Buried in debt, Putin targets journalists, Booktok sales
The pandemic held up a mirror to America's gaping and growing inequality. In WaPo, the excellent Eli Saslow takes a look at one family living in an era when children are often doing a little (or even a lot) worse than their parents. "What Dave Jr. and his two daughters were inheriting during a time of accelerating inequality in the United States was the exact opposite of intergenerational wealth: his father’s end-of-life expenses, thousands of dollars in debts, a leftover bottle of anti-depressants, and the Ramsey family’s continued regression from the middle class into the expanding bottom of the American economy." The death spiral of an American family. (Gift Article) "His father had been a police officer, a restaurant manager, a real estate agent, a private investigator, a Mason and a Little League umpire. He had wanted a large funeral where his friends could share stories about him, a full viewing, a three-volley military salute. It had been a life modeled on middle-class aspirations, and now what was left of it was sitting in the back bedroom of a small rental house across from a sewage refinery on the outskirts of Detroit." Dave Jr. was so buried in debt, he couldn't even afford to bury Dave Sr.
2. True Grit
"We were the only international journalists left in the Ukrainian city, and we had been documenting its siege by Russian troops for more than two weeks. We were reporting inside the hospital when gunmen began stalking the corridors. Surgeons gave us white scrubs to wear as camouflage. Suddenly at dawn, a dozen soldiers burst in: 'Where are the journalists, for f-ck’s sake?'" 20 days in Mariupol: The team that documented city’s agony.
+ Russia is targeting journalists because this war is, among other things, a battle over what is true. That's why I'm running a NextDraft fundraiser for journalists covering Ukraine. The response has been so excellent that I may also sends fund to Russian journalists trying to get the truth in front of their own citizens. Here's how it works. You buy a customized NextDraft Ukrainian Superhero shirt at cost. I personally donate $20 to Media Lifeline Ukraine. Let's go. Spread the word.
+ The Ukraine invasion is not going as Putin has planned. So, like any autocratic sociopath, he's shifted strategy and is targeting hospitals, children's shelters, apartment buildings, and shopping malls. The shameful attacks are leading to mass destruction, rising death counts, and remarkably, 10 million Ukrainians who have fled their homes since invasion began. The main target for Russia's military is Mariupol, a city Putin has demanded that Ukraine surrender. Ukraine has rejected that demand.
+ Putin isn't just destroying Ukraine, he's destroying Russia, too. Masha Gessen in The New Yorker: The Russians Fleeing Putin’s Wartime Crackdown. "Resisters are leaving Russia because the country they worked to build is disappearing—and the more people who leave, the faster it vanishes."
+ What are hypersonic missiles and why is Russia using them? (Short answer: To kill more civilians and to show the world they work.)
+ In Kyiv, eight people are reported dead in shelling on a residential area and shopping centre. In Mariupol, an estimated 90% of the city's buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Here's the latest from BBC.
3. Toad in the Hole
"'I saw why they call this the ‘God molecule’ after I got a full central nervous system reset,' said Mr. Capone, 45, who now runs a nonprofit with his wife helping hundreds of other Special Operations veterans access toad medicine. Riding the wave of greater mainstream acceptance of psychedelics for treating mental disorders and addiction, a fast-growing retreat industry is touting the potential of the toad’s secretions. People pay anywhere from $250 for a ceremony in the East Texas woods to $8,500 for a more gilded beachfront setting in Tulum, Mexico, to consume the venom." Toad venom is getting popular. How popular? We may soon run out of the toads that produce it. What a trip. NYT (Gift Article): Demand for This Toad’s Psychedelic Venom Is Booming. Some Warn That’s Bad for the Toad.
4. Tok and Awe
"By the summer of 2020, the company started to see a dramatic lift in sales, specifically in trade paperbacks, which DeVito discovered was being driven by BookTok recommendations." Bloomberg: TikTok's BookTok, With 43 Billion Views, Has Sent Barnes & Noble Sales Soaring. (While I'm waiting for the kids to make my book go viral, you old old fogeys should order your copy today. Why do lies travel faster than the truth? How did our media habit get out of hand? How did my need to use the restroom put my parents' lives at risk? It's all in there. And don't miss the audiobook narrated by Peter Coyote!)
5. Extra, Extra
The March March: March 21 is the anniversary of day Martin Luther King led marchers across the Pettus Bridge. And today, the march continues. Here's the latest on Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
+ Polar Caps: "Earth's poles are undergoing simultaneous freakish extreme heat with parts of Antarctica more than 70 degrees warmer than average and areas of the Arctic more than 50 degrees warmer than average."
+ In Squad We Trust? Did you know that South Carolina now allows firing squad executions? Or that they are the fourth state to do so?
+ Plane Crash in China: A Chinese passenger plane with 132 people on board has crashed in a forested hillside in southern China. A video caught the plane plummeting straight down.
+ Webb Cam: "The star itself is of little interest, lovely though its image is – instead, astronomers are captivated by the spray of tiny dots scattered across the background. Each is a distant galaxy, and this is the first time we’ve ever been able to capture them." The first images from James Webb exceed all expectations.
6. Bottom of the News
"In a discreet building in downtown Los Angeles, 18 subjects were instructed to watch a strange video featuring a synth-laden soundtrack and natural imagery interspersed with glimpses of Coors Light cans." Are advertisers going to infiltrate our dreams? (If they are, can we try a better beer?)
+ Olga Khazan in The Atlantic: What It’s Like to Get Worse at Something. "I had been skiing since childhood. Why was I suddenly bad at it?"
+ A look at the March Madness shoe deal breakdown. Jordan still knows how to win.