March 31st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Oil, that is.

… and so apparently would Joe Biden. It’s remarkable how many international conflicts are at least in part fueled by fuel. Fuel is playing a major role in the world’s reaction to the Russian Ukraine invasion and in America’s need to pump the brakes on its high octane inflation before our economy goes into the tank (taking Biden’s approval ratings with it). And so, Biden is ordering the release of 1 million barrels of oil per day from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve for six months. To give that number some perspective, “Americans on average use about 21 million barrels of oil daily … The U.S. is producing on average 11.7 million barrels daily, down from 13 million barrels in early 2020.” Oil’s impact on wars, economies, and politics is one of our longest running storylines, and oil stories always put the old Beverly Hillbillies theme song into my head: Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed / A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed / And then one day he was shootin at some food / And up through the ground come a bubblin crude / Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea / Well the first thing you know ol Jed’s a millionaire / The kinfolk said ‘Jed move away from there’ / Said ‘Californy is the place you ought to be’ / So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly… Until that truck is a Rivian, the song remains the same.

+ The next line in that song is …Hills, that is. Swimmin pools, movie stars. The latter all of a sudden present their own dangers. Yesterday, I wrote about the Will Smith Oscars craziness coverage (speaking of bubbling crude) and how it relates to a much bigger problem in the way the media covers much bigger topics. It seemed to strike a chord with many of you. If you missed it: The Slap Trap Crap.


Tik Tok Crock Hock Mock

What do you do when a newcomer enters your market and starts attracting the younger crowd? If you’re Facebook and you want to keep up your reputation for making the worst possible choices in such circumstances, you hire a firm to plant fake stories about the competition. WaPo (Gift Article): Facebook paid GOP firm to malign TikTok. “Facebook parent company Meta is paying one of the biggest Republican consulting firms in the country to orchestrate a nationwide campaign seeking to turn the public against TikTok.
The campaign includes placing op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets, promoting dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, and pushing to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping take down its biggest competitor. These bare-knuckle tactics, long commonplace in the world of politics, have become increasingly noticeable within a tech industry where companies vie for cultural relevance and come at a time when Facebook is under pressure to win back young users.”

+ And plenty of news outlets took the bait, especially on the local level. I guess the goal was to scare parents who would then convince their kids to get off Tik Tok and get onto Facebook. I’m pretty sure my kids made a Tik Tok parody song about that plot.


You’ve Been Misinformed

America and its allies have been releasing intel as a way of preempting Putin’s next move in Ukraine. The new twist is to release intel to let Vlad know just how bad things are going for him. In a matter of hours, those failures became the top stories on just about every site and broadcast, including BBC: Putin being misled by fearful advisers, US says.

+ It’s not just a war of words, there are images too. Here’s an interesting look at how the Pentagon partners with private satellite companies to share intel. TNR: Are These Satellite Images War Propaganda? “As a Maxar customer, the Department of Defense isn’t just a passive consumer of Maxar images; it is, in a way, a co-producer of those images.” Of course, if the information war isn’t backed up with weapons shipments, eventually Putin’s false impression will be accurate.

+ Things are already ugly enough. Ukraine: before and after the war – video.

+ “For weeks, a lone mobile base station allowed thousands in the besieged Ukrainian city to stay connected—until Russian troops arrived.” Wired: The Last Cell Tower in Mariupol. “Across Mariupol, the loss of communications means a shroud conceals what’s happening on the ground. People outside the city don’t know if their loved ones inside are alive; those still inside don’t know if it’s safe to try to escape the shelling.”

+ The villains get the coverage. But there are many everyday heroes. The people who keep the refugee trains running out of Ukraine. “Ukrainian Railways employs more than 230,000 people, and almost all its employees have stayed in the country to work, making long, dangerous journeys every day to get people to safety.”

+ People aren’t just leaving Ukraine. They’re leaving Russia, too. Politico Magazine: What I Heard From Passengers on the Last Train Out of Russia.


Speed Bumps

“Twenty years ago, it was tough to find a job that was both simultaneously boring and focus-demanding. Professional baseball comes to mind. And those guys took so many ‘greenies’ that clubhouses offered two pots of coffee—a regular one marked ‘unleaded’ and a “leaded” one with amphetamines. But today, even some Los Angeles staffers admit to having popped pills to compete: Fashion writer Merle Ginsberg, who was a judge on the first two seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, went to a psychiatrist to treat her depression. He put her on antidepressants but, to her surprise, also suggested throwing in Adderall.” Joel Stein in LA Mag: How L.A. Got Hooked on Adderall. “As America runs on Dunkin’, Los Angeles runs on speed.”

+ “The study comes at a time when the number of overdose deaths in the US has exploded to more than 100,000 a year due to the huge amounts of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids saturating the nation’s drug supply. Fentanyl is as much as 100 times more potent than morphine and, as Palamar notes, one small baggie of the stuff can contain enough of the drug to kill hundreds of people.” Number of fentanyl-filled pills seized by US law enforcement up 4,850%.


Extra, Extra

Order Up: Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic: “For a long time—too long—the custodians of the liberal world order refused to understand these changes. They looked away when Russia ‘pacified’ Chechnya by murdering tens of thousands of people. When Russia bombed schools and hospitals in Syria, Western leaders decided that that wasn’t their problem. When Russia invaded Ukraine the first time, they found reasons not to worry. Surely Putin would be satisfied by the annexation of Crimea. When Russia invaded Ukraine the second time, occupying part of the Donbas, they were sure he would be sensible enough to stop … There is no natural liberal world order, and there are no rules without someone to enforce them.”

+ Thomas the Crank Engine: The purpose of the Ginni Thomas texts “was not to lament the result; it was to encourage efforts to overturn it. That would be worrisome enough, but what makes it doubly so is the arguments invoked, the sources cited, and the mindset revealed in these raw, unfiltered texts. They are a window into a very distorted, very disturbed world.” Peter Wehner in The Atlantic: A Glimpse Into a Fearful, Angry, Imaginary World. (Sadly, I’d add powerful to that list.)

+ The Blind Leading the Blind (and the rest of us): “We like to tell ourselves that geniuses go it alone. When a success story involves a person with a disability, it is often framed as an act of overcoming, an inspiring tale of perseverance in the face of unimaginable tragedy: losing a sense or gaining an impediment. But the story of The Cave shows quite the opposite, that genius is forged by community, in the sharing of information, tools, and resources. That disability is not a curse.” Stat News: ‘Where the bats hung out’: How a basement hideaway at UC Berkeley nurtured a generation of blind innovators.


Bottom of the News

“A hunk of human hair; a full set of dentures (‘I TOLD you not to take your teeth to the beach!’); a thong; a used narcan kit (used to revive drug overdose victims); several marijuana bags (empty, of course); a bullet casing, and a fake eyeball were among items picked up.” Braces, sex pills, fake eyeball among bizarre NJ beach trash.

+ Pink Floyd, a flamingo on the lam from a Kansas zoo since 2005, is seen again in Texas. (In the business, we call this a Floydian Slip.)

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