February 25th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Going gaga for Gaga, the power of a living wage, Trump and Kim 2, and the horrors of content moderation.

The Academy Awards opened with a gay icon being honored, and featured international movies, black superheroes, a record number of female awards, a celebration of immigrants, and commercials in Spanish. It’s too late for Trump’s wall. America is already awesome. And the hostless Oscars telecast was pretty decent too. Here’s a rundown of all the winners, and Buzzfeed’s guide to everything you missed.

+ The show’s highlight was the duet that pretty much everyone watching would’ve liked to make a threesome. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga dug deep for Shallow. Lady Gaga performing while sitting behind a piano is as excellent as entertainment gets. She’s an otherworldly talent.

+ Of course, there were some snubs and surprises. The biggest one was the selection of Green Book as Best Picture, which upset a lot of people. Those people have been given voice by the LA Times’ Justin Chang. “Peter Farrelly’s interracial buddy dramedy is insultingly glib and hucksterish, a self-satisfied crock masquerading as an olive branch. It reduces the long, barbaric and ongoing history of American racism to a problem, a formula, a dramatic equation that can be balanced and solved. Green Book is an embarrassment; the film industry’s unquestioning embrace of it is another.”

+ I haven’t seen Green Book (although, this is the internet, so that certainly doesn’t preclude me from having an opinion), but I have queued up Smithsonian Channel’s documentary highlighting the real Green Book. Speaking of documentaries, this year’s lineup was excellent. Free Solo took home the top prize, even though Alex Honnold (the guy who actually free-climbed El Capitan) didn’t get a trophy or a turn to speak.

+ The night’s biggest surprise was Olivia Colman’s win over Glenn Close for best actress. Whoever gave Colman the wrap-up signal should be the next target of Bob Mueller’s investigation. If her speech went on for five hours, it would have been fine.

+ Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won best animated feature. (It was my favorite Superhero movie so far, including Black Panther.) Here’s a short video on what what makes the animation of Spider-verse so spectacular. “It took animators one week to make one second of footage.”

+ Alfonso Cuaron took home Best Director for Roma. That means five of the last six directing Oscars have gone to a Mexican filmmaker. (Seriously, forget the wall, build a giant movie screen on the border.)

+ Finally, here’s a look at the evening in photos and all the looks from the red carpet.


The Wage of Reason

It “is an antidepressant. It is a sleep aid. A diet. A stress reliever. It is a contraceptive, preventing teenage pregnancy. It prevents premature death. It shields children from neglect.” It’s also one of many ways to address the growing economic divide that is driving global politics and quickly becoming a core issue in the 2020 US presidential election. The NYT Mag’s Matthew Desmond the broad reaching impact of turning the minimum wage into a living wage. Dollars on the Margin.


Spurs of the Moment

“I’m not in a rush. I don’t want to rush anybody. I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.” This week brings the second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, this time in Hanoi. Expectations have been tempered. But as WaPo reports, the bizarre declarations of affinity (and even love) have continued. Trump and Kim shower praise, stroke egos on path to nuclear negotiations. (Give Kim Jong Un some credit. He’s getting Trump to to go to Vietnam. The American government tried but failed to do so several times.)


Mike Drops In

“Pence’s appearance before the Lima Group comes two days after a U.S.-backed effort to deliver humanitarian across the border from Colombia ended in violence.” After a weekend of violence and (still) blocked humanitarian aid, Mike Pence is meeting with Venezuela’s opposition leader in Bogota to discuss ways to oust Maduro.

+ “Throughout the weekend, Maduro remained defiant in his refusal to give up power. Surrounded by a crowd of thousands of loyal supporters in Caracas, he took the stage and began salsa dancing with his wife. The event was televised nationally.” Vox: The last 48 hours in Venezuela news, explained.

+ The New Yorker: An unflinching photographic view of Venezuela in crisis.


Everything in Moderation

“Team leaders micromanage content moderators’ every bathroom and prayer break; where employees, desperate for a dopamine rush amid the misery, have been found having sex inside stairwells and a room reserved for lactating mothers; where people develop severe anxiety while still in training … it’s a place where the conspiracy videos and memes that they see each day gradually lead them to embrace fringe views. One auditor walks the floor promoting the idea that the Earth is flat. A former employee told me he has begun to question certain aspects of the Holocaust. Another former employee, who told me he has mapped every escape route out of his house and sleeps with a gun at his side, said: ‘I no longer believe 9/11 was a terrorist attack.'” Casey Newton takes you inside the secret lives of Facebook moderators in America. The Trauma Floor. (The dark, underbelly of the internet is a bleak place. And it gets a lot worse than offensive Facebook posts.)


Emergency Brake

“In the face of a nonexistent threat, redirecting funds for the construction of a wall along the southern border will undermine national security by needlessly pulling resources from Department of Defense programs that are responsible for keeping our troops and our country safe and running effectively.” More than 50 ex-national security officials tell Trump his national emergency is not justified.


Falls Down

“Little Falls didn’t do anything revolutionary. They just spent real money — at least $1.4 million in state grants since 2014 — on basic public health measures: limiting prescription refills, increasing access to addiction medications, and putting drug users in treatment programs instead of jail. In other words, they began treating addiction as a disease instead of a crime.” Buzzfeed: Here’s How One Small Town Beat The Opioid Epidemic.


Gene Expression

“As millions upload genetic results to AncestryDNA and 23andMe and smaller firms, many are learning devastating news. They’re not their sister’s full sibling, not related by blood to anyone in their entire family, not who they thought they were.” Boston Globe: First came the home DNA kits. Now come the support groups. (When I was able to confirm that I am my parents’ real son, they suggested I try a couple more DNA services just to be sure…)


No Sweat

Quartz: The Most Effective Form Of Exercise Isn’t Exercise At All. “Have you recently carried heavy shopping bags up a few flights of stairs? Or run the last 100 meters to the station to catch your train? If you have, you may have unknowingly been doing a style of exercise called high-intensity incidental physical activity.” (I’ve sprinted and lunged for the last Tater Tot a few times. Hopefully that qualifies…)


Bottom of the News

“As streaming services, and the notion of subscribing to a catalog of music rather than owning, takes over, we’ve lost a crucial relic from the heyday of the media player.” Why Did Music Visualizers Disappear? (With music often being played from TV screens and pot being legalized in many states, it’s definitely time for visualizers to make a comeback.)

+ Curious about cross-country flights that seem unusually short or long? The answer my friend is blowing in the jetstream.

+ Popular Mechanics with The Best Toys of Toy Fair 2019.

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