"Let's start with the moment I realized I was already a loser, which was just after I was more or less told that I was destined to become one." That's how Billy Blagg first reacted to being assigned to do a story about the risks of having few friends, or very limited contact with the ones you do have. And we're not talking about Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or even remarkably satisfied subscribers. We're talking about real life human interaction. In the spirit of full disclosure, this is something I've never been a huge fan of, but it turns out that it could be a matter of life and death. "Study after study started showing that those who were more socially isolated were much more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected neighbors, even after you corrected for age, gender, and lifestyle choices like exercising and eating right. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and the progression of Alzheimer's." From The Boston Globe: The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn't smoking or obesity. It's loneliness. (Inspired by this story, some old friends and I just made plans to get together for a weekly smoke at The Cheesecake Factory.)
Studying the DNA extracted from Neanderthal dental plaque has given researchers new insights on their lifestyles and eating habits. While it's true that many Neanderthals enjoyed the occasional slab of woolly rhino, it's also true that some were vegetarians. "When people talk about the Paleo diet, that's not paleo, that's just non-carb. The true paleo diet is eating whatever's out there in the environment." (That's a diet I think I could stick with...)
+ And yes, Neanderthals and humans participated in some serious make-out sessions.
"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don't know that yet. … We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis." EPA head Scott Pruitt basically rejected the notion that climate change is being driven by human activities and increased carbon dioxide emissions.
+ Why would Pruitt make the claim that accepted science is actually an ongoing debate? Because that messaging works. More than half of Americans agree.
+ WaPo: "A new White House proposal would slash the Environmental Protection Agency's budget by 24 percent and eliminate 38 of its programs. One of the programs on the kill list is the Energy Star program." Good for the environment, saves consumers money ... yeah, we better get rid of that one quick.
+ On the other side of the spectrum, Russian scientists are trying to stave off catastrophic climate change -- by resurrecting an Ice Age biome complete with lab-grown woolly mammoths.
It's no secret that having money can enable people accused of a serious crime to get access to better legal advice and representation. But did you know it can also enable a convicted felon to get a serious room upgrade in the joint? The Marshall Project on how California's pay-to-stay jails create a two-tiered justice system: Afraid of Jail? Buy an Upgrade.
"Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!" So tweeted the president as two House panels pulled all-night sessions to push the Obamacare replacement over its first hurdles.
+ Washington State just joined Hawaii in an effort to get the courts to stop the new version of the travel ban.
+ According the administration, there was a 40% drop in illegal immigrants from Mexico between January and February. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell was asked whether or not Mexico would actually pay for the wall. His answer: Uh, no.
+ The Guardian: "The creator of a chatbot which overturned more than 160,000 parking fines and helped vulnerable people apply for emergency housing is now turning the bot to helping refugees claim asylum."
"They can develop and distribute products similar to popular offerings from hipper competitors, but the brands don't necessarily resonate with customers." Bloomberg on why big brands couldn't stop Chobani from winning the yogurt war.
+ Quartz: Is kernza the new quinoa? The maker of Cheerios is investing in the experimental and sustainable grain.
"Maybe decades ago you could aim your songs at a mass market, but music does not really have one of those anymore. Artists have to figure out whom they're speaking to and where they're speaking from. The rest of us do the same. For better or worse, it's all identity now." In a collection of essays paired with music, the NYT Magazine shares 25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going. (Nothing is as unnerving as aging into a demographic where getting music recommendations from the NYT doesn't seem like a half bad idea.)
You know how we can fit more and more data on smaller and smaller devices? Well, that trend looks to continue, especially given this development. IBM announced it has managed to successfully store data on a single atom for the first time. (It all sounds great until someone misplaces the Internet.)
"Both companies also understand that the largest market for their products is not explorers stocking up for Arctic expeditions. The real money comes from selling products designed for hardcore outdoor adventure to urban customers who lead relatively unadventurous lives. For the most part, people wear North Face and Patagonia gear while doing everyday things." From The Guardian: Patagonia and The North Face: saving the world -- one puffer jacket at a time.
After receiving pressure from a mayor, a governor, and many others, the organizers of a South Boston St. Patrick's Day are reconsidering the decision to ban a Gay veterans group from participating. Telling people who have stormed enemy territory that they're not welcome to walk American streets? It's time for everyone to get on board and join the 21st century.
+ The 5-year-old headed to the National Spelling Bee. (At five, I was still communicating in grunts.)
+ Some dude just paddleboarded across the Atlantic. In the words of my mom, "You think maybe you're overdoing it?"
+ The New Yorker: Trump's presidency is ruining my personal brand.