“Fire and Fury,” Trump’s war on drugs, and eight other stories you might have missed

“Fire and Fury presents a man in the White House who is profoundly ignorant of politics, policy, and anything resembling the substance of perhaps the world’s most demanding job.”
“Fire and Fury presents a man in the White House who is profoundly ignorant of politics, policy, and anything resembling the substance of perhaps the world’s most demanding job.”
Image: AP Photo/ John Minchillo
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1. The working life

The robots might be coming for your job. But even with the historically low unemployment numbers, many working class Americans (especially in some regions) have plenty of other things to worry about in the meantime. “Across America, obscure clusters of misery are growing in number and concentration—as people get sicker, poorer, and more isolated than they were just a few decades ago. Thus untangling the knotty problems of central Appalachia holds lessons for the rest of the country about how imbalances of wealth and power, created generations ago, can trap places and their people in the past.” Gwynn Guilford in Quartz: The 100-year capitalist experiment that keeps Appalachia poor, sick, and stuck on coal.

+ Having a job doesn’t mean what it used to. In Politico Magazine, Danny Vinik looks at the real future of work. “Workplace protections like the minimum wage and overtime, as well as key benefits like health insurance and pensions, are built on the basic assumption of a full-time job with an employer. As that relationship crumbles, millions of hardworking Americans find themselves ejected from that implicit pact.”

2. The Cohn of silence

Even with all the hubbub about the Michael Wolff book this week, there was actually a bigger and potentially more damaging story from the NYT’s Michael Schmidt in which we learn of the president’s repeated efforts to keep a grip on the Russian investigation, including efforts to convince Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself. “Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama. Mr. Trump then asked, ‘Where’s my Roy Cohn?'”

+ The Atlantic’s James Fallows explains why the blockbuster book does little more than confirm what has been an open secret all along: “Fire and Fury presents a man in the White House who is profoundly ignorant of politics, policy, and anything resembling the substance of perhaps the world’s most demanding job. He is temperamentally unstable. Most of what he says in public is at odds with provable fact, from ‘biggest inaugural crowd in history’ onward. Whether he is aware of it or not, much of what he asserts is a lie. His functional vocabulary is markedly smaller than it was 20 years ago.”

+ The FBI is currently investigating the Clinton Foundation, and Republican senators have raised the idea of possible charges against the author of Trump dossier. (So the old Roy Cohn tactics aren’t completely missing from DC…)

3. Weekend whats

What to hear: Shit-town, the seven party podcast series from the producers of Serial, starts out as an interesting true-crime series. But it evolves into something much more riveting: A novel-esque examination of one man’s life. I listened to the whole thing in one sitting. (If you’re looking for more podcasts to keep you company on this wintery weekend, check out The Atlantic’s list of the 50 Best Podcasts of 2017.)

+ What to everything: Just before holidays, I released my annual binge guide. The 2017 Smart Binge, Doc, Music, Pod, Book and Geek Guide. It should keep you busy for a while.

+ What to Dave: “People often ask me, ‘Are you a practicing Jew?’ I usually say, ‘No, I just show up on game days.'” An interview of me was recently featured on a Jewish blog. With that now crossed off my bucket list, all that’s left is getting Springsteen to subscribe to NextDraft…

4. Just say whoa

“In between all these issues and the media coverage surrounding them, the administration has proven adept at getting things done on a topic that’s received much less attention.” Vox on Trump and Sessions’s quiet success: reinvigorating the federal war on drugs.

+ There were bipartisan efforts to roll back some elements of the drug war, especially when it comes to draconian prison sentences. Those efforts are no longer underway. From The Guardian: How Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump have restarted the war on drugs.

+ “LSD in the ’60s; ecstasy in the ’80s; ‘smart’ drugs today: how we get high reflects the desires and fears of our times.” Cody Delistraty in Aeon: Drugs du jour.

5. Cord cutters

The other night, I had dinner at my parents house, and this is what we talked about (just in case I still need to convince you that I come from a pretty news-obsessed background): What would really happen if Russia attacked undersea internet cables? (For the record, my parents and I are more worried about this topic than Wired seems to be…)

6. Crypt from the headlines

“Unlike regular ATMs, which are primarily used as cash dispensers, BTM manufacturers pitch their machines as everything from an alternate banking system for the unbanked to a new way for immigrants to send remittances. But by far the most common use is the ease of access BTMs provide for people to begin investing in the opaque Bitcoin marketplace, with whatever cash they have on hand.” CityLab: Bitcoin Is Coming to Your Bodega.

+ While Bitcoin has been on a hot streak, other cryptocurrencies are surging even more as early adopters seek more privacy. In this case, early adopters means the criminal underworld.

+ Quartz: Here are the top 10 cryptoassets of 2017 (and Bitcoin’s 1,000% rise doesn’t even make the list).

7. Tired of all the winning?

“Those who know Belichick and Brady well are amazed that they’ve co-existed this long, two ruthless and proud self-made men, both secure though still unfinished in their legacies, both loved and hated, both having received stiff penalties for cheating, both motivated by ego, humility and — as much as anything — doubt.” ESPN’s Seth Wickersham on one of the most interesting relationships in sports. For Kraft, Brady and Belichick, is this the beginning of the end? (For the NFL, it’s probably a relief to have everyone talking about a controversy that doesn’t include concussions or kneeling.)

8. Whatever floats your boat

“With amphibious construction, water becomes your friend. The water gets to do what the water wants to do. It’s not a confrontation with Mother Nature—it’s an acceptance of Mother Nature.” The New Yorker on the people trying to build floating houses to resist the floods of climate change. (Even if we end up living in these, you’ll still occasionally float by another house and overhear someone insisting that climate change is a hoax…)

9. So sous me

Here’s a line you probably don’t want to read in a review of your company’s product: “There’s plenty of reason for caution; bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, Bacillus cereus, and Clostridium botulinum love to party in the danger zone.” I guarantee that Joe Ray has written the most in-depth and entertaining sous vide cooker review of all time. (I just hope he never reviews anything of mine…)

10. Feel good Friday

“Two teenage boys from Southwest Baltimore were in her Inner Harbor parking garage, cutting school and looking for cars to steal. They fixed their eyes on the 80-year-old Spector. The attack was quick and it was violent. As Spector got in her vehicle, the 13-year-old blocked her door from closing. The 15-year-old hit her in the face, hard.” And so began Rikki Spector’s time as an advocate for the teens who attacked her.

+ “When I saw you, all that stuff that I used to think about you, the animosity, I could hardly remember. And, it might have been my imagination, but when we embraced, it felt like you just got lighter in my arms.” That thing where you meet the guy whose false testimony put you in prison for decades.

+ “To access these items, which includes food like fruit, sandwiches and energy bars, as well as other necessities like clean socks and toothbrushes, people in need have to reach out to a local homeless organization which then provides them with an access card.” Coming soon: Vending machines for the homeless.

+ George Clooney, Malala Yousafzai, Jay-Z, Tina Fey, and Howard Stern will all be guests on David Letterman’s new Netflix series which debuts next Friday with Barack Obama.

+ It’s so cold!!! But at least the weather has Jenny’s number. (Incredible…)

+ “The reality-television star Tiffany Pollard first appeared on VH1’s Flavor of Love in 2006.” The Tiffany Pollard facial expression GIFs live on.

+ If you missed it earlier this week: two dying memoirists wrote bestsellers about their final days. Then their spouses fell in love.

+ This is how a New York City bagel is made

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.