May 16th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Cool Beans, Debt Ceiling Our Fate, the Smile Coach

Maybe it’s cultural. Maybe there’s a socioeconomic stigma. Maybe it was that scene in Blazing Saddles. Whatever it is, Americans don’t eat that many beans, even though beans solve a lot of problems being addressed by much more complicated and expensive solutions. Vox: Eat more beans. Please. “There’s a simple way to provide plenty of protein that doesn’t require animals or plant-based startups: beans. Beans are high in protein, efficient to grow, and can even improve soil health. They cost less than conventional or new plant-based meats, and they’re increasingly getting attention among foodies. As one global campaign to double bean consumption by 2028 frames it, the answer to the question of how we can get inexpensive protein without sacrificing animals or the planet is simple: ‘Beans is how.'” Cool beans.


Ceiling Fate

The debt ceiling should be non-negotiatable. Yet, there’s a negotiation going on. That alone seems like a political defeat. What’s being negotiated? What’s at stake? What’s the debt ceiling? Let’s review. First, here are some answers to several questions you had but were too embarrassed to ask. Next, from WaPo: 7 doomsday scenarios if the U.S. crashes through the debt ceiling. Here’s the chief economist of Moody’s with an overview of what happens if no deal is reached. “It would be a lethal combination. You can see how this thing could really metastasize and take down the entire financial system, which would ultimately take out the economy.”

+ Slate: “Because Senate Democrats lack 60 votes to pass a so-called clean debt limit increase, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been able to force the Biden administration to the negotiating table with this bill. But there is some spin at work here from Biden’s team. The administration, which had refused to negotiate over the debt ceiling, is saying that it’s negotiating with Republicans just on the normal budget and appropriations process. Uh-huh.”

+ The Atlantic (Free Article): “The White House and Congress have not made much progress in their talks to avert an unprecedented, and potentially calamitous, national default that could occur as soon as early June. But on the most fundamental point of dispute, President Joe Biden has already caved: He’s negotiating with Republicans over the debt ceiling.”


Service with a Smile

“People started realizing that they hadn’t used their cheek or mouth muscles very much … And you can’t just suddenly start using these muscles. You need to work on them.” NYT (Gift Article): Japan Is Unmasking, and Its Smile Coach Is Busy. “After three years of Covid-era masking, some Japanese people feel their facial expressions are a bit rusty. Enter Keiko Kawano, smile instructor.” (I doubt this is really a widespread trend. But I’m a news curator and I haven’t smiled since 2016, and even then, it was more of a smirk. I don’t even feel comfortable using the smile emoji.)


Roid Gauge

“About 66 million years ago, it’s believed, the dinosaurs were wiped out in part by the impact of a 10-kilometer-wide asteroid, killing most land-based life in a matter of hours as molten debris rained down. The impact also blanketed our planet in dust and soot, blocking out the light of the sun and causing a decades-long winter.” So when is the next one hitting? According to a new study, we’ve got some breathing room. Earth is probably safe from a killer asteroid for 1,000 years. (They said the same thing about debt ceiling negotiations.)


Extra, Extra

Absent Minded: “Some students consistently miss a couple of days a week, while others may leave during the day or escape to the nurse or counselor’s office. In some extreme cases, students don’t step foot in a school for months or years at a time.” Students are increasingly refusing to go to school. It’s becoming a mental health crisis.

+ Big Nut: “It’s a fire hose of cash aimed at destroying American liberal culture through lawsuits and support for politicians challenging gay rights, unions, environmental protection, voting rights, and public education. The money will last a good long while. Philanthropic recipients usually follow a 5 percent rule: They try not to spend more than 5 percent of the endowment per year. Seid’s pile is so large that it could return an average $136 million a year, or north of $230 million on a good year, to influence U.S. law and policy. Without ever having to touch the nut.” Who Is Leonard Leo’s Mysterious Dark Money King?

+ Worship Wreck: “Just 16% of Americans surveyed said religion is the most important thing in their lives … down from 20% a decade ago.” The importance of religion in the lives of Americans is shrinking. But the influence of those to whom it’s important feels stronger than ever. See the story above.

+ Ven Diagram: “And so began their six-month journey north, a perilous trek through swamps and raging rivers, covering their children’s eyes from the sight of bodies of other migrants who died along the way. From Caracas to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, then to El Paso, Texas and ultimately New York City, surviving machete-wielding gangs, threats of extortion and all in the knowledge they may just be turned away at the border.” A photo essay from Bloomberg (Gift Article): ‘We Didn’t Have a Choice’: One Family’s Perilous Escape From Venezuela to NYC.

+ Following the Party Line: “Threats of violence against the LGBTQ community are on the rise and intensifying, according to a new briefing by the Department of Homeland Security.” (Policies and political speech have an impact.)

+ Eyes on the High Rise: “When they installed the new surveillance system, local officials promised it would help tamp down a gang war menacing this forgotten steel town. But residents of Steubenville public housing soon learned the cameras were pointed at them.” WaPo: Eyes on the poor: Cameras, facial recognition watch over public housing.

+ Sting Operation: “Hundreds of bees swarmed the Los Angeles neighborhood of Encino Monday, and authorities said that the chaos that ensued resulted in two people, including one police volunteer, being sent to the hospital.”


Bottom of the News

“Each team is made up of one sheep and five people: one shearer, three spinners, and a weaver. The team has three hours to shear the sheep, card the wool, spin the wool into yarn, and then weave that yarn into an award-winning shawl.” In the Sheep to Shawl competition, people will do whatever it takes to be considered the GOAT.

+ At 81, Martha Stewart becomes oldest Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model.

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