Daily PNUT – a wonderful newsletter I subscribed to

Daily Pnut
The World In A Nutshell
“Philosophy is common sense with big words.” – James Madison

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – Ibid.

“The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.” – Ibid.


John Bolton Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Arm The Bomb:President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has long advocated for US military strikes against Iran. Last year at Bolton’s direction the National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide military options to strike Tehran after militants fired three mortars into an empty lot on the grounds of the US Embassy in Baghdad in September. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis provided some general options, but adamantly opposed retaliation since the attack was insignificant. H. R. McMaster, national security adviser at the time, concurred with the presumption that such a strike could cause armed conflict and prompt Iran to order the US to leave the country. However, since the hawkish Bolton succeeded McMaster in April 2018, he has intensified the administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran. And unlike his predecessor, Bolton does not want to hear opposing views and wants to control all information that flows to the president. Such censorship results in little consideration being given to options and furthers the risk of armed escalation, something that worries Pentagon officials most.

Bolton had been successful in persuading the president to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal; recently, however, he has stumbled in some efforts. When Bolton traveled to Turkey to present a list of conditions for US troop withdrawal from Syria, including a pledge by Turks not to attack America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected the demand and refused to meet with him. But in a speech last week at the American University in Cairo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed up Bolton’s hard line position, saying “countries increasingly understand we must confront the ayatollahs, not coddle them”, and on Sunday, Trump declared via Twitter that the US would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”

How the US military might be feeling about the Middle East right now:

Additional reads: “Iran Is Preparing A Launch. But Is It For A Space Rocket Or A Missile?” (NPR)

Iranian Sanctions: President Trump’s sanctions against Iran are hurting its economy a lot. In a speech on Wednesday Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei admitted the sanctions were putting unprecedented pressure on the country and the people. (Reuters)

Iran’s Clear And Present Danger (To The Dutch): In true Tom Clancy fashion, the Dutch government has alleged that Iran is involved in two assassinations in the Netherlands and at least four assassination and bomb plots in Europe since 2015. Investigations by the Dutch domestic intelligence service AVID found one of the Netherlands’ two victims was a 56-year-old electrician who had been shot at point-blank range by two gunmen in December 2015. The man had entered the Netherlands as a refugee in the 1980s and was living a quiet life near Amsterdam with his wife and son. Later, court documents revealed the man was living under an assumed name, and had been sentenced to death in absentia in Iran in connection with organizing a 1981 bombing of the Islamic Republican Party’s headquarters in Tehran. It is also believed Iran was behind a thwarted bomb plot in Paris that had intended to target a huge rally led by an Iranian dissident group. (WaPo)

China’s Ambitious Space Program: The Chinese equivalent of NASA, the China National Space Administration, announced Monday it will launch another mission to the moon by the end of 2019, and a mission to Mars as early as 2020. China’s space agency successfully landed its robotic spacecraft Chang’e-4 on the dark side of the moon January 11. It was a first in the human history of space exploration. (WaPo)

China Flexes on Canada: A 36-year-old Canadian man has been sentenced by a Chinese court to death on drug charges. Robert Schellenberg was first convicted in November of being an accessory to drug smuggling and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He appealed, and in December the court ordered a retrial after prosecutors claimed new evidence showed Schellenberg’s roll in drug trafficking operations was more important than originally thought. This time Schellenberg was sentenced to death. The ruling is expected to escalate diplomatic tensions between China and Canada. (Guardian)

Don’t Let May Down, Don’t Let May Down: British lawmakers began debate on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal Wednesday January 9 by voting 308-297 in favor of demanding the government come up with an alternate plan within three working days after the final vote January 15. It was an early and humiliating defeat for the PM and her conservative party. On Monday May tried to save face and reinvigorate supporters by warning opponents of her Brexit deal that they risk “letting the British people down”. But Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the PM had “completely and utterly failed” and vowed to call for a general election if May’s deal is rejected in Tuesday’s vote. (BBC)

Additional read: “‘I don’t trust the government to look after me or my dog’: meet the Brexit stockpilers: Some people are stockpiling food, medicine and even pet treats in anticipation of mass shortages after a no-deal Brexit.” (Guardian)

– “Pompeo Says He Pressed Saudi Leader on War and Rights Abuses” (NYT)

Brining The Planet With Desalination Before We Cook It With Global Warming: Desalination, the process of turning salty sea water into drinkable water, is the fast-growing, energy-intensive technology that benefits many arid regions. There are almost 16,000 desalination plants worldwide pumping out 142 million cubic meters (5 billion cubic feet) of salty brine daily, which amounts to 95 million cubic meters of fresh water. The amount of salty waste water and toxic chemicals being produced every day is 50 percent higher than previous estimates, and according to a UN-backed study released Monday, it’s damaging the environment.

