In the News: Week of December 29th

What happened in the world from December 29th - January 4th

Happy Sunday morning everyone! Today is the first ever edition of In the News that spans two different decades, and the next edition that includes news from two different decades won’t occur for approximately 10 years. Get excited, buckle up, and prepare to read about the news.

In the news this week

Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, was killed in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport early Friday in Iraq. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is promising a ‘forceful revenge’ in retaliation, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. is committed to de-escalation. American citizens are now evacuating from Iraq due to the heightened tensions. Pompeo claims the strike was a proactive measure to stave off an “imminent attack”. An anonymous American official believes that the backlash over Suleimani’s death could be greater than when Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.

The U.S. and China are set to sign a “phase one” trade deal on January 15th. The deal will cut back tariffs and force China to buy more goods from American farmers. Although the compromise could be a sign of improved relations between the U.S. and China, the two sides no longer believe they can both thrive simultaneously, like they did decades ago. American values, such as freedom of speech, are not compatible with the current Chinese leadership. Their citizens are controlled through censorship and propaganda, and America (and our corporations) is a looming threat to their control.

China views America with a growing distrust and scorn. America is the biggest threat to China, as China is the biggest threat to the American way of life. Both countries will fight to spread their ideals and values to every corner of the globe for decades to come, and who comes out on top remains to be seen.

Bushfires in Australia show no sign of slowing down. The state of New South Wales, in southeastern Australia, declared a seven-day state of emergency that began at 9:00 AM Thursday. Conditions of high temperatures and gusty winds this weekend will bring fire danger levels from “severe to extreme,” particularly in Victoria and New South Wales (both in the southeast corner of Australia). So far, the bushfires have been responsible for at least 17 deaths, have destroyed thousands of homes, and burned more than 12 million acres of land (an area nearly as big as the U.S. state of West Virginia).

Julián Castro ended his presidential campaign on Thursday. He only had 1.2% of the vote in the latest RCP polling average, and he was not on the stage for the last Democratic debate. Due to his low numbers in polls, his departure from the race is unlikely to have any major impacts. Castro may not be out of the race for good, however. He could be a coveted running mate, especially for someone like Joe Biden, who is struggling with Latino voters.

Bernie Sanders raised $34.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, which is more than any candidate has raised in a single quarter so far in the Democratic primary. He’s doing it with a lot of small donations; he received 1.8 million donations with an average donation of $18.53 last quarter, which is smaller than 2016’s average donation of $27. Although Sanders is top among Democrats in donations, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign brought in $46 million last quarter. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will need to be a fundraising powerhouse, like Sanders, in order to compete with President Trump.

Headline of the Week: Airbnb users pay more to stay with attractive hosts

Attractive people are considered more likable, more intelligent, and more employable than the general population. Good-looking people also make more money, and it turns out fare better on Airbnb as well. People are willing to pay more if their host is either attractive, smiling, or white. Hosts who possess all three qualities are presumably rolling in dough. Black hosts on Airbnb face “digital discrimination,” and the company has asked users to sign an anti-discrimination agreement to help combat the racial bias.

Recommended Reading: Instagram will be the new front-line in the misinformation wars

Instagram, which was bought by Facebook in 2012, has now grown into a behemoth. The platform reached one billion users in June of 2018, and Instagram is much better at creating interactions than Facebook. According to Axios, Instagram’s tenth-biggest account gets three times as many interactions as Facebook’s biggest account. A report from NYU says that Instagram will be “the vehicle of choice for people who wish to disseminate meme-based disinformation” in the 2020 election. 

“Fake news” thrives on social media platforms because everyone is locked into their own individual bubble and isn’t subjected to any differing opinions. It’s possible to construct a personal social network made up entirely of people who believe the earth is flat, or of people who are anti-vaccination. These bubbles amplify hate and intolerance, and are causing a great deal of damage to democracy and modern society.

If you’re interested in reading more about the effects of social media on society, check out this article I wrote a few months back: Psychological Addiction Is the New American Business Model.

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