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Bridge Over Troubled Water
Water in the Desert, What Happened to Your Catalytic Converter?
These days, finding hopeful news in the Middle East is like finding water in the desert. But that's just what the NYT's Miriam Jordan found in a swimming pool in Jerusalem. It turns out it's not something in the water that can help people maintain friendships and humanity in the most difficult times. It's something even more basic. Being together. It's a lot easier to hate an imagined "other" on the other side of a border wall and a lot easier to like someone who's in the lane right next to you. It's a lesson for the Middle East, and for America, where our increasingly hateful political divides are often defined by geographic ones. A Gift Article, in every sense of the word. In Jerusalem, Swimming in the Same Pool, but in Different Lanes. "They swam together, went on beach outings together, barbecued together. The best Jewish swimmers represented Israel in international meets. The best swimmers from East Jerusalem competed for a team comprising Palestinians at meets in the Arab world. 'We don’t think about the team as Israelis and Palestinians,' said Avishag Ozeri, 16, an Israeli swimmer who recalled being taught to swim by a Palestinian from East Jerusalem. 'It is so normal to be together,” she said before a recent practice. 'It’s weird even talking about it.' But then came the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks, the Israel bombardment of Gaza that followed, and a series of social media interactions that would test the team’s unspoken rule." The oasis they found is no mirage. It's a simple force more powerful than any geopolitical trend: Friendship.
Dude, Where's My Catalytic Converter?
"Congress passed the Clean Air Act of 1970, which included a provision requiring all vehicles manufactured after 1975 to sharply reduce pollutants. Automakers objected, saying it was not technologically possible. But researchers at Engelhard Corporation, a metals processing company in New Jersey, found that platinum group metals could catalyze, or convert, unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides into less harmful forms. To be effective, the catalysts had to be durable, have a high melting point and resist corrosion. Engelhard coated a ceramic honeycomb screen with a thin layer of PGMs and placed it inside a metal container through which the engine exhaust passed." A just like that, we had "one of the greatest technological interventions to protect the environment in history." And soon, we'd have one of the most sought after items among thieves. What happens to a lot of those precious metals extracted from stolen catalytic converters? They end up being ground into powder, melted, and blended to make new catalytic converters. NYT (Gift Article): So Thieves Nabbed Your Catalytic Converter. Here’s Where It Ended Up.
A Pot to Be Pissed In
"As it turns out, the big economic story of 2023 is not a recession, as many had predicted — it’s the disconnect between consumer sentiment and behavior." American consumers are expressing gloom about the economy, but they're spending like these are the best of times. What gives? Betsey Stevenson has an interesting theory in Bloomberg (Gift Article): Anger Is What’s Driving the US Economy. "Why is the gap between attitudes and action so large? Much of the economic anger expressed in the polls may be less about current economic conditions and more about the economy the US has built over the past 40 years: one of high and rising inequality, with greater economic fragility due to higher income volatility and a reduced safety net. A deep-seated anger about how the economy is 'rigged' has been simmering since long before the pandemic."
Flying By the Seat of Your Smaller Pants
"A wild idea recently circulated about the future of aviation: If passengers lose weight via obesity drugs, airlines could potentially cut down on fuel costs. In September, analysts at Jefferies Bank estimated that in the 'slimmer society' obesity drugs will create, United Airlines could save up to $80 million in jet fuel annually." It's just one more example of how huge these new weight loss drugs can be, especially now that they're getting approved to address heart health. The Atlantic (Gift Article): The Future of Obesity Drugs Just Got Way More Real. We might be able to save even more jet fuel because the planes themselves will be lighter. Once we all stop being hungry, who needs tray tables?
Talk Therapy: "The two leaders, meeting at a bucolic country estate outside San Francisco, are looking to get communication back on track after a tumultuous year and to show the world that while they are global economic competitors, they’re not locked in a winner-take-all faceoff." Wars, economies, geopolitics, trade, drugs, the future of the planet. Biden and Xi have a lot to talk about. But the biggest news that might come out of this week is that they're getting together and talking at all. Biden, Xi hold first talks in a year. Global conflicts, fentanyl and stable ties top their agenda. Here's the latest from CNN.
+ Surgical Strike: Israel's raid on Al-Shifa didn't find a mass of Hamas fighters, nor did it result mass civilians casualties. Here's the latest from CNN, BBC, and Times of Israel.
+ Stupidity is Having a Moment: "Overall, 57% of Americans say science has had a mostly positive effect on society. This share is down 8 percentage points since November 2021 and down 16 points since before the start of the coronavirus outbreak." Americans’ Trust in Scientists, Positive Views of Science Continue to Decline.
+ We're Not on the Same Frequency: WSJ (Gift Article): "The U.S. now experiences an extreme weather event in which damages and costs top $1 billion every three weeks. That compares with every four months in the 1980s." (Way to hustle, folks!)
+ It's Not About U: "Parents join the groups for many reasons: to access packing lists, view dorm layouts, or find detailed instructions for building bespoke bunk-bed headboards. Some join to ask whether their kid needs a car or whether $150 a month is enough for food. Other parents just have a vague sense, as Jennifer puts it, that they “need to stay on top of things.” Regardless of the reason they join, parents often portray these groups the same way: as landing pads for helicopter parents short on fuel who want to orchestrate their kids’ lives at the precise moment they are meant to become independent." The Cut: The Final Frontier for Helicopter Parents. "Inside the Facebook and WhatsApp groups where moms arrange playdates for their college kids."
Bottom of the News
"The Sphere is a distillation of an evolving relationship among art, artist, and technology—somewhere between a warm embrace of and a final surrender to screens. It is an acknowledgment and maybe even a tribute to the ways in which our screens have become extensions of ourselves and the way that documentation via these screens has become its own form of consumption and participation. Seeing is believing, but what the Sphere suggests is that documenting has become inextricable from living." Charlie Warzel visited the Sphere and came back with some thoughts about our relationship to screens. (And, for once, someone provided their own pun.) Sphere and Loathing in Las Vegas.