March 24th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The Pull It Method Never Works

“Trump had personally lobbied 120 lawmakers, either in person or on the phone, White House press secretary Sean Spicer reminded reporters on Friday. The president had ‘left everything on the field.'” A day after he issued an ultimatum to House members to move forward with an up or down vote on the GOP’s Obamacare replacement bill, President Trump called reporters to announce there would be no such vote: “We just pulled it.” (Everyone knows the pull it method doesn’t work.) The repeal and replace effort had been a key focus of many Fall campaigns (and has theoretically been in the works for several years). But in the end, even with GOP control of the House and the executive branch, the health bill could not be passed.

+ Ezra Klein gets at the weirdest part of the whole health care debate. The bill being pushed by Trump seemed entirely unrelated to any of the health care goals he’s championed in the past. “He’s spent the past week fighting for a health care bill he didn’t campaign on, didn’t draft, doesn’t understand, doesn’t like to talk about, and can’t defend. Rather than forcing the Republican establishment to come around to his principles, he’s come around to theirs — with disastrous results.”

+ Politico: “The decision is a staggering defeat for Ryan and President Donald Trump in their first attempt to partner on major legislation and fulfill a seven-year Republican promise to repeal Obamacare.”

+ So who will Trump blame? So far, the answer is … the Democrats. “Mr. Trump, in a telephone interview moments after the bill was pulled, blamed Democrats and predicted that they would seek a deal within a year after, he asserted, ‘Obamacare explodes’ because of higher premiums.” Oh well, if he’s hurt in the explosion, at least he’ll still be covered…


My Snuggle

“We’ve taken metaphors for evolution to heart, reading them to mean that life is a race to kill or be killed. But we know now that that picture is incomplete.” In Nautilus, Kelly Clancy says it’s time to give the violent metaphors of evolution a break. Sometimes evolution is about the survival of the fittest. Other times, it’s about working together and being friendly. It’s what one biologist calls the snuggle for survival.


Weekend Whats

What to Stream: I saw a couple great acts last week at SXSW. I’ve been telling you about Rag N’ Bone Man’s must-listen album. And his live performance lived up to expectations. Seriously, do yourself a favor and stream his album Human right now. NOLA’s Benjamin Booker killed it in a late night show. He’s excellent. Start with Violent Shiver and then try Witness, the first track from his new album due in June.

+ What to Watch: A kid in 80s Dublin decides to form a band to win over a girl. What’s not to like? You’ll love Sing Street (especially the kid’s older brother).

+ What to Doc: An interesting look at what technology can and can’t do to slow the pace of gun deaths. Who Killed the Smart Gun?

+ What to Wire: Need a break from all the political news? How about a two and-a-half hour supercut of scenes from The Wire that feature Omar?


Someone Has Some Machine Learning to Do

During an interview with Mike Allen of Axios, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin explained that he’s not worried about “displacement of jobs by artificial intelligence and automation is ‘not even on my radar screen’ because the technology is ’50-100 more years’ away. Mnuchin also said he is ‘not worried at all’ about robots displacing humans in the near future. ‘In fact, I’m optimistic.'”

+ Less optimistic is a report from PriceWaterhouse that indicates “thirty-eight percent of jobs in the U.S. are at high risk of being replaced by robots and artificial intelligence over the next 15 years.” (Of course, they also said La La Land won best picture…)


Casting Keystones

The Keystone Pipeline was one of the most contentious issues during the Obama administration. It’s proven to be less contentious for the Trump team as the State Department State Department issued a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline. From President Trump: “It’s going to be an incredible pipeline … Greatest technology known to man or woman and, frankly, we’re very proud of it.”

+ With the politics out of the way, the Keystone Pipeline faces its next challenge: There may not be enough demand for tar sands oil to build it.


Le Penchant for Violence

“Of course I know that the election campaign in France is actively developing. We do not want to influence events in any way, but we reserve the right to talk to representatives of all the country’s political forces.” The Russian-influence issues in America aren’t stopping Putin from being front and center in the French elections. He just met with Marine Le Pen, who argued for the lifting of EU sanctions.

+ “In the plush, crimson-decked lobby bar of Kiev’s five-star Premier Palace Hotel, Denis Voronenkov, a Russian lawmaker who had defected to Ukraine, knew he was in danger. ‘For our personal safety, we can’t let them know where we are’, he said Monday evening as he sat with his wife for an interview with The Washington Post. Less than 72 hours later, he was dead, shot twice in the head in broad daylight outside the same lobby bar.” Days before his death, a Putin critic knew he was in danger.

+ WaPo: Here are 10 critics of Vladimir Putin who died violently or in suspicious ways.

+ Meanwhile, you know how this was a crazy and controversial week when it comes to the investigations into possible connections between the Trump Campaign and Russia? Well, next week looks like it might be more crazy and more controversial.


A Warning About Triggers

“I want to trigger them into writing an article about me.” Have journalists and social media users inadvertently found themselves in the hate speech PR business? I’ve been wondering about this issue a lot. Are we actually over-covering some forms of hate speech and acts of vandalism (and giving its perpetrators exactly what they want)? From ProPublica: A 2-for-1 for Racists: Post Hateful Fliers, and Revel in the News Coverage.

+ Here’s an example of the kind of coverage I’m talking about. From USA Today: Bus with anti-transgender message is vandalized in NYC.


Out of Hand

“In just 30 hours, a superfit reality TV producer went from the top of his game to the precipice of death. What happened next would teach him everything about grace, resolve, and the power of love.” From LA Magazine: The Hollywood Exec and the Hand Transplant That Changed His Life.


Hide and Tweak

“After a year cut off from modern life in the Scottish Highlands, imagine re-emerging to find a world where Donald Trump is US president, Britain has left the EU and Leicester won the Premier League.” That will be a shock for the reality show participants who agreed to spend a year in the wilderness. But it will be an even bigger shock to find out that the show pretty much got canceled. Oh well, they were probably doing it for the sake of the art…


Bottom of the News

“As unquestioned ideological precepts go, it’s enormously effective. You learn it, you internalize it, and never really think of it again until you have kids of your own. And then you say it once more, repeating your parents’ words, and theirs, in an unbroken tradition going back God knows how many millennia. No, honey, never look directly into the sun.” From Sam Kriss in The Outline: What happens when you stare at the sun? (As an experiment, you can just stare at cable news for a few hours.)

+ Tom Amberry has died at the age of 94. His patients knew him as a podiatrist. The rest of us knew him as a guy who made a record 2,750 consecutive free throws.

+ It’s fun to have a personalized license plate with your last name on it. It gets complicated when your last name is Grabher.

+ Flash is so irritating that FedEx will give you five bucks to reinstall it.

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