An American Tragedy: Generation Addiction
June 3, 2019
“The best fighter is never angry.”
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
– Lao Tzu
MBZ’s Money & Manipulation in the Middle East: Wealth x Patience = Power
The de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, is arguably the most influential Arab leader in Washington and across the Middle East. MBZ has spent decades cultivating strong ties with the US; he could always be counted on as America’s most reliable ally in the region.
The 58-year-old British-trained helicopter pilot uses his immense sovereign wealth (“He controls sovereign wealth funds worth $1.3 trillion, more than any other country.”) to assure the continuation of that relationship, devoting tens of millions of dollars a year to hiring former American officials, paying lobbyists, donating to charities that Washington cares about and contributing to the city’s research institutes.
MBZ is obsessed with two enemies — Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood, a 90-year-old Islamist movement founded in Egypt that has become mainstream in many Arab countries. The prince relates that his dread of the Muslim Brotherhood stems from firsthand experience, when a teacher his father hired early on as his tutor tried to indoctrinate him. That experiment backfired, but MBZ worries that the population could be swayed by the appeal of Islamist politics. He is convinced the Arab world is not suitable for democracy because it would elect Islamists.
The prince once had a close relationship with former president Obama, until the Arab Spring and Obama’s secret nuclear talks with Iran came between them. MBZ felt betrayed, and backed away to wait for a new administration. His ploy paid off and his influence has grown exponentially with President Trump in office.
MBZ has received almost everything he’s sought from the White House — even his proposals for Israeli-Palestinian peace, passed over by the Obama administration, are at the core of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan. Trump frequently follows the prince’s views on Qatar, Libya and Saudi Arabia, even over the advice of cabinet officials or senior national security staff. What is most worrisome is MBZ’s urging that the US adopt his increasingly bellicose approach to the region.
Kim Is Not Paranoid, You’re Paranoid!
- The February summit in Vietnam between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump failed to reach a deal due to conflicts over US insistence on complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and North Korea’s demands for sanctions relief.
- A South Korean newspaper reported on Friday that shortly after the failed summit Kim’s nuclear envoy and four other foreign ministry officials were charged with spying for the US, and “poorly reporting on the negotiations without properly grasping U.S. intentions.” Then they were summarily executed. (Reuters)
- Additional quote: “Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction. The more Successful you are, the more people want a chunk of your business and then another chunk and then another until there is nothing” – Andrew S. Grove, Only the Paranoid Survive
Fighting Fire With Fungus
- Researchers from the University of Maryland, and the IRSS research institute in Burkina Faso in West Africa, have come up with a way to kill the Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria, but have become resistant to insecticides.
- The researchers genetically engineered a fungus called Metarhizium pingshaense, which naturally infects the mosquitoes, by adding the venom of an Australian funnel-web spider to the DNA code of the fungus. That enabled the fungus to make its own toxin once it was inside a mosquito.
- Test results, published in the journal Science, revealed that the genetically-engineered fungus took just 45 days to kill 99 percent of the mosquitoes being tested, without harming other insects. (BBC)
- In May SpaceX successfully launched 60 500 pound satellites into space. SpaceX plans to launch thousands more satellites that will create a mega-constellation of false stars collectively called Starlink, that will connect the entire planet to the internet and create a new line of business for the private spaceflight company.
- Other companies also want to get in on the space internet business. Unfortunately the satellites are so bright astronomers worry they will change what a natural sky looks like, threatening not only their research, but ordinary stargazing. (NYT)
- Additional quote: “Constantly seek criticism. A well thought out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold.” – Elon Musk
Additional World News
- Is This the End for Netanyahu? (NYT, $)
- Philippine President Duterte says he ‘used to be gay’ before he ‘cured’ himself (CNN)
- Massive Cruise Ship Crashes Into Port In Venice, Injuring At Least 5 (NPR)
- Thousands Wait In Juárez, Mexico, For A Chance At Sanctuary In The U.S. (NPR)
- Donald Trump denies calling Meghan ‘nasty’ despite audio recording: US president heard saying ‘I didn’t know she was nasty’ in interview published by Sun (Guardian)
- Trump shatters diplomatic etiquette on eve of UK visit (CNN)
No Cortex In The Front, Party In The Back
Adolescence is the time of life when someone is most likely to join a cult, kill, be killed, invent an art form, help overthrow a dictator, ethnically cleanse a village, care for the needy, transform physics, adopt a hideous fashion style, commit to God, and be convinced that all the forces of history have converged to make this moment the most consequential ever, fraught with peril and promise. All this can be explained because the teenage brain is unique.
