Thursday, December 9th, 2021


You Light Up My Life

"Photosynthesis ... didn't change when humans began to domesticate plants, ten thousand years ago, or, later, when they figured out how to irrigate, fertilize, and, finally, hybridize them. It always worked well enough to power the planet—that is, until now." Now, scientists want to take one of nature's most vital mechanisms and make it just a little bit better. Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker: Creating a Better Leaf: Could tinkering with photosynthesis prevent a global food crisis? Can science really force photosynthesis to turn over a new leaf? "Surely, they observed, if there were a way to improve photosynthesis that was truly viable, and not just theoretical, then, at some point during the past several hundred million years, plants would have hit upon it."

+ "Coral reefs, often called the rainforests of the sea, provide food for humans and marine animals, shoreline protection for coastal communities, jobs for tourist economies and even medicine to treat illnesses such as cancer, arthritis and Alzheimers disease." NPR: Darwin in a lab: Coral evolution tweaked for global warming. (It's interesting. Instead of changing our dirty habits that are destroying Earth, we're trying to force Earth to adapt to our dirty habits.)


Suicide Doors

"Most suicide websites are about prevention. This one — started in March 2018 by two shadowy figures calling themselves Marquis and Serge — provides explicit directions on how to die." We focus a lot on the mega tech companies. But the internet has always been about the shadowy corners where you can still be surprised that a group even exists. Megan Twohey and Gabriel J.X. Dance with a detailed investigation in the NYT (Gift Article): Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die


Dem Bones

"President Joe Biden sounded an alarm about a global slide among democratic institutions Thursday as he convened the first White House Summit for Democracy. He called for world leaders to 'lock arms' to strengthen democracies and demonstrate their worth in a changing world."

+ "It's an unsettling moment for the world's leading democracy as authoritarianism grows around the globe, raising questions about the United States' ability to lead by example and intensifying pressure on the Biden administration to not only promote democracy abroad but do more to shore it up at home." Can democracy still deliver?. (Don't be distracted by the minor differences we criticize each other about. This is the fight the matters.)

+ "But this was an entirely different five-member board than had overseen the last election. The Democratic majority of three Black women was gone. So was the Black elections supervisor." Reuters: Georgia Republicans purge Black Democrats from county election boards.

+ WaPo: David Perdue confesses he would have aided a coup. He's not the only one. (I know we all get tired of these exhausting political stories. But this is happening. It's the wrong time to look away.)


Greek Letter of Recommendation

"There has been 19% increase in hospitalizations over the past two weeks in the United States." While we're waiting to learn more about Omicron, Delta is on a warpath. US Covid cases surge as vaccine progress slows.

+ The Food and Drug Administration authorized a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds. The more they learn about Omicron, the more experts recommend you get boosted.


Choice Cuts

"At its heart, contextualized autonomy flows from equality. It centers the woman's experiences. It rejects a paternalistic view (recently and strategically popularized by the anti-abortion movement) of the woman as passive and childlike, requiring the state's protection against predatory abortion doctors who would trick her into killing her baby. Instead it demands an unrelenting trust from society at large (including her physician) in the woman's ability to make her own decisions about her life, her goals for her future and for the futures of children, even in the face of difficulty, complexity, and constraint." Christine Henneberg in Boston Review with a very interesting piece: Why I Provide Abortions. "Certainly, some doctors and advocates would have us normalize abortion by treating it like any other medical procedure, a tummy tuck or a tooth extraction. I've heard doctors try to present abortion this way to patients. But such a falsely cheerful, no-big-deal attitude only amplifies the simplistic 'right' vs. 'wrong' polarity that ignores women's real experiences."

+ Dahlia Lithwick makes the clear case why We're Not Going Back to 'Before Roe.' We're headed somewhere worse.

+ California plans to be abortion sanctuary.


Cigarette Dragged

"Announced on Thursday, the prohibition means anyone who's currently age 14 and under will never be able to legally buy tobacco in the country." New Zealand Will Ban Cigarettes for All Future Generations. (I'd like to do that in with technology. I still get to use it, but I ban my kids and all future generations from having an iPhone.)


Government Parties

A video in which government officials are discussing a Covid rule-breaking party in London has caused a major stir for Boris Johnson. Christmas parties row: Three gatherings to be investigated by top civil servant. As you'd imagine, the British tabloids are not missing this story.

+ Finland's PM sorry for clubbing after Covid contact.


This is 41

Since the Get Back documentary has everyone talking about the Beatles, it's worth noting that this is the 41st anniversary of John Lennon's death. Here's a look back at the column legendary Jimmy Breslin wrote on deadline. A Part of a Cop's Past Lies Dead.

+ And the weird moment when Howard Cosell had to announce the killing on air during a Monday Night Football game. Cosell had actually interviewed Lennon on MNF.


Amsterdamn Tourists

"The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified these feelings in Amsterdam (and across Europe's tourist cities), as residents got a chance during lockdowns to see what their hometown was like without tourists — and decided they liked it. It's a feeling that the city's leaders share." Tourist-Weary Amsterdam's Plea: No More Clog or Waffle Shops.


Bottom of the News

"Some companies make employees use keyboard or mouse-tracking software to ensure that they're working every moment they're on the clock, even if they're at home. Even if managers aren't spying on your mouse, chat apps quickly turn users' activity bubbles to 'away' when they're inactive for a short time." Workers Are Using ‘Mouse Movers' So They Can Use the Bathroom in Peace. (I don't have a boss who tracks me. But this would be a great tool to allow my cats to have some alone time with my moving cursor.)

+ Brutal Supercut of Fox News Being Remarkably Upset About Their Christmas Tree Catching on Fire. (If this were a parody, you'd say it went too far.)