Monday, July 26th, 2021


Buy, Buy, Miss American Pie

Let them eat cake. Or let them eat cereal. Or let them drink craft beer. Or even let them good ol' boys drink some whiskey and rye. Basically, let them go into any grocery store and just grab whatever they want. Chances are the revenue will be filtering back to a handful of mega food conglomerates that are cleaning up in every aisle. "A few powerful transnational companies dominate every link of the food supply chain: from seeds and fertilizers to slaughterhouses and supermarkets to cereals and beers. The size, power and profits of these mega companies have expanded thanks to political lobbying and weak regulation which enabled a wave of unchecked mergers and acquisitions. This matters because the size and influence of these mega-companies enables them to largely dictate what America's 2 million farmers grow and how much they are paid, as well as what consumers eat and how much our groceries cost." The Guardian: Revealed: the true extent of America's food monopolies, and who pays the price.

+ "Just three firms dominate sales of 73% of the breakfast cereals we eat. 80% of dozens of everyday grocery items are supplied by just a handful of companies." The illusion of choice: five stats that expose America's food monopoly crisis. (To add insult to injury, the stats in this article made me stress eat.)


Better Never Than Late

"I'm admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections," wrote Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, in an emotional Facebook post Sunday. "One of the last things they do before they're intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I'm sorry, but it's too late."

+ The Atlantic: My Community Refuses to Get Vaccinated. Now Delta Is Here.

+ "An internet-savvy entrepreneur who employs dozens, Dr. Mercola has published over 600 articles on Facebook that cast doubt on Covid-19 vaccines since the pandemic began, reaching a far larger audience than other vaccine skeptics ... The activity has earned Dr. Mercola, a natural health proponent with an Everyman demeanor, the dubious distinction of the top spot in the 'Disinformation Dozen,' a list of 12 people responsible for sharing 65 percent of all anti-vaccine messaging on social media." NYT (gift article): The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online. (When does misinformation become murder?)

+ Conservative Radio Host Skeptical of Vaccines Hospitalized With COVID: "He's Regretful." (We've seen countless stories, from Chris Christie to this guy, of people who believe in the threat only when they experience the illness. America is long on vaccines but short on empathy.)

+ "I got 99 problems but a vax ain't one." California man who mocked COVID-19 vaccine dies of virus.

+ France passes law that makes a coronavirus health pass required for dining and travel.

+ Don't want government mandates? Then private business should pick up the slack. SF bars and restaurants begin checking for vaccination proof at the door.


We Gotta Get Out of This Place

As the last troops pull out of Afghanistan, it looks like Iraq will be the next drawdown. Biden, Iraqi prime minister to announce end of U.S. combat mission in Iraq.

+ Meanwhile, in Afghanistan: There have been record civilian casualties in 2021. And it's likely to get worse.


Forecasting a Wide Net

"In the past week alone, 380,000 people have been evacuated due to floods in China's Henan province, 30 villages in Uganda were affected as rivers overflowed and 25 people died in landslides after Mumbai was hit by big storms that also inundated regions surrounding the megacity. Temperatures in Turkey and North Africa approached 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), while South Africa and Brazil froze. Siberia is battling wildfires again. Finland experienced 31 consecutive days with maximum temperatures above 25°C, the longest heatwave ever recorded in the country." We're hearing a lot about the fires in the West and the floods in Europe. But the evidence of climate change is a lot more widespread than that. Bloomberg: The Heat, Floods and Fire We Don't Hear Enough About.


Joshua, Would You Like to Play a Game?

"As Joshua continued to experiment, he realized there was no rule preventing him from simulating real people. What would happen, he wondered, if he tried to create a chatbot version of his dead fiancee? There was nothing strange, he thought, about wanting to reconnect with the dead: People do it all the time, in prayers and in dreams. In the last year and a half, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. and Canada have died of COVID-19, often suddenly, without closure for their loved ones, leaving a raw landscape of grief. How many survivors would gladly experiment with a technology that lets them pretend, for a moment, that their dead loved one is alive again — and able to text?" Jason Fagone in the SF Chronicle: The Jessica Simulation: Love and loss in the age of A.I.


Till The Story’s Fully Told

"Our eyes adjusted to the darkness of the barn where Emmett Till was tortured by a group of grown men. Christmas decorations leaned against one wall. Within reach sat a lawn mower and a Johnson 9.9-horsepower outboard motor. Dirt covered the spot where Till was beaten, and where investigators believe he was killed. Andrews thinks he was strung from the ceiling, to make the beating easier. The truth is, nobody knows exactly what happened in the barn, and any evidence is long gone. Andrews pointed to the central rafter. 'That right there is where he was hung at.'" The always-excellent Wright Thompson in The Atlantic: His Name Was Emmett Till.


Five Ring Circus

(Note: My Olympics coverage will be a no spoilers zone, and focus more on stories than results. I'll only mention outcomes that are more than 24 hours old.)

+ "Going into these Games, few figured to be checking for Hadzic, the 29-year-old épée alternate on a US team that was a longshot to win a medal. The notable exception: six female fencers who wrote to the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) in May demanding for an Olympic ban for Hadzic, the prime focus of an investigation into multiple accusations of sexual assault." Sha'Carri Richardson and Alen Hadzic. One gold medal favorite is out for smoking weed. The other, an also-ran fencer is in, despite multiple accusations of sexual assault.

+ "Pure exhaustion caused Norwegian Olympic triathlete Kristian Blummenfelt to take the idea of 'leaving it all out there' to a whole new level after his gold medal-winning performance in Tokyo." Norwegian triathlete pukes after winning Olympic gold medal, taken away in wheelchair. (He also didn't have the look of a gold medalist. Watching it on TV, I joked that Phil Collins had somehow snuck into the triathlon. Damn, what an effort though!)

+ A Dutch cyclist thought she'd won Olympic gold, but an Austrian was way ahead of her. And that Austrian was a serious longshot. Anna Kiesenhofer is a mathematician who hasn't been a member of a pro team for years.

+ Pink offers to pay bikini bottoms fine for Norway women's handball team. (This was the week before the Olympics, but it's related. It's ridiculous that female athletes are required to wear uniforms clearly intended to sexualize them. Sports are about kicking ass, not showing it.)

+ Here Are All The Olympian Couples Competing In Tokyo Who Are Dating, Engaged, Or Married.


The Toughest Reporting Gig

"I am now so early into this new hell that I have no pain, although that is coming, surely, and no symptoms except moments of utter exhaustion and, in the past three months, a loss of 20 pounds. After decades of turning down desserts, candies, and pastries to control my weight, it now seems cruel to be pressured to eat more food for which I have less appetite. As my life nears the finish line, the list of things I'll miss grows." Jack Thomas in the Boston Globe: I just learned I only have months to live. This is what I want to say.


Camps Like Us

"We are asking parents to pick up their campers tomorrow." Like every other industry that depends on seasonal workers, summer camps are stretched thin. Sometimes too thin to continue. NYT (gift article): Camps Have Been Scrambling for Counselors. Some Have Even Closed.


Bottom of the News

They spend most of their time herding cattle. But when they take time off, they dress to the nines. "Unlike many Muslims in this conservative part of the country, they choose not to wear traditional gowns, or kaftans, but trendy clothes inspired by hip-hop and Afrobeats stars." Nigeria's hipster herders - the funky Fulanis.

+ The 2021 iPhone photography awards.

+ Jackie Mason, who went from rabbi to stand-up comedy star, died at 93. My favorite bit of his is about the different reaction to cheesecake between a gentile and jew at the Carnegie Deli.