55 percent of the brine is produced in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Most of the hyper-salty water left from the desalination process is pumped back into the sea; over the span of a year it would be enough to cover the state of Florida with a foot of brine. The brine is 5 percent salt and often includes toxins like chlorine and copper. Naturally occurring sea water, by contrast, is 3.5 percent salt. The study’s lead author says waste chemicals “accumulate in the environment and can have toxic effects in fish.” The brine near desalination plants can cut oxygen levels with “profound impacts” on shellfish, crabs and other creatures on the seabed, resulting in “ecological effects observable throughout the food chain”, he added.

Their Receipts Are Worse Than Their Handwriting: In theory, the Trump administration’s directive to hospitals would offer consumers transparency and choice, and force health care providers into price competition. It isn’t turning out that way. On January 1, as ordered, hospitals began posting list prices for all their services, but you’ll need a medical background to decipher them. Case in point: Vanderbilt University Medical Center listed a charge of $42,569 for a cardiology procedure described as “HC PTC CLOS PAT DUCT ART.” How are consumers reacting? “This is gibberish, totally meaningless, a foreign language to me”, said one, after looking at price lists for hospitals in her area. (NYT)

Newsom Prescribes Lower Drug Prices: Gavin Newsom has only been California’s new governor for a week, but within hours of taking office Newsom signed an executive order proposing a plan that would allow his state to directly negotiate with drug manufacturers to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Agencies would be able to directly negotiate not only on behalf of the 13 million beneficiaries of California’s version of Medicaid, but also other state agencies that purchase drugs, including coverage for state workers and prisoners. (NYT)

– “V.A. Seeks to Redirect Billions of Dollars Into Private Care” (NYT)

– “PG&E prepares bankruptcy filing after California wildfires” (Reuters) And “Sears bankruptcy raises old questions about cost of going broke” (Reuters)

– “Trump, Following Explosive News Reports, Denies He Worked For Russia:President Trump called the idea he might have worked on behalf of Russia a ‘hoax’ at the White House on Monday. ‘A whole big fat hoax.’” (NPR)

– “Barr Vows To Let Mueller Finish His Russia Work — And Promises ‘Transparency’” (NPR)

– “Trump lashed out at Mulvaney during meeting with Democrats” (CNN)

– “Steve King stripped of committee posts after ‘white nationalist’ comments: Republicans condemn Iowa congressman after he questioned how terms like white supremacist had ‘become offensive’” (Guardian)

– “Who Is MacKenzie Bezos?: Her divorce from the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has made this novelist, and her private life, a public fascination.” (NYT) “MacKenzie Bezos and the Myth of the Lone Genius Founder” (Wired)

Investors vs. Startups: “More Start-Ups Have an Unfamiliar Message for Venture Capitalists: Get Lost” (NYT) “Who Wants a Market Downturn? These Investors Actually Do: Some venture capitalists are rooting for a market dip to calm Silicon Valley’s overheated start-up scene.” (NYT)

Health is Wealth: “Mind May Trump DNA in Exercise and Eating Habits: If you tell people they have a genetic predisposition to a low capacity for exercise or a tendency to overeat, their bodies start to respond accordingly.” (NYT) “The Weight I Carry: What it’s like to be too big in America” (Atlantic) “From Couch Potato To Fitness Buff: How I Learned To Love Exercise” (NPR) “How to Eat in 2019: Alison Roman wants you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time at the table.” (NYT) “Sit less and move more to reduce risk of early death, study says: Short spells of movement help, but research finds overall time spent seated must be cut.” (Guardian) In 2019, sugar is the new salt. And sitting is the new smoking.

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



“Philosophy is common sense with big words.” – James Madison

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – Ibid.

“The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.” – Ibid.


Procrastinator’s New Year

Did you know…

… that today is Procrastinator’s New Year? If you are a procrastinator, you should be getting around to celebrating the New Year today. Do it today. Or tomorrow. No hurry. 😉


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.”

— Napoleon Hill