August 21st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Awaiting Your Edits

The Ferguson story is big in part because it touches upon so many topics central to American discourse: Race, poverty, freedom of the press, law and order, the right of assembly, the militarization of police departments, leadership, justice, etc. But it’s also big because of what I call media momentum; the way social and mainstream media can feed off one another to make a story explode into our collective consciousness. Consider this stat: There were more than a million tweets about Ferguson before CNN gave the topic primetime coverage. From that point, the story dominated headlines. I like to think of myself as the Internet’s managing editor. But in truth, that title belongs to all of us. This story started small. People decided it was big. And the combined attention from the mainstream press and the Internet-enabled general public made it even bigger. From Pew, here’s a closer look at how the story grew and how we’ve become the new editors. Let’s just hope we’re the right people for the job.

+ What happens when a newsworthy story becomes a media spectacle? Here’s one journalist explaining why he left Ferguson.

+ And Matt Pearce, who has been covering the story for the LA Times and on Twitter takes us inside what has become a strange headquarters for news dissemination: “Amid the clouds of tear gas and hurtling bottle rockets that have turned this stretch of strip malls into a scene of mayhem through much of the past week, the one image rising above the turbulence has been the golden arches of the McDonald’s.”


Checks and Balances

Would James Foley be alive today if he was from Europe? Many Europeans countries pay millions in ransoms. The White House doesn’t. In Foreign Policy, James Traub on the agonizing question raised by these situations: Should states pay ransom to kidnappers?

+ Slate: Why the U.S. made a deal for Bowe Bergdahl but not James Foley.

+ Earlier this summer, the U.S. secretly attempted to rescue James Foley.

+ The hunt for Foley’s killer.

+ Buzzfeed: Photographers we’ve lost in conflict zones and their work


Free to Hug it Out

“Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family.” The two health workers who contracted Ebola in West Africa walked out of an Atlanta hospital today after doctors confirmed they have recovered and are not contagious.


Ready for Duty?

“Do you believe in an ‘eye for an eye’? What do your parents do for a living? Do you watch CSI? Dateline? Read Perez Hilton? Have you ever undergone a medical procedure that required an anesthetic?” Those are just a few of the questions you might be asked when you’re being considered for jury duty. The NYT with the latest questions jury selection experts are asking, and a quiz to see if you’d be selected.

+ New Republic: Convicting Darren Wilson will be basically impossible.


The Lady is a Champ

Picture the typical gamer. I bet the image that comes to mind is not an adult woman. But females now make up nearly half of all gamers, and “women over 18-years-old now represent a significantly larger portion of the U.S. game-playing population than boys under 18.”


Deuces Wild

Welcome to Twinsburg, Ohio; home of the annual Twins Days festival, and a dream research opportunity for scientists looking to gather genetic data. From one researcher: “They’re very aware that what they are is genetically interesting and the fact that people want to study that is something that resonates with them.”

+ Maria Konnikova in The New Yorker: Is there a gene that makes you need less sleep? (There definitely is if you have a baby named Gene.)


Burning Man(sion)

Nick Bilton in the NYT: “If you have never been to Burning Man, your perception is likely this: a white-hot desert filled with 50,000 stoned, half-naked hippies doing sun salutations while techno music thumps through the air. A few years ago, this assumption would have been mostly correct. But now things are a little different.” To identify the difference, just follow the money. The new millionaires and billionaires are spending big and threatening to turn Burning Man into dusty Internet conference, instead of letting it be what it is intended to be: A place to experience art, drugs, and the non-gender specific naked hugging of strangers that lasts a little too long but then is mysteriously forgotten a few hours later.


Thriller Whales

“I specifically remember Tilikum lying on the bottom of the neighboring pool masturbating. I’m right next door vacuuming the pool and watching him through a gate, humping the bottom of pool and climaxing. That stuff’s everywhere.” Three former SeaWorld employees on their unrivaled access to the animals — and the challenges of captivity. (I’m just glad my kids wanted a cat, not a whale.)

+ Slate: The strange, disturbing world of Koko the gorilla and Kanzi the bonobo.


Ice Breakers

“There are firmly established rules preventing the use of public office, such as our ambassadors, for private gain, no matter how worthy a cause.” And with that cable, U.S. lawmakers and diplomats were given the harsh news that they are not allowed to participate in the ice bucket challenge. Politicians can even throw cold water on cold water.


The Bottom of the News

You know how you’re never really paying attention during conference calls? Well, here’s a little secret. Neither is anyone else.

+ Hollywood wants to make you cry. But that’s harder than it used to be.

+ NYT: Breakfast might be overrated. (Then at least it properly sets your expectations for the rest of the day.)

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