May 23rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Water as the cure for everything.

Let’s say you’re suffering from some malady. In America, you call your doctor’s office in May and you describe your (possibly urgent) symptoms and the gatekeeper on the other end of the line offers some kind words of support and then informs you that the next available appointment is in early October. In the time it takes you to express your shock at the long wait time, October fills up. In France, when you’re suffering from some malady and you call the doctor, they tell you to go jump in the lake. But not just any lake. Rather, you’re prescribed a few weeks of hydrotherapy, either thermalism or thalasso, with just the right water, steam, and mud. Lauren Collins explains in The New Yorker: Seeking a Cure in France’s Waters. “Let’s say that you suffer from arthritis, arteritis, bronchitis, bursitis, colitis, diverticulitis, endometriosis, laryngitis, osteoporosis, rhinitis, sinusitis, tendinitis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Raynaud’s disease, multiple sclerosis, angina, asthma, sciatica, kidney stones, sore throat, dizziness, spasms, migraines, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, back pain, earaches, vaginal dryness, menstrual cramps, itching, bloating, swelling, constipation, gout, obesity, gum disease, dry mouth, psoriasis, acne, eczema, frostbite, hives, rosacea, scarring, stretch marks, or varicose veins, or that you are depressed, trying to quit smoking, or simply dealing with a lot of stress. You also, crucially, live in France. You go see the doctor. She writes you a prescription for a thermal cure, indicating to which of the country’s hundred and thirteen accredited thermal spas you will be sent. Then you fill out a simple form and submit it, along with the prescription, to the national health-care service. Your application is approved—it almost always is—and you’re off to take the waters.” Being a middle aged Jewish male who at any given time suffers from approximately ninety percent of these ailments, this option should sound good to me. But I don’t like disrobing in public and water irritates my skin.

+ This list of ailments reminds me of the great, old Steve Martin list of side effects of a prescribed drug.

+ And if you missed it on Friday, here’s a look at another version of hydrotherapy: Big Wave Bodysurfing.


Taiwan On

In the geopolitical chess game surrounding the Ukraine invasion, no two pieces are more critical to America’s long term defense than China and Taiwan. And Joe Biden just moved a few steps beyond America’s longterm policy of “strategic ambiguity” and said outright that the US would intervene with its military to defend Taiwan. (“Strategic Ambiguity” is how I’ve been dealing with my daughter’s request to take her to the Olivia Rodrigo concert now that tickets are going for a few hundred a piece.)

+ “At the moment, anyone talking about an off-ramp in Ukraine—and many people are doing so, in governments, on radio stations, in a million private arguments—is using the term metaphorically, referring to a deal that could persuade Vladimir Putin to halt his invasion. Some believe that such an off-ramp could easily be built if only diplomats were willing to make the effort, or if only the White House weren’t so bellicose. It’s a nice idea. Unfortunately, the assumptions that underlie that belief are wrong.” In The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum explains why The War Won’t End Until Putin Loses.

+ “The first Russian soldier on trial for war crimes in Ukraine has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a civilian. Army sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, 21, pleaded guilty last week to fatally shooting an unarmed Ukrainian man in the earliest days of the war.” If taking responsibility and apologizing for murdering a single civilian in Ukraine gets one life in prison, what should Putin get?


Flor Plan

Jeff VanderMeer in Current Affairs: The Annihilation of Florida: An Overlooked National Tragedy. “An accelerating race to destroy Florida’s wilderness shows what we value and previews our collective future during the climate crisis. “”Prodevelopment flacks like to pull out the estimates of the millions who will continue to flock to Florida by 2030 or 2040 to justify rampant development. Even some Florida economists ignore the effects of the climate crisis in their projects for 2049, expecting continued economic growth. but these estimates are just a grim joke, and some of those regurgitating them know that. By 2050, the world likely will be grappling with the fallout from 1.5- to 2-degree temperature rise and it’s unlikely people will be flocking to a state quickly dissolving around all of its edges.” (I wasn’t planning to flock there until the DeSantis tenure dissolves.)


Internal Affairs

“Until a few decades ago, most Democrats did not hate Republicans, and most Republicans did not hate Democrats. Very few Americans thought the policies of the other side were a threat to the country or worried about their child marrying a spouse who belonged to a different political party. All of that has changed. A 2016 survey found that 60 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans would now balk at their child’s marrying a supporter of a different political party. In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, the Pew Research Center reported that roughly nine out of 10 supporters of Joe Biden and of Donald Trump alike were convinced that a victory by their opponent would cause “lasting harm” to the United States.” Yascha Mounk in The Atlantic: The Doom Spiral of Pernicious Polarization. Much of that hate we feel for one another is by design. Those political messages we’re all so addicted to are ruining us and they just might ruin the country. Ask any top Pentagon official or CIA analyst which existential conflict worries them most. I guarantee the the answer will be our internal one.


Extra, Extra

How Long Must We Sing this Song? “How should we live? Who should decide? How long will this last? As the coronavirus has become less deadly yet more difficult to contain, they told me, strategies that defined the early pandemic have fallen away, and responsibility for our everyday behavior has shifted away from public-health officials and toward individuals. In the coming months, we’ll learn the consequences of this approach.” Dhruv Khullar in The New Yorker: Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Ever End? (And a more pressing question: Is our current behavior going to make it last longer?)

+ Truth or Jair: “We count on Elon Musk so that the Amazon is known by everyone in Brazil and in the world, to show the exuberance of this region, how we are preserving it, and how much harm those who spread lies about this region are doing to us.” Elon Musk visits Brazil’s Bolsonaro to discuss Amazon plans. (Nothing says you’re all about protecting the environment than locking arms with Jair Bolsonaro…)

+ No Southern Comfort: “In service of this goal, survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation.” Report: Top Southern Baptists stonewalled sex abuse victims. (A religious organization clinging to its own power at the expense of sex abuse victims? Shocking.)

+ Try This: STFU: “The real underlying question is not actually about free speech, but where society should draw the line on what is, and what is not, acceptable in public company. And that’s really what this is all about.” Mike Masnick: If You Think Free Speech Is Defined By Your Ability To Be An A––hole Without Consequence, You Don’t Understand Free Speech (But You Remain An A–hole). (Related: If every single word you tweet or speak, no matter how inane, wrongheaded, or downright stupid, is read by tens of millions of people and then makes instant headlines across the world, and you still think you are victim who is having his speech stifled, you’d be better of taking a break from social media and getting in a few sessions with a specialist who deals with roaring cases of narcissistic personality disorder.)


Bottom of the News

Roy Englert recently ran a 400 meter race in just over three and a half minutes. That’s not too close to Wayde van Niekerk’s world record of time of 43.03 seconds. But it’s newsworthy because Roy Englert is 99. NYT (Gift Article): These 90-Year-Old Runners Have Some Advice for You.

+ If you don’t want lifestyle advice from people who are still exercising in their 90s, there’s this from WaPo: Meet the man who has eaten a Big Mac a day for 50 years.

+ Dončić, meet Dunksit.

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