Tuesday, August 13th, 2013


The Spy Whisperer

Who is Keyser Soze? ... Nobody believed he was real ... That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone. -- The Usual Suspects

You've probably never heard of documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. She's kept a low profile. But she's the person who might be most responsible for getting secrets from Edward Snowden's mind to the front page. As you'd expect, the story of Poitras and Snowden reads like a spy novel. In Hong Kong, Poitras looked for a man with a Rubik's cube. When they moved into a hotel room, they placed their cell phone batteries in a refrigerator and lined pillows against the door. Here's Glenn Greenwald, the journalist most associated with the story, describing Poitras: "I keep calling her the Keyser Soze of the story, because she's at once completely invisible and yet ubiquitous." From the NYT Magazine: How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets.


A Wing, But Not A Prayer?

In somewhat of a surprise move, the Justice Department is seeking to block the merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways, arguing that the joint entity would substantially reduce competition. (Apparently we don't want any single company to have a stranglehold on the market for lost luggage and delayed flights.)


Life in the Fast Lane

Yesterday, Elon Musk introduced his much-anticipated idea for the Hyperloop, a mode of transportation that could theoretically whisk passengers from LA to SF in about 38 minutes. "According to Musk's design, the Hyperloop's capsules would be transported at speeds of 300 to 760 mph through a steel tube kept at low pressure. The capsules would shoot through the tube on a cushion of air (like a puck gliding on an air hockey table), accelerated by a magnetic system at points along the way." The idea alone will put pressure on California politicians trying to push through plans to build a high speed train covering the same route.

+ This isn't the first time someone's come up with an idea to move people through tubes. Here's The Atlantic with a brief history of pneumatic tubes. Being sucked through a tube hasn't been this popular since Cheech and Chong's last movie.

+ Bloomberg/Businessweek: Hyperloop Physics 101 With Elon Musk.

+ From a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT: "It's far-fetched. But Musk is a smart guy, so some of the things he's doing make reasonable sense."

+ Can't wait for the Hyperloop? Here are some trains that already go pretty fast.


We're Not Hooking Up

According to a new study, the widely publicized hookup culture narrative is actually a myth. That doesn't seem like a big loss. All most of us had was the myth.


An Easy Pill To Swallow

Antidepressants are being prescribed faster than a speeding Hyperloop capsule. Consider these stats: One in four American women their 40s and 50s currently takes antidepressants. One in ten of all Americans takes them. Are the pills that much better than before? Are we that much more stressed and depressed than we were in the past? Or are these drugs just being overprescribed?

+ How do prescription drugs get their weird names?


The Long Road

For years, John Moore has covered the stories of people trying to cross the border into America. Here's a photographic look at an immigrant's journey that shows just some of the obstacles in the long and risky journey many people are willing to take.


Blackberry in the Red

In August of 2007, Blackberry's stock hit an all-time high. But a few months before that, Apple introduced the very first iPhone. At the time, the Blackberry CEO said this of Apple's new device: "In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry. I would think that's overstating it." We now know that it would have been impossible to overstate it. The New Yorker's Vauhini Vara on how Blackberry fell. It's also impossible to overstate the impact that these devices have had on our lives in a relatively short time.


Do Kids Need More Lucy?

Charlie Brown tried to kick the football, but Lucy pulled it away causing Chuck to land flat on his back. It was nothing knew. As kids, we were used to seeing Charlie Brown lose and fail. Today's kids see snails win the Indy 500. Luke Epplin wonders why every kids' movie seems to reinforce the cult of self-esteem. I've showed my kids a ton of Charlie Brown movies. I'm not sure it's had an impact on their self-esteem, but it sure makes it harder for me to kick a football.


An Interview with Mom

"Everything is by the book. I read all the books too, but at times you should use your common sense." After reading an article about the opt-out generation, The Hairpin's Roxane Gay decided to interview her own mother about the complexities of motherhood and ambition and marriage from her perspective. Cool idea. Interview with my mom, one who stayed home.


The Bottom of the News

Yesterday, we learned a U.S. judged ruled that a baby must change his name to something other than Messiah because that name is "a title that has only been earned by one person." It turns out that last year there were 762 other babies named Messiah. And that could be part of a larger trend. Over the past few decades, names choices have become much less uniform.

+ Jeffrey Martin took more than 10,000 photos from the Tokyo Tower and then stitched together the world's second largest photo. Here's the story. And here's the interactive photo.

+ This is what it looks like when dads have to take their kids to a One Direction concert.

+ What happens when two law professors decide to split up? A 17-year divorce fight.

+ The meaning of Beyonce's haircut. (I assume this is just the first of what will be a long series of articles.)