March 21st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

When The Twit Hits the Ban

“Twitter, schmitter!” That’s a rough translation of what Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said as he attempted to completely block Twitter from his country. Erdogan (who has more than 4 million followers) is facing a scandal related to some recordings widely discussed on social media. His reaction: “We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.” Over the summer, Erdogan referred to social media as society’s “worst menace.” What happens when a country like Turkey bans Twitter? Well, for one thing, a Twitter explodes with negative opinions about the move. Maybe Erdogan should have just unfollowed his critics.

+ A couple days ago in the NYT, Zeynep Tufekci wrote an opinion piece on the limits of social media-powered revolutions that often wither away. “This muted effect is not because social media isn’t good at what it does, but, in a way, because it’s very good at what it does.”

+ Two days later, Tufekci found herself reacting to the Turkish ban: “What happened next should be a lesson to any modern country that wants to ban social media after it’s already been incorporated into everyday life … People in Turkey had banned the ban.”


Dumpster Diving

By boat and plane, people continued to search for plane debris in a remote part of the Indian Ocean described as “about the most inaccessible spot that you can imagine on the face of the earth.” One thing that makes the search more difficult is that there is a lot of junk in our oceans. A lot.

+ Another way humans have made this kind of oceanic search more difficult: Climate Change.

+ Quartz: US fishermen throw back 20% of their catch — often after the fish are already injured or dead.


Weekend Reads

There are lot of real estate-related fights between developers and community members who want to maintain the authenticity of a local attraction. But what happens when that authenticity was made up in the first place? From The Atlantic’s Adam Doster: Fighting Over the Field of Dreams.

+ “I was shocked but not that surprised. A lot of people start with animals and move on the humans.” From Rolling Stone: A shocking story of citizen detectives, a videotaped murder, animal torture and one very disturbed celebrity wannabe.

+ “I want to look at it again the way any of us want to look the future in the eye, to know for sure whether Spaceport America represents a paradigm shift for human travel or a boondoggle for one of the poorest states in the nation or a carnival fad for the 1 percent or a cathedral for a new kind of space-age spirituality.” Buzzfeed’s Joshua Wheeler on Richard Branson’s space tourism venture: Failure to Launch.

+ NYT Mag’s Carlotta Gall: What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden.


The Bracket Racket

The screams of anguish and joy you heard emanating from homes, offices, and sports bars yesterday were due to the first round of upsets in this year’s NCAA college basketball tournament. When there is a really popular sporting event in America, it also means there is a whole lot of betting.

+ “Betting on sports is only legal in four states: Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. The rest of the country has to make its bets illegally, through bookies. As with any enterprise that holds the promise of easy money, there’s never a shortage of hungry gamblers looking to make a few dollars.” From Vice: The Wide World of Bookies.


Step Away from the Algebra

Don’t do your kid’s homework. Try not to even help them that much. It’s better for their development. And it’s better for you not to have to relive your school years. That seems like sensible advice. Until all the other parents in the school start helping their kids on their homework. That’s when you’ll be tempted. But still, really, don’t. (For me, it was easy not to offer too much assistance, until my son asked for help writing some blog headlines.)



“The grass and goals are spinning when I stand up. My vision is laced with black spots. It is alarming, but I make an athlete’s calculus, measuring these symptoms against the need to show some grit to this skeptical audience. After a brief break, I rejoin practice. Passes and players ricochet past me and I can’t get anywhere quick enough. I can’t read plays as they unfold. The black spots linger. I’ve slammed my brain hard against my skull.” We hear a lot about concussions in football. But they happen in a lot of sports. Here’s Aeon’s Rebecca Ruiz: Soccer Broke My Brain.


Smell More of the Glove

According to a recent study, humans can distinguish more than a trillion odors. (During my last elevator ride, I became convinced a couple billion would be more than enough.)

+ FastCo: The fascinating neuroscience of colors.


The Sounds of Silence

This chart from the Economist shows how much harder it is to make money from music sales as the industry has moved from vinyl to downloads to streaming services. But the members of one funk rock band think they’ve figured out to make enough money from Spotify plays to pay for their whole tour. The released an album of tracks that are all completely silent. (I can think of other bands I wish would do the same.)


Darkness Visible

ReCode’s Kara Swisher wrote a piece today in memory of our mutual friend Zarko Draganic, an accomplished tech engineer and much loved member of our community. As his wife Nellie said, Zarko “was a beautiful brilliant ‘Supergeek; with a gentle, loving and generous soul.” Like so many who shared many memorable moments with Zarko, I will miss him.


The Bottom of the News

“On the first day, God created the navy blue blazer with brass buttons and khakis. And I looked and saw that it was not good. On the second day, He made the ill-fitting all-black suit. And I looked and saw that it was kinda bland. On the third day he created the boxy grey suit — and things were starting to get bleak. On the fourth day, I cried. The hunt for my bar mitzvah suit was failing miserably.”

+ Frank Underwood knows how to get a bill passed. Does Kevin Spacey? We’re about to find out. He’s in Annapolis to support a tax credit that has benefited the production of House of Cards. Speaking of House of Cards, I had a little run-in with the show on Twitter the other day. (Slight spoiler alert.)

+ In New Mexico, organizers are planning a landfill dig in search of the worst Atari game of all time. That’s what is so great about the Internet. The worst stuff is never more than a click away.

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