Tuesday, March 19th, 2019


Everything in Moderation

In the wake of the New Zealand massacre, there's been a lot of talk about how we can better moderate the content on social networks. And that's a worthy conversation. But it ignores the tougher issues at the heart of the problem. From the NYT's Charlie Warzel: "Focusing only on moderation means that Facebook, YouTube and other platforms, such as Reddit, don't have to answer for the ways in which their platforms are meticulously engineered to encourage the creation of incendiary content, rewarding it with eyeballs, likes and, in some cases, ad dollars. Or how that reward system creates a feedback loop that slowly pushes unsuspecting users further down a rabbit hole toward extremist ideas and communities." We're Asking the Wrong Questions of YouTube and Facebook After New Zealand. In short, Warzel argues that, "the horror of the New Zealand massacre should be a wake-up call for Big Tech and an occasion to interrogate the architecture of social networks that incentivize and reward the creation of extremist communities and content." (We've had wake-up calls before. The question is whether we'll ever stop hitting the snooze button.)


Deutsche Bags

"Over nearly two decades, Deutsche Bank's leaders repeatedly saw red flags surrounding Mr. Trump. There was a disastrous bond sale, a promised loan that relied on a banker's forged signature, wild exaggerations of Mr. Trump's wealth, even a claim of an act of God." Of all of the crazy twists and turns of Donald Trump's wild rise, the most perplexing of all could be the decision by Deutsche Bank execs to do business with him when he had repeatedly attempted to dupe them; the relationship continued long after every other major bank had locked their vaults and thrown away the keys. An investigative piece from the NYT: A Mar-a-Lago Weekend and an Act of God.


Name Drop

"Mr Speaker, on Friday, it will be a week since the attack, members of the Muslim community will gather for worship on that day. Let us acknowledge their grief as they do. Let's support them as they gather again for worship. We are one. They are us." New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Vows Never To Say Alleged Christchurch Gunman's Name. (Ardern is the world's youngest female head of government and the world's second elected head of government to give birth while in office. With grace and strength, she's also the person who, in a time of extreme crisis, reminded the world what dignified leadership looks like.)


Cable Guise

"The streaming revolution, which promised to break down lots of barriers in the TV industry, is beginning to morph into something else. And what it's morphing into looks a lot more like ... traditional television." Todd VanDerWerff in Vox on a storyline that has become as obvious as the ones in the worst television sitcoms: The future of streaming is the cable bundle.

+ Deadspin: Netflix's Bright Future Looks A Lot Like Television's Dim Past.


Fire Alarm

We didn't start the fire. But we know who did. Climate change has contributed to extreme nature of several deadly fires in California. But it didn't spark them. A special report from the NYT: How PG&E Ignored California Fire Risks in Favor of Profits. "In court depositions, employees said supervisors routinely ignored their concerns about the company's use of faulty analysis and outdated equipment. The state's Public Utilities Commission, which regulates PG&E, concluded that the company was more concerned with profit than with safety." (Can the public good be left in the hands of massive private corporations that have to meet quarterly numbers?)

+ Buzzfeed: California wildfire survivors say they're living in dire conditions and there's little help. (For some, it's a struggle just to prove they owned their residence. "All of their documents were destroyed in the fire, and property inspectors have barely made a dent in assessing the thousands of homes devoured by the flames.")


The Yun and the Restless

"Aside from the organ harvesting, the homophobia, the anti-evolution ballad, and the Karl Marx apparition, the thing I found most odd about my Shen Yun experience in Houston was the hosts' explanation of Chinese classical dance." You've probably seen the ads. They're everywhere in some cities. Now, join Jia Tolentino as she steps Into the uncanny, unsettling world of Shen Yun.


African Cyclone

"Aid workers rushed to rescue victims clinging to trees and crammed on rooftops against rapidly rising waters Tuesday after a cyclone unleashed devastating floods in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. More than 238 were dead, hundreds were missing and thousands more were at risk." AP: Cyclone's huge floods leave hundreds dead in southern Africa.


Mum’s Not the Word on Measles

"Much of the media and policy conversation about the outbreak has focused on fake news and social media. If only Facebook could banish false vaccine posts, the problem of vaccine hesitancy would go away. But that narrative ignores a crucial part of the anti-vaccine problem in America today. Measles in Washington — like many recent measles outbreaks in the US — has been spreading in a particular type of community: tight-knit and traditional." Julia Belluz explains why shutting down anti-vax messaging on social networks might not be enough once word of mouth takes over. Why the Washington measles outbreak is mostly affecting one specific group.

+ The Daily Beast: Measles Rages in Brooklyn as Some Yeshivas Defy Vaccine Rule.


Whale Botching

"The trash included 16 rice sacks, four banana plantation style bags and many disposable plastic shopping bags." Shocking autopsy photos show toll of plastic waste on dead whale.


Bottom of the News

CNBC on China's new social media craze: Paying random people to shower you with over-the-top compliments. (Luckily, I'm well covered by all of your letters to the Editor...)

+ Quartz: Celery Was Once As Sexy As Kale. (That explains all the stalkers...)

+ "Faced with Wi-Fi that too often slowed to a crawl during the middle of class, Purdue University has taken a bold step to restore order to its network: It has banned Netflix."