Tuesday, August 9th, 2016


Is It Safe?

If a random individual is determined to commit a violent crime -- and is willing to die in the process -- there's not a lot we can do to stop it. That's one of the lessons learned in the fifteen years since 9/11; a period during which we've gotten a lot better at deterring major terrorist acts, and had to come to terms with lone wolf actors directly tied to (or merely inspired by) terror groups. In an Atlantic cover story, Steven Brill looks at the state of our safety after spending more than $1 trillion trying to boost it. Are we safer? "Our defenses are far stronger, but what we have to defend against has outpaced our progress."


Turn Your Head and Cough Up Your Data

The other day when my mom called her doctor's office to make an appointment, it took the associate a long time to pull up the office calendar. When my mom asked why, the person responded, "You haven't heard? Check the newspaper." It turns out the office was still reeling after becoming one of many in our county hacked and forced to pay a ransom in order to retrieve their data. Aside from the protagonist's relationship to a highly talented and influential media superstar, what's unique about this anecdote? Absolutely nothing. The Boston Globe's Curt Woodward on why health files make for a juicy target for thieves.

+ And the beat goes on. From Brian Krebs: "A Russian organized cybercrime group known for hacking into banks and retailers appears to have breached hundreds of computer systems at software giant Oracle."


Oil Leak

"Its stores are empty, its people are starving, and its government is to blame. It has tried to repeal the law of supply and demand, and, in the process, eliminated any incentive for businesses to actually sell things. The result is that the country with the largest oil reserves in the world now has to resort to forced labor just to try to feed itself." From WaPo: Venezuela's death spiral is getting worse. Abridged version: When oil makes up 95% of your trade revenue and the price of oil collapses, bad things happen. Today, the world's biggest story is the economic divide. In a few years, the geopolitical impact of the shift to non-fossil fuels will be right up there with it.


Top Banana

"It's the world's most consumed fruit and spans generations as food for both toothless babies and the toothless geriatric. It's soft, sweet, and easy to digest. It crosses historical eras, has been responsible for entire governments rising and falling, and has propped up beleaguered economies. If fruits were countries, the banana would be the world's superpower. If fruits were pop stars, the banana would be Beyoncé." From NatGeo, part one of a three-part series: The Miracle of the Modern Banana. (No, this isn't a story about Orlando Bloom on a stand-up paddle board.)


Five Ring Circus

"Few athletes do it for money. Still, they need ungodly amounts of it to succeed, and lots of times, it never returns." From Wired: It's really hard to make money as an Olympian.

+ "Fifty percent of track athletes who rank in the top 10 in the U.S. in their event earn less than $15,000 annually from the sport." They work hard. They often lose money. And they miss out on years during which they might be building up their earning potential. From The Conversation: How do Olympic athletes pay the electric bill?

+ Swimmer Lilly King has made some waves with her comments (and gestures) about those who have doped in the past. And now that list includes her USA teammate Justin Gatlin.

+ BBC: North and South Korean gymnasts pose for Olympic selfie.

+ "The world's best athletes are on display, but don't tell the dudes watching League of Legends on Twitch." Peter Kafka in ReCode: Online Olympic video streaming is big, but not as big as eSports.

+ Here are some excellent photos from the first few days of the games. Of course, the photo of the Olympics so far has got to be the Phace.


It’s All About the Base

Several leading Republicans have publicly parted ways with the Trump campaign this week, including 50 security experts who did so with an open letter, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Is their a pattern to the trend? According to WaPo: "The less directly and immediately accountable to Republican base voters an elected official is, the more likely he or she is to break with Trump." Which explains why George P. Bush is not following the lead of his dad (Jeb) and Uncle (W).

+ The most amazing stat of the election season so far: Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has spent $52 million on ads. Donald Trump's campaign has spent zero.


Italian Food For Thought

"The anti-immigration movement of the time saw Italian immigrants as poisoning American racial purity and unfair competition for domestic workers, as dangerous foreign radicals and incorrigible criminals sent to the United States by a hostile foreign government. Religion, economic forces, and terrorism shaped white Americans' views of Italian immigrants as fundamentally foreign, as unwanted competition for labor, and as carriers of violent radicalism." Buzzfeed's Adam Serwer with a look back at an American story that continues to be written: How a 125 year-old mass lynching tried to make America great again.


Islands in the Scheme

You've heard a lot of rumblings about the South China Sea. But you really don't know what's going on there. Well, you won't be an expert after watching this video. But you'll at least get a basic sense of what's going on, and it's pretty entertaining. The Map Men: Understanding the absolute chaos in the South China Sea.


Jet Set for Life?

Last year, Jet "promised 100,000 shares of stock in the company to the person who could generate the most referrals to its insider loyalty program." Eric Martin spent a lot of effort (and about 18K) trying to win that contest. And he did. So he's pretty happy about Jet's sale to Wal-Mart for a surreal $3 billion.


Bottom of the News

"Most of us believe that Antarctica is not a continent, but rather, the Earth is a disk, the North Pole is at the center and Antarctica is an ice wall around the perimeter. There is no solar system. I mean, there's a sun, obviously, and a moon and stars, because we can see them. You can also observe the flat Earth with your eyes." Mic introduces you to some of the people who are quite sure the Earth is flat. (This reads like a subliminal get out the vote advertisement.)

+ You think you're tired of talking about this election? Imagine how it would feel if you had the last name Trump.

+ "I use it as a way to intensify and enhance the run. It makes the longevity of the runner's high last longer because technically you're already high." From Motherboard: Weed helps this athlete run 200 miles. (Wait until he tries weed without the running...)