet has melted to a point of no return, according to new study.

+ "Officials across the region begged residents to get ready to leave their homes, that the danger would linger for days if not weeks." Crews prepare for long battle as dozens of fires rage across Bay Area, Northern California.

+ "California's incarcerated firefighters have for decades been the state's primary firefighting 'hand crews,' and the shortage has officials scrambling to come up with replacement firefighters in a dry season that is shaping up to be among the most extreme in years." Sacramento Bee: California severely short on firefighting crews after COVID-19 lockdown at prison camps.


The Needling and the Damage Done

"The damage to voters' confidence may already have been done. Forty-five per cent of Americans believe the 2020 vote count will be accurate, a drop from the 59% who believed so in 2016, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Seventy-three per cent of Republicans believe that votes cast by mail will not be counted accurately, the poll found." Trump's USPS attacks are already undermining confidence in vote by mail. (As intended.)

+ In the case of the postal office, the doubt sowing is nearly matched by the actual damage being done to the service. Thousands of chicks arrive dead to farmers amid USPS turmoil.

+ Following his embrace of white supremacists, racists, human traffickers, traitors, and genocidal dictators, Trump embraces QAnon too. "I don't know much about the movement [editor's note: That's a lie] other than I understand that they like me very much, which I appreciate [editor's note: That's the truth]."


Building a Big, Beautiful, Wall(et)

"Bannon and another organizer of the campaign, Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, claimed they would not take any compensation as part of the campaign, called 'We Build The Wall,' but that was a lie. Bannon, prosecutors alleged, received more than $1 million through a nonprofit he controlled, sending hundreds of thousands out to Kolfage while keeping a 'substantial portion' for himself." Stephen Bannon, three others charged with defrauding donors to online fundraising campaign for border wall. (To distract from the Dem Convention, the Trump clan is doing the one thing they know how to do well. Get arrested.)


Vladimir Poison

"Alexey Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger who for years has been Vladimir Putin's only formidable opponent—which is to say, his only adversary who has remained in Russia, stayed active, and maintained prominence despite repeated attacks from the authorities—has been hospitalized in an intensive-care unit in the Siberian city of Omsk. He is in a coma. He fell ill aboard a plane, which then made an emergency landing. His assistant and press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, suspects Navalny has been poisoned." The New Yorker: The Suspected Poisoning of Alexey Navalny, Putin's Most Prominent Adversary.


The Parent Trap

"Within hours of bringing their children to the hospitals, each family's life would change. Both sets of parents would eventually lose custody of their child. One parent would be jailed. One baby would live. One baby would die. And both children's cases would turn on the diagnosis of a child-abuse pediatrician, an increasingly powerful medical specialty ... The doctors' opinions can be subjective and powerful, even overruling other specialists'. But none of the parents knew that child-abuse pediatricians existed—not even as they talked with them, unwittingly sharing information that became a part of a case against them." The Marshall Project: When the Misdiagnosis is Child Abuse.


The Itch Glitch

"In the Florida Keys, the local mosquito control agency has just approved the release of 750 million genetically engineered mosquitoes. The test, which is likely to begin in 2021, will be the first time that mosquitoes—designed to be 'self-limiting,' meaning that they'll breed offspring that can't survive—will be used in the United States."


Snack Attack

"It all started with a comment by President Xi Jinping, who called on everyone to 'fight against food waste.'" Why is China clamping down on eating influencers? (I wish that was a job description when I was in my prime.)


Bottom of the News

"In a new academic paper, MIT researchers describe how they developed and used 'Dr. Spot,' a customized version of Boston Dynamics' four-legged, dog-like robot, to be able to make use of contactless vital sign monitoring equipment for taking measurements." (Let's hope Dr. Spot prefers taking one's temperature orally...)

+ "The Argus Leader reported Wednesday that the stalk had been growing up through a crack in the concrete at the intersection of 57th Street and Minnesota Avenue on Sioux Falls' south side. Dubbed the 57th Street Corn, complete with its own Twitter account during its brief lifespan, the plant was a symbol of resiliency and hope as the pandemic rages on." South Dakota city mourns urban cornstalk's brief life.