Wednesday, December 8th, 2021


Local Zero

Local news has been dying for years. It's a big deal. Yes, it costs jobs and removes a sense of community, but it's more than just that. The vacuum it leaves behind is often filled by false information, conspiracy theories, and fake news intended to divide. The internet hurt the local news business. The pandemic made it worse at a moment of crisis when we needed trusted local voices the most. From The Washington Post Magazine (Gift Article): The Lost Local News Issue: "Since 2005, about 2,200 local newspapers across America have closed. Here are some of the stories in danger of being lost — as told by local journalists." (You've probably noticed that I've been sharing a lot of gift articles that are ordinarily behind paywalls. This brings up another issue facing fans of reality. Real news often costs. Fake news is free.)

+ "Studies show that people who live in areas with poor local news coverage are less likely to vote, and when they do, they are more likely to do so strictly along party lines. To put it bluntly, the demise of local news poses the kind of danger to our democracy that should have alarm sirens screeching across the land." Margaret Sullivan: What Happens to Democracy When Local Journalism Dries Up?


The Chickens Come Home to Boost

"A booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine appears to provide strong protection against the omicron variant, the companies announced Wednesday. They said lab study results show a third dose of their vaccine provides a similar level of neutralizing antibodies to omicron, comparable to two doses against the original coronavirus and other variants that have emerged." Like I said the other day: Covid got a boost. You should too.


Olympic and Choose

Australia and the UK have joined the United States in the diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing over human rights issues. From Boris Johnson: "No ministers are expected to attend and no officials. The government has no hesitation in raising these issues with China, as I did with President Xi the last time I talked to him."

+ "When inconvenient news erupts on the Chinese internet, the censors jump into action. Twenty minutes was all it took to mobilize after Peng Shuai, the tennis star and one of China's most famous athletes, went online and accused Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier, of sexual assault." China Unleashed Its Propaganda Machine on Peng Shuai's MeToo Accusation. Her Story Still Got Out.


Java Flow

"Coffee doesn't pay for many of the hundreds of thousands of Central American farmers who produce the delicate arabica beans for the world's finest grounds. Increasingly, they are giving up, becoming part of a broader migrant flow to the U.S.-Mexico border that U.S. data shows has hit a record high this year." Reuters with an interesting look at how a coffee crisis in Central America is fueling a record exodus north. (With climate change getting worse, this is just a warmup.)


Olaf Track

"As she left the chancellery in Berlin, ending a 31-year political career, Mrs Merkel told her former vice-chancellor to approach the task 'with joy.'" Germany's Olaf Scholz takes over from Merkel as chancellor. Here's a look back at those 31 years. Angela Merkel: A career in pictures.


Meadow Lark

"That he would sell his telling of the facts of that day while denying a congressional committee the opportunity to ask him about the attack on our Capitol marks an historic and aggressive defiance of Congress." Jan. 6 committee to start contempt proceedings against Mark Meadows. (That's good. But the Steve Bannon's contempt trial is currently set for July. Running out the clock might be a good strategy. The anti-democracy crowd has gone nuclear. The pro-democracy crowd has gone Nerf.)


Search Warranted?

"This year, our search histories spoke to our interest in alternative assets like cryptocurrencies and NFTs, as well as persistent economic insecurity, evidenced by our questions about when we'd get our stimulus checks and if we'd qualify for student loan forgiveness. The cultural rift between millennials and Gen Z cropped up in queries about what type of hair parts and jeans were in style, as did other social media trends that seemingly appealed to everyone, like how to make TikTok pasta or Squid Game cookies. And finally, in the year when Covid-19 vaccines became widely available, many Americans turned to the search engine to figure out how to be a normal person again, as people once again attended in-person events and had to figure out what pants people wear that aren't sweatpants." And of course, there were the Bernie Mitten memes that won the year in its first few weeks. What Google's trending searches say about America in 2021.

+ Google: The Year in Search 2021. And Global Search Trends.


This is 40

"One of North America's most active fault lines sprung to life on Tuesday after a swarm of more than 40 earthquakes -- ranging from a magnitude 3.5 to 5.8 -- rattled off the coast of Oregon, catching the attention and concern of millions in the region." Thirty or thirty-five earthquakes are pretty easy to ignore. But hit me with 40 and you've got my attention.)


Bee Best

"They managed to seal themselves inside their hives to protect themselves from the volcanic gases, which can be potentially harmful to people, animals, vegetation, and property. The bees also ... ate from the honey stores they had inside their hives." Thousands of Honeybees Stared Down Spain's Cumbre Vieja Volcano. They Won.


Bottom of the News

"While some dolls and action figures can stand the test of time if they're properly maintained, others are meant to be melted, exploded or terrorized until their mysterious innards come oozing out of their body. Such is the case with Stretch Armstrong." An Oral History of Stretch Armstrong's Delightful Destructibility.

+ Dozens of camels barred from Saudi beauty contest over Botox. (The flat humps were a dead giveaway.)

+ The Comedy Pet Photography Awards.