Thursday, July 21st, 2022


The Inside Job

"Your prostate feels completely normal. Do you want me to renew your Prime membership while I'm in here?"

The Intel Inside campaign referred to the fact that their chips were featured inside some of your favorite devices. But many of today's mega tech companies want to get a whole lot deeper inside than that. Amazon started to get to know you from a relative distance. They just knew where you lived and what books you liked. As they grew into the everything store, they started to know all about you at each cycle of your life, from the diapers delivered just ahead of your birth to everything you purchased from then on. But that wasn't enough. After the Whole Foods acquisition, Amazon not only knew what you received at your front door, it knew what you consumed. Its online pharmacy business then added in data about which illnesses you've had and which pills you pop. Maybe that's why the last time you bought ice cream at Whole Foods the checker asked, "Are you really sure you need this? The one time bookstore will really become Amazon Inside with the purchase of One Medical, a primary health-care provider, for just under $4 billion. Amazon now employs everyone from dock workers to working docs, and they know who you are, what you buy, what you take, your medical history, and your current vital signs. It will be interesting to see which products their algoritm surfaces to entice your next purchase. It's probably bad news if, after your doctor's visit, Amazon says customers like you frequently buy coffins (yes, Amazon sells those too.) The good news is that based on your buying history, you've qualified for heaven. Free shipping included.


BA Hanging Around

It's not too surprising that Joe Biden has tested positive for Covid. The latest variant is everywhere (we know that from wastewater studies and just from asking around). We don't know how sick everyone is getting, but we do know that past infections don't do much to prevent new ones. Why the Omicron offshoot BA.5 is a big deal. And, BA.5 Symptoms, At-Home Testing and Everything Else We Know About the New COVID Variant.

+ Covid has been deadly, but as Ed Yong explains in The Atlantic, America Was in an Early-Death Crisis Long Before COVID. "Were the U.S. 'just average compared to other wealthy countries, not even the best performer, fully a third of all deaths last year would have been prevented' ... That includes half of all deaths among working-age adults. 'Think of two people you might know under 65 who died last year: One of them might still be alive ... It raises the hairs on the back of my neck."


What You See is What You Get

"One hundred and eighty-seven minutes. It's the more than three-hour period during which the Jan. 6 committee says then-President Donald Trump refused to call off a violent mob of his supporters who were attacking police, ransacking the Capitol and hunting down lawmakers and his own vice president." That will be the focus on the last prime time Jan 6th hearing of the summer. And this season will not end on a cliffhanger. While the hearings have been consistently damning, they've mostly confirmed what we already saw with our own eyes. So now what?

+ The latest: Criminal probe opened into deletion of Secret Service Jan. 6 text messages. From 2016 to 2020, DC was one giant, active crime scene.

+ If Americans can't agree that betraying America should, at the very least, preclude one from being elected president again, then where exactly are we headed? According to one poll, over 50 percent of Americans expect a civil war 'in the next few years.' That might be unlikely, but in The Atlantic, Brian Klaas has some thoughts about how democracies die. "I've spent the past 12 years studying the breakdown of democracy and the rise of authoritarianism around the world, in places such as Thailand, Tunisia, Belarus, and Zambia. I've shaken hands with many of the world's democracy killers ... American democracy is dying. There are plenty of medicines that would cure it. Unfortunately, our political dysfunction means we're choosing not to use them, and as time passes, fewer treatments become available to us, even though the disease is becoming terminal. No major prodemocracy reforms have passed Congress. No key political figures who tried to overturn an American election have faced real accountability. The president who orchestrated the greatest threat to our democracy in modern times is free to run for reelection, and may well return to office."


Prudent Student

"I just have extremely good time management skills and I'm very disciplined." Alena Analeigh Wicker has many gifts. One is her knack for understatements. WaPo (Gift Article): She just got accepted to medical school. She's 13.


Extra, Extra

Pursuit of Justice: "A Swedish court recently handed down life sentence to former Iranian prosecutor involved in killing of political prisoners." Look, it doesn't happen often enough. But sometimes, bad guys are held to account through the tireless work of those who pursue them. Irish Times: Russia would do well to remember that war criminals do get caught. And from NPR: How prosecuting war crimes in Ukraine compares to hunting Nazis. "Rosenbaum is best known for leading the Justice Department unit that tracked down Nazis in hiding long after World War II. And last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped him to lead a team investigating atrocities in Ukraine."

+ Booted From Boot Shaped Country: Italian Premier Mario Draghi resigned Thursday after his ruling coalition fell apart. "The moves dealt a destabilizing blow to Italy and Europe at a time of inflation and economic uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and Russia's war in Ukraine." Meanwhile, Rome is burning.

+ Majority Report: "Few think abortion should always be illegal, and most Americans support their state generally allowing abortion six weeks into the pregnancy." AP-NORC poll: Majority in US want legal abortion nationally. (Let's see if they vote like it in November.) Meanwhile, "the right to use contraceptives would be enshrined in law under a measure that Democrats pushed through the House on Thursday, their latest campaign-season response to concerns a conservative Supreme Court that already erased federal abortion rights could go further." (The Senate is where the rubbers hit the road.)

+ Pharma, Bro: "The retail health care giant instructed pharmacies to check why customers need medications such as methotrexate—and to refuse to provide them if they can't prove they're not for an abortion." After Roe's Repeal, CVS Told Pharmacists to Withhold Certain Prescriptions. (The latest in a series of stories reminding you that corporations won't save us.)

+ Poppy Seeds of Despair: "Hundreds of men, strung out on heroin, opium and meth, were strewn over the hillside overlooking Kabul, some in tents, some lying in the dirt. Dogs skulked around because they sometimes give them drugs, and there were bodies of overdosed dogs amid the garbage. Men here as well slip, quiet and alone, across the line from oblivion and despair to death. 'There's a dead man next to you,' someone told me as I picked my way among them, taking pictures." AP Photos: Despair and poverty fuel drug use in Afghanistan.

+ Yimby: "Even after Manchin's decadeslong efforts to upend environmental policy that would undercut the fossil fuel companies funding his political campaigns (and the waste coal industry generating his personal fortune), he and his wife, Gayle Manchin, have directed millions of federal dollars to a small, pristine valley in West Virginia where the couple owns a condo."

+ Gas Backwards: OK, there are caveats. The Ukraine invasion or other global crises could get worse. Weather or politics could cause a disruption in oil and refining operations. And of course, hurricane season is a "wild card." But it looks like Gasoline prices may have peaked for the summer and could be headed below $4.


Bottom of the News

"Call them dog spas or simply pet salons, but don't dismiss them as a fad. Pet owners' tendency to splurge generously on their beloved animals is only growing. As the covid pandemic brought a surge of pet ownership in various countries, the market size for producers of pet products, including grooming services, is only going to expand, reaching $28 billion by the end of the decade." Everything you ever wanted to know about the massive pet grooming industry. (Amazon will probably get into this business, too...)