January 9th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The call is coming from inside the house, Feinstein goes rogue, and Bannon goes home.

For anyone who’s paying attention, it won’t come as a surprise that we’re in the early stages of a tech backlash; one that will grow into one of the top stories of 2018. It will be least surprising among those who work in the industry. Because when it comes to the growing concerns about our phone obsession, the call is coming from inside the house. As Eric Andrew-Gee explains in The Globe and Mail: “Nowhere is the dawning awareness of the problem with smartphones more acute than in the California idylls that created them. Last year, ex-employees of Google, Apple and Facebook, including former top executives, began raising the alarm about smartphones and social media apps, warning especially of their effects on children.” Your smartphone is making you stupid, antisocial and unhealthy. So why can’t you put it down? (Even titles of articles about putting your phone down can’t avoid headlines that draw you back in…)

+ Vanity Fair: Silicon Valley Is Having Its ‘Just Say No’ Moment.

+ The NYT’s Zeynep Tufekci on the microchip security flaw that welcomed us to 2018: “For an ordinary computer user, there is not much to panic about right now. Just keep your software updated so you receive the fixes … However, as a citizen of a world in which digital technology is increasingly integrated into all objects — not just phones but also cars, baby monitors and so on — it is past time to panic.”


Docu Drama

One of the hottest debates inside DC circles is whether or not to release the testimony of Glenn R. Simpson (founder of research firm Fusion GPS), who spent ten hours talking to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Steele Dossier. That debate ended abruptly on Tuesday when Sen Diane Feinstein decided to release the testimony. “‘My understanding was that they believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization,’ Simpson said. Using the parlance of spies and law enforcement officials, Simpson said the FBI had a ‘walk-in’ whistleblower from someone in Trump’s organization.”

+ Political reporters are speed-reading the transcript. You can join them. (Better yet, read it, summarize it, and report back to me. I’m taking a little executive time…)

+ Fusion GPS founder hauled from the shadows for the Russia election investigation. (It’s a swampy world out there, folks.)

+ And, in case you need another reminder that the drama never stops, Steve Bannon is out at Breitbart.



“At each stage in its tragic, tumultuous history over the past 40 years – the covert war of the 1980s, the civil war of the 90s and its post-2001 occupation – opium has played a central role in shaping the country’s destiny. In one of history’s bitter ironies, Afghanistan’s unique ecology converged with American military technology to transform this remote, landlocked nation into the world’s first true narco-state – a country where illicit drugs dominate the economy, define political choices and determine the fate of foreign interventions.” The Guardian’s Alfred W McCoy with a look at how western intervention turned Afghanistan into the world’s first true narco-state.


Pyeongchang Games

“If the talks between the Koreas lead to substantial negotiations, it could undercut Mr. Trump’s threats of war while also lessening pressure on China to tighten sanctions further.” The NYT’s Choe Sang-Hun with some interesting analysis of Kim Jung-Un’s sudden decision to open talks with South Korea — talks that have already led to a joint decision to welcome a North Korean delegation to the Olympic Games. “Few said they believed that Mr. Kim was motivated by the Olympic spirit.”

+ BBC: North Korea’s cheerleading charm offensive. Sis! … Bah! (I’m purposely leaving the “boom!” out.)

+ The Trump admin’s “bloody nose” strategy to strike North Korea.


Another Me Too Epidemic

“‘Take a deep breath,’ she says out loud to herself. She takes a deep and audible breath. And then she tells the story of what happened on the night that turned her life upside down.” A yearlong NPR investigation finds that there is little recognition of a group of Americans that is one of the most at risk: people with intellectual disabilities.


Not King Coal

The Atlantic: “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejected a proposal to subsidize coal-burning and nuclear power plants on Monday. Its defeat hands a victory to the motley coalition—of environmental groups, natural-gas companies, free-market advocates, and Democratic state attorneys general—who had opposed the rule and promised to fight it in court. The 5-0 rejection was all the bitterer for the administration because four of the five commissioners who lead the agency were appointed by President Trump.”


The Horn Identity

“The rangers have learned forensic crime-scene principles and the importance of the so-called chain of custody to ensure that the samples are not corrupted. Dr. Harper’s lab performs the analysis and stores DNA fingerprints. The scientists’ database, which they call Rhodis, is modeled after Codis, the F.B.I. system used to link the DNA of suspects to evidence at a crime.” Gina Kolata: Poachers are hunting Rhinos. Geneticists are hunting poachers.


The Throwin’ Samoan

“The idea of a team that won 11 regular-season games and a playoff semifinal switching quarterbacks at halftime of the national championship game is befitting of message-board rumors or the plot of a TV show like Friday Night Lights; it’s not something that would seem to originate from the mind of a historically great and famously stubborn head coach.” And yet, that’s what happened. And then another Alabama national championship happened. The Ringer: Tua Tagovailoa’s Rise Seemed Unlikely, but It Was Part of Nick Saban’s Championship Plan.

+ WaPo with a little more background on Tuanigamanuolepola Tagovailoa.

+ ESPN: How Tua Tagovailoa became Alabama’s unlikely legend. (Malo Lava, Tua.)


A Kodak Moment

Is there anything that can return Kodak to its former place at the center of the photography universe? Probably not. But the company’s announcement of Kodakcoin (“a photocentric cryptocurrency to empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management”) gave its stock price a nice bounce.


Bottom of the News

“They’re one of the few public spaces citizens feel emboldened to police themselves, and reprimand those who don’t follow an assumed set of etiquette. Americans spend an average of 17 hours a year parking, but rather than get used to it, drivers allow themselves to become entitled and aggressive — emotions that don’t bode well in communal spaces, but which Americans are very good at showing.” The Outline: Americans are pretty ugly when parking their cars. (Parking is one of the few sports I can still play without injuring myself…)

+ This Harper’s stat highlighted by John Gruber: “Amount the US pharmaceutical industry spent in 2016 on ads for prescription drugs: $6,400,000,000. Number of countries in which direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads are legal: 2.”

+ Thai PM uses cardboard cutout to avoid questions.

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