April 22nd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

How our minds can trick us, the latest on Prince, and weekend reads...

People used to complain about how long it took for their suitcases to arrive after they landed at the Houston airport. So Houston officials moved the baggage claim to a spot farther away. And the complaints stopped. Fidelity found that one of the keys to making smart investments is forgetting that you have an account. Or being dead. ProPublica has a series of stories, charts, and graphs that all work towards one conclusion. “Our brains fool us all the time. And we typically have no idea that it’s happening.”

+ And I’m not sure this is related, but what the hell, it’s a Friday. From Vice: I put horse placenta on my face in the name of beauty. (Even Mister Ed was left speechless by that one.)


Party Like It’s 1999?

“We have thoughts, that maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. It’s really hard to pinpoint one specific risk factor that really, truly is driving this trend.” In the decades leading up to 1999, suicide rates in America were on a pretty steady decline. But that course has reversed (across just about every demographic) in recent years.

+ Vox: Suicides are rising in the United States, and no one really knows why.

+ WaPo looks at some of the potential causes of the spike.

+ NPR: The Arctic Suicides: It’s Not The Dark That Kills You.


Artist Formerly Known as Weekend Reads

“Concept creep is inevitable and vital if society is to make good use of new information. But why has the direction of concept creep, across so many different concepts, trended toward greater sensitivity to harm as opposed to lesser sensitivity?” The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf wonders how Americans became so sensitive to harm.

+ “It came out with the first canned soda, the first caffeine-free soda, and the first 16-ounce soda. It was the first to take diet cola mainstream, and the first to stage nationwide taste tests.” It also had a pretty awesome song. From Mental Floss: The Tragic History of RC Cola.

+ “For a dollar per person, visitors can borrow striped shirts and snap selfies behind bars.” Texas Monthly’s Robyn Ross on the weird world of dark tourism: The Draw of Death Row.


Morris Day and the Time Served

You were convicted of a felony. You served your time. You’re no longer on probation or parole. So you should be able to vote again, right? In many places, the answer to that question is no. But as of today, it’s yes for about 200,000 former felons in Virginia. (Consider this stat: “The Sentencing Project estimates that one of every 13 African Americans is prohibited from voting.”)


Sign ‘O’ the Times

“Reasonable people can debate whether competitive video gaming is a sport, but it has at least one thing in common with football, basketball, and soccer: People like to bet on the outcome.” Bloomberg on the surprising element that makes a lot of online games a lot more popular: Virtual weapons are turning teen gamers into serious gamblers. It makes sense. As we become more distracted, it takes more to draw our attention. Teens want to play, watch, shoot, and bet all at the same time.


New Power Generation

Issues once largely confined to a local debate are going national and even global. What happens to NIMBY (not in my backyard) in an era when social and mass media has made everywhere everyone’s backyard? For an answer to that question, focus on the North Carolina bathroom laws; a local and then statewide issue that has gone global. Now the NBA is getting on board. From WaPo: “NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that if the league is to keep the 2017 all-star game in Charlotte it will require a change in the controversial North Carolina law passed last month that overturned protections for gay and transgender people.”


Much Too Fast

According to TMZ (they’re sleazy, but they always seem to be first and right on these types of stories), Prince’s plane made an emergency landing a few days before his death because the pop star had suffered a Percocet overdose. If the reports of an overdose are accurate, the discourse about prescription opiates in this country is about to enter code purple.

+ Prince’s first interview, in his high school newspaper: Nelson Finds It Hard To Become Known. (He figured it out…)

+ “But wait. Black men don’t wear makeup. Straight black men don’t wear makeup. And women aren’t attracted to a straight black man in makeup. But he did. They were.” Fusion on Prince, blackness, and sexuality.

+ Mourning Prince and David Bowie, who showed there’s no one right way to be a man. From I Would Die for U: “I’m not a woman I’m not a man. I am something that you’ll never understand.”

+ The Muse: Prince spent his life elevating and mentoring women.

+ Everyone from Jennifer Hudson to the cast of Hamilton is paying tribute. Here are the latest updates from the LA Times.


Baby, Have You Got Enough Gas?

“Under the terms of the proposed deal, Volkswagen would offer to buy back almost 500,000 cars sold in the U.S. equipped with software that disabled emissions controls when the car was not being tested.” A deal with a U.S. federal court will cost VW about $18 billion. And that’s just for starters. And it doesn’t begin to address the damage done to their brand.

+ Quartz: Uber will pay $100 million to settle the biggest legal threat to its business. And believe it or not, things could have gone a lot worse for Uber. A lot.


To Get Through This Thing Called Life

“I lived through what could easily have been mistaken for the end of the world, the calamitous earthquake that struck outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on January 12, 2010. In a matter of 40 seconds, whole neighborhoods and towns were wiped out, including my house with me inside.” When calamities happen, we often expect the worst from people. But we often find the best. From Pacific Standard’s Jonathan M. Katz: How the Apocalypse Will Bring Out the Best in People. (Sounds like great reality, but terrible TV…)


Bottom of the News

“If Jews had realized they forgot the ingredients for decent bread midway through the Red Sea, they would have stopped and turned back.” For those of you celebrating Passover tonight (and those lucky enough not to be), I’ve written up a quick list of things that plague me. It’s part of my process. Let My People Groan: A Passover Tradition.

+ From The New Yorker: The Long, Squabble-Filled, Semi-Arbitrary History of Banning Legumes on Passover. After 800 years, Jews can eat a few extra (and critical) foods during Passover. And this is coming from a pretty conservative group. At my reform temple, they might allow bagels…

+ The “Zero Waste” practitioner who can fit a year’s worth of her landfill waste in a tiny jar.

+ Why millennials are ditching bar crawls for juice crawls. That reminds me of a joke I recently wrote: Two hipsters walk into a bar. That’s it. I left at that point.

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