1

Suicide Balm

"The pandemic sparked a wave of business closures. Millions of people were forced to stay at home, many of them alone. In surveys, more Americans reported depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use. Adding to that dangerous mix, firearm purchases rose 85% in March 2020." None of that will surprise you. But this might. The number of U.S. suicides fell nearly 6% last year amid the coronavirus pandemic — the largest annual decline in at least four decades. There are several theories as to why presented in this article. Let me toss out a few uneducated ideas. First, the pandemic is the opposite of alienation. We're all in it together. Second, Zoom normalized the idea of connecting with people over video, and video connections are better than the absence of connections. Third, there is less chance of a random, triggering event when people are mostly home and mostly avoiding others. Lockdown means less variation in social encounters.

2

Chronic Pain

"After David's body was discovered, Aunt Tammy's house became packed with mourners. Five of the women standing around the tiny kitchen that night had lost a child this way. Nobody was much concerned about Covid distancing. That crisis feels intangible, compared with the durable and familiar opioid crisis." Shawn McCreesh in NYT: In My Hometown, Opioids Are Still Stealing Lives.

3

Vlad Putin His Place

"Following years of wrist slaps under President Donald J. Trump, the new measures are designed to have a noticeable impact on the Russian economy." NYT: U.S. Imposes Stiff Sanctions on Russia, Blaming It for Major Hacking Operation. (There's a new sheriff in town. And he's not a Russian agent, which is nice.)

4

Testing the Pullout Method

"War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking. So when will it be the right moment to leave? One more year? Two more years? Ten more years?" Susan B Glasser in The New Yorker: Biden Finally Got to Say No to the Generals.

+ Biden's gamble: Will pulling troops revive extremist threat? (There are ways to address that threat without boots on the ground. The bigger question is what will become of the gains girls and women have made.)

+ BBC: 'We have won the war, America has lost,' say Taliban.

+ Photos: Sacrifice, sorrow: 20 years of war in Afghanistan.

5

Therein Lies the Shrub

"When fire scientists want to know how flammable the state's vegetation might be, they don't rely on some newfangled gadget. They rely on chamise. 'It's a really pretty and kind of understated shrub.'" The shrub may be understated. The warning it's sending is anything but. Wired: The Humble Shrub That's Predicting a Terrible Fire Season.

6

Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow

"Work in an Amazon warehouse has not only replaced manufacturing at Sparrows Point, but it has also replaced it, more generally, as a new mass-employment option for Americans without a college degree or specialized training. During the past year alone, Amazon has added about 400,000 employees in the U.S., to handle the great pandemic e-commerce surge, bringing the company's total U.S. workforce to more than 800,000, second only to Walmart — and that doesn't include the hundreds of thousands of drivers, who despite delivering Amazon packages in Amazon trucks and wearing Amazon jerseys are technically employed as contractors." Alec MacGillis, who literally wrote the book on this topic, on What Amazon's Union Defeat Means for the American Labor Movement.

7

The J and J Crew

On one hand, we want transparency and honesty when it comes to vaccines. On the other hand, pausing Johnson & Johnson could increase vaccine hesitancy. On the other hand (haven't you heard, vaccines make you grow third hands), there's this. "The most popular link on Facebook about the Johnson & Johnson news was shared by a conspiracy theorist and self-described "news analyst & hip-hop artist" named An0maly who thinks the pandemic is a cover for government control." NPR: The Most Popular J&J Vaccine Story On Facebook? A Conspiracy Theorist Posted It.

+ NYT: Nearly half of Republicans say they don't want a Covid vaccine. (Partly because Fox News isn't done causing deaths.)

+ Meanwhile, while Americans are looking a gift horse in the mouth, other countries are looking a disaster in the face. India Confirms More Than 200,000 Coronavirus Cases In A Day.

8

Hospitality Sweet

"Hospitality is both invisible and formidable — it surrounds you. You can find it at a rest stop on the highway, and miss it at the host stand of a fine-dining restaurant. You feel its presence, or you don't." The NYT's Tejal Rao with an interesting examination of the question, What Is Hospitality? The Current Answer Doesn't Work. (Full disclosure: If my neighborhood association would let me build a moat around my house, I would.)

9

The Fall in Our Stars

"As he chatted to his housemate in the sunshine, planes on their way to Heathrow airport made their final approach overhead. On his phone, Wil showed his housemate an app that tells users the route and model of any passing plane. He tested the app on one plane, and then held his phone up again, shielding his eyes from the sun and squinting into the sky. Then he saw something falling." Out of thin air: the mystery of the man who fell from the sky.

10

Bottom of the News

"In the statement, the brand explains that adding a non-removable logo to its products reduces the lifespan of a garment. It's difficult to resell or even re-wear a vest or fleece that's been branded with a company logo." R.I.P. the Unofficial Finance Bro Uniform. "Patagonia has officially stopped adding corporate logos to its Fleece Vest. Pour one out."

+ "When animal welfare officers received a report of an unusual animal lurking in a tree in the Polish city of Krakow, they were not sure what to expect." Spoiler alert: It was a croissant. (What, are these people on Krak?)

+ Coronavirus hug image named World Press Photo of the Year.

+ I buried the lede today. Steven Seagal Runs Weird.