Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015


Edward Scissorhands

For the first time since 9/11, Congress has reduced the sweeping (and until now, expanding) intelligence gathering powers granted to the NSA. Among those things no longer kosher is the government's bulk collection of private telephone calls and Internet metadata. Here's WaPo on the newly retooled U.S. surveillance powers. The NSA still has the power to suck in plenty of your personal data, but at least for now, it sucks less.

+ There's no way to explain the politics of what's been cut out of the Patriot Act without considering the impact of Edward Snowden. In the NYRB, David Cole sums it up: "If Edward Snowden had not revealed the NSA's sweeping surveillance of Americans, Congress would have simply renewed Section 215, the USA Patriot Act provision that the NSA relied on before its expiration on June 1—as Congress had done on seven previous occasions."

+ Vox: Everyone's heard of the Patriot Act. Here's what it actually does.


Watch Your Six

"The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six." ProPublica and NPR team up to deliver a stinging report on the Red Cross: How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes. (Even out here in San Francisco, that price per home seems a little high.)


Castles in the Sand

Fracking, a shift towards alternative fuels, and U.S. talks with Iran have Saudi Arabian leaders looking to take their future into their own hands. Erin Cunningham and Brian Murphy explain how Saudi Arabia's 79-year-old King Salman is shaking up (and being shook up by) the Middle East.

+ "The truck approached with its cannon aimed at our windshield. A dozen or so men jumped off and swarmed to my car door." Michael Scott Moore on his 977 days held hostage by Somali pirates.


Red Notices are the New Red Cards

A day after Sepp Blatter announced he was resigning to focus on cleaning up FIFA (forget bending it like a Beckham, no one spins like Sepp), Interpol issued "red notices" for several FIFA officials and marketing executives.

+ Aside from bribes and corruption, why does this scandal matter so much (and why is it sure to spread, possibly all the way to corporate sponsors)? For the answer, focus your attention on Qatar where more than a thousand workers have died building World Cup sites. Following the Nepal earthquake, Qatar officials refused to grant bereavement leave to any of the 400,000 Nepalese workers because of a tight schedule (the World Cup will kick off there in 2022).

+ "In the 1980s, it was bad cops, the Thai heroin trade and the Italian mob. In the '90s, he turned to sports, exposing corruption with the International Olympic Committee." And for the last 15 years, Andrew Jennings has focused his investigative reporting on FIFA. Meet the curmudgeonly old reporter who exposed the FIFA scandal.


I Betcha Thought This Song Was About You

"The rollout of the Bissinger/Leibovitz scoop was as controlled and as stylized as the launch of an Apple product -- indeed, the image of Jenner in a sleek, fifties-style bustier in ivory satin shared some of the cunning, surprising design perfection of an Apple product." For the past several days, much of the media has been dominated by Caitlyn Jenner's cover shot. Yes, it represents a big moment for the transgender community. But that cover is also representative of something even more core to our times: The Kardashian empire and the perfecting of the art of self promotion. Jenner's cover was so widely shared and discussed that it even managed to overshadow Kanye and Kim's second pregnancy. Here's Rebecca Mead on Caitlyn Jenner's Big Début.

+ "As dramatic entrances go, it didn't lag far behind that of Venus emerging from the foam." The NYT on the woman behind Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover.

+ And just as the promotional momentum wanes, E! releases the first teaser for Jenner's docu-series I Am Cait.


When The Shirt Hits the Fan

"Four years ago internal audits turned up multiple instances of human trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation." Those findings would hardly come as a surprise, but in this case, they were related to Patagonia's supply chain. And that's a great company that tries hard. The Atlantic's Gillian B. White wonders if the problem is too massive for companies to solve: All Your Clothes Are Made With Exploited Labor.


Class Dismissed

By the Fall semester of 2016, students and faculty members will be allowed to carry their guns on campus at Texas universities. Community colleges will have to wait until 2017 to bring the heat. (It will be interesting to see the reaction the first time an Art professor says, "Draw.")

+ In Louisiana, rape victims will no longer have to pay "hefty hospital bills for medical costs associated with rape exams."


Money, Shot

In an interesting article comparing the benefits of profits vs growth, Harvard Business Review managed to come up with a headline that could only exist during the Internet era: Too Much Profit Can Doom Your Company. Thankfully, I've managed to avoid this trap. Now I'm gonna warn my kids!

+ I've been investing in startups since the first Internet boom. The other day, I asked an equally experienced VC if he had any idea whether the startup dedicated to enabling you to never take out the trash again was for real or just a joke. It turned out neither of us was sure. That's the state of the seed startup world. We can no longer differentiate between reality and parody.


A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Calories

Google is set to analyze your Instagram photos using artificial intelligence to calculate the calories in your food images. You take a photo of your meal. You share it on social media. You get data back about its caloric content. Finally, a diet plan where everyone loses.

+ Here are the most calorie-filled restaurant meals of 2015.


Bottom of the News

Mark Taylor of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wanted to go undercover and unnoticed to catch people using their cell phones behind the wheel. So he pretended to be a homeless person begging for change.

+ Wait, humans can't actually be double-jointed?

+ IHOP's new logo smiles at you (like a deranged clown). Is there another kind of smile?