“We should all know this: that listening, not talking, is the gifted and great role, and the imaginative role. And the true listener is much more believed, magnetic than the talker, and he is more effective and learns more and does more good.” — Brenda Ueland


World in a Nutshell – Pnut Newsletter

Daily Pnut
The World In A Nutshell
Regulatory capture is a form of government failure which occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. When regulatory capture occurs, the interests of firms or political groups are prioritized over the interests of the public, leading to a net loss for society. Government agencies suffering regulatory capture are called “captured agencies”. – Regulatory Capture, Wikipedia

“In our time… a man whose enemies are faceless bureaucrats almost never wins. It is our equivalent to the anger of the gods in ancient times” – Chaim Potok


Living It Up At The Hotel Presidential, Such A Lovely Place: On the 27th day of the government shutdown, national parks, many DC tourist attractions, museums, libraries, historical buildings remain closed. One historical attraction, however, has remained operational, open for tours and staffed by rangers from the National Park Service. It’s the clock tower atop the Trump International Hotel. The building, built in 1899, used to be part of the Old Post Office. The property is owned by the General Services Administration (GSA), which leased it to the Trump Organization in 2013. Trump renovated it, and in 2016, right before the election, the Trump International Hotel opened for business.

Immediately, constitutional questions arose about whether Trump, as president, could continue to gain financially from his interest in the hotel. The US Constitution’s Emoluments clauses say for a president to benefit from a private business while in office is unconstitutional. Even the building’s lease says: “no elected official of the Government…shall be admitted to share any part of this lease, or any benefit that may arise therefrom.” But according to the report released Wednesday by the Inspector General of the GSA, agency attorneys who reviewed Trump’s lease in 2016 decided to simply ignore the constitutional issues.

Four months after Trump took office the government of Saudi Arabia rented 500 rooms at the hotel. Later that year, Maine’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, was in DC lobbying the Trump administration to rescind a national park designation in his state. LePage spent four nights at Trump’s hotel, where rooms start at $300 a night. The hotel has been patronized by other groups with lobbying interests in Washington: foreign embassies, industry associations, religious groups.

Last April telecom giant T-Mobile announced a $26 billion megadeal, a merger with Sprint that would more than double T-Mobile’s value and give it a huge chunk of the cellphone market. Only one thing was needed — approval from the Trump administration. The day after the announcement, nine of T-Mobile’s top executives — including its chief operating officer, chief technology officer, chief strategy officer, chief financial officer and larger-than-life chief executive, John Legere — booked rooms at the Trump International Hotel. The visits by T-Mobile executives alone are probably worth tens of thousands of dollars to the Trump Organization, the president’s company, which he still owns, and which, as one House member put it “has enabled the President to line his pockets.”

We Struck (A Deal On) Oil: BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 killed 11 workers, dumped over 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and became the worst environmental catastrophe in US history. Rules put in place after the disaster beefed up regulation of oil companies. Now, years after investigators found that lax regulatory oversight was one of the leading culprits behind the disaster, President Trump plans to relax those rules to give BP and other big oil companies more power to self-regulate their offshore drilling operations. Two separate rules, one on oil production safety systems that forced companies to get independent verification of the safety measures and equipment they use on offshore platforms, and one requiring professional engineers to certify the safety of drilling equipment for new wells, have already been deep-sixed. (Guardian)

Additional reads:

– “Trump’s war on science: how the US is putting politics above evidence:Experts say the administration is blatantly dismantling proven programs, and the consequences could be dire” (Guardian)

– “At confirmation hearing, Trump’s EPA pick vows to advance a deregulatory agenda: Andrew Wheeler has served as the agency’s acting administrator since July. The Senate will decide whether to confirm him as its next leader.” (WaPo)

The Room Where it Happens: President Trump has had five face-to-face meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin since taking office. The president went to extraordinary lengths to keep the meetings and what was said secret, even from those in his administration. A former Russia adviser to President Bill Clinton said: “What’s disconcerting is the desire to hide information from your own team. The fact that Trump didn’t want the State Department or members of the White House team to know what he was talking with Putin about suggests it was not about advancing our country’s national interest but something more problematic.” (NYT)

Additional reads: “Russia, U.S. fail to save missile treaty, Washington to pull out” (Reuters)

