Tuesday, September 24th, 2013


Banning Underpants

Time marches on, but attempts to boot books out of libraries never seems to go out of style. The American Library Association is out with its annual rundown of the most frequently challenged books. Novels for young people topped this year's list. Targeted titles included Captain Underpants, Thirteen Reasons Why, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. The author of that last title explains: "Everything in the book is what every kid in that school is dealing with on a daily basis, whether it's masturbation or racism or sexism or the complications of being human." Some of those themes can carry over into adulthood.

+ Here's a look at the whole list.

+ Is Amazon killing small, independent bookstores? It might be doing a better job of killing the big ones.


The Replacements

"My father had worked for the same firm for twelve years. They fired him. They replaced him with a tiny gadget, this big, that does everything my father does, only it does it much better. The depressiong thing is, my mother ran out and bought one." -- Woody Allen

+ Machines have been replacing humans in the workforce for a long time. We've often associated the computerized workforce with routine manufacturing jobs. But robots have gotten a lot more talented. From Quartz: Almost half the jobs Americans thought were safe will soon be done by robots. (So I guess I'm not paranoid for thinking my Roomba is planning to launch a curated news service.)

+ WSJ: Robots may revolutionize China's electronics manufacturing.

+ At least humans still have a role in content creation. Everyone thought a computer was behind a popular Twitter spambot account known as Horse ebooks. Well, it turns out the account was run by a 29 year-old human named Jacob Bakkila who explained: "The idea was to perform as a machine." So we've finally found a growth area in the future economy: Humans impersonating machines impersonating humans.


Grave Warning

President Obama spoke at the UN where he addressed the possible easing of tensions between the U.S. and Iran, and reasserted the need to hold Syria accountable for the use of chemical weapons: "While we need to be mindful that the world is full of unintended consequences, should we really accept the notion that the world is powerless in the face of a Rwanda or Srebrenica? If that's the world that people want to live in, then they should say so, and reckon with the cold logic of mass graves."

+ The world has been watching to see if Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani would share a historic handshake at the UN. So far, it hasn't happened.


The Maul

"We confronted this evil without flinching, confronted our deep grief and pain, and conquered it." So said Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta as the Westgate Mall siege appears to have finally ended. More than sixty people were killed and many are still missing in the building where three floors have collapsed.

+ The New Republic's Eve Fairbanks on Africa's obsession with shopping malls: "As the Westgate shooting unfolded, a narrative settled that the attackers chose it because it's frequented by white expats. But the photographs that emerged from the scene showed a different story: An amazingly wide range of people got caught in the crossfire. Attacking a mall struck right at Kenya's emotional heart, at its new consumer-class vision of itself."


Wanna Bet?

Over the past few years, many of us have backed crowdfunded projects on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. We did it because we wanted the projects to succeed, and if they did, we'd get one of the products, some public appreciation for our support, or maybe even a cool t-shirt. As of this week, the same crowdfunding principles are being applied to the investment world where anyone can now put their dough into startup companies making a public plea for financing (this highly risky privilege was previously available only to "accredited investors"). I've been investing in Internet startups since the earliest days of the first boom. It's worth noting that sometimes those investments don't get you much more than a t-shirt either.

+ Felix Salmon is not a fan of the trend: "Today's a big, exciting day for anybody who has found it simply too difficult, to date, to throw their money away on idiotic gambles."


First and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that the NFL is a highly profitable business. But it might come as a shock that the league enjoys nonprofit status. From Gregg Easterbrook: How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers.


Uphill, Both Ways

"Many new runners come from a mind-set where everyone gets a medal and it's good enough just to finish." That's how a spokesperson from Running USA explains the fact that, by some measures, young people are not very fast. Kevin Helliker takes a run at understanding the slowest generation. (Their legs might be slower. But their thumbs are a whole lot faster.)


It’s Thronely At the Top

It's lonely at the top. It's tough the be the boss. There's no stress like executive stress. Well, that's what we all tend to think. According to Scientific American's Keith Payne, "there are hundreds of studies on the relationship between stress, health, and power" that show the exact opposite.


Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner?

About 70% of people don't have a living will. In large part, this is because we don't like thinking about death. Apparently, hundreds of people are trying to buck this trend by organizing events during which one's demise is the topic of discussion. Would you accept an invitation to a death dinner? (I think I'd prefer to attend a nice stay-in-denial brunch.)


The Bottom of the News

After ten years of development, Burger King is ready to introduce its new crinkle-cut french fries that are supposedly a lot less bad for you. They are calling them Satisfries.

+ Did you know that the average American eats three times as much cheese as they did in the 1970s?

+ Slate found someone who is proud to be hipster. Oh well, it takes all kinds I suppose...

+ Obama reveals the secret behind his ability to quit smoking.