Pounding Sand in the Desert

The World's Infected Sore, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday

The Middle East conflict is the world’s infected, open sore. You can put a bandage on it, but ultimately, the pathogen can’t be ignored; and while the impact is most acute in a small, localized region, the impacts of the disease can be felt throughout the global body politic. There is no easy remedy for the latest incarnation of this deadly disease. There is no spoonful of sugar with the medicine. There is no solution to dull the pain. There is no way to attack the disease without damaging the healthy tissue that surrounds it. Any suggestion of a miracle cure is a hallucination; a mirage in a desert once more deserted by hope. Yes, the horrific, ISIS-like terror must be answered with a forceful response. If you imagine some justification for rape, murder, baby killing, and hostage taking, you’ve lost your way. As Helen Lewis asks in The Atlantic (Gift Article): “Can you condemn the slaughter of civilians, in massacres that now appear to have been calculatedly sadistic and outrageous, without equivocation or whataboutism? Can you lay down, for a moment, your legitimate criticisms of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, West Bank settlements, and the conditions in Gaza, and express horror at the mass murder of civilians?” And yes, the ensuing loss of life among innocent Palestinians in Gaza is heartbreaking. If you can’t feel that, you’ve lost your humanity and there’s really not much left to fight for. Even hardened soldiers can be conflicted by the conflict. Here are some thoughts from Nir Avishai Cohen, an IDF reservist, as he headed from Austin, Texas, to the front line. NYT (Gift Article): I’m Going to War for Israel. Palestinians Are Not My Enemy. “I am now going to defend my country against enemies who want to kill my people. Our enemies are the deadly terrorist organizations that are being controlled by Islamic extremists. Palestinians aren’t the enemy. The millions of Palestinians who live right here next to us, between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan, are not our enemy. Just like the majority of Israelis want to live a calm, peaceful and dignified life, so do Palestinians.” To that, let’s say, Amen.

+ Roger Cohen in the NYT: A Shaken Israel Is Forced Back to Its Eternal Dilemma. Cohen gave an interview to Lawrence O’Donnell that’s worth a watch.

+ Rachel Goldberg’s son Hersh was named after relatives killed in the Holocaust. My son carries the same name with the same weighty legacy. But for Rachel’s Hersh, the dark history has come full circle. “Terrorists attacked the shelter, blowing off Hersh’s arm from the elbow down by machine gun fire or a grenade or both. According to witnesses, Hersh, a 23-year-old American-born U.S. citizen, was then ordered into a pickup truck by armed Hamas terrorists and driven toward the Gaza border. The police told us the last known location of his mobile phone was on the Gaza border early Saturday afternoon. I don’t know if he is dead or alive or if I will ever see him again.” NYT (Gift Article): I Hope Someone Somewhere Is Being Kind to My Boy.

+ Noam Bardin, former CEO of Waze and founder of Post News, is providing updates from Israel. He does a good job of illustrating how many Israelis have come together for their country, in spite of the leadership that has been letting them down for years.

+ One of the goals of Hamas is working, at least for now. Bloomberg: Saudi Arabia has paused diplomacy to normalize ties with Israel amid the violence between Hamas militants and Israeli forces. Here’s the latest from CNN, BBC, and AP.


Loss Leader

The House of Reps remains leaderless. “By failing to coalesce behind a candidate, Republicans have plunged the House into uncharted territory and effectively frozen the chamber at a time when major international and domestic crises loom, from Israel’s war against Hamas to a potential government shutdown in mid-November. All eyes are now on Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as he jumps into the speaker’s race after Majority Leader Steve Scalise abruptly withdrew … GOP Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia announced Friday he intends to run for speaker.” (If your response is, Who?, you’re not alone.)

+ Meanwhile, the de-facto leader of these potential leaders has been about as bad as you’d imagine when it comes to the Hamas massacre. Trump’s turn against Israel offers stark reminder of what his diplomacy looks like. (It’s amazing that anyone still needs a reminder.)


