August 17th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The northern escape route, the generals turn on Trump, Weekend Whats, and Feel Good Friday.

“We view this as our Underground Railroad. While no one is being flogged, and no one is being sold, there is this sort of modern-day equivalent of feeling like people are in danger.” Over the decades, a lot of people have traveled north through the towns in the Champlain Valley. First they fled slavery. Later they were avoiding the Vietnam war. Now, the traffic created by those just passing through has picked up once again. This time it’s undocumented immigrants looking to make it into Canada to avoid the US crackdown. From WaPo: Easing the journey north.


Spies Like U.S.

“You have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and worst of all, divided us as a nation.” Trump pushed many Americans over the edge a long time ago. But his recent decision to revoke John Brennan’s security clearance appears to have been the last straw for some very high ranking defense and intel officials. First, Admiral William McRaven (who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden) wrote this editorial: Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President. “Then, late on Thursday night, 12 former CIA directors and deputy directors released a similar statement. By coincidence, the statement was written a few hours before McRaven’s op-ed appeared.” Fred Kaplan in Slate: Spy vs. President.

+ The Atlantic: Trump’s Risky War of Choice Against the Generals.

+ WaPo: Trump has now fired or threatened most senior officials related to the Russia investigation. (Imagine the Nixon story, but instead of tapes, it’s all streamed in real time. That’s the Trump story.)


Weekend Whats

What to Binge: I can’t stop watching HBO’s Succession. Think Billions meets Fox News meets Game of Thrones meets the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster. It’s a fun show that keeps getting more fun throughout its first season. Jeremy Strong provides an awesome lead to a excellent ensemble cast.

+ What to Movie: My kids and I recently saw the indie film Hearts Beat Loud with Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons. It’s a nice movie about a bearded, humorous, under-achieving, alt-rock loving dad who wants to form a band with his daughter during the summer before she goes off to college. (Full disclosure: This is basically the story of my midlife crisis, except I never got around to learning to play an instrument.)

+ What to Stream: At one point, the movie above pays homage to Mitski, a Japanese-American singer-songwriter and musician who has deservedly won endless praise from music reviewers. Her latest album, Be the Cowboy, just came out. Give it a spin.

+ What to Doc: “Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time.” That includes some of the earliest work by Aretha Franklin. This is a great time to watch this excellent documentary that provides a glimpse into American music history, and serves as a reminder that the race story we see in Trump-era headlines isn’t the only race story there is. Watch Muscle Shoals.


Carb Load

“Low-carb diets, such as Atkins, have become increasingly popular for weight loss and have shown promise for lowering the risk of some illnesses.
But a US study over 25 years indicates that moderate carb consumption – or switching meat for plant-based protein and fats – is healthier.” BBC: Low-carb diets could shorten life, study suggests. (Full disclosure: I’m a vegetarian and I own this shirt…)


Mystery Meet

“I was with one of the greatest companies in the world. The chief executive officer. Very short while ago. And it really affects him. He said ‘You know what, this does affect our company. But, Mr. President, keep going. You’re doing the right thing.'” What company was that? Who was the president talking to? You’ll never know. Mostly because the person probably doesn’t exist. Bloomberg: Trump’s Speeches Feature Mystery Men the White House Won’t Name.


Gender Role With the Punches

“Physical ruin is part of this job description, and for the remaining weekend after Lit Up, Tracy Williams’ open palm strike — the evidence of a man physically beating up a woman while an accepting crowd looked on — will burn a deep crimson on Kimber Lee’s back. Depending on your vantage point, that handprint is either a token of honor and, perhaps, progress — or a radioactive badge of shame, nothing but spectacle masked as progress.” ESPN’s Hallie Grossman on the Equal Fights Movement. (Or what we learn from attending an intergender big time wrestling match…)

+ Eater: The End of ‘Ladies First’ Restaurant Service.


Name Dropping

“In a reversal of years of branding and more than a century of colloquial use, the religion commonly known as the Mormon Church has asked that people stop using the word ‘Mormon’ when referring to the faith.” What caused the Church to make a change to a brand they’ve been actively building in recent years? According the faith’s leader, President Russell Nelson, “the Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church … we have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will.” (I predict this will go over about as well as the time Radio Shack tried to rebrand as the The Shack…)


Make It Til You Fake It

“Photo fakery is far from new, but artificial intelligence will completely change the game. Until recently only a big-budget movie studio could carry out a video face-swap, and it would probably have cost millions of dollars. AI now makes it possible for anyone with a decent computer and a few hours to spare to do the same thing. Further machine-learning advances will make even more complex deception possible—and make fakery harder to spot.” In MIT Tech Review, Will Knight shows just how easy it is to use AI to make “real fakes.” If you think truth is elusive now, just wait. Fake America Great Again.


Fish, Tail

“What city life does to fishing cats’ brains is one of many factors that will determine the fate of Ratnayaka’s unwitting urban pioneers. But untangling its influence requires wildlife researchers to confront one of the most daunting questions in cognitive science: What is the definition of intelligence?” Yes, that says fishing cats. From The Atlantic: Are Cities Making Animals Smarter?


Feel Good Friday

“In the field of medicine, schools have become worried that students saddled with steep debt are increasingly pursuing top-paying specialties rather than careers in family medicine, pediatrics and research.” Well, this should help. NYT: Surprise Gift: Free Tuition for All NYU Medical Students.

+ Ariana Grande joined The Roots for a last-minute tribute to Aretha. Natural Woman. “Grande originally said she was too emotional to sing, as Franklin was one of her heroes.”

+ Michigan girls escape kidnap attempt by fighting, throwing hot coffee on suspect

+ Hero uses a 12-pack of Coors Light to talk suicidal man off highway overpass.

+ How one kid stopped the contamination of a river.

+ The three-year-old with an IQ of 171.

+ A teacher battling cancer ran out of sick days. School employees showered him with theirs.

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