Thursday, July 27th, 2017


Gene Hack, Man…

"We can rebuild him. We have the technology ... We can make him better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster." That was Oscar Goldman in the intro to the classic 70s show The Six Million Dollar Man. Back then, Goldman was talking about replacing an astronaut's damaged limbs with improved bionic ones. Today, the rebuilding process starts earlier and at a much more fundamental level. From MIT Tech Review, an article best read using Oscar Goldman's narrative voice: First Human Embryos Edited in US. "Although none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days -- and there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb -- the experiments are a milestone on what may prove to be an inevitable journey toward the birth of the first genetically modified humans."


Ruble Goldberg Machine

The story of Russia's attempts to hack the US election (and questions surrounding possible collusion with US citizens) has become more complex. In order to really understand it, you have to stop thinking of Putin as the head of a country and start thinking of him as the godfather of a crime family. And you need to follow the rubles. The first step in doing that is understanding the Magnitsky Act and what it has to do with adoption. Here's a good explainer from MoJo. What the Hell Is the Magnitsky Act?


Still Far From Home

"Women rescued in the first two years after ISIS overran their ancestral homeland came home with infections, broken limbs and suicidal thoughts. But now, after three years of captivity, women like Souhayla and two others seen last week by reporters, are far more damaged, displaying extraordinary signs of psychological injury." As Iraqi forces retake Mosul, families are being reunited with girls who were kidnapped and spent years as victims of serial rape and psychological torture. From the NYT's Rukmini Callimachi: Freed From ISIS, Yazidi Women Return in Severe Shock.

+ Much of their held territory has been lost and thousands of their fighters have been killed. From Robin Wright: Are We Nearing the Endgame with ISIS?


Skinny Dips

The latest attempt from the Senate to repeal (at least parts of) Obamacare is the so-called Skinny Repeal (which would end the the individual mandate and the employer mandate, but leave much of the current law intact). FiveThirtyEight has the latest updates from another weird day of deliberations that seem increasingly disconnected from anything to do with actual health care.

+ Even health experts are complaining that they're confused by the process and unclear what's being voted on at any given moment. From The New Yorker: The Senate Health-Care Vote-O-Rama: A Guide for the Perplexed.

+ Alaska Dispatch: Trump administration threatens retribution against Alaska over Murkowski health votes.


Samsung’s Galaxy

"The growth was fueled primarily by the memory-­chip division, but Samsung Electronics is now also the world's top smartphone maker, thanks in part to the new Galaxy S8. And the company is close to surpassing Apple Inc. as the most profitable business in the world, and Intel Corp. as the largest maker of semiconductors." Government scandals, exploding phones, family strife ... it all sounds like the perfect recipe for corporate failure. But so far, Samsung is not only surviving, but thriving. From BusinessWeek: A Corruption Scandal, a Political Firestorm -- and a Record Profit. (That title could easily work for half the stories coming out of DC.)

+ Apple, Amazon, and Google have been marketing competing products for a while. But Roku is still the cord-cutter's favorite.


Cane and Abilify

"I hope our commander in chief understands that we don't transmit orders via Twitter, and that he can't, either." The top military brass, suddenly aware of Trump's order barring transgender troops from serving in the military, issued a statement indicating that "there will be no modifications to the current policy until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance ... In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect."

+ In case you thought this challenge to transgender rights was an isolated action, there's this from Buzzfeed: "The US Justice Department on Wednesday argued in a major federal lawsuit that a 1964 civil rights law doesn't protect gay workers from discrimination."

+ "If you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds, we have had differences. When I said we were brothers, from the podium, that's because we're rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel, other brothers can fight with each other and then get along. I don't know if this is repairable or not -- that will be up to the president." White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci hasn't taken long to have an impact. Things have gotten more chaotic, and, in an amazing twist, the overall tone of the administration's tweets has been taken down a notch. From WaPo: "If Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that."


Allow Me to Clarify

"Core ideals like truth, justice, fairness, decency, and humility have been challenged. That surprised, and even shocked, us. But it also clarified what we stand for. I don't want to live in a bubble, but if I do, then I want it to be the bubble that believes in evolution, thinks of diversity as a strength, and still sees truth as a virtue (even on Twitter)." A short piece from me about one good thing to emerge during these often dispiriting political times: Our values have been clarified.


The Gamer Gateway Drug

"But what followed was extraordinary, an act of revenge on an ex that became about much more than the two of them, that rippled across the video-game industry and far beyond. As Quinn writes in her memoir, Crash Override ... 'My breakup required the intervention of the United Nations.'" From NY Mag: Video-game designer Zoë Quinn survived Gamergate, an act of web harassment with world-altering implications.


Prime Numbers

As of this morning, Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world (it's just one more benefit of being a prime member). As he surges past the $85 billion net worth mark, Bloomberg looks at Bezos's Path to Becoming the Richest Person on Earth.


Bottom of the News

"More than 2,000 people ventured to the remote backwaters of central Finland recently for the 20th annual Swamp Soccer World Championships. If you and your spouse want to compete in the Wife Carrying World Championships, you must come to Finland. The Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships? Finland. The World Berry Picking Championship and the Air Guitar World Championships? Finland and Finland." From the NYT: Finland Has
a Sports Screw Loose

+ Because there's nothing left to believe in, a study suggests that the rule that patients must finish an antibiotics course is wrong.

+ Blowing out birthday candles increases cake bacteria by 1,400 percent.