May 16th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Plastic/Everywhere, the return of the repo man, Kim Jong Unreliable, and net neutrality's shift.

“If plastic had been invented when the Pilgrims sailed from Plymouth, England, to North America—and the Mayflower had been stocked with bottled water and plastic-wrapped snacks—their plastic trash would likely still be around, four centuries later … Because plastic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, and production really only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff to deal with. Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. And of that waste, a staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin.” The glut of plastic waste in our landfills and waterways feels like an old story. But it’s actually a pretty modern problem, and it’s also one that’s only getting worse. NatGeo has a solid report (with some jaw-dropping photos) that provides a good overview of how bad the problem is (bad), and what’s being done about it (not enough). We Made Plastic. We Depend On It. Now We’re Drowning In It.

+ Forty percent of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then discarded. Nearly half of all plastic ever manufactured has been made since 2000. Here are some fast facts about plastic pollution.


Car Oversharing

Not only is the repo man busy these days, he’s now armed with the technology to be ruthlessly efficient. From WaPo: The surprising return of the repo man. “Technology has made the repo man ruthlessly efficient, allowing this familiar angel of financial calamity to capitalize on a dark corner of the United States’ strong economy: the soaring number of people falling behind on their car payments.”


Kim Jong Unreliable

“We’ll have to see.” So said President Trump when asked if the June 12th summit with Kim Jong Un was still on. North Korea dramatically (if not unexpectedly) changed its tune over the past twenty-four hours, “saying the United States must stop insisting that the North ‘unilaterally’ abandon its nuclear weapons program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.” (In other words, “stop saying the meeting is about the one thing the meeting has always been about.”)

+ WaPo: A timeline of North Korea’s backtracking on denuclearization talks.

+ “We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him.” The North Koreans are not big fans of John Bolton.


Do Not Enter

“Every stage in the process works like the assembly line in a factory — each station knows exactly what to do and how to do the hand-off to the next step … This fiscal year, the administration essentially ‘broke’ the assembly line in multiple places at the same time.” Through policies and bureaucratic tweaks, “the flow of refugees to the United States has slowed nearly to a halt.” NYT: Apartments Are Stocked, Toys Donated. Only the Refugees Are Missing.

+ WaPo: “The Trump administration is making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases, according to Defense Department communications, the latest sign the government is moving forward with plans to split up families who cross the border illegally.”


Presale Code Red

“You waited weeks for tickets to become available, only for them to sell out in minutes—and then appear shortly thereafter on reseller websites, at a huge markup. Or you managed to get the tickets into your shopping cart, only to discover while checking out that there’s a hefty ‘processing fee.'” The New Republic: The Ticket Monopoly Is Worse Than Ever (Thanks, Obama).

+ LA Times: Computers crack the code of pop-song success: “After analyzing the attributes of more than half a million songs released over a period of 30 years, a computer algorithm was able to sort the successful songs from also-rans … Successful songs are happier, brighter, more party-like, more danceable and less sad than most songs.” (This is the first time I’ve ever needed to listen to some Radiohead tracks to cheer myself up…)


All For Naut

“We’re talking about a place that is a long way from anywhere, that few people have ever been to. Then I’m sitting in my office, and the images start to appear of the sharks doing dives in these day and night patterns. What I saw was almost unbelievable.” Drones in the sky are old news. The new thing is drones on the sea. From Bloomberg: This Armada of Saildrones Could Conquer the Ocean. (I’m for any form of travel and research that doesn’t require me to leave my living room.)


Shift on Neutrality

The Senate just voted to reject the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. But there’s still a lot of buffering between this vote and actually reversing the move by the FCC panel.

+ “The competition is stiff, but Pai may be the most reviled man on the internet. He is despised as both a bumbling rube, trying too hard to prove he gets it, and a cunning villain, out to destroy digital freedom.” Wired: This Is Ajit Pai, Nemesis Of Net Neutrality.


Meanwhile, Back at the Executive Branch

“The Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of congressional testimony on Wednesday. The trove of information provides a new window into that ill-fated June 2016 Trump Tower meeting before which Donald Trump Jr. was promised damaging Russian government information about Hillary Clinton — from Natalia Veselnitskaya, who turned out to be a Kremlin-connected lawyer.” (Bottom line: They expected dirt on Hillary. They got less than they expected.) From WaPo: 7 big things we just learned from the Trump Tower meeting testimony.

+ AP: “If there’s a single big takeaway from the nearly 2,000 pages of transcripts of interviews with Donald Trump Jr. and others by congressional investigators, it’s that Trump Jr. never thought twice about meeting with people tied to Russia promising dirt on his father’s political opponent.”

+ “The Senate Intelligence Committee has determined that the intelligence community was correct in assessing that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election with the aim of helping then-candidate Donald Trump.” This is only news because the House GOP report failed to make this assessment.

+ In a footnote in his latest personal financial disclosure, President Trump acknowledges repaying Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels payout.


Uphill Battle

“Xia suffered severe frostbite on both his feet and eventually had to have them amputated. Twenty years later, he developed lymphoma and both legs were amputated just below the knees.” From Outside: Double Amputee Summits Everest. “After four previous attempts, the 70-year-old Chinese climber finally stood on the summit on Monday.” (Sisyphus had an easier climb than this guy…)


Bottom of the News

“Dad, this is kombucha! It’s really popular in the West.” LA Times: Long before US hipsters discovered it, kombucha was a staple in Russia. It’s making a comeback. (Hey, you meddle with our elections, we’re gonna meddle with your beverage selection.)

+ “What you hear depends on which frequencies your brain emphasizes.” Wired: The True History Of Yanny And Laurel. (If you’ve avoided this meme so far, I suggest you continue to do so.)

+ 11 Facts About Fingernails.

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