September 16th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

I Want Your Body

They were easy to find. They came willingly. Some of them even refused to be reimbursed for travel expenses. And none of that should have surprised researchers. After all, to qualify for the study being run by Georgetown neuroscientists you had to have donated a kidney to a stranger. So what did the research suggest? These extreme altruists have bigger brains and are more sensitive to the facial expressions of others. The researchers believe their findings support “the hypothesis that our ability to care about the plight of others falls within a spectrum,” with extreme altruists on one end and psychopaths (and web commenters) on the other.

+ Is there a simple blood test that can diagnose depression and predict who will be most receptive to therapy?


The Epidemic

The U.S. is set to dedicate 3,000 troops and more than $500 million to support efforts to slow the Ebola epidemic, recently described by the World Heath Organization as “unparalleled in modern times.”

+ Mic: Why the world should actually care about Africa’s Ebola epidemic, in one alarming chart.

+ Aeon: In the battle against disease, the difference between a raging epidemic and a passing fever comes down to a single number.

+ Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter provides an interesting look at Hollywood’s Vaccine Wars: L.A.’s “Entitled” Westsiders Behind City’s Epidemic.


Rhetoric Already on the Ground

“To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific Isil targets, I will recommend that to the president.” So said General Martin Dempsey as the U.S. seems on an inevitable march towards putting U.S. boots back on the ground.

+ Matter’s Matthieu Aikins spent seven days on the ground in Syria with the good guys and takes you inside the life and death world of Syria’s first responders: Whoever Saves a Life.


The Thawing Tundra

As I mentioned yesterday, American discourse is currently being driven by issues in the NFL, a brand that has quickly gone from unstoppable juggernaut to cultural tackling dummy. The indictment of one of the league’s best players for child abuse has re-opened the discussion about corporal punishment and kids. And it turns out that the debate is anything but clear-cut. From NY Mag: Why Adrian Peterson’s child abuse Isn’t generating more outrage.

+ FiveThirtyEight: Opinions on spanking vary by party, race, region and religion.

+ “In photographs taken a good week after the whipping, the welts Peterson left on his son’s legs still look raw. The child, in his own interview with the police, said that his father also hit him in the face and stuffed a fistful of leaves in his mouth.” Is this really about spanking? Here’s an excellent piece from The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson: Adrian Peterson’s Intent.

+ “I learned, before the age of 5, how to be an abuser. That’s all I knew until the day I woke up.” In NPR, Anthony Hamilton explains: Why I Used to Hit Women.



Alibaba is about to have what could be the biggest IPO of all time. Last year, its sites brought in more dough that EBay and Amazon combined. So what exactly is Alibaba? To answer that, BloombergBusinessweek’s Sam Grobart did the obvious. He used Alibaba to make 280 pairs of brightly colored pants.

+ NPR: You can think of Alibaba like Amazon or Ebay, except you can buy way more on Alibaba — you can get a used 747 airplane, or an oil tanker, or 500 million tiny screws. (Funny, I prefer to pick those up in person.)


This is Helping Your Brain

My son’s third grade teacher assigns him 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading a night. Maybe I should be doing the same thing. Research shows that making that homework part of your daily routine eases stress, deepens empathy, and heightens concentration. Welcome to the new world of Slow Reading. (Come on. Is there any group more relaxed, empathetic, and focused than third graders?)


Can Portland Stay Weird?

It has an endless supply of creative fuel (coffee, beer). It has a highly literate and educated population. And it’s got enough opinionated dudes with beards to make it feel like you’re wandering through a never-ending bar mitzvah block party. So what’s the problem? NY Magazine’s Claire Cain Miller wonders: Will Portland always be a retirement community for the young? “People move to New York to be in media or finance; they move to L.A. to be in show business. People move to Portland to move to Portland.”

+ Related: Watch a bearded man run around New York city high-fiving people trying to hail cabs. (This could be another weird trick masterminded by execs at Uber.)


Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. Crunch

“The morning after I visited Next Millennium Farms, my digestive system expelled its first cricket exoskeleton.” Arielle Duhaime-Ross of The Verge ate crickets because they’re the future of food.

+ Modern Farmer: Jellyfish: It’s What’s for Dinner.

+ BloombergBusinessweek: How a Facebook group persuaded Coca-Cola to rerelease Surge. (Just when I was losing faith in the ability of the social network to do good…)


Inside a Breath Lab

“At this point, I don’t consider it gross anymore. But when I go home, my family thinks it’s gross because they can smell it on me.” The NYT on what it’s like to be a scientist at Listerine.


The Bottom of the News

No, no, no. You’re doing it wrong. What are you doing wrong? According to the Internet, just about everything.

+ Marriott is now leaving out an envelope so you can include a tip for the housekeeping staff.

+ What can cause erosion and environmental damage, medical emergencies, and angry neighbors? That’s easy. Too many Selfies.

+ Let’s conclude with a slightly harder question: Why isn’t cat food mouse-flavored?

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