June 6th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Incarcerating the mentally ill, Trump's reverse commute, and the key to getting away with murder is location, location, location.

“‘What’s your diagnosis?’ I asked. ‘Schizoaffective disorder,’ Joe said, a form of schizophrenia. He asked what I was in for. ‘Murder,’ I replied. In 2001, when I was twenty-four and living in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, I’d shot a fellow drug dealer to defend my turf; six years into my sentence—twenty-eight-to-life—I was shanked six times by his friend in retaliation. Ambulanced to an outside hospital with a punctured lung, I didn’t snitch. In this upside-down kingdom, my backstory gave me cred … ‘Bugout’ was the label Joe carried, just as ‘murderer’ was mine. Here, where bugs were considered bottom-feeders, I wouldn’t want to switch places.” Esquire on the state our mental-health-care system. “Ten of every eleven psychiatric patients housed by the government are incarcerated. Here’s what this crisis looks like from the inside.” This Place Is Crazy by John J. Lennon (who will be eligible for parole in 2029).

+ “Every year, the state of Illinois struggles to find a place for hundreds of children with serious mental-health issues—holding them in psychiatric hospitals for sometimes weeks or months even after they’re cleared for discharge.” The Atlantic: The Kids Who Are Cleared to Leave Psychiatric Hospitals—But Can’t.


Reverse Commute

“If you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty. These [drug dealers] can kill 2,000, 3,000 people, and nothing happens to them.” Donald Trump and his Justice Department have talked very tough when it comes to drug sentencing. Today, the president commuted the life sentence of Alice Johnson, the 63-year-old great grandmother in prison for drug trafficking. (Johnson’s cause was brought to the president’s attention last week during an Oval Office meeting with Kim Kardashian.)


Wanna Getaway?

I’m not suggesting that you try to get away with murder. But if that’s your aspiration, you might want to spend a little time considering the importance of location. “Some cities, such as Baltimore and Chicago, solve so few homicides that vast areas stretching for miles experience hundreds of homicides with virtually no arrests.” A special investigation from WaPo: Where Killings Go Unsolved.


Armed Force Quit

It “is not unusual for Silicon Valley’s big companies to have deep military ties. And the internal dissent over Maven stands in contrast to Google’s biggest competitors for selling cloud-computing services — Amazon.com and Microsoft — which have aggressively pursued Pentagon contracts without pushback from their employees.” NYT: Google Will Not Renew Pentagon Contract That Upset Employees.

+ Should tech companies avoid military contracts or should they make money while empowering America’s armed forces? Code for America’s Jennifer Pahlka has given that topic a lot of consideration, and writes about it thoughtfully here. The Problem with Dull Knives: “Having poor tools doesn’t make us fight less; it makes us fight badly.”


Custodian Ship Comes In

“Founded more than three decades ago by a former appliance-factory worker with a high school education and less than $10,000 of borrowed cash, Sunny Optical is now a $22 billion behemoth that supplies lenses to the likes of Samsung and Xiaomi. Growing demand for cameras in smartphones, cars and drones fueled a decade-long streak of rising profits at the company, helping propel the shares’ dizzying rally.” But in this case, the beneficiaries of the rally didn’t just include founders and key C-suite personnel. Bloomberg on The 9,500% Stock Surge That Turned Janitors Into Millionaires in China.


Juice Barred

There were a lot of elections yesterday. In one particularly interesting outcome, San Francisco Voters Upheld a Ban on Flavored Vaping Products: “Despite a $12-million dollar ad blizzard by a giant tobacco company, voters in San Francisco resoundingly supported a new ban on the selling of flavored tobacco products, including vaping liquids packaged as candies and juice boxes, and menthol cigarettes. It is said to be the most restrictive in the country.” (I constantly hear parents of teens discussing this issue…)


Plant Basing

“Thanks to the opioid epidemic in the US, one of the hottest local commodities is a controversial plant called kratom that fans call a natural alternative to synthetic painkillers but US regulators say isn’t safe. Demand from the US has turned Kapuas Hulu into a boom town: Newly affluent residents have built additions to their houses and workers drive the latest model Honda motorcycles.” Bloomberg: US Hunger For Opioid Alternative Drives Boom in Borneo Jungle.


Blame Canada

“Before President Donald Trump sits down with a notorious dictator, he will face what may well turn out to be a tougher crowd — some of America’s oldest allies.” AP: Trump to face tough crowd at G-7 amid tariff fight.

+ “According to the sources, Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the tariffs as a ‘national security’ issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, ‘Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?’ referring to the War of 1812.” (Actually, Canada didn’t even become an independent country until … oh forget it…)

+ Scott Pruitt enlisted an EPA aide to help his wife find a job — with Chick-fil-A.

+ Trump didn’t seem to know the words to the patriotic songs and “a reporter for NBC’s Philadelphia affiliate tweeted that he had asked six people who the Eagles quarterback was during the Super Bowl, and they didn’t know.” Oh, and at least one guy took a knee during the anthem. Other than that, Trump’s Celebration of America went relatively well.


My Next Number

In Aeon, Eli Maor ponders the chords of the universe. “It’s no surprise that mathematics has influenced music. But did you know that the influence goes both ways?” (I’m a humanities major who can’t carry a tune. So I find this entirely plausible.)


Bottom of the News

Imagine sprinting. Now imagine sprinting for 100 meters. Now imagine sprinting for 100 meters — 422 times in a row without stopping. That’s just one way to begin to comprehend what it means to run a 2 hour marathon. Here’s a fun video that puts that impossibly ridiculous feat into perspective.

+ If that’s not your speed, you may appreciate Avivah Wittenberg-Cox’s thoughts in praise of extreme moderation. ” I do everything with the deliberate intent of finding a balance between two extremes — doing nothing and doing too much.” (To get into the spirit of things, I read about half this article and then chilled…)

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