Tuesday, August 17th, 2021


A River Runs Against It

It's no secret that we need rain in several American regions. Of course, many of us have lived through drought cycles in the past (half my youth was spent being told, If it's yellow, let it mellow) but this drought cycle feels different. Because it is. First-ever water cuts declared for Colorado River in historic drought. "Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US by volume, has drained at an alarming rate this year. At around 1,067 feet above sea level and 35% full, the Colorado River reservoir is at its lowest since the lake was filled after the Hoover Dam was completed in the 1930s."

+ Esquire: Going With the Flow Is No Longer an Option in Arizona. Or California.

+ Along with the drought comes increased fire danger. And for the folks fighting those fires, things are anything but business as usual. Burning out: the silent crisis spreading among wildland firefighters.

+ Extreme conditions lead to extreme ideas. SF Chronicle: San Francisco Bay's tides are going to rise. Should we dam the Golden Gate first? "Researchers in the past have dismissed this seemingly straightforward concept on environmental grounds. Engineers are skeptical, too. But the enormity of the challenge has some Bay Area leaders saying it should at least be studied." (I still like my idea of using ocean tides for pasta water.)


Is It Safe?

What's safe to do during summer's Covid surge? I know this sounds contrarian in this era, but maybe we should ask the experts. STAT asked public health experts about their own plans.

+ Biden administration expected to advise Covid booster shots for most Americans.

+ "I did not realize that the threat of death is inadequate to make people want to go have vaccines ... There's a fair number of people who don't believe they have COVID and that we're lying to them." COVID Patients Fighting for Their Lives Are Still Refusing the Vaccine.

+ New Zealand announces it's locking down the entire country ... over one Covid case. Meanwhile, many US governors are fighting for the right to send your kids to school maskless.


The Fighting Was on the Wall

A president makes a decision, admits there were errors in its execution, and sticks by and fully owns the decision. That sure beats: A president randomly tweets a decision, pretends it was a perfect decision, lies and says the decision is a hoax, and then suggests injecting Lysol into it. But the Afghanistan story is less about whether we left and more about how we left. NYT: Intelligence Warned of Afghan Military Collapse. (This part of the story just seemed so wildly obvious.)

+ "While the coming months and years will reveal what the U.S. government did and didn't know about the state of Afghan security forces prior to U.S. withdrawal, the speed of the collapse was predictable. That the U.S. government could not foresee — or, perhaps, refused to admit — that beleaguered Afghan forces would continue a long-standing practice of cutting deals with the Taliban illustrates precisely the same naivete with which America has prosecuted the Afghanistan war for years." Politico: Why Afghan Forces So Quickly Laid Down Their Arms.

+ A metaphor for the 20 year experiment? "They grabbed not only political power but also U.S.-supplied firepower — guns, ammunition, helicopters and more." AP: Billions spent on Afghan army ultimately benefited Taliban.

+ Taliban declare 'amnesty' and call on women to join new government. Don't bet on either of those. "Afghanistan's youngest female mayor: 'I'm waiting for the Taliban to come for people like me and kill me.'"

+ WaPo (gift article for ND readers): The all-girls Afghan robotics team inspired the world. Now they're trapped, waiting to be rescued.

+ Courageous Female Afghan Journalists Continue to Report Despite Taliban Takeover.

+ Unreal photo: Inside Reach 871, A US C-17 Packed With 640 Afghans Trying to Escape the Taliban. (Be glad you live in the part of Earth where someone reclining their seat during a flight is considered a major inconvenience.)

+ WiredUK: Afghans are racing to erase their online lives.

+ Russia says Afghan president fled with cars and helicopter full of cash. (In other words, he left like he led.)

+ Here's the latest from BBC.


Capitalism Schism

Capitalism is not the problem. It's our new-fangled version of capitalism that is at the root of the economic divide ripping the country apart. "Today in the US, the CEO-to-worker pay gap stands at a staggering 351 to one, an unacceptable increase from 15 to one in 1965. In other words, the average CEO makes nearly nine times what the average person will earn over a lifetime in just one year."

+ S&P 500 doubles from its pandemic bottom, marking the fastest bull market rally since WWII.


There’s a New Sheriff Concern In Town

"Starting Sept. 1, most Texans will be able to carry handguns in public without going through training or having to get permits." New Texas law allowing people to carry handguns without permits stirs mix of fear, concern among law enforcement. (At least they don't have to worry that the gunslingers will be wearing masks.)


Spine Tap

"And yet my contact was certain — or 'like 85 percent sure' — that the thief was a particular person, a man who had worked in New York publishing for a decade. He was an outsider in the industry with a reputation for becoming pushy when he didn't get what he wanted. He seemed to conduct his business almost entirely over email. Even more intriguing: Someone, I was told, had proof." The Spine Collector. For years, a mysterious figure has been stealing books before their release. Is it espionage? Revenge? Or a complete waste of time?


Deep in the Pi Hole

"Using a computer, their approximation beat the previous world record of 50tn decimal places, and was calculated 3.5 times as quickly. It's an impressive and time-consuming feat that begs the question: why?" New mathematical record: what's the point of calculating pi?

+ Sudoku maker Maki Kaji, who saw life's joy in puzzles, dies.


Great Scott

"One email about a $15 million gift, suspected of phishing, sat unopened for a month. Several others about a $20 million pledge went ignored by an assistant, who thought the nondescript sender was fake. The recipient of another memo, promising millions more, turned to their lawyer, who said it was likely a scam." Bloomberg: MacKenzie Scott's Money Bombs Are Single Handedly Reshaping America.


Traumatic Mammary

"When I lost my job, I sought refuge in my wife's lactating breasts. I have never felt more secure." Inside the Secret World of India's Adult Breastfeeding Community. (Now we just wish that world were secret.)


Bottom of the News

"An employee embezzled $12.8 million from a medical school's nonprofit. He spent most of it at one adult site."

+ The 21 Most Exciting Young Musicians on Planet Earth. (Of course, the best musicians are on Neptune. Hello? Is this thing on?)

+ Bystander Leaps Into Tank to Wrestle Alligator During Attack on Utah Zoo Worker.

+ My kids think I have no readers or followers. So each time someone buys my book, Please Scream Inside Your Heart, they scream inside theirs.