April 23rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Is the presidency too big to succeed? Plus, Emmanuel's dexterity test, Amazon's robot, and the web browser's birthday.

Wanted: One person to lead the free world. No experience required. In an era when the president has a famously light schedule, and clearly has more time than the average American to watch TV, play golf, and participate in social media, it seems odd to argue that the job is too broad for one person. But when you consider the attention paid to each public utterance of the occupant of the Oval Office, you begin to realize that maybe we’re placing too much emphasis on one person. In The Atlantic, John Dickerson provides an interesting look at the evolution of America’s top gig, and how it became The Hardest Job In The World. It turns out that many of the responsibilities in the job description “accrued to the presidency over time, most in the recent past. The Framers, fresh from a successful rebellion against a tyrannical king, envisioned an executive who was limited in power and even stature. For a good long while, the design held. James K. Polk’s wife, Sarah, was so concerned that the 11th president might enter a room unnoticed, she asked the Marine Band to play Hail to the Chief to get people to turn their head when he arrived.” These days, the song plays in advance of the use of all-caps in a presidential tweet.


Survivor Gelt

More than half of wealthy investors plan to survive past the age of 100. “The rich also seem to know that living to 100 is a pricey prospect, one that requires more spending on health care, better food, exercise and other services that can lengthen life. Also, you have to keep paying for everything that comes from hanging around additional decades.” It may not get you to the century mark, but having big bucks can definitely stretch things out. Consider these remarkable stats: “The richest 1 percent of American women by income live more than 10 years longer than the poorest 1 percent … For men, the gap between the richest and poorest Americans is almost 15 years.”


Emmanuel Dexterity Test

French President President Emmanuel Macron is in DC for a state dinner. The top item on his agenda: Convincing President Trump to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive.

+ Robin Wright in The New Yorker: “The Iran nuclear deal—the most significant non-proliferation agreement in more than a quarter century, whether you like the terms or not—is perched on the edge of a diplomatic cliff.”

+ The North Koreans will be looking very closely at whether America maintains its deal with Iran. And America will be looking very closely at whether Kim Jung Un is really serious about hitting the nuclear pause button. From WaPo: Suspicious factory underscores challenge of verifying North Korea’s nuclear promises.

+ K-Stop! Meanwhile, ahead of their joint summit, South Korea says it will stop blasting K-Pop along border with the North.


Waffle House of Cards

Sometimes, following a shooting, the media interviews neighbors who are shocked that a person who seemed so normal could have carried out such an act. That’s not the case when it comes to Travis Reinking, who made it abundantly clear that he was precisely the kind of unstable person who (if properly armed) could shoot up a waffle house in Tennessee. Four people were killed in the shooting. The shooter was finally aprehended after a massive manhunt.

+ “It feels selfish. I was just trying to get myself out. I saw the opportunity and pretty much took it.” The 29-year-old hero from Waffle House shooting: ‘I saw the opportunity and I took it.'”

+ After James Shaw Jr risked his life to save others, he set up a site to raise money for the victims of the attack.


Video Games Without Frontiers

“False memories fester when they make sense to our political worldview, when it’s familiar and repeated ad nauseam, when we trust the source of the information, and when this information is corroborated, shared, and discussed by like-minded people … And so what happens when doctored audio and video get added to the mix?” Brian Resnick in Vox: We’re underestimating the mind-warping potential of fake video. (I’m not sure if we’re underestimating it. But I’m pretty sure we don’t know what to do about it.)



You know how you walk into a store and you’re followed around endlessly by an overly present salesperson? OK, keep that experience in mind as you read this description of Amazon’s Top-Secret Plan to Build Home Robots. “People familiar with the project speculate that the Vesta robot could be a sort of mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices.”

+ Recode: People think Amazon has the most positive impact on society out of any major tech company. (And the robot knows if you voted otherwise…)


Wham, Bam, Thank You Fam

“Two years ago, Kazushige Nishida, a Tokyo salaryman in his sixties, started renting a part-time wife and daughter.” Elif Batuman in The New Yorker on Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry: “People who are short on relatives can hire a husband, a mother, a grandson. The resulting relationships can be more real than you’d expect.” (Anyone looking for a couple of rental kids to take on vacation next Spring Break, hit me up for details.)


Lordy, There Are Tapes

“This was a model Trump would use for the rest of his career, telling a lie so cosmic that people believed that some kernel of it had to be real. The tactic landed him a place he hadn’t earned on the Forbes list — and led to future accolades, press coverage and deals. It eventually paved a path toward the presidency.” Jonathan Greenberg in WaPo: Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes. (I’ve heard similar tales of Trump’s calls to Forbes about this very topic. And from what I understand, he’s the only potential listee ever to call the magazine about his ranking…)


Coffee Groundhog Day

“What’s especially jarring, honestly, is that something so commonplace to black men — enough that many, if not most, of our regular routines simply accommodate the possibility of this sort of occurrence, the same way you might pack an umbrella or a jacket if you anticipated the remote chance of rain — is news to whole swathes of this country. As tidy as this would all be if it were a Starbucks issue, or a coffee shop issue, it is an empathy issue.” Bryan Washington: When You’re Black, Every Place Is A Starbucks.


Bottom of the News

“And, wow, it was easy. If you wanted to go somewhere, you just clicked. Links were blue and underlined, easy to pick out. You could follow your own virtual trail of breadcrumbs backwards by clicking the big button up there in the corner.” 25 years ago, “NCSA Mosaic 1.0, the first web browser to achieve popularity among the general public, was released.” (And like 45 minutes later, I started thinking about my personal potential in the past tense.)

+ Speaking of the old web, SmugMug has acquired Flickr, and promised to bring it back to its former glory. (Everyone is excited about SmugMug bringing back Flickr because it reminds us of a time when we thought the internet was gonna be a good thing.)

+ Vladimir Putin. Bashar al-Assad. Manuel Noriega. Harvey Weinstein. Maybe France should be a little more selective when it comes to giving out Legion of Honor awards?

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