Wednesday, July 19th, 2017


Cheese Wizards

"Americans eat 35 pounds of cheese per year on average -- a record amount, more than double the quantity consumed in 1975. And yet that demand doesn't come close to meeting U.S. supply ... Add to that a global drop in demand for dairy, plus technology that's making cows more prolific, and you have the lowest milk prices since the Great Recession ended in 2009. Farmers poured out almost 50 million gallons of unsold milk last year -- actually poured it out, into holes in the ground." I know what you're thinking. With that kind of cheddar at stake, milk needs a team of scientists, public relations people, and branding experts to move more product. Well, it turns out the dairy industry has just such a group working on its behalf. And now that we're long past the days of kids packing a mini milk carton in their lunch boxes, moving more milk means moving more cheese. From BusinessWeek: The Mad Cheese Scientists Fighting to Save the Dairy Industry. (Note: I could have filled this puff piece with a lot of udderly cheesy puns, but I didn't want to be grilled by grated-upon readers who'd have the right to be cheesed and want to tear me to shreds. Besides, I'm lactose intolerant.)


Numbing Numbers

It's no secret that there are mass atrocities happening in the world, now and always. How do we manage to essentially ignore these events -- and sometimes even push for policies that will make them worse? From Vox: A psychologist explains the hard limits of human compassion: "When numbers simply can't convey the costs, there's an infuriating paradox at play. Slovic calls it 'psychic numbing.' As the number of victims in a tragedy increases, our empathy, our willingness to help, reliably decreases. This happens even when the number of victims increases from one to two."


The Man Who Would Be King

"As next in line to be king of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef was unaccustomed to being told what to do. Then, one night in June, he was summoned to a palace in Mecca, held against his will and pressured for hours to give up his claim to the throne." It turns out HBO doesn't have a monopoly when it comes to games of thrones. From the NYT: How a Saudi king's son plotted effort to oust his rival. (This guy sounds like a real prince...)

+ Mohammed bin Nayef "remains under house arrest to keep him out of circulation following his overthrow, with no visitors allowed except close family members. He is not taking calls, the source close to MbN said. In the past week he was only granted permission to visit his elderly mother with the new guards assigned to him." Reuters: Addiction and intrigue: Inside the Saudi palace coup.

+ WaPo: Saudi Arabia says woman arrested for wearing skirt in viral video has been released.


Pill Bug

"A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations.
"Lo and behold," Cantrell says, 'The active ingredients are pretty darn stable.'" It turns out the expiration dates that lead you (and hospitals) to toss medications into the trash are a bit premature. Like by forty years or so. From ProPublica: The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates. (Funny how people will throw out over the counter drugs, but illegal ones seem to have a shelf life of forever.)


Kobach to the USSR

President Trump said he was surprised by the fall of the Senate health care bill, "but the dramatic collapse of the GOP proposal in the Senate was hardly a shock to most, especially those intimately involved in a venture that has been stalled and fitful since the House passed its version in May." WaPo with the play-by-play of what one GOP senator called an insane process. But is the process actually over? Not according to Trump who held a Wednesday lunch with senators and told them to delay recess until a deal gets done.

+ The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (insert rimshot here) met today for the first time. Buzzfeed lists the key players and what you need to know about the commission. Or you can skip the details and just try to wrap your head around this exchange: Katy Tur: "You think that maybe Hillary Clinton didn't win the popular vote?" Kris Kobach: "We may never know the answer to that question."

+ President Trump had a previously unreported hour-long discussion with Putin at the G20. Allow Ian Bremmer to explain.


You Can Crash at My Trackpad

"Certain forms of tiredness can often feel more 'earned' than others. I get being tired after a run, but after sending some emails? Come on." NY Mag explains why sitting at your computer all day can wipe you out.

+ I've been exhausted pretty much every minute during the Trump news era. But from the looks of it, cycling is harder on your legs than staring at a laptop.


Mos Deaf

"In a film, on the news, you watch a war. While in a war, you mostly hear it. Weapons are fired day and night, but only sometimes do you see them fired. As much as images, then, each battle takes on its own sounds." The NYT on the battle to retake Mosul. It lasted nine months, cost thousands of lives (including civilians), and essentially flattened a large segment of a major city. The Living and the Dead.


Da Vinci vs Code

"Derek Oldbury, probably the second best player of all time, wrote an encyclopedia of checkers. It was effusive in its praise for the master: 'Marion Tinsley is to checkers what Leonardo da Vinci was to science, what Michelangelo was to art and what Beethoven was to music.'" A person couldn't beat Oldbury. But a person with a computer might be able to. Alexis Madrigal with the story of a duel between two men, one who dies, and the nature of the quest to build artificial intelligence: How Checkers Was Solved.


Of Finances and Fiancées

"I'm not someone who would ordinarily embrace faking her marital status, but I am someone who is a big fan of group exercise classes." Lisa Ryan explains how she faked being engaged for the discounts.


Bottom of the News

"At every age, the ugliest three per cent of the population outearned the fifty per cent who were merely sort of ugly or just average-looking. They called this phenomenon the 'ugliness premium.'" The attractive people are supposed to have all the advantages. The New Yorker explains why that might be a false assumption: Vote for Ugly.

+ Digg: Baltimore Cop Doesn't Realize His Body Camera Is Filming, Films Himself Planting Drugs At Crime Scene.

+ The Verge: Russia is investigating fidget spinners after reports claim they zombify youth. (It's nice to know we can still find common ground with the Russians.)