August 8th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

How America lost its mind, the forecast calls for leaks, and now comes at a really bad time.

In The Atlantic, Kurt Andersen tries to unravel a mystery that has been dominating everything from our social media feeds to our dinner party debates. This is How America Lost Its Mind. “Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation — small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.” (Oh, I think at this point, we realize…)


Forecast Calls for Leaks

The fake NYT got its hands on a draft of a sweeping federal climate change report produced by cosmopolitan elite academics, and its findings are SAD! (if you’re still silly enough to believe in science). “Among the more significant of the study’s findings is that it is possible to attribute some extreme weather to climate change. The field known as ‘attribution science’ has advanced rapidly in response to increasing risks from climate change.”

+ WaPo: Peru’s glaciers have made it a laboratory for adapting to climate change. It’s not going well.


Beauty and the Beast

“Venezuela always has all the superlatives. It’s the world’s highest inflation by a lot. It’s the world’s highest murder rate. A lot of economists will tell you it’s the most mismanaged economy in the world. And now, a lot of people are saying the world’s most recently born dictatorship. But when I went down there, it was a great place to live, which sounds crazy now, but it’s beautiful.” A reporter who has been covering Venezuela describes what’s it like to see a democracy destroyed? “Things can always get worse and worse and worse, and there’s no rule that says that a miserable situation has to end, just because it’s too miserable.” (Even Radiohead lyrics got depressed by that line…)

+ “Fugitive Venezuelan soldiers have declared a rebellion against ‘the murderous tyranny’ of the president. Dissident officers have fled the country, seeking asylum. Grenades have been fired at the Supreme Court and, this weekend, assailants under the command of a mutinous captain attacked an army base, making off with weapons.” From the NYT: As Maduro’s Venezuela Rips Apart, So Does His Military.

+ “Since Venezuela’s economy began to melt down in 2014, violence, triple-digit inflation, and shortages of food and medicine have caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee in the ways available to them. Elites have obtained U.S. visas and left for Miami. Those in the middle class have escaped by plane to places such as Buenos Aires. The poor have walked across the border to Colombian cities. But there is no refugee flow quite like that of the Warao to Manaus.” From BusinessWeek: Forced Into the City After 9,000 Years in the Jungle.


Now Comes at a Bad Time

“While more than a decade has passed since North Korea’s first nuclear detonation, many analysts believed it would be years before the country’s weapons scientists could design a compact warhead that could be delivered by missile to distant targets. But the new assessment … concludes that this critical milestone has already been reached.” From WaPo: North Korea is now making missile-ready nuclear weapons. (Now would always be bad timing, but it seems especially so given the state of the US administration.)


Manifesto Author Available for Hire

“I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.” That was one of the controversial lines in the so-called Google Manifesto produced by one of its employees. The memo went viral, the controversy grew, its author has been fired.

+ Google CEO Sundar Pichai walked a fine line in explaining why the employee had to be fired: “Let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

+ Wired: That Google Manifesto really put executive in a bind.


Appalachian Trail Off

Yes, the opioid crisis has taken a huge toll. But it doesn’t come close to explaining the crisis in rural Appalachia, where people “are being left behind, with an infant-mortality rate and life expectancy that lags the gains made in the rest of the country.”

+ Want a clue about one of the drivers behind the stats? This is what a trip to the doctor looks like for people in Appalachia.

+ The grim silver lining? Lower pension costs for corporations.


Some Kind of Mapster

“With the help of YouTube’s geocoded streaming data, we set out to map the contours of music fandom and culture in the United States.” NYT Upshot maps out America’s music tastes. You can enter your zip code and see which band dominates (my result was Metallica, although the only thing I hear playing out of cars these days is Pod Save America…)


My Eyes Were Bigger Than My Stomach

“Now some entrepreneurs are taking the idea a step further, designing their physical spaces in the hopes of inspiring the maximum number of photos. They’re commissioning neon signs bearing modestly sly double entendres, painting elaborate murals of tropical wildlife, and embedding floor tiles with branded greetings — all in the hopes that their guests will post them.” From The Verge: Instagram is pushing restaurants to be kitschy, colorful, and irresistible to photographers.

+ Boston Globe: Instagram is ruining food, and I might be the only one who cares.


Peachy Folders

“The folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.” From Vice: Trump gets a folder full of positive news about himself twice a day. (Even the hosts of Fox & Friends think this is a bit much.)


Bottom of the News

“Big flips, fast bikes, flipping sticks, leaping gaps, elephant tricks, big airs, quick climbs, trick shots, Superman on a bike, and a guy who looks a lot like Fred Rogers waterskiing on his back.” People are awesome, and we have the video to prove it.

+ Letterman is going to do a six-episode talk show series for Netflix. “Here’s what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first.”

+ Some amazing photos of upgrading the power grid in remote Tibet.

+ From the LA Times: Potentially thousands of tickets are still available for Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor fight. (Who needs this phony fight when we’ve got Trump news to entertain us 24/7…)

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