Tuesday, January 16th, 2018


This is Not a Drill

There are some who want to write off President Trump's latest outburst as just another distraction. But instead of diverting our attention from the real story, the distractions are the story -- as they each relate to actual policies and have (often global) repercussions. And so it is with the now infamous shithole meeting: "Trump's ping-ponging from dealmaking to feuding, from elation to fury, has come to define the contentious immigration talks between the White House and Congress, perplexing members of both parties as they navigate the president's vulgarities, his combativeness and his willingness to suddenly change his position. The blowup has derailed those negotiations yet again and increased the possibility of a government shutdown over the fate of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants known as dreamers." This is what happened inside the tense, profane White House meeting on immigration.

+ This is not a drill. From WaPo: A Michigan father, too old for DACA, is deported after three decades in the US.

+ From NPR, one of the most-underreported aspects of the expletive heard 'round the world: Trump's Insults Will Nudge African Nations Closer To China.

+ This distraction is also important news because it confirms (again) Trump's racism. Need a refresher? The NYT has the running list of examples.

+ "You'll meet a woman who kissed a car for 50 hours. A man who escaped communism via zip-line. A Hindu Mayor of a small Kansas town. These stories are a small, collective portrait of America's immigrants. And thereby a portrait of America itself." A perfectly-timed piece from the always excellent Epic Magazine: Little America.


Auto Didact

"The thing that car manufacturers realize now is that they're not only hardware companies anymore — they're software companies." And by now, you should know what software companies like to do. Track your every move. From WaPo: Big Brother on wheels: Why your car company may know more about you than your spouse (including the fact that your spouse doesn't think much of your driving).

+ Even the most predictive car software would be shocked by these images of a car that flew into a second-story dentist's office. (And you thought you hated root canals...)


Shell Games

Faced with bombings, famine, and at least ten thousand civilians killed, Yemen is home to one of the world's most dire situations. We don't see a lot of coverage of the Saudi air war, but that doesn't mean the US and Great Britain aren't involved. Follow the weapons. The New Yorker's Nicolas Niarchos explains how the US Is making the war in Yemen worse.


Selfies From Woodstock

"A fresh layer of snow blanketed the ground on the night of Dec. 31, 1967, and revelers in Times Square and Central Park seemed to look to the future with some hope. 'World Bids Adieu to a Violent Year' was the Jan. 1 headline in The New York Times." As we now know, 1968 would offer no respite from the violence or the relentless news pace. But this was before mobile devices. The NYT looks back at the year and wonders, what if they'd had phones vibrating with modern news alerts? (Someday, they'll do an article looking back at what the past year of news alerts did to us...)


Nothing to Sneeze At

"Hospitals across the state are sending away ambulances, flying in nurses from out of state and not letting children visit their loved ones for fear they'll spread the flu. Others are canceling surgeries and erecting tents in their parking lots so they can triage the hordes of flu patients." LA Times: California hospitals face a 'war zone' of flu patients.

+ Stat on the bigger picture: A severe flu season is stretching hospitals thin. That is a very bad omen.


Quit Yanking My Chain

"From my perspective, the experience barely differs from the usual routines of online life. But on a technical level, something miraculous is happening — something that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago. I've managed to complete a secure transaction without any of the traditional institutions that we rely on to establish trust. No intermediary brokered the deal; no social-media network captured the data from my transaction to better target its advertising; no credit bureau tracked the activity to build a portrait of my financial trustworthiness." In the NYT Mag, the excellent Steven Johnson does a great job of explaining Bitcoin, and then provides a broader explanation of the bigger part of the story: the blockchain. The Bitcoin bubble may ultimately turn out to be a distraction from the true significance of the blockchain.


The Hardest Button to Button

"North Korea appears to have launched a missile ... The government urges people to take shelter inside buildings or underground." No, that wasn't part of the false alarm that scared the hell out of people in Hawaii over the weekend. Japan just also sent out, then retracted, a false missile warning.

+ The Hawaii missile warning was described as someone hitting the wrong button. But there was no button. Just some really bad UI. On behalf of American leadership, I'd like to take a second and apologize to all 7 of the Hawaiian islands after that scare over the weekend. Oh shit, I mean all 8. Sorry for the confusion...


Bannon Fodder

"The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump's inner circle." Steve Bannon had a hell of a run of personal news last week. In addition to the stuff you already know, he was also "subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Mr. Trump's associates and Russia." He's testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee today.


Home Confinement

"The nightmarish scene deputies discovered when they entered the house on Muir Woods Road was as bad as the girl had described. [They found] several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings." Two parents have been arrested in SoCal after authorities found several of their children shackled to beds and malnourished.

+ This is proof that anyone can make their family look happy on social media.


Bottom of the News

"That seminal moment of creating a weapon or tool is a crucial coming together. It is an event that signals a new dawn in human technical advancement." In Nautilus, Alexander Langlands makes the case that the stick is an unsung hero of human evolution. (These days, speaking softly is even more unsung...)

+ "We're always trying to figure out cool and interesting ways to get people talking about art, and this was one of them." Google found the perfect way to get people into art. They used your own selfies as a gateway drug.

+ "Israeli authorities are searching for a British man who is missing in the Negev desert amid fears that he could be suffering from Jerusalem syndrome, a psychiatric condition whose sufferers believe they are prophets or other biblical figures."

+ "Animal rights advocates and some scientists argue that lobsters and other crustaceans have sophisticated nervous systems and likely feel significant pain when boiled alive." So as of March 1, you can no longer boil a lobster alive in Switzerland.