Wednesday, May 10th, 2017


The Jim Reaper

After a wild campaign and a rollicking first 100 days, President Trump managed to do something that seemed impossible: He surprised the hell out of us. And if news reports are any indication, he also seems to have surprised the hell out of his own administration. He certainly surprised Jim Comey, who upon learning of his firing on TV, laughed out loud assuming it was prank. Perhaps the biggest shock of all could be reserved for Trump himself who seemed somewhat stunned by the massive media and political blowback, including calls for a special prosecutor in the Russian probe. From the NYT: F.B.I. Director Jim Comey Is Fired by Trump.

+ My take on the firing, including what presidential historians will come to refer to as The Second Paragraph: Home, James — 10 Quick Thoughts About the Comey Firing.

+ The official reason for Comey's firing is related to his handling of the Hillary email case (for which he was repeatedly praised by the president). The only thing that could strain credulity more would be if that reason were delivered with a laugh track. From Politico: Behind Comey's firing: An enraged Trump, fuming about Russia. And from the WSJ: "President Trump was rankled by FBI director's media attention and questioned whether it warped his view of the Russia investigation."

+ AP: Comey sought more Russia resources before firing.

+ David Frum in The Atlantic: "Who can sincerely believe that President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for any reason other than to thwart an investigation of serious crimes? Which crimes -- and how serious -- we can only guess." This is Not a Drill.


The Rod Complex

On Wednesday, President Trump only briefly addressed the Comey firing by saying, "He wasn't doing a good job. Very simply. He was not doing a good job." You gotta give the president credit for not giving a damn about optics. Trump made the statement while sitting next to Henry Kissinger. And earlier in the day he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

+ Before the president's comments, the media was being told that all the reasons for the Comey firing could be found in the memo prepared by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. From WaPo: The Justice Department's case against James B. Comey, annotated.

+ The New Yorker: "Many observers would agree with at least some of Rosenstein's points about the Clinton investigation -- but so what? Are we seriously being asked to countenance the idea that Trump fired Comey because he didn't treat Hillary Clinton fairly?" Trump's Firing of James Comey Is An Attack On American Democracy.


There’s a Bustle in your Hedgerow

"Spicer got his wish and was soon standing in near darkness between two tall hedges, with more than a dozen reporters closely gathered around him. For 10 minutes, he responded to a flurry of questions, vacillating between light-hearted asides and clear frustration with getting the same questions over and over again." One clear indication that few in the White House were prepared for the announcement was the almost comical scramble by the communications team to explain the decision; which led, at one point, to Sean Spicer hiding in some bushes.

+ During the White House press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders (who was subbing for Sean Spicer) contended that "Most of America decided on their own that Director Comey was not the person that should be leading the FBI."


In Conclusion

"Two interventions have consistently been shown to help patients live their final days in accordance with their wishes: earlier conversations about their goals and greater use of palliative care services, which emphasize symptom control and greater psychological and spiritual well-being -- and which recognize that longer survival is only part of what patients want." What most of these patients actually get is aggressive medical care that may not even extend their lives. From NYT Upshot: We're Bad at Death. Can We Talk?


Sleeping Frills

"Beddit sells a $150 sensor strip that can be placed under bed sheets and transfers slumber-related information to an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch for analysis." From Bloomberg: Apple pushes into analyzing your sleep with Beddit acquisition. (Funny, I slept just fine before I got my iPhone...)

+ Every startup entrepreneur worries about the moment they might learn that a mammoth competitor is launching a version of the same thing they've been working on for years. And, these days in particular, that fear is based on a very real threat. But even by those standards, this one had to hurt more than the others. Amazon invested millions in the startup Nucleus -- then cloned its product for the new Echo.


SAT Registers Reality

"After decades of denying that the scandal-ridden, oft-condemned exam can be gamed with proper coaching, the organization that administers the SAT finally admits that it can." Surprise, studying for the SAT can make you do better at the SAT.

+ A Stanford researcher's 15-minute study hack lifts B+ students into the As.


A Coming of Rage Story

"They made the captive children, malnourished and weak from hunger, fight over a single tomato. Then the Islamic State group militants told them, 'In paradise, you'll be able to eat whatever you want. But first you have to get to paradise, and you do that by blowing yourself up.'" We often forget that many ISIS killers are kids, kidnapped and conscripted into a murderous cult. From AP: Iraqi boys' harrowing tale of captivity, training by ISIS.


Vision Crest

"The camera feed is reduced in resolution to a grid of four hundred gray-scale pixels, transmitted to his tongue via a corresponding grid of four hundred tiny electrodes on the lollipop. Dark pixels provide a strong shock; lighter pixels merely tingle. The resulting vision is a sensation that Weihenmayer describes as 'pictures being painted with tiny bubbles.'" The New Yorker's Nicola Twilley describes how some blind people (including a mountain climber) are learning to see with their tongue.


Investor J

"The Sixers see themselves as a new kind of pro sports franchise, one that is not content to be a one-dimensional organization. The Los Angeles Dodgers launched the Dodgers Accelerator in late 2015, and the Golden State Warriors started an investment arm, GSW Sports Ventures, the following year. While those two are so far contained to companies that could create synergy with their parent teams, the Sixers want to play in a bigger arena." Media Redef: Why Is an NBA Team Trying to Become Tech's Next Big Incubator? (Maybe because in startup investing, winning 28 times in 82 tries is considered a great record...)


Bottom of the News

According to various reports, an adult film star faked a shark attack because she wanted to have a viral video. Back in my day, having sex in front of a camera assured one of having a viral video. These days, it takes a slow-motion dive onto a trampoline covered with mousetraps.

+ InFocus: The 2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest is underway. Here are some good shots.