Morning Update: Oh, So This Is The Bad Place

Trump defends Saudi Arabia, thinning forests won't solve the wildfires, Amazon and the NDAs. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, Nov. 21.

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Trump defended Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

The president issued an unapologetic defense of the kingdom in response to the death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

Trump cited the need to maintain billions of dollars’ worth of arms deals with Saudi Arabia as the reason for his stance.

He said, “If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries — and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business.”

Last week, the CIA reportedly determined that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder. Yesterday, Trump said, “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

The president added that “the world is a very dangerous place!”

👉 It is unusual for an American leader to not issue a condemnation of an act as brazen as Khashoggi’s killing, let alone issue a defense.

👉 The Washington Post, which published Khashoggi’s work, called Trump’s statement a “betrayal of long-established American values of respect for human rights.”

Why California can’t chainsaw its way out of a raging inferno

We’ve been covering the California wildfires closely. The number of those killed in the vicious Camp fire in the north of the state is now up to 81.

We’ve also been turning our attention to the wider issues at play.

While President Trump pitched hoarding water and raking the forests as solutions, and others say forest thinning is the way to go, scientists tell us that “this is a home ignition problem much more than a wildland management problem.”

You should also know that California has a housing crisis, and the aftermath of the wildfires is making it much worse. In one city, all available rental units disappeared within a few days.

Lastly, California’s rich are protecting their homes with private firefighters. Officials say they only make their jobs harder.


Trump submitted written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia questions. This was a long-awaited moment with unclear significance, and it remains to be seen whether Mueller will seek further questioning of the president.

The Pentagon said the bill for Trump’s deployment of troops to the border will be at least $72 million. This is the first estimate of what it’ll cost to deploy 5,900 active-duty troops ahead of the arrival of large groups of Central American migrants.

The CDC says romaine lettuce is not safe to eat due to a new E. coli outbreak. So far, 32 people in 11 states have gotten sick from eating the contaminated leaves. The CDC did not mince words in its alert: “Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.”

Police are investigating a viral video of a man at McDonald’s allegedly pulling a gun on black teens. In the video, the teens can be seen running from the armed man. After being told about the gun, the restaurant manager yells at the group, “I don't care — get the fuck out of my store.”

Chipotle fired a Minnesota manager after customers accused her of being racist, then rehired her after the accusers became suspects. In a video that has gone viral, the manager was filmed telling customers, “You got to pay 'cause you never have money when you come in here.” The video got the manager fired. Then old tweets in which one of the customers bragged about dining and dashing surfaced. So Chipotle rehired her. The whole thing is a mess. It’s explained here.

Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” video will feature an homage to Legally Blonde and Mean Girls. The news should make all early-’00s teens bend and snap in celebration.

Meryl Streep was so eager to work with Nicole Kidman on Big Little Lies that she joined the show without seeing the script. Kidman and Reese Witherspoon were shocked. They shouldn’t have been — as the old saying goes, real recognize real and game recognize game.


Fox News tends to be polarizing. David Klion writes that it’s time to stop thinking about it as a normal company. From the piece: “We need to … start treating it like any other business devoted to actively harming the public.”

When cities sign secret contracts with big tech companies, citizens suffer

It’s become standard practice: When a major tech firm is building a new office or a data center, it will often sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) with the city it’s moving into.

This was on display last week, as details of Amazon’s agreement with Crystal City, Virginia, leaked. In response, a frustrated Amazon executive tweeted, “You’re not doing Crystal City, VA any favors. And stop treating the NDA you signed like a used napkin.”

But here’s the thing: Those NDAs have become a powerful — and some would say harmful — tool for companies trying to get as many incentives as possible to move into cities.

The NDAs allow tech firms to squeeze desperate, cash-strapped, and job-poor local governments for a bouquet of tax breaks, while keeping the public in the dark.

Read Caroline O’Donovan's look at how this process keeps the public, and in some cases, lawmakers, in the dark about the economic and environmental risks of these projects, stifling the democratic process.

People are complaining that their Instagram feed is suddenly too much nature and not enough memes

In what may be the most 2018 of complaints, users say that the personalized “For You” tab has been involuntarily reset to show types of content they never interact with.

The masses say they’re being subjected to too much nature photography, and far too few memes, confirming the final victory of internet content over the beauty of the world.

In a poetic turn you couldn’t possibly script, Instagram called the sudden influx of idyllic images a “glitch” and fixed it.

In conclusion: This is the bad place.

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