Monday, May 22nd, 2017


140 Character Assassination

In the earliest days of the internet, we thought we had a pretty good idea of how openness, public discourse, and transparency would impact society. And, other than our prediction that cat photos would be a hit, we were pretty much wrong about everything. In the NYT, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams considers the gulf between what we expected and what we got: "The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you're driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them."

+ Williams even apologized for the role Twitter has had in enabling hate speech and potentially contributing to the results of the 2016 election: "It's a very bad thing, Twitter's role in that. If it's true that he wouldn't be president if it weren't for Twitter, then yeah, I'm sorry." I'm no tech apologist, but blaming Twitter for Donald Trump is like blaming the ocean for Jaws. Here's my take: Don't Blame Twitter.

+ The extent to which Facebook must police its content provides a troubling glimpse into the kinds of the things people choose to share. From The Guardian: Facebook's internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence. (Content moderators even have guidelines on how to deal with posts related to cannibalism.)

+ "What really puts the lack of segregation on the internet in perspective is comparing it to segregation in other parts of our lives." An interesting take from Seth Stephens-Davidowitz in Wired: Maybe the Internet Isn't Tearing Us Apart After All.


A Non-Stroking Room

"As she made his bed, he approached from behind and began rubbing her buttocks, according to a police report. 'This is very nice stuff,' he said, according to the report. 'I like that!'" From WaPo: A millionaire, a hotel maid and an arrest after the inauguration for sex abuse. These incidents are so common that hotels around the country are providing maids with panic buttons.


Road Slip

"Trump stood in front of a gathering of leaders from across the Muslim world and called on them to isolate a nation he said had 'fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.'" From the NYT: In Saudi Arabia, Trump Reaches Out to Sunni Nations, at Iran's Expense. The target of Trump's speech was especially interesting given that Iranian voters just gave moderate President Hassan Rouhani a landslide victory.

+ "Trump's strategy differed most strikingly from Bush's and Obama's in its largely military approach to extremism." The New Yorker's Robin Wright: Trump's Strategy on Jihadism. And from Politico: Donald of Arabia.

+ CNN: "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross praised President Trump for a trip to Saudi Arabia that was so successful it didn't draw a single protester." Oh Wilbur...

+ In Saudi Arabia, Trump was treated like royalty, signed a big arms deal, and seemed to leave his domestic scandals behind for a couple days. In Israel, one of those scandals was brought back to the fore -- by Trump himself -- when he offered to reporters that he "never mentioned the word or the name Israel" in his conversations with the Russians in the Oval Office.


Sugar Smack

Most people assume that for a placebo to have any chance of the being effective, the patient must be unaware that they are getting a placebo. But, surprisingly, many studies indicate the opposite. "A review of five studies, involving 260 patients, published last month found that 'open-label' placebos – those that patients know contain no active medication – can improve symptoms in a range of conditions." From The Guardian: I knew they were sugar pills but I felt fantastic.


Tired of all the Flynning

Michael Flynn's lawyers are citing an "escalating public frenzy against him" since the appointment of a special counsel. According the AP, Flynn is expected to "invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday as he notifies the Senate Intelligence committee that he will not comply with a subpoena seeking documents."


Battery Power Trip

"The market for portable battery packs generated $360 million in the 12 months ending in March, 2017 in the US alone. The brands behind these packs are largely anonymous -- Kmashi, Jackery, and iMuto -- and they often stay that way." Until now. From The Verge: How Anker built the most beloved tech accessories on Amazon.


Chem Tails

"When Peterson entered veterinary school in 1972, feline hyperthyroidism seemingly didn't exist; today, he treats nothing else. In the intervening decades, hyperthyroidism somehow became an epidemic in cats, and no one knows why. 'I've devoted most of my time in the last 35 years to this,' said Peterson, who noted that he has treated more than 10,000 hyperthyroid cats, 'and I still have more questions than I have answers.'" Cats could be unwitting guinea pigs in our quest to understand what impact ordinary household chemicals are having on our pets, and on us. From the NYT Magazine: The Mystery of the Wasting House-Cats. (This is one more item on a long list of reasons why your cat's contempt for you is entirely justified.)


Come as You Are

"Americans began the 20th century in bustles and bowler hats and ended it in velour sweatsuits and flannel shirts -- the most radical shift in dress standards in human history." From The Atlantic: Why American Workers Now Dress So Casually. (Interesting, I've always saved my velour sweatsuit for special occasions.)


Chew On This

NPR: "People who are allergic to pollen are accustomed to runny eyes and sniffles this time of year. But some seasonal allergy sufferers have it worse: They can develop allergic reactions to common fruits and vegetables." Ever notice that no one ever develops an allergic reaction to Tater Tots?


Bottom of the News

You've undoubtedly suspected that social media can have a negative impact on your mental health. But which social network is the biggest downer? According to one study, Instagram is the worst. "Only YouTube had a net-positive effect among the respondents." (They must not be reading the comments...)

+ The least surprising headline of the day: 5 people hospitalized after eating gas station nacho cheese.

+ Bloomberg shares a collection of photos that make one thing clear: Bowling is getting fancy.

+ Last week, I asked readers to help spread the word about NextDraft, and the result was hundreds of Tweets and Facebook shares. I really appreciate it. If you want help me spread real news, here's a simple page with some ways to share.