Thursday, February 2nd, 2023


Takin’ it to the Streets

For the past few months, NextDraft has been following along with the travels of my friends Robbi and Matthew who have taken their four kids on the Busload of Books tour. So far they've traveled 16,731 miles, visited 33 Title 1 schools in 33 states, and given away 16,000 books. The roadtrip has taken them (and us) to where the rubber hits the road, below 24-hour news channel airwaves, beneath the smokescreen of political atmospherics, right down to the streets of main street America. It turns out that the kids and teachers at the schools the bus has parked in front of don't talk about politics and don't discuss whether they're in a blue state or a red state. They're not obsessed with critical race theory and they know that Covid wasn't a political issue to attack each other over but rather a really sad, traumatic experience that hurt our kids—yes, because of missed school, but also because of all the death—and stressed our educators. They're not threatened by books nor are they requesting book bans. Instead, many of the kids Robbi and Matthew visit spend the first few moments with their new books smelling them, touching them, and listening to the the crackling of the binding. Why? Because most of them have never owned a new book before. That's the real story we're being distracted from when we focus on all the polarizing social media inflamed political bile being served up by those who benefit from divisiveness, a group that too often includes the media. The real story is not the cultural divide, it's the economic one.

I'll let Robbi and Matthew tell you what they've seen: "Kids suffering from hunger, homelessness, and trauma. Students grappling with having lost family members to violence, drugs, and Covid. It's hard to teach a kid to read when they're exhausted from watching their siblings while their mom works three jobs—or because they've been placed in a foster home because both parents are struggling with addiction. Imagine having to navigate these situations at age eight and then be expected to learn your times tables. Poverty is the underlying problem. Not the schools. Not the teachers. Not the kids."

In addition to the 16,000 books, Robbi and Matthew have also given and received close to that many hugs. That's the other untold story about America. We're not that different, we're not that hateful, and we might even want to hug each other when we meet in person instead of viewing each other through the prism of our modern distortion field. Yes, this is an unusual lead item for me, but some days the biggest news is something that's not in the news at all. And I didn't want you to miss the bus.


Phil in the Blanks

Those who live in one of the many states experiencing a massive ice storm won't be surprised to learn that Punxsutawney Phil has predicted more winter in the annual Groundhog Day celebration. If you don't want to take your weather predictions from a rodent, then you can always wait to hear the forecast from George Santos. But be aware, "over the past 75 years, Punxsutawney Phil has correctly predicted whether there will be an early spring 69% of the time."

+ How Groundhog Day came to the U.S. — and why we still celebrate it 137 years later.

+ If nothing else, Groundhog Day is a playful, fun, lighthearted tradition. Except when it isn't. A Canadian groundhog was found dead just before he was supposed to predict if we'd get more winter. "This year, things are going to happen completely differently. There's a famous saying that goes, 'In life, there's only one certainty: nothing's for certain.' Well, this year, that has come true. It's true. It's unfortunate. I'm here to announce Fred's death."


Mozart Requiem

"The Mozart Group, one of the most prominent, private American military organizations in Ukraine, has collapsed under a cloud of accusations ranging from financial improprieties to alcohol-addled misjudgments. Its struggles provide a revealing window into the world of foreign volunteer groups that have flocked to Ukraine with noble intentions only to be tripped up by the stresses of managing a complicated enterprise in a war zone." The NYT (Gift Article) with a look at one of the many private groups that so often play a significant role in modern warzones (and local watering holes). Hard Drinking and Murky Finances: How an American Veterans Group Imploded in Ukraine.

+ Another modern fight is the one that features big news sites that report on stories previously broken by other outlets without ever mentioning those previous stories. So for more on this, check out The Intercept: U.S. Military Vets in Ukraine Are Fighting Each Other in Court.


Usurping the Burping

"Last year, New Zealand — which has pledged to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 — proposed a first-in-the-world tax on cow emissions. The levy will depend on factors including the number of animals kept, the size of the farm, the type of fertilizer used and steps farmers take to reduce their emissions. It's expected to reduce the amount of methane New Zealand's livestock release into the atmosphere by as much as 47 percent by 2050." WaPo (Gift Article): How New Zealand plans to tackle climate change: Taxing cow burps. In part because of these burps, agriculture makes up half of the NZ's emissions.


Extra, Extra

Separate Reality: Close to 1,000 migrant children separated by Trump yet to be reunited with parents. If you missed it back in August, here's the most exhaustive coverage of the family separations from Caitlin Dickerson in The Atlantic: We need to take away children.

+ Payback Time: "The Republican-led House of Representatives voted on Thursday to pass a resolution to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee."

+ Hindenburg Disaster: "Hindenburg isn't exposing the alleged scam purely as a public service, however. It holds short positions in the Adani Group, which means that Hindenburg will gain financially if Adani's shares fall. The short seller has a track record of blowing the whistle on corporate fraud around the world, from the United States to China." How Asia's ex-richest man lost nearly $50 billion in just over a week.

+ Around We Go: "With the deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.
The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints - Taiwan and the South China Sea." US secures deal on Philippines bases to complete arc around China.

+ Sink Whole: "Somewhere in the South Atlantic ocean right now, a 34,000-ton, 870-ft. aircraft carrier is floating aimlessly on the waves. The vessel, caught in an international dispute over its toxic contents, is about to become one of the biggest pieces of trash in the ocean." No one will let Brazil dismantle it's potentially toxic aircraft carrier. So they're gonna just sink it instead.

+ Say What? An L.A. County police department is facing intense criticism after a video surfaced of two officers fatally shooting a double amputee moving away from them.

+ Counting Your Chickens: NYT: "Which shortage came first: the chicks or the eggs? Spooked by a huge spike in egg prices, some consumers are taking steps to secure their own future supply. Demand for chicks that will grow into egg-laying chickens — which jumped at the onset of the global pandemic in 2020 — is rapid again as the 2023 selling season starts, leaving hatcheries scrambling to keep up." (Mixing news with cheap puns is really inappropriate!)


Bottom of the News

Nomo Fomo for Momo: For two years, a zoo in southern Japan had been puzzled by a mystery: How did Momo, a gibbon kept alone in her cage, get pregnant? Spoiler alert: Glory Hole. Bigger question: Why do humans keep animals in cages alone?

+ New Mexico could be first state with official aroma.

+ You're familiar with wedding registries. Introducing divorce registrees.