May 22nd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Norms are getting crushed, Amazon knows your face, and that time car manufacturers asked for tougher fuel efficiency rules.

Twenty-five years ago this week, the wildly popular sitcom Cheers aired its final episode. One of the mainstays of the show was when everyone in the bar would respond to the entrance of Norm Peterson by shouting, “Norm!” I have a theory that the whole country will chant the same refrain when norms return to the executive branch. But if the past few days are any indication, that theory may not be put to the test anytime soon. Revealing intelligence sources, hereby demanding information about an investigation into his own campaign, targeting Amazon’s bottom line because he doesn’t like the coverage from Bezos’ Washington Post … those are just a few examples norms being attacked at the core. WaPo: Here are the political norms that Trump violated in just the past week.

+ Maybe the most troubling of the week’s norm-busting moments was the Justice Department’s decision to share some classified documents in reaction to Trump’s claim that his campaign may have been infiltrated by the FBI source for political purposes. “That could be viewed as something of a concession from the Justice Department, which had been reluctant to turn over materials on the source to GOP lawmakers demanding them. But it also could be a bureaucratic maneuver to buy time and shield actual documents.” (Either way, it’s dangerous.)

+ “Not only was Trump violating the rule that Presidents don’t get involved in individual criminal investigations, he was targeting a probe that involved him, several of his family members, and many of his closest colleagues.” The New Yorker: Trump’s Assault on American Governance Just Crossed a Threshold.


Nudge Factor

“When it come to passenger manipulation, what sets the stations of Japan apart from their counterparts is both the ingenuity behind their nudges and the imperceptible manner in which they are implemented. Japan’s nudges reflect a higher order of thinking.” From CityLab: The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations.


June Bug

“North Korea has a chance really to be a great country and I think they should seize the opportunity and we’ll soon find out whether they want to do that.” During an Oval Office meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, President Trump indicated his enthusiasm for a summit with Kim Jong Un, but also suggested that, “it may not work out for June 12.”


Kompany Town

“This is an immediate response use case. There are cameras all over the city … We analyze that data in real time and search against the collection of faces that they have. Maybe they want to know if the mayor of the city is in a place, or there are persons of interest they want to track.” US police departments are testing a real-time facial recognition system called Rekognition. The company selling the service: Amazon. (The world is becoming a company town.)


Mobile Payments

“The sea change has taken place over the last few years as mobile devices become an integral tool not just for communication with loved ones or employers, but also everything from banking to dating to watching TV and listening to music. As cars grow relatively less important, borrowers struggling to pay back their loans on time are increasingly prioritizing payments on the latest iPhone instead of making sure they hold on to their pickup or coupe.” Bloomberg: Americans are Prioritizing Phone Payments Over Car Loans. (We prioritize our phones over our friends and family, so it would be a little sad if we didn’t prioritize them over our cars too…)

+ The one thing that can compete with our phones is our coffee. And it turns out the two worlds collide. “Tech giants Google, Apple, and Samsung are racing to become the mobile-payment platform of choice worldwide. But for now, the king of the category is a coffee company: Starbucks.”


Rx Marks the Spot

The “stashes of tramadol recovered from Islamist militants like Boko Haram often outnumber bullets found in their hideouts. Aid workers say it is circulating in refugee camps. College students use it as an aphrodisiac. In the rural north of the country, subsistence farmers say it keeps them going for hours on end, a phrase echoed by sex workers in southern urban centers.” Buzzfeed: The Opioid Crisis Is Not Just An American Epidemic.

+ “The US government missed the opportunity to curb sales of the drug that kickstarted the opioid epidemic when it secured the only criminal conviction against the maker of OxyContin a decade ago.” Interestingly, this story about a case back in the mid-2000s features Rudy Giuliani in a starring role, and a cameo by Jim Comey.


Reinventing the Real

How weird are things right now? This seems like a pretty good example. Car manufacturers wrote a letter to the White House urging the administration to cooperate with California on fuel efficiency standards because “climate change is real.”


Hog Tied

The tax cut was supposed to give American companies more money to create more American jobs. So let’s check in with a very American company to see how it’s all working out. Vox: Harley-Davidson took its tax cut, closed a factory, and rewarded shareholders.


Fin Tech

You’ve seen plenty of headlines about the blockchain, but you probably don’t have a great idea what it is. One decent way to get a handle on the latest tech trend is by following a tuna from Fiji to Brooklyn.


Bottom of the News

“I can see a lone artist with a lot of tapes and electrical… like an extension of the Moog synthesizer – a keyboard with the complexity and richness of a whole orchestra, y’know? There’s somebody out there, working in a basement, just inventing a whole new musical form.” That was Jim Morrison, in 1969, making a pretty spot-on prediction about the future of music. It turns out accurate predictions about the future of music are pretty rare. Really bad predictions, however, have a rich history.

+ Jacob Koscinski graduated Summa Cum Laude. But the bakery making his graduation cake thought that sounded too dirty. So they congratulated him on graduating Summa … Laude.

+ I’ll leave you with a question: What booze tastes best in a Wendy’s Frosty?

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