June 12, 2018 in 3,663 words

Today Is the 2nd Anniversary of the Pulse Massacre in Orlando, Florida

The deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in US history resulted in 49 people dead and 53 wounded

First They Came for the Migrants

Pictured above: Men from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras being detained by Border Patrol officers north of Penitas, Tex., last week.

The sci-fi writer William Gibson once said, “The future has arrived — it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” In America in 2018, the same could be said of authoritarianism.

Since Donald Trump was elected, there’s been a boom in best-selling books about the fragility of liberal democracy, including Madeleine Albright’s “Fascism: A Warning,” and Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny.” Many have noted that the president’s rhetoric abounds in classic fascist tropes, including the demonization of minorities and attempts to paint the press as treasonous. Trump is obviously more comfortable with despots like Russia’s Vladimir Putin than democrats like Canada’s Justin Trudeau.

We still talk about American fascism as a looming threat, something that could happen if we’re not vigilant. But for undocumented immigrants, it’s already here.

There are countless horror stories about what’s happening to immigrants under Trump. Just last week, we learned that a teenager from Iowa who had lived in America since he was 3 was killed shortly after his forced return to Mexico. This month, an Ecuadorean immigrant with an American citizen wife and a pending green card application was detained at a Brooklyn military base where he’d gone to deliver a pizza; a judge has temporarily halted his deportation, but he remains locked up. Immigration officers are boarding trains and buses and demanding that passengers show them their papers. On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions decreed that most people fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence would no longer be eligible for asylum.

Keilyn Enamorada Matute, from Honduras, sitting with her four-year old son, as they surrender themselves to Border Patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico to the United States on June 8.

But what really makes Trump’s America feel like a rogue state is the administration’s policy of taking children from migrants caught crossing the border unlawfully, even if the parents immediately present themselves to the authorities to make asylum claims. “This is as bad as I’ve ever seen in 25 years of doing this work,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the A.C.L.U.’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told me. “The little kids are literally being terrorized.”

If Trump wants to blow up the world order, who will stop him?

As horrified as we may be at Trump’s uncouth antics, it is important to understand the tectonic shifts underpinning them.

‘Trump takes a look at the trade flows with the rest of the G7 and comes to an inescapable conclusion: he cannot possibly lose a trade war.’

Donald Trump’s early departure, and his subsequent refusal to endorse the G7 communique, has thrown the mainstream press into an apoplexy reflecting a deeper incomprehension of our unfolding global reality.

In a bid to mix toughness with humour, Emmanuel Macron had quipped that the G7 might become the … G6. That’s absurd, not least because without the United States, capitalism as we know it (let alone the pitiful G7 gatherings) would disappear from the planet’s face.

There is, of course, little doubt that with Trump in the White House there is an awful lot we should be angst-ridden about. However, the establishment’s reaction to the president’s shenanigans, in the United States and in Europe, is perhaps an even greater worry for progressives, replete as it is with dangerous wishful thinking and copious miscalculation.

Some put their faith in the Mueller investigation, assuming that Mike Pence would be kinder to them as president. Others are holding their breath until 2020, refusing to consider the possibility of a second term. What they all fail to grasp is the very real tectonic shifts underpinning Trump’s uncouth antics.

The Trump administration is building up a substantial economic momentum domestically. First, he passed income and corporate tax cuts that the establishment Republicans could not have imagined even in their wildest dreams a few years ago. But this was not all. Behind the scenes, Trump astonished Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat’s leader in the House of Representatives, by approving every single social program that she asked of him. As a result, the federal government is running the largest budget deficit in America’s history when the rate of unemployment is less than 4%.

Meet the guys who tape Trump’s papers back together

The president’s unofficial ‘filing system’ involves tearing up documents into pieces, even when they’re supposed to be preserved.

President Donald Trump signs a bill in the Oval Office on June 5. Trump’s tendency to rip up documents he is legally required to preserve has concerned White House aides.

Solomon Lartey spent the first five months of the Trump administration working in the Old Executive Office Building, standing over a desk with scraps of paper spread out in front of him.

Lartey, who earned an annual salary of $65,969 as a records management analyst, was a career government official with close to 30 years under his belt. But he had never seen anything like this in any previous administration he had worked for. He had never had to tape the president’s papers back together again.

