Wednesday, December 17th, 2014


Close, But No Cigar

"These 50 years have shown that isolation does not work. It's time to try a new approach." And with that, President Obama announced plans to begin the process of normalizing relations with Cuba. The statement came just after Cuba released American Alan Gross, "who was convicted of illegally bringing communications equipment to the island nation as a U.S. government contractor and was imprisoned there for five years." The two countries have been locked in a stalemate for more than five decades. (I really hope Fredo doesn't screw this up.)

+ CNN: Cuba fast facts and a timeline of its relations with the U.S.

+ How Canada and the Pope made this happen, the most important sentence in Obama's statement, and more in this Vox guide to what you need to know.

+ Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic: Good riddance to a ridiculous Cuba policy.

+ John Boehner called the move another in a "long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship." Buzzfeed is covering the latest developments and reactions. (For a split second this morning, Cuba Gooding Jr. thought he was trending.)

+ So can we light up some Cuban stogies and celebrate? Close, but no cigar.


The Interviewmaster

Federal officials have "no credible intelligence" of any plots to attack movie theaters, but several massive movie chains have opted out of showing The Interview following threats from the Sony hackers. This seems like a terrible precedent. Isn't it bad enough that North Korea can control the behavior of North Koreans?

+ ABC News: "The primary suspects are members of an elite North Korean cyber-security unit known as Bureau 121.


The Smallest Coffins

"Sometimes when I realize what would have happened to my sons, my mind stops functioning." NBC's news producer Mushtaq Yusufzai's sons were inside the school in Pakistan.

+ Buzzfeed: Here are some of the victims of the Pakistan school attack.

+ Pakistan's prime minister announces an end to the country's ban on the death penalty for terrorism cases.

+ InFocus with a powerful photo collection: The smallest coffins are the heaviest.

+ Terrorist attacks on schools have soared in the last decade.


Ruble Zirconia

After this week's Ruble crash, all those wildly overpriced luxury penthouses overlooking Central Park are looking like pretty smart buys. Meanwhile, shopping in Russia just got really weird.

+ These 15 Russian billionaires lost a total of $8.65 billion in 48 hours.


You’ve Been Framed

"By now, everyone knows that a headline determines how many people will read a piece, particularly in this era of social media. But, more interesting, a headline changes the way people read an article and the way they remember it. The headline frames the rest of the experience." Maria Konnikova on how headlines can change the way we think. (From very little to not at all?)

+ Extra, Extra (and then some). Mat Honan on the buzz-fueled media startups battling for your attention. I guess I'm old fashioned. I just battle for your love.

+ Vice aspires to be "the largest network for young people in the world." That explains their new cooking show: Bong Appetit.


Location, Location, Location

"A vendor in a Santa costume roasts chestnuts, standing next to a hijab-clad woman, making pita bread. Nearby, the smell of Hanukkah doughnuts fills the air." Welcome the Haifa Festival of Festivals (where you'll finally find something in the Middle East to celebrate.)


The Split Hits the Fan

It's a debate you hear around dinner tables. On one hand, there's a massive wealth gap. On the other hand, it's all a cycle and it's been this way before. On the other hand (yes, you'll need three hands to count this high), for as long as we've been measuring, the wealth gap has never been this wide.

+ NY Mag: This year's biggest net-worth gainer and loser.


Running with the Devil

"You must have a deep and powerful reason for attending this camp, and be ready to pay the price for the ultimate freedom you'll gain by the end." Outside takes you inside "a beyond-extreme fitness challenge modeled on the Navy's Hell Week for SEAL candidates." Welcome to the world's most extreme fitness program. (My Fitbit software froze up by the end of the introductory paragraph.)


Better Off Ted

From "what I learned from going blind in space" to "what I learned from spending 31 days underwater," here's a look at the year in Ted Talks.


The Bottom of the News

Jeff Oberholtzer traded in a Ford F-250 he used to drive for Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas. So how did it end up being driven by terrorists in Syria (with the plumbing company's name and number still on the driver-side door)?

+ Syndicated from Kottke: I'm adding mine to the chorus of voices praising Transparent, the Amazon Original Series starring Jeffrey Tambor, aka Arrested Development's Pop Pop. (It's excellent.)

+ Jeanetic Engineering: Jeans made that will prevent digital pickpocketing.

+ BBC on "the largest vessel the world has ever seen." (That's what sea said.)

+ Johns Hopkins to prospective students: You've been admitted. Oh, wait, sorry, no you haven't.