January 14th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The FBI thought the president might be a Russian agent. Ok, we should probably just pause there for a second...

The US government has been shut down by a guy who the FBI thinks might be a Russian operative. And we’ve arrived at an American moment where that news doesn’t seem all that shocking. But just consider the gravity of these two weekend headlines. From the NYT: FBI Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia. And from WaPo: Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration. In a normal presidency, these headlines would stop the country in its tracks. Even in a normal abnormal one, it would be pretty big news that we’ve not only learned of several examples of collusion and witnessed several acts of obstruction, we’ve actually reached a point in the saga where it seems entirely plausible that the president is a Russian agent. Trump is dismissing the insinuation, “I never worked for Russia. It’s a disgrace that you even asked that question because it’s a whole big fat hoax. It’s just a hoax.” If that’s true, it’s the most detailed and elaborate hoax you could imagine. WaPo came up with 18 reasons Trump could be a Russian asset. (I can’t even come up with 18 reasons why I could be exactly who I am…)

+ How has our national frontal lobe been softened up to the point where we can absorb reasonable suggestions of this magnitude without our heads blowing off? A good place to search for an answer is The Atlantic’s look at 50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency.


No Shut Down Comforter

“There are currently no meetings scheduled and no new proposals being traded, aides in both parties say.” This is the longest government shutdown in history and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Here’s the latest from CNN.

+ Vox: The longest shutdown, by the numbers.


Message Sentence

“Despite the Canadian’s insistence that he is innocent, his retrial lasted just a day, with his death sentence coming barely an hour after its conclusion.” BBC: China sentences Canadian man to death for drug smuggling. “Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was originally given a 15-year jail term in 2018 but after an appeal the court said the sentence was too lenient. Monday’s ruling comes weeks after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, a top official at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, on a request from the US.”


Artificial Invigoration

“I believe it’s going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind. More than electricity.” If you want to talk about the future of AI, you might want to start (in China) with the man (Kai-Fu Lee) who’s financing the most extensive efforts. 60 Minutes: Facial and emotional recognition; how one man is advancing artificial intelligence. (He’s getting some much needed assistance from about a billion other people.)

+ “Researchers have even developed artificial intelligence that can then use this information to predict the future of couples’ relationships. The AI is already more accurate at this than professionally trained therapists.” BBC: How your voice hides clues about your love life. Apparently, AI can pick up “subtle inflections in tone, the pauses between phrases, the volume at which you speak – it all conveys hidden signals about how you really feel.” (There are a lot of mysteries when it comes to relationships. Knowing how your spouse really feels is not one of them.)



“It’s also part of a wider pattern of how the stories of tech companies get told, which erases the many individuals who help to build them in favor of highlighting the ‘lone genius’ at the helm. Many of the people who fade to the background have been women.” Wired: Mackenzie Bezos And The Myth Of The Lone Genius Founder.


A Teachable Foment

“Schools are open during the strike, but it’s not clear how many students will head to classes in the nation’s second-largest school system.” LA Times: Students ponder whether to cross picket lines as LAUSD teachers strike.

+ Los Angeles teachers’ strike: 5 things you need to know.


QB Son

“His decline started in earnest a decade ago. Todd knew something was wrong when Marv started calling him Todd. For years they had called each other by the nickname Buzzy. And for years Todd had carried heavy guilt—his father had done everything imaginable to help him succeed, and Todd had blown it all. Marv’s disease affected Todd in a most unexpected way: As Marv’s memories disappeared, some of Todd’s came back. Marv had been such an overwhelming presence in Todd’s life that he needed to be diminished before his son could truly face him. Todd says it ‘wasn’t a conscious decision. But it sure makes f—— sense.'” Michael Rosenberg in SI: Todd Marinovich Is Learning to Be Human Again. (You think you’ve already heard this story. You haven’t.)


Gas Backwards

“Since taking office in January 2017, the Trump administration has announced its intention to leave the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and is relaxing Obama-era rules on emissions from power plants as it seeks to boost domestic production of oil, gas and coal.” That said, “more U.S. coal-fired power plants were shut in President Donald Trump’s first two years than were retired in the whole of Barack Obama’s first term.”

+ PG&E Bankruptcy Looms, CEO to Exit as Fire Costs Dwarf Cash.


Sitting Bully

Given the history of the country, one would think it would be impossible to further offend Native Americans. But President Trump is still willing to try. His latest effort came, as usual, via tweet. “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!” (Wounded Knee is old news. Let’s talk about Spurred Heel.)


Bottom of the News

“Every year nearly 1.5 million Euros is fished out of the famous landmark. It is traditionally given to a Catholic charity to help the destitute.
But now Mayor Virginia Raggi wants the money spent on the city’s crumbling infrastructure instead.” Rome city council and Church row over coins from Trevi fountain.

+ A picture of an egg beat Kylie Jenner for the most liked Instagram of all time. (I don’t totally understand this, but it seems like a net win.)

+ Corrections officers find stolen Rolex watches in suspect’s vagina. (Go ahead. Just guess the state where this happened…)

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