Summary of “How the IRS Was Gutted”

The IRS Budget Has Declined 20102017$14B$12B. Had the billions in budget reductions occurred all at once, with tens of thousands of auditors, collectors and customer service representatives streaming out of government buildings in a single day, the collapse of the IRS might have gotten more attention.
Under continued pressure from Republicans, the IRS has long made a priority of auditing people who receive that money, and as the IRS has shrunk, those audits have consumed even more resources, accounting for 36 percent of audits last year.
The first bill introduced by House Republicans in 2011 was a budget that slashed funding across the government and took special aim at the IRS. In addition to calling for a cut to its budget of $600 million, the bill prohibited the IRS from using any of its funding to carry out key parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Inspector general reports later pointed out that the IRS division that oversaw tax-exempt organizations had also targeted progressive groups and concluded that the IRS had taken prompt action to address the previously identified problems in the nonprofit unit.
“We deliberately lowered the IRS funding to a level that would make the IRS think twice about what you are doing and why you are doing it,” Crenshaw told Koskinen in a hearing, “Because you don’t have a single dime to spare on anything frivolous or foolhardy or even mediocre.”
It’s a decision that everyone who works at the IRS has to make: How will you respond when someone asks, “So what do you do?” Answer forthrightly, and you’re bound to be met with either iciness or open hostility.
Over her 30-year career, Pam Reicks, the former IRS manager, adopted a solution that’s common for IRS lifers.
Reicks’ new job, as a senior manager in the offshore program, was to help the IRS figure out how many of those people it could audit.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Best Books of 2018”

It’s a Japanese word that doesn’t translate cleanly into English but it basically means you buy books and let them pile up unread. The end-of-the-year book lists coming out right now won’t help any of us with our tsundoku problems, but there are worse things in life than having too many books around.
I took at look at a bunch of these lists and picked out some of the best book recommendations for 2018 from book editors, voracious readers, and retailers.
Tyler Cowen, who samples upwards of 1800 books every year, has led me to many of my favorite reads over the years.
He has two lists this year: the best non-fiction books of 2018 and the best fiction of 2018.
Amazon’s This Year in Books is also worth a lookit is definitely not the critic’s view of what we read: the most-sold fiction book was Ready Player One and the most-sold nonfiction book was Michael Wolf’s book about Trump, Fire and Fury.
NPR’s 2018 Book Concierge contains hundreds of books in more than two dozen categories.
For The Guardian’s Best Books of 2018, a group of authors including Hilary Mantel, Chris Ware, and Yuval Noah Harari share their top picks of the year.
Bill Gates’ 2018 list is pretty eclectic, with books about meditation and military AI. A more standard pick for him is 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Best Movies of 2018”

For more about the Year in Movies, read Sean Fennessey’s essay about the movies’ many fallen men of 2018, Tom Breihan’s Best Action Movies of 2018, and Miles Surrey’s Best Superhero Movies of 2018.
No film I saw in 2018 improved more upon reflection, or thrives as strongly in memory; Jenkins’s extraordinary image-making hypnotizes the mind’s eye.
Let the Sunshine In Directed by Claire Denis Hopefully, 2019 will be the year of Claire Denis: The acquisition of the great French director’s new, stunning sci-fi movie High Life by hit-making distributor A24 means that her work will be more readily available to American audiences than ever.
For a movie that may ultimately be about the need for compromise, Let the Sunshine In doesn’t make any-and that’s why it’s Denis at her best.
Black Panther Directed by Ryan Coogler Black Panther does something that no other movie has done before.
Zama Directed by Lucrecia Martel The greatest movies make us experience them on their own terms.
No narrative film released in 2018 asked more of its audience than Martel’s Zama, a slow-motion comedy about a Spanish diplomat wasting away in a remote Patagonian outpost in the 1700s; the line between the boredom of Don Diego de Zama, who wants desperately to leave for better things, and that of the viewer is razor thin, but Martel-a genius of mood and atmosphere-stays on the right side in every precise, mesmerizing scene.
Burning Directed by Lee Chang-dong “There is a difference between movies that refuse to fix their meanings for fear of exposing their essential vacuousness-that leave so much space for interpretation that they end up feeling legitimately empty, like a shell game without a marble-and movies that bristle with an ambiguity derived from the complex, irreconcilable nature of reality itself.” I wrote those words about Burning in October, the point being that Lee’s film was in the second category.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The backstory of Netflix’s $100 million ‘Friends’ deal”

