A Country With Two Presidents | Are Evolutionary Desires Unhealthy? | Battleship Potemkin Missile


“If travel were so inspiring and informing a business…then the wisest men in the world would be deckhands on tramp steamers, Pullman porters, and Mormon missionaries.”

“It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.”

– Sinclair Lewis


I’m President, Yes I’m the Real President; All You Other Presidents Are Just Imitating: The results of Venezuela’s presidential election last May have been being contested ever since the polls closed. Opponents said multiple irregularities delegitimized Nicolás Maduro’s claim he’d won a second six-year term. Rejecting the results were the UN, the EU, the US, and a number of other countries and organizations. As Maduro continued on his authoritarian path, overseeing the near total collapse of the Venezuelan economy, efforts to force him out escalated when 35-year-old opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president this week. Guaido was quickly recognized by the US, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, and other US allies in the Americas. A defiant Maduro immediately cut off diplomatic relations with the US and ordered all US diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours. While speaking to supporters outside the royal palace in Caracas, Maduro urged them to “resist at all costs” what he called a coup attempt orchestrated by “the coup-mongering, interventionist gringo empire” and the “fascist right.”

Guaido said his surprise move was the only way to rescue Venezuela from “dictatorship” and restore constitutional order. “We know that this will have consequences,” he said. A Caracas-based political analyst, noting that the strategy was clearly concocted by the US and the Venezuelan opposition, warned: “the government reaction will come shortly and it remains unclear if the people are ready to defend Guaidó with their lives.” A senior Trump administration official said the focus of any US measures against Maduro would first be diplomatic and economic, adding, however, “If the Maduro regime chooses to respond with violence, if they choose to harm any of the national assembly members, all options are on the table for the United States to respond.”

Additional reads: Venezuelan President Maduro gives U.S. diplomats 72 hours to leave after U.S. recognizes opposition leader as interim president(WaPo, $)

– The Latest: Colombia’s president urges Maduro to step aside (WaPo, $)


Arab League…Assemble! PleaseLebanon is hosting the fourth economic and social summit of the Arab League which started Sunday. Kings and presidents of the Arab world were all summoned to attend, and all but two declined. The League, which was intended to strengthen ties among Arab countries from Morocco to Oman, had been formed at the suggestion of the British during WWII. The League united its members in shaking off colonialism and confronting Israel, in addition to helping broker an end to Lebanon’s 15-year civil war and developing a significant Israel-Palestine peace plan. Unfortunately today’s League bears little resemblance to that of the past. Regional rivalries, disagreements, and dysfunction have all but made the League a mockery whose only shared component might just be the Arab language. (NYT)

Mexico’s Murder Problem: A report released by Mexico’s Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection shows 2018 was the deadliest year on record for homicides, with intentional deaths averaging 91 per day. Last year’s 33,341 homicides were a 15 percent increase over the 28,866 deaths in 2017. Law enforcement agencies, often rife with corruption or crippled by intimidation, are clearly unwilling or unable to stem ever increasing violence from drug cartels and criminal organizations. It’s an immense political obstacle for new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who, like those before him, campaigned on promises of eliminating corruption and restoring law and order. (NPR)

Cambodia Tries to Forget Pol Pot by Creating Cakes and Dragon Boats: Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen has been trying to get young people excited about his aging regime. He’s done so by coming up with a number of oddball achievements, all geared toward creating an image of visible enthusiasm for the nation and its leaders. There was 2015’s 8,900 pound sticky-rice cake, stuffed with mung beans and pork belly, that was described by Guinness World Records as “officially amazing,” followed by other record-setting feats like world’s longest scarf (3,772 feet), and world’s longest dragon boat (286 feet). Two-thirds of Cambodia’s population is under 30, with no memory of the Khmer Rouge’s bloody rule in the 1970s or the long years of civil war after. They’re just tired of their country’s international reputation for genocide and political dysfunction. (NYT)

Battleship Potemkin Missile: Both US presidents Obama and Trump have said Russia is violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, intended to limit the producing, testing, or deploying of any land-based or ballistic missile within a range of 310 to more than 3400 miles. The Trump administration set a deadline of February 2 for Russia to come into compliance with the pact or the US will pull out. The two sides met in Geneva last week, and Russia took the opportunity to show off its new cruise missile, put on display to foreign audiences for the first time. The Kremlin says the missile complies with the INF treaty, and Americans were invited to inspect it; the offer was rejected as insufficient. “A static display of the system doesn’t tell me how far that missile can fly” said America’s Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. She added “the missile needs to be tested under conditions that the Russian military does not control. [Russia] can either have its noncompliant missile system or it can have the I.N.F. treaty…it cannot have both.” (NYT)

