Thursday, September 20th, 2018


The Quiet Place

"I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability." Remember that line? It was the last time we heard Bob Mueller speak. Since then, the one-hit wonder has given America the silent treatment. The lips have been zipped. He put a sock in it. Not a word has been breathed. The pie hole is officially closed for business. We usually associate keeping quiet as a tactic of the accused, or as Jimmy Conway explained to a young Henry Hill in Goodfellas: "You learned the two greatest thing in life, never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut." In this era of nonstop social media, we could probably all benefit from at least part of that advice. But as it is, silence is something you don't hear much of these days. Yet, facing a constant smear campaign, Robert Mueller has refused to respond with anything other than indictments. Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with the line: "Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence." If he said that today, a thousand people on Twitter would call him an idiot. From the NYT: Under Fire, Robert Mueller Has a Novel P.R. Strategy: Silence.

+ "For two years, Americans have tried to absorb the details of the 2016 attack —hacked emails, social media fraud, suspected spies — and President Trump's claims that it's all a hoax." NYT: The Plot to Subvert an Election. Unraveling the Russia Story So Far.


Fat Man and Little Ploy

"Since 1980, the obesity rate has doubled in 73 countries and increased in 113 others. And in all that time, no nation has reduced its obesity rate. Not one. The problem is that in America, like everywhere else, our institutions of public health have become so obsessed with body weight that they have overlooked what is really killing us: our food supply. Diet is the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for more than five times the fatalities of gun violence and car accidents combined. But it's not how much we're eating." Michael Hobbes in HuffPo Highline: Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong.

+ Related: Yogurt May Not Be So Healthy If It's Pumped Full Of Sugar.


Ford Focus

Christine Blasey Ford wants an FBI investigation before she testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has refused that request and given Ford until Friday at 10am to respond to an invitation to provide testimony on Monday. As of this morning, there was a standoff. But Ford's lawyers just sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee: "I would like to set up a call with you later today to discuss the conditions under which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford would be prepared to testify next week." Here's the latest from CNN.

+ Meanwhile, public opposition to Kavanaugh is growing.

+ Mental Floss: Why Do Supreme Court Justices Serve for Life?

+ Headline of the day (that barely stands out in our current environment): Aides quietly stunned by Trump's respectful handling of Kavanaugh accuser.


Amber Heard

"There were personal reasons, too, for my investigation. I wanted to understand why it had to be as bad as it was — why she wasn't just doubted but hated, not simply mocked but exiled — and why it had always lingered on my conscience like an article of unfinished business, something I had meant to do but hadn't. I wanted to look directly at the dark things that are revealed when episodes of brutality unfold and all pretense of civilization temporarily fades, and I wanted to understand them completely." Elizabeth Bruenig in WaPo: Twelve years ago, Amber Wyatt reported her rape. Few believed her. Her hometown turned against her. The authorities failed her. What do we owe her now?


Ticketmaster Plan

"Posing as scalpers and equipped with hidden cameras, the journalists were pitched on Ticketmaster's professional reseller program. Company representatives told them Ticketmaster's resale division turns a blind eye to scalpers who use ticket-buying bots and fake identities to snatch up tickets and then resell them on the site for inflated prices. Those pricey resale tickets include extra fees for Ticketmaster." CBC: Ticketmaster recruits pros for secret scalper program.


Dangerous Drug Interaction

"Valdez was confronted with a tough calculation. Over two and a half decades, he'd reported from deep inside Sinaloa's narco world. Traffickers speak to journalists for any number of reasons: to boast, or to confess their sins, or to expose a rival network's inner workings. Usually Valdez's sources were low down the chain of command, and he protected their identity with anonymity. But to print the words of a higher-up by name would mean raising the stakes ... In the end, Valdez chose to run the story; the information, he decided, was of great enough public interest for him to take the risk." Esquire: Inside The Brilliant Career And Tragic Death Of Javier Valdez.


Stone Cold Nuts

"For decades, seafood lovers have struggled with a confounding ethical dilemma: how do you balance out the delight of a lobster dinner with the discomfort of boiling one alive? ... One enterprising restaurateur in Maine has come up with what seems like a reasonable solution. Why not get the lobsters baked?" The Guardian: Restaurant tries marijuana for lobsters to take the edge off being boiled.

+ According to a new study, Octopuses get friendlier on ecstasy, just like humans. (But they're four times as handsy...)


Expanding the Echosystem

"In many ways, the sprawling event was a showcase of how far Alexa has come in the four years since Amazon's voice assistant was first introduced in 2014. The technology has evolved far beyond its early capabilities on the original Echo speaker." Amazon unleashed a host of new products, all of which are intended to extend the power of Alexa's reach. The Verge: The biggest announcements from Amazon's surprise hardware event.

+ "Dating has been a behavior that we've seen on Facebook for a really long time. We want to make it easier and more comfortable for people to engage in. We just thought that now was the right time." Facebook Dating launches today with a test in Colombia.


After 27 Years, A Mulligan

"It took about a hundred drawings before Golf Digest noticed, but when we did, we also noticed his conviction seemed flimsy. So we investigated the case and raised the question of his innocence." With an investigation Golf Digest helped open, an Erie County court vacated Dixon's murder conviction after he had already served 27 years in jail.


Bottom of the News

"Twitter, as everyone knows, is Hell. Its most hellish aspect is a twofold, self-reinforcing contradiction: you know that you could leave at any time and you know that you will not. (Its pleasures, in this sense, are largely masochistic.) My relationship with the Web site, which has, for years now, been the platform most deeply embedded in my daily—hourly, minutely—routine, has come to feel increasingly perverse. It mostly seems to offer a relentless confirmation that everything is both as awful as possible and somehow getting worse." Mark O'Connell sums things up pretty well in The New Yorker: The Deliberate Awfulness of Social Media.

+ With a special shoutout to my pal, Ninja Brian, here's a breakthrough moment in the all-too short story of cool things happening to cool people: Ninja Sex Party performs "Danny Don't You Know" on Conan.

+ And, a story that seems like it could one day be worthy of a Ninja Sex Party song: College Mascot Accidentally Shoots Himself In Groin With T-Shirt Cannon, Has To Be Carted Off The Field. (Wait, there's still gonna be a shirt giveaway, though, right?)

+ Four-Bedroom Home Goes on Sale in Hong Kong for $446 Million.

+ Trump urged Spain to 'build a wall' across Sahara. (Oh, go pound sand...)