July 9th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

China's surveillance society, coming to a city near you. Plus, the man behind the court picks, and toddlers in court.

“With millions of cameras and billions of lines of code, China is building a high-tech authoritarian future. Beijing is embracing technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence to identify and track 1.4 billion people. It wants to assemble a vast and unprecedented national surveillance system, with crucial help from its thriving technology industry.” In the NYT, Paul Mozur takes you Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras. This use of technology (which is certain to spread beyond China) “is reversing the commonly held vision of technology as a great democratizer, bringing people more freedom and connecting them to the world.” In retrospect, the near-universal belief in the democratizing power of tech might have been our worst prediction ever. And I’m including the time Steve Ballmer insisted: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”

+ “China is using its huge digital surveillance system, and the threat of sending family members to reeducation camps, to pressure minorities to spy on their fellow exiles.” Buzzfeed: Spy For Us — Or Never Speak To Your Family Again.


Best of Times, Worst of Times

“American policymakers have chosen to design an economic system that leaves workers desperate and disempowered, for the sake of directing a higher share of economic growth to bosses and shareholders.” On one hand, unemployment levels are at remarkably low levels. On the other hand, American workers remain frustrated. The big issue is wages. But there are other factors as well. NY Mag’s Eric Levitz explains how American workers are getting ripped off


Signs Seals Deliver

“There is more work to do tomorrow, but the tension that has marked this past week is gradually starting to clear – with five people remaining in the cave, the end is in sight.” So far, eight of members of the soccer team have been rescued from the cave by the Thai Navy Seals and an other international divers. Four kids and their coach remain trapped as divers prepare for yet another mission. Here’s the latest from The Guardian and the BBC. (For days, the world has been watching, waiting, and hoping for the best for the trapped soccer team. It is a reflection of our common humanity and a universal concern for the wellbeing of children — whether or not they look and talk exactly like our own.)

+ Here’s a short video piece that explains why the rescue effort is so difficult.


Pound Sand

“The two departures shatter May’s own proclamation of cabinet unity last Friday, when she believed she had, after two years of wrangling, secured agreement on Britain’s biggest foreign and trading policy shift in almost half a century.” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s resignation over Brexit negotiations has thrown British politics in (further) turmoil. Reuters: British eurosceptic ministers quit in blow to May’s Brexit plan.

+ Johnson says, the Brexit “dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt.” Here’s the latest from the BBC. (Maybe they should decide this by penalty kicks. That finally seems to be working out pretty well for England.)



“There’s hardly been a peep out the Trump White House. The “de-escalation zone” was inaction disguised as action; indeed, for all of President Trump’s criticism of his predecessor, he has made it absolutely clear that he intends to stay out of Syria, even at the price of allowing Putin to make him look like a pathetic weakling.” And in this case, Trump is largely continuing an Obama policy. Dexter Filkins on the disaster in Syria that is somehow getting even worse. A Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Makes a Mockery of Trump.

+ “The scale of that catastrophe is crushing. Displaced Syrians along the border are using holes in the ground as toilets, and living in makeshift tents stretched over sticks of wood. A rising number of sick people and children have died from scorpion stings, dehydration, and drinking contaminated water. According to the UN, nearly half of the displaced are children. The Norwegian Refugee Council’s statement also included reports of pregnant women giving birth in the open desert.” The Atlantic: Confronting Horror at the Jordan-Syria Border.


Be Breast

“American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children. When that failed, they turned to threats” US Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials.

+ “Essentially, the industry used a ballot initiative as leverage to force the state legislature and governor to do its bidding on soda taxes.” MoJo: How Big Soda Strong-Armed California Into Banning Soda Taxes.


Diaper Duty

“For a while, the child wore dress shoes, but later he was in just socks as he waited to see the judge. He was silent and calm for most of the hearing, though he cried hysterically afterward for the few seconds that a worker handed him to another person while she gathered his diaper bag.” The latest on the border separation fiasco. When a 1-year-old goes to court to get reunited with family.

+ “Her case shows that the retreat from zero tolerance could be as messy and painful as the launch, as she and other immigrant families seek to be reunited with their children, while pursuing separate claims for asylum.” ProPublica: The 6-Year-Old Heard on Border Facility Audiotape Is Still Separated From Her Mother. (Think about this for a second. This is the tape that broke this whole story wide open. And even that family hasn’t been reunited.)

+ Buzzfeed: Pregnant women in immigration detention under the Trump administration say they have been denied medical care, shackled around the stomach, and abused.

+ Last week, Reveal reported that a defense contractor detained migrant kids in vacant Phoenix office building. This week, there are already officials calling for the closure of the facility. (As it turns out, news is not fake, but imperative.)


The Signs of Leo

“He figured out twenty years ago that conservatives had lost the culture war. So they needed to stack the courts.” While President Trump will unveil his latest Supreme Court pick during a live, prime time broadcast, the real judgeship action is happening behind the scenes. This is the guy running the show: The Secrets of Leonard Leo, the Man Behind Trump’s Supreme Court Pick.


Old News

“So what is the source of the myth that those in the past must have died young? One is to do with what we dig up.” In Aeon, Christine Cave argues that our distant ancestors lived a lot longer than we think. Think everyone died young in ancient societies? Think again. (And back then, they had to count their 10,000 steps manually.)


Bottom of the News

“The title of T-bone chaperone always goes to the agency’s most junior planner. It’s their unenviable task to lug the filet mignons through airport security in chilled briefcases, then onto a commercial jet and eventually to their desired hotel kitchen.” Brandon Presser: Nine Things I Learned When I Became a Honeymoon Planner for Billionaires.

+ You feel like shit because you’re drinking your morning coffee too early.

+ How do you celebrate a world cup win over Sweden? By storming an Ikea.

+ Ivanka products are being hit hard by Trump’s tariffs. (Just kidding…)

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