Demographics is Destiny | Trump and Facebook’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad 2019


“It was accountability that Nixon feared.” – Bob Woodward

“Hate was the poison. Hate was what drove him and his presidency. And at that moment he had to leave office, he understood the poison and how hate had destroyed him, had put the country on edge. And if there’s anything to reflect on now, if you look back, as we’ve seen the current presidential election, on the surface and underneath, there is too much contempt, too much hate, and that, if you think about it, we need to know what’s really going on.” – Ibid.


Come To Beautiful Sicily! Please: For less than half the price of a tall Coffee Frappuccino at Starbucks you can own a two-story home in Sambuca, Sicily. There are dozens to choose from in this hilltop town, with its breathtaking views across the Mediterranean island. Giuseppe Cacioppo, Sambuca’s deputy mayor, sounds like the Ambassador of Dreams. “Sambuca is known as the ‘city of splendor.’ ” he says. “This fertile patch of land is dubbed the ‘earthly paradise’. We’re located inside a nature reserve, packed with history. Gorgeous beaches, woods and mountains surround us. It’s silent and peaceful, an idyllic retreat for a detox stay.” He promises the offer is no joke—if you want a house, “you’ll get it [in] no time.”

Sambuca’s population is dwindling; residents have been moving to larger cities and the town needs newcomers to keep it from going under. So officials are offering houses for one euro. That’s $1.14. The only condition is that the new owner must commit to spending at least 15,000 euros ($17,088) over three years on renovations. You’ll also need about $5,700 for a security deposit, but that’s refunded after refurbishing is completed. No disappointments here—on a clear day you can even see Mt. Etna.

Additional read: “China’s Looming Crisis: A Shrinking Population. China is facing its most precipitous decline in population in decades, setting the stage for potential demographic, economic and even political crises in the near future.” (NYT)


Et Tu, Cohen?: In a story first reported in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen acknowledged he was involved in a scheme to rig online poll results to make it appear Trump was a plausible presidential candidate and had more political support than he did. Following the report, Cohen tweeted: “As for the @WSJ article on poll rigging, what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.” (NPR)

Additional reads: “President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project: Trump received 10 personal updates from Michael Cohen and encouraged a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.” (BuzzFeed) And “Democrats Fall Short in Russia Sanctions Vote” (NYT)

El Chapo Narcs On The Narc: Stunning testimony was given in a Brooklyn courtroom Tuesday by a former criminal associate of Joaquin Guzman Loera, the infamous drug lord known as El Chapo. Alex Cifuentes Villa, himself a Columbian drug lord, claimed former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto took a $100 million bribe from Guzman. Cifuentes’ allegation was only surprising to those in America; most in Mexico who followed the issue seemed doubtful. A Mexican lawyer who helped write the country’s anti-corruption laws said: “We know that protected witnesses can say anything. If nothing more is presented it would just be hearsay from a narcotrafficker hoping for some kind of benefit.” Still others pointed out that Pena Nieto was the one who caught and arrested El Chapo and eventually extradited him to the US. (NYT)

The Heads Of ISIS Keep Growing Back: Declarations by political leaders that terrorist groups have been defeated should be met with skepticism. Less than a month after President Trump announced that ISIS had been defeated, four Americans in Syria were killed in an attack for which the Islamic State took responsibility. This week Somalia’s terrorist group al-Shabab killed at least 21 people in an attack on a hotel in Nairobi; the same group killed 67 people at Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013. A year earlier in 2012 African Union forces had announced victory over the group in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu, and claimed all remaining militants would soon be defeated. After the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq was killed in a US airstrike in 2006 it was thought the group has passed its peak and would disappear. But it rose again in 2013, this time as the Islamic State. (WaPo)

Additional reads: From Pnut’s Publisher: “Before ISIS, a Resonant Image of a Captured Flag in Iraq.” (NYT) And “How defeated is the Islamic State?” (WaPo)

Mulan Sequel: Back In Business: Two Indian sisters, now 18 and 16, started running the family business after their father fell ill in 2014. The girls, then 12 and 14, disguised themselves as boys, maintained their father’s barbershop and kept his customers for four years. Women in conservative rural parts of north and eastern India usually work on farms or from home, embroidering clothes or preparing and packaging food; they usually work segregated from men. Running a male salon is unheard of. After their story appeared in a Hindi newspaper this week, the girls were honored by government officers. (Guardian)