Fridge Benefits

“The road to where we are today began in 1986, when Las Vegas oddsmakers started taking bets on whether the Chicago Bears’ defensive tackle William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry would score a touchdown in that year’s Super Bowl. This is believed to have been the American gambling industry’s first formal prop bet—a wager that is not directly contingent on the final score of a sporting event.” The trend caught on, and not just when it comes to football or even sports in general. You Can Bet on Anything Now.


Weekend Whats

What to Book: Nathan Hill, author of the excellent novel, The Nix, is out with a new novel that tackles love, marriage, and our quest for self-improvement. Check out Wellness.

+ What to Doc: I knew very little about the Nissan CEO-turned-fugitive Carlos Ghosn. It is amazing story with a whole lot of shady characters. On AppleTV, watch Wanted the Escape of Garlos Ghosn.

+ What to Newsletter: Most of the time I’m not browsing the news, I’m watching sports. Kendall Baker and Jeff Tracy do a great job providing an early-morning rundown of the latest happenings in Yahoo Sports AM.


Extra, Extra

Doing Gymnastics To Pay Health Bills: There’s definitely a broader metaphor in the fact that celebrated American gymnast Mary Lou Retton, who once raised her arms on the cover of the Wheaties Box, was reduced to crowd-funding to pay for her medical bills. Unlike the average American, she was able to beat her goal. NYT (Gift Article): Mary Lou Retton Crowdfunded Her Medical Debt, Like Many Thousands of Others.

+ Smell Test: “The resulting program can, given a molecule’s structure, predict how it will smell as a combination of the existing odor labels.” Computers Are Learning to Smell. (It’s only a matter of time before your new AI companion suggests that you take a shower.)

+ Turf Toehold: “After New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his left Achilles on the turf at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 11, NFLPA executive director Lloyd Howell called on owners to convert all 30 stadiums to grass. In subsequent interviews with players, league and union officials, along with unaffiliated experts, ESPN worked to understand whether Howell’s request is a possibility, why the two sides are interpreting their shared data so differently and whether plans for the 2026 World Cup will provide a more agreeable way forward.” Inside the NFL turf debate. (As any longtime reader of NextDraft knows, I’m pro grass.)

+ Solving for Hup, Two, Three, Four: “‘If the Department of Defense schools were a state, we would all be traveling there to figure out what’s going on,’ said Martin West, an education professor at Harvard.” NYT: Who Runs the Best U.S. Schools? It May Be the Defense Department.

+ Flip Off: “A large team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions across Europe, has found evidence backing up work by Persi Diaconis in 2007 in which he suggested tossed coins are more likely to land on the same side they started on, rather than on the reverse.” Flipped coins found not to be as fair as thought.


Feel Good Friday

“In the world of spooky commerce, there’s one name that rises above the rest: Spirit Halloween. The seasonal retailer sells costumes, decorations and just about anything else somebody might need for Halloween.” It’s spooky how fast Spirit Halloween stores pop up. Here’s how the retailer does it. (There’s a story about junk that ends up in a landfill here, but it’s Friday and we need to focus on the feel good.)

+ Climate change is bad. But there are a lot of people making great efforts to improve the situation. NPR: Wonderful and wild stories about tackling climate change.

+ “Charles Feeney, a philanthropist who Bill Gates once called the ‘ultimate example of Giving While Living,’ has passed away at the age of 92. Feeney, over the course of his life, gave more than $8 billion to charities, often anonymously.” (His relatives are like, “OK, explain to me how this is feel good…”)

+ Kaiser Permanente and unions reach tentative agreement one week after strike.

+ A winning ticket sold in California nabs a Powerball jackpot of more than $1.7 billion. (Sure, but it’s no big deal after taxes…)

+ Sarah Sunny: How India’s first deaf lawyer made history in Supreme Court.

+ Sam Sieracki breaks Guinness World Record for solving Rubik’s Cube while skydiving. (Thank goodness someone finally addressed this need.)

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