October 6th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The Culture War

At the risk of infringing on anyone’s trademark, let me ask you a question: How? Before you answer, you should know that this single word can suck you into a legally-charged vortex where you’ll find a story that encompasses the three building blocks of modern society: Frivolous lawsuits, the cult-like adoration of overrated business management philosophies, and Greek yogurt. On one side of this era-defining lawsuit, you’ve got management guru Dov Seidman, author of How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything. On the other side you’ve got Chobani, the makers of the wildly popular Greek yogurt and proud owners of a new tagline: How Matters. As the NYT’s Jonathan Mahler explains, “there have been trademark lawsuits over plenty of common words — ‘pure’ or ‘bliss,’ for instance — but perhaps never one as generic as how.” HTF is the new WTF.


The Affirming Denial

The Supreme Court denied all pending gay marriage appeals without comment. So gay marriage is now legal in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin. From WaPo: The decison’s “practical effect will be to legalize same-sex marriages in most states. And it is likely to send a signal that gay marriage will soon be legal nationwide.”

+ Vox shares the updated status of same-sex marriage in the U.S.


Beyond Imagination

“Previous Ebola outbreaks had been quickly throttled, but that experience proved misleading and officials did not grasp the potential scale of the disaster. Their imaginations were unequal to the virulence of the pathogen.” How the world’s health organizations failed to stop the Ebola disaster.

+ As America focuses on Thomas Eric Duncan’s diagnosis in Dallas, Liberians are focused on the nine people who are dead or dying after having contact with the pregnant woman who gave him Ebola. And a nurse in Spain has become the first person known to have contracted Ebola outside of Africa.

+ “There’s a reason Ebola has crippled West Africa, where large swaths of a distrustful population deny its existence and local governments don’t have the tools to defeat it. And there’s a reason Nigeria, a country with a more muscular government, has been able to limit its outbreak. Conditions determine a disease’s survival rate — not lethality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the origins of the HIV pandemic.”


Finding Your Inner GPS

The Nobel Prize in medicine has been awarded to three scientists who discovered “the brain’s navigation system — the inner GPS that helps us find our way in the world.” The winners include US-British scientist John O’Keefe and Norwegian husband-and-wife research team Edvard Moser and Mary-Britt Moser. (This marks the first time a married couple agreed on anything related to directions.)

+ It turns out that just about anything smells like victory. According to a recent study, a poor sense of smell might mean death is near.

+ That smell study might make you even more anxious next time you get a stuffy nose. But try not to stress, because chilling out might free your immune system to fight off this seasons colds and flus.


Starkness Visible

She “revealed that she’d had a nose job, that she didn’t like her body, that she wished she were white, that she was only with her boyfriend until someone better came along, that she was ashamed of her parents’ manners, that she didn’t work at a call center, that she danced at a nightclub.” And then she got really personal. From Daniel Alarcón in the brand new California Magazine: Ruth Thalía, a teenager from the outskirts of Lima, Peru, became an overnight sensation on a hit television game show. Then, she disappeared.


Ex-Post Hoodie

“It’s not hard to imagine a future in which boy genius nerds in hoodies are an outdated hallmark of an earlier era in tech history. But it’s going to take meaningful, purposeful changes to get there … First, it would help to know exactly where ‘here’ is, so let’s take stock of the numbers. Because the numbers are pretty bad.” Matter’s Ann Friedman: Etsy’s trying to fix tech’s women problem. Why aren’t you?

+ NPR: The forgotten female programmers who created modern tech.


Through the Looking Saas

“Drones are a different kind of new technology from what we’re used to. The communications breakthroughs of the past two decades have multiplied the connections within society, but drones offer something else: the conquest of physical space, the extension of society’s compass, the ability to be anywhere and see anything.” From NY Mag: The Flying, spying, killing machines that are turning humans into superheroes. (I think I preferred Underdog.)

+ By air and by land, your neighbors in California can now use an app to report your water wasting.

+ Buzzfeed reported on a company that installed hundreds of tracking beacons into NYC phone booths. And hours later, the city told the company to remove them. (Even stationary, old phone booths are following you around…)


The Sty of the Beholder

“No one in the pork business even dared mention bacon’s name. It was porcine non grata.” From slow sales, to the other white meat, to the top of the food chain, Businessweek’s David Sax tracks the rise of pork: The bacon boom was not an accident.

+ I know what you’re thinking. What does a Jewish vegetarian know about bacon? It’s a long story, but trust me, the oven is absolutely the only place to cook bacon. My friend Dan Benjamin provides the directions.

+ Ever wonder if the stuff sold at the farmers market is the same stuff that’s for sale at the store?

+ Maybe MSG isn’t actually bad for you after all.


It’s About Content

Most of us worried the never-ending stream of distracting tidbits would spell doom for longform content. As we’ve seen, long pieces are as good as ever, and thanks to tools like Longreads, they are even easier to find. Now Longreads and its new parent company WordPress dot com (my most excellent sponsor) are teaming up to create a fund that will support independent writers and publishers. This is awesome. Glad to be associated with these folks.


The Bottom of the News

“There is, I think, a broader moral here. In every area of life, we underrate the merits of desperation, and persistently overrate the advantages of free choice. We insist that we ought to all be equal, free to make the choices we want and find the partners we need.
In fact, people who have this kind of freedom rarely use it well.” Adam Gopnik explains why short men make better husbands.

+ NYT: The Brown sisters have taken forty portraits in forty years.

+ The Coast Guard had to rescue a man who was running across the ocean in a bubble. (Related: Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of Whatsapp is now official.)

+ HP is splitting into two companies. One called HP, Inc and one called Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. Seriously. Both companies will retain the initials HP. And some consulting company probably got millions for that decision.

+ A new statue has immortalized Edgar Allan Poe in Boston. The only problem is that Poe hated Boston. So the according to the artist, “he faces away from the Frog Pond to represent his disdain for Bostonians.” (Maybe they should have just put the statue in Yankee Stadium.)

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