Wednesday, December 12th, 2018


Was Blind But Now I Plea

"My weakness could be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump." So said Michael Cohen in the courtroom where a judge sentenced him to three years in prison for crimes committed while working for Trump. It's the latest chapter in a remarkable turnaround for a guy who once said he'd take a bullet for his boss. Several months ago, Michael Cohen said that his turning point was when his dad told him that he didn't survive the Holocaust to have his name sullied by Trump. I don't believe much. But I believe that. And if my mom or dad said something like that to me, I'd do three years to avoid having them be ashamed. (Of course, if I worked for Trump, my parents would probably put the cuffs on me themselves.)

+ "We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well." NBC: Incoming New York attorney general plans wide-ranging investigations of Trump and family. (That oughta keep her busy...)

+ Trump Says 'the People Would Revolt' If He Were Impeached. (Too late, we're already revolted.)


Hell Fent on Destruction

"There's never been a drug like fentanyl before. For street drugs, this absolutely destroys anything else in terms of lethality and danger." Bloomberg: This Killer Opioid Could Become a Weapon of Mass Destruction. "It would take only 118 pounds of fentanyl to kill 25 million people."

+ CNN: Fentanyl is the deadliest drug in America.

+ "Yan is the first Chinese national the U.S. has ever added to its 'consolidated priority organization target' list of individuals thought to command the world's most prolific drug-trafficking and money-laundering networks ... But if Yan doesn't resemble a stereotypical drug lord, neither is fentanyl your average drug." Bloomberg: Deadly Chinese Fentanyl Is Creating a New Era of Drug Kingpins.


American Horror Story

Eighty-four people died in California's recent Camp fire; a number so astounding that the event dominated headlines for more than a week. Now imagine something that kills more than that many Americans each and every day. Actually, you don't have to imagine it. "The year's 39,773 gunshot deaths equated to nearly 109 deaths each day." America has a big problem. And it's getting worse. US Gun Violence Claimed More Lives In 2017 Than Ever. (Sixty percent of those deaths were by suicide.)

+ The Guardian: 2018 is worst year on record for gun violence in schools.

+ It's not just the deaths. It's also the hidden toll of gun violence: shooting victims face lifelong disabilities and financial burdens. Philadelphia Inquirer: Shot and Forgotten.

+ "Taurus sold almost a million handguns that can potentially fire without anyone pulling the trigger. The government won't fix the problem. The NRA is silent." Bloomberg: How Defective Guns Became the Only Product That Can't Be Recalled.


Machine Learning Curve

"A tug of war follows between men and computer, at 450 miles an hour — the human pilots trying to right the downward plunge, the automatic pilot taking it back from them. The bot wins. The jetliner crashes into the Java Sea. All 189 onboard are killed. And here's the most agonizing part: The killer was supposed to save lives. It was a smart computer designed to protect a gravity-defiance machine from error." NYT: The Deadly Soul of a New Machine. (Generally, machines will perform better than humans when it comes to transportation. But are we ready for the times when they don't?)

+ "The technology could revolutionize policing, medicine, even agriculture—but its applications can easily be weaponized." The New Yorker: Should We Be Worried About Computerized Facial Recognition? (It might be more efficient to list the stuff we don't need to be worried about...)

+ Quartz: Taylor Swift used facial recognition to track her stalkers at a concert.


Bail to the Chief

"Among conditions of her bail, the 46-year-old executive must wear an ankle monitor and stay at home from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Five friends pledged equity in their homes and other money as a guarantee she will not flee." Canada frees CFO of China's Huawei on bail. Trump says he might intervene in the case if it would benefit the trade deal. (Editor's note: That's not exactly the way the law is supposed to work. And Trump's not exactly the guy you want testifying on your behalf right about now...)


Internal Bleeding

"An eight-year campaign to slash the agency's budget has left it understaffed, hamstrung and operating with archaic equipment. The result: billions less to fund the government. That's good news for corporations and the wealthy." A special report from ProPublica: How the IRS Was Gutted.

+ Who's More Likely to Be Audited: A Person Making $20,000 — or $400,000? (Or, "how a benefit for the working poor was turned against them...")


May Be? Maybe Not.

"The UK prime minister made a last-minute appeal for support at an emotional meeting of backbench MPs. She told them she will not lead the party into the next scheduled election in 2022 - but wants to stay on to deliver her Brexit deal." Theresa May awaits confidence vote result as the Brexit deal fallout continues to wreak havoc.


Shower Head

The Atlantic: Showering Has a Dark, Violent History. "By the turn of the 19th century, doctors were homing in on the brain as the site of madness. So instead of plunging the entire body into water, some started directing cold showers onto patients' heads to cool their 'hot brains.'" (It wasn't until years later they realized they had to aim a little lower.)


Two Cheeks Notice

"Janitors, baristas, welders, accountants, engineers — they're all in demand, said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Ball State University in Indiana. More people may opt to skip tough conversations and slide right into the next thing." WaPo: Workers are ghosting their employers like bad dates.


Bottom of the News

You can't judge a book by its cover. But you can definitely judge a book cover by its cover. And here's LitHub's list of The 75 Best Book Covers Of 2018.

+ Speaking of design, the folks in charge of decorating the Holland Tunnel may have ruined the holidays forever.

+ A high-tech robot at a Russia forum turned out to be man in suit. (It's not entirely impossible that the man in the suit ends up having ties to Paul Manafort...)