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California’s wildfires are not “natural”—humans made them worse at every step.
NEXT DRAFT

California fires, Silicon Valley holiday parties, and eight other stories you might have missed

Dave Pell
By Dave Pell

1. Image is everything

It was, the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” So said Sean Spicer (still remember him?) even though the photos of the event told a different story. And so began a year in which photos, like all other forms of media, would play an even more dramatic role than usual. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But it’s got to be worth at least twice that in Bitcoin. And there’s no better way to review the year in news than by reviewing the year in images. Here’s a look back courtesy of InFocus:

+ Part One: A rainy inauguration, a jobless kitesurfer, the ruins of Mosul, a little boy playing in a big truck.

+ Part Two: An eclipse of the sun, an eclipse of our values in Charlottesville, and Hurricane Harvey.

+ Part Three: Rocket Man, Irma, kneeling NFLers, Vegas, California fires, and the paper towel toss heard round the world.

+ And if the last thing you need is a review of the news in 2017, you can check out NatGeo’s best photos of the year instead.

2. Boomtown or bust

“The places that are booming in size aren’t the economic boomtowns — the regions with the greatest prosperity and highest productivity. In theory, we’d expect those metros, like the Bay Area, Boston and New York, to be rapidly expanding, as people move from regions with high unemployment and meager wages to those with high salaries and strong job markets. That we’re not seeing such a pattern suggests that something is fundamentally amiss. The magnets aren’t working.” NYT Upshot: What Happened to the American Boomtown?

+ “When was the last time you ran into a friend or ‘dropped by’ a friend’s house without planning it? When was the last time you had a unplanned encounter with anyone other than a clerk or a barista?” Vox: How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult. (Full disclosure: The primary driver of my housing choices is to make unplanned encounters as unlikely as possible…)

3. Weekend whats

What to book: Harpoon by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel M. Katz. An interesting, and at times riveting, account of how Mossad (and eventually its global counterparts) realized the key to fighting terrorism is to choke off the flow of money. Harpoon is also an eye-opening guide to the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated illegal operations, from rogue governments to terrorists outfits to money launderers to the drug cartels. (For a browsable look at all the books you could want for your holiday reading binge, check out GoodReads Best Books of 2017; it’s like the People’s Choice Awards for books…)

+ What to word: For many readers, the link to the NextDraft word of the year didn’t work yesterday. Hopefully it does today.

+ What to TV: The perfect Christmas content for those not feeling the Christmas spirit is Black Mirror’s White Christmas starring Jon Hamm.

+ What to learn: Tom Whitwell’s pretty random and very interesting list of 52 things I Learned in 2017.

4. Girls

The NYT’s Dionne Searcey with the unthinkably brutal story of the girls who fled Boko Haram: “Falmata’s life had been stolen by war ever since the sixth grade, when she was abducted from her home and raped repeatedly by Boko Haram’s fighters for the next three years. She finally escaped last spring, slipping into the bush while her captors slept. Fourteen years old and alone, she made it to a camp for victims of the war, and had just settled in for the night when she heard footsteps outside her tent. A security officer’s voice instructed her to come out. Frightened, she obeyed. He took her to his quarters, she said, and raped her. Hours later, after she had returned to her tent, another officer arrived, she said. He raped her, too.”

5. Actually, we did start the fire

We contribute to climate change. We build homes in areas where it’s not safe. We start fires. Vox looks back at California’s terrible (and ongoing) fire season. California’s wildfires are not “natural”—humans made them worse at every step.

+ Live updates on the SoCal fires.

+ Among the fires’ victims, dozens of horses.

+ A look at LA’s concierge firefighters (and why it makes sense for insurers to pay them).

6. Moore is less

“The force that is ending his political career is greater than the truth, and this force operates on only roughly half of this country’s population—those who voted for Hillary Clinton and who consume what we still refer to as mainstream media.” The New Yorker on Al Franken’s Resignation and the Selective Force of MeToo.

+ Roy Moore’s history of molestation has been in the news so much, we’ve lost sight of all the other reasons he’s horrible. Thankfully, he offered up one reminder when he was asked about a time when America was great. “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.” And then there’s this position: Gay Marriage, Evil. Putin, good.

7. Mod squad

“Along with a seemingly endless string of harassment and discrimination scandals, Silicon Valley’s homogeneity has a more trivial side effect: boring holiday parties. A fete meant to retain all your talented engineers is almost certain to wind up with a rather same-y crowd, made up mostly of guys. At this year’s holiday parties, however, there’ll be a surprising influx of attractive women, and a few pretty men, mingling with the engineers. They’re being paid to.” Bloomberg: Silicon Valley Is Sneaking Models Into This Year’s Holiday Parties. This may be the only time in my writing career I feel compelled to borrow a line from Donald Trump. But this is … SAD!

8. Fake muse

In the end, 2017 might be remembered for being the year of the lie. So the timing of this piece by social scientist Bella DePaulo is right on time. “I spent the first two decades of my career as a social scientist studying liars and their lies.” I’ve never seen one like President Trump.

9. Love means never having to say you’re Siri

“‘I’d blush if I could’ is not the response you’d expected to hear when you tell Siri she’s a slut—but it is.” Even Siri and Alexa are under fire for their responses to sexual harassment.

10. Feel good Friday

Each Friday, we’ll use this Bottom of the News space to share good, nice, sweet, fun, funny, and/or uplifting stories. So let’s get started in Canada, ground zero for positive news. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s made a formal apology to Canada’s LGBTQ Community. Plus, how a small gesture made at a Tim Horton’s drive-thru changed a couple lives.

+ You sent me a lot of feel good stories this week. Here are your two favorites: A 22-year-old and 81-year-old who became pals through playing Words With Friends just Met in real life. (One word: Perennials.) And the video of a guy rescuing a bunny from the SoCal fires.

+ Bloomberg: Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance.

+ “Now he’s popular. But he has not forgotten that first-grade feeling.” Meet the high schooler who makes sure nobody dines alone.

+ South Portland school bus driver battling cancer gets an uplifting surprise. It started with a school marching band and a convoy of 20 school buses.

+ $10,000 in Christmas layaway paid off at South Portland toy store.

+ “I’d like to give you a special little gift,” Santa said as he swiped his credit card for one family. Santa and his elf buy groceries for people throughout this Utah county.

+ NYT: A symphony breathes life into 400 broken school instruments.

+ An Australian lawmaker proposed during a same-sex marriage debate.

+ “With her strong will and her extravagance, she gave me happiness and the sparkle to believe that I could recover.” From the NYT: Taxi Therapy’ for Young Cancer Patients in Italy.

+ Need more good news? The maniacs from Cards Against Humanity just launched The Good News Podcast.

Quartz now syndicates NextDraft, a daily roundup for the day’s most fascinating news curated by Dave Pell. Read the archive here. Sign up to get the newsletter or download the app here.