1. Murder, incorporated
America’s opiate epidemic and overdose scourge is the perfect storm of the worst aspects of America’s most glaring flaws. So maybe it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that greedy pharmaceutical companies threw millions of dollars at Congress, and managed to get a law passed that dramatically limited the DEA’s ability to stem the flow of opiates into the market at a time when their deadliness was already headline news. An excellent piece of reporting from WaPo: “The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market.” My headline might seem a little harsh. But consider this. At the time the law was passed, the opioid crisis had already claimed 200,000 lives. And the goal of the law was to up America’s dosage.
+ “They weren’t slinging crack on the corner. These were professionals who were doing it. They were just drug dealers in lab coats.” 60 Minutes teamed with WaPo on the report, and dedicated two segments to the issue.
+ But wait, there’s another twist to the story (albeit, an oddly familiar one). Rep. Tom Marino was one of the primary champions of the law. He’s currently President Trump’s drug czar nominee.
+ And a collection of stories I posted last month: The pain killers.
2. Steel trap
“The factory anchored her otherwise tumultuous life. Men had come and gone. Houses had been bought and lost. But the job had always been there. For 17 years. Until now. Shannon and her co-workers had gotten the news back in October: The factory was closing. Ball bearings would move to a new plant in Monterrey, Mexico. Roller bearings would go to McAllen, Tex. About 300 workers would lose their jobs. The bosses called it ‘a business decision.’ To Shannon, it felt like a backhand across the face.” The NYT’s Farah Stockman spent seven months in Indiana, tracking the impact of a factory’s jobs moving to Mexico. The result is an excellent piece about a steelworker named Shannon Mulcahy.
+ The whole time I was reading this article, I had Bruce Springsteen’s Youngstown playing in my head: From the Monongaleh valley/To the Mesabi iron range/To the coal mines of Appalacchia/The story’s always the same/Seven-hundred tons of metal a day/Now sir you tell me the world’s changed/Once I made you rich enough/Rich enough to forget my name.
3. Cyber rattling
“Their track record is mixed, but North Korea’s army of more than 6,000 hackers is undeniably persistent, and undeniably improving…Unlike its weapons tests, which have led to international sanctions, the North’s cyberstrikes have faced almost no pushback or punishment, even as the regime is already using its hacking capabilities for actual attacks against its adversaries in the West.” The NYT on North Korea’s other war front: The world once laughed at North Korean cyberpower. No more.
4. Don’t put a Band-Aid on the problem
“Americans pay exorbitant prices for all kinds of care. As a health care reporter, I find myself writing about $25,000 MRIs, $629 Band-Aids—even a $39.95 fee just to hold one’s own baby after delivery. People send me these types of bills quite regularly via email. The health care prices in the United States are, in a word, outlandish. On average, an MRI in the United States costs $1,119. That same scan costs $503 in Switzerland and $215 in Australia.” Vox’s Sarah Kliff covers health care as well as anyone. And as she explains: The problem is the prices.
5. Containment closer
Improving weather conditions and a week-long fight have helped firefighters to finally contain enough of the Norcal fires so many of those who still have homes could return to them. The SF Chronicle on the fire’s first fatal hours.
+ “During these massive fires, it’s common for inmate crews to work 24 straight hours, followed by a day of rest. The inmates, wearing orange jumpsuits, put in the same hours as their civilian brethren in yellow suits.” Inmates are fighting California’s deadliest fires.
+ Michella Flores survived the Vegas massacre. Then her house was burned down during the Norcal fires.
6. Hence, Pence
“When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, ‘Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all'” Jane Mayer in The New Yorker: The danger of president Pence. “Trump’s critics yearn for his exit. But Mike Pence, the corporate right’s inside man, poses his own risks.”
+ Trump issued his daily dose of half-truths and outright lies during an impromptu Rose Garden press conference held to convince Americans that he and Mitch McConnell like each other. The most offensive of the lies was the sick suggestion that Obama and other presidents didn’t interact with families after soldiers were killed in action.
+ Russian trolls were schooled on House of Cards.
7. Lode trip
“In an overwhelmingly mammoth series of papers published simultaneously across several journals, researchers are linking the latest event to a vast range of phenomena and providing fresh insights on everything from fundamental nuclear physics to the large-scale evolution of the universe. Among other things, the merger gave observers a front-row seat at the birth of a black hole.” From Scientific American: Gravitational wave astronomers hit mother lode. (And yet again, modern-day scientists confirm what Einstein predicted.)
+ “This is heaven for anyone working in the field.” Here’s more from Science News.
8. Panama Papers journalist killed
“A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers, Galizia was recently described by the Politico website as a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks.’ Her blogs were a thorn in the side of both the establishment and underworld figures that hold sway in Europe’s smallest member state.” From The Guardian: Malta car bomb kills Panama Papers journalist.
+ Related: Trump’s threats against the press may be toothless. But they’re far from harmless.
“There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.” Here’s a headline that seems like it should be part of a retrospective. Sadly, it’s only four days old: Why did Biloxi pull ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ from the 8th grade lesson plan?
10. Bottom of the news
During his SNL monologue, Kumail Nanjiani (who is from Pakistan) makes the case for being a well-informed racist: “If someone yells at me, ‘go back to India’, I’d be like, ‘that guy’s an idiot’. But if someone was like, ‘go back to Pakistan, which was part of India until 1947 and is now home to the world’s oldest salt mine,’ I would be like ‘that guy seems to know what he’s talking about. I’ll pack my bags…. Just because you’re racist, doesn’t mean you have to be ignorant. An informed racist is a better racist.”
+ “If Anderson had run last year as intended, Villines might be chasing down Anderson’s record this month. Instead, out of pure coincidence, two different esteemed ultrarunners are attempting to break the world record at the same time.” It might not seem like that big a deal that two women are racing to break the same record at the same time. But consider that the record requires one to run across America.
+ Unsplash is a great resource for excellent user-submitted (and free to use) photography. They just gave out awards in a bunch of categories.