– “The Daily 202: From Brexit to NATO and the shutdown, Putin is winning so much he might get tired of winning” (WaPo)

– “The Russians know exactly what Putin and Trump talked about, but we probably won’t find out for decades” (WaPo)

– “Putin says US wants to ‘assert dominance’ in Balkans as Macedonia changes name: Russian president claims alleged increase of western influence is ‘destablising’” (Guardian)

Militants Claim The Lives Of 21 in Nairobi: Shabab militants attacked a luxury hotel and office complex in Nairobi on Tuesday. 21 people have died, including an American and a British national. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said 700 civilians were evacuated during the response to the assault, and that all the assailants had been “eliminated”. The Shabab, based in Somalia, are strict interpreters of Islam; it was the group responsible for the deadly 2013 attack at the Westgate mall in Nairobi. (NYT)

Suicide Bomber Kills 16 In Syria: The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber’s attack inside a restaurant in Manbij, Syria where US troops regularly gathered. Four Americans were among the 16 killed. President Trump had announced December 19 he was withdrawing US troops from Syria, declaring “We have won against ISIS.” Critics of Trump’s decision argued that the withdrawal was premature and could end up revitalizing ISIS, which still controls a narrow stretch of territory near the Iraq-Syria border. The first US battle trucks left Syria just days ago. On Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech at the state department in which he said: “The caliphate is crumbling and ISIS has been defeated.” Pence made no mention of the Manbij attack. (Guardian)

Updates on Brexit: “Theresa May survives vote, but Britain remains in Brexit deadlock” (Guardian) “While Brexit burned, former prime minister David Cameron surfed in Costa Rica” (WaPo) and “Amid Parliament’s Brexit Rebellion, a Tectonic Shift in How Britain Is Governed” (NYT)

– “German Intelligence Agency Puts Far-Right Party on Warning: Germany’s domestic intelligence agency will start observing the AfD’s youth wing and a group of prominent party members, including its co-leader Alexander Gauland.” (NYT)

– “North Korea’s Less-Known Military Threat: Biological Weapons: Military analysts are increasingly concerned about the nation’s “advanced, underestimated and highly lethal” bioweapons program.” (NYT)

– “We know about the world’s most polluted big cities. But what about the cleanest?” (WaPo)

– “Glaciers Are Retreating. Millions Rely on Their Water” (NYT)

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Pelosi Political Power Move: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked President Trump to delay or deliver in writing his State of the Union address scheduled for January 29. The speaker said “security concerns” during the current government shut down prompted her request. The record-breaking shutdown was in its 26th day Wednesday, with little sign of any progress toward an end. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters that Pelosi’s request was “not a security issue. It’s politics and she knows it.” (Guardian)

– “Rudy Giuliani says Trump didn’t collude with Russia but can’t say if campaign aides did” (CNN)

– “Bauhaus in pictures: The architects exiled by Nazis: Established in 1919, in the wake of World War One, Germany’s Bauhaus art school brought a radical new approach to design and aesthetics which would eventually go on to help inform modernist architecture around the world.” (BBC) One of our favorite museums in the entire world is the Bauhaus museum in Berlin.

– “Is Hollywood under threat from the East?: The appeal of large Asian audiences is rapidly changing the way Hollywood approaches film-making. Emma Jones reports in this video for Talking Movies.” (BBC)

– In 2019, the Gospel of Productivity has reached full fervor: “How to Actually, Truly Focus on What You’re Doing: Tired: Shallow work. Wired: Deep work.” (NYT) “The Art Of Decision-Making: Your life choices aren’t just about what you want to do; they’re about who you want to be.” (New Yorker) “3 powerful habits you need to jumpstart the new year: Keystone habits have the opportunity to impact your entire life. But what are they exactly and what does a good habit look like? Here are three to help you get started.” And “The Death of the Sick Day: For many office workers, “working from home” has replaced a day spent recovering under the covers.” (NYT)

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Did you know

Did you know…

… that today is Benjamin Franklin’s Birthday? Born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1706, Benjamin Franklin was the author of the Poor Richard’s Almanac, oldest signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, scientist, diplomat, author, printer, publisher, philosopher, philanthropist and self-made, self-educated man. Whew! Busy man! 😉


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who do not. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

— Jose N. Harris