Additional read: “Russian oligarch’s deal for sanctions relief is sweeter than publicly portrayed, document suggests.” (WaPo)

– New intelligence strategy warns of threats to Western democracy (WaPo, $)

– Inside China’s leading ‘sponge city’: Wuhan’s war with water (Guardian)

– Huawei warns it may pull out of some countries (BBC)

– U.S. prosecutors press witnesses to testify against Assange-WikiLeaks(Reuters)

– Prince William says celebrities shunned mental health charity (BBC)


A House of Cards Episode on Political Brinkmanship & Government Shutdown: President Trump learned a constitutional lesson Wednesday when he tried doing an end run around Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She had written the president on January 16, citing security concerns for uninviting her to the House chamber to deliver his State of the Union address. But yesterday Trump wrote Pelosi saying he has “no security concerns,” so her un-invitation notwithstanding, he planned to be on the House floor next Tuesday to deliver his speech. What the president apparently didn’t know is that the House and Senate have to pass a concurrent resolution for there to be a joint session of Congress where the event would take place. Neither chamber has taken a vote on that, and Pelosi’s written reply to Trump’s letter said she has no plans to call for a vote. In other words, as one law school professor put it: “No concurrent resolution, no joint session.” (NPR, Vox)

Get With the Program: Sustained attacks by Republicans on government-backed health schemes, including the Affordable Care Act, have resulted in 7 million fewer Americans having health insurance than four years ago, a new Gallup survey has found. It is the highest uninsured rate since 2014. The US is the only large, highly developed country that lacks universal health coverage. At the same time, healthcare costs in the US are the highest in the world, and can be financially catastrophic. (Guardian)

Additional reads:

– Revealed: the free-market groups helping the tobacco industry(Guardian)

– California Doctors Alarmed As State Links Their Opioid Prescriptions to Deaths (NPR)

– From Cover-Ups To Secret Plots: The Murky History Of Supreme Justices’ Health (NPR)

– Trump’s Ex-Attorney Cohen Postpones Hill Testimony, Citing Ongoing ‘Threats’ (NPR)

– Biden’s Paid Speech Buoyed the G.O.P. in Midwest Battleground (NYT, $)

– Should Young Americans Be Required To Do Public Service? Federal Panel Says Maybe (NPR)

– ‘Unacceptable’: Coast Guard’s top officer criticizes lack of payment in government shutdown (WaPo, $)

– Drop-off baby boxes: Can they help save lives in the US? (BBC)


Are Evolutionary Desires Unhealthy?: A few hundred years ago food was scarce. Now we live in the age of excess, and we are surrounded by food. Some of the greatest challenges we face as a society today is that our minds and bodies haven’t evolved to adapt to an environment that hijacks our evolutionary instinct of what is good or bad: He Was 460 Pounds. What Confronting His Weight Taught Him About Obesity In America” (NPR) and “You’re Not Getting Much Taller, America. But You Are Getting Bigger.: New government data charts some interesting changes in average bodies over recent decades.” (NYT) “You Don’t Have To Go No-Carb: Instead, Think Slow Carb” (NPR) And “Fasting diets are going mainstream — ahead of the science. Here’s why.: Some people lose weight fasting but many others can’t stick to it.” (Vox)

The marvel of the human dad: Among our close animal relatives, only humans have involved and empathic fathers. Why did evolution favour the devoted dad?” (Aeon)

Thankfully, because of progress and science, we now worry less about being prey or random injuries and we now focus on aging disorders: “Blood test could detect Alzheimer’s more than 10 years earlier – study: Changes in levels of a protein might reveal onset of disease long before symptoms appear” (Guardian) “Faecal transplant researchers identify ‘super-pooper’ donors: Study finds stool transplants from some donors are far more effective than others” (Guardian) In our twenties traveling for work was cool. In our thirties traveling for work sounds like torture. Especially if that traveling was a long daily commute stuck in traffic: Stuck and Stressed: The Health Costs of Traffic (NYT, $)

Please consider making a donation to Daily Pnut, an independently operated and bootstrapped publication. Many thanks to everyone who already supports us!

Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: