April 13th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The Customer is Always…

The disease spread slowly at first, among small groups of friends. But then as rotary phones, yellow pads, and occasional meetings around basement chalkboards were replaced by ethernet cables and wireless connections, the curse networked its way into the very fabric of our lives, leaving its victims distracted at work, psychologically absent from their families, and unable to root right. Their corporate pushers, once hesitant to embrace the scourge, now feed it mercilessly. As The New Yorker’s Ben McGrath explains, viewers, teams, and sponsors are going all in when it comes to fantasy sports, which manage to draw “forty million participants in North America, including eight million women … In the Internet age, where enthusiasm and loyalty can be measured in terms of media minutes consumed, the best kind of customer is not the polymath with a wry disposition and an ability to charm the in-laws but, rather, a junkie.”

+ There will come a time when playing video games is considered getting some exercise. Watching video games is already set to be the next major league sport.


Think Negative

The WSJ on how “negative interest rates in Europe have created a previously inconceivable problem for some banks: they may soon have to pay customers for having lent them money.” That reminds me of some of the business models from the first Internet boom.


Robbing Peter to Pay Walmart

“Nearly three-quarters of the people helped by programs geared to the poor are members of a family headed by a worker.” That means taxpayers are essentially subsidizing some of the biggest employers in the country. From the NYT: Working, but needing public assistance anyway.


Control Salt Delete

Climate change obsessives worried about rising sea levels can relax. California has found a solution. We’re gonna drink our way out of the problem. The NYT’s Justin Gillis on the 187 quintillion gallons of water lapping at California’s drought-stricken shores (and the very real plans to remove its salt).

+ The LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik on the wrong way to think about California water.

+ NPR: Beyond Almonds – A Rogue’s Gallery of Guzzlers In California’s Drought

+ “The difference between California and the world’s poorest regions is that the side effects aren’t browning fairways but diarrhea, dehydration, and tens of thousands of deaths.” Bloomberg’s Charles Kenny on the real reason Californians can’t water their lawns.


The First Lady

Marco Rubio joined Hillary Clinton in officially announcing a bid for the White House. While Hillary has the best chance of becoming the first woman president, she is far from the first woman to run. That would be Victoria Woodhull. Unlike Clinton, Woodhull couldn’t even vote for herself; in part because women didn’t yet have the right to vote, and in part because she was in jail on election day. From Politico’s Carol Felsenthal: The Strange Tale of the First Woman to Run for President.


You’re On

Smile. Say cheese. Show your best side. Because there’s a decent chance someone is about to take your picture. Take a look at this amazing chart that tracks the history of camera sales, with smartphones included.

+ Phones, GoPros, and the 245 million surveillance cameras installed worldwide are just the beginning. Welcome to the era of cameras everywhere.

+ And the next time someone takes your photo, you’ll probably also be on live video. ReCode’s Liz Gannes: The mobile video moment has finally arrived.


Trial and Error

“His release from prison five years and eight months earlier — a lifetime ago, a life he’d managed to mostly will out of his mind — had been a mistake. A clerical error. A judge just signed off on the order. He had to go back.” The Marshall Project’s Robert Kolker on the man who was accidentally released from prison 88 years early.


Spare Parts

“A surgeon placed a sensor on Mumford’s right shoulder, implanted a pacemaker-size device known as a stimulator just below the skin on his upper chest, and threaded wires into the muscles of his left arm. On the outside of Mumford’s body, a wire ran from the shoulder sensor to an external control unit; another wire ran from that control unit to a transmitting coil over the stimulator in his chest.” Thanks to this complex set-up, John Mumford was able to move one of his paralyzed hands for the first time since his van slid off a cliff in 1982. Then the company that created the technology went out of business.


Red Wedding

Once you account for things like travel, gifts, and appropriate attire, the average wedding guest spends about $673. (I never attend a wedding without signing a prenup.)


The Bottom of the News

“The electric snowstorm is joined by a single tone that ascends like a gospel choir singing to the heavens.” Playboy’s Zaron Burnett on HBO’s static intro, the most powerful force in the universe.

+ FastCo: An oral history of how Game of Thrones went from crazy idea to HBO’s biggest hit.

+ NPR: The Rise Of ‘No, Totally’ As Linguistic Quirk.

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