Thursday, April 27th, 2017


The Joke’s on You

Humor is often described as a coping mechanism. And, over the past few months in particular, Americans have had a lot of coping to to do. There is a significant portion of the electorate that is more stressed than ever. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, that means things have gotten pretty damn funny; and in the process, we've blurred the line between communal joking and genuine outrage. "Jokes have informed many prominent, though certainly not all, political protests; they have also, more broadly, come to shape the way people understand the world around them. Many Americans get their news filtered through late-night comedy and their outrages filtered through Saturday Night Live. They -- we -- turn to memes to express both indignation and joy. Jokes, in other words, with their charms and their appealing self-effacement and their plausible deniability (just kidding!), are helping people to do the messy work of democracy." In The Atlantic, Megan Garber wonders: Are We Having Too Much Fun? (I'm not sure I'd conflate being funny with having fun. Most funny people I know can't remember the last time they had fun.)


The Revenge of Florida Man

"The tale of the Rinkus couple -- one a repeat felon and the other a Trump employee who interacts regularly with top government officials -- raises the curtain on the way Trump's sprawling business holdings can sweep minor figures into his political orbit. For a man with a serious criminal record, Ari Rinkus has been in remarkably close proximity to the president. He has parlayed that access -- and the perception of access -- to his own advantage, sources said, while pursuing potentially lucrative government contracts on behalf of a foreign company." Very interesting piece from Buzzfeed's Tarini Parti: The House Mother and the Fraudster.


North Headed South?

"With international support, the Trump administration said Thursday it wants to exert a 'burst' of economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea that yields results within months to push the communist government to change course from developing nuclear weapons." Just how tense is the situation between the US and North Korea? "The senior U.S. Navy officer overseeing military operations in the Pacific said Thursday that the crisis with North Korea is at the worst point he's ever seen.

+ The US vows more sanctions and plans to deploy a missile defense system within days.

+ "We want to bring Kim Jong-un to his senses, not to his knees." From Mark Landler in the NYT: "Americans could be forgiven for thinking that war is about to break out. But it is not."


Tackle By Blocking

As this collection of photos makes clear, "anti-government protests have escalated again in Indian-administered Kashmir." And in a stark reminder of the power of social media in such protests, "India has ordered internet service providers in Indian-controlled Kashmir to immediately block Facebook, Twitter and 20 other social media sites and online applications for one month."


The Hundred Daze

"'I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here,' one White House official said of these early months. 'But this shit is hard.'" Politico with an interesting overview of a highly interesting (and highly unusual) presidency: The education of Donald Trump.

+ In the first 100 days, many things have changed. For example, on Thursday, President Trump indicated that the US would not leave NAFTA. Meanwhile, some things have remained the same. He made the announcement via Twitter.

+ A remarkably small percentage of government jobs have been filled by the new administration. And, according to the NYT, Rex Tillerson is in no rush to fill nearly 200 State Department posts.

+ The Upshot: Winners and Losers in the Trump Tax Plan.

+ "He's been able to accomplish that without any new legislation -- and without many of his signature ideas solidly in place." From NPR: In Trump's First 100 Days, A Dramatic Reduction In Immigration.

+ One of the most consistent storylines of the first hundred days has been the examination of ties between Russians and Trump officials. And day 97 is no exception. From WaPo: Top Pentagon watchdog launches investigation into money that Michael Flynn received from foreign groups.

+ Slate: Who Had the Better First 100 Days? William Henry Harrison, who died on Day 31, or Donald Trump?


The Sole Survivor

"Of the approximately 120 steps involved in manufacturing an Adidas sneaker, that seemingly simple task is among those robots have not yet been able to master, at least not on an industrial scale." The robots are going to take over everything. But not until they can figure out how to lace up a pair of shoes.

+ Under Armour has made a remarkable rise to become America's third-largest sportswear brand. But shoes are proving to be a hurdle.


When the Clock Punches You

One would think that having a flexible schedule means having more control over the amount of time you work. It turns out that could be a stretch. "Contrary to what you might expect, those with more control over their work schedule work more than those with less control." From Quartz: Flexible working is making us work longer.

+ "They spent years testing Google's algorithms -- then everything changed." ArsTechnica on the humans behind the machine: The secret lives of Google raters.


Elephant, Man…

Here's a lede from WaPo that provides a glimpse into America's growing opioid crisis: "A substance used to tranquilize elephants that is 100 times more potent than the drug that killed Prince is hitting the Washington suburbs, adding the region to a growing list of communities nationwide reporting fatal overdoses linked to the exotic and toxic sedative."


Demme God

"I do like making positive movies. I sort of feel like at the end of the day I'd rather make pictures that have the potential for leaving somebody slightly on the upside of the experience as opposed to taking away something cynical or wrong. That's such a fuddy-duddy perspective, but that's just how I was raised, I guess." The LA Times on the generous curiosity of Jonathan Demme and how he allowed audiences along for the ride.


Bottom of the News

"James Beard, the father of modern American cookery, once asked, 'Where would we be without salt?' I know the answer: adrift in a sea of blandness. Salt has a greater impact on flavor than any other ingredient. Learn to use it well, and food will taste good." An ode to salt from Samin Nosrat in the NYT: The Single Most Important Ingredient.

+ From Polstats: How would lives play out if humans only died from unnatural causes? (Or, why people are so excited about passing the steering wheel over to the machines...)

+ Coca Cola, now with fiber.