Dennis Johnson, Jupiter’s Atmosphere, Mental Health Coverage: This Week’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. This week, we look towards pieces on more reasons why the American Health Care Act will further harm the American poor; a transcript of Donald Trump’s praising call with Rodrigo Duterte in April; findings from Juno’s Jupiter-examining mission; and three stories from Denis Johnson, who died Wednesday.

In the Atlantic, Vann R. Newkirk II examines the potential detriments of the American Health Care Act to mental health coverage, and the ways it will undermine policies that’ve been put in place to combat substance abuse in the ever-growing opioid epidemic:

Most of the AHCA’s immediate effects on mental-health and substance-abuse services would come from its large changes to Medicaid, but it also has significant potential impacts on parity in private coverage. Amendments to the law allow states to waive certain federal protections for exchange plans, including essential health benefits and community rating, which means states could choose to essentially eliminate mental-health parity in exchange plans.

Earlier this week, the Intercept published a transcript of the phone conversation Donald Trump had with Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines whose regime has enacted a brutal, murderous War on Drugs. Trump applauded Duterte, telling him he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” From the Washington Post:

Far from conducting a prudent and effective war on drugs, Duterte has overseen grotesque and indiscriminate killings. Trump’s un-American cheerleading for gross human violations once again evidences his willful ignorance and/or moral nihilism. “We all know Trump doesn’t care about human rights but what was truly shocking about this call is that the very first thing he said was to praise Duterte’s murderous campaign and criticize President Obama for not doing so,” says the Brookings Institution’s Thomas Wright. “It is one thing to turn a blind eye. It is quite another to be a cheerleader for wrongdoing. One has to wonder what’s next. Will he offer assistance to foreign leaders in repressing their own people?”

The Pentagon, according to BuzzFeed, was also upset about another element of that leaked conversation: Trump’s disclosure to Duterte about two U.S. nuclear submarines near North Korea. BuzzFeed reports:

Pentagon officials are in shock after the release of a transcript of a call between President Donald Trump and his Philippines counterpart revealed that the US military had moved two nuclear submarines towards North Korea. “We never talk about subs!” three officials told BuzzFeed News, referring to the military’s belief that keeping submarines’ movements secret is key to their mission.

Wired reports on two papers published by NASA scientists based on data collected by the Juno Spacecraft from a close passing over Jupiter last August. They detail, in relatively understandable terms, some of the bigger findings about the beautiful, massive, stormy, condensed fart (I am not a scientist) in the middle of our solar system. New data is posing many new mysteries; even if, like me, you have no idea what the following ultimately means, it seems like scientists don’t exactly, either, and it’s still pretty cool:

It seems like planetary scientists had Jupiter’s atmospheric dynamics wrong in general. “Scientists thought the main energy source in the atmosphere would be the sun,” says Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator and lead author of the other paper. “So they assumed that once we dropped below the sunlight that the particles would be simple and well mixed.” That turns out not to be the case: The particles in Jupiter’s atmosphere are just as diverse and banded as the planet’s famously stripey exterior. Particularly interesting to Juno’s team is a massive equatorial band of ammonia that extends hundreds of kilometers down toward the planet’s core—as far as Juno’s instruments can see. According to even the most up-to-date models of Jupiter’s atmosphere, there’s no reason it should do that.

Today brought the sad news of the death of Jesus’ Son and Tree of Smoke author Denis Johnson. The Internet is covered in obituaries right now, and one of the more poignant ones is by James Yeh’s piece in Vice, for its focus on the legacy and potency of his work as opposed to factoids about his life. He writes, “Johnson’s writing could contain such clear human awfulness and truth at the same time, and that’s what made it so convincing and powerful. The scene that sums up Johnson, for me, is from his leadoff story to Jesus’ Son, ‘Car Crash While Hitchhiking,'” before engaging in a brief analysis/reminiscence of the story. Middlesex author Jeffrey Eugenides also paid homage to that “perfect short story” for the Paris Review. He wrote:

In this story—and indeed, in all of the stories in Johnson’s brilliant collection, Jesus’ Son—Johnson found a way to leave out the maximum in terms of plot, setting characterization, and authorial explanation while finding a voice that suggested all these things, a voice whose brokenness is the reason behind the narrative deprivation, and therefore a kind of explanation itself.

The Paris Review happens to have published that very short, short story (so it won’t take you long to revisit the real thing yourself) back in 1989. Read it here. Many of Johnson’s other stories are available online — like “Happy Hour” over at Granta and “Emergency” in Narrative. Former Flavorwire Literary Editor Jason Diamond once wondered whether Johnson was the most influential living fiction writer in the country, writing back in 2014:

The surface of his writing isn’t shiny, but that hasn’t stopped him from giving us some of the most perfect lines that American literature has produced in the last three decades. He is the best chronicler of Americans fucking up in a fucked-up America, and he writes his characters with a depth of insight that few authors can muster.