February 19th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

How Are You?

How’s your mental health? Wait, don’t answer. Your future mental health practitioner might care less about what you say and more about biomarkers and the circuitry of your brain. Maybe you’ll give a blood test or a saliva sample to go along with some advanced brain imaging. “Scientists have long known that the most forward part of the brain is the seat of higher cognition. But only in recent years have they been able to link certain mental disorders with specific brain circuits, the connections between neurons that are responsible for every one of our thoughts, emotions and actions.” I suppose that all sounds promising, but I think I’d still rather talk about my mother. From WaPo’s Amy Ellis Nutt: The mind’s biology.


Add Libya

“Hours after the attack, Sabratha’s municipal council posted images of what it said showed the aftermath: piles of concrete rubble and large craters ringed by palm trees.” U.S. airstrikes reportedly killed 40 people as the battlefield in the fight against ISIS moved to Libya.

+ “Five years after the uprising that led to the downfall of Qaddafi, Libya is a failed state, torn apart by rival militias. ISIS is growing stronger by the day … Libya is no longer a Libyan problem. It’s a regional problem and an international problem.” From Buzzfeed: Broken Land.


Weekend Reads

“It’s hard to know how seriously to take any of it — there’s no focus. Yet the pace of space news keeps accelerating like a hailstorm on a roof.” In Wired Michael Hainey travels to Spaceport, America, to figure out what the ambitions of Musk, Branson and Bezos mean for the rest of us — and for the next space age.

+ “Being in the drone program is a kind of madness that sticks to you and won’t come off.” From Rolling Stone: The Untold Casualties of the Drone War.

+ “Many people are discouraged about America. But the closer they are to the action at home, the better they like what they see.” The Atlantic’s James Fallows reports on his three-year tour of American cities and towns: How America Is Putting Itself Back Together.

+ Danielle Bacher in Esquire: My Autistic Brother’s Quest for Love.


Branded a Brand

According to the NYT, the FBI has indicated that Apple’s refusal to give them access to the iPhone owned by the San Bernardino shooter “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.” Accusing a corporation of being driven by a concern for its business model and brand is like a accusing the FBI of being interested in federal crimes.


A Thousand Words, And Then Some

“A man passes a baby through the fence at the Hungarian-Serbian border in Röszke, Hungary, on August 28, 2015.” One of the key stories of our era produced the winner of the 2016 World Press Photo Contest. Here’s a look at all the winners.


The Forecast is History

In my neighborhood last year, the average temperature was 2.1 degrees above normal. That’s not much of a surprise since scientists called 2015 the hottest year on record. How hot was it in your neck of the woods? You can use this NYT interactive tool to find out.

+ Looking at past weather is a lot easier than forecasting its future. Remember that epic El Niño that dominated headlines for months in California and other drought-stricken states? Well, it might not be that big after all, and it could be followed by extremely dry conditions. (Or, you know, not.)


Pod Racers

Podcasts are clearly getting more popular. But will they be the next massive media business? Possibly, but it could take awhile. Consider that “advertisers are expected to spend about $35.1 million on podcasts this year, up about 2% from last year.” That’s barely enough to be split among Squarespace and MailChimp. The key issue is that the industry needs to do some catching up when it comes to audience measurement and reach. There is another factor that could limit the fruits of the podcast revolution to a fortunate few broadcasts: There are only so many hours in day and between binge watching TV and opening a few hundred tabs, many of those hours are already spoken for.


Harper Leaves

“Few people in the world could claim to really understand Harper Lee.” The elusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird has died at the age of 89.

+ LA Times: 46 times To Kill a Mockingbird echoed through pop culture.


Left Out in the Cold

“When Attwood tried to cancel the order, he says he was told he would lose the $123.60 as a cancellation fee, a stipulation specified in the site’s surreal list of terms and conditions, which also prohibited reselling items to ‘your Russian cousin’ and compared any errors in prices or photos to a cat named Misse having an accident.” Outside Magazine goes in search of the husband-and-wife team behind the Internet’s most infuriating outdoor retailer.


Bottom of the News

Next time you complain to your kids that you had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways, watch out. They might come back with a video of these Nepalese kids who have a commute worth noting.

+ Quartz: The highly profitable, deeply adorable, and emotionally fraught world of Instagram’s famous animals. (It won’t be long before the cats unionize.)

+ A pretty interesting comedian opened for Jerry Seinfeld the other night: Steve Martin. It’s been 35 years since his last standup gig.

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