February 18th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Hate fills the void, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday

Americans don’t just disagree with those on the other side of the aisle, they hate them. One of the reasons this hate is on the rise is because we are increasingly separated from one another. The absence of real (or even virtual) interactions leaves a vacuum that can be filled with feverish, fury-inducing messages created by those who benefit from dividing us; from politicians clinging to minority rule to faux news networks looking to up their rage ratings. It’s a lot easier to create a caricature out of someone if that someone is out of sight. And we’ve almost completely lost sight of one another. We’re divided economically, we’re divided online, we’re divided in the TV shows we watch and the music we hear, and, maybe most importantly, we’re divided geographically. We’ve lost the daily interactions that remind us of our common humanity and that, regardless of our differences, there’s much more that unites us. Sadly, the geographic divide is only getting more stark, as red Americans move to redder areas and blue Americans seek to make their surroundings more blue. We hate each other because we’re divided and we further divide because we hate each other. NPR: Americans are fleeing to places where political views match their own. “America is growing more geographically polarized—red ZIP codes are getting redder and blue ZIP codes are becoming bluer. People appear to be sorting.” I know what you’re thinking. “Good riddance.” But there’s nothing good about this pattern.

+ Maybe there’s still hope that we can find common geographic ground in the happiest condos on Earth. A Disney-branded California community promises the company’s special magic. “The new developments will be staffed with ‘Disney Cast Members’ and offer Disney entertainment and activities … Some neighborhoods will be designated as senior living communities for people over the age of 55.” (I don’t even want to think about the kind of cosplay these people are gonna get into…)


Blowing Covid Up Your A**

“The pandemic’s greatest source of danger has transformed from a pathogen into a behavior. Choosing not to get vaccinated against COVID is, right now, a modifiable health risk on par with smoking, which kills more than 400,000 people each year in the United States. Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at UC Irvine, told me that if COVID continues to account for a few hundred thousand American deaths every year—’a realistic worst-case scenario,’ he calls it—that would wipe out all of the life-expectancy gains we’ve accrued from the past two decades’ worth of smoking-prevention efforts. The Covid vaccines are, without exaggeration, among the safest and most effective therapies in all of modern medicine.” In The Atlantic, Benjamin Mazer makes the case that COVID Won’t End Up Like the Flu. It Will Be Like Smoking. (Except the secondhand smoke is even more dangerous…)

+ “A new Harvard study estimates that 135,000 Americans unnecessarily died in the second half of 2021 because of lack of vaccination. Political polarization has warped people’s thinking, even when their personal safety is at stake.” A brief history.


AR-15 and Under

“They say this new firearm, overtly advertised as a kids’ version of the AR-15—the style of rifle used in 11 of the 12 most high-profile mass shootings, including Sandy Hook and Las Vegas—is the most brazen example of such targeted firearms marketing they’ve ever seen. The move is part of a trend by an unstable gun industry in a volatile market to target new potential consumers, but it’s also motivated by a rise of political extremism.” An AR-15 designed for children shocks even the most jaded gun-control advocates.


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: “From creator Dan Erickson and director Ben Stiller, ‘Severance’ hinges on a fictional procedure that makes it possible for employees of a mysterious conglomerate to wholly separate their corporate lives from their personal lives.” You just need to completely wipe out your memories from work at home, and from home at work. Severance is a new, highly-rated show on AppleTV.

+ What to Hear: I think you’ll enjoy listening to some Manchester Orchestra this weekend. Start with The Gold and Bed Head. Bonus music: Check out this great version of When the Levee Breaks with John Paul Jones and a worldwide band. They made it to raise money for environmental causes. Crying won’t help you, praying won’t do you no good. When the levee breaks, mama you got to move.


Extra, Extra

Hit List: “Four people familiar with U.S. intelligence said that Russia has drafted lists of Ukrainian political figures and other prominent individuals to be targeted for either arrest or assassination in the event of a Russian assault on Ukraine.” Russia Planning Post-Invasion Arrest and Assassination Campaign in Ukraine, U.S. Officials Say. Meanwhile, the troop buildup continues. And Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas gets it exactly right: Putin is ‘enjoying himself’ with military build-up. (Putin has been putting poison in the world’s underpants for decades…)

+ Cold as Ice: “It was ‘chilling’ to see the ‘cold’ way distraught Kamila Valieva was treated by her Russian coach after falls in her figure skating routine at Beijing 2022, says International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.” And when the IOC thinks you’re cold, you’re really cold. So was this the Valieva Olympics? Or were we obsessing over the coldness from a coach towards her 15 year-old ice skating prodigy while ignoring backdrop the human rights horror show? Or was this the Eileen Gu Olympics? Or was this an Olympics where the fake snow was a metaphor for the whole show? It’s hard to know what to make of anything these days, especially when the world’s most powerful players are working so hard to confuse you. How Bots and Fake Accounts Push China’s Vision of Winter Olympic Wonderland.

+ Taking it On the (Man)Chin: “The White House was unable to secure an extension of the program amid a disagreement over its broader economic proposal with Sen. Joe Manchin, who raised multiple objections to the child benefit and said it was discouraging parents from working. Virtually all Republicans have also opposed Biden’s expanded Child Tax Credit, and Washington has shifted away from pandemic spending as lawmakers seek to curb the worst inflationary spike in four decades.” WaPo: Child poverty spiked by 41 percent in January after Biden benefit program expired.

+ Reason Season: “It provided an example not of how the right can beat the left, but rather of how the left can regulate and reform the left—an example that can and should be emulated on the right.” David French: In San Francisco, Reason Beats Radicalism. (Bingo.)

+ Taser’s Edge: “Kim Potter, the former suburban Minneapolis police officer who said she confused her handgun for her Taser when she fatally shot Daunte Wright, was sentenced Friday to two years in prison.”


Feel Good Friday

“Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad rescue birds of prey – mostly injured by paper kite strings coated with crushed glass – and carry them in cardboard boxes to a claustrophobic basement garage at home. Here, they begin nursing them to health: cleaning and bandaging wounds, fixing slashed wings and broken bones.” All That Breathes: The Indian brothers who heal birds dropping from the sky.

+ The flipside of the figure skating scandal: “So many of my friends are here, and they, like, trained so hard and went through a lot, and they, like, finally did really good at the Olympics. I’m really happy for everybody and myself, too. [The Olympics] exceeded my expectations. I didn’t think I was going to do this good here, and I made a lot of friends along the way, and I got to see them here.” WaPo (Gift Article): The joy of Alysa Liu was set against Kamila Valieva’s despair.

+ The President of North Macedonia walked an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome to school after he heard she was being bullied.

+ “There is not a dog shortage in America—not yet, at least. But there are stark geographic differences in supply and demand. Massachusetts needs more dogs, and Mississippi has too many. The same is true of Delaware and Oklahoma, Minnesota and Louisiana, New York and Tennessee, and Washington and New Mexico.” How America Saved Millions of Dogs—By Moving Them. (It’s hard enough for me to move my beagles from one end of the couch to the other.)

+ Reminder: My kids are off next week, so I’ll mostly be off too. Delivery will be sporadic.

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