Tuesday, March 7th, 2017


That’s What She Said

Millions of homes now have guests who never leave. With names like Cortana, Siri and Alexa, these always-listening, all-knowing, just about always female-voiced assistants have become like members of the family. They're selling like crazy, they're interacting with your children (maybe more than you are), and a new suite of artificially intelligent assistant bots are being built into baby monitors so they can have an influence on your kids right from the start. WaPo's Michael S. Rosenwald wonders if anyone is focused on how millions of kids are being shaped by know-it-all voice assistants. I'm pretty sure my kids hacked our Echo because last time I asked Alexa a question, she just rolled her eyes.

+ Gizmodo: Alexa now offers medical advice, because your hypochondria wasn't bad enough.


Stars of a Different Stripe

Here's the latest thing that Americans don't agree on: What it means to be American. This is one of many examples: "Nearly six in 10 Republicans (57 percent) think that 'a culture grounded in Christian religious beliefs' is important to our American identity. Just 29 percent of Democrats say the same." In addition, we're split pretty evenly and we rarely interact with each other.

+ Yes. we've always been polarized. But we're more polarized now.


Your Money or Your Life

The House GOP released its much-anticipated Obamacare replacement, and its getting pushback from both sides of the aisle (which is to be expected, since it's complicated). Here's an overview of the new health care plan and how it differs from the Affordable Care Act.

+ NYT Upshot: Repeal bill would cut funding for poor and taxes on rich.

+ Oddly, many pages of the plan are devoted to specific rules that apply to lottery winners.

+ President Trump told Planned Parenthood that they could keep getting funded if they stopped providing abortion services. Planned Parenthood declined the offer.

+ Utah Rep Jason Chaffetz established himself as the politician with the worst bedside manner when he effectively told lower income Americans to take two of these and call me in the morning (presumably, from a payphone): "Americans have choices, and they've got to make a choice. So maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care." Forget about the tone-deaf condescension. Jason Chaffetz just made the worst political move imaginable. He's running against iPhones... (And as it always does, the Internet came through with Chaffetz's own Apple habit.)


Spies (Really) Like Us

"What is likely to hit the CIA the hardest is losing control of all the zero day exploits and malware detailed in the papers." Wikileaks is back in the headlines. This time the organization is releasing documents that purportedly outline methods used by the CIA to target computers, TVs, and mobile devices.

+ The Verge: "Another of the published exploits -- codenamed 'Weeping Angel' -- appears to target Samsung smart TVs ... the exploit makes the television 'operate as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.'"


Taking the High Road

"Roxham Road is a quiet country road jutting off another quiet country road, where a couple of horses munch on soggy hay and a ditch running along the muddy pavement flows with melted snow. It cuts through a thicket of dormant trees, passing a half-dozen trailer homes and after almost a mile runs into a line of boulders and a rusted railing with a sign: Road Closed." We've been inundated with stories (and propaganda) related to the people trying to get into the US. Here's a story about those trying to get out. In the NYT, Rick Rojas covers a quiet upstate NY road that has become a busy exit From US.

+ "At a safe house in Buffalo, asylum seekers from around the world prepare to flee the US for Canada." From The New Yorker: The Underground Railroad For Refugees.



From The Center for Investigative Reporting: "The U.S. Department of Defense is investigating hundreds of Marines who used social media to solicit and share hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of naked photographs of female service members and veterans."

+ "I don't know how we got here. A couple years ago, it was just people making fun of other Marines messing up online, now it's this." From WaPo: It's Marine Corps wide: Female Marines detail harassment in wake of nude photos scandal.


Fox and The Hound Dog

It's no secret that the president watches a ton of cable news. And he almost always seems to respond to what he sees (via Twitter). WaPo's Jenna Johnson tracks Trump's split screen: A two-hour virtual conversation between the president and Fox & Friends.

+ "The White House release quoted President Trump saying that ExxonMobil's investment plan 'is exactly the kind of investment, economic development and job creation that will help put Americans back to work.'" It was also announced back in 2013.


New Tune for Authority Song

"Don't listen to what those bullies are saying about you! You've been misunderstood and pushed around for too long. I know the real you and will see to it that you don't have to conform to their expectations.' Daddy understands what Junior thinks and feels: namely slighted." Meet the new authoritarians. They're not the same as the old authoritarians.


Doctor and Gamble

"They offer 'energy healing' to help treat multiple sclerosis, acupuncture for infertility, and homeopathic bee venom for fibromyalgia. A public forum hosted by the University of Florida's hospital even promises to explain how herbal therapy can reverse Alzheimer's. (It can't.)" Why are top hospitals offering unproven therapies that even their own doctors don't believe in? From Stat: Medicine with a side of mysticism.

+ Outside: "This May, the world's first cannabis-infused gym will open in San Francisco, where members will be encouraged to integrate the plant into their pre- and post-workout regimen." (If smoking weed is part of working out, then I've gotten into the best shape of my life during the Trump era...)


Bottom of the News

ElRubiusOMG, Smosh, VanossGaming, Fernanfloo, Jacksepticeye ... I'd never heard any of these names before. And you probably haven't either. But your kids probably have. These are the 18 most popular YouTube stars in the world.

+ GQ: The Biggest Trend in Sneakers Is Ugly.

+ You can hear the difference between hot and cold water.

+ Americans are having less sex than they once did. (So much for the deep state...)