August 8th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

When did things go wrong? Plus, America's soldiers fighting a forever war, and Magic Leaps into reality.

Why does it feel like things in America are so bad, even though, by several measurements, things are going reasonably well? In NY Mag, Frank Rich says our woe can be traced back to the 2008 bust. It was then, he argues, that America Stopped Believing in the American Dream. “The shadow it would cast is so dark that a decade later, even our current run of ostensible prosperity and peace does not mitigate the one conviction that still unites all Americans: Everything in the country is broken. Not just Washington, which failed to prevent the financial catastrophe and has done little to protect us from the next, but also race relations, health care, education, institutional religion, law enforcement, the physical infrastructure, the news media, the bedrock virtues of civility and community. Nearly everything has turned to crap, it seems, except Peak TV.” (So maybe the right move is just to binge watch shows until things seem better?)


Word Problem

“A typical little boy can think he’s better at math than language arts. But a typical little girl can think she’s better at language arts than math. As a result, when she sits down to do math, she might be more likely to say, ‘I’m not that good at this!’ She actually is just as good (on average) as a boy at the math — it’s just that she’s even better at language arts.” Barbara Oakley in the NYT: Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later. (My daughter is working with two math teachers this summer. I’ll report back when she thanks me for that…)


Brothers in Arms (at Arm’s Length)

“On one matter there can be no argument: The policies that sent these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not succeeded. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars did not achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the generals in command. Astonishingly expensive, strategically incoherent, sold by a shifting slate of senior officers and politicians and editorial-page hawks, the wars have continued in varied forms and under different rationales each and every year since passenger jets struck the World Trade Center in 2001. They continue today without an end in sight, reauthorized in Pentagon budgets almost as if distant war is a presumed government action.” CJ Chivers with a tour de force on America’s War Without End: The Pentagon’s failed campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan left a generation of soldiers with little to fight for but one another.


Labor Pains

What makes the opioid crisis so much different from past drug scourges? In a word: Prescriptions. Consider this stat: “Construction workers, farmers, fishermen, and others employed in workplaces where injury is common die of opioid overdoses at rates five or six times greater than the average worker.” Boston Globe: Study links opioid deaths to workplace injuries.


Golden State

“Even for a region accustomed to fire, the continuing wildfire siege has proven unprecedented.” California and the era of megafires.

+ “We fuel them. We build next to them. We ignite them.” Vox: California’s wildfires are hardly natural.

+ Photos capture fury and peril of the California fires.


VA VA Voom…

“From a thousand miles away, they have leaned on VA officials and steered policies affecting millions of Americans. They have remained hidden except to a few VA insiders, who have come to call them ‘the Mar-a-Lago Crowd.'” ProPublica: The Shadow Rulers of the VA. (Even by today’s standards, this is a hell of a weird story.)


Poison Control

“The Trump administration is hitting Russia with new sanctions punishing President Vladimir Putin’s government for using a chemical weapon against an ex-spy in Britain.” Like all stories about the Trump administration and Putin, this one comes with a fair share of intrigue.

+ China to ignore Trump sanctions, continue doing business with Iran. (Someone tell Pentagon and State Department to prepare the president’s twitter…)


Mind Goggling

Magic Leap is releasing its first product this week. For most companies, that is the beginning of the public story. But for Magic Leap, the saga already has more chapters than Game of Thrones. The initial question was whether the world could ever catch up to Magic Leap. Today, the question is whether Magic Leap can ever catch up to its own marketing. Wired’s Jessi Hempel takes you inside Magic Leap’s quest to remake itself as an ordinary company (with a real product).


What Elon Strange Trip It’s Been

“Less than 24 hours after stunning Wall Street by tweeting that he might take Tesla Inc. private, six of the company’s directors confirmed that he’d indeed raised the possibility with the board. But the announcement did little to quiet the growing skepticism surrounding Musk’s proposal” Bloomberg on Elon Musk’s plan to take Tesla private, that all started with a random tweet. (Musk should leave Tesla public and take his Twitter account private…)

+ Tesla Could Win Big Even If Elon Musk’s New Plan Flops (as long as a stock price bump wasn’t the goal of the new “plan” in the first place.)


Bottom of the News

“The study found that men and women both pursued partners who were about 25 percent more desirable than they themselves were. And they tended to write longer messages the more desirable the person they were writing to.” A study finds that people tend to aspire to date someone out of their league.

+ What’s in This?: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

+ iPhone photo award winners.

+ Two words: Bear Cam.

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