Armed with rolls of clear Scotch tape, Lartey and his colleagues would sift through large piles of shredded paper and put them back together, he said, “like a jigsaw puzzle.” Sometimes the papers would just be split down the middle, but other times they would be torn into pieces so small they looked like confetti.

It was a painstaking process that was the result of a clash between legal requirements to preserve White House records and President Donald Trump’s odd and enduring habit of ripping up papers when he’s done with them — what some people described as his unofficial “filing system.”

Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records.

Trees That Have Lived for Millennia Are Suddenly Dying

The oldest baobabs are collapsing, and there’s only one likely explanation.

A baobab tree in the Okavango delta

Around 1,500 years ago, shortly after the collapse of the Roman Empire, a baobab tree started growing in what is now Namibia. The San people would eventually name the tree Homasi, and others would call it Grootboom, after the Afrikaans words for “big tree.” As new empires rose and fell, Homasi continued growing. As humans invented paper money, printing presses, cars, and computers, Homasi sprouted new twigs, branches, and even stems, becoming a five-trunked behemoth with a height of 32 meters and a girth to match.

And then, in 2004, it collapsed.

The tree’s demise was sudden and unexpected. In March, at the end of the rainy season, Homasi was in full bloom. But by late June, its health had suddenly deteriorated. One by one, its stems broke off from the gargantuan trunk and toppled. The last of them fell on New Year’s Day, 2005, ending 15 centuries of life.

Common throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the African baobab is one of the biggest flowering plants in the world, and reputedly one of the longest-lived. It’s also known as the upside-down tree, because its bare branches look like roots, or as the monkey bread tree, because of its nutritious and edible fruit. It’s exceptionally long-lived, but recently, several of the oldest baobabs have been dying. Homasi, for example, was part of a grove of seven baobabs, six of which perished within a two-year period.

Can Turning Air into Gasoline Really Reverse Climate Change?

A conceptual drawing of the carbon-capture system. This unit would be one of many that would capture 1 million tonnes of carbon per year.

Scientists say they’ve developed a new technological solution to the climate crisis: an affordable method for sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to turn it into gasoline. But how does this process even work? And is it really a magic-bullet solution to climate change?

According to the researchers, the new technique would cost between $94 and $232 per metric ton. As Robinson Meyer, who first reported the story over at The Atlantic, reported, that figure is between 16 and 39 percent of what researchers expected this technology would cost back in 2011. It’s cheap enough, he wrote, that it would cost just $1 to $2.50 to remove from the atmosphere the carbon dioxide released by burning a gallon of gasoline in a car.

Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas and a key driver of climate change (though not the only one). So the prospect of sucking CO2 right out has potential to help abate climate change. Even if that CO2 gets released again when the gasoline is burned, no new greenhouse gas gets pumped into the sky; the researchers pitch it as a kind of recycling for greenhouse gas emissions.

The researchers were a team from Harvard University and a new company set up for this project called Carbon Engineering. They wrote in their paper, published Thursday (June 8) in the journal Cell, that their innovation isn’t the development of any brand-new system for carbon capture, or pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere. Rather, they said they’re figuring out how to build and power an industrial-scale plant affordably. Meyer gave his article on the paper, which went viral, an eye-catching headline: “Climate Change Can Be Stopped by Turning Air Into Gasoline.”

The Next Trend In Travel Is… Don’t.

Tourism can destroy environments and drive out local residents. It’s time to rethink the purpose of travel.

Benidorm, Spain.

Bali is in the midst of an ecological crisis. Half of the Indonesian island’s rivers have dried up. Its beaches are eroding. In 2017, officials declared a “garbage emergency” across a six-kilometer stretch of Bali’s coast. At the peak of the clean-up, hundreds of cleaners removed 100 tons of debris from the beaches each day.

The cause? Too many tourists — who just keep coming. This year, the Indonesian tourism ministry hopes Bali attracts 7 million foreign tourists, to an island of only 4 million residents.

“Do we want more tourists? Maybe no,” said Balinese community activist Viebeke Lengkong last year. “It is a question of what kind of services we can actually provide for millions of tourists. Bali is in the middle of a water crisis. Bali is drying up.”

