October 23rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

People are inserting chips into their bodies, the prosecutor trying to end mass incarceration, and Trump's caravan fear mongering.

“The chips are designed to speed up users’ daily routines and make their lives more convenient — accessing their homes, offices and gyms is as easy as swiping their hands against digital readers. They also can be used to store emergency contact details, social media profiles or e-tickets for events and rail journeys within Sweden.” NPR: Thousands Of Swedes Are Inserting Microchips Under Their Skin. (And I thought it was weird when I turned my belt buckle into a WiFi hotspot…)

+ Bloomberg: Biohackers Are Implanting Everything From Magnets to Sex Toys. “A Spanish dancer named Moon Ribas has a chip in her arm connected to seismic sensors, which is triggered when there are tremors anywhere on the planet.” (Now that sounds dangerous and unnecessary). “Neil Harbisson, a colorblind artist from Northern Ireland, has an antennalike sensor in his head that lets him ‘hear’ colors.” (It’s nuts that someone would risk their life for that.) “And Rich Lee, from St. George, Utah, has spent about $15,000 developing a cyborg sex toy he calls the Lovetron 9000, a vibrating device to be implanted in the pelvis.” (Hmm, tell me more…)


Bars and Stripes

“In early 2017, when Krasner told the six-person staff of his firm that he was running for D.A., they erupted in laughter.” Today, Philadelphia’s District Attorney is reinventing the role of the modern prosecutor. From The New Yorker: Larry Krasner’s Campaign to End Mass Incarceration.

+ “The best explanation for most of this prison binge is four decades of panic, starting with the declaration of a war on drugs in the 1970s. Voters elected prosecutors who promised to lock more people up than their rivals. They chose legislators who promised the harshest possible mandatory-sentencing laws, which took discretion away from judges.” The Economist: A 40-year prison binge has done nothing to guard Americans against crime.


March Madness

“The goal is clear: to discourage migrants from coming to the United States. Former President Barack Obama also tried to stem the flow of migrants journeying to the U.S.-Mexico border with threats of detention. He, too, discovered that deterrence policies usually fail in the face of economic distress and violence.” The Atlantic: There Is No Easy Way for Trump to Stop the Latest Caravan. (This is why more foreign aid is probably a better strategy than less foreign aid. The migration story isn’t primarily about what people are running towards, it’s about what they’re running from.)

+ “President Trump on migrant caravan: ‘You’re going to find MS-13, you’re going to find Middle Easterners, you’re going to find everything.’ I found kids on a swing set tonight.” Vice: They See Us As Animals.

+ InFocus: Photos of the Central American Immigrant Caravan. (I can’t tell if the boy in photo 13 is a gang member or a Middle Eastern terrorist…)

+ “The caravan has marked another chapter in Mexico’s complicated effort to balance threats from the United States with the country’s own domestic politics. Detaining or deporting the caravan’s members would certainly please Trump, but it would flout Mexican immigration laws and further the impression that the government is taking orders from a hostile White House.” WaPo: Why Mexico isn’t stopping the migrant caravan.

+ “Even those news organizations and journalists who brought factuality and skepticism to their coverage were inadvertently playing into Trump’s hands, merely by giving it such large doses of attention.” Margaret Sullivan: The caravan is coming! And it’s high time to calm the rising media frenzy.


Are Probiotics for Amateurs?

“Certain strains were found useful in preventing diarrhea among children being prescribed antibiotics … There’s also evidence that they may help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal condition) and death in preterm infants.” Other than that, the benefits of probiotics are mostly wishful thinking. NYT Upshot: The Problem With Probiotics.

+ The Atlantic: Superfoods Are a Marketing Ploy. (Full disclosure: Sometimes I link to a series of stories just to make me feel better about my Funyuns habit.)


Rickshaw Shank Redemption

“Reaching customers in India isn’t easy. No country is more colorfully, anachronistically chaotic. Local roads are rutted with potholes and cluttered with motorcycles, auto rickshaws, and stray dogs. Making deliveries requires Mad Max-level driving skills. Four out of five Indians earn wages in cash; credit cards are rare, and trust in transacting online has to be earned. A quarter of the population lives in poverty, and a similar proportion is illiterate.” But it’s a massive market. And Amazon wants in. “Winning here is all the more important after Amazon bombed in another immense market, China.” Bloomberg: Amazon Wants India to Shop Online, and It’s Battling Walmart for Supremacy.


Me 200

“A year later, even as the MeToo movement meets a crackling backlash, it’s possible to take some stock of how the Weinstein case has changed the corridors of power. A New York Times analysis has found that, since the publishing of the exposé (followed days later by a New Yorker investigation), at least 200 prominent men have lost their jobs after public allegations of sexual harassment.” NYT: MeToo Brought Down 201 Powerful Men.
Nearly Half of Their Replacements are Women


Cognitive Dissonance

“While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings of my life.” CNN: Justice O’Connor announces she has been diagnosed with dementia, probably Alzheimer’s.

+ “Restoring hearing with hearing aids can help slow down cognitive decline.” NPR: Want To Keep Your Brain Sharp? Take Care Of Your Eyes And Ears.


Let’s Take This Offline

“As she spoke at length about her rage and anguish, Finch conspicuously failed to mention the nihilistic Angeleno who has been widely vilified for his role in her son’s death. She goes out of her way to avoid letting this young man’s name cross her lips, even though he has become a global symbol of all that’s rotten in gaming culture. She has never tried to learn about his extensive history of using the internet to sow real-world mayhem. All she knows is that his idea of a prank randomly smashed apart her family on a frigid winter night, and that she’s been adrift in a haze of grief ever since.” Wired: It Started As An Online Gaming Prank. Then It Turned Deadly.


Undercover Boss

“How exactly did I become the co-leader of a motorcycle gang sanctioned by the Aryan Brotherhood? To be honest, it kind of happened by accident. The agency never said, “Hey, Frank, go out and befriend a bunch of Aryan Brotherhood members and help start their motorcycle gang.” I was never told I’d be palling around with some of the Ohio Aryan Brotherhood’s most notorious members. But things never go as expected when you work undercover.” How I Accidentally Wound Up Running an Outlaw Biker Gang in Ohio.

+ In this video from Wired, the former Chief of Disguise for the CIA explains how spies use disguises.


Bottom of the News

“The Sharper Image put all of its resources behind the machine, taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of magazine, newspaper and TV ads. Despite its $229 price tag, it became a smash hit. By the turn of the millenium, the Ionic Breeze was so popular that it made up 45% of all of the chain’s sales. And as it turned out, this was a huge problem.” It took a marketing genius to build the kingdom of flashy gadgets — and a $229 air purifier to take it all down.

+ This Astonishing Caterpillar Transforms Itself Into A Snake When Scared. (It should get into politics…)

+ Nasa photographs a rectangular iceberg. (Like, perfectly rectangular…)

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