Tuesday, August 27th, 2013


Chemical Reaction

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the U.S. is ready to respond to what Secretary of State John Kerry called "undeniable" proof that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. "We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take." The Washington Post provides an overview of which factors would lead to an attack, and what that attack might look like.

+ Russia and China have both warned against any attack led by the U.S. and its allies.

+ Dexter Filkins on the Syrian question: This time it's different.

+ And from The New Yorker, here's an excerpt from George Packer's Two Minds on Syria:

"So it looks like we're going to bomb Assad.

Really? Why good?
Did you see the videos of those kids? I heard that ten thousand people were gassed. Hundreds of them died. This time, we have to do something.

Yes, I saw the videos.
And you don't want to pound the shit out of him?

I want to pound the shit out of him.
But you think we shouldn't do anything.

I didn't say that. But I want you to explain what we're going to achieve by bombing."


Dying Alone

When you're alone you ain't nothing but alone -- Bruce Springsteen

One of the ironies of the connected age is that we seem to be more lonely than ever. According to a pair of surveys, the number of Americans who describe themselves as lonely has doubled since the 1980s. Maybe it makes sense. Since everyone is looking at their devices, it's more possible than ever to be lonely in the presence of others. And according to Slate's Jessica Olien, loneliness is deadly: "The increased mortality risk is comparable to that from smoking. And loneliness is about twice as dangerous as obesity."

+ The Verge: Facebook isn't making you depressed, but the Internet is.


The Rim of Fire

The Yosemite Rim Fire has been growing quickly, could reach the region's treasured sequoia trees, and even threatens San Francisco's water supply. From MoJo, here are nine scary facts about the Yosemite fire.

+ Stories like these are often better told in pictures. From InFocus, here's a collection of photos from scene.

+ Want to understand how natural disasters are affected by climate change? Ask those with the most dough at stake: The insurance and reinsurance companies.


Billie Jean is Not My Cover

With many of today's tennis matches struggling to get decent viewership, it's hard to believe that fifty million Americans tuned in to watch a single match in 1973. But this was no ordinary match. Bobby Riggs vs Billie Jean King was dubbed The Battle of the Sexes: "All of the vaudevillian hoopla made it easy to forget the enormous stakes and the far-reaching social consequences. King was playing not just for public acceptance of the women's game but also an opportunity to prove her gender's equality at a time when women could still not obtain a credit card without a man's signature." Billie Jean King basically crushed Bobby Riggs. And now, four decades later, ESPN's Don Van Natta explains how the match was fixed: Bobby Riggs, The Mafia, and the Battle of the Sexes. (Billie Jean King has responded by saying she is 100% sure Riggs wanted to win as badly as she did.)

+ As the U.S. Open gets underway, Lauren Collins wonders whether Novak Djokovic can learn how to act like a champion.

+ "At a certain level, they all play great tennis. And then it becomes more about what you're willing to give and what you expect of yourself and being unafraid to bring that out." A Q&A with Jimmy Connors.


Room for Everybody

"The richest 500 million have way more money than the next 6 billion combined. You solve that by getting everyone online, and into the knowledge economy -- by building out the global Internet." Mark Zuckerberg explains why he established Internet.org and why he thinks it's critical that everyone gets online.

+ According to Pew, 46% of Americans have both a home broadband connection and a smartphone. (So that means 54% of us still occasionally talk to members of our families.)

+ In many ways, Houzz has a perfect Internet content-commerce model. Designers are compelled to share all of their work. Homeowners doing a remodel become quickly addicted to the site. And almost all of the users are in buying mode. So yeah, Houzz is growing like crazy. My family is one day away from completing a six-month remodeling project. Words can't explain how excited I am to stop using Houzz for awhile...



What happens when a group of people in a relatively confined geographic area are advised by the ministers of a megachurch not to get vaccinations? Unfortunately, for at least twenty-one people in Texas, we have an answer to that question.


The Brewmaster

"It's all because of neurotic, psychotic issues, need for perfection, low self-esteem, overcompensating. The greatest misconception people have is that I'm some sort of arrogant asshole, where it's the opposite of that. I just take what I do extremely serious because that's the kind of person that I am." On a family farm in Vermont, Shaun Hill could be brewing the world's greatest beer. But you might have to make a road trip to taste some of it. From Narratively's Kevin Koczwara: The Wonderbrewer of Nowheresville.


Deep Demolition

A parking garage located at 1401 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington will soon be demolished and replaced by an office building. Why is this news? It's the parking garage where Deep Throat (later identified as Mark Felt) spilled the Watergate secrets that helped Woodward and Bernstein break the story wide open.


Still a Material World

I finally watched the VMAs, saw that controversial act, and now I understand what all the fuss is about. Robin Thicke was pitchy as hell. Obviously, the entire Internet has gone crazy over Miley Cyrus' VMA performance (even the characters on Breaking Bad were transfixed by the performance). Amid the breathless debate, it pays to remember that performers have been trying to shake things up on MTV for a long time. And for some of those performers, the strategy has worked pretty well. Just take a look at Forbes 2013 list of the top-earning celebrities. Madonna is still in vogue.


The Bottom of the News

How do you get to be the most profitable baseball team in history? Lose. And lose a lot.

+ Frozen yogurt shop or enemy from Zelda. Take the quiz.

+ 23 signs you're a secret narcissist. (Clicking on that link might be sign twenty-four.)