Monday, August 13th, 2018


Space Cowboy

Hey, let's use song titles for all of today's headlines...

"Stucky had piloted SpaceShipTwo on two dozen previous test flights, including three of the four times that it had fired its rocket booster, which was necessary to propel it into space. On October 31, 2014, he watched the fourth such flight from mission control; it crashed in the desert, killing his best friend. On this morning, Stucky would be piloting the fifth rocket-powered flight, on a new iteration of the spaceship. A successful test would restore the program's lustre." There's no doubt that the pilots helping to make advances in space travel have the right stuff. The question is whether the risks are being taken for the right reason, namely to take you on trip across the universe (or at least 50 miles above the earth for a suborbital flight and quick float inside the cabin). The New Yorker's Nicholas Schmidle on the ace pilot risking his life to fulfill Richard Branson's billion-dollar quest to make commercial space travel a reality. Virgin Galactic's Rocket Man.


Run for Cover

"But now, on this last day of 2016, as he cruised along the four-lane crosstown highway toward his assigned target, the markets of Baghdad al Jdeidah, he had a nagging suspicion that his cover had been blown. Every day he remained embedded with the Islamic State was another day he risked his life. Today he had been caught in a small lie, the second in a matter of months." The NYT's Margaret Coker with the amazing story of The Iraqi Spy Who Infiltrated ISIS.

+ "Mohamedou Ould Slahi and Steve Wood met in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2004 ... Wood, then a member of the National Guard, was assigned to watch the Mauritania native. For nine months, they spent their days together." NPR: A Guantanamo Guard And His Detainee Reunite.



"Allegations of anti-Semitism—committed by members, officials, and the leader himself—have been the running sore of Corbyn's leftist takeover of the Labour Party ever since, and the sense of something gravely wrong has deepened with time." The New Yorker's Sam Knight on Jeremy Corbyn's Anti-Semitism Crisis. The big issue here is less about Corbyn specifically, and more about the general European rightward lurch and the sense one gets that anti-semitism is back on the rise in the very places where it did so much damage just decades ago. And this is happening at a moment when America's leadership role on issues such as these has almost entirely flatlined.


Voices Carry

"The termination marks a remarkable downfall for Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the bureau who investigated Russian spies, defense officials accused of selling secrets to China and myriad other important cases. In the twilight of his career, Strzok was integral to two of the bureau's most high-profile investigations: the Russia case, and the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state." FBI agent Peter Strzok has been fired over anti-Trump texts. (I'd like to see the text messages Stzrok is sending today...)

+ Meanwhile, the Omarosa tapes keep coming. In the latest track, the president seems surprised to learn that his former co-star had been fired: "Omarosa? Omarosa what's going on? I just saw on the news that you're thinking about leaving? What happened?" (That's a hell of a long way from, "You're fired.") As you might imagine, once the second tape was released, tweets ensued.


We Are Family

"I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, who is an educated man and well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family's life in this country." David Glosser in Politico: Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I'm His Uncle.

+ Aurora parents fighting to stop legally adopted 4-year-old daughter from being deported. (Feel safer?)


Something in the Way She Moves

"The way you press, scroll and type on a phone screen or keyboard can be as unique as your fingerprints or facial features. To fight fraud, a growing number of banks and merchants are tracking visitors' physical movements as they use websites and apps. Some use the technology only to weed out automated attacks and suspicious transactions, but others are going significantly further, amassing tens of millions of profiles that can identify customers by how they touch, hold and tap their devices." (It's all about perspective. On the same day last week, my kids made fun of me for how slowly I text and my mom complimented me on how fast I text.) NYT: Banks and Retailers Are Tracking How You Type, Swipe and Tap. (Today, this tracking is to protect you. Tomorrow, who knows...)

+ "If you're going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,' then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off. That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have." Google has a different position. According to AP. Google tracks your movements, like it or not. (Google probably thinks I left my phone on the couch in like 2012...)


Killing Me Softly

They "began to feel truly unwell and had to put themselves down on a bench, where they drifted in and out of consciousness, slumped over and gesturing strangely. Passersby assumed they were high. At a quarter to four, the cathedral clock sounded again. The Skripals' pupils had shrunk, and they were sweating. They were foaming at the mouth. An off-duty nurse was the first to attend them, and a small crowd gathered. At 4:15 P.M., an ambulance was called, come quickly, forthwith." GQ: Inside the Poisoning of a Russian Double Agent.


The Tide is High

"It sits on swampy land, the Java Sea lapping against it, and 13 rivers running through it. So it shouldn't be a surprise that flooding is frequent in Jakarta and, according to experts, it is getting worse. But it's not just about freak floods, this massive city is literally disappearing into the ground." BBC: Jakarta is the fastest sinking city in the world. It's also home to about 10 million people. (Still, we can't be entirely sure that climate change is re... blub, blub, blub...)


Sweet Child o’ Mine

Let's say stories across the entire animal kingdom were given the same weight as stories about humans, and the media covered them all. First, there's a pretty high likelihood that Omarosa wouldn't be on the front page today. And I'm guessing, this would be the week's top story. A Grieving Orca Has Finally Let Go Of Her Dead Calf After Carrying It For 17 Days. (This headline could have just as easily been Heartbreaker...)


Bell Bottom of the News

"He fixed his teeth years ago; he's in better shape than ever. And so, we are left to search for other ways to keep track of Cruise's allegedly advancing years. Thankfully, the release of his latest summer blockbuster has resurfaced one of the surest methods: comparing him to his old scenemate Wilford Brimley."

+ This guy has a pretty good arm.

+ Trump's diplomatic learning curve: Time zones, Nambia and Nipple.

+ "The device is essentially a box with an opening in the front and a floral display on top containing straw which transforms into compost for use in parks and gardens." Paris residents peeved at eco-friendly urinals.

+ "As researchers seek new audiences for their findings, they're busting out of basement laboratories and stuffy hotel ballrooms and infiltrating the playgrounds where today's curious, creative minds gather." Why scientists are infiltrating music festivals. (Luckily for scientists, the MDMA and weed at festivals has gotten so strong that people in the science tent thought they were watching a Velvet Underground cover band...)