November 7th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Connected computers haven't shortened your commute, Rand Paul's hedge row, and it's Saudi with a chance of reign.

Back in 1975, a notable (and nearly clairvoyant) economics journalist named Norman Macrae accurately predicted the rise of computers in our homes and offices. And then he explained how that would impact our work life: “Once workers could communicate with their colleagues through instant messages and video chat, he reasoned, there would be little coherent purpose to trudge long distances to work side by side in centrally located office spaces. As companies recognized how much cheaper remote employees would be, the computer would, in effect, kill the office.” A decade or two ago, I would have agreed with Norman Macrae. But I live in the heart of tech world, and my commute this morning was hell. Something has happened that I never would have predicted: Cities are more crowded than ever. Here’s CityLab: The Economics of the Office: Why Do We Still Commute (and could virtual reality finally change that)? Here’s a possible story twist that few of us saw coming: Maybe constantly interfacing with screens has increased our yearning for in-person human interactions. (And I’m positing that theory as one who’s never been a huge fan of in-person human interactions.)

+ Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien: “I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing. There’s nowhere for these folks to move to. Every time we open up a new place, it fills up.” From AP: Growing homeless camps contrast with West Coast tech wealth.


Hold the Presses

“Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women’s-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan. The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.” In a(nother) great piece of journalism, Ronan Farrow explains how Harvey Weinstein hired private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to track actresses and journalists: Harvey Weinstein’s Army of Spies. This is a jaw-dropping story that serves as another reminder of how much courage it took for women to come forward — and for journalists to write the stories.


Saudi With a Chance of Reign

“It’s the equivalent of waking up to find Warren Buffett and the heads of ABC, CBS and NBC have been arrested. It has all the appearances of a coup d’état. Saudi Arabia is rapidly becoming another country. The kingdom has never been this unstable.” Robin Wright: The Saudi Royal Purge—with Trump’s Consent.

+ Saudi banks have frozen more than 1,200 accounts in probe, and the number is still rising.

+ 11 Saudi princes were arrested over the weekend (including one of the world’s richest men). They’re being held in a Ritz-Carlton.

+ To add more stress to the Saudi situation, MSB has blamed a missile fired by Yemen rebels on Iran, saying the move “may be considered an act of war.”


We Can Work It Out

“Instead of threatening muscular pre-emptive action against the North, Mr. Trump said he prayed that using military force would not be necessary.” In South Korea, President Trump dropped the fire and fury rhetoric and seemed to give credence to the notion that negotiations (that he once called a waste of time) could be effective: “Ultimately it will all work out. Because it always works out.” (That’s what I said right before the 2016 election…) From the NYT: No War Threats From Trump, Who Tells Koreans It Will All Work Out.


The Air Force Awakens

“The Air Force said an initial review indicated it had failed to share Kelley’s criminal record with the civilian authorities, and so his conviction was never entered into the federal database used to screen potentially dangerous gun buyers. Federal laws bar felons and those convicted of domestic violence from obtaining guns.” The Air Force made a terrible omission. But not a rare one. ProPublica: Will the Texas massacre finally get the military to improve its criminal reporting system? (There are two types of people who should not be able to have machine guns: 1. Men convicted of beating women and children. 2. Everybody else.)

+ “I was scared for me. I was scared for every one of them and I was scared for my own family that lived less than a block away.” NPR on the man who exchanged fire with the Texas shooter. And from the LA Times: “A good guy with a gun took on a bad guy with a gun, feeding both sides of the gun control debate.”

+ WaPo: In Sutherland Springs, a mass shooting draws desire for more — not fewer — guns.

+ President Trump suggested the Sutherland Springs massacre was more about mental health than guns. In February, he signed a bill revoking Obama-era gun checks for people with mental illnesses.

+ In the NYT Nicholas Kristof offers a ton of stats and graphics in support of a new way to reduce shooting deaths.


The Bytes Watch

“Parents and children have flocked to Google-owned YouTube Kids since it was introduced in early 2015. The app’s more than 11 million weekly viewers are drawn in by its seemingly infinite supply of clips, including those from popular shows by Disney and Nickelodeon, and the knowledge that the app is supposed to contain only child-friendly content that has been automatically filtered from the main YouTube site. But the app contains dark corners, too, as videos that are disturbing for children slip past its filters, either by mistake or because bad actors have found ways to fool the YouTube Kids algorithms.” From the NYT: On YouTube Kids, Startling Videos Slip Past Filters


Hedge Row

“The 59-year-old is accused of tackling the senator from behind while he was outside his home on Friday. The fight between two neighbors, both doctors, set off a round of newsroom speculation about what the motive could possibly be … What we’ve learned so far is that the tussle may have been about landscaping.” Neighbors reveal what may have led to assault on Rand Paul. I guess all politics really is local…


Weather Vain

“When Donald Trump announced that he intends to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, the implication was that the US would join Syria and Nicaragua as the only non-signatories of the accord. The other holdouts had legitimate excuses: Syria was in the middle of a war and Nicaragua thought the agreement wasn’t ambitious enough.” Now, the USA stands alone. (The canary in the coal mine just kneeled during the national anthem…)


Ruby Tuesday

“[Felix] Sater declined to comment for this story, citing the advice of counsel.” That line alone tells you this is no ordinary oral history. From GQ: The story of Donald Trump’s Election Day—perhaps the wildest, weirdest 24 hours in American politics—as told by dozens of the people who found themselves at the center of it.


Bottom of the News

“Can it spy on me? What does it know about me? What could happen if something goes wrong?” Now more than ever, you need someone who has your back on the internet. Luckily, our fearless sponsor is just that someone. “The holidays! It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Unless you buy a gift that spies on your kid or gets your friend hacked. Wish lists this year will have more connected devices than ever. How do you know if that gift comes with privacy included? We did the research to help you decide.” Definitely bookmark this one for the holidays: Privacy Not Included.

+ Mozilla: Why We Made A Holiday Buyer’s Guide for Connected Toys and Gifts.

+ How MJ and LeBron match up ahead of King James’ 1,072nd career game.

+ And, Twitter’s 280-character limit comes to the masses. Just what the internet needed. More characters.

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