Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History

A smaller share of the world’s people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell.

.. Every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000.

.. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water.

.. Readers often assume that because I cover war, poverty and human rights abuses, I must be gloomy, an Eeyore with a pen. But I’m actually upbeat, because I’ve witnessed transformational change.

.. As recently as the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate and lived in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 15 percent are illiterate, and fewer than 10 percent live in extreme poverty.

.. Just since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, diarrhea treatment, breast-feeding promotion and other simple steps.

.. “Intellectuals hate progress,”

.. President Trump rode this gloom to the White House. The idea “Make America Great Again” professes a nostalgia for a lost Eden. But really? If that was, say, the 1950s, the U.S. also had segregation, polio and bans on interracial marriage, gay sex and birth control. Most of the world lived under dictatorships, two-thirds of parents had a child die before age 5, and it was a time of nuclear standoffs, of pea soup smog, of frequent wars, of stifling limits on women and of the worst famine in history.

.. the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time. I suggest these: The world is registering important progress, but it also faces mortal threats.

.. there was never a headline saying, “The Industrial Revolution Is Happening,” even though that was the most important news of the last 250 years.

.. talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

Michael Wolff’s Withering Portrait of President Donald Trump

. A chronicler of media, power, and wealth, Wolff is also willing to dish the dirt, as he demonstrated in a gossipy tome about Rupert Murdoch, which was published in 2008.

.. After that book came out, there was an inquest inside Murdoch’s News Corporation into who had granted Wolff access.

.. as Wolff noted in a foreword to the paperback edition of the book, Murdoch was the person primarily responsible for the access he gained. The press baron “not only was (mostly) a patient and convivial interviewee but also opened every door I asked him to open,” Wolff wrote.

.. His original idea, he says, was to write a fly-on-the-wall account of Trump’s first hundred days. “The president himself encouraged this idea. But given the many fiefdoms in the White House that came into open conflict from the first days of the administration, there seemed no one person able to make this happen. Equally, there was no one to say ‘Go away.’ Hence I became more a constant interloper than an invited guest.”

.. Still, the over-all portrait that Wolff draws of a dysfunctional, bitterly divided White House in the first six months of Trump’s Presidency, before the appointment of John Kelly as chief of staff and the subsequent firing of Bannon, has the whiff of authenticity about it—and it echoes news coverage at the time.

.. during one Oval Office meeting, Bannon called Ivanka “a fucking liar,” to which Trump responded,“I told you this is a tough town, baby.”

.. Equally plausible is Wolff’s portrait of Trump as a one-dimensional figure who had no conception that he could win the 2016 election; little clue what to do after he did emerge victorious from the campaign trail; and virtually no interest in, or aptitude for, acquiring the skills and information needed to fulfill the role of President. “Here was, arguably, the central issue of the Trump presidency,”

.. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate . . . . Some thought him dyslexic; certainly his comprehension was limited. Others concluded that he didn’t read because he didn’t have to, and that in fact this was one of his key attributes as a populist. He was postliterate—total television.

.. Trump often retires in the early evening to his bedroom, where he has three television screens, and interrupts his viewing only to converse by telephone with his friends and cronies, some of them fellow-billionaires.

.. unconfirmed new anecdotes, too, about Trump’s sexism and narcissism. In one meeting, Wolff says, the President referred to Hope Hicks, his communications director, as “a piece of tail.”

.. described Sally Yates

.. Trump is, ultimately, a self-fixated performer rather than a politician, and his primary goal is to monopolize public attention.

.. This depiction probably understates Trump’s devotion to making money, as well as his racism and nativism, both of which go back decades.

.. Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, were adamantly opposed to firing Comey. “McGahn tried to explain that in fact Comey himself was not running the Russia investigation, that without Comey the investigation would proceed anyway,”

.. Chris Christie and Rudolph Giuliani, who “encouraged him to take the view that the DOJ was resolved against him; it was all part of a holdover Obama plot.”

.. the concern of Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, “channeled through his son and daughter-in-law, that the Kushner family [business] dealings were getting wrapped up in the pursuit of Trump.”

.. Jared and Ivanka “encouraged him, arguing the once possibly charmable Comey was now a dangerous and uncontrollable player whose profit would inevitably be their loss.”

Jared and Ivanka were urging the president on, but even they did not know that the axe would shortly fall. Hope Hicks . . . didn’t know. Steven Bannon, however much he worried that the president might blow, didn’t know. His chief of staff didn’t know. And his press secretary didn’t know. The president, on the verge of starting a war with the FBI, the DOJ, and many in Congress, was going rogue.

.. Wolff was surely right to stress the momentousness of the decision to get rid of the “rat”— Trump’s term for Comey.

.. five months after Comey’s firing, Bannon was predicting the collapse of Trump’s Presidency.

.. In any event, there would certainly not be a second term, or even an attempt at one. ‘He’s not going to make it,’ said Bannon at the Breitbart Embassy. ‘He’s lost his stuff.’ ”

I read decades of Woody Allen’s private notes. He’s obsessed with teenage girls

Woody Allen is making a new movie. Just kidding: He doesn’t make new movies. What he’s editing now, “A Rainy Day in New York,” about a college-age love triangle, could, like any of his movies, instead be titled “A Woman Gets Objectified by a Man.” This, in his view, is the pinnacle of art, its truest calling and highest purpose.

.. I’m the first person to read Allen’s collection — the Woody Papers — from cover to cover, and from the very beginning to the very end, Allen, quite simply, drips with repetitious misogyny.

.. never needed ideas besides the lecherous man and his beautiful conquest — a concept around which he has made films about

.. His screenplays are often Freudian, and they generally feature him (or some avatar for him) sticking almost religiously to a formula: A relationship on the brink of failure is thrown into chaos by the introduction of a compelling outsider, almost always a young woman.

.. Allen did lodge a complaint about the Weinstein moment, warning the BBC about “a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer.” He seems to believe that coworkers wink at each other all the time.

.. And here is a riff he wrote to caption an imagined photo of the Spanish socialite Nati Abascal, who worked with Allen in “Bananas”: “Could she act? Yes, I learned and especially in her defense. She blocked my [hand] as I reached for her thigh and brought her knee up sharply into my groin as we discussed show business. . . . I pulled a contract out of my pocket and we both signed, but not until I told her about the sexual obligation that was a part of the job of any actress who worked with me.”

..  goes on: “I came to appreciate her body for what it was as time went by, namely, a girl’s body. . . . Soon she got used to my ways. Aware of my position as father figure on the set (a director is just that) I allowed her to come to me with her problems. When she never showed up, I came to her with mine.”

.. Allen seems to see the function of women in his life as their begging to be a part of it — even outside the sexual realm.

.. But wait: Allen creates wonderful roles for women! Well, sort of. The fact that his work has earned so many women Academy Award nominations and prizes for acting — Penélope Cruz, Rebecca Hall, Mariel Hemingway, Diane Keaton, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Dianne Wiest — is a nesting-doll joke: His trophies have trophies. Allen used Keaton and the others the way Harvey Weinstein used Meryl Streep: an Oscar lure shiny enough to blind aspiring acolytes to his darkness, though some of them recognized that darkness and decided to participate anyway.

.. In many ways, Allen frustrates people because he seems to relish dancing on the edge of the outrage

.. More than that, he seems not to care about bettering or changing himself in any way. He lives and thinks and creates as he did in the 1970s, nearly a half-century ago.

.. the tragic inception of his current marriage, which began when he started a sexual relationship with his then-girlfriend’s teenage daughter (now his wife of two decades). As he later described the affair: “I was paternal. She responded to someone paternal. I liked her youth and energy. She deferred to me.”