Tuesday, April 25th, 2017


You’re Living a Lie

Let's get real about fake news; a broadly used phrase with a largely overstated impact. Many blamed the scourge of fake news for Trump's election. Yet, as we approach the hundred day mark of his administration, only about two percent of his backers say they regret the vote. That suggests that people who support Trump liked what they saw and they still do. That said, fake news and the spread of misinformation is clearly a societal problem. And it's unclear that the proposed fixes will make things any better. I'd argue that transforming massive tech companies from providers of agnostic social platforms into editors of our online experiences is equally if not more dangerous than phony news. Let's start the discussion with a question posed by Farhad Manjoo in the NYT Mag: Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug? "Fake news was only part of a larger conundrum. With its huge reach, Facebook has begun to act as the great disseminator of the larger cloud of misinformation and half-truths swirling about the rest of media. It sucks up lies from cable news and Twitter, then precisely targets each lie to the partisan bubble most receptive to it."

+ Recode: Now Facebook will suggest articles to get you out of your filter bubble. (I'd be more interested in help getting out of my social networking bubble.)

+ "What would happen if you combined professional journalism with fact checking by the people?" Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is launching Wikitribune to find out.

+ I'd imagine more people trust search results than shared news articles. So it may be an even bigger deal that Google is rewriting its powerful search rankings to bury fake news. But again, your view of the world is in that hands of a tech company.

+ Fake news is bad. Fake search results might be worse. But neither seems nearly as dangerous as the never-ending wave of state bills aimed at allowing schools to teach science as if it were a form of dystopian fan fiction. From Vice: Climate Denial In Schools.

+ And, somehow related: Pro-wrestling fans are experts on authenticity. "When a performer falls to the ground, Smart Fans look for the tiny blade he's using to cut his forehead to make the damage look more convincing. It's Smart Fans who follow the plot leaks and who know what will happen in each fight. It's Smart Fans who know which feuds are scripted and which ones probably represent real animosity."


Location, Location, Vocation

In Sam Kinison's most famous bit, the comedian joked that people starving in certain regions around the world needed to "move to where the food is." Well, according to Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty, journalists need to move to where the news is. From Politico: The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think.


A Flare for Solar

"Solar power still generated a small share of United States energy output last year." So it's even more telling that the industry employed a lot more people than the coal industry. If Americans are looking for job growth, they've got a lot better chance looking up than digging down. From the NYT: Today's Energy Jobs Are in Solar, Not Coal.


It’s a (Bag) Boy!

"The animals, which were able to move, open their eyes, and swallow normally, were 'born' when researchers removed them from the sacs." From MIT Tech Review: Fetal lambs lived for weeks in a fluid-filled bag. Tests to help premature babies could begin in three years.


The Hundred Daze

"It's the start of a presidency like no other. We talked to historians, activists, and White House veterans to evaluate President Trump's progress at his first major benchmark." From NBC News: The First 100 Days.

+ "So how is Mr. Trump spending his final week before the artificial and ridiculous 100-day point of his presidency? With a flurry of action on health care, taxes and the border wall to show just how much he has done in the first 100 days -- amplified by a White House program of first-100-days briefings, first-100-days receptions, a first-100-days website and a first-100-days rally." From the NYT: Trump Wants It Known: Grading 100 Days Is 'Ridiculous' (but His Were the Best).

+ Given the context of the campaign, if there was going to be a trade war, one assumed it would be with China or Mexico. But it turns out, the first shot fired is at Canada. "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced a surprising 20% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber Monday night, along with individual tariffs on five specific Canadian lumber firms that ranged from 3% to 24%."

+ "The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth." Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin makes the case for a large corporate tax cut.

+ Any decision on the funding of the Wall could be put off until the Fall.


Breath Taking

"Riley was given a drug screening, routine for transplant patients, and he tested positive for THC, the high-inducing chemical compound in marijuana; that Thanksgiving night hangout with his friend had come back to haunt him. As members of the transplant team gathered in Riley's room with the Hancey family, a doctor broke the news: The hospital didn't consider Riley a good transplant candidate because of the marijuana in his system. Riley would not get new lungs there." A nineteen year-old who needed a lung transplant was initially denied one because he smoked some pot. This is a story with a frustrating beginning and a terrible ending. But it's well worth reading.


It’s a Package Deal

"Pick any other major city or metropolitan area in the U.S., and the situation's probably the same: a massive surge in deliveries to residential dwellings, one that's outstripping deliveries to commercial establishments and creating a traffic nightmare." The shift to online purchasing has been a disaster for offline retailers. But it's also created another headache. Traffic.

+ The other modern transportation challenge: Elevators in an age of higher towers and bigger cities.


Meat the Parents

Bloomberg on how a dying man's lost recipe made his daughter a multimillionaire: "When Hiroe Tanaka's father died, he left behind something that would change her life: a recipe for fried meat on a stick." (In my will, my kids are left with nothing but a list of news site bookmarks and my Mailchimp login.)


Animal Harm

"More than forty of the zoo animals died, either as collateral damage -- trapped between warring combatants -- or from starvation. By January, when the eastern half of Mosul was freed, only two animals had survived: Lula, a caramel-colored female bear, and Simba, a three-year-old lion." Robin Wright in The New Yorker: Rescuing The Last Two Animals At The Mosul Zoo.


Bottom of the News

"This content is appropriate for people of all ages. And that's the point. The days of targeting media and products at people based on their age is over." That's how my wife Gina Pell started her article Meet the Perennials. In short order, the article went viral, was translated into several languages, and was featured on CNN. Now marketing leaders like the excellent Goodby Silverstein and top brands like Hint Water are all getting on board. Check out the latest great piece on the topic from MSNBC: What is a perennial? Are you one?

+ While we're on the topic of my perennially impressive wife, here she is reciting the first 314 digits of Pi in front of a large crowd in the desert -- and in between tequila shots; a vision that will be forever etched into the mind of my eight year-old daughter (who barely noticed the F bombs).

+ With the help of Jeff Sessions, we all learned that Hawaii (in addition to being an island in the Pacific) is a full-fledged state. But it does have some disadvantages. Especially if you're a competitive gamer, for whom a few milliseconds of lag can be digitally deadly.

+ Utah's Jazz Bear is the mascot hero we need right now.