Korea’s “united” flag, modern censorship, and eight other stories you might have missed

During the 2006 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Turin, Italy, North and South Korea carried a “unification” flag.
During the 2006 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Turin, Italy, North and South Korea carried a “unification” flag.
Image: AP Photo/ Amy Sancetta
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1. Say it ain’t so

Pretty much everything we thought we were building when we built the internet has turned out to be something else. Often, exactly the opposite of something else. Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to the wildly free speech and always-on transparency we thought would lead to an open-information panacea; where it would be harder to lie, harder to victimize populations, and harder to run corrupt government institutions and other public entities. In Wired, the always interesting Zeynep Tufekci explains how what we really created was The (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age Of Free Speech: “The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all.”

2. Escalating the flame war

“For decades, American presidents have threatened ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons against enemies in only very narrow and limited circumstances, such as in response to the use of biological weapons against the United States. But the new document is the first to expand that to include attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons.” The NYT on the Pentagon’s new plan to counter devastating cyberattacks with nuclear arms. (I miss the days when our biggest nuclear concern was that people were pronouncing it nu-cu-lar.)

3. Charm, offensive

“North and South Korea have agreed to march together under a single ‘unified Korea’ flag at next month’s Winter Olympics in the South. They also agreed to field a joint women’s ice hockey team in rare talks at the truce village of Panmunjom.” And not everyone is happy about it. South Korean coaches and fans are worried the addition of North Korean athletes will hamper their chances of getting a medal, while Japanese leaders are warning the world not to be fooled by Pyongyang’s charm offensive.

4. Gold mettle

“Please believe me when I say it was a lot harder to first speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper. There are many reasons that l have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now it is not my fault.” Simone Biles is the latest Olympic athlete to say she was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor (and monster) Larry Nassar.

+ In her open letter discussing the abuse, Biles wrote: “We need to know why this was able to take place for so long and to so many of us.” ESPN gets started on that topic: Nassar surrounded by adults who enabled his predatory behavior. “Understanding how Nassar gained unfettered access to young girls and young women over the course of a quarter-century — despite repeated warning signs — means confronting an uncomfortable truth: He didn’t gain that access alone … Now that so much of the Nassar tragedy has been exposed, a lingering question remains: Were each of those enablers complicit or simply conned by a man described as a master manipulator?”

+ In court, Nassar’s victims are confronting him ahead of his sentencing. “Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”

5. Stalin tactics

“Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.” John McCain: Mr. President, stop attacking the press.

+ “Without truth, and a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, Mr. President, our democracy will not last.” Jeff Flake echoes similar concerns during a speech on the Senate floor, even comparing Trump’s words and tactics to those used by Joseph Stalin. It’s remarkable that we’re seeing these kinds of concerns being raised by Senators (both members of the president’s party) and it’s barely a blip in the news.

6. Expect the unexpected

“It is very difficult to find any reliable, empirical relation between the small variations in what parents do – the variations that are the focus of parenting [advice] – and the resulting adult traits of their children … There is very little evidence that conscious decisions about co-sleeping or not, letting your children ‘cry it out’ or holding them till they fall asleep, or forcing them to do extra homework or letting them play have reliable and predictable long-term effects on who those children become. From an empirical perspective, parenting is a mug’s game.” But, of course, that won’t stop new parents from filling their shelves with parenting books. Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian: The diabolical genius of the baby advice industry. (We got a couple new puppies about a year ago. They were barking a lot. We tried everything to get them to stop, and eventually we just waited until they grew out of it. That pretty much mirrors my parenting philosophy.)

+ Related: Raising a Social-Media Star. (The best advice I’ve ever given my kids is not to start their YouTube videos with the generic, “Hi guys!”)

7. Wear and tear

In the past fifteen years, global clothing production has doubled. Meanwhile, the average number of times people wear an article of clothing before discarding it has dropped by a third. And there’s one other troubling factor. No One Wants Your Used Clothes Anymore. “Already, the textile industry accounts for more greenhouse-gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined; as recycling markets break down, its contribution could soar.”

8. Cognitive dissonance

During his presidential physical, Donald Trump got a perfect score on the cognitive test. The cognitive test that he passed was created by a Lebanese immigrant. (Sadly, identifying irony is not part of the test.)

+ Want to see how you’d do on the test? You can check it out right here.

9. Wolff in sheep’s clothing

The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration. How could a book with that title be anything but positive? Well, that was the working title that Michael Wolff pitched to the White House. Bloomberg: How Michael Wolff Got Into the White House for His Tell-All Book.

10. Bottom of the news

“Eyelashes freeze; frostbite is a constant danger; and cars are usually kept running even when not being used, lest their batteries die in temperatures that average minus-58 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.” Welcome to the coldest place on earth, population 500. And no, you’re not going to get off from school for a snow day. Wired has some photos.

+ This is oddly enjoyable. Reporter Talks About Atlanta’s Bad Road Conditions, Car Promptly Crashes Behind Him.

+ “Either you write 100,000 words a day or you meet people and develop ties of affection. You can’t do both.” McSweeney’s: How To Write 100,000 Words Per Day, Every Day. (It’s easy to write the hundred thousand words. The hard part is editing all that down to a tweet.)

+ Reminder: NextDraft will be off on Thursday because I’ll be flying home after watching Springsteen on Broadway tonight. (Yes, once again, you’ve underestimated my power.)

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.