It’s reaching a breaking point. “The last time I went, I swore never again,” a friend recently told me, horrified by the number of people and amount of trash he saw. On his next vacation, he visited a small, relatively unknown island off Bali’s coast, thinking it would be quieter. It wasn’t. Tourists arrived by the boatload on the small island’s shores.

6 Insane Ways People Made Money Off True Crime Stories

Whether by listening to podcasts, binging on documentaries, or just loitering on a street corner waiting for some shit to go down, lots of folks are super into true crime these days. However, this isn’t anything new. People have always loved a good murder story, which is why the past is filled with jackholes trying to make a quick buck off of other people’s morbid curiosity. As a result, there has been true crime merchandising so messed up that it makes our Zodiac Killer collector mugs seem normal by comparison. For example …

6. People Learned About Jack The Ripper From Shitty Comics

Before he was the subject of the world’s worst museum, people got their information on Jack the Ripper the old-fashioned way: newspapers. But in ye olden days, plenty of people didn’t read no good, so lower-class tabloids often presented the stories of the day in the form of elaborate and often very inaccurate illustrations. And the most infamous tabloid of all was The Illustrated Police News, London’s premier source for news about monkey duels …

Which is still only our second-favorite duel they managed to feature.

… or saucy tales of ladies in bathing suits getting their proto-feminism on:

Wow, the creeps of yesteryear were dapper as hell.

Illustrated Police News was such a titan of fabrication and gossip that it was once voted the “worst newspaper” in Britain (The Sun didn’t exist yet). The paper was also at the height of its popularity during the Jack the Ripper murders, meaning that way too many people learned about one of the most horrific killing sprees of all time through what looks like the kind of comic strips that wouldn’t even make the funny pages of a suburban gazette.

In fairness, you want to cut right to the chase when you’re competing with ape duels for readers’ attentions.

Since they could draw whatever the hell they liked, the images were sensationally grotesque, like this image of Scotland Yard’s finest putting together a dismembered corpse like it’s a tricky jigsaw puzzle:

“Better include some enormous exposed breasts in case the torso isn’t interesting enough.”

Trevor Noah Reveals The Real Reason Jon Stewart Left ‘The Daily Show’

Former “Daily Show” host also had some advice for his successor.

“Daily Show” host Trevor Noah recently opened about about what previous host Jon Stewart told him when it was announced in 2015 he would be leaving after more than 15 years.

“I walked into his office and I said, ’Hey, what’s going on? Are you being pushed out? What’s happening? You need my help, let me know, man. We’ll fight,” Noah recalled at a panel discussion earlier this month.

But Stewart wasn’t being pushed out. He was leaving:

“He said ‘I’m leaving because I’m tired.’ And he said, ‘I’m tired of being angry.’ And he said, ’I’m angry all the time. I don’t find any of this funny. I do not know how to make it funny right now, and I don’t think the host of the show, I don’t think the show deserves a host who does not feel that it is funny.”

Noah said Stewart urged him to “relish the fact that you can make jokes about these things, because there will come a day when you are too angry to laugh. But don’t rush to get there.”

Stewart has publicly addressed his departure several times, and the toll of the job was apparent.

FactCheck: Did Justin Trudeau’s eyebrow fall off during a press conference?

Footage online appears to show the Canadian Prime MInister’s eyebrow falling off at a live press conference.

THE G7 SUMMIT ended with US President Donald Trump renewing the threat of global trade war as he abruptly rejected the text of a consensus statement and branded as “false” statements made by the summit’s Canadian host Justin Trudeau.

“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our US Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the US Market!” Trump tweeted.

“PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that… he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak,” continued the US president.

But the possibility of a trade war has been ‘overshadowed’ by an unusual theory circulating about Trudeau’s eyebrows, specifically that one of them came off during a live press conference.

As the claim is picking up steam, we will examine whether it is true.

Ed. This is important stuff. It’s barely uninteresting at all…

Rat Bones Reveal How Humans Transformed Their Island Environments

Rodent remains prove an ideal tool for investigating changes on three Polynesian island chains.

Painting of four species of rat, including the Polynesian rat (right).

Jill Swift didn’t set out to become the “rat girl.”

