February 28th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

A sporting goods giant halts assault weapons sales and the administration's latest Kush strain.

“When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset. We love these kids and their rallying cry, ‘enough is enough.’ It got to us.” So said Dick’s Sports CEO Edward Stack as he announced that the sporting goods giant is permanently ending sales of assault-style rifles in stores. The momentum for an assault weapons ban (and more gun control in general) continues to build in the wake of the Parkland school shooting and the subsequent teen-led movement. And that momentum reflects public opinion on the topic. From Politico: Gun control support surges in polls. It’s popular. It’s bipartisan. And it’s time for America to stop using its children as human shields against common sense.

+ “For decades the American military has trained its conventional troops to fire their M4s and M16s in the semiautomatic mode — one bullet per trigger pull — instead of on ‘burst’ or automatic in almost all shooting situations. The weapons are more accurate this way, and thus more lethal.” NYT: With AR-15s, Mass Shooters Attack With the Rifle Firepower Typically Used by Infantry Troops.

+ “The Consumer Product Safety Commission can order the recall and repair of thousands of things, from toasters to teddy bears. If a defective car needs fixing, the U.S. Department of Transportation can make it happen. The Food and Drug Administration deals with food, drugs, and cosmetics. Only one product is beyond the government’s reach when it comes to defects and safety.” This is how crazy things have gotten. From Bloomberg: How Defective Guns Became the Only Product That Can’t Be Recalled.


Cyber Space

Here’s Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the head of U.S. Cyber Command, on the Russian threat: “We’re taking steps, but we’re probably not doing enough. [Putin] has clearly come to the conclusion that ‘there’s little price to pay here and therefore I can continue this activity.’ If we don’t change the dynamic here, this is going to continue.” But… From WaPo: Cyber chief says Trump has given him no new authority to strike at Russian interference threat.


The Emperor Has No Foes

“All these countries face real challenges in terms of economic growth and employment and distribution of wealth. As a result, societies on the edge seem willing to accept authoritarianism in the hope that it will deliver the goods. That’s half the answer. The other half is that there doesn’t seem to be any political price for acting illiberally. No one of stature is shaming, sanctioning, or standing up to illiberal behavior and political repression. Leaders feel somewhat enabled.” The New Yorker’s Robin Wright on one of the era’s biggest global stories: The Rise of the World’s New Emperors—with America’s Help.

+ It’s not just that America isn’t opposing the new strongmen. Trump has embraced them.


That’s Not My Door Jam

Knock knock. Who’s There? Amazon. Who the hell else would it be? In a move that makes the company even more integral to your daily life, Amazon has acquired smart doorbell startup Ring for a cool billion.

+ The Shark Tank judges probably wish they could go back in time and invest in Ring back when it was pitched to them on ABC.


Kush Strain

“All White House aides working on the highest-level interim clearances — at the Top Secret/SCI-level — were informed in a memo sent Friday that their clearances would be downgraded to the Secret level.” And that includes some pretty notable aides. Jared Kushner has lost his access to top-secret intelligence. (The big question, of course, is why he can’t get security clearance when his portfolio basically includes everything other than deciding who gets security clearances.)

+ Kushner’s downgrade came as WaPo reported on his overseas contacts that raised major concerns. “Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner … by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.”

+ In other administration news, Mueller is asking if Trump knew about the hacked Democratic emails before their release. And the president described his attorney general as disgraceful.


Break on Through

“A new technique in artificial intelligence called GANs is giving machines imagination; artificial embryos, despite some thorny ethical constraints, are redefining how life can be created and are opening a research window into the early moments of a human life; and a pilot plant in the heart of Texas’s petrochemical industry is attempting to create completely clean power from natural gas.” Those are just a few of the advances featured in MIT Tech Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2018.


Night Vision

“The number of parents forced to rely on 24-hour daycare will only grow. It is simply the nature of everyday – and every night – life in today’s America.” The Guardian with a photo-essay on America’s 24-hour daycare centers.


Issue Brought to the Fore

“The bill, introduced this month by four political parties, uses the same wording as a 2005 Icelandic law banning female genital mutilation, changing the word ‘girls’ to ‘children.’ Those who violate the ban could be imprisoned for up to six years.” NYT: Bill Banning Circumcision in Iceland Alarms Religious Groups.


Smoke and Mirrors

“The prevalence of smoking was highest in West Virginia, where 25.1% of women reported smoking at any time during pregnancy, and lowest in California, where 1.6% reported smoking.” Even after all these years, 1 in 14 women still smokes while pregnant. (And those stats are based on self-reporting, so they could be low…)


Bottom of the News

“Barbering isn’t typically thought of as part of the pregame ritual—that’s the territory of trainers, dieticians, chefs, and a team’s highly visible PR staff. But for many players, a cut is just as necessary for high performance. It’s the reason most modern facilities have a barber shop setup: a separate room or section with multiple chairs and proper lighting. Teams that don’t have a setup at least have a chair reserved for it.” From The Ringer: My Taper’s Keeper: Inside the World of NBA Barbers.

+ “A self-taught exorcist certainly meets errors.” USA Today: Demand for exorcisms is up threefold in Italy, so the Vatican is holding conference.

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