July 25th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Don't believe what you see or read (except this). Plus, how your genes affect your graduation rate and getting tired of all the Gwyning.

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” In that proclamation from President Trump, more than a few observers noted an echo of George Orwell’s 1984: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.” (Editor’s note: I’m not implying that Trump read the book.) Indeed, the battle to determine what’s happening has come to define this American moment. And according to the NYT, the truth battlefield extends all the way to the television screens aboard Air Force One. Spotting CNN on a TV Aboard Air Force One, Trump Rages Against Reality. “The channel-flipping flap was the latest example of how Mr. Trump, at a pivotal moment in his presidency, is increasingly living in a world of selected information and bending the truth to his own narrative.” (Bending the truth in the sense that a jackhammer bends concrete…)

+ While the president urged Americans not to believe what they see or read, it was what they heard in the Michael Cohen tapes that grabbed the latest headlines. From The Atlantic: All the President’s Hush Money. “Not since Richard Nixon discussed paying off E. Howard Hunt for the Watergate burglary has a president been caught on tape seeking to muffle the emergence of negative stories with cash.” (I predict three distinct reaction to this recording. From Liberals: “The tape is a smoking gun.” From Trump’s Base: “The tape is fake news.” From Millennials: “What’s cash?”)

+ Vox: The Trump-Cohen tape, explained.

+ CNN: White House stops announcing calls with foreign leaders.

+ Somewhat Related: Why are there so many suckers? A neuropsychologist explains.


Face the Future

“In 2015, the Chinese government launched its Made in China 2025 plan to dominate cutting-edge technological industries. This was followed up last year for plans for the country to be a world leader in the field of artificial intelligence by 2030 and to build a $150 billion industry. The developing world is a big part of these ambitions. But China doesn’t just want to dominate these markets. It wants to use developing countries as a laboratory to improve its own surveillance technologies.” Foreign Policy: Beijing’s Big Brother Tech Needs African Faces.


Born in Arizona…

As the immigration debate heats up and we learn more about what’s happening at the border, we’ll also be hearing an increasingly loud debate over the role of sanctuary states. California Sunday Magazine provides an interesting look at sanctuary states in the words of people on various sides of the debate. Let’s start at the beginning: The sanctuary movement began in a small church in Tucson, Arizona

+ Quartz: US officials must now say “illegal aliens,” not “undocumented immigrants.” (You can call them E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and parents still shouldn’t be separated from their kids…)


Fire in the Whole

“As wind-fueled wildfires that killed at least 80 people in vacation areas outside Athens bore down on their seaside resort, 26 men, women and children gathered in the hope that they could find the narrow path leading to a small staircase down to the water. The gated entrance stood only a dozen paces away, but with smoke blotting their vision and choking their lungs, they appear to have lost their way. Officials found their bodies the next day, Tuesday; several were still clinging to one another.” As Greek Wildfire Closed In, a Desperate Dash Ended in Death.

+ Vox: It’s so hot, even parts of the Arctic are on fire.

+ BBC: Wildfires around the world: The photos that explain the flames.


USDA Certified But Not Lean

As the USDA announces plans for a $12 billion distribution to assist farmers affected by the trade tariffs, President Trump is pushing a new 25 percent auto tariff, and urging critics within his own party to stand down. “Trump has become increasingly defiant in his trade strategy, following his own instincts and intuition and eschewing advice from his inner circle. He has told advisers and Republicans to simply trust his business acumen.”

+ Toronto is the center of new technology jobs in North America.


Tired of All the Gwyning

“But every time there was a negative story about her or her company, all that did was bring more people to the site — among them those who had similar kinds of questions and couldn’t find help in mainstream medicine. With assaults coming from all sides, Goop began to dig its heels into the dirt, not only because dirt is a natural exfoliant and also contains selenium, which is a mineral many of us are lacking and helps with thyroid function. Now Goop was growing only more successful. Now Goop was a cause, and G.P. was its martyr.” Taffy Brodesser-Akner in the NYT Mag: The Big Business of Being Gwyneth Paltrow.

+ “Toxoplasma, found in cat feces, makes mice unafraid of cats, and it could give people the courage to start their own businesses.” (You laugh, but at this very moment in Silicon Valley there is a fierce competition among those vying to clean out the litter box…)


Endangering, Specious Act

“Few people disputed the importance of such an act at the time—it cleared the House in a 355-4 vote and sailed through the Senate unanimously. Since its passage, the Endangered Species Act has also enjoyed bipartisan approval from the electorate.” So why are a group a lawmakers set to gut the Endangered Species Act?


Bell Bottom Genes

“These genes influence the creation of neurons and other brain cells, the chemicals these cells secrete, the way they react to new information, and the way they connect with each other. This biology affects our psychology, which in turn affects how we move through the education system.” Ed Yong in The Atlantic: An Enormous Study of the Genes Related to Staying in School. (At least now I can blame my genes for making me an English major…)

+ Artificial Intelligence Shows Why Atheism Is Unpopular.


Fail … Safe

McKay Coppins on the return of Sean Spicer and the art of failing upward. “When he resigned, outside observers mercifully unschooled in the ways of Washington assumed that his role as an agent of misinformation—and his willing participation in Trump’s culture war on the press—would result in some sort of negative consequence for the career communications professional. How quaint.”

+ Does anyone still fail downward anymore? Yes, but as demonstrated by this headline, it takes a lot: Georgia Lawmaker Quits After Dropping Pants, Shouting Slurs.


Bottom of the News

“I asked a well-known figure in national security and Russiagate circles what he thought of my Gloria obsession. I expected him to dismiss it, but he didn’t. ‘There’s a lot of spies around,’ said the well-known figure, who asked to remain nameless because of potential legal issues involved in speaking to the press. ‘These days, whatever paranoid fantasy you can come up with has a halfway decent chance of being true. I mean, the NRA really was infiltrated by the Russians.'” Julia Ioffe on her Uber driver: The Spy Who Drove Me. “Was the mystery woman some kind of covert agent—or simply a figment of these hyper-paranoid times?” (The answer to that question, of course, is yes.)

+ 1 Hen, 76 Ducklings. And you thought your childcare load was taxing

+ What a musical conductor actually does on stage. (Now I feel bad for so often yelling, “Down in front!”)

Copied to Clipboard