Friday, March 18th, 2022


That’s What Xi Said

The world is preoccupied with Putin's murderous attack on Ukraine. But American officials are even more focused on the broader implications the incursion has on our relationship with the real other superpower, China. Both topics were discussed during a nearly two-hour call between Biden and Xi. According to a readout, Xi said, "Conflict and confrontation are not in anyone's interest," and that the Ukraine crisis was "not something we want to see." Now we'll see if those words are backed up or if China backs Putin with financial support and/or weapons. AP: In video call, Biden presses China's Xi on Russia support.

+ Biden's call with Xi Jinping has ended. Here are 5 reasons it could prove critical.

+ When in doubt, hold a rally and lie your ass off. A familiar strategy. Putin hails Crimea annexation and war with lessons on heroism. "I spoke to dozens of people queueing to enter the venue for the pro-Kremlin rally. Many told the BBC they worked in the public sector, and that they had been pressured into attending by their employers."

+ "When he ended his speech, his last chance to extract help from the U.S., he returned to a familiar theme: mortality. 'Now I'm almost 45 years old. Today, my age stopped when the hearts of more than 100 children stopped beating. I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths.' By calling attention to his own age, however inadvertently, he was offering a final contrast to the politicians on the other end of the screen, the world's most powerful gerontocracy. Resigned to his own death, he has become the mythical leader who has placed his people's interests ahead of his own." Franklin Foer in The Atlantic: Volodymyr Zelensky's Dream Life. (Let's hope it's a long life, too.)

+ Dance with the Devil: Russian star ballerina Olga Smirnova quits Bolshoi Ballet in protest. Ukrainian ballet star Artem Datsyshyn dies after Russian shelling.

+ McDonald's has a replacement in Russia - with a strangely familiar logo.

+ "Thousands of tourists from both sides found themselves marooned together, unable to get home and unable to avoid one another at the breakfast buffet. The days have been thick with tension, aggression and fear, along with the occasional moment of compassion." NYT (Gift Article): War Strands Ukrainian and Russian Tourists Together in Egyptian Resorts.

+ 130 people have been rescued from bombed Mariupol theater, but hundreds still under the rubble, Russia goes after Lviv, near the Polish border, Putin lays out his demands. Here's the latest from BBC.


Guard Fails

"Cases are shooting up across Western Europe, auguring a similar rise in the U.S., as has happened in every past surge. (A third of the CDC's wastewater sites have detected upticks in coronavirus samples this month, although such data are noisy and hard to interpret when levels of virus are low.) Meanwhile, mask and vaccine mandates are being lifted. Contact tracing and quarantine policies are being discontinued. The CDC's new guidelines recast most of the country as 'low risk' and left the most vulnerable individuals with the burden of protecting themselves. Some experts supported the guidelines on the grounds that testing, treatments, and other defensive tools were available—and, as promised in Biden's recently unveiled national plan, would be strengthened even further. But those promises were always contingent on congressional funding; without it, those residual layers of protection evaporate too." Ed Yong in The Atlantic: America Is Zooming Through the Pandemic Panic-Neglect Cycle. (And damn, we're sick of Zooming...)

+ Or, put another way. If You Thought Covid Was Over…Congratulations, You're an Idiot.


Hijab Interview

"Some students gave in and attended with their heads uncovered. Others refused and have been barred from school for nearly two months — students like Ayesha Anwar, an 18-year-old in Udupi who has missed exams and is falling behind her peers. 'I feel like we are being let down by everyone,' Anwar said." AP: Hijab bans deepen Hindu-Muslim fault lines in Indian state.


Weekend Whats

What to Support: Starting right now, I'm launching a NextDraft Fundraiser for Journalists in Ukraine. Here's how it works. You buy a customized NextDraft Ukrainian Superhero shirt at cost. I personally donate $20 to Media Lifeline Ukraine. Let's go. Spread the word.

+ What to Book: Kevin Wilson's novel, Nothing to See Here, centers on a young woman taking care of two kids with a disturbing ability: When upset, they burst into flames.


Extra, Extra

Lob Shot: Looking for a stat that explains everything in DC? WaPo: "The lobbying industry had a record year in 2021, taking in $3.7 billion in revenue as companies, associations and other organizations pressed Congress and the Biden administration over trillions of dollars in new pandemic spending and rules affecting health care, travel, tourism and other industries."

+ Long Way Home: "Within my online long Covid support group are former ultramarathon runners who can no longer make the distance to their own mailboxes since contracting COVID-19. Microclots have been found in the blood of many Long Covid patients, as well as evidence of serious cognitive issues. Disability advocates have been warning us that mass infection of Covid would lead to a mass disabling event. Current figures show they were correct, and we will not get better unless our illness is taken seriously with fast-track research and clinical trials." Marooned with Long Covid.

+ Holey Grail: "Officials at an MIT spinoff say they've figured out how to drill as deep as 12 miles into the Earth's crust, using a special laser that they say is powerful enough to blast through granite and basalt like a knife through soft butter." In an effort to ease fossil-fuel reliance, an MIT spinoff plans to dig the deepest holes on Earth. (They should have asked my stock broker. He's been doing that for weeks.)

+ Peacock Ring of Fire: "Kentucky — big, bad Kentucky — succumbed to No. 15 seed Saint Peter's in an opening-round men's NCAA tournament game that few thought would even be worth watching. The Peacocks, led by a coach making less than four Kentucky assistants, stunned one of college basketball's bluest blue bloods in overtime, 85-79."


Feel Good Friday

"Stepan's more than 1 million followers breathed a collective sigh of relief. He was safe and in France." How Stepan, Ukraine's most famous cat, escaped the war to safety. WaPo (Gift Article): How Stepan, Ukraine's most famous cat, escaped the war to safety.

+ Anchor's Away: Yacht-Watch: The Fancy Boats Getting Snatched Away From Russian Oligarchs

+ The best March Madness moment so far involved a cheerleader.

+ North Carolina gas station lowers prices to $2.25 to give community break at the pump.

+ Syrian refugees welcomed to Canada return the favor to Ukrainians fleeing Russian invasion.

+ "If you're sad, get a cookie." how US schoolkids launched a hotline to spread joy.