Monday, June 30th, 2014


The Chill Pill

Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing model glue. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that "some companies may refuse to offer insurance coverage of specific birth control methods if they conflict with the owner's religious beliefs." The case was brought by two companies: Hobby Lobby (a chain of more than 500 stores) and Conestoga Wood Specialties.

+ "The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion.

+ MoJo: "When Hobby Lobby filed its case against Obamacare's contraception mandate, its retirement plan had more than $73 million invested in funds with stakes in contraception makers." Is it just me, or is a Hobby store the last place where you'd expect people to have the expertise to make decisions about anything related to intercourse?


Social Engineering

Over the weekend, the Internet erupted with news of Facebook's psychological experiment aimed at determining whether they could could alter the emotional state of hundreds of thousands of users and "prompt them to post either more positive or negative content."

+ The data scientist who wrote the experiment responded to the uproar: "In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety." (The same can be said of just about every Facebook post.)

+ Maybe this is really all a test to see how much it would take to get us to stop posting on Facebook. Here's the short answer: The World Cup has already become the most talked-about event in Facebook history.

+ In other social networking news, Google has finally decided to shut down Orkut. Now I can't tell if Orkut is really shutting down or if Google is running a study to see how apathy affects my emotions.


Teens Found

In a story that will invariably get bigger and lead to more violence, the bodies of three missing Israeli teens have been found in a field north of Hebron. The teens disappeared about three weeks ago.


Contractor Killers

A top Blackwater manager in Iraq apparently managed to stop a 2007 State Department investigation into the security contractor's operations by explaining "that 'he could kill' the government's chief investigator and 'no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq.'" This took place a few weeks before Blackwater guards killed 17 civilians at Baghdad's Nisour Square.


Waxing Brazilian

Tomorrow afternoon, millions of Americans will tune in and watch the World Cup during work. And a handful of them, "at one nondescript loft office of a San Francisco design studio" will be watching the World Cup for work. Recode takes you inside Google's World Cup War Room.

+ There's pressure, heat, exhaustion, and for some players, one more element to deal with during the competition: Ramadan.


Ghost Town

It will not come as much of a shock that NYC real estate prices have been setting jaw-dropping records. But it might surprise you that, in one of the city's most expensive locations, there's almost never anyone home. Consider this: "30 percent of all apartments in the quadrant from 49th to 70th Streets between Fifth and Park are vacant at least ten months a year." Is NY real estate becoming the new Swiss bank account? From NY Magazine: Stash Pad.


Uncle Sam Doesn’t Want You

According to the Pentagon, "approximately 71% of the 34 million 17-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. would not qualify for military service because of reasons related to health, physical appearance and educational background."

+ One of the reasons Uncle Sam no longer wants you could be due to the rise in our consumption of certain oils, fats, and grains. From WaPo: How the American diet has failed.

+ The Wrong War: According to a recent report from the CDC, alcohol is responsible for one in ten deaths.


What Rhymes with Artisanal?

"If this sounds surreal -- a defense of the rights of black performers, without black people -- it feels that way to some rappers too." Buzzfeed's Arianna Rebolini on the fight for hip-hop in the whitest city in America. This article will likely have many Portland residents pondering over free trade coffee and gluten-free scones as they stroke their unintentionally ironic beards.

+ How rap lyrics are being used as evidence in criminal cases. (This is just further evidence that oversharing is one thing we all have in common.)


I’ll Show You Mine…

One plus one equals two. But wait. You're not done yet. Now you need to use a series of graphs, dots, lines, and paragraphs to show your work. The NYT's Motoko Rich explains why common core math is driving parents nuts.

+ Instead of showing their work, maybe American kids should take a page out of Finland's educational playbook: Take more recess.


The Bottom of the News

Before you start criticizing bank robbers, you should take note of the fact that many of them use public transit for their getaways.

+ Phone out of juice? You might want to consider recharging it with a plug-and-play donkey.

+ The UK government is bidding to overturn the ban on haggis in the United States. Time to lock down the borders...