February 16th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Human Rights? Meh. Plus, growing meat.

“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs. I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth, okay. Of all the things I care about, yes, it is below my line.” That was Chamath Palihapitiya (billionaire and part owner of the Golden State Warriors) on a podcast last month. Predictably, outrage followed. The Warriors issued a statement. Palihapitiya rolled back his comments. But the only part of Palihapitiya’s statement that seemed at odds with reality was the phrase, “hard, ugly truth.” Ugly, yes. But it hardly seems hard for the rest of us to peacefully coexist with the words that Palihapitiya spoke. The harder part for most people is not being more outraged by public comments about genocide than genocide itself. George Packer in The Atlantic: “Of course, Palihapitiya was telling the truth the first time. He doesn’t care about the Uyghurs. Nor does Golden State, which didn’t mention them in the team’s statement. Nor does the NBA, which avoids and even suppresses criticism of China because of the billions of dollars that the league makes from Chinese contracts. Nor do most NBA players, whose silence is bought by lucrative endorsement deals with companies doing business in China, including ones whose sportswear is made with cotton produced by Uyghur slave labor.” We Are All Realists Now. (And reality bites. And kicks, and punches, and tortures, and bombs, and enslaves…It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.)

A bit more from Packer: “In the past decade or so, human rights have pretty much disappeared from our politics. Throughout the 9/11 wars, the grotesque contradiction between the rhetoric of freedom and the reality of tortured prisoners, civilian casualties, and grinding conflict corrupted the cause beyond remedy. After Iraq and Afghanistan, no president can send young men and women to war by invoking human rights. When Barack Obama refrained from punishing Bashar al-Assad of Syria for murdering thousands of innocent people with poison gas, there was no outcry from the general public. Privately, Obama told his aide Ben Rhodes that not even the 1994 Rwandan genocide merited a strong U.S. response. Without announcing a new era of foreign-policy ‘realism,’ Obama brought it into being. Donald Trump made a point of showing utter indifference to the suffering of Syrians, Afghans, Chinese, or anyone else, and his callousness never cost him a thing. With the eclipse of U.S. prestige and power, the decay of liberal democracy, and the rising appeal of authoritarian regimes, there’s no longer any mechanism—neither military force nor threat of sanctions and isolation, nor global pressure campaigns by civil-society groups—to make the world’s dictators hesitate before they throw people into concentration camps. What’s striking is how the demise of these mechanisms has soured Americans on the idea of human rights itself.” (These days we’re more interested in our own human right to the latest iPhone, the cheapest cobalt for our battery-powered cars, the fastest delivery of fast fashion, and, of course, our right to proclaim moral outrage when we all know our official policy is, Shit Happens…)


Air Fryer

“Until I read the release form, I wasn’t concerned that the bite of sautéed chicken breast I was about to eat had taken less than three weeks to grow from a few cells inside a laboratory tank to a thick sheet of meat. Would I assume full responsibility, the form asked, for any personal injury, property damage or death that came from ingesting meat ‘whose properties are not completely known’?” Kim Severson in the NYT (Gift Article): The New Secret Chicken Recipe? Animal Cells.

+ Making meat of cells not environmentally friendly enough for you? Then order up some Air Protein: “The company is taking carbon dioxide—the pernicious greenhouse gas warming our planet—and transforming it into a juicy steak or a delicate salmon fillet.” Wired: This Startup Is Trying to Make Juicy Steaks Out of Thin Air. (With my luck, I’ll be the first person to gain weight on the Thin Air Diet.)


Baked Alaska

“This reform aims to increase the likelihood that candidates with the broadest appeal to voters, rather than more factional candidates, will win the election. In a traditional primary, in which many candidates can split the vote, factional candidates can prevail by drawing, say, just 25 percent of the vote. Because factional candidates often hold more extreme views, this reality helps fuel dysfunction in American politics.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds like one hell of a reform! And it’s not some half-baked idea. It’s ranked choice voting. NYT: More Places Should Do What Alaska Did to Its Elections.


The Road Less Token

“There is no such thing as a weed Breathalyzer, no biological factor that indicates whether someone is impaired by cannabis at the moment you test them—not blood or urine or hair or breath or spit. While every state prohibits driving under the influence of weed, no state has found a reliable way to sort the stoned from the sober. Like Washington, some states have implemented the 5-nanogram-per-milliliter threshold, but cannabis pharmacokinetics are so variable that even if two people share a joint, one person might dip below that level within two hours and the other might stay above it for the rest of the week. Stoned driving is therefore one of the biggest unresolved sticking points in the long slide toward legalizing marijuana in the US—a Kafkaesque quandary with no clear solution.” Wired: Driving While Baked? Inside the High-Tech Quest to Find Out. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I got really paranoid and went back home to eat Cool Ranch Doritos…


Extra, Extra

Anti Freeze: “If the pace of resistance isn’t halted — whether through more judicious use of the drugs or through the development of new classes of antibiotics — it will likely lead to soaring deaths from common infections and surgical complications, sending us back to a world where a minor cut could potentially once again be lethal.” Antibiotic resistance is approaching a crisis point.

+ Abe Lincoln Wins Election: “Voters in San Francisco recalled three members of the school board on Tuesday following a tumultuous period that included fights over remote learning, renaming schools, a First Amendment lawsuit and changes to the admissions process at the city’s most elite public high school … In January 2021, it spent time debating a plan to rename 44 public schools – among them those named for Abraham Lincoln, and current U.S. Senator and former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein.” I hate recalls in general. But this was an embarrassment.

+ Con(jugal) Visits: “President Joe Biden has rejected Donald Trump’s effort to assert executive privilege over White House visitor logs from Jan. 6, 2021, ordering the National Archives to deliver the documents to congressional investigators in two weeks.” (I mean we know about Kid Rock and the My Pillow Guy. How much more embarrassing could it be?)

+ Interupture: In Baltimore, there is a group of “violence interrupters” who try to stop violent acts before they happen. But lately, they’ve been the victims of violence. Some of them have even been killed. In Baltimore’s streets, interrupters face danger to stop a cycle of violence.


Bottom of the News

“Thom would say, I can’t quite hear what you’re doing. But I think you’re adding a really interesting texture because I can tell when you’re not playing. And I’m thinking, no, you can’t, because I’m really not playing.” Jonny Greenwood Pretended to Play the Keyboard When He First Joined Radiohead. What a Creep. What a weirdo. What the hell was he doing there?

+ In Vegas, a car rear-ended a van that had stopped to allow a person in a heart costume to cross the street as part of a police event promoting pedestrian awareness and safety.

+ A Volvo owner was rewarded with new car after driving 1 million miles in sedan. (And after like two blocks, the new car’s check engine light came on…)

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