Recent Readings for May 9, 2019

May 9, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 9, 2019

Author’s note: One of the articles linked below involves a porn star; the article is not particularly explicit, but I wanted to give warning. Also, two of the articles below contain upsetting details about violent crimes. MEM

Gosh, I haven’t done one of these in nearly two and a half years. Let’s see what’s been running through my mind lately!

• “The Sunday school children: The little-known tragedy of the Sri Lankan Easter attacks.” Rebecca Wright, Sam Kiley and King Ratnam of CNN take a detailed look at one of the bombings in the terrorist assaults that killed about 250 Christians and tourists last month. Be aware that this story is filled with a number of heartbreaking details.

• “Student slated to attend Western Michigan University beheaded in Saudi Arabia.” This was one of a series of government executions, the particulars of which should shock the conscience of every American. Alas, it’s hard to imagine that our freedom-loving pro-life president giving this matter more than 30 seconds of thought. As I tweeted: “The details presented here are shocking, and comprise a not-so-gentle reminder that this nation produced 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001.”

• “US threatens to veto UN resolution on rape as weapon of war, officials say.” It’s rare that the United States, Russia, China, the Vatican and Saudi Arabia take the same stance on a human rights issue — or at least it used to be before Donald Trump was elected president. Last month, however: “The US is threatening to veto a United Nations resolution on combatting the use of rape as a weapon of war because of its language on reproductive and sexual health, according to a senior UN official and European diplomats.”

• “Viktor Orbán’s War on Intellect.” Franklin Foer looks into why and how Hungary’s prime minister decided to exile Central Eastern University of Budapest from his nation. Foer has high praise for George Soros, CEU’s founder and patron, who’s a prominent villain in conservative echo chambers. Unfortunately, Trump’s ambassador to Hungary seems completely indifferent to Orbán’s attacks on academic freedom and liberal democracy.

• “Comedian Wins Ukrainian Presidency In Landslide.” This story prompted me to tweet that we live in the dumbest timeline. As someone who lives in a nation that just elected an inexperienced politician best known for his television appearances, I would warn Ukraine voters that their new head of state isn’t very likely to propose or successfully implement programs that will revive the economy, end corruption or stave off Russian encroachment.

• “A Former Alt-Right Member’s Message: Get Out While You Still Can.” Rosie Gray has a deep dive into the life, career and ongoing rehabilitation of Katie McHugh, whose stint as a conservative pundit flamed out because she was a little too openly racist for her bosses at Breitbart. To her credit, the 28-year-old appears to have rejected the people and principles that made her unemployable even at an outlet that, Gray writes, “had featured a ‘black crime’ tag for stories, and had been described by [Steve] Bannon himself as a ‘platform for the alt-right.’”

• “What Happened After My 13-Year-Old Son Joined the Alt-Right.” This account from an anonymous Jewish D.C.–area mom serves as a fitting companion piece to Gray’s story. It reinforces a point Gray made about how social opprobrium can strengthen the bonds among racists.

• “Beware the One-Ring Robocall Scam.” According to a recent alert from the Federal Communications Commission, “if you are called several times in a row, with only one ring each call — then whoever is behind the calls is probably trying to get you to call the number back.” The people perpetrating this fraud get a kickback from tolls charged to callers’ telephone accounts, like you’d incur by calling a 900 number (more formally known as pay-per-call or premium-rate numbers).

• “Foxconn Is Confusing The Hell Out Of Wisconsin.” Josh Dzieza has the strange tale of a multibillion-dollar industrial investment in Wisconsin that has yet to materialize in any comprehensive fashion. One wonders whether, if the absence of benefits extends into mid-2020, Democrats will be able to tie Trump to this white elephant.

• “CBO: Over 1 million Americans have become uninsured since 2016.” A Congressional Budget Office report released on April 18, the same day as Mueller report, showed that the number of Americans with health insurance has fallen under the Trump administration, thereby reversing a trend that appeared to begin with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The most recent insurance enrollment figures are from 2018, meaning that they predate the Republican-backed tax provision that zeroed out the penalty for failing to obtain health coverage.

• “The 3 most important things I’ve learned as a health care reporter.” Vox’s ace health care reporter, Sarah Kliff — author of the preceding article — shares three important lessons that she’s learned about American health care, as both a reporter and a patient. (Over the past year, Kliff has had a caesarian section, foot surgery and her first-ever emergency room visit as a patient.) You should read her article in full, but the essence is to be picky about doctors, avoid health-care facilities when reasonable, and be realistic about what can and can’t be done with modern medicine.

• “The Mazars USA Subpoena as an Existential Threat to President Trump.” Martin Sheil, a former criminal investigative agent for the Internal Revenue Service, explains the importance of the subpoena that a House committee has sent to the president’s accountants. However, please take this article with a grain of salt: The last four years have been littered with the predictions of pundits saying that the latest Trumpian brouhaha represents the end of his campaign or presidency.

• “The Supreme Court’s Death Drive.” Legal scholar Garrett Epps reviews the dismal recent track record of the Roberts court on death-penalty cases. As the article’s headline implies, the record is rather grim.

• “Now playing at the Supreme Court: How to preserve white power in four easy steps.” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank — who announced on Wednesday that his White House press pass had been revoked — offered his take on last month’s oral arguments in the court case over whether the 2020 Census should include a question on citizenship. Once again, the outlook appears to be dismal.

• “He Stole the Gutenberg Bible, Then Became Porn’s Weirdest Star.” Aaron Skirball introduces readers to Vido K. Aras, a.k.a. Dr. Infinity, whose odd career links a product of the very first movable-type printing and a very unusual stint in pornography.

• “The Mississippi River Has Been Flooding For 41 Days Now.” When I tweeted about this, I simply wrote, “What have we wrought?” As a mayor told reporters last month, “The state of Iowa has received more precipitation in the last 12 months than any recorded period in 124 years of data.” Thanks to climate change, new records could soon be set.

• “One of Alaska’s warmest springs on record is causing a dangerous thaw.” “Climate change is happening faster than it’s ever happened before in our record. We’re right in the middle of it,” a scientist says in this bulletin from the state that is simultaneously America’s northernmost and its fastest warming. Sarah Kaplan reports for the Washington Post that “[a]t least five people have died this spring after falling through ice that melted sooner than expected.”

• “Expeditions to the North Pole Are on Ice.” Seattle journalist Sarah Hu explained for Slate why, for the first time in 17 years, no one will travel 90 degrees latitude. Spoiler alert: Climate change has something to do with it, although it’s not the only factor.

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