March 30th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The Internet started with browse and moved to search. The next stop could be chat.

I am writing this for humans. I know I’m making some assumptions about you, but I think it’s a safe bet. There’s a chance that in the relatively near future, much of our textual communication could be happening not with humans, but with bots. They’re already creeping up around the Internet to provide support, shopping tips, entertainments picks and much more. The Internet started with browsing. It moved to search. And if Satya Nadella is right in his first big move as CEO of Microsoft, the next Internet wave will be all about chatbots. And Microsoft isn’t the only mega tech company making a big bet on bots. From Bloomberg: Clippy’s Back: The Future of Microsoft Is Chatbots.

+ The Verge: You’ll soon be able to use Skype to book trips, shop, and plan your schedule, just by chatting with Cortana. That all sounds good. But honestly, I just want to talk.


Oh My Darling Clemency

From WaPo: “President Obama commuted the sentences of 61 inmates Wednesday, part of his ongoing effort to give relief to prisoners who were harshly sentenced in the nation’s war on drugs.” There are more than 9,100 clemency petitions still pending. So these are babysteps. But in the war on drugs, even babysteps in the right direction are worth noting.

+ Did you know that law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year?


Every Breath You Ache

“Minutes become enemies, and letting two or three pass is too many. So when she forgets to leave her rescue inhaler by her bed, she gropes and crawls down the stairs to find it. It’s the sort of thing that no one would consider ordinary — unless you’ve been living in the industrial suburbs south of downtown Detroit a long time. Then it passes for routine.” Flint is far from Michigan’s only disaster. And it’s not just about water. In many cities in the state, and across the country, breathing is a high risk activity. From Newsweek: Choking To Death In Detroit.


Through the Bathroom Window

North Carolina is in the headlines because of a law that restricts transgender people from using the public bathroom that matches their gender. And in the past few months, there have been at least sixteen similar bills pushed in other state legislatures. What gives? Why are we having such heated debates about public restrooms? Because we always do. As The Guardian reports, the bathroom has always been a cultural battleground: “The commode has been at the center of civil rights battles since the first modern public lavatory with flushing toilets opened in Victorian London.”

+ Not in my backyard. Or yours. From the NYT: Major companies press North Carolina on law curbing protections from bias.


Hack Me Maybe

The FBI wanted Apple to help them hack into an iPhone. Apple said no. The FBI found someone else who could do it. And now, Apple wants the FBI to reveal how they did it. (I still think the FBI accessed the iPhone by telling an eleven year-old that it contained the Minecraft app.)

+ Wired: The Apple-FBI Battle Is over, but the new crypto wars have just begun.


They Made Each Other a Pledge

Donald Trump is in the headlines again today (believe it or not) because he complained that he’s been treated “very unfairly” by his party, and stated that he will no longer stand by his pledge to support the GOP nominee should it be someone other than him. And the other two candidates still standing are being equally standoffish when it comes to guaranteeing their support.


Shama Lama Ding Dongs

“Through Sluyter’s connections at A&M, they had recruited a small army of mostly white, college-age kids looking for extra cash and adventure. During the summer of 2012, Max estimates, the team was smuggling as many as 40 to 50 immigrants a week — at $500 a head. ‘I was making so much money,’ Max says. ‘I didn’t have to give a f#ck.'” In Rolling Stone, Flinder Boyd tells the story of how three friends and a team of frat brothers — plus a stripper, an ex-army ranger, a door-to-door salesman and a go-go dancer — made a fortune off human smuggling.


I Still Owe Money to the Money to the Money I Owe

“As of 2014, median income before taxes had fallen by 13% from a decade earlier, while expenditures had increased by nearly 14%.” In other words, Americans are still operating at low income levels, but our spending has fully recovered. What could possibly go wrong?


Pictures of People Taking Pictures

“I figured if his bomb was real I’d nothing to lose anyway.” One of the weirder moments in one of the weirdest hijackings was when a passenger asked to have his photo taken with the hijacker who appeared to be strapped with explosives. And the hijacker obliged.


Big Bottom of the News

“It was spotted dozens of miles from the storm. They hadn’t seen anything like it; it hadn’t happened like this in the last 1,000 years. It’s floating off the coast and it could be toxic or explosive.” Those lines are all part of a horror story made up entirely of front-page headlines from Weather dot com.

+ With all this talk of self-driving cars and other connected-car technology, someone forgot to make sure we had decent headlights.

+ I don’t like sitting outside in extremely cold temperatures. And I don’t like fishing. But it turns out neither of those are the reason that I avoid ice fishing.

+ The Boston Globe’s Stan Grossfeld took an infrared camera to the Red Sox spring training facility, giving us the opportunity (for the first time in a couple years) to say, damn, the Red Sox look good.

+ Scheduling note: I will be traveling in Japan from April 4-15. During that period, I will try to get off a couple editions, but delivery will range from sporadic to non-existent.

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