December 27th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Disgust, Deja Vu, and We Shopped!

Disgusting. Nauseating. Revolting. Gross. Repulsing. Outrageous. The horror, the horror. No, I’m not just taking about your omicron-stunted holiday get-togethers (or stay aparts). I’m referring to one of the primal emotions that define — and explain — humanity. Molly Young in the NYT (Gift Article): How Disgust Explains Everything. “Once you are attuned to disgust, it is everywhere. On your morning commute, you may observe a tragic smear of roadkill on the highway or shudder at the sight of a rat browsing garbage on the subway tracks. At work, you glance with suspicion at the person who neglects to wash his filthy hands after a trip to the toilet. At home, you change your child’s diaper, unclog the shower drain, empty your cat’s litter box, pop a zit, throw out the fuzzy leftovers in the fridge. If you manage to complete a single day without experiencing any form of disgust, you are either a baby or in a coma.” (If you have 50 news tabs open, it’s pretty tough to make it through a single second.)


It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again

“At least four U.S. cruise ships are reporting COVID-19 outbreaks aboard, leading to them being denied entry to — or turned away from — foreign ports.” It’s like deja vu, but at hyper speed. Covid updates from ABC News.

+ Between Christmas and New Year’s, doctors expect the US Omicron surge to grow. (It still looks less deadly as long as you’re boosted. And there are still signs it’s going to be fast and furious, but short in duration.)

+ If only everyone was working towards the vaccination goal. WaPo: 5 GOP-led states extend unemployment aid to workers who lose jobs over vaccine mandates.


Iran’s Gambit

“Malley compared proxy talks to a Woody Allen story, ‘The Gossage-Vardebedian Papers.’ In it, two men play chess by mail. A letter goes ‘missing.’ Moves are lost. Both players claim that they are winning. Infuriated, they stop playing before the game is finished. The Russian envoy, Mikhail Ulyanov, described the Vienna process as one of the strangest in modern diplomacy. ‘The aim isn’t to update an agreement or elaborate a new one,’ he tweeted. ‘The goal is to restore a nearly ruined deal piece by piece. Was there a similar exercise in the history of international relations? I can not recollect anything like that. Can you?'” Sadly, this isn’t about a comedic chess game. It’s about a growing nuclear threat. Robin Wright in The New Yorker: The Looming Threat of a Nuclear Crisis with Iran.


Alienation State

“From lockdowns to masks to vaccines to school curriculums, the conflicts in America keep growing and morphing, even without Donald Trump, the leader who thrived on encouraging them, in the White House. But the fights are not simply about masks or schools or vaccines. They are, in many ways, all connected as part of a deeper rupture — one that is now about the most fundamental questions a society can ask itself: What does it mean to be an American? Who is in charge? And whose version of the country will prevail? Social scientists who study conflict say the only way to understand it — and to begin to get out of it — is to look at the powerful currents of human emotions that are the real drivers. They include the fear of not belonging, the sting of humiliation, a sense of threat — real or perceived — and the strong pull of group behavior.” Sabrina Tavernise in the NYT (Gift Article): First They Fought About Masks. Then Over the Soul of the City. (We’re not gonna be able to yell our way out of this, folks.)


Shop Til You Drop

America is a tough country. We’re not gonna let an invisible virus and a global supply chain slowdown stop us from getting the requisite number of presents under the damn tree. “Holiday sales rose at the fastest pace in 17 years, even as shoppers grappled with higher prices, product shortages and a raging new COVID-19 variant in the last few weeks of the season, according to one spending measure.” Holiday sales were up 10.7% compared with the pre-pandemic 2019 holiday period. (Present purchases were up about 15% in my house. Positive reactions to presents were down by about 75%.)


Webb 1.0

“Astronomers have more riding on the rocket than the James Webb Space Telescope. Also at risk is the viability of NASA’s vast space-science portfolio, if not the future of astronomy itself. As the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, JWST is one of those once-in-a-generation scientific projects that can strain the patience of government benefactors, as well as the responsible agency’s credibility, but also define a field for decades to come—and possibly redefine it forever.” Otherwise, it’s no big deal. ScientificAmerican: The James Webb Space Telescope Has Launched: Now Comes the Hard Part.


Statue of Limitations

“The 8-meter (26-foot) tall Pillar of Shame, which depicts 50 torn and twisted bodies piled on top of each other, was made by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt to symbolize the lives lost during the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Workers barricaded the monument at the University of Hong Kong late Wednesday night. Drilling sounds and loud clanging could be heard coming from the boarded-up site, which was patrolled by guards.” Hong Kong university removes Tiananmen massacre statue. (This is how quickly political winds can change direction. It can happen anywhere.)


We Lost Some Greats

“He was brave beyond measure. His constant challenge to the ideology and agents of thuggish power put him in grave danger. Showing no fear, he railed against their iniquities and rallied his people, never allowing them to falter or doubt the legitimacy of their struggle.” Bob Geldof: Desmond Tutu taught us all the true meaning of greatness.

+ “Desmond Tutu is remembered with so much joy and affection by so many different people around the world today, that it may seem hard to imagine a time or place when he was viewed, not as a courageous moral crusader, but as a devil.” Desmond Tutu – the staunch and steadfast healer of a nation.

+ “You didn’t have to agree with her, but you had to submit to her sentences.” Zadie Smith in The New Yorker: Joan Didion and the Opposite of Magical Thinking.

+ Hanging Out With Joan Didion: What I Learned About Writing From an American Master.

+ “It would be hard to understate Ed’s scientific achievements, but his impact extends to every facet of society. He was a true visionary with a unique ability to inspire and galvanize. He articulated, perhaps better than anyone, what it means to be human.” Edward O. Wilson, biologist known as ‘ant man,’ dead at 92.

+ “Back in the 1980s, Milton Stetson, the chair of the biology department at the University of Delaware, told me that a scientist who makes a single seminal contribution to his or her field has been a success. By the time I met Edward O. Wilson in 1982, he had already made at least five such contributions to science.” E.O. Wilson’s lifelong passion for ants helped him teach humans about how to live sustainably with nature.


We Need a Plan

If you’re like me, all of your holiday plans got cancelled. So you might need some content. From Vox, here are the best documentaries of 2021 and how to watch them.

+ Haven’t read much Joan Didion? You’re in luck. Start with her book of essays: Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

+ Don’t Look Up is a an excellent new movie (available on Netflix) that does the near impossible: It keeps a satire sharp and entertaining for two hours. Kudos.


Feel Good Monday

I’ll probably only do a couple editions this week, but when I do, let’s keep this area feeling good. On Twitter, Amy O’Connor made a list of stuff that was round up some things was touching, lovely, or silly this year.

+ Avalon Penrose: a normal person explains cryptocurrency.

+ TSA officer saves infant who stopped breathing at airport. (Yes, I found a feel good travel story during this chaotic travel season, so stop calling me Scrooge.)

+ Biden signs bill banning goods from China’s Xinjiang over forced labor.

+ Yeshiva University Can’t Stop Winning: How the Maccabees became the hottest squad in the NCAA.

+ Soccer Star Ordered to Pay Reward for Return of Lost Dog.

+ 11-year-old boy saves choking school mate and woman from a fire in same day.

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