In a first for his presidency, Trump Makes a Surprise Visit to Iraq to See American Troops (158,000+ shares), as Annie Karni, Mark Landler and Thomas Gibbons-Neff report at The New York Times. The reason? “Someone apparently got big-boy pants for Christmas and wants to show them off,” tweets Carmen Gentile.
And then this happened: James LaPorta of Newsweek noticed that video posted to Donald Trump’s Twitter account may have revealed the deployment and identities of covert special forces in Iraq (200,000+ shares). “Current and former Defense Department officials told Newsweek that information concerning what units are deployed and where is almost always classified and is a violation of operational security,” LaPorta writes.
Also while he was there, Trump told troops that he gave them their first pay raise in more than 10 years -- a falsehood he has repeatedly told, reports CNN’s Kate Sullivan. In fact, military pay has increased every year for more than three decades, but, you know, he “Just keeps saying it,” as Michael Kruse tweets. “Another hour. Another lie,” says Dale Bass.
Speaking of lies...er...“incorrect claims,” Mark Maremont of The Wall Street Journal brings us the scoop that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker incorrectly claimed he was named an Academic All-American while playing football at the University of Iowa. Carlos Tejada highlights this part: “Questions ‘were raised Monday on Wikipedia Signpost, an in-house publication for Wikipedia editors, by a user named Smallbones.’” The real question, though, says Ben Greenman, is this: “Are you still a believer in your Academic All-American honors? Because at 49, that’s marginal, right?”
In a special section devoted to environmental change in the Trump era, John Branch, Eric Lipton and Steve Eder of The New York Times explore how President Trump’s Retreat on the Environment Is Affecting Communities Across America. Danielle Ivory highlights this quote from the piece: “It’s a beautiful river,” she said. “You just don’t want to fall in.”
Noam Scheiber calls it “A remarkable piece of reporting on the hidden toll of Trump’s environmental reg rollback by @EricLiptonNYT et al. The first story on the pesticide Chlorpyrifos, from the same family as sarin nerve gas, is especially chilling.” And Nolan Hicks tweets, “Clear and concise: ‘Had Donald J. Trump not won the presidency in 2016, millions of pounds of chlorpyrifos most likely would not have been applied to American crops over the past 21 months. It would not have sickened substantial numbers of farm workers.’”
Back inside the Beltway, AP’s Jonathan Lemire looks at how Trump’s presidency has changed Washington, defied convention. John McQuaid notes the “Perils of the anodyne ‘presidential’ headline – utterly failing to capture what's happening,” adding, “The @AP faces a real problem here. This story will appear in local newspapers/sites that have many Trump-supporting readers. Can't just say ‘Trump plunges presidency into chaos, puts nation at risk.’ OTOH the headline exactly conforms to what Trump supporters want to hear.”
Good (if stomach turning)
For the origin story, read Patrick Radden Keefe in the New Yorker on How Mark Burnett Resurrected Donald Trump as an Icon of American Success. He explains how, “[w]ith ‘The Apprentice,’ the TV producer mythologized Trump—then a floundering D-lister—as the ultimate titan, paving his way to the Presidency.” Maura Johnston warns us that it’s a “good (if stomach turning) piece though.” Tweets Ernie Smith, “This great profile of Mark Burnett underlines the deeply ironic fact that Burnett came to the U.S. without a green card, and he picked up a down-on-his-luck guy who has provably shown he wouldn't have returned the favor it the tables were turned.” But the piece shows how the two truly are birds of a feather. And Benjamin R. Freed says, “SUNSET BOULEVARD continues to be the most instructive film for our contemporary political situation.”
At The New York Times, Jennifer Medina tells the story of 22-year-old Brendan Kelly: First Las Vegas, Then Thousand Oaks. Now He Must Survive in Afghanistan. She writes, “in moving from domestic massacres to war zone, from hero at home to Marine abroad, Mr. Kelly offers a portrait at once inspiring and deeply troubling of how we live with violence, how we can both transcend it and be indelibly scarred by it at the same time.”
On Twitter, John Woodrow Cox tells us, “The reporting of this story, which features an unprecedented analysis of school lockdowns, took many months and included a review of *20,000* news stories, by @dataeditor, and data from school districts in 31 of the country’s largest cities.” And Steven Rich adds, “If you're wondering why I've been so tired, this story is the reason.” Their piece for The Washington Post finds schoolkids ‘Scared to death’: More than 4 million children endured lockdowns last school year. Tweets Tracy Jan, “The sudden order 2 hunker down can overwhelm students, who have wept & soiled themselves, written farewell messages 2 family members & wills explaining what should b done w/their bicycles & PlayStations. Heartbreaking read by @dataeditor @JohnWoodrowCox.” “How do we even begin to calculate the cost of this madness?” asks Jim MacMillan.
