Tuesday, June 16th, 2015


The Taste Makers

You probably assume that the safety of the food you eat is maintained by a government agency. But when it comes to many items labeled as "natural" or "artificial" flavors, that safety is maintained by a secretive trade group called the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association. And what are the specific ingredients and chemicals they're testing (and you're eating)? They'll be happy to share that information just as soon as you've sucked your way through an everlasting gobstopper. From The Center for Public Integrity: The food flavor safety system is a black box.

+ "Our bodies learn to draw connections between flavors and the physiological responses they signal. Through this post-ingestive feedback, latent intelligence in our digestive systems is animated. We can seek out and find what we need, nutritionally, and stop eating once we get it." The only problem is that we now optimize food for size and speed of growth. And we're changing those flavors. The NYT Sunday Book Review with a very interesting look at The Dorito Effect.

+ If you're a big fan of trans fats, you better get them now. They will be completely banned in the U.S. in three years.

+ How do we create the perfect chocolate bar or gum that never loses its taste? Follow your artificial nose.


A Mononymous Relationship

Like Socrates, Plato and Madonna before them, many 2016 presidential candidates are going mononymous. In an effort to distinguish their candidacies from those with the same last names, they'd like to be identified as Jeb, Hillary and Rand.

+ The presidential race just welcomed one of its few two name candidates: The Donald. He'll enter the contest as the most hated candidate in decades.


Service with a Guile

From WaPo, a lede that hammers home how little firsthand data we have about ISIS: "The Islamic State was routed Monday from one of its key strongholds on Syria's border with Turkey after its defenses crumbled and its fighters either defected or fled, raising new questions about the group's vaunted military capabilities."

+ Fixing power lines, painting sidewalks, improving sewage systems. Inside ISIS' other war. The one to offer services and win minds.

+ A drone strike killed a top Al Qaeda leader in Yemen.


I Identify as Whack

"When the Today show's Matt Lauer asked, 'Are you an African-American woman?' Dolezal replied, 'I identify as black.'" I've seen a lot of thinkpieces on Rachel Dolezal. But I'm not sure she's representative of any broader story or theme. That's what makes the story so compelling.

+ Dolezal once sued Howard University for discrimination (back when she identified as white).


It’s Still Dusk

While marijuana laws have loosened, noncitizens still might want to wait to inhale. A person can still face deportation for getting caught with pot. Meanwhile, the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that an employer can still fire workers for using marijuana while off duty. In other words, drug laws are arbitrary and indiscriminate (just like they've always been).


Raindrops Keep Messing With My Head

The NYT's Jack Healy on Colorado's unusual water laws and the battle over who owns raindrops: "When Jason Story bought an old soy sauce barrel to collect the rain dripping from his downspout, he figured he had found an environmentally friendly way to water his garden's beets and spinach. But under the quirks of Western water rules, where raindrops are claimed even as they tumble from the sky, he became a water outlaw."



"The near-immediate access to high-profile attorneys, the intimidation that is felt by witnesses who accuse athletes and the higher bar some criminal justice officials feel needs to be met in high-profile cases." Those are a few of the factors that make it incredibly difficult to successfully prosecute college athletes accused of a crime.

+ Pro athletes can get away with almost anything. Except their money. The NY Post's Maureen Callahan explains how pro athletes lose everything.


Cap and Frown

For seniors at San Diego's Monarch School, graduation day is bittersweet. On one hand they've achieved a lot. On the other hand, many of them are about to lose their only reliable source of food, clothing, healthcare, and more. At Monarch, 93% of the students have no permanent housing. It's an extreme but not entirely unique situation. In the U.S., more than 1.2 million public school kids are homeless.


Stolen (Data)bases

It's impossible to deflate a baseball. So participants in that sport apparently need to get more creative to cheat, which leads us to a particularly modern headline: Cardinals Face F.B.I. Inquiry in Hacking of Astros' Network. Whatever happened to pine tar, steroids, and stealing signs?


Bottom of the News

Some mathematicians have jokingly called it "a tragedy for mathematics." It's definitely a (co)sign of the times. This spring, a chalk outline was drawn around the Japanese company that made Hagoromo Fulltouch Chalk. With Hagoromo out of business, mathematicians have been hoarding its famous product.

+ Understanding the differences between ice cream and gelato.

+ If you have to be a subject in an animal testing program, this is the division into which you want to be recruited. From NatGeo: Do animals laugh? Tickle experiments suggest they do.

+ And from FastCo: Surfers' Rectums Offer A Promising New Venue For Antibiotic Resistance Research.