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


My fav newsletter : Brainpickings.org

This is the Brain Pickings midweek pick-me-up: Once a week, I plunge into my 12-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as timeless nourishment for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s edition – Kahlil Gibran on the difficult balance of intimacy and independence, some of the best relationship advice ever committed to words – you can catch up right here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

FROM THE ARCHIVE | Lost Cat: An Illustrated Meditation on Love, Loss, and What It Means To Be Human

lostcat.jpg?w=680“Dogs are not about something else. Dogs are about dogs,” Malcolm Gladwell indignated in the introduction to The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs. Though hailed as memetic rulers of the internet, cats too have enjoyed an admirable run as creative devices and literary muses in Joyce’s children’s booksT. S. Eliot’s poetryHemingway’s letters, and various verses. But hardly ever have cats been at once more about cats and more about something else than inLost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology (public library) by firefighter-turned-writer Caroline Paul and illustrator extraordinaire Wendy MacNaughton, she of many wonderful collaborations — a tender, imaginative memoir infused with equal parts humor and humanity. (You might recall a subtle teaser for this gem in Wendy’s wonderful recent illustration of Gay Talese’s taxonomy of cats.) Though “about” a cat, this heartwarming and heartbreaking tale is really about what it means to be human — about the osmosis of hollowing loneliness and profound attachment, the oscillation between boundless affection and paralyzing fear of abandonment, the unfair promise of loss implicit to every possibility of love.


After Caroline crashes an experimental plane she was piloting, she finds herself severely injured and spiraling into the depths of depression. It both helps and doesn’t that Caroline and Wendy have just fallen in love, soaring in the butterfly heights of new romance, “the phase of love that didn’t obey any known rules of physics,” until the crash pulls them into a place that would challenge even the most seasoned and grounded of relationships. And yet they persevereas Wendy patiently and lovingly takes care of Caroline.


When Caroline returns from the hospital with a shattered ankle, her two thirteen-year-old tabbies — the shy, anxious Tibby (short for Tibia, affectionately — and, in these circumstances, ironically — named after the shinbone) and the sociable, amicable Fibby (short for Fibula, after the calf bone on the lateral side of the tibia) — are, short of Wendy, her only joy and comfort:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngTibia and Fibula meowed happily when I arrived. They were undaunted by my ensuing stupor. In fact they were delighted; suddenly I had become a human who didn’t shout into a small rectangle of lights and plastic in her hand, peer at a computer, or get up and disappear from the vicinity, only to reappearthrough the front door hours later. Instead, I was completely available to them at all times. Amazed by their good luck, they took full felineadvantage. They asked for ear scratches and chin rubs. They rubbed their whiskers along my face. They purred in response to my slurred, affectionate baby talk. But mostly they just settled in and went to sleep. Fibby snored into my neck. Tibby snored on the rug nearby. Meanwhile I lay awake, circling the deep dark hole of depression.

Without my cats, I would have fallen right in.


And then, one day, Tibby disappears.


Wendy and Caroline proceed to flyer the neighborhood, visit every animal shelter in the vicinity, and even, in their desperation, enlist the help of a psychic who specializes in lost pets — but to no avail. Heartbroken, they begin to mourn Tibby’s loss.


And then, one day five weeks later, Tibby reappears.


Once the initial elation of the recovery has worn off, however, Caroline begins to wonder where he’d been and why he’d left. He is now no longer eating at home and regularly leaves the house for extended periods of time — Tibby clearly has a secret place he now returns to. Even more worrisomely, he’s no longer the shy, anxious tabby he’d been for thirteen years — instead, he’s a half pound heavier, chirpy, with “a youthful spring in his step.” But why would a happy cat abandon his loving lifelong companion and find comfort — find himself, even — elsewhere?

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWhen the relief that my cat was safe began to fade, and the joy of his prone, snoring form — sprawled like an athlete after a celebratory night of boozing — started to wear thin, I was left with darker emotions. Confusion. Jealousy. Betrayal. I thought I’d known my cat of thirteen years. But that cat had been anxious and shy. This cat was a swashbuckling adventurer back from the high seas. What siren call could have lured him away? Was he still going to this gilded place, with its overflowing food bowls and endless treats?


There’s only one obvious thing left to do: Track Tibby on his escapades. So Caroline, despite Wendy’s lovingly suppressed skepticism, heads to a spy store — yes, those exist — and purchases a real-time GPS tracker, complete with a camera that they program to take snapshots every few minutes, which they then attach to Tibby’s collar.


What follows is a wild, hilarious, and sweet tale of tinkering, tracking, and tenderness. Underpinning the obsessive quest is the subtle yet palpablesubplot of Wendy and Caroline’s growing love for each other, the deepeningof trust and affection that happens when two people share in a special kind of insanity.


The inimitable Maira Kalman blurbed the book admiringly:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe writing and drawings are funny. Nutty. Heartwarming. Smart. Loopy. Full of love.


“Every quest is a journey, every journey a story. Every story, in turn, has a moral,” writes Caroline in the final chapter, then offers several “possible morals” for the story, the last of which embody everything that makes Lost Cat an absolute treat from cover to cover:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.png6. You can never know your cat. In fact, you can never know anyone as completely as you want.

7. But that’s okay, love is better.

FORWARD TO A FRIEND/READ ARTICLE ONLINE/Like https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/04/09/lost-cat-wendy-macnaughton-caroline-paul/ on Facebook


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Live Special in NYC: Figuring with Elizabeth Gilbert


What an honor and a joy to sit down with Elizabeth Gilbert — one of the most splendid writers and splendid humans I know — for a conversation around (though not necessarily about) Figuring at Pioneer Works, the only public event I am doing for the book.

Tickets are priced at $29 — the number of chapters in the book — with all proceeds benefiting Pioneer Works’ endeavor to build New York City’s first-ever public observatory.

Signed copies of both of our books will be available, as will a special limited edition of 50 signed, numbered copies of Figuring made exclusively for PioneerWorks, also benefitting the observatory.

February 8, 2019
Pioneer Works
159 Pioneer Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Doors at 6PM, talk at 7PM. General admission. Seating is first come, first served.

FORWARD TO A FRIEND/GET TICKETS/Like https://www.brainpickings.org/live/ on Facebook


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