Thursday, December 3rd, 2020


The Truth Hurts

Now that the president is fully fixated on his fever dream about a rigged election, government agencies are more free to speak the truth. And the truth hurts. The CDC's Robert Redfield: "The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation." Why the concern? The U.S. has topped 3,100 Covid-19 deaths in a day, the new cases are now topping 200,000 a day, and more than 100,000 Americans are currently hospitalized. And we haven't even seen the inevitable surge related to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. LA is locking down. Other places will too. But these shutdowns are too late and too local. We needed a national plan. This is, at least in part, a self-imposed disaster and what we get when half of Americans—including the president—live in a state of unreality.

+ The Atlantic: "The story of the coronavirus in this state is one of government inaction in the name of freedom and personal responsibility. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has followed President Donald Trump's lead in downplaying the virus's seriousness. She never imposed a full stay-at-home order for the state and allowed bars and restaurants to open much earlier than in other places. She imposed a mask mandate for the first time this month—one that health-care professionals consider comically ineffectual—and has questioned the science behind wearing masks at all. Through the month of November, Iowa vacillated between 1,700 and 5,500 cases every day. This week, the state's test-positivity rate reached 50 percent. Iowa is what happens when a government does basically nothing to stop the spread of a deadly virus."


King Opposes Vaccine Disinfo

"Facebook said it planned to take down Covid-19 vaccine falsehoods entirely if the claims had been discredited or contradicted by health groups including the World Health Organization, the United States Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." NYT: Facebook says it will remove coronavirus vaccine misinformation. Great. But it's clear that the health and safety of the world increasingly depends on the decisions made by one unelected person.


The Man Who Conned Himself

"Trump claimed in Wednesday's video, again without evidence, that 'corrupt forces' had stuffed ballot boxes with fraudulent votes. He claimed the fraud was 'massive' and 'on a scale never seen before.' He called on the Supreme Court to 'do what's right for our country,' which he suggested entailed terminating hundreds of thousands of votes so that 'I very easily win in all states.'" WaPo: Trump escalates baseless attacks on election with 46-minute video rant. This is the person who, for now, holds the gig as the leader of the free world. And he's demonstrating the symptoms of a desperate psychotic defense in the face of the threat of total narcissistic collapse. Or a master class in grift. As Michael Cohen suggests, it's probably both at the same time. He's conning the public (with remarkable effectiveness if you consider the nearly $200 million he's raised with this nonsense) and he also believes what he's saying.

+ NYT: "President Trump on Wednesday released a 46-minute videotaped speech that denounced a 'rigged' election and was filled with lies the day after his own attorney general joined election officials across the country in attesting to his defeat. Mr. Trump recorded what he said 'may be the most important speech I've ever made.'" In terms of the damage it could do, it may very well have been. (At least major news sites are now describing lies as lies.)

+ "The idea that the U.S. military would oversee a new nationwide presidential election — ordered under martial law by President Donald Trump — is 'insane in a year that we didn't think could get anymore insane,' a defense official tells Military Times. Yet retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn promoted that exact idea Tuesday evening when he tweeted a press release from an Ohio-based conservative political organization."


Yes Way Jose

You may recall that during the early days of the pandemic, I said one of the best ideas I'd heard was for the government to fund restaurants to feed frontline workers and others in an increasingly large cohort of the hungry. The government didn't do it. But, with the help of countless local organizations around the country, Jose Andres did. "The Trump administration did not create a 21st-century WPA. So, Andrés raised money from corporations, philanthropists and celebrities to establish what he grandly called the Restaurants for the People program. Over the next six months, WCK, which has 200 employees, reports it paid out nearly $110 million to 2,400 restaurants, which served more than 10 million meals in 350 cities in 35 states. In total, through partnerships and its own kitchens, WCK served more than 30 million meals." Chef Jose Andres Embraces the Chaos. Andres is a hero of the pandemic. But the many stories about him should be read as broader stories about the thousands of people around the country who stepped up when their communities needed them.


Gitanjali Whiz Kid

"She spoke about her astonishing work using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying, and about her mission to create a global community of young innovators to solve problems the world over." Meet Time's First-Ever Kid of the Year: Gitanjali Rao, 15. These stories always make me feel like a bad parent. If Gitanjali spent two weeks at my house, she'd be spending most of her time making Tik Tok videos and rolling her eyes at my puns.

+ That said, the most watched Tik Tok video of the year actually makes me realize my parenting is right around average. And in case you need to connect with your kids after yelling at them for not being more like Gitanjali Rao, here are the top 10 creators on TikTok for 2020.


Shorting Georgia

Georgia voters should free up David Perdue to day trade full time. He'd be able to focus more (even though he'd be missing out on a font of information). NYT: 2,596 Trades in One Term: Inside Senator Perdue's Stock Portfolio. (Homey's not taking advantage of capital gains tax breaks...)


A Slab From the Lab

"Dozens of firms are developing cultivated chicken, beef and pork, with a view to slashing the impact of industrial livestock production on the climate and nature crises, as well as providing cleaner, drug-free and cruelty-free meat. Currently, about 130 million chickens are slaughtered every day for meat, and 4 million pigs. By weight, 60% of the mammals on earth are livestock, 36% are humans and only 4% are wild." In Singapore, no-kill, lab-grown meat to go on sale for first time.


Bottled Up

"Big Booze's interference in what would have been an unprecedented study on alcohol cancer warnings is only one instance in a long history of efforts the industry has taken to sow doubt about drinking's health effects. Other recent hits include the funding of flattering research and campaigns against policies that encourage drinking less. These actions muddy the general public's understanding of how much it's safe to drink—and in the cases of certain types of cancer, whether it's safe to drink at all." The Counter: Less than half of Americans know that alcohol is a carcinogen. Big Booze wants to keep it that way. (In 2020, it may be worth the risk...)


The Face Behind the Mask

"From Paris to New York, the normalcies of life, despite a global pandemic." WaPo's photos from the weirdest year. Mouths Covered, Eyes Wide Open. (Ironically, that is the opposite of how the administration handled the year.)


Bottom of the News

"The market had been steadily increasing over several years, thanks largely to the use of plexiglass in construction, as well as in retail for signage and display cases. But Craig Saunders, president of the International Association of Plastics Distribution, told National Public Radio in July that, 'overnight, [global] demand increased by roughly four times what it was the prior year.'" Purity and Security: Towards A Cultural History of Plexiglass.

+ You have to look closely, but check out this small plane landing on a freeway (and consider that most drivers can't merge this well.)

+ A Daring Giraffe Rescue Is Underway in Kenya.