The Beachcomber offers this weekly collection of stories from everywhere but Washington D.C., for readers looking to climb out of the rabbit hole for a moment and reconnect to the world.
CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY
South Korea: The impeachment of president Park Geun-hye became official last Friday, when South Korea’s constitutional court upheld the results of a December parliamentary vote. The daughter of the late dictator Park Chung-hee was a polarizing figure in South Korean politics since coming to power in 2012. She was ultimately brought down by a scandal that involved her friendship with a woman named Choi Soon-sil, with whom she reportedly shared confidential government documents and who used this connection to help her daughter get into a prestigious university, as well as obtain funding for the same daughter’s equestrian aspirations. The far-reaching scandal has also led to the arrest and indictment of Samsung’s head, Lee Jae-yong, who allegedly used Choi’s influence to obtain government approval for a merger. Quartz offers this detailed timeline of Park’s life and recent events.
PUTTING HIS MONEY WHERE HIS TWEETS ARE
Australia: Tesla CEO and SpaceX head Elon Musk recently promised the state of South Australia that Tesla would build it a 100-megawatt battery storage farm within 100 days — or it would be free of charge. The promise came via a Twitter exchange with Australian billionaire and Atlassian CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes, as reported by The Verge. The Land Down Under’s current power crisis, noted in a previous Off the Rock installment, is at the heart of the deal — trying to stay cool in a nuclear blast furnace can be taxing on one’s power grid. Musk has good reason to be confident: Tesla built an 80-megawatt farm in California in just 90 days last year.
THIS IS A BIG, HAIRY DEAL (LONG READ … OR LISTEN)
Siberia: Ross Andersen wrote this fascinating piece for The Atlantic about Russian father-and-son scientists who have come up with a mammoth plan — as in, literally cloning woolly mammoths — for slowing or preventing the melting of the Arctic permafrost and to avoid a climate change disaster. A link to the audio version is embedded in the story.
WHERE’S INDIANA JONES WHEN YOU NEED HIM? (EXTRA-LONG READ, BUT IT’S PACKED WITH MULTIMEDIA GOODIES!)
Wyoming: A couple of Vox staffers recently set out in search of the hidden treasure of Forrest Fenn — a Romanesque chest filled with approximately $2 million worth of historic jewelery, gold and gems from the artifact hunter’s own collection, that he hid somewhere in the Rocky Mountains in 2010. The piece, which presents as a virtual master class in multimedia reporting, includes text, photos, audio and video to tell this entertaining, if not curiosity piquing, story.
A GREEN LIGHT FOR BREXIT, A NEW LOW FOR THE POUND
U.K.: Since Off the Rock has been following the road to Brexit, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Prime Minister Theresa May got the green light she needed from parliament on Monday to go ahead and trigger article 50, and formally begin the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. In related news, the pound sterling has lost nearly 20 percent of its pre-Brexit vote value, and is currently at its lowest point since May’s mid-January announcement that the U.K. would also leave the EU’s single market.
A NEW HOPE
Texas to D.C.: “A Democrat and a Republican heading back to the Hill to vote are stranded in Texas. YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!” If we believed in click-bait headlines, that’s probably how we would have introduced this. But this story on NPR of two Texas congressmen — one a Democrat and one a Republican — who ended up on a 1,600-mile road trip together when their flights back to Washington were canceled, truly deserves the read. So head on over here and rejoice in the knowledge that there might be some hope for cooperation and respect after all, and at least a couple of our elected officials seem decidedly human. Also, we couldn’t not include this because these guys played “The Final Countdown” on the way into D.C. after two days on the road and racing the clock. That, if nothing else, buys them some Off the Rock real estate. (PS. We’re not technically breaking our own rule about no D.C. news, since the story originated in Texas…)