Which is what Netflix is going to pay AT&T* for the right to stream “Friends” next year.
As the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint reported yesterday, AT&T’s WarnerMedia, which owns “Friends,” has extended a deal that gives Netflix exclusive streaming rights to all 10 seasons of the show through 2019.
As the New York Times’ Edmund Lee reported today, Netflix is paying $100 million to stream the show next year.
Netflix wasn’t the only streamer interested in “Friends.” Other bidders for the show included Hulu, the streaming service currently owned by Disney, Fox, NBCU and WarnerMedia, as well as Apple, which doesn’t have a streaming service yet, but also plans on launching one next year.
I’m also told that Hulu, which is very likely to end up solely owned by Disney/Fox once those two companies consummate their merger, tried hard to land “Friends.” At the very least, Hulu’s interest in the show ended up pushing the price up well beyond the $30 million a year Netflix was already paying for it.
So here’s the hedge WarnerMedia has ended up with**: After 2019, WarnerMedia has the ability to pull “Friends” from Netflix altogether and keep the show as an exclusive.
Which means there’s a scenario where WarnerMedia can get another $75 million a year from Netflix and still use the show as a key part of its own streaming service.
NBCU execs say Netflix has told them “The Office” generates more viewing hours than anything else on the service.

The orginal article.

Summary of “‘A kind of dark realism’: Why the climate change problem is starting to look too big to solve”

As the 24th U.N. conference on climate change kicks off this week, a steady drumbeat of scientific reports have sounded warnings about current climate trajectories.
The world has waited so long that preventing disruptive climate change requires action “Unprecedented in scale,” the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in an October report.
William Nordhaus, the Yale University professor who just won the Nobel Prize for his work on the economics of climate change, recently described his outlook like this: “I never use the word ‘pessimism’; I always use the word ‘realism,’ but I’d say it’s a kind of dark realism today.”
Climate scientists and policy experts realize that they walk a fine line between jolting consumers and policymakers into action and immobilizing them with paralyzing pessimism about the world’s ability to hit climate targets.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron has ignited protests by proposing fuel taxes he says are needed to fight climate change.
“Like a married couple that has put off saving for the future for too long, at some point it becomes nearly impossible to retire comfortably,” Nigel Purvis, co-founder of the advocacy group Climate Advisers, wrote in 2015.
One of the earliest climate change models was drawn up in 2004 by a pair of Princeton University professors – Robert Socolow, an engineer, and Stephen Pacala, an ecologist.
Their 50-year scenario was optimistic: “Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century,” they wrote.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Edward Gorey’s Enigmatic World”

In his little books of sinister whimsy, Gorey was true to his belief in leaving things out, so that the reader’s thoughts could flower.
There is a new book out on Gorey, the first biography, by the cultural critic Mark Dery, titled “Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey”.
Look at the book’s title, “Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey.” In what sense was Gorey born to be posthumous? To me, he seems to have done O.K.-found some happiness, created some admirable art-while still living.
Strangely, the avowal just seems to make Dery madder, probably because this question, which he has tracked obsessively in his book-and which is the center of his claim that Gorey was an unfathomable mystery-is waved away by Gorey so casually.
Maybe Gorey is the one who’s right, by refusing the “Whole business of constructing identity … around sexuality.” Dery quotes the choreographer Peter Anastos, a friend of Gorey’s, who says that, starting in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, “People let their homosexuality become the absolute center of their lives and there was nothing else. I’ve known a lot of guys Ted’s age and … they just see it in a whole different way. Being gay is not the center of their lives…. Ted never struck me as closeted; he was just who he was.”
Gorey took endless pains over these funny and melancholy books.
First, in 1967, the Gotham Book Mart, a small, musty midtown bookstore that had been the main purveyor of Gorey literature, was bought by a book dealer, Andreas Brown, who believed in promotion and was good at it.
What the posters advertised was not “Dracula” but “The Edward Gorey production of Dracula.” Gorey’s contract gave him ten per cent of the profits, and this helped to support him for the rest of his life.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The 100 greatest innovations of 2018”

