July 11th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

This is your brain on drugs, printing guns at home, and an offensive American abroad...

I’m performing today’s newsletter au naturel. I’m not talking about my attire, but my brain. It turns out it’s increasingly rare for people to work, study, or just function without the boost of a PCE (pharmacological cognitive enhancement) of one kind or another. “The use of drugs by people hoping to boost mental performance is rising worldwide, finds the largest ever study of the trend. In a survey of tens of thousands of people, 14% reported using stimulants at least once in the preceding 12 months in 2017, up from 5% in 2015.” I’m a Humanities major on nothing but coffee, so I can’t do the math, but that sounds like a lot. And if the folks in the tech industry are any indicator, the trend is escalating and breadth of drug choices in increasing. From Nature: Use of smart drugs on the rise.


No ESC From Command P

“Wilson has spent the last years on an unlikely project for an anarchist: Not simply defying or skirting the law but taking it to court and changing it. In doing so, he has now not only defeated a legal threat to his own highly controversial gunsmithing project. He may have also unlocked a new era of digital DIY gunmaking that further undermines gun control across the United States and the world.” Wired’s Andy Greenberg: A Landmark Legal Shift Opens Pandora’s Box For Untraceable 3D-Printed Guns.


Euro Trash Talker

In a move that surprised no one, President Trump began the NATO meetings by offending US allies, describing Germany as being “totally controlled” by Russia, and accusing other NATO members of not spending enough on defense. (For those scoring at home, a guy who’s been repeatedly sued for nonpayment and to whom every American bank refused to give loans has railed on NATO allies for a failure to pay their bills. And the Russia part, well…)

+ Trump’s comments came during an opening breakfast. Other Americans looked displeased, which leads us to the line of the day: “In a statement to The Post, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, ‘[Kelly] was displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese.'”

+ Sometimes a photo can say it all.

+ Bloomberg: “Not content with pressuring NATO allies to raise their defense spending to 2 percent of economic output, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed doubling the target.” (Turns out, that’s more than America spends, but let’s not interrupt while he’s negotiating….)

+ AP: Trump presses falsehoods about NATO, Germany. (This is a lot for one morning.)

+ Bloomberg on NATO’s real crisis: “The weak link in the alliance, in fact, is Turkey. Here is a country slipping into the sphere of influence of Russia — the very country that NATO was created to deter.” Related (in more ways than one): Turkey’s Erdogan son-in-law made finance minister amid nepotism fears.

+ Meanwhile, in European news that Europeans were focused on today: After a come from behind win over England, Croatia will face France in the World Cup final.


Brown Out

When it comes to political messaging, negative attitudes towards immigrants are framed as being driven by economic and security issues. A recent study found a very different factor is at work. WaPo: Racial resentment is the biggest predictor of immigration attitudes. (It’s also worth noting that there is more openness to immigrants in cities and states where immigrants actually live.)

+ “The tearful reunions — ordered by a court in California — came as the government said that it would release hundreds of migrant families wearing ankle bracelet monitors into the United States, effectively returning to the ‘catch and release’ policy that President Trump promised to eliminate.” NYT: As Migrant Families Are Reunited, Some Children Don’t Recognize Their Mothers. (Some days, I don’t recognize my country.)

+ Daily Beast: Government told immigrant parents to pay for DNA tests to get kids back.


Wily Jenner

I often tell my kids to stop wasting their time on social media. Perhaps I should clarify. I didn’t mean to get off social media. I meant to turn their habit into millions. That, it seems, is a thing now. From Forbes: How 20-Year-Old Kylie Jenner Built A $900 Million Fortune In Less Than 3 Years. “Another year of growth will make her the youngest self-made billionaire ever, male or female, trumping Mark Zuckerberg, who became a billionaire at age 23.”

+ These are America’s Richest Self-Made Women.


Thai Story Deep Dive

“No one was injured in the ensuing chaos, but the dramatic culmination of the successful effort to save the boys … underscores how close to disaster the rescue came.” NPR: Pump Fails At Thai Cave Hours After Soccer Boys Rescued.

+ “Three of the trapped soccer players, as well as their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, are stateless ethnic minorities, accustomed to slipping across the border to Myanmar one day and returning for a soccer game in Thailand the next.” NYT: Stateless and Poor, Some Boys in Thai Cave Had Already Beaten Long Odds.

+ “Harry is a quiet and kind man who did not think twice about offering his support on this mission.” BBC: The Australian diving doctor who stayed with the boys.


Disappearing Middle Class

“Like the mountain gorilla and the hawksbill turtle, the American Middle Child is now an endangered species. As the ideal number of children per family has shrunk to two — that’s not me speaking, it’s demographics — the middle child, in a very real sense, is disappearing” Adam Sternbergh: The Extinction of the Middle Child They’re becoming an American rarity, just when America could use them the most.


Game Changer

“In a report last month, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicted that esports, as the professional competitions are called, will have 276 million viewers worldwide by 2022, on a par with the National Football League. Total revenue could reach $3 billion by then, up from $655 million last year.” The kids already know this. And the rest of us will too as ESPN gets set to air Overwatch League finals. Esports are going prime time.



“Today’s computers comprise of on/off switches that correspond to the zeros and ones of digital logic, called bits. But quantum computers are filled with non-binary quantum bits, called qubits, that can exist as both a zero and one at the same time. By entangling a sufficiently large number of qubits together inside a quantum computer, they will be able to solve complex computational problems no single supercomputer can.” In other words, quantum computing could put a stop to traffic jams. (It can also do some other stuff…)

+ Ant-Man science adviser explains the real-life physics behind the film. (Oddly, in Ant-Man and The Wasp, there was a pretty strong link between using super powers and trying to get through traffic.)


Bottom of the News

The one thing you can never put a fork in is the debate over the way forks should be used. “When the fork was first introduced to the dining table in the US, it caused controversy. Fast forward nearly four centuries later, and the small-pronged utensil still causes international arguments over dining etiquette.” Quartz: Nearly 400 years later, the fork remains at the center of American dining controversy.

+ “We’ve seen it a hundred times in the World Cup: A player misses a shot and his hands immediately go to the top of his head. Why? Psychology has the answer.” (People who read the news do the same thing…)

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