- Its distinctiveness arises from a key region, the frontal cortex, not being fully developed. The frontal cortex is the most recently evolved part of the human brain; it’s where the sensible mature stuff happens: long-term planning, executive function, impulse control, and emotional regulation. But its neurons are not fully wired up until one’s mid-20s. This largely explains the turbulence of adolescence and the compulsion to do weird things, like bungee jump. Adolescents are bad at risk assessment in a particular way — they take more risk than adults, and they seek more novelty.
- Another reason adolescence is more turbulent than childhood? Hormones, which increase the likelihood of risky sexual behavior, poor health habits, substance abuse, and violence. As has been said, the greatest crime-fighting tool available to society is a 30th birthday. (Nautilus.)
- Additional read: The Terrible Teens: What’s wrong with them? (NYT, $)
An American Tragedy: Generation Addiction
- More than 20 years after the introduction of Oxycontin, and almost 400,000 opioid overdose deaths later, an entire generation is growing up amid the effects of a historic epidemic. The children whose families are trapped in a relentless cycle of addiction, rehab and prison can be called Generation O.
- The New York Times interviewed nearly two dozen young people across the country who described what it was like to grow up in chaotic homes — often with plenty of neglect and abuse, but no food because the grocery money went instead to drugs — and finding relatives unconscious, or frothing at the mouth, or dead, after overdosing. (NYT)
- Additional quote: “Love is the only thing you can really give in all this world. When you give love, you give everything.” – Theodore Dreiser
Rolling Up The Welcome Mat
- Chinese tourism at the Grand Canyon had quadrupled between 2010 and 2017. In 2018 the number of Chinese visitors declined by 3.7 percent. Nationwide, the number of visitors from China fell last year for the first time since 2003 — down by 5.7 percent, according to data released Friday by the National Travel and Tourism Office.
- A spokeswoman for the US Travel Association said: “It’s really hard to predict what is actually causing” the trends. She cited the strong dollar as making travel to the US more expensive, then added that “there’s a potential that some of the trade skirmishes that we’re having … could have unintended consequences.” (NPR)
- Additional read US-Sino relations: A ‘Bridge’ to China, and Her Family’s Business, in the Trump Cabinet: Elaine Chao has boosted the profile of her family’s shipping company, which benefits from industrial policies in China that are roiling the Trump administration. (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- A mass shooting couldn’t happen in Virginia Beach … until it did: On the Atlantic coast the schools are good and the sun is warm. On Friday, at a municipal building, 12 people were murdered (Guardian) And Virginia Beach Gunman Said He Was Quitting, Then Went on a Shooting Rampage (NYT, $)
- Trump’s Twitter Frenzy Is Packing Less of a Punch: His accelerating activity has become less novel to his followers. (NYT, $)
Elephants Never Forget That They Have A Meeting Next Tuesday
- The latest neuroscience suggests that consciousness is an adaptive capacity that allows humans both to imagine the future and to connect the dots between past events. People are said to have a “workspace” in the brain where they consciously store one event until another one comes along.
- Scientists have performed experiments suggesting that animals are also capable of retaining memories that allow them to plan for the future. Animal consciousness is hard to investigate, of course, but the number is growing of persuasive examples demonstrating an animal’s ability to “reason.” (Atlantic)
Email Advice in an Email Newsletter
- How to send a confidential message on Gmail: Set your messages to expire, and prevent them from being shared (The Verge)
- Using this method could cut your email time in half: “The average person who masters our technique gets back over 250 hours per year,” says Prasanth Nair, creator of the Stack Method. (Fast Company)
How to Get Away From Email and Digital
- On the Pleasures and Sorrows of Life Without Screens (Cal Newport)
- The Glorious, Almost-Disconnected Boredom of My Walk in Japan (Wired, $)
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