April 25th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

How would you score in China's ranking system? Plus, the limits of Macronyism, border in the court, and DC's Vetting Zoo.

“A few months ago, you accidentally defaulted on a phone bill. The mistake affects your credit score: It’s hard to get a loan. You can no longer make jokes about Marco Rubio on Twitter; such remarks will algorithmically define you as a libertarian loon—another sort of person likely to default on social obligations. After a couple of close friends miss their student loan repayments, you can’t even travel: your social circle is now all ‘discredited, unable to take a single step.'” By 2020, everyone in China will have all of their measurable behaviors funneled into one unified social credit score. While the Chinese scoring system is taking place out in the open, it’s not much of stretch to imagine that Americans are increasingly being subjected to similar ranking systems based on personal behavior and various information they’ve shared (knowingly or not). The New Republic: How Do You Control 1.4 Billion People?

+ “In several big cities in China, including here in Shanghai, the government is even tracking jaywalkers. Cameras record them going through intersections, zero in on their face, and then publicly shame them on nearby video screens.” CBS News on China’s behavior monitoring system.



“It’s more of a playful dominance. The romance is there, and they’re just kind of fooling around, but it’s real.” Yesterday, the focus was on the touchy-feely relationship between Trump and Macron. Today, Macron addressed Congress, and made it pretty clear that the besties have some core differences; from globalism (“We can choose isolation, withdrawal, and nationalism … But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world”), to Iran (“We signed it at the initiative of the United States … That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that”), to climate (“By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 … we are killing our planet … Let us face it. There is no planet B”).


Border in the Court

“In a blow to President Trump, who has long railed against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates for the District of Columbia said the Department of Homeland Security had failed to provide an adequate rationale for why the program is unlawful.” A federal judge has given the Trump administration 90 days to explain why the DACA program was unlawful in the first place.

+ Meanwhile, “during arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the justices seemed, by a narrow margin, to be leaning toward upholding the the third iteration of the Trump travel ban.”


Hat Crime

“The victim, who suffered bruises, told Deutsche Welle that he is not in fact Jewish, but an Israeli Arab who donned the cap as an ‘experiment’ to disprove a friend who warned that it had become unsafe to wear a kippa in Germany.” The experiment went as expected, but not as planned. NPR: Germany’s Jewish Community Responds After Man Attacked For Wearing Yarmulke.

+ AP: “Germans of various faiths donned Jewish skullcaps and took to the streets Wednesday in several cities to protest an anti-Semitic attack in Berlin and express fears about growing hatred of Jews in the country.”


Itch, Please

“The deadliest animal is not the snake, dog, wolf, lion or hippo. It’s not even the human, responsible for murdering some 437,000 of its kind a year.” An interactive piece from the NYT: The deadliest animal is the mosquito.


Vetting Zoo

Trump’s White House doctor and pick to lead Veterans Affairs Ronny Jackson is still stuck in the Senate confirmation waiting room after a day in which his past behaviors were called into question. But as The New Yorker’s John Cassidy explains, the allegations that have emerged aren’t the point anyway: “Whatever comes of the allegations against Jackson, there is virtually nothing to suggest that he is a suitable choice to run a complex and vital federal department that employs more than three hundred and fifty thousand people, has an annual budget of close to two hundred billion dollars, and has a history of deep problems.” (If Ronny Jackson pulls out, I’m confident Trump’s dentist can do the job…)

+ “It would not only undermine 30 years of clean-air regulations, but radically restrict what science the agency is allowed to use.” Scott Pruitt is set to answer Congressional questions about his remarkable record of scandals. Meanwhile, he’s on a mission to completely transform the EPA.

+ HUD Secretary Ben Carson to poor Americans: The rent is too damn low.


Gold Case

“East Siders hacked off tree limbs and uprooted shrubs around their houses. Reinforcing sliding glass windows with dowel rods wasn’t enough. That might keep him out, but they wanted more; they wanted to strip him completely of the ability to hide.’ Floodlights went up, couples slept in shifts, tambourines were affixed to doors, hammers were placed under pillows…” The Golden State Killer terrified communities, and was potentially responsible for “12 homicides, 45 rapes, and 120 home invasions in California in the 1970s and ’80s.” And now, decades later, he’s been arrested.


Key Chain Gang

“Any key card will do. Even old and expired, or discarded keys retain enough residual data to be used in the attack. Using a handheld device running custom software, the researchers can steal data off of a key card — either using wireless radio-frequency identification (RFID) or the magnetic stripe. That device then manipulates the stolen key data, which identifies the hotel, to produce an access token with the highest level of privileges, effectively serving as a master key to every room in the building.” Hackers built a ‘master key’ for millions of hotel rooms. (This wasn’t the key party we had in mind…)


Just Walk Away

“When an olive baboon wants its group to relocate, it can buck the leadership by walking in its preferred direction until a majority has joined it. During these campaigns, the social hierarchy seems to disappear: Every vote counts, no matter the baboon’s social standing.” The Atlantic: How to Sway a Baboon Despot. Or, what other species can teach us about democracy… (Let’s talk about this while we walk…)


Bottom of the News

Do you feel that devices are contributing to the ruination of your children’s behavior? Well, we’ve got just the solution. A new device. Amazon’s new Alexa-powered Dot presumes to teach your kid some manners.

+ NYT: Letter of Recommendation: Escape Rooms.

+ Yet another news site comes to the conclusion I’ve been touting for decades. A Peanut Butter and Pickle sandwich is as good as it gets. (And I don’t just mean in terms of food. I mean that in terms of everything.) Once you warm up with the basics, add jelly, banana slices, and few potato chips.

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