Thursday, June 15th, 2017


Going Out With a Ka-Ching

With the price of health care rising -- medical costs represented about one out of every six dollars we spent in 2016 -- Americans find themselves repeatedly confronted with the question: Your money or your life? Well, what if we narrowed the question a bit: Your money or the last month of your life? It turns out that for folks who haven't suffered from accidents, violent crime or chronic illnesses, the vast majority of health care costs are concentrated into a very short timeframe. "The old Marx Brothers' joke -- 'I wouldn't dare go to the hospital -- people die there all the time' -- is essentially true. Many people die in the hospital -- in many cases, just after they've incurred a hugely expensive round of surgery, treatment, and medication. About one-third of Americans undergo operations in the last month of life." From T.R. Reid in The Atlantic: How We Spend $3,400,000,000,000.

+ CNN: Eating fried potatoes linked to higher risk of death, study says. (I'm not sure I really need to spell this out for you, but America's health care problems could be solved if everyone agreed to spend their last few months eating nothing but hash browns...)


Starts at Home

"What perpetrators of terrorist attacks turn out to often have in common more than any particular religion or ideology, are histories of domestic violence." Indeed, this was true for James Hodgkinson, the man who opened fire on a GOP baseball practice. From Jane Mayer in The New Yorker: The link between domestic violence and mass shootings.

+ From NY Mag: What mass killers really have in common.

+ "We know, as always, that no one law could prevent a shooting like this. But we also know that we must acknowledge a problem: an unacceptable rate of gun violence in this country." Gabrielle Giffords: We need courage to face our gun-safety problem now.

+ Steve Scalise is still listed in critical condition and is facing a third surgery.


Make Investigations Great Again

"Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey's firing." According to WaPo, the special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice.

+ Trump responded through his lawyers, and a pair of tweets. "They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice."

+ Wired: Robert Mueller chooses his investigatory dream team.

+ In a very interesting move (that isn't getting nearly as much attention), "The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to allow Congress to block any efforts by the president to scale back sanctions against Russia, and to strengthen those sanctions in retaliation for Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 election and its actions in Syria." The vote was 97-2.


Qatar Pitch

"It is confusing, and the worst thing you want to do in a heated, delicate situation like this is to give mixed messages." We were already getting mixed messages in regard to the Saudi blockade of Qatar, but now there's this: Qatar Signs $12 Billion Deal for U.S. F-15 Jets Amid Gulf Crisis.


Watch Yourself

"When his young daughter requests a bunk bed for her room, a 'quick fact check' tells him that 'about thirty-six thousand kids per year are taken to an emergency room following a bunk bed injury.' Casner calculates that, if six per cent of the U.S. population is around his daughter's age, then 'one out of every five hundred kids in the country gets wheeled into the E.R. each year solely because of bunk beds.' He continues, 'How many kids even have bunk beds? What if it's one in five? That would mean one percent of all kids with bunk beds are heading to the E.R.' Bunk-bed request: denied." The New Yorker on a book called Careful that lays out all the risks we face in our daily lives, mostly in our own homes. (Statistics suggest someone will break a toe after dropping this book.) Be Careful! Your Mind Makes Accidents Inevitable. (Even my Jewish mother is like, dude, seriously, chill.)

+ Lapham's Quarterly: In Search of Fear, notes from a high-wire artist.


The Nether Regions

"From the first moment settlers in this small nation started pumping water to clear land for farms and houses, water has been the central, existential fact of life in the Netherlands, a daily matter of survival and national identity. No place in Europe is under greater threat than this waterlogged country on the edge of the Continent. Much of the nation sits below sea level and is gradually sinking. Now climate change brings the prospect of rising tides and fiercer storms ... From a Dutch mind-set, climate change is not a hypothetical or a drag on the economy, but an opportunity." From the NYT: The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching. (If they don't tell us the solutions soon, we're gonna be watching through scuba masks.)


The Basement Tapes

"It is perhaps not surprising that for many young men, especially those with lower levels of educational attainment, video games are increasingly replacing work. Since 2000, men in their 20s without a bachelor's degree are working considerably less and spending far more time engaged in leisure activities, which overwhelmingly means playing video games. Over the same time frame, this group of men has also grown more likely to be single, to have no children, and to live with parents or other family members." From Reason: Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (I guess my kids are more precocious than I thought...)


Up a Stream Without a Paddle

The plight of Spotify is one of the most interesting stories in tech. At issue is whether an independent company (even a big one) can stand its ground when Google, Amazon, and (especially) Apple decide they want to compete. In the case of Apple, the platform went from being an enabler to being a competitor. Can Spotify survive the onslaught? Well, the good news is that their user numbers continue to soar. The trouble is that the profits haven't come. And for their big competitors, they don't really need to. From Vice: Spotify's users are loving it to death.


Punch Drunk

"That's the thing with one-offs: everyone involved knows they only need to fool the customer once. It's not bad for boxing. It's not bad for MMA. It's not anything except a quick-strike money grab with no enduring significance. It's an exciting fight until it actually starts and it will be forgotten the minute it's over, unworthy of a chapter in either man's memoirs." For years, we've been hearing about a potential matchup between boxing's Floyd Mayweather and MMA's Conor McGregor. Now that a date has been set, the hype with explode. From The Guardian: The Mayweather-McGregor farce is the event our idiocracy deserves. (Ah, but that's the power of spectacles like this. Even arguing that they're not worth our attention gives them our attention.)


Bottom of the News

"Breeding pandas in captivity is extraordinarily hard; the window for a male panda to impregnate a female panda lasts just 36-40 hours and comes around once a year. The task is further complicated by the fact that male pandas are often unwilling to make the effort." According to one expert, the best way to increase the odds is to show them videos of other pandas mating. (I'd suggest the Panda Bare series.)

+ How about a little local news? Mainer attacked by rabid raccoon drowns it in puddle.

+ WaPo: This is why your car thermometer is almost always wrong. (It's pretty much exactly why you think it is. The question really is why your car needs a thermometer.)

+ Yoko is finally getting a co-writing credit for Imagine. (She retains a full writing credit for this.)

+ Winners of the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest 2016.