July 30th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The robotic hands that teach themselves, Rudy moves the goalposts (and then sets them on fire), and hold your Gunn Fire...

Imagine a robotic hand that didn’t require human coding for every move it made, but instead could actually begin to teach itself how to touch, push, pull, and grasp different items. That could easily be the plot to a dystopian future (and who knows, it might turn out to be). But for now, it actually represents a giant leap forward for robotics. From the NYT: Here’s a very interesting look at the progress being made in robotics. How Robot Hands Are Evolving to Do What Ours Can.

+ Human hands still have the edge, at least until a robot can solve three Rubik’s cubes, while juggling them.


Fly Trap

During flights, do you fidget excessively, sweat a lot, get flushed skin, tremble, maintain a cold penetrating stare, or repeatedly use the lavatory? Have you lost a lot of hair or gained a lot of weight since you took your license or passport photo? Well, first of all, we have a lot in common. Second, it’s possible you’re being watched as “this is just some of the information that federal air marshals collect on thousands of regular US citizens under a secret, domestic surveillance program.” (I realize this news is unlikely to make you fidget, sweat, or have to use the restroom less often.) From the Boston Globe: Welcome to the Quiet Skies.


Family Guise

“There were three agencies, and each was like its own stovepipe. Each had its own boss, and they did not communicate. What was lost in the process was the family. The parents didn’t know where the children were, and the children didn’t know where the parents were. And the government didn’t know either.” From WaPo: Deleted families: What went wrong with Trump’s family-separation effort. (Who could have known that moral bankruptcy and wanton inefficiency would be such a bad combination?)

+ “If you’re a predator, it’s a gold mine. You have full access and then you have kids that have already had this history of being victimized.” ProPublica obtained police reports and call logs from more than two-thirds of the shelters housing immigrant children. Here’s what they show.


Once Was Found, But Now I’m Lost

“It’s tough to overstate how GPS-dependent the world economy has become since the U.S. Department of Defense started giving the service away to the public in 2000. There are 2 billion GPS receivers in use around the world, a number that Europe’s satellite navigation agency estimates will hit 7 billion by 2022. Along with the telecommunications industry, banks, airlines, electric utilities, cloud computing businesses, and TV broadcasters require constantly precise GPS timing. Emergency services do, too, as do military forces. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has designated 16 sectors of infrastructure as ‘critical,’ and 14 of them depend on GPS.” BloombergBusinessweek: The World Economy Runs on GPS. It Needs a Backup Plan.


Ex (Goal)Post Facto

Rudy Giuliani just moved the goal posts. Then he dismantled them, ground them into a fine powder, and sprinkled that dust over some of America’s recently unprotected national lands and waterways. What now? Rudy says he’s not sure collusion is a crime: “I don’t even know if that’s a crime, colluding about Russians. You start analyzing the crime — the hacking is the crime. … The President didn’t hack.” (Does hacking our democracy count?)

+ Meanwhile, Trump is now working to spread the word that he had a very nasty relationship with the special counsel. (This included a “contentious business relationship,” which, for those scoring at home, Trump has had with just about anyone with whom he’s done business — from local banks in New York City to the entire continent of Europe…)

+ What’s the point of continuing with this scorched earth campaign? The point is that it works. Consider this stat from WaPo: Three-quarters of Republicans trust Trump over the media.


Waning Moonves

“Six women who had professional dealings with him told me that, between the nineteen-eighties and the late aughts, Moonves sexually harassed them. Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine. Two told me that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. All said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result.” In The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow blows open another massive Hollywood Me Too story. Les Moonves and CBS Face Allegations of Sexual Misconduct.


Hold Your Gunn Fire

The cast of Guardians of the Galaxy wants James Gunn reinstated as director of Vol. 3. “His apology, now and from years ago when first addressing these remarks, we believe is from the heart, a heart we all know, trust and love. There is little due process in the court of public opinion.” (I’d share an insightful take about how crazy it is that we’re firing people over terrible jokes they published a decade ago, but I’m too busy deleting my old tweets…)


Patty Wagon

“They suspected that Hoover was not a lucky winner, but part of a major criminal conspiracy to defraud the fast food chain of millions of dollars. The two men behind the camera were not from McDonald’s. They were undercover agents from the FBI. This was a McSting.” The Daily Beast: How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions.



“A middle-aged Haredi Jewish man whom we only addressed by a dog name, Moishe (whose name has been changed to protect his privacy) was nearing the end of his two-hour session. We had started by tying him up and making him eat an entire bag of Takis off the floor while we scratched his back with moose antlers, and now we were here, in the basement bathroom of a duplex and part-time sex dungeon in Bushwick, Brooklyn.” In Buzzfeed, Hannah Frishberg enlightens us about Dominatrixes And Their Orthodox Jewish Clients. (I’m not one to judge other people’s sexual proclivities, but for the record, I’m only a reform Jew.)


Bottom of the News

“If you’re texting a loved one or dashing off an email to a colleague, the cost of misplacing a piece of punctuation will be – at worst – a red face and a minor mix-up.
But for some, contentious commas can be a path to the poor house.” BBC: The commas that cost companies millions.

+ Sacha Baron Cohen pays a visit to Roy Moore (and let’s him off pretty easy, considering it’s Roy Moore).

+ The 20 Best Comedy Central Roast Sets Ever.

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