Thursday, May 5th, 2016


Blowing Off Steam

Where there's smoke, there's fire. And as of today, the same is true for steam. In a much-anticipated move, the FDA has announced that it will extend its jurisdiction to all tobacco products, including the e-cigarettes that are part of an industry that is worth $3 billion and spreading like wildfire. Sales of e-cigs to minors will be banned (which could put a damper on the popularity of bubblegum and watermelon-flavored vapes), and the ruling should accelerate the pace at which the industry and its customers are forced to learn more about the health ramifications of vaping. Vox has a good overview of the new rules: The Wild West of e-cigarettes just ended with a new, sweeping federal rule.

+ California just became the second state (after Hawaii) to raise the smoking age to 21. The state also is about to ban vaping from many public places (which could make it harder to find people to whom you can feel instantly superior.)

+ Wired: What's Inside E-Cigarette Juice: Alcohol, More Alcohol, and Lots of Secrets.


Take What You Need

"The condition of the defendant and the circumstances in which the merchandise theft took place prove that he took possession of that small amount of food in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment, acting therefore in a state of need." From Quartz: Italy's top court rules that stealing food is not a crime if you're poor and hungry.


Feel The Draft

The NextDraft community made a pretty good showing for itself yesterday as we raised nearly $10,000 for the new 826 Valencia center in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. In short, the organization is taking a liquor store on a corner riddled with crime and turning it into a magical space for kids to think, learn and write. It feels good to support a cause, especially when you have someone who can vouch for the organization. I'm on the board of 826 and I've seen the difference they make in kids' lives. So help us out with the last bit of money we need to finish the project. (And remember, our friends at Twitter are currently matching your donations.)

+ And if you're in the Bay Area, there are a handful of tickets left for our BookEater's Bash at the Warfield which will feature good food, live music, Dave Eggers interviewing Mindy Kaling, and kids doing cute and inspirational stuff.


Leicester Is More

"This is the first city in the United Kingdom with less than 50 percent of the population identifying as "white British," which some people see as the inevitable destiny of an island nation that tried to conquer the world, while others see it as a sign of the apocalypse. People here of different faiths and races seem to get along; Narborough Road, one of the main avenues into the city, was named the most diverse street in Britain by researchers. Shopkeepers and small business owners from 23 nations work there." Leicester City just completed one of the most unlikely seasons in sports history. But that's not the most interesting story about this place. From ESPN's always excellent Wright Thompson: We've Come to Win the League.


Toll Free Cookies

"The Nestlé food and drink empire, including San Pellegrino water and Stouffer's frozen dinners, is built on a foundation of sugar. Butterfinger, Cookie Crisp, KitKat, and Oh Henry! are all Nestlé products. So are Drumstick sundae cones, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, and Nesquik chocolate milk. In 1988, Nestlé even bought the life-imitates-art candy brand that makes Laffy Taffy and Nerds: Willy Wonka." So Nestlé would seem like an odd company to be looking for ways to turn food into medicine. From Bloomberg: Nestlé wants to sell you both sugary snacks and diabetes pills. I don't see the big deal. The tech industry wants to sell you always-on access and meditation apps.

+ Related: Krispy Kreme is opening an ATM-like machine that dispenses doughnuts. (My overdraft fees will be through the roof.)


Long Division Problem

"It's not a conspiracy; it won't be coordinated. It doesn't need to be. It's just a process of institutions, centers of power and influence, responding to the incentive structure that's evolved around them. The US political ecosystem needs this election to be competitive." David Roberts with a very interesting explanation of why this election will be close. In short, because there are industries that depend on a competitive race. "There there will be a tidal pull to normalize this election, to make it Coca-Cola versus Pepsi instead of Coca-Cola versus sewer water."


No More Stall Tactics

First came the activists. Then came the media. Then came the corporations. And now the Justice Department is getting in on the debate over North Carolina's controversial bathroom law. The Feds are "giving the governor until Monday to pledge that he will walk away from the law, which Justice Department officials said violates civil rights."

+ For more background: The big political battle over transgender people in bathrooms, explained.


That Ain’t Working

The political rhetoric around the drug war has changed dramatically over the past few years. The numbers and policies have not. "More than $1 trillion later, Nixon's war has hollowed out urban black communities, visited death upon downtrodden whites in rural America and unleashed horrific violence from Bogotá to Ciudad Juarez. In Mexico, since 2007, as many as 80,000 civilians have been murdered in drug violence. Despite the carnage, prohibitionist policies enforced through military interdiction and domestic incarceration have done little to curb the American drug habit – which fuels $64 billion a year in cartel profits, according to an estimate by the Treasury Department." From Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson: Why America Can't Quit the Drug War.

+ Scientific American: "Over the past 15 years the U.S. has spent $1.4 billion promoting abstinence before marriage as a way of preventing HIV in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, according to the most comprehensive, independent study conducted to date of the effort, the money was pretty much wasted."


Surviving the Mickey Mouse Club

"While the conservators are widely credited with rescuing Ms. Spears's career -- and her life -- her apparent stability and success could belie the need for continuing restrictions." From the NYT: Is Britney Spears ready to stand on her own?


Bottom of the News

Citing personal attacks and public scorn, Craig Wright now says he doesn't have the courage to prove he's Bitcoin's Satoshi Nakamoto. (Instead, he's saying he started Craig's List.)

+ "It's a point so blindingly obvious, that only an extraordinarily clever and sophisticated person could fail to grasp it." In other words, please don't use your devices in the British Parliament.

+ A Belgian brewery has built a beer pipeline.

+ You always hear legends of people getting thrown into a body of water while wearing cement shoes. But no criminologists seemed to be able to actually point to an actual case. Until, as the NYT reports, a cement-shoed corpse was found near Brooklyn. This is like art imitating life imitating WTF.