January 20th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Let Them Browse Cake

It will come via massive drones, artificial intelligence–enhanced software, and maybe even lasers. One way or another, Mark Zuckerberg wants to make Internet access available to all. And, despite the critics’ contention that it’s all about growing marketshare, Zuck continues to argue there’s really no obvious business case for his obsession: “There’s no way we can draw a plan about why we’re going to invest billions of dollars in getting mostly poor people online. But at some level, we believe this is what we’re here to do, and we think it’s going to be good, and if we do it, some of that value will come back to us.” I’ve been investing in start-ups, covering the tech industry, and basically living online since the earliest days of the web. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: Don’t underestimate Mark Zuckerberg. Wired’s excellent Jessi Hempel takes you inside Facebook’s ambitious plan to connect the whole world.

+ Here’s one reason why more people online is good for the big tech companies: They run this town. The Internet promised a creative and economic free-for-all where a few kids with laptops could disrupt entire markets. And to some extent, that happened. But these days, the new boss looks a lot like the old boss, and most of the oxygen in the Internet space is being sucked up by a few oversized juggernauts. The NYT’s Farhad Manjoo calls them the Frightful Five, and they’ll dominate tech for the foreseeable future.


A Tough Sell

You were worried about China’s economic prowess. You wanted to stop paying so much at the pump. Well, China’s markets are in turmoil and oil prices have plummeted. Oh, and your 2016 stock portfolio chart looks like a black diamond ski run.

+ Quartz: It really is the stock market’s worst. year. ever.


Ergo Argo

It was four days before the big prisoner swap and the day Obama was scheduled to deliver his State of the Union. So it was a big surprise that the Iranians would choose that moment to detain ten American sailors. Unless you’ve been paying attention. The New Yorker’s Robin Wright takes you through the Iran deal’s Argo moments.


Basic Gaming

Are you good with a joystick or especially astute when it comes to managing your remote control? Then Uncle Sam wants you. “Despite a surge in requests from field commanders, the Air Force last year had to curtail its drone combat missions by 8 percent.” Why? Not enough drone pilots.


White Noise

“And into this glorious morass, a new contradiction has recently announced itself: the white people, the privileged Americans, the ones who had the least to fear from the powers that be, the ones with the surest paths to brighter futures, the ones who are by every metric one of the most fortunate groups in the history of the world, were starting to die off in shocking numbers.” The Guardian’s Stephen March hits the trail with Trump and Bernie in an effort to understand the roots of America’s new white rage: The white man pathology.


Assad State of Affairs

There isn’t much optimism around the Syrian peace talks set to begin in Geneva next week. First, the key players (Russia and the U.S.) can’t even agree on who should be invited. And second, the Russian airstrikes in Syria have given Bashar al-Assad the upper-hand.

+ And the victims of the latest geopolitical moves are, once again, innocent civilians. BuzzFeed’s Borzou Daragahi talks to victims of Russia’s campaign.


Doing Prime Time

“We still have not thought seriously about what it means when a private investigative project — bound by no rules of procedure, answerable to nothing but ratings, shaped only by the ethics and aptitude of its makers — comes to serve as our court of last resort.” The New Yorker’s Kathryn Schulz on how all these popular murder documentaries can go wrong: Dead Certainty. I wonder if viewers see themselves as the jury in the court of last resort or if this isn’t just viewed as another form of entertainment.

+ Quartz: Kenya’s film regulator is calling Netflix a threat to the country’s national security. (He must have seen the new Sandler flick.)


Frozen Novelties

Justin Smith had been lying outside in freezing cold conditions for more than 12 hours. “He was blue. His face — he was lifeless. I checked for a pulse. I checked for a heartbeat. There was nothing.” But the conditions that made him seem dead may have actually saved his life. Here’s WaPo on the upside of being frozen to death.


Menace, Anyone?

“The names of more than 70 players appear on nine leaked lists of suspected fixers who have been flagged up to the tennis authorities over the past decade without being sanctioned.” Buzzfeed and BBC may seem like unlikely doubles partners, but the news outfits teamed up to investigate fixed matches, elite players, Sicilian gamblers and the tennis racket.


Bottom of the News

Without a doubt, you heard that Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump in Iowa yesterday. But to truly appreciate the endorsement, it really has to be read. If you don’t have time for that, then this six-second clip captures its essence.

+ A researcher has discovered the world’s largest known prime number (and it beat the former record holder by five million digits).

+ There’s a chance that baseball fans will soon be able to stream the games played by their home teams.

+ And the headline of the day: Darth Vader Baby Onesie Recalled… For Choking Hazard.

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