I used to buy the New York Times every Sunday (and randomly throughout the week) when I stopped for coffee before work. When I moved to a different work location in late 2016, that habit fell away, mostly because I don’t pass by any coffee shops that sell the paper. But because of all this hubbub about fake news and because Trump keeps saying that the New York Times is “failing,” I decided to take out a Sunday subscription. This past Sunday, 2/19/17, was the first day I received the paper at my apartment and, though I have a lot of work to do, I could not resist diving into its heft and rustle.
Taking time to read the paper, especially paired with coffee and cigarettes, strikes me as a romantic act. It reminds me of my grandparents and of a time when the majority of people weren’t getting their daily updates from Facebook. It makes me think of wood smoke and leather and herringbone. And there’s something to be said for getting your news from professionals who make it their job to produce well-written and well-researched stories. There’s something to be said for the way it thumps down on my coffee table and for the way it unfurls its wings.
So, riding this wave of enthusiasm that I’m feeling for my new subscription, I thought I’d share with you ten facts that I learned from reading the International, National and Sports sections (yes, I even read the sports news). I still have a lot more to read, but at this point I’m just procrastinating. After all, this blog post is written. If you like this kind of post, by the way, let us know! Little known fact: this list of little known (to me) facts gets made regardless, in my journal, so it’s really very little trouble for me to type it up and send it out to you.
- In South Korea, which is technically still at war with North Korea, the conservative parties traditionally use Red-baiting as a vote-gathering tool. Recently, with the impeachment of conservative president Park Geun-hye, some of her supporters have begun decrying the “fake-news media,” whose coverage of her presidency partially led to her downfall.
It completely makes sense that fear of Communism would be a powerful force in South Korea but I guess I’ve never thought through the fact that it is a current and viable political tool there today. When I think of Red-baiting, I generally think of America in the 50s and of “The Crucible” and of villains like Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn, which all seems like it happened a very long time ago.
- Austerity measures in Greece have led to some individuals paying 70 percent of their gross income back to the government in taxes. Because of this, a very large black market has emerged (including for very mundane businesses like bakeries and hair salons). Anyone working on the black market, and therefore not forced to pay austerity taxes, can charge much less for comparable work. Which of course makes it much harder for companies and individuals following legitimate business paths to get business or pay their taxes.
Jesus – 70 percent of gross income? Austere, indeed.
- All NATO allies have promised to reach the goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024. Only five countries do so now. Trump has backtracked a bit on NATO – he says that he’s “a fan” but “they’re not paying their bills.”
Look, I hesitate to agree with Trump on anything (I mean really…I almost didn’t include this fact, but I think that would be dishonest), but I will admit that, if everyone wants defense, everyone should pay their part. I’m used to reading about America paying the lion’s share of…pretty much everything, but I didn’t realize the discrepancy, even in NATO, was so large.
- Mexico City is quickly and horrifyingly sinking into the ancient clay lake beds upon which the city is built (the term for this is “subsidence”). Some parts of the city are sinking at a rate of 9 inches per year, leading to sudden deep cracks and sinkholes that can claim lives. Climate change is exacerbating and intensifying this process. The Pentagon considers climate change to be a “threat multiplier” – where rainfall declines, “the risk of a low-level conflict escalating to a full-scale civil war approximately doubles the following year.” Climate change in Mexico City will likely lead to drought alternating with floods and to deadly heat waves (many of the poorer residents do not have air conditioning). These tensions are intensified by the large-scale development that has covered much of the volcanic soil in the area (volcanic soil is water-permeable and therefore allows rainfall to drain back into underground aquifers…unless you cover it in concrete). 20 percent (or more, depending on your source) of the residents of Mexico City already cannot count on water running from their tap each day.
I’ve heard about the Aztecs building their ancient city on floating baskets in the middle of a lake. I did not realize that this foundation was still having such a profound effect upon the architecture and upon the people that live in Mexico City. The plight of single parents in the city not being able to work because they have to wait on the water trucks to arrive is heartbreaking. I think it’s especially notable that, though Mexico City is nowhere near a coast, climate change will likely have disastrous effects. Simply put: no one is untouched by the changes we’ve wrought on our world.
- This is the “first urban century” in human history – the first time more people live in cities than don’t.
I love this fact because it mirrors so closely my own experience. It also leads me to think about the efficacy of the Electoral College in an age in which the constantly shrinking minority of rural residents have such an outsized effect upon the future of our country.
- In Bali, babies are considered to be reincarnations of deceased relatives, still close to the sacred realm from which they came. Because of this, their little feet are not allowed to touch the dirt for the first 105 (or 210, in some communities) days of their life.
All I can think of is the movie Baby Genuises, with which most of my family was obsessed for almost a full year. If you want to hear an interesting story, have my mom tell you about the weird prescience and uncanny wisdom I possessed as a child – maybe babies know more than we think they do. Also, what happened to all my prescience and wisdom, damnit?
- The drought is pretty much over in California due to one of the wettest winters in decades, but the effects of the drought are still obvious – more than 100 million trees have died in California since 2010.
I have nothing to say about this except tears and “FARRRROOOOOO” (which is me calling the Ents to war).
- A new restaurant dedicated to Rue McClanahan and “The Golden Girls” has opened up in Washington Heights in New York. They serve a cheesecake in honor of each of the four girls, custom beers, entrees and coffee blends inspired by the characters. As much a museum as a restaurant, it’s also home to the pumps Blanche wore in the pilot episode, mannequins draped in her gowns, hundreds of pictures and, underneath a sidewalk plaque at the entrance, some of Rue McClanahan’s ashes.
This sounds so fabulous – RuPaul, a huge “Golden Girls” fan, will definitely be making an appearance, if he hasn’t already. If any of our readers have attended, please comment below and let us know how it was! I’m extremely jealous.
- Norma McCorvey, the ‘Roe’ in ‘Roe vs. Wade’ has died at 69 years of age. After being an outspoken pro-choice activist, she became a born-again Christian and, later, a Roman Catholic. She then became an outspoken pro-life activist.
Jeez. I had no idea she lived such a tumultuous life. The flip-flopping she exhibited about abortion is indicative of the deeply confusing existential questions connected to the issue. Though I’ll judge you for many things, I won’t judge your opinion about abortion (though, for the record, I am pro-choice and pro-family planning). I’ve known too many wonderful, intelligent, socially-liberal people who disagree with me.
- For North American trophy hunters, the most expensive animal to hunt is the bighorn sheep. In 2013, a permit in Montana sold for $480,000.
Huh – who knew? I think that trophy hunting is gross, by the way. But I would never have imagined that the most sought-after animal in North America is…a sheep?
Just as a last thought: consider subscribing to a news source that you trust. Support legitimate reporting if you can. Trump has declared a war on facts and on the liberal media, so if you enjoy…facts…or the liberal media, now is another time to make your voice heard through support of organizations you value. Keep in mind, too, that virtually every paper offers an online-only subscription if you’re worried about that ole paper waste!