Monday, May 22nd, 2023


Reckless Abandon

"Now, after more than 16,000 miles, Taiba and her family had finally reached it: the American border. In the darkness, Taiba crawled into a drainage tunnel under a highway. When she emerged, she saw two enormous steel fences, the last barriers between her old life and what she hoped would be a new one. A smuggler flung a ladder over the first wall. Taiba gripped the rungs and began to climb into the country that had helped define her. She knew the Americans were turning away asylum seekers. A single thought consumed her. Once she got in, would they let her stay?" This is no ordinary, extraordinary story about a long, dangerous trek to the American border where another long, treacherous experience awaits. It's not ordinary because of the people making the trek. This is the story of some of the Afghans that America left behind and their efforts to make it here on their own. "Taiba's entire life had been shaped by the American vision of a democratic Afghanistan: She had studied law, worked with the Americans to fight violence against women and ultimately became a top government official for women's rights, gathering testimony that put abusers away. But after saving so many women's lives, she was suddenly trying to save her own. She and her husband, Ali, pleaded for help from a half-dozen nations — many of which they'd worked with — and found an American refugee program they might be eligible for. Taiba said she sent off her information, but never heard back. 'They left us behind,' she said of the Americans. 'Sometimes I think maybe God left all Afghans behind.'" NYT (Gift Article): The U.S. Left Them Behind. They Crossed a Jungle to Get Here Anyway.


House Floor to Ceiling

"President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday afternoon to discuss a path forward to avert a debt limit crisis, with only days left until the Treasury Department could be unable to pay the nation's bills." (Remember when it took 15 votes to elect Kevin McCarthy as Speaker because of the lunatics who held the process hostage? Those same lunatics currently hold the world economy in their hands. And we don't have time for 15 votes on an issue that shouldn't even be up for debate.)


The Valley of Death?

It's not personal, it's strictly business. "If you go into battle with old school technology...and you have an adversary that knows how to install and implement digitalized targeting in A.I., you obviously are at a massive disadvantage." Was that an American general? No, it was the CEO of Palantir. The Ukraine invasion may seem like a distant war from your perspective. But it's a new front in the battle for Silicon Valley to sell its wares. NYT (Gift Article): Start-Ups Bring Silicon Valley Ethos to a Lumbering Military-Industrial Complex."Each of these systems is getting real-world testing in the war in Ukraine, earning praise from top government officials there and validating investors who have been pouring money into the field."

+ It's not business, it's strictly personal. The New Yorker's Luke Mogelson spent weeks in a place where the war isn't viewed as a theater for testing tech advances or selling wares, it's viewed in terms of life and death. Two Weeks at the Front in Ukraine. "'The first couple of weeks, I was so f-cking scared ... I ran whenever there was shooting.' Gunshots and explosions gave him migraines, which exacerbated his anxiety. He'd been there for six weeks and had not so much mastered his fear as accepted the illogic of running: there was nowhere to escape to. All the same, he was so timid by nature that it was difficult to imagine him repulsing a Russian attack. 'I hate weapons and violence,' he said with wide-eyed incredulity, as if he still could not believe where he was. 'I'm just trying to stay alive until I can get home.'"


A Chip From the Old Block

"Brooks Koepka carded a 3-under 67 in the final round, finishing at 9 under for the tournament to win the Wanamaker Trophy for the third time." And yet somehow, Koepka winning the PGA Championship for his 5th major title wasn't the biggest story from this year's PGA. That came courtesy of Michael Block, a SoCal teaching pro who made the cut (amazing), finished in top 15 (unthinkable), and even hit a final day hole in one (Do you believe in miracles?). Block on his legendary weekend and being mobbed by fans. "I'm living a dream. I'm making sure that I enjoy this moment. I've learned that after my 46 years of life, it's not going to get better than this. There's no way. No chance in hell. So I'm going to enjoy this."


Extra, Extra

River Dance: "The agreement, announced on Monday, will involve the three states, water districts, Native American tribes and farm operators cutting about 13% of the total water use in the lower Colorado basin, a historic reduction that will probably trigger significant water restrictions on the region's residents and farmland." US states agree breakthrough deal to prevent Colorado River from drying up. (Now let's see if Mother Nature signs onto the deal.)

+ Pain American: Want to find an issue that unites Americans? Consider chronic pain. It's more common than diabetes or depression, and it's getting worse each year.

+ From Victim to Suspect: An update on a case I covered last week: Mexico prosecutors withdraw case against woman sentenced to prison for killing man raping her. She faced six years in prison and was going to have to pay a fine to her rapist's family. Sadly, blaming the victim in rape cases is anything but rare. (I'll share more about this in Weekend Whats, but a great documentary is dropping this week in Netflix. Victim/Suspect follows a journalist from the Center for Investigative Reporting as she uncovers a pattern of authorities turning the tables on rape victims. Incredible reporting on a terrible trend.)

+ Stampede: "Fans angry at being blocked from entering a Salvadoran soccer league match despite having tickets knocked down a small access gate to the stadium, creating a crush that killed 12 people and injured dozens."

+ American Exceptionalism: WiredUK on Why Suicide Rates Are Dropping Around the World. Well, not everywhere around the world. "One high-income country is a particular exception to the downward trend: the US. Though rates in the country declined throughout the 1990s, at the turn of the century they began to rise again. Between 2000 and 2018, the suicide rate jumped 35 percent. Suicide is the second-highest cause of death among young Americans aged 10–14 and 20–35 years old. You might be shouting: The answer is guns! And you'd be mostly right."

+ Babs of Steal: "The Streisand effect is an unintended consequence of attempts to hide, remove, or censor information, where it instead leads to increased awareness of that information." It's incredibly common. How did it get that name? Tech journalist Mike Masnick gives the backstory (and he should know it, since he came up with the term). Twenty Years Ago Today: Barbra Streisand Sued A Photographer And The Streisand Effect Was Born.

+ The Have Knotts: This is the story of what happened when people liked one woman's fried chicken. Like, really liked it. "The restaurant exploded in popularity. On a Sunday, they'd feed something like 6,000 people. When all those people started coming to the restaurant, some had to wait three or more hours for a meal. All those hungry people needed something to keep themselves occupied." Her fried chicken drew crowds. He built Knott's Berry Farm to keep them busy.


Bottom of the News

"The two men glide through Tokyo's bustling Ikebukuro district in full-length samurai outfits, while wielding objects that look like swords. They are members of the Gomi Hiroi Samurai or the trash-collecting samurai." Tokyo's trash-collecting samurai takes a fun, zany approach to cleanup.

+ Aubrey Plaza Rewatches Parks & Rec.

+ I'm not huge Starbucks aficionado but I am a renown ice connoisseur, and this is big. Starbucks Is Slowly Switching to Pebble Ice.