Wednesday, March 1st, 2017


Being There

I'm very pleased to introduce Salesforce as NextDraft's new sponsor. They're adding a splash of color to my template and empowering me to continue spreading real news for free. More to come...

If you want to help people in crisis, you have to reach them where they are. A new plan from Facebook and a group of mental health organizations aims to do just that. On Wednesday, "Facebook announced it will integrate real-time suicide prevention tools into Facebook Live. It also said it will offer live-chat support from crisis support organizations such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line through Facebook Messenger, and make it easier to report suicide or self-injury. The most novel of the new tools: Facebook is testing artificial intelligence to identify warning signs of self-harm and suicide in Facebook posts and comments." Making these online services (such as the Crisis Text Line) more accessible for people in crisis is an invaluable tool. But I hope that the move by Facebook will also mark an important step towards removing the stigma around depression and anxiety. In addition to connecting people in crisis with people who can help, maybe artificial intelligence and big data can, at long last, remind us of the commonality of these states of mind and of the shared pain often associated with the human condition. The combination of the technological and human services could ultimately be an example of social media's often forgotten promise: It's power to remind us that we're not alone.


Start Ups and Downs

"In tech circles, where founders are nearly hardwired to describe everything as awesome, promise every business is growing, and work until they drop, Colonna has empowered them to take on -- and tend to -- their own mental health issues. He does this by talking about himself. In the early aughts, Colonna was consumed by a deep depression that left him suicidal." I've been investing in and working with Internet startups for a couple of decades, and I've never really bought into the notion that being a tech entrepreneur in a fast paced industry makes one more susceptible to depression or suicidality. The point is that we often forget a key factor about people in pressurized leadership roles: They're human beings just like the rest of us. Jessi Hempel introduces us to a CEO-whisperer who is effective precisely because he understands this reality: This Man Makes Founders Cry.


Special Delivery

President Trump's speech to a joint session of Congress seemed to surprise supporters and critics alike -- at least in terms of tone, if not substance. (Perhaps the past 6 weeks have been a masterstroke of bar-lowering genius...) Ultimately, I am rooting for America. So the fact that Trump seemed more, well, normal than usual seems like good news. The NYT's Glenn Thrush with 5 key takeaways from the speech: "In President Trump's world, boring is disruptive." (In the world of cable news, boring is breathtaking.)

+ WaPo's Barton Swaim: "I wonder if Tuesday night's address was a kind of adumbration of Trump's presidency -- his adversaries deprived of half their reasons for hating him, his allies stupidly wondering what happened to their principles, the nation's commentators once again explaining why the president succeeded when he was supposed to fail."

+ In terms of tone, Trump's line of the night had to be: "The time for trivial fights is behind us." (As far as I can tell, the appropriate time for trivial fights is around 3am...)

+ One area where Trump appeared to become much more traditionally political was in the details on changing Obamacare, which sounded more like tweaks than an overhaul. One reason why: Support for Obamacare is at an all time high.

+ "As far as researchers can tell, unauthorized immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the American population at large." The Atlantic on Trump's Scapegoating of Unauthorized Immigrants.

+ "By finally enforcing our immigration laws we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone." Not everything about Trump's speech veered from the norm: So, let's fact check.

+ The most talked about moment of the night was Trump's tribute to the widow of fallen Seal Ryan Owens. Here's the backstory.

+ Trump touted his job creation prowess. Well, at least two extremely high-paying jobs have been created during his presidency. Barack and Michelle Obama just landed a $65 million book deal.


Calling All Cars

Uber's Travis Kalanick is trying to get out in front of a series of bad stories about the company, including the release of a video of him arguing with an Uber driver (something the rest of us are afraid to do because we don't want our passenger star rating to go down). "It's clear this video is a reflection of me -- and the criticism we've received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up."

+ "This could be the start of a deep, long-term and thorough effort to remake a culture that has long sidelined women -- not just at Uber but across the tech business, too." The NYT's Farhad Manjoo suggests that Uber's sexual harassment scandal could be a watershed for women in tech.


He Writes the Songs

"Adele said that as she was told who Taylor's collaborator was, she had to look him up: 'I was unaware that I knew who Max Martin was. I Googled him, and I was like, 'He's literally written every massive soundtrack of my life.'" If Adele didn't know music's top hitmaker, there's a decent chance you don't either. Meet Max Martin.


Sky Maul

"To the security officials responsible for your safety, it is a constant source of worst-case-scenario planning. They install metal detectors; they enlist a kennel's worth of bomb-sniffing dogs; they plant concrete pillars around the perimeter to keep out cars; they train personnel in the dark art of bag searching; they even obtain a temporary flight restriction from the FAA to keep all aircraft above 3,000 feet for a radius of 3 miles. They spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours to keep you safe, yet they know that none of it can stop a 3-pound off-the-shelf drone from flying in and dropping something on the crowd. Maybe it's a toxic mist. Maybe it's a bomb. Whatever it is, you'll never see it coming, and because there is currently no legal way to bring down a drone with any accuracy or reliability, there's nothing anyone can do but wait for it." From Wired: This Brilliant Plan Could Stop Drone Terrorism. Too Bad It's Illegal.

+ The Daily Beast: As ISIS Prepares Its Terror Resurrection, Watch Out for Drone Swarms. (It's ironic that a flying device is leveling the field.)


In a State

"I used to love my job. Now, it feels like coming to the hospital to take care of a terminally ill family member. You come in every day, you bring flowers, you brush their hair, paint their nails, even though you know there's no point. But you do it out of love." Julia Ioffe on the state of Trump's State Department.


Man’s Best Lend

"'I asked them: 'How in the heck can I owe $5,800 when I bought the dog for $2,400?' They told me, 'You're not financing the dog, you're leasing.'" Bloomberg explains how, whether you know it or not, you could be renting your dog.

+ Newshour goes deep on the form and function of your cat's tongue.

+ Birds are flying into the reflective glass facade of the Minnesota Viking's new stadium.


Glitter Balm

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And if life gives you an arm that ends at the elbow, then make a glitter-shooting prosthetic. You need an inspiring and smile-inducing story. Here it is, courtesy of 11 year-old Jordan Reeves.


Bottom of the News

"I started evangelizing to friends and family; no one found it nearly as interesting. So I'd sit at work with 33 or 27 or 52 strangers, and we'd watch in silence as the mail was delivered, or a bird landed on a signpost, or the residual morning dew evaporated as the sun rose and filled the driveway." Bradford Pearson goes searching for Mr. Grass to answer the question: Why are thousands of people watching this man's grass grow?

+ 2 elevators and 500 tons of luggage. When you're the Saudi King, that's how you roll.

+ I'm a vegetarian, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I didn't read past the headline of this one: Subway chicken in Canada was part meat, part something else, according to DNA analysis.