July 15th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Paper or Iconoclastic?

In The Graduate, Benjamin Braddock is given a one word piece of career advice: Plastics. While it turns out that young Benjamin wasn’t quite ready to embark on a career, the advice was actually pretty good; especially since 1962, when “a Swedish inventor, Sten Thulin, filed a patent for a thin, plastic bag, folded and made in such a way as to provide improbable strength and durability.” Since then, plastic bags have been viewed as everything from a cure-all for a carrying problem we didn’t have to being a top offender in humankind’s systematic scourge of the planet (even though some environmentalists welcomed plastic bags because they’d save trees being sacrificed for paper). In NY Mag, Adam Sternbergh goes deep on plastic bags and the battle over their bans — which some see as obvious and others see as an obvious attack on the American way: The Ban on Plastic Bags vs. the Ban on Bag Bans. When my son asked me for career advice, I told him to either start a print magazine, become a travel agent, open a store that develops camera film, or drive a cab.


Don’t Bogart That Time in the Joint

A couple days after commuting the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders, President Obama called for bigger changes to our sentencing laws. “People convicted of nonviolent drug crimes owe a debt to society, ‘but you don’t owe 20 years. You don’t owe a life sentence. That’s disproportionate to the price that should be paid.'” (I came up with a new word for non-violent drug offenders: Everyone.)

+ In The Atlantic, Josh Hindin calls for a more historic act of clemency: “While there’s still time, the president should consider an act of clemency that measures up to history: pardoning every marijuana offender.”


Tube Job

The longest escape tunnel ever happens to be 5’7″ high. That was so El Chapo (who is about 5’6″) wouldn’t have to stoop. It had ventilation, electricity and, according to a Mexican newspaper, “291 trips by a dump truck would have been required to remove the 2,040 cubic meters of dirt and rubble extracted in the construction process.” The NY Review on the engineering feat that led to a relaxed escape: Making the Dogs Dance.

+ Slate: Watch El Chapo disappear from his cell with the seeming urgency of a man heading out for groceries.


The Real Sharing Economy

Netflix and HBO know what you did last summer. And they know you’re still doing it this summer. The sharing of login credentials is so widespread that the big streaming players are losing hundreds of millions a year. So why don’t they stop us? Two reasons: It’s all about growth at this point. And no one has come up with a way to limit credential sharing without hurting the customer experience.

+ “You can have the best technology, you can have the best business model, but if the storytelling isn’t amazing, it won’t matter. Nobody will watch. And then you won’t sell more shoes.” Amazon is a different kind of movie studio. It’s all about getting more people to become Prime members.

+ That drive for membership is what Amazon’s fake holiday, Prime Day, is all about.

+ As Amazon celebrates Prime Day, FAO Schwarz opens its doors for the last time in NYC.


Getting to Know You

“I understand it’s bad … But in the beginning, when you’re sitting in Belarus, and you’re very young and you need money … You don’t see blood, you don’t see crying people in front of you. You’re just pushing the button.” In Businessweek, an Identity thief explains the art of emptying your bank account.

+ Hopes and Fears: All the ways hackers will try to kill you in the future.


Cog in the Machine

Samsung finally came up with something they didn’t copy from Apple. Antisemitism. The company has removed some offensive cartoons from its website after a spat with a NYC Hedge fund took a nasty detour.

+ Oskar Groening, the bookkeeper of Auschwitz, always described himself as merely being a cog in the Nazi machine. Well, after a much-watched three month trial, that cog got sentenced to four years in prison. It’s not that stiff a sentence considering he was found guilty of being an accessory to 300,000 murders.


Veggie Tales

“If you’re like me, you don’t really want to wade into this issue. It’s too big, technical, and confusing. But come with me, just this once. I want to take you backstage, behind those blanket assurances about the safety of genetic engineering. I want to take you down into the details of four GMO fights, because that’s where you’ll find truth.” Slate’s William Saletan takes a very close look at the war against genetically modified organisms and argues that it’s full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. gmOMG…

+ Wait, can organic farming be worse for climate change than conventional farming?

+ If those two pieces make you mad, then you better close your eyes because MoJo is about to ruin Kale. (I imagine Spinach looks at Kale the way Britney Spears looks at Taylor Swift.)

+ Speaking of genetically modified foods, is there any doubt that genetically modified babies are in our future?


You Kids Get Off Your Lawn

Do no-kids-allowed rules violate federal anti-discrimination laws? That’s the question at the heart of a DC co-op dispute that could become a federal case. And there ain’t no dispute like a co-op dispute.


Web or Alive

“But hyperlinks aren’t just the skeleton of the web: They are its eyes, a path to its soul. And a blind webpage, one without hyperlinks, can’t look or gaze at another webpage – and this has serious consequences for the dynamics of power on the web.” From Hossein Derakhshan: The rich, diverse, free web that I loved – and spent years in an Iranian jail for – is dying. Why is nobody stopping it?


Bottom of the News

“At a time when I had forgotten the possibility of pleasure, Pépin had effortlessly, instinctively brought me back to life. Without knowing it, he had extended a hand to a drowning man.” Brett Martin in GQ: The Chef who saved my life.

+ Syndicated from Kottke: Design Observer and the AIGA have announced the winners of their 50 Books | 50 Covers competition to find the best designed books and book covers published last year.

+ “The pre-show now is, like, a couple whiskies and a couple Advils.” WaPo on Dave Grohl, a back-aching, coffee-guzzling, minivan-driving classic rocker.

+ So Tom Brady may have deflated some footballs. Let’s not make a federal case out of it. Even though he might.

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