But as the Max Planck archaeologist studied more sites, she realized that there was a wealth of information there besides fossils and tools. “Excavation is an inherently destructive activity, so it’s best practice to collect everything we find,” Swift said by email—and that includes dirt, rocks, and yes, rat bones. “There’s a whole wealth of rat assemblages just sitting in the back of cabinets, waiting for someone to do something interesting with them.”

That fascination with making the most of the leftover bits from a dig spurred Swift and her colleagues to analyze 145 rat bones from three Polynesian island systems in the Pacific. The rodents, considered invasive, disease-carrying pests in life, proved surprisingly useful in death. By measuring the chemical composition of the rat bones, the researchers could make inferences not only about what humans were eating around 2,000 years ago, but also how their early residence on the islands—Mangareva, Tikopia and Ua Huka (also known as Marquesas)—shaped the environment.

Researchers have long used animals like dogs to study human settlements, and crystallized packrat urine for studying long-term climate change. But the results of the new study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that rat remains are an ideal material for measuring human-influenced changes over time. Part of the reason is that rats are what’s known as commensal species: not wild, but also not domesticated, feasting on human scraps and making themselves comfortable in whatever cultivated environments humans produce.

What to Eat in the Texas Suburbs

No, not Austin.


In my daily life as an East Coast journalist, pretty much all I eat is lentils, salad, and lentil salads. The thing is, I recently returned to my homeland, Texas, for a reporting trip. Before you ask, hipster, I’m not from Austin, or even Houston. I’m from the gosh-dang suburbs of Dallas, where lentils and salads are less plentiful, and beef and cheese are … more so.

Midway through it, I traveled to the small town of Wichita Falls, in central Texas, where my stomach microbes were further exposed to things they’ve never witnessed in their precious, coddled, organic Washington, D.C., lives. I’m talking ice cream that isn’t Halo Top and tap water from a La Quinta bathroom.

I have returned with, for now, a brief travelogue of things I ate. I had limited time, limited cash, and limited options. Some of my stops were quintessentially Texas; others were maybe a standard deviation more Texas than the average fast-food meal, yet might be accessible in your impersonal, master-planned suburban home. But they were all delicious, and I’m not dead, so I can only assume the same experience would hold for you.

I say this not as a health reporter, but as a friend: Here is what you should eat if you ever find yourself in North-Central Texas.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Every time I’m back, I drive through, roll up my windows, and pretend I’m in California, where I first enjoyed In-and-Out on one of my brief rumspringas from veganism. Except in Texas the servers are less stoned.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

President Trump alienates allies at the G7 summit by insulting their leaders, defending Russia and taking an aggressive stance against long-standing trade policies with Canada.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

“Russia is good! Canada is bad! Burgers are pancakes!”

The host of ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews’ says the man elected to run the free world is disbanding it.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

The MSM criticizes President Trump’s approach to U.S. allies at the G7 summit, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launches a vulgar attack on America.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Opposition with Jordan Klepper for making this program available on YouTube.

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump throwing a tantrum over a G7 summit on the eve of his meeting with Kim Jong-un.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s my world cup themed content. Soap Soccer from Brazil!

Max still isn’t happy with the neighbor watering his yard again. Guess he knows that it’s just rained for 2 days and he shouldn’t need to water it.




Also, a complicated latte.

“CBD is the new avocado toast,” stated the caption on an Instagram that recently appeared in my feed—a photo of a chalkboard outside at a Williamsburg, Brooklyn café advertising a “magical CBD latte.”

CBD (or cannabidiol), if you’ve not yet encountered it, is a non-psychotropic chemical compound that occurs naturally in cannabis, and is currently touted in everything from pet-calming drops to ache-alleviating muscle rubs and, yes, “magical” lattes. You can drink it, drop it, smoke it, spray it, eat it, and rub it into your skin. Fans say it eases their pain, insomnia, and anxiety. It’s the active ingredient in an epilepsy medication nearing US Food and Drug Administration approval. And research suggests it may even help curb the brain damage caused by opioid addiction.

With these benefits, of course, comes the potential for financial windfalls. The Hemp Business Journal reports the US market for hemp-based CBD products—a category that was not on its radar five years ago—was worth $190 million in 2017, and by its estimates could increase a cool 700% by 2020.

But is it legal?

It depends on where you are, where your CBD came from, and, frankly, who you ask.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?