Friday, October 13th, 2017


What Have We Done?

"If you'd come to me in 2012, when the last presidential election was raging and we were cooking up ever more complicated ways to monetize Facebook data, and told me that Russian agents in the Kremlin's employ would be buying Facebook ads to subvert American democracy, I'd have asked where your tin-foil hat was." Back then, most of us in the tech community would've agreed with Antonio García Martínez, who was managing Facebook's ad targeting business. "And yet", as Alexis Madrigal explains in The Atlantic, "now we live in that otherworldly political reality." (Reality bytes). In this excellent overview of how we got here, Madrigal traces What Facebook Did to American Democracy (and why it was so hard to see it coming).

+ "I lay awake at night thinking about all the things we built in the early days and what we could have done to avoid the product being used this way." In Vanity Fair Nick Bilton talks to some Facebook employees about the monster they've created. Oh My God, What Have I Done? (It's not just Facebook. Plenty of people who were around during the early days of tech ask themselves that question.)

+ In an interview with Axios, Sheryl Sandberg makes the case that Facebook is a platform, not a media company. "At our heart we're a tech company... we don't hire journalists." They may not hire journalists, but their employees and algorithms are the most powerful and influential set of editors the news world has ever known (present company excepted...)

+ Where countries (especially one in particular) have failed to organize relief efforts, tech companies have moved in to provide connectivity and power in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Are giant tech companies essentially the new nation states?

+ NYT: Tech giants, once seen as saviors, are now viewed as threats.


I Alone Can Nix It

"The payments Trump is ending, so-called cost-sharing reduction subsidies, total $7 billion. Their loss could further destabilize the individual insurance market, which was already set on edge by an executive order Trump issued earlier." Trump's efforts to sabotage Obamacare (whether out of spite, some weird negotiating tactic, or sheer ignorance) went into high gear on Thursday night when the administration announced it will end payments that insurers use to help poor customers.

+ Premiums will go up. Fewer people will be insured. The deficit will increase. From Sarah Kliff: "There is no question that this new policy is lose-lose-lose for key stakeholders with no upside."

+ Trump boots the Iran nuclear deal to Congress and threatens to cancel it if it's not made stronger.


Weekend Whats

What to Be Thankful For: Earlier this week I told you my good friends Annie and Eric were donating 100% of the online sales of their I Love You California collection to help support the relief efforts for those affected by the California wildfires. I said if you bought, I'd match. And you bought. Between NextDraft, my wife's newsletter The What, and some coverage from 7x7, we managed to raise $100,000 in two days. You created a ton of work for Annie and Eric and cost me a lot of money. And we thank you for it.

+ What to Watch: You probably think you don't feel like ending a pretty rough news week by watching a Holocaust survivor talk about the day she left her dying father on a train to Auschwitz. Trust me, you do. You definitely do. From the NYT: I Have a Message for You.

+ What to Read: "The Politics of Resentment shows that rural resentment -- no less than partisanship, race, or class -- plays a major role in dividing America against itself." A lot of us wonder why so many people seem to vote against their own self-interest. The question itself may be off the mark. Katherine J. Cramer takes you across Wisconsin to understand what's going on: The Politics of Resentment.


The Fire Still Burns

It was a remarkably dry few years across California, but last winter, the skies opened and the region was finally hit with the most rain and snow most of us could remember. Little did we know that the increased precipitation would be an element in the perfect storm of elements that led to what will likely be the state's worst wildfire ever. LA Times: Why the 2017 fire season is shaping up to be one of California's worst.

+ Jan Pascoe and her husband John jumped into their pool and survived for several hours before being rescued. Carmen and Armando Berriz used the same strategy. Sadly, only one of them made it out.

+ "It's the house he died in. All of their memorabilia and everything is all gone." SF Gate: Wildfire burns home of 'Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz.

+ If you're looking for the right place to make a donation, I recommend the Tipping Point Emergency Relief Fund. 100% of your money will to organizations on the front lines. I know the Tipping Point well and trust them completely.


Laced Just Like Chicken

"As I came to understand, the single biggest influence was that, consistently over decades, we have been feeding chickens, and almost every other meat animal, routine doses of antibiotics on almost every day of their lives." Maryn McKenna in The Guardian: Read this and you may never eat chicken again.

+ Bloomberg: Cheap Eggs are Ruining the Cage-Free Movement.


Nothing Beats the Truth

"The Alisons have done more than strengthen the hand of advocates of non-coercive interviewing: they have provided an unprecedentedly authoritative account of what works and what does not, rooted in a profound understanding of human relations. That they have been able to do so is testament to a joint preoccupation with police interviews that stretches back more than 20 years." Like many heated debates, the one surrounding the efficacy of torture features a lot of loud proclamations from people who don't know what they're talking about. From The Guardian: Expert interrogators know torture doesn't work – but until now, nobody could prove it.



"We might think of anti-Semitism as stemming from deeply rooted beliefs, and, in some sense, that's true, but the expression of anti-Semitism depends on highly changeable facts about our social environment." The New Yorker's always interesting Maria Konnikova on How Norms Change. It often starts at the top. But it doesn't have to end there.


Sound Check

"The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon." It feels a little weird to be sending you somewhere to listen to a sound that may have been used as a weapon. But don't worry. This version is safe.


Pokemon Chto?

"The campaign, titled 'Don't Shoot Us,' offers new insights into how Russian agents created a broad online ecosystem where divisive political messages were reinforced across multiple platforms, amplifying a campaign that appears to have been run from one source." From CNN: Even Pokémon Go used by extensive Russian-linked meddling effort. I just accused my son of colluding with the Russians to beat me at Pokémon and was like, "That's Fake News! SAD!"


Bottom of the News

Swedes are pretty straightforward when it comes to trying to convince Americans not to be such packrats."If your family doesn't want your stuff when you're alive, they sure won't want it when you're dead." (When I'm gone, all my kids will want is my thumbprint to access the App store...)

+ NYT: "Changes by the Food and Drug Administration and industry-standards groups have opened the door to the condom equivalent of bespoke suits. A Boston-based company has begun selling custom-fit condoms in 60 sizes, in combinations of 10 lengths and nine circumferences." (If my math is right, it would take me the rest of my life to do enough testing to find my exact size.)