July 3rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The inventor of the web has some regrets, a new way to rip off poor people, and ACLU and the horse you rode in on...

“While Silicon Valley started ride-share apps and social-media networks without profoundly considering the consequences, Berners-Lee has spent the past three decades thinking about little else. From the beginning, in fact, Berners-Lee understood how the epic power of the Web would radically transform governments, businesses, societies. He also envisioned that his invention could, in the wrong hands, become a destroyer of worlds, as Robert Oppenheimer once infamously observed of his own creation.” Tim Berners-Lee always feared that his innovation that became the world wide web had the potential to be a net negative. So how has he been feeling over the past few years as “the mushroom cloud was unfolding before his very eyes?” According to Berners-Lee: “I was devastated.” In addition to reflecting on his disappointments, the man who brought us the web is working on a plan to get it back on the right track. But is it too late? Vanity Fair: Tim Berners-Lee, The Man Who Created The World Wide Web, Has Some Regrets.


Loaner Types

“Mass-mailing checks to strangers might seem like risky business, but Mariner Finance occupies a fertile niche in the U.S. economy. The company enables some of the nation’s wealthiest investors and investment funds to make money offering high-interest loans to cash-strapped Americans.” Street-corner payday lending shops have been curtailed a bit over the past few years, so private equity firms have come up with a new way to rip-off the most vulnerable among us. From WaPo: A way of monetizing poor people: How private equity firms make money offering loans to cash-strapped Americans.


ACLU And the Horse You Rode In On

“In another blow to the Trump administration’s policies on immigration, a federal court on Monday blocked the systematic detention of migrants who have shown credible evidence that they were fleeing persecution in their home countries.” One of the plaintiffs in the asylum case was the ACLU. That shouldn’t surprise you. In many ways, the last year and a half has been one long court case between the ACLU and the Trump administration. The ACLU “has long been seen by those who are vaguely aware of its work as a collective of well-intentioned defenders of the Constitution, running their cases year after year and sending out newsletters to a membership made up largely of aging former hippies.” That perception changed in November of 2016. “In the 15 months that followed the election, the ACLU’s membership went from 400,000 to 1.84 million. Online donations in the years before averaged between $3 and $5 million annually. Since then, it has raised just shy of $120 million.” The NYT Mag: Can the ACLU Become the NRA for the Left?


Cave Dwellers

“Now we have given food to the boys, starting with food that is easy to digest and provides high energy. We have taken care of those boys following the doctor’s recommendation. So do not worry, we will take care of them with our best. We will bring all of them with safety. We are now planning how to do so.” It took a hell of a lot of effort to locate the boys from the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave. Now, rescuers have to figure out a way to get them out, and that could include teaching them scuba. Here’s the latest on the rescue efforts. Let’s hope our independence day is theirs.

+ “I said from the outset, if anybody is going to find these kids, it will be these two divers, who are arguably the best in the world.” WaPo: Meet the British A-team divers at the center of Thailand cave rescue.


Affirmative (Re)Action

The trend to undo that which President Obama did continues in Washington. Unsurprisingly, affirmative action is the latest target. “The reversal would restore the policy set during President George W. Bush’s administration, when officials told schools that it ‘strongly encourages the use of race-neutral methods’ for admitting students to college or assigning them to elementary and secondary schools.” Trump Administration Reverses Obama on Affirmative Action


Checks and Overdue Balances

“What probably sold Foxconn on Mount Pleasant were the massive tax breaks Wisconsin offered to seal the deal – breaks that could end up costing the state $4.8bn if the project hits all of its targets. It’s the latest giveaway in a series of corporate welfare checks cut for highly profitable tech companies and the largest to a foreign firm ever in the US.” The Guardian: The $4.8bn gamble to lure Foxconn to America.

+ “One complaint is that tax credits given to Tesla – and to a lesser extent other tech companies – deplete public services, resulting in potholed roads, overcrowded schools and insufficient affordable housing. The other is that the tech worker influx has sent rents rocketing, tipping residents on fixed incomes, especially seniors, into penury.” When tech comes to town… Paying for Tesla’s Gigafactory.


Cohen Headgames

Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox with a behind the scenes look into the remarkably intriguing twists and turns of the Michael Cohen saga. “From his suite in the Loews Regency hotel, the nondescript Park Avenue tower in which he has been living as his apartment undergoes repairs, Cohen vents with friends about how his life has been turned upside-down.” (Can you imagine the stress of being under this kind of prosecutorial and media pressure and dealing with a remodeling project…)

+ Adam Davidson in The New Yorker: “We are witnessing a grand, public Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which each man could, theoretically, destroy the other. Or, perhaps, they could work together to explain away any troubling information that comes out of the investigation of Cohen’s files. They can’t talk privately, because every interaction is likely to be scrutinized. Instead, they speak to each other through the media.”

+ “The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.” We’ve known this for a long time. But it’s a big deal that the Senate Intelligence Committee just confirmed reality.


Amygdala Signs

Nautilus takes you inside the strange brain of Alex Honnold, the World’s Greatest Solo Climber: “I’m excited to see what his brain looks like.Then we’ll just check what his amygdala is doing, to see: Does he really have no fear?” (Whatever his amygdala is doing, I’m confident mine is doing the opposite.)


Your Rocket’s Red Glare

“Americans will spend more than $900 million this year on bottle rockets, Roman candles, and other fireworks.” And just about all of it comes from China. And there’s been no tariffs (Ooooh!) at least so far (Aaaah…).

+ Please don’t fly drones through fireworks. (For me, this is less of a news link and more of a note to self.)


Bottom of the News

“Even after they were booted out of the World Cup, the Japanese national football team gave us a lesson in grace. Following their heartbreaking loss to Belgium on Monday, the players left behind a note that said ‘спасибо’ (Russian for ‘thank you’) in their locker room. Oh, and they cleaned it up.”

+ Roger Federer’s career on-court earnings are $116 million. He just signed a deal to wear Uniqlo that is is worth $300 million. (Those must be some really uncomfortable clothes!)

+ The stakes of the great scooter wars couldn’t be any higher. Wait … this just in. They’ve been raised.

+ “Has a life of ambition and striving gotten the best of you? Do you sometimes wish you could give up a little—stop chasing so many pointless goals you probably won’t hit anyway? It’s time you got washed … There you are in the train station of life, waving goodbye to your edge and your youth as they depart. You are Eli Manning, and you are no longer a plausible NFL starter in the eyes of some, but you are not yet ready to go to the bench. You haven’t been to that particular new restaurant yet, but you’ve heard it’s nice.” Zach Baron in GQ: In Praise of Being Washed. (At this point, I’m so washed I’m damn near sterilized…)

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