October 21, 2017
It’s Saturday and the end of the third week of October. Controversies and self-induced injuries defined much of the week for the White House, with conflicting or incendiary statements by President Trump dominating headlines across several areas of politics and policy. Following last week’s signing of an executive order cutting funding for the Affordable Care Act health exchanges by the president, Senators Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander created a bipartisan agreement to continue funding the exchanges in light of Trump’s decree, which he initially announced support of before back-pedaling his comments on Twitter.
Elsewhere, the president found himself engulfed in a larger controversy regarding his inability to offer condolences to gold star families, culminating in a defense of the president by his chief of staff during a press conference, where Chief of Staff John Kelly had to speak about the death of his son in Afghanistan in 2010. By the end of the week, both of Trump’s immediate predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama gave implicit rebukes of the current president’s behavior during separate speeches in New York and Virginia.
In other top news, a truck bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia killed over 350 people; a federal judge in Hawaii blocked the third edition of the Muslim travel ban; the Senate passed a budget plan that included $1.5 trillion in tax cuts matched by unspecified spending cuts over the next decade; Florida authorities arrested three men for firing at a group of counter-protesters during a Neo-Nazi rally; and a federal appeals court denied abortion access to a detained immigrant teen.
Enjoy the weekend and thanks for reading the weekly edition of the newsletter.
The Wonks Team
Politics and Public Policy
- The New York Times investigates the cyber-hacking capabilities of North Korea, recounting the number of financial and security-directed attacks by the Kim regime, as well as the country’s relationship to Iran’s cyber-attack program.
And just as Western analysts once scoffed at the potential of the North's nuclear program, so did experts dismiss its…www.nytimes.com
- FiveThirtyEight examines the Supreme Court’s aversion to numbers, citing legal culture’s dismissal of statistically-based evidence and how that could shape current cases on gerrymandering and access to user privacy data.
The Supreme Court does not compute. Or at least some of its members would rather not. The justices, the most powerful…fivethirtyeight.com
- Bloomberg News analyzes the relationship between smartphones and fatal car accidents, finding problems with how federal regulators attribute the cause of accidents and how to improve data collection on distracted driving.
Jennifer Smith doesn't like the term "accident." It implies too much chance and too little culpability. A "crash…www.bloomberg.com
- The Washington Post chronicles the 12-day silence of President Trump following the ambush and death of four U.S. soldiers during a special operations mission in Niger and how the president responded by invoking the death of the son of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly back from 2010.
On Oct. 4, the day four U.S. Special Forces soldiers were gunned down at the border of Niger and Mali in the deadliest…www.washingtonpost.com
- The Upshot analyzes the effects of wearing body cameras on police behavior, finding inconsistent rules across individual departments on when to wear cameras and insignificant behavioral changes for officers during interactions and civilians.
Until now, the most commonly cited study on police body cameras had suggested that cameras did indeed have a calming…www.nytimes.com
- The Washington Post assesses how the Trump administration’s scheduling changes to the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act reduces the quality of available insurance plans for millions of Americans.
Millions of Americans with insurance through the Affordable Care Act could find themselves locked into health plans…www.washingtonpost.com
Business, Science, and Health
- FiveThirtyEight writes about Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, explaining why the unique environment of the island drives up energy costs compared to the mainland U.S. and why the damages incurred from Hurricane Maria proved particularly devastating.
More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria crashed into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, Allan Rivera had still not had a full…fivethirtyeight.com
- Monday’s episode of “Fresh Air” from NPR: Terry Gross interviews sleep researcher Matthew Walker on the restorative function of sleep, how pills or alcohol affects the quality of sleep, and how sleep changes with age.
MCKIBILLO/Getty Images/Imagezoo The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of eight hours of sleep per night…www.npr.org
- The Los Angeles Times writes about the effects of the Northern California wildfires on the region’s health-care system, noting the shortages of supplies and overstretched resources along with the difficulty of accessing patient records.
Dr. Scott Witt kept close behind the ambulance carrying the newborns. On his motorcycle, he drove over and ducked under…www.latimes.com
- The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports on the cleanup in Wine Country following last week’s wildfires, remarking on the Environmental Protection Agency’s role in overseeing the efforts due to the toxicity of the debris.
Federal and state agencies are already planning post-fire cleanup in seven Northern California counties, including…www.pressdemocrat.com
- The Atlantic writes about the strains of the flu virus that could potentially become the next pandemic, describing which animals each strain affects and how the viruses could spread to humans like past pandemics such as the bird and pig flus.
There's good news and bad news.www.theatlantic.com
- Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times evaluates the monopolistic behaviors of the largest tech companies — including Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft — and how their anticompetitive behavior hinders startup growth.
Because today's giants are nimbler and more paranoid about upstart competition than the tech behemoths of yore, they…www.nytimes.com
Sports and Culture
- The San Francisco Chronicle assesses the legal hurdles facing Colin Kaepernick in his collusion claim against the NFL, comparing his grievance to previous federal cases involving similar accusations lobbied against Major League Baseball.
A grievance filed by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick says his inability to find work, despite six solid…www.sfchronicle.com
- Bill Barnwell of ESPN analyzes the impact of Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury on the Green Bay Packers’ season, remarking on the available backup quarterback options, as well as the team’s other gaping injuries on their offensive line.
Oct 16, 2017 Bill BarnwellESPN Staff Writer Close Bill Barnwell is a staff writer for ESPN.com. This is 2013 all over …www.espn.com
- The Ringer debates the value of a Netflix account in light rising monthly subscription fees and the improving quality of original programing from competing streaming services Amazon and Hulu.
Check your credit card statements, folks. If you missed the news, Netflix is raising the price of its standard $10-per…www.theringer.com
- Laura Wagner of Deadspin reflects on ESPN’s controversial partnership with Barstool Sports, contrasting the success of Bar Stool’s misogynistic sports commentary with the network’s desire to remain neutral and inoffensive.
This week, ESPN premiered a new show on ESPN 2 called Barstool Van Talk, hosted by Barstool Sports personalities and…deadspin.com
- FiveThirtyEight writes about Thursday’s sports equinox, when all four major American sports leagues hold games, and how the event has become a more common occurrence in recent years thanks to the expansion of Thursday Night Football.