1. I just pressed the button
It only took Donald Trump about 36 hours to make us nostalgic for 2017. The president rang in the new year with what The Atlantic justifiably called the most irresponsible tweet in history (and that’s a hell of a high bar): “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Once you’ve secured yourself in an underground bunker, it’s worth considering that this nuclear threat isn’t the the top story of the day (it’s not even the top Trump story of the day). And therein lies the true meaning of this online balderdash. Even when it comes to what should be the most serious matters, the president’s words are no longer taken seriously around the world.
+ I too have a button on my desk, but mine only publishes NextDraft. It turns out a button isn’t actually what presidents use order nuclear strikes. This is what it actually takes.
+ The biggest Trump story of the day is Steve Bannon’s quote in the upcoming Michael Wolff book on the White House in which he rips the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s–t, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.” Here are some other notable excerpts. And a longer, adapted piece in NY Mag that proves we can still be stunned by parts of this story: Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President. (I knew we’d find common ground sooner or later.) Meanwhile, Trump has lashed out at Bannon: “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” (The administration is clearly missing the steadying presence of Omarosa.)
2. You kids got off my lawn
It’s not just that today’s teens don’t party as much or as hard as their antecedents, they don’t get together with other people at all. At least not in real life. Backchannel on why teens aren’t partying anymore: “The number of teens who get together with their friends every day has been cut in half in just fifteen years, with especially steep declines recently. This might be the most definitive evidence that iGen’ers spend less time interacting with their peers face-to-face than any previous generation.”
3. Can we talk about the weather?
For millions of Americans, I buried the lede today. Because it’s cold. Really cold. How cold is it? It’s so cold that sharks are freezing. Canada is colder than Mars. Water freezes in midair. A zoo had to bring its penguins indoors. It’s snowing in Florida. It’s so cold that Steve Bannon’s multi-layered fashion style actually makes sense in much of the country. It’s so cold that Elsa from Frozen has admitted that the cold does occasionally bother her. So yeah, it’s cold.
+ AP: “The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories and freeze warnings Tuesday covering a vast area from South Texas to Canada and from Montana through New England.”
+ NPR: Here are your cold weather conversation starters for today.
+ Vox: The bomb cyclone isn’t a winter hurricane—just a bad storm with good branding.
4. Paper’s route
“For decades, civilization has been trying to develop beyond paper, promoting a paper-free world that will run seamlessly, immaterially on pixels and screens alone. How did paper get here? Where does it go next? For that matter, why is paper – which does its job perfectly well – compelled to keep innovating?” David J Under in The Guardian: American reams: why a paperless world still hasn’t happened. When the internet first got going, I never would’ve predicted paper’s incredible staying power. Of course, I also never would have predicted that we want our mattresses delivered in a cardboard box.
5. Gene counters
“Here’s what I can tell you is unique about this: It is the first gene therapy to come to market, so not only have they innovated with the science, but working with us, we’ve innovated in the payment models.” WaPo: Gene therapy for inherited blindness sets precedent: $850,000 price tag.
+ Gene therapy is a unique advancement, but its pricing is representative of a broader trend. The Chronicle of Higher Education on the connection between upward mobility and health. A Dying Town. “Educational disparities and economic malaise and lack of opportunity are making people like those in the Bootheel sick. And maybe even killing them.”
6. Fiber optics
“The fiber we eat feeds billions of bacteria in our guts. Keeping them happy means our intestines and immune systems remain in good working order.” From the NYT: We know fiber is good for us. Now we’re starting to understand why.
7. Fish stories
“The old stories go like this: In 1992, Yem Yun caught a 220-pound Mekong giant Catfish. How big was it? So big, his boat nearly collapsed. So big, no one dared to buy it, so Yun cut it up and dried it out and the entire village feasted for a week. Or: When Sok Chetra was young, the fish in the lake were so plentiful they jumped into her boat…The new stories are like this one, shouted from the water by a passing fisherman: ‘I’m concerned that if there are no fish, I will not eat.'” Eater on the threats to the world’s food chains, as seen in one lake. When There Are No More Fish.
+ Do fish feel pain? And if so, then what?
8. Fusion GPS tracker
The founders of the research firm Fusion GPS ask Congress to release their testimony: “We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.”
+ CNN: “Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman indicted on money laundering and other charges, filed a lawsuit challenging the broad authority of special counsel Robert Mueller and alleging the Justice Department violated the law in appointing Mueller.” (Does this suit suggest Manafort isn’t expecting a pardon?)
9. Mushroom cloud nine
“A Danish biotechnology company is trying to fight climate change — one laundry load at a time. Its secret weapon: mushrooms like those in a dormant forest outside Copenhagen.” From the NYT: Fighting Climate Change, One Laundry Load at a Time.
+ Related: How long do we have to wait to finally get our hands on laundry folding robots?
10. Bottom of the news
Apparently, when it comes to texting, using a period at the end of a sentence is considered a sign of anger.
+ “An impatient Ryanair passenger shocked fellow travelers when he forced his way out of the emergency exit [and onto the wing] after getting fed up with waiting to disembark his flight.” (Been there…)
+ A kid hit a goal with a ball and a basket with his shoe. With the same kick.