Friday, May 25th, 2018


House Calls

Amazon "said a series of miscues picked up by one of its voice-activated Echo speakers during an Oregon couple's private conversation resulted in the chat being recorded and sent to one of their acquaintances without their knowledge." Those miscues include: 1. Buying a listening device. 2. Putting it in your house. At least that's what some folks are likely thinking as they read the explanation of How Alexa Can Record Private Conversations. (Who would have guessed that a product named Echo would repeat something you said...)

+ A brief reenactment from Recode: "Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like Alexa. Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a send message" request. At which point, Alexa said out loud To whom? At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list."

+ Of course, this series of unintended consequences required a chain reaction so rare that its occurrence was worthy of a viral news story. But the fact remains that millions of us are willingly filling our homes with with digital snitches. The Marshall Project: When your appliances work as police informants.


A Courthouse Drama

It's rare that Hollywood stories have an unexpected ending. But in a twist that would have recently been unthinkable, Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to police today in NYC where he faces rape charges. Here's the latest on the arraignment, the GPS tracker, the bail deal, and the books/props Weinstein carried under his arm. Weinstein's attorney Benjamin Braffman sought to separate bad behavior from criminal behavior. "Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood." (He didn't invent the prison cot either...)

+ "The day after the New Yorker story was published online, two detectives drove to upstate New York to visit Evans's parents at their home. The following day, they talked with Evans and her husband in Washington, D.C., and told her that if she filed a complaint, they could use it to put together a criminal case." Ronan Farrow: Behind the Scenes of Harvey Weinstein's Arrest.

+ Jodi Kantor, one of the journalists who broke the NYT story on Weinstein, tweeted: "One phone call and you're done. I have eyes and ears everywhere. I'm Harvey Weinstein, you know what I can do. Not anymore."

+ Earlier this week on Howard Stern's show, Gwyneth Paltrow recounted her experiences with Weinstein, and how Brad Pitt stepped in.


Weekend Whats

What to Rock: I love watching music festivals. I just don't like the crowds, the standing, or the bathroom lines. In other words, I love when music festivals are streamed. This season of streamed festivals kicks off with BottleRock from Napa. The weekend's lineup includes Muse, The Killers, and The Record Company.

+ What to Pledge: "Isn't this cynical and transparent use of the stars and stripes to add to the bottom line a greater desecration of the flag than a backup quarerback expressing his frustration about a couple centuries of horrifically unequal treatment?" From me: A few quick thoughts on the NFL and the anthem that just might get you standing.

+ What to Read: This week, UK lawmakers backed the Magnitsky Act. To understand Putin and the Russian scandal, you have to understand this act and how Russia works. The best way to do that is to read Bill Browder's excellent book, Red Notice.


Pounding Sand

"It might feel like we're peering into the distant future when we hear that by 2050, temperatures may very well climb 4 degrees, seas could rise a foot, and droughts and floods will become more common. But for farmers planting trees they hope will bear fruit 25 years from now, that seemingly distant future has to be reckoned with now." Wired with a very interesting look at the bets farmers have to make in the age of climate change and changing food trends. Are Avocados Toast?

+ NYT: Even in a good year, much of the Rio Grande is diverted for irrigation. But it's only May, and the river is already turning to sand.


His Ex-cellency

"We'll see what happens. It could even be the 12th. We're talking to them now." After Singaporing one out for the Korea summit, Trump hints that the summit could be back on.

+ A lot of dial tones: The inside story of how Trump's North Korea summit fell apart.

+ Andrea Mitchell on the China factor.

+ "The 'bark orders, impose punishments, and bully friends and enemies into surrender to the mighty, imperial me' approach to foreign policy is unlikely enough to work even when applied to relatively weak states like North Korea and Iran. When simultaneously applied to the entire planet, allies and adversaries alike, it produces only rapidly accelerating failure." David Frum: Trump's Reckoning Arrives.


Blood Hound

"The story of Theranos may be the biggest case of corporate fraud since Enron. But it's also the story of how a lot of powerful men were fooled by a remarkably brazen liar. It took just one reporter, and three former Theranos employees, to expose her." Yashar Ali on the The Reporter Who Took Down a Unicorn. (The story of the reporters and whistleblowers is almost as exciting as the story of the company.)


Wall in the Family

"Once immigrant families, many asylum seekers from Central America, are separated at the border, they struggle to find each other among the three behemoth federal agencies in charge of their care. Advocates say few procedures are in place to ensure they reunify. 'In many cases they may never.'" Houston Chronicle: Immigrant families separated at border struggle to find each other.

+ NYT: Federal Agencies Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Migrant Children Placed With Sponsors. (America needs to send out an Amber alert for its ethics...)

+ WaPo: The group least likely to think the US has a responsibility to accept refugees? Evangelicals.


No Warrenty

Quartz: Can the cult of Berkshire Hathaway outlive Warren Buffett? "Twenty-odd people attended the first Omaha confab, which was held in an insurance company's cafeteria. By 1998, there were 10,000 attendees. This year, more than 40,000 people have come to Omaha for the meeting weekend, as they have every year since 2015." (Oddly, he's never bragged about his crowd size...)


Raising the Space Bar

The Atlantic on The Unconscious Rules of Personal Space: "The most consistent finding out of this vast literature, the one fundamental result, is that personal space expands with anxiety. If you score high on stress, or if the experimenter stresses you ahead of time—maybe you take a test and are told that you failed it—your personal space grows with respect to other people." (At this point, my personal space needs are measured in light years...)


Feel Good Friday

"In 1998, a jogger found a newborn baby buried alive in the foothills of Altadena, his umbilical cord still attached. The baby, not more than a few hours old, hovered near death." Twenty years later, they reunited.

+ "We've evolved to give more weight to our flaws, mistakes and shortcomings than our successes." NYT: Why You Should Stop Being So Hard on Yourself. (It sure seems like most people suffer from the opposite problem, but it's Feel Good Friday, so let's roll with it.)

+ Forbes: How Marc Benioff Linked The New Salesforce Tower To Tech Companies And The Homeless. (The tech community is lucky to have Benioff among its ranks.)

+ Woman fights off grizzly bear, then walks to safety.