April 19th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

A look at the world's most secretive start-up, and the changing attitudes about the war on drugs

“The world’s hottest startup isn’t located in Silicon Valley — it’s in suburban Florida.” It’s got a massive valuation. It’s one of the most anticipated technology platforms in recent memory. And everyone I know who’s checked it out has walked away a least a little amazed. It’s not quite virtual reality. It’s something called mixed reality; the virtual world gets overlaid on the real one. It’s cool, but will it really live up to all the buzz? And would it be a good thing if it does? In Wired, Kevin Kelly shares the untold story of the world’s most secretive startup.

+ Here’s a look at Magic Leap’s technology in action.

+ One of the hardest things about building new technologies and products is predicting what will delight users. Here’s Bloomberg with The Real Story of How Amazon Built the Echo.


The Forever War

“And then they come home from months at war — sometimes with blood still on their boots, one officer said — and quietly slide into bed beside their wives, exhausted and grim-faced. They say nothing and begin preparing for the next mission.” HuffPo’s
David Wood on the elite forces who have spent fifteen years at war, and are preparing for the next fifteen.


Dropping the Dime Bag

“It created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral values.” That’s just a few of the outcomes of an international war on drugs that has been completely disastrous. And those are the words of at least a thousand world leaders who signed a letter to the U.N. ahead of an international drug summit.

+ “Worldwide about 246 million people use illicit drugs, and 1 in 10 of these users suffer from disorders related to drug use.” The LA Times with some of the numbers. (The number quoted above sure seems low, no?)

+ Scientific American: “Experts say listing cannabis among the world’s deadliest drugs ignores decades of scientific and medical data. But attempts to delist it have met with decades of bureaucratic inertia and political distortion.”


Money Talks, People Don’t

“The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew? Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.” In The Atlantic, Neil Gabler on the secret shame of middle class Americans. “In the 1950s and ’60s, economic growth democratized prosperity. In the 2010s, we have democratized financial insecurity.”


You’ve Been Throned

If you wanted to find a poster town for the wrath of Spain’s economic crisis, Osuna would be a good place to start. Unemployment soared. The young people left. The once idyllic setting was left at least partially in ruins. But then Game of Thrones showed up. And everything changed … dramatically … at least for a while. GQ’s Mickey Rapkin with the miraculous (and odd) tale of how HBO’s biggest hit brought a tiny Spanish town back from the dead. The transition probably won’t be quite as dramatic, but my living room will definitely experience an upturn when the show returns on Sunday night.


Gentrify This

One quote seems to sum up the efforts by the residents of Boyle Heights in their quest to avoid gentrification: “I can’t help but hope that your 60-minute bike ride is a total disaster and that everyone who eats your artisanal treats pukes immediately.” (I think we’ve all said some version of that.) The Guardian on one LA community’s fight against gentrification.


Eyes (and Links) on the Prize

The Pulitzer Prizes for journalism were announced yesterday. In an environment where everyone is running against the media, it’s nice to be reminded of how important the craft is when it’s done right. Longreads has links to all the winners (pretty much all of which NextDraft readers saw here when they were first published).

+ Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Jessica Rinaldi shot a series of photos of Strider Wolf, a boy living in poverty in Maine.

+ Also, the Peabody Awards for news, radio/podcast, web & public service were just announced.


This is the End My Friend

Most studies tell us that friends are important and a good social life is a key factor related to our physical and mental health as we age. But, as we get older, we tend to have fewer and fewer friends (and not just because I’ve become more of a jerk). Can the tide be reversed? From the WSJ: The Science of Making Friends.

+ Related: The psilocybin found in some mushrooms can help you deal with rejection.


Lowering the Genius Bar

Breaking News. Canadian Prime Minisiter Justin Trudeau rocked the Internet because he’s an expert on quantum computing! Well, not exactly. Who cares? If I were that attractive, I wouldn’t even bother to learn how to use a web browser.


Bottom of the News

“At one point, it occurred to me that maybe the department store was going for the nostalgic vibe. But instead of wearing Pumas, drinking from a mason jar, and listening to vinyl, it’s the other kind of nostalgia  — the one where you’re getting open surgery in the days before anesthesia.” Cruel Shoes : my journey into a department store time machine.

+ General Mills is determined to remove artificial flavors and colors from its cereals. And the process was actually going pretty well. Until they got to Lucky Charms.

+ Today we’re worried about artificial intelligence and robots. A few decades ago, we were worried about Dungeons and Dragons.

+ Inside the awful world of bulldozer on bulldozer crime.

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