March 28th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Meet the Other You

Pia Farrenkopf died in 2009 in her home in Pontiac, Michigan. But no one knew about it until about a month ago. How could this be? In part, it was because she had set up her bank account to pay her bills automatically. This was a unique case, but it points to a broader trend. There is the you that’s made of flesh and bone. And the you that’s been created via your digital activities. Carmen Maria Machado provides an interesting take in her New Yorker piece: The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf. “Farrenkopf had a kind of institutional doppelgänger, as do we all: a presence that forms as we post on social media, shop online, send e-mails, and use the Internet for paying bills, banking, and dozens of other financial and technological transactions. Some of us have more than one. The institutional doppelgänger is hard to see because it shadows our everyday lives so closely. Every so often, though, the curtain twitches, reminding us of its existence.”

+ Your online self might be a lot more popular than your physical self, especially among data brokers who are panning for gold in the digital age.


Unpredictable Putin

“Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment.” How worried should we be? That’s the big question. As the WSJ reports, “American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin’s specific intentions.”


Weekend Reads

Audrey Polk was sexually assaulted in 1997. Fourteen years later, her assailant was arrested. What took so long? Polk’s untested rape kit was one of 11,304 in Detroit’s backlog. From Buzzfeed’s Emily Orley: Being Raped In A Bankrupt City.

+ Wired’s Jordan Golson: Here’s how they’ll piece together what happened to Flight 370.

+ The 2014 National Magazine Finalists have been named. And Longform has story descriptions and links to all of them (many of which were featured in NextDraft.)


Where Everyone Believes in Climate Change

“Climate scientists predict that this area will be inundated as sea levels rise and storm surges increase, and a cyclone or another disaster could easily wipe away her rebuilt life. But Ms. Khatun is trying to hold out at least for a while — one of millions living on borrowed time in this vast landscape of river islands, bamboo huts, heartbreaking choices and impossible hopes.” There are many countries like Bangladesh where populations “have contributed little to the pollution that is linked to rising temperatures and sea levels but will suffer the most from the consequences.” From the NYT: Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land.


Fat Chance

They told us not to eat fat because it would make us fat. But now they’re telling us they were wrong. The fat wasn’t the problem. It was the carbs and sugars we ate instead of the fat. The problem can be traced back to the U.S. Senate, in 1976. (From now on, I’m eating nothing but pasta and white bread. I want to be ready when they change their minds again.)

+ Mark Bittman in the NYT: Butter is Back. (“Parkay…”)


Put Everything on Hold

Here’s a stat from the National Safety Council that probably won’t surprise you. Twenty-six percent of car crashes are tied to cellphone use. And here’s a stat that might surprise you. Just five percent of crashes involve texting.

+ Texting while walking can be dangerous as well. But a patent application from Apple could save you via transparent texting: “a feature that would continuously capture and display video images of the environment ahead of you.” So then you’d only have to look up from your phone, well, never.



A week after banning Twitter, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan blocked YouTube as well. If they block Facebook too, I may go there to get some work done.

+ Turkey isn’t the only country looking to silence the online conversation. Here’s a map of the countries that block Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

+ The efforts to block access in so many places is evidence of the power of social media. But in some cases, it’s hard to tell if it makes a difference beyond the noise. Newsweek takes an interesting look at how social media has enabled activists from around the world to pummel a Japanese fishing village for slaughtering dolphins


Asset Management

This week we learned that autism rates have been surging over the past few years. And estimates suggest that about 85% of autistic adults are unemployed. But that could change as some large employers are starting to view autism as an asset and not a deficiency in the workplace.”


Getting Trashed

It’s “a contraption consisting of a large silver barrel on top of various other metal parts, all connected with pipes and hoses. It looks like something you’d use to cook meth.” But it’s actually a machine that turns trash into electricity (which makes it only slightly less valuable than if it cooked meth).

+ A bankruptcy dispute led to millions of jars of unwanted peanut butter getting dumped into a New Mexico landfill. (Wait, unwanted peanut butter? Conscious Uncoupling makes more sense than that.)


The Bottom of the News

McSweeney’s: “As you know, we took a lot of measurements this morning — height, weight, head circumference — and in most respects, your baby is doing great. There’s just one thing, and it’s not necessarily something to be concerned about, but we do need to talk about it: Your baby’s Klout score is in the 25th percentile.”

+ How the Bishop of Bling spent $43 million renovating his house.

+ Security guards outnumber high school teachers in the United States.

+ Quartz: How the phrase “no worries” infected American English. (I’m Jewish. It’s never even occurred to me to use that phrase.)

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