April 11th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Don't think about inflation. And Jared's Kush Job.

“Mary Jane is shallow … but she’s well connected. She makes her home in central Florida, in an area that was once given over to wetlands … Like most of the rest of central Florida, Mary Jane is under pressure from development … In an effort to protect herself, Mary Jane is suing.” Mary Jane is not a person. She’s a lake. And she’s suing in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that asks whether nature should have legal rights. That might sound crazy (not exactly a shock when it comes to stories about Florida), but we live in a whole new world, one that — and this is critical — we seem determined to ruin. “Only in the past few hundred years has it become possible—and come to seem normal—for people to mow down forests, fill in wetlands, and blast away mountains because it suits them. This way of operating has resulted in unprecedented, if unequally distributed, human prosperity. It has also brought melting ice sheets, marine dead zones, soaring extinction rates, and the prospect of global ecological collapse.” The way things are going in Florida, if Mary Jane wins her case, lakes may end up having more rights than humans. Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker: A Lake in Florida Suing to Protect Itself. (While many observers assumed Lake Superior would be the greatest choice to advance such a case, or that Mono Lake would be the one, my money was on Lake Havasu.)


Don’t Blow It

There are a few unique things causing our current inflation cycle. The pandemic-triggered supply chain woes, the chip shortage, high demand from a resurgent job market, and Russia’s invasion into Ukraine that’s hitting us on fuel prices and soon, food prices too. But there’s at least one much more common thing that’s making inflation worse: our concerns about inflation. The Hustle with an explainer: Why thinking about inflation leads to more inflation. (Just keep telling yourself not to think about inflation and see how that goes.)


Horror With Nothing to Show

“The question that survivors, investigators and the world would like to answer is why. Ukraine has seen the horrors of Mariupol, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and nearby Irpin. But the images from this town an hour’s drive from Kyiv — of bodies burned, bodies with hands bound, bodies strewn near bicycles and flattened cars — have seared themselves into global consciousness like no others.” AP: A devastating walk through Bucha’s horror.

+ “Unsuspecting civilians were killed carrying out the simplest of daily activities. A retired teacher known as Auntie Lyuda, short for Lyudmyla, was shot midmorning on March 5 as she opened her front door on a small side street. Her body lay twisted, half inside the door, more than a month later.” NYT: Bucha’s Month of Terror.

+ All the horror, all the targeting of women and children, it all could get worse. Who Is Alexander Dvornikov, the Russian General Bringing Brutal Syria Methods to Ukraine.

+ And, so far, all the killing and destruction is getting Putin the opposite of what he was after. Sweden and Finland are now looking to join NATO.


Tex Book Case

“He hoped it would be reassuring to the family to see a transgender man at the helm of the investigation. But the family’s lawyer didn’t see it that way. ‘She said, ‘I know your intentions are good. But by walking in that door, as a representative for the state, you are saying in a sense that you condone this, that you agree with it,’ Davis said. ‘It hit me like a thunderbolt. It’s true,’ he said. ‘By me being there, for even a split second, a child could think they’ve done something wrong.’ Davis resigned shortly after. Since the directive went into effect, each member of his four-person unit has put in their notice as well.” Texas Tribune: Distraught over orders to investigate trans kids’ families, Texas child welfare workers are resigning. But if the good folks resign, what are we left with? (For an example, look at the Trump years in DC.)

+ Tech journalist Ina Fried started a good program where people can send supportive messages to trans youth using the hashtag #letters4transkids. I’ve sent one so far. You can, too.


Extra, Extra

Stupid is as Stupid Decades: “Social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind together successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared stories. Social media has weakened all three.” Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic: Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid. The internet has impacted everything. I touched on this last week when researchers wondered why people are getting it on a lot less than they used to.

+ A Kush Job: “A panel that screens investments for the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund cited concerns about the proposed deal with Kushner’s newly formed private equity firm, Affinity Partners, previously undisclosed documents show. Those objections included: ‘the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management’; the possibility that the kingdom would be responsible for ‘the bulk of the investment and risk’; due diligence on the fledgling firm’s operations that found them ‘unsatisfactory in all aspects’; a proposed asset management fee that ‘seems excessive’; and ‘public relations risks.'” They invested anyway. Before Giving Billions to Jared Kushner, Saudi Investment Fund Had Big Doubts. I wonder if Jared has a laptop…

+ Of Ed and Red: Stat of the day (and era): A list ranked states by their share of residents with post-graduate degrees. Trump won 18 of the 20 states that ranked lowest, and lost 22 of the 23 at the top.

+ Deadly Drought: “As Somalia faces what experts call its worst drought in a decade, children are bearing the brunt. Parents are struggling to feed them, with nearly half of the country’s under-five population likely to suffer from acute malnutrition by June.” Somalia drought: ‘Act now or 350,000 children will die.’ (A reminder that there are other tragedies beyond Ukraine that we’re not focused on.)

+ Green Day: “My identity isn’t a golf score. Like Meredith told me this morning, if you win this golf tournament, if you lose by ten shots, if you never win another golf tournament again, I’m still going to love you, and you’re still going to be the same person.” Scottie Scheffler outshines the rest at Masters.

+ Steeeerike: There Are Perfect Games, And Then There’s What Roki Sasaki Just Did.


Bottom of the News

“When it comes to chess, it’s got three parts. Just like your life has three parts. The opening, the middle and the end. The opening part of your life goes from the time you were born until you’re 26. In the opening part of your life you want to develop as much as possible. You want to go to school, start a career. Then you go from the opening to the middle game. In the middle game, the middle part of your life, you want to work in your career maybe 20-30 years or something like that, get married, you have kids, maybe grandkids. And then the end game is from age 50 on down. You say, ‘I’m not worried about nothing now. I’m coming the park to play chess, drink some brandy, I’m going to talk to Raul or to Pedro.’ That’s how chess is. That’s how life is.'” Life Advice from NYC Chess Hustlers.

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