The Wires

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June 20: New York Times: "You may be hunched over your phone right now, worrying about reports that young people are growing horns on their skulls from spending too much time hunched over smartphones.... Recent articles by the BBC and the Washington Post have cited a 2018 study in the journal Scientific Reports saying that these bone growths have been turning up more often than expected in people aged 18 to 30. The study suggests that 'sustained aberrant postures associated with the emergence and extensive use of hand-held contemporary technologies, such as smartphones and tablets,' are to blame.... Experts give the report mixed reviews." ...

     ... Update. Uh, it seems one of the authors of the "scientific study" is a chiropractor called David Shahar, who used his own patients as subjects of the study AND, according to Quartz, is "the creator of Dr. Posture, an online store that advertises information and products related to forward head posture. One section tells users how to 'look and feel your best in three easy steps,' which include watching a video by Shahar, downloading at-home exercises, and sleeping with a Thoracic Pillow, which Shahar has trademarked and sold for $195." So hunch over, pick up your phones, & call your friends with the good news that the "study" is more likely a marketing scam than a warning about another dire effect of cellphone use. Thanks to safari for the link.


Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”

AP: "MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the writers of 'The Simpsons,' will be leaving newsstands after its August issue. Really. The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material. The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year."

Hill: "The Democrats beat the Republicans in a high-scoring 14-7 win Wednesday [June 26] night in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was the Democrats' 10th win in 11 years."

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

New York Times: Navy pilots flying along the East Coast of the U.S. spotted UFOs "almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015.... The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings 'a striking series of incidents.'” In one incident, the UFO flew between two Navy jets "flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach.... It looked to the pilot ... like a sphere encasing a cube."

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.


The Commentariat -- December 1

Politico: "House Republicans will scrap the committee set up by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate global warming, the panel’s top Republican announced Wednesday. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) made official what many had already expected — the GOP majority will axe the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming...."

Bloomberg News: "The Federal Reserve, under orders from Congress, today named the counterparties of about 21,000 transactions from $3.3 trillion in aid provided to stem the worst financial panic since the Great Depression." ...

New York Times: "The Obama administration is rescinding its decision to expand offshore oil exploration into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast because of the BP oil spill, administration officials said Tuesday."

President Obama meets with Gen. Colin Powell:

Bruce Bartlett of Capital Gains & Games on an "important" economic speech by Republican Rep. Mike Pence, who is likely to run for governor of Indiana: "Pence's speech ... was a hackneyed rehash of every simplistic idea ever floated on Larry Kudlow's TV show, which appears to be the only source of information Pence has on the economy. I don't know how else to explain his obsession with inflation, a strong dollar, Fed bashing, tax cuts and the gold standard."

Sen. Chris Dodd sings his swan song:

Politics as Criminal Exercise. Michael Scherer of Time on the Tom DeLay verdict: "In Washington, it is widely assumed that the difference between bribery and proper business practices is not being stupid: Don't write down any evidence of a quid pro quo. Always maintain plausible deniability. Always maintain that financial backscratching is a result of deep respect, mutual admiration and altruism, not transactional value."

Shailagh Murray & Perry Bacon of the Washington Post on yesterday White House meeting with Congressional leaders: "... according to people in the room, both sides engaged in the kind of cross-party dealmaking that seems to have faded away in today's Washington. The participants emerged smiling and with a loose framework - though they did not outline it publicly - that could result in the temporary extension of all the tax cuts, as well as the ratification of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, the continuation of unemployment benefits and funding for government operations into next year." ...

... Dana Milbank was less impressed with the non-results: "Boehner, in his news conference, wasn't unduly optimistic as he explained: 'We had a very nice meeting today. Of course, we've had a lot of very nice meetings....' That was about the time Obama began his competing statement, which included a lament about the 'hyperpartisan climate' in which 'both sides come to the table. They read their talking points. Then they head out to the microphones, trying to win the news cycle instead of solving problems.' Obama called that 'a game that we can't afford.' The statement might have carried more weight if Obama hadn't just preempted his opponents' news conference." ...

... So was David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "Much of the recent commentary about the tax cuts has skipped over this political reality." Leonhardt goes into what the limited Democratic options are, but his bottom line is that -- once again -- they will cave to Republicans. ...

... Sam Stein: Obama outsources negotiations with Republicans, Democrats are in their usual disarray & Schumer touts his million-dollar deal.

... Let's factor in this AP story in today's news: "Senate Republicans intend to block action on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending in the current postelection session of Congress." ...

     ... Update: here's the Republican leaders' hostage letter, now signed by all 42 Senate Republicans.

... Jena McGregor of the Washington Post: "Never mind that Senate Republicans have obstinately fought most Democratic legislation for the past two years already. Now they want to make it official. Whether it's a political gimmick or a real effort to force a focus on urgent deadlines, the letter sets aside a reality of productive leadership we expect from the people we elect."

Jackie Calmes & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The chairmen of President Obama’s debt-reduction commission have been unable to win support from any of the panel’s elected officials for their proposed spending cuts and tax increases, underscoring the reluctance of both parties to risk short-term political backlash in pursuit of the nation’s long-term fiscal health. The chairmen of the commission ... delayed for two days, until Friday, a final vote by its 18 members."...

     ... Here's a pdf of the report, via Firedoglake.

     ... AP Update: "A tough new cost-cutting playbook submitted by the co-chairmen of President Barack Obama's deficit commission has been embraced by Sens. Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg, the first two elected officials to endorse it."

... Paul Krugman: "Bowles-Simpson, the revision, is out. It has not improved." ...

... Matt Yglesias: "Surely the strangest thing about the Bowles-Simpson debt reduction plan is that, relative to current law, it . . . increases the public debt load over the next ten years.... Barack Obama saying 'I will veto any laws that increase the deficit relative to current law' would do more to reduce the debt over the next 2 or 6 years than would adopting Simpson-Bowles."

Richard Stengel of Time interviews Julian Assange. ...

... Glenn Greenwald on the attacks on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. ...

... Edward Djerjian & Christoper Bronk of Foreign Policy: "While the Times has worked with the Obama administration to remove information of potential harm to national security, unredacted release of the cables by WikiLeaks may hold a cost measured in lives.... The leak of U.S. diplomatic cables may well produce an environment in which American diplomats will be shut out of confidential exchanges and the decision-making processes of U.S. allies and friends around the globe."

Millionaires Club, Washington Chapter. Erika Lovely & Jake Sherman of Politico: more than a quarter of the new Republicans coming to Congress are millionaires.

George W. Bush, in a Washington Post op-ed, recounts progress, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, on the U.S.'s fight against AIDS but says more must be done.