There’s at least one thing we’re sure even the savviest silicone noggin can’t do: put together Popular Science’s annual list of the year’s most pivotal, influential, and just plain awesome innovations.
Our 31st annual Best of What’s New list is the culmination of a year spent obsessing over, arguing about, and experiencing the newest technologies and discoveries across 10 distinct disciplines.
Why? Because the effects of each of the feats will reverberate for years down the road. And, while we have you, let’s all just take a moment to appreciate that this year’s collection includes a full-on jet pack.
Let’s not waste any time: There’s a jet suit in this year’s Best of What’s New list, yet somehow that’s not even what we dubbed the Innovation of the Year.
In large part, the items on year’s list of the best new gadgets don’t change the world as much as they change the way we, as tech-loving super nerds, see it.
When you consider an electric supercar that snaps back your head with acceleration or a set of tungsten-coated brakes that’ll have you straining against your seatbelt faster than you can say “Internal combustion engine,” it’s easy to conclude 2018 was a heckuva year for the road-going brilliance.
There are no tanks or firetrucks or massive surveillance initiatives among the items we’ve dubbed the best security innovations of 2018.
Countless new products and medications hit stores’ shelves and doctors’ prescription pads every year.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Decline and Fall of the Zuckerberg Empire”

Demands for the CEO to abdicate, or to at least step down from his role as chairman of the board, have increased, but Zuckerberg – who controls 60 percent of Facebook’s voting shares – is no more likely to resign than Augustus would have been.
Its own internal surveys bear this out: Facebook was once legendary for the cultish dedication of its employees – reporting on the company was nearly impossible because workers refused to leak – but employee confidence in Facebook’s future, as judged by internal surveys reported on by the Journal, is down 32 percentage points over the past year, to 52 percent.
Around the same number of Facebook employees think the company is making the world a better place, down 19 points from this time last year, and employees report that they plan to leave Facebook for new jobs earlier than they had in the past.
The company might be able to reassure itself that Instagram – which it wholly owns – is still expanding impressively, but the success of Instagram hasn’t stopped Facebook from getting punished on the stock market.
Facebook blames its attenuating European-user figures not on its faltering public image but on the European Union’s aggressive new privacy law, GDPR. But this raises a more troubling possibility for Facebook: that its continued success is dependent on a soft regulatory touch it can no longer expect from governments.
The fall of Facebook may not come after a long decline but through outside action – slapped with major fines and expensive investigations, chastened and disempowered by a new regulatory regime.
“I’m not looking to regulate [Zuckerberg] half to death,” Republican senator John Kennedy said earlier this year, “But I can tell you this: The issue isn’t going away.” It’s true that some Republican critics seem less concerned about Facebook’s overwhelming power than about the spurious claims of conservatives that their views are being suppressed on the platform, but there is genuine Republican interest in reining in Facebook.
Trump’s Department of Justice might represent Facebook’s biggest threat.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Helping My Fair-Skinned Son Embrace His Blackness”

For the most part, the neighborhood in New Haven, Connecticut, where we lived for the first 11 years of our son’s life was a refuge from such skeptics.
Sure, the new crop of Yale grad students and junior faculty who moved in each year often looked askance when our son would yell “Mom” to me across grocery-store aisles, but they soon caught on.
Like other mixed-race children, our son started his journey to figure out his racial identity early.
School is the place where kids navigate their identity and relationships apart from their families.
In our children’s case, school was also separate from their neighborhood: Each day, they boarded a bus to attend a diverse magnet school about five miles from our home.
We moved to Washington, D.C., after 16 years in New Haven, and mere weeks before our children started high school and middle school.
Our son sat alongside his cousins of varying hues of black and brown as they listened to stories about how their great-uncle was fired from his factory job after he told his boss he supported Martin Luther King Jr., and how he later sold scrap metal to send my eldest cousin to college.
Our son roared with laughter as his mother and aunties stayed up late singing and dancing to soul, R&B, and old-school hip-hop.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Harvesting in a trade war: U.S. crops rot as storage costs soar”

For Louisiana farmer Richard Fontenot and his neighbors, the solution was a costly one: Let the crops rot.
Across the United States, grain farmers are plowing under crops, leaving them to rot or piling them on the ground, in hopes of better prices next year, according to interviews with more than two dozen farmers, academic researchers and farm lenders.
It’s one of the results, they say, of a U.S. trade war with China that has sharply hurt export demand and swamped storage facilities with excess grain.
In Illinois and Indiana, some farmers are struggling to protect silo bags stuffed with crops from animals.
U.S. farmers planted 89.1 million acres of soybeans this year, the second most ever, expecting China’s rising demand to give them better returns than other bulk crops.
The U.S. government rolled out an aid program of around the same size – $12 billion – to help farmers absorb the cost of the trade war.
Some grain merchants are also charging additional fees for farmers who deliver less-than-perfect soybeans, said Russell Altom, a soybean farmer and senior vice president of agricultural lending at Relyance Bank in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Some farmers are pulling farm equipment out of barns to make room for the overflow of grains.

The orginal article.