Additional reads: “A Bollywood icon was accused of sexual assault. The response was chilling.“; and: “Tiny Indian state proposes world’s biggest experiment with guaranteed income.” (WaPo)

– “Amid Brexit Chaos, E.U. Sees a ‘Catastrophic Success’” (NYT)

– “Largest collection ever of breached data found: Store of 770m email addresses and passwords discovered after being put on hacking site” (Guardian) And “The 773 Million Record “Collection #1” Data Breach” (Troy Hunt)

– “Want to Cultivate a Liberal European Islam? Look to Bosnia.:Throughout the 20th century, Bosnian Muslim thinkers offered creative theological interpretations that squared with European life.” (Atlantic)

– “What’s Driving Low Gas Prices? A Global Oil Glut” (NPR)


Will Congressional Women Trump Trump?: On Wednesday Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wrote President Trump suggesting he postpone his January 29 State of the Union address because of security concerns during the shutdown. On Thursday Trump wrote Pelosi, denying her use of a military plane for a weekend trip she’d planned to visit US troops in Afghanistan, including a stop in Brussels for meetings to reaffirm the United States’ “ironclad commitment” to NATO. A spokesman said: “The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation & thanks to [our service men and women] & to obtain critical national security & intelligence briefings from those on the front lines.” Trump labeled it a “public relations event.” (Reuters) Additional read: “Nancy Pelosi Is Winning: She beat George W. Bush on Social Security privatization, and she’ll beat Trump on the wall.” (Atlantic)

Silent Abductions On Our Own Soil: An official at the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has confirmed for the first time that the Trump administration was using an aggressive and unannounced family separation policy as a measure to deter illegal immigration nearly a year before it became official Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy. Beginning in the summer of 2017, federal immigration agents separated “thousands” of migrant children from their parents, well before Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April 2018 that it would be official DHS policy. A federal lawsuit resulted in the government identifying a class of 2,737 children who had been separated from their families between May and June 2018. “However, this number does not represent the full scope of family separations,” according to the OIG official. (NPR) Additional read: “A Latino Marine veteran was detained for deportation. Then ICE realized he was a citizen.” (WaPo)


Techopolies & The New Gilded Age

– “Thieves of Experience: How Google and Facebook Corrupted Capitalism” (LA Review Of Books)

– “About half of Facebook users say they are not comfortable when they see how the platform categorizes them, and 27% maintain the site’s classifications do not accurately represent them” (Pew)

– “The Attention Economy Is a Malthusian Trap: Big tech companies now trade at one of the smallest premiums in history.” (Atlantic)

– “O.K., Google: How Much Money Have I Made for You Today?” (NYT)

– “Facebook employees busted leaving 5-star reviews for Portal on Amazon” (Verge)

– “Facebook manager says in internal post she quit after being ‘harassed’ over views on diversity” (CNBC)

The Tide Has Turned on Trump

– “50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency” (Atlantic)

– “Trump Must Be a Russian Agent; The Alternative is Too Awful: It would be rather embarrassing for Donald Trump at this point if Robert Mueller were to declare that the president isn’t an agent of Russian intelligence.” (Wired)

– “Subpoena the Interpreter: There are real costs to such a move—but the public needs to know what was said between Trump and Putin.” (Atlantic)

– “Impeach Donald Trump: Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs.” (Atlantic)

– “All the President’s Memes” (NYT)

– “If Only Obama Had Done the Things Obama Actually Did” (NY Magazine)

– “No boss? No thanks: Far from making them obsolete, the flatter business organisations of today need managers more than ever but in new ways” (Aeon)

– “How to exercise during the workday (and why it’s important): There are health and cognitive benefits of working out while you’re on the clock that could help you feel better, look better and perform better.” (BBC)

– “Divers swim with one of biggest great white sharks off Hawaii: A team of divers has had a close encounter with one of the biggest great white sharks on record – and lived to tell the tale.” (BBC)

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