August 31st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The Internet's free speech battle, Trump's dream ream, Harvey's chemical reaction.

In the early days of the Internet, we were all pretty sure the network would level the playing field for information distribution and herald in a new era of open communication and free speech. Then came the trolls, the haters, the terrorists, and even the Nazis. Now we find ourselves wondering who gets to decide which speech can be shared on our communal network, and which people have to STFU. Combined with heated debates about “safe spaces” on campus, and increasingly violent clashes between groups with different ideas about who should be allowed to protest in the streets, this issue is pushing us towards a major clash about freedom of speech and who gets to say what, where. Slate’s April Glaser looks at how extremely powerful Internet companies are drawing new lines between free speech and hate speech: The Internet of Hate. “The gutting began before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, when companies like Airbnb and Facebook booted some of the event’s organizers from their platforms. After the weekend turned deadly and scenes of white-supremacist mobs marching in the streets saturated social media and television, more online businesses began to kick neo-Nazis off, too.” (Get off of my cloud is the new get off of my lawn.)


The Dream Ream

“They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart.” That was President Trump’s message to “dreamers” during a televised interview a few month ago. Well, according to a report from Fox News, they should be worried, as Trump could announce plans to halt or dramatically change the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as soon as Friday.

+ “The immigrants protected through DACA grew up in the US; people might not assume they are unauthorized immigrants, and they might not have even known it themselves until they were teenagers. The program was supposed to give them a chance to build a life here.” Vox with some background on how DACA works, who it protects, and what could happen to immigrants if Trump shuts it down.

+ “A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction that blocks key parts of Texas’s ban on so-called sanctuary cities two days before the law was scheduled to go into effect.”


Chemical Reaction

From The New Republic: Harvey Has Morphed into a Multi-Pronged Environmental Disaster. “At first, it was just another thing to worry about. Hurricane Harvey was headed straight toward the heart of America’s petrochemical industry, where dozens of refineries and chemical plants sit next to vulnerable communities. There were forecasts of biblical rainfall, which experts predicted could flood facilities and cause accidental toxic substance releases, or worse, explosions. If multiple plants shut down at once, there could be huge emissions of harmful air pollutants. And if too much rain fell on the region’s Superfund sites, they could overflow, threatening human health. It’s been nearly a week since Harvey first made landfall in Texas, and all of these things have happened.”

+ As the waters begin to pull back, Texas has seen chemical plant explosions and other unnatural disasters. And, don’t look now, there’s a storm called Irma that could be on the way. Here’s the latest from The Guardian.

+ “Everybody told them to stay, that they had already done their part. But they said, ‘No, we have to go back, there’s a lot of people in danger.'” Two volunteer rescuers were killed in the flooding.

+ The Colonial Pipeline has been shut down, cutting off a major Southeast fuel line. That will mean higher gas prices. To keep up with the energy side of the story, follow my friend Jason Bordoff (Director of Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy) on Twitter.

+ The Atlantic: “The Earth system is getting warmer. Water is evaporating faster. There’s more of it in the air. It’s moving through the system faster. As a result, the coming centuries will play out under a new atmospheric regime, one with more extreme rain, falling in patterns unfamiliar to those around which civilization has grown.” The Strange Future Hurricane Harvey Portends. While we can expect worse weather, we’re at least getting a lot better at saving lives during hurricanes.

+ Bloomberg: Harvey Wasn’t Just Bad Weather. It Was Bad City Planning.

+ And if you missed it yesterday: A Real President Addresses Texas.


Good Old Dad

“The number of newborns whose fathers were over age 40 has more than doubled over the past four decades.” American dads are getting older, new Stanford study says. (I can confirm this.)


Watch Your Six

“People are used to seeing short video ads on platforms like Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube, but not so much on network TV, where the currency for decades has been 15- and 30-second ads.” NYT’s Sapna Maheshwari on the six-second commercials coming to NFL games on Fox. (That gives me just enough time to open some tabs, return a few emails, publish a couple tweets, update my Facebook status, and author a funny but poignant think-piece on Medium before getting back to the game.)


What Are They Schmoking?

“The Trump administration has tapped Julian Schmoke, a former DeVry University administrator, to lead the Education Department’s student-aid enforcement unit.” Well, at least he has experience in the area. DeVry was “engaged in some of the very abuses the unit is charged with eliminating.”

+ According to a report from Politico, “special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his financial transactions.” This is a big deal because it means the investigation is expanding. It’s a bigger deal because Trump can’t use his pardon power when it comes to state crimes.

+ NBC News: “The United States is retaliating against Russia by forcing closure of its consulate in San Francisco and scaling back its diplomatic presence in Washington and New York.”


Herd on the Street

“The hostility that runs through relations among intimates pales in comparison with the aggression we direct toward strangers. There, our ‘readiness for hatred’ is everywhere evident.” Why do humans have such a herd mentality when it comes joining the barbarians in a crowd? Let’s ask Freud.


Block Busted

“The largest chain, AMC Entertainment, with 11,083 screens in 1,009 theaters, has been hit hardest, its shares dropping a dramatic 45 percent since Memorial Day while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained nearly 4 percent.” Movie theater chains, and the rest of the business, are having a long, cool summer. (With all the good TV on, who has time to leave the house?)


Foot Fetish

“Unless the Midshipmen are participating in athletic activities or in their dorm rooms, they are forbidden by U.S. Naval Academy rules from wearing sneakers or flip-flops.” Navy’s football team went from a 9-2 start to losing three straight games. So the coaches and trainers sat down to figure out what caused the losses (and the injuries that led to the losses). Their answer: It’s gotta be the shoes. (Please don’t forward this to my 11 year-old son. I can’t even get him to wear fancy sneakers.)


Bottom of the News

“We trained for a year for those two strongman shows, and your thing was always, ‘What will this help me do?’ That’s not how I think. I train because I want to get better at training. It’s not about what something will help you do; it’s about getting better at doing what you want to do. I’ve worked on the grippers because I want to close them, full stop.” Everything you need to know about the secret life of competitive grippers. (Glad to learn I’m not the only one who’s been gripping in secret.)

+ Relax. Those Doritos are organic.

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