At The Washington Post, Kevin Sieff and Carolyn Van Houten reveal what happens When death awaits deported asylum seekers (24,000+ shares). Ronald Acevedo waited eight months for asylum in Arizona. Days after he was deported, he was found dead in the trunk of a car.
St. John Barned-Smith calls this next one “Absolutely devastating work from @ProPublica on how law enforcement in NY labeled dozens of students gang members, causing deportations and ruined lives.” That piece, by Hannah Dreier, with photos by Natalie Keyssar, is the collaboration between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, He Drew His School Mascot - and ICE Labeled Him a Gang Member. “The long arm of ICE reached into the schools, and a well-meaning student was deported for doodling. Read Hannah Dreier's astonishing ProPublica/New York Times Magazine story,” Daniel Golden urges. Adds Pamela Colloff, “What makes @hannahdreier's work so extraordinary is the depth of her reporting, her empathy for her subjects & her ability to find one astonishing detail after another. Her latest--a collaboration between @ProPublica & @NYTMag--is powerful & devastating.”
A new investigation by Spencer Ackerman and Adam Rawnsley of The Daily Beast finds $800 Million in Taxpayer Money Went to Private Prisons Where Migrants Work for Pennies. Tweets Ackerman, “For-profit immigration detention is a booming business as private prisons donate big to Trump, who throws ever more people into for-profit cages, which then have a growing pool of captive labor.”
Must reads (and watches)
Fernanda Santos links to “A stunning @nytopinion short doc on deadly results of EU’s outsourcing migrant rescue to Libya.” That’s ‘It’s an Act of Murder’: How Europe Outsources Suffering as Migrants Drown, by Charles Heller, Lorenzo Pezzani, Itamar Mann, Violeta Moreno-Lax and Eyal Weizman of The New York Times. Tweets Adam B. Ellick, “Watch: 10 Cameras rolling. 9 Survivor Interviews. 3D Models. We reconstructed a botched migrant rescue at sea to show how Europe Outsources Suffering and is turning its back on a migrant crisis.”
In a new piece for The Washington Post, Will Hobson tells the story of Jim McVay, a sports executive who for the past 30 years has run the Outback Bowl: He runs one amateur football game per year. He makes more than $1 million. David O'Brien says, “I don't want to disparage this Outback Bowl director just because he's paid $1 million a year to run the Outback Bowl.... Wait, yes I do want to. That's ridiculous.” Kevin Gorman explains, “This is called running a scam.”
And “On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me: A STORY ABOUT THE GREATEST COBALT HEIST IN HISTORY.” Kit Chellel gifts us with his and Mark Burton’s new piece for Bloomberg Businessweek, Grand Theft Cobalt: Rotterdam – Thieves Pull Off Audacious Cobalt Heists at Europe’s Largest Port. As Zeke Faux says, “never skip a @KitChellel story.”
Jennifer Williams of the Manchester Evening News offers up the extraordinary story behind Manchester and Salford’s bitter war over Channel 4. Tweets Jim Waterson “The story of how Greater Manchester lost its bid to host Channel 4’s regional office, containing this horrifying detail of a dinner put on for visiting TV executives”: In fact, what they thought was going to be a dinner turned out to be a “bespoke theatrical show lasting nearly an hour.”
Colin O’Brady became the first person to cross Antarctica alone, unassisted and unaided by wind. He did the final leg in a grueling 32-hour burst, “And it only got bonkersier!!” tweets Francis Lam. Adam Skolnick has the full story at The New York Times.
At New York magazine, Max Read attempted to answer the question, How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Spoiler: So so soooo much fakety-fake. Tweets Aram Zucker-Scharff, “The numbers are all fking fake, the metrics are bullshit, the agencies responsible for enforcing good practices are knowing bullshiters enforcing and profiting off all the fake numbers and none of the models make sense at scale of actual human users.” As Brian Beutler says, “Once the fake internet is done destroying real journalism as a vocation, people with real journalism training will scrounge for dollars teaching people to sort real internet from fake internet. Happy 2019!”
So here’s one you’ll want to check out if you’ve still got that script burning a hole in your back pocket: Calling All Writers! Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions Is Now Accepting Film And TV Script Submissions.
Bringing joy to the world
And finally today, “Hats off to a delightful, metrical life,” tweets Margalit Fox, who has the New York Times obit for Larry Eisenberg: Larry Eisenberg, 99, Whose Limericks Were Very Well Read, Is Dead. She writes, “Dr. Eisenberg, who died on Tuesday at 99, was for more than a decade one of the most prolific contributors of reader comments on nytimes.com — and, by extension, on the internet as a whole.” Tweets Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Long before he posted limericks on @nytimes, Larry Eisenberg would send them to us in the mail. Fabulous obit of a one-of-a-kind character by @margalitfox.” As Carolyn Ryan points out, “There are many ways to bring joy to the world. This guy did it through the @nytimes comment section.”