January 30th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

A college course on happiness, the heart of the immigration debate, and why Alexa is wearing a rubber glove.

“In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb. The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions — both positive and negative — so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.” The NYT’s David Shimer sits in on a Yale class so popular that a quarter of the school’s undergrads enrolled: Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life (otherwise known as Happiness). I open 75 news tabs a day. Yale should invite me to offer counter-programming.


Long Distance Relationship

With immigration set to be a major topic during Tuesday’s State of the Union, Ron Brownstein sums up an important part of the debate: “Generally it is the places with the least exposure to immigrants that are seeking to limit future migration, over the objections of the places with the most.”


The Strait of the Union

“He’s decided that a key witness in the Russia probe, Paul Manafort, isn’t going to ‘flip’ and sell him out, friends and aides say. He believes Robert Mueller, who heads the investigation, can be crushed, if necessary, without being fired. Sweeping tax and regulatory cuts will juice the economy and get him re-elected in 2020, he is predicting. He thinks he’s learned how to handle the dysfunction of Congress. And he’s even come to like the White House, the bad plumbing and drafty halls notwithstanding. ‘I love this place!’ he told one friend.” To many it may seem like nonstop chaos and news-induced stress. But this is why Donald Trump thinks the state of the union is great. (My prediction of the line Trump will use in the SOTU tonight: “The state of the union is great and getting greater.”)

+ All eyes will be on the State of the Union address. But all the talk in DC is about the classified GOP memo alleging surveillance abuse by the FBI and the Department of Justice. You can expect the target of the memo to be Rod Rosenstein. Why? Because he’s likely the next person in line to get fired or forced out. The Week on Trump’s slow-motion massacre at the Justice Department.

+ Paul Ryan on the highly controversial memo: “Let it all out, get it all out there. Cleanse the organization.”

+ Update on the investigation (and the efforts to thwart it). From Politico: It’s Now Likely Mueller Thinks Trump Obstructed Justice. And from The Atlantic: There’s No Way Mueller Will Indict Trump.

+ And today’s No, This Isn’t the Onion headline: Names of campaign donors to be flashed during live stream of Trump’s State of the Union speech.


Oligarch of the Covenant

These days, both parties don’t agree on much. But the House and Senate did agree, by an overwhelming margin, to put additional sanctions on Russia. The White House has decided not to implement them. “Sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.”

+ Buzzfeed: “The striking similarity between a newly released Treasury Department report of Russian oligarchs and a 2017 list of wealthy Russians published in Forbes magazine is no coincidence.” Trump Administration Admits It Cribbed From Forbes Magazine To Create Oligarch List.


Alexa, What’s That Rubber Glove For?

“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy. Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable.” So said Warren Buffett as Amazon, Berkshire, JPMorgan announced a partnership to cut healthcare costs for their employees. (It all sounds like a great idea until a Prime member tells you they need one of your organs…)

+ There are no details yet. But that didn’t stop the market from selling off $30 billion in market value from healthcare’s biggest companies.


Blue Plate Tectonics

“The retirees who heralded the early bird are going away, and that their replacements, while burdened by the overall decline of the middle class, have different expectations about what retired life should look like — mostly, they do not want to be reminded in any way that they’re old now.” Eater on the The Extinction of the Early Bird Special. (Last month, during a 24-hour period, my wife got carded by a waiter and a museum clerk gave me a senior citizen discount.)


Watching the Electives

“Last August, the data-analytics firm Helios and Matheson acquired a majority stake in the company and slashed its subscription price to just $9.95 a month (users can buy one ticket a day for any film, excluding 3D or IMAX screenings). The Helios and Matheson CEO Ted Farnsworth said MoviePass could absorb the price cut because it would attract more subscribers, and the resulting data on their filmgoing habits would be valuable to advertisers.” David Sims in The Atlantic: Is MoviePass Here to Stay? (Not if AMC has anything to say about it.)

+ More on the MoviePass business model from Wired: How Does Moviepass Make Money? (Basically, they make money the same way many Internet companies do. They ask consumers to trade their longterm privacy for a short-term deal, and millions of users sign up.)



“The exact nature of the VW tests is not known, as their methodology and findings have not been made public, but two independent scientists who have conducted air pollution tests on human volunteers told the BBC that similar tests on humans are commonplace.” BBC: Monkeys? Humans? The ethics of testing diesel fumes. (In many places in the world, the effects of these tests can be achieved by simply walking out the door.)


Leaky Gutter Syndrome

“I felt bad. He really thought he was talking to Sean Hannity.” The Daily Beast: Julian Assange Offered Hannity Impersonator ‘News’ About Top Democrat.


Bottom of the News

Amazon realized that people do well in nature, so they built some giant nature balls in which people can work. No, seriously.

+ When the stock market decline comes (and it always does), I have a feeling this headline will pop into my head: Elon Musk Is Selling Flamethrowers. The bizarre side venture has already generated $5 million for his tunnel business.

+ An organization that tracks video game records just removed a mark set by Todd Rogers in the Atari 2600 racing game Dragster. The race in question took place in 1982.

+ Aaron Edwards: When Patti Lupone Lifts Her Arms, My Soul Is Saved.

+ MIT scientists created accessories that change color to match your outfit. Because nobody knows fashion like MIT scientists.

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