August 3rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The weaponization of social networks, compassion fatigue, plus Weekend Whats and Feel Good Friday.

“They have mutated human communication, so that connecting people has too often become about pitting them against one another, and turbocharged that discord to an unprecedented and damaging volume. They have weaponized social media. They have weaponized the First Amendment. They have weaponized civic discourse. And they have weaponized, most of all, politics.” In her debut NYT column, Kara Swisher reflects on how social media became something so different from what everyone in Silicon Valley thought we were building. The Expensive Education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley. Here’s my take: In general, the tech industry is plagued by the idea that people who are experts on one thing (building really viral, social products) are, by extension, also experts on everything else. Every major social network has been afraid to admit one thing: We don’t know how to fix this by ourselves. We need the community to help. We the people are not just “users.” We are Twitter. We are Facebook. We’re deeply invested in keeping these networks from either being ruined or ruining us.

+ “The company’s singular focus on ‘connecting people’ has allowed it to conquer the world, making possible the creation of a vast network of human relationships, a source of insights and eyeballs that makes advertisers and investors drool. But the imperative to ‘connect people’ lacks the one ingredient essential for being a good citizen: Treating individual human beings as sacrosanct.” Nikhil Sonnad in Quartz: Everything bad about Facebook is bad for the same reason.

+ Why are we spending so much time talking about tech companies? Two reasons: First, this is where we live now. Second, as evidenced by Apple’s trillion dollar valuation, we’ve entered an era when a very small number of companies have a very big reach into everything from our psyches to our pocketbooks (which they’ve already replaced with digital payment apps). The NYT’s Matt Phillips: Apple’s $1 Trillion Milestone Reflects Rise of Powerful Megacompanies.


Give Me, Give Me, I Need, I Need

I need a quick favor: Stand near a busy intersection sporting a wearable sandwich board that markets NextDraft. If that seems like too much, just take a couple seconds and help me draft some new readers. I’m a one person operation. I spend many hours a day providing this free service. And I need your help. So please select one or all of these ways to let folks know about NextDraft. News is too important to be sorted by an algorithm.


Weekend Whats

What to Know: You can’t really understand Putin and the Russia story (and by extension, the Mueller investigation, the Helsinki Summit, and the potential of collusion) unless you understand the Magnitsky Act. And you can’t understand that without Bill Browder. Preet Bharara’s two interviews with Browder should be required listening for every American. Part 1: Seeking Justice for Sergei Magnitsky. And Part 2 (released this week): Putin Enemy Number 1. Consider this homework. Luckily, it happens to be remarkably entertaining and informative homework.

+ What to Stream: I’m a huge fan of music festivals — but I usually enjoy them more from the comfort of my couch (no crowds, easy parking, roughly the same contact high). This weekend, join me in watching Lollapalooza live from Chicago on RedBull TV (they have gotten really good at these broadcasts).

+ What to Hear: Need a decent playlist for this weekend’s roadtrip? NPR has put together The 200 Greatest Songs By 21st Century Women. (And they’ve created an associated playlist on your music service of choice.)


Uncomfortably Numb

“Symptoms include behavioral changes (becoming easily startled, a reduced ability to remain objective), physical changes (exhaustion, anxiety and cardiac symptoms) and emotional changes (numbness, depression, ‘decreased sense of purpose’). It is an important framework in professions such as nursing, where over-exposure to trauma can lead to health problems for the nurses and worsened outcomes for patients. But it can and has been applied to the general population, too, especially when we are saturated with pleas for attention.” Elisa Gabbert in The Guardian: Is compassion fatigue inevitable in an age of 24-hour news? (Why do people get too tired for compassion but always have enough energy for hate?)


Landscape Contract

“A secretive South Carolina police force jailed dozens of landscapers, maids and restaurant workers in recent years after lawmakers promised it would target violent gangs, drug kingpins and human traffickers.” This excellent report by The Post and Courier is a good reminder that immigration debates that are framed as being about security are often about nothing but politics. South Carolina taxpayers pay millions for a secretive police force that arrests immigrants for fake IDs. (Every minute spent on an imaginary threat is a minute not spent on a real one.)

+ “I thought I really had their support when they said that. I thought it was going to be somehow okay, that they wouldn’t kick me out because it’s just not right, and it’s legally wrong. I believed them because I was stupid.” A US soldier honored for service could be heading for ICE custody


Nyet Profits

On Thursday, American intel and security chiefs made a show of force (to the public, and one assumes, to the president) by attending a press briefing to confirm Russia’s continued attacks on US elections. Now a bipartisan (yes, you read that right) group of Senators is pushing a tough bill that “would create new criminal penalties for anyone who targets election systems and slap sanctions on political figures, oligarchs, and others who engage in ‘illicit and corrupt activities’ on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”


Emolumental Breakfast Included

No one follows the money like WaPo’s David Fahrenthold. See where it led him this time: At President Trump’s hotel in New York, revenue went up this spring — thanks to a visit from big-spending Saudis. (It’s a problem when every suite is a presidential suite.)


Kat Fight

“Some may be surprised to learn that chocolate is a highly litigious subject. A case for Lindt’s gold-foiled chocolate bunnies failed on distinctiveness, and Poundland’s ‘copycat’ Toblerone bar, Twin Peaks, was settled out of court.” FastCo: A fight in EU courts over KitKat bars raises questions about how much a product’s shape defines its brand. (I really hope my personal shape doesn’t define my personal brand…)


Got Nuts?

“The announcement comes as the dairy industry is fighting with makers of plant-based milks, such as those made from soy and nuts, over the use of the word ‘milk.’ Last month, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb hinted that the definition of the word might be limited to milk from cows.” USA Today: Why is almond milk being recalled? Because it may contain real milk.


Feel Good Friday

I bought Apple stock more than a decade ago, so I feel pretty good about them reaching the trillion dollar valuation. But I feel even better about CEO Tim Cook appearing at the Love Loud Festival in Utah (organized by Imagine Dragon’s Dan Reynolds) and making these remarks: “I stand before you tonight as an uncle, a sports nut, a CEO, a lover of the beautiful Utah outdoors, and a proud, gay American. I come to deliver a simple message that I want every LGBT person to here and to believe. You are a gift to the world … A unique and special gift, just the way you are … Find your truth, speak your truth, live your truth … Let me tell you, Normal just might be the worst word ever created. We are not all supposed to be the same, feel the same, or think the same. And there is nothing wrong with you.”

+ “I believe that we can learn a great deal about ourselves and about life when we open up to the world around us.” An immigrant postman’s final salute to his route, NYC, and America.

+ Survivors recount chaos, miraculous evacuation after Aeroméxico plane crashes, burns after takeoff. (Shorter version: Plane crashes, no one dies.)

+ Over the weekend, a kid competing at the Far West International Championship in California won the 100-meter butterfly in 1:09:38. Why is that a big deal? It broke Michael Phelps’ record from 1995. The new record holder’s name? Clark Kent.

+ Good Samaritan Divers Help An Entangled Whale Shark.

+ Women Founded Start-Ups Receive Less Funding But Produce Double The Revenue.

+ WaPo: A 5-year-old gets new arm at the Home Depot.

+ And one for my parents, because they still friggin love the show: 11 Facts About Wheel Of Fortune You Don’t Need To Buy A Vowel For.

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