Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023


The Game of Life

Life is like a sporting event. You can be favored by all the experts, you can have all the advantages going into the competition, you can talk trash; but in the end, the only thing that really matters is the final score. And when it comes to final scores, especially the one that matters most, America is losing. "After decades of progress, life expectancy — long regarded as a singular benchmark of a nation's success — peaked in 2014 at 78.9 years, then drifted downward even before the coronavirus pandemic. Among wealthy nations, the United States in recent decades went from the middle of the pack to being an outlier. And it continues to fall further and further behind." WaPo (Gift Article): An Epidemic of Chronic Illness Is Killing Us Too Soon. But the years are not being shaved off equally. I've repeatedly described the economic divide as America's everything story. And when I say everything, I mean everything. "America is increasingly a country of haves and have-nots, measured not just by bank accounts and property values but also by vital signs and grave markers. Dying prematurely has become the most telling measure of the nation's growing inequality."

+ It doesn't take a college degree to do this math: No one covers these trends better than Anne Case and Angus Deaton. NYT (Gift Article): Without a College Degree, Life in America Is Staggeringly Shorter. "What the economic statistics obscure in the averages is that there is not one but two Americas — and a clear line demarcating the division is educational attainment. Americans with four-year college degrees are flourishing economically, while those without are struggling. Worse still, as we discovered in new research, the America of those without college degrees has been scarred by death and a staggeringly shorter life span."

+ Your Life Expectancy is in the Red: The economic divide isn't the only thing that impacts life expectancy. The political divide is also a factor. WaPo (Gift Article): How Red-State Politics Are Shaving Years Off American Lives. "Many of those early deaths can be traced to decisions made years ago by local and state lawmakers over whether to implement cigarette taxes, invest in public health or tighten seat-belt regulations, among other policies."

+ It turns out that fighting Disney and drag shows and books and science can take years off your life, literally. And like life expectancy numbers, the politics of ignorance is trending in the wrong direction. Stat News: As conservative views collide with science, doctors find themselves navigating political landmines.


The Call is Coming From Inside the House

Another day of craziness is taking place at the House of Representatives. Kevin McCarthy's bad and short run as Speaker could be nearing its end as several members of his party are pushing a motion to vacate and the Dems aren't willing to save him. Basically, the guy who has continually trashed the institution is getting the boot for being too much of an institutionalist. Here's the latest, if you can stomach it.


Dollars to Donuts

It's time to discuss a trial about fraud, fake money, big lies, celebrities, and politics. No, not that trial. The other one. Bloomberg (Gift Article) provides the background as jury selection gets underway. From $26 Billion to Bust: Sam Bankman-Fried's Astonishing Rise and Fall.


Fake It Til You Break It

"Just two days before Slovakia's elections, an audio recording was posted to Facebook. On it were two voices: allegedly, Michal Šimečka, who leads the liberal Progressive Slovakia party, and Monika Tódová from the daily newspaper Denník N. They appeared to be discussing how to rig the election, partly by buying votes from the country's marginalized Roma minority." WiredUK: Slovakia's Election Deepfakes Show AI Is a Danger to Democracy.


Extra, Extra

Alflafa Spout: "Fondomonte was unique in that its leases allowed it to draw water from a groundwater supply earmarked as a possible future source for Phoenix and other metro areas. Fondomonte's presence in western Arizona became a political lightning rod as policymakers grappled with a megadrought." Arizona moves to end Saudi farm's controversial groundwater deals to grow, export alfalfa. Yes, the Saudis were drinking Arizona's milkshake. This is part of a much bigger story over the global battle for water.

+ When Ally is a Lie: "Ronald Reagan's steadfast opposition to Moscow was one of the reasons I was a young GOP voter in the 1980s—but now the party is saddled with a group of shortsighted appeasers, buttressed by a squad of right-wing cranks, who would doom tens of millions of innocent people to Russian President Vladimir Putin's butchery just to own the libs." Tom Nichols in The Atlantic (Gift Article): Why the GOP Extremists Oppose Ukraine.

+ Watching the Detectives: "The police chief who led an August raid on a small weekly newspaper in central Kansas resigned Monday, just days after he was suspended from his post and following the release of body camera video of the raid showing an officer searching the desk of a reporter investigating the chief's past." (Considering the fact that he used the police force for personal retribution, is a resignation enough?)

+ Strike Could Strike Again: "More than 75,000 healthcare workers at the US's largest non-profit private healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente, are poised to strike on 4 October in the largest healthcare strike in US history."

+ Confirmed: "A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers' because ‘there is nothing in it for them.' A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn't look good for me.' A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family – for all Gold Star families – on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America's defense are ‘losers' and wouldn't visit their graves in France ... A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law. There is nothing more that can be said. God help us." It took a lot longer than many would have liked, but John Kelly finally confirmed all the stories about Trump. (If you think this will shake his supporters, I've got a billion dollar property in Florida I'd like to sell you...).

+ How White Nationalists Bagged an Elephant: "In the nearly 18 months since then, many of the decisions Musk made after he bought Twitter appear to have closely followed that road map, up to and including his ongoing attacks against the Anti-Defamation League." What was Elon Musk's strategy for Twitter?

+ Positive Electron News: "Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L'Huillier received the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for using attosecond-scale pulses of light to study the motions of electrons." (Darn. I had the same idea but never got around to doing it.)

+ Finger Tip: "Investigators were able to identify a fingerprint from a ransom note allegedly left by the suspect." 9-year-old who vanished from New York state park found safe and man linked to ransom note arrested.


Bottom of the News

"Just last year Málaga announced it would be fining people up to €750 if they walked down the street with a plastic penis on their head." The underwear backlash: why Seville is telling rowdy tourists to get dressed.

+ "According to NBC, the game drew an additional 2 million female viewers. Viewership among teen girls aged 12-17 grew 53% from the season-to-date average." A lot of new fans tuned in to watch Taylor Swift watch a football game.