May 3rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

On second thought, do drink the water...

I’m starting to get worried that my kids are on drugs. They keep suggesting that we go for a swim in a river or eat some fresh seafood. It turns out, either might be a pretty decent way to score a buzz. The US is the prescription drug capital of the world, and as Ars Technica reports, “Americans aren’t just putting these drugs into their bodies; they’re also putting more drugs into the environment. A growing body of research suggests all types of drugs, from illegal drugs to antibiotics to hormones, enter the environment through sewage and cesspool systems across the country. And while pharmaceutical drugs — when used as prescribed — are capable of curing disease and alleviating symptoms in people, they can wreak havoc on nature.”


I Heard Some Things

“I’m going to tell you some things. You’re not going to believe these things I’m going to tell you. And that’s Okay. You have some good reason not to. But I need you to keep listening regardless of what you believe.” While the rest of the Internet is reading yet another series of stories about Comey and the emails, you should read this comic from The Oatmeal instead. Just keep scrolling: “You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you.”


Rex Post Facto

“The former Exxon Mobil CEO distinguished between U.S. ‘values’ and ‘policies’ that he said would drive his strategy. Policies can and must change, he said, while the challenge for diplomats is identifying how to best represent U.S. values. For America’s national security, he added, policies won’t necessarily be contingent on values.” In a speech to his State Department, Rex Tillerson laid out the plans for a downsized department, with an altered focus. “In some circumstances, if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can’t achieve our national security goals. It really does create obstacles.”


Stat Chance

“A senior House Republican with knowledge of the vote-counting said Wednesday that the pair’s reversal gets the GOP closer to having the votes for passage, but they’re not there yet.” The GOP health bill is still a ways from being a sure thing in the House. But it’s responding to treatment. From Bloomberg: GOP Health Bill Gains New Life as Key Holdouts Vow Support. I guess patience is a virtue. (So are patients.)


Ray of Light

“The one feedback I got from a lot of people: ‘What about slavery?’ I said, ‘This is slavery. This is slavery. There’s so many different acts of genocide and oppression in the history of the world.’ And I said, ‘The Holocaust is a lesson that we all need to learn so it doesn’t happen again.’ So, I took, from that day forward — every year, whatever team I played on — I would bring them to this museum.” Here’s an inspiring and thought-provoking piece about how an NBA star came to be a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Council. From The Undefeated: Ray Allen talks about his passion for teaching others about the Holocaust.


Where the Odds are Against You

When you think about robots and automation taking people’s jobs, the first thing that comes to mind might be a factory assembly line in the rust belt. While those jobs are of course being hit, they might not be automation’s primary target. For that, you might want to look to places like San Bernardino and even Las Vegas; “areas with high concentrations of jobs in food preparation, office or administrative support, and/or sales.” (We’re used to losing our income to machines in Vegas, but this is different.) One estimate suggests that 65% of jobs in Las Vegas will be automatable in less than a decade.

+ Working the Core: “Recent tests in Australia, where apple season is under way, proved that the company’s prototype can spot apples roughly as accurately as a human, and pull them down just as gently. The machine deposits apples in the same large crates that human pickers use.” From MIT Tech Review: Apple-Picking Robot Prepares to Compete for Farm Jobs.

+ NPR: Facebook plans to add 3,000 workers to monitor, remove violent content. Yup, the jobs you thought would always be done by humans will be done by machines, and the companies you thought were run by algorithms are hiring more people.


The Super Bowl

“This pain is never going away. My body is damaged. I have to manage it somehow. Managing it with pills was slowly killing me. Now I’m able to function and be extremely efficient by figuring out how to use different formulations of cannabis.” Many former NFL players manage their pain with marijuana. And the league finally appears to be ready to consider the notion that current players should be able to do the same. I doubt pot will be a one-stop solution for the remarkable physical pain associated with playing pro football. But the fact that the league has for years happily pushed much stronger and more dangerous prescription painkillers, while demonizing marijuana, is a perfect microcosm of the insane drug policies that have been damaging American for decades.


Bunker Spelunker

“Because it’s not enough for the mountain’s welded-metal buildings to sit on springs that can take a nuclear or earthquake hit, which they do, or for its pipes to be bendy, which they are. It’s not enough for the managers to know they have 6 million gallons of water stored in pools carved right out of the rock, or 510,000 gallons of diesel. They have to know the humans can do their jobs—best of times, worst of times, regardless of how sad or scared they are.” From Wired: A Rare Journey Into the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, a Super-Bunker That Can Survive Anything. (An impenetrable bunker, deep underground, with no access by outsiders, and excellent cable and WiFi. This place sounds like the AirBNB of my dreams…)


Rock Ain’t Dead

“The joke wouldn’t work because there would be so much freaking backlash. Too much politically correct backlash.” Comedy has changed since Chris Rock firmly established himself as one of America’s top comics. And his life has changed a lot too. From Rolling Stone: Chris Rock in a Hard Place: On Infidelity, His New Tour and Starting Over.


Bottom of the News

“The Florida-based creator is not making a penny off her genius invention, even as global sales of the gadget she envisioned two decades ago as a way to entertain her seven-year-old daughter soar into the tens of millions and suppliers struggle to meet massive demand.” I wish she was making tens of millions so me and every other parent in my cohort could sue because our kids are driving us crazy with these things. From The Guardian: As fidget spinner craze sweeps globe, its inventor struggles to make ends meet.

+ When I was a kid, we didn’t need toys and screens to distract us. We had Wintergreen Lifesavers.

+ There are “more trekkers and tourists flying in by helicopter for day trips, and some even indulging in champagne breakfasts with a view.” Everest has a traffic problem.

+ With so many bad advertisements in the news, I figured you’d enjoy this most excellent one, written by my pal, Jeff O’Keefe. Apple Makes Shanghai’s Crowds Vanish in This Romantic Spot.

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