March 20th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Mickey's less Mini than ever, nothing is rotten in Denmark, and the whitewashing of the white nationalism threat.

The internet promised the dawning of a new era of decentralized content. But as has been the case with so many of the internet’s promises, this one turned out to be a lie. Media companies keep merging and getting bigger. The latest chapter in this story is the closing of Disney’s $71.3 Billion to acquire large parts of 21st Century Fox. Ironically, one of the key drivers of the deal is Disney’s determination to compete with Netflix in the streaming wars. The Kingdom will need all its magic to pull off a win in that fight and give Mickey another prize for his mantle.

+ NYT: Disney Moves From Behemoth to Colossus.

+ “In this era of ever-accelerating media consolidation, the implications of this deal are pretty staggering — not to mention alarming to anyone who’s at all concerned about said consolidation.” Vox: Here’s what Disney owns after the massive Disney/Fox merger. (Mickey is less mini than ever…)

+ While Disney has created the biggest entertainment company, the remaining pieces of Fox (including Fox News) might be the most intriguing. Gabe Sherman in Vanity Fair: “Inside Fox, staffers believe that C.E.O. Lachlan Murdoch is likely to nudge the network in a less pro-Trump direction.” (That would take a lot of nudges.)


Almost Nothing is Rotten in Denmark

Finland, Denmark, and Norway hold the top three spots in the latest World Happiness Report. Meanwhile. the US dropped to 19th on the list, its lowest ranking ever. Researchers suggested America’s drop could be attributed to the “prevalence of addictions — including gambling, social media use, video gaming, shopping, consuming unhealthy foods, exercising, and engaging in extreme sports or risky sexual behaviors — in American society.” (I think they might be missing one other little factor…)

+ NPR in Afghanistan: Looking For Happiness In The 3rd Least Happy Country In The World.



“This disturbing international trend, in its modern incarnation, was born in the United States.” The Conversation: White nationalism, born in the USA, is now a global terror threat. Meanwhile, “while other countries have taken significant steps to identify the threat and counter it through dedicated intelligence programs, the Trump administration has cut or cancelled initiatives that were designed to combat domestic extremism.”

+ “A stubborn or willful misreading of the threat environment leads to poor management of resources and results in failure. And in this regard, I regret to say, we are backsliding terribly … Our current path is built on a false security narrative—security theater run amok. And Americans are left in a state of unbearable anxiety, seeing threats in the wrong places and ignoring others in front of their eyes.” Janet Napolitano with Karen Breslau: Americans Are Seeing Threats in the Wrong Places.


Brain Freeze

Gary Greenberg in The Atlantic: The biology of mental illness is still a mystery, but practitioners don’t want to admit it. “Some people really did emerge from an insulin coma without their delusions; some people really are roused from profound and disabling depressions by a round of electroconvulsive therapy or by antidepressant drugs. But in every case, the treatment came first, often by accident, and the explanation never came at all. The pathological basis of almost all mental disorders remains as unknown today as it was in 1886—unsurprising, given that the brain turns out to be one of the most complex objects in the universe.”


Manual Labor

“That extra pilot, who was seated in the cockpit jumpseat, correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system and save the plane.” The next time the problem occurred, there was no one to help. Bloomberg: Pilot Who Hitched a Ride Saved Lion Air 737 Day Before Deadly Crash.

+ CBS News: Doomed Lion Air flight’s pilots reportedly scoured Boeing 737 Max manual as plane went down.

+ Quartz: The FAA’s new chief will begin his job facing an audit over the 737 Max approval. “Donald Trump will nominate former Delta Airlines executive Steve Dickson to lead the agency.” (This move comes about 2,000 tweets too late.)


Bittersweet Sixteen

“The lawyer for the 16-year-old girl who state prosecutors now say was the victim attached to the mysterious plea deal given to multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein says neither he nor his client was ever informed that it was her case that ended Epstein’s prosecution.” (This is the story of stories, and it’s slowly – finally – coming out. Miami Herald: She was the victim in Jeffrey Epstein’s secret plea deal. She didn’t even know it.


Save Your Money for the Lawsuits

“It has become evident that recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work.” NPR: Sackler Family’s Donation To British Museum Is Quashed Over Opioid Fallout. (Good. Who’s next?)


Solar Flare Up

“Depending on who you ask, it’s either a dangerous eyesore that will destroy the character of rural Spotsylvania County, or a win-win, boosting the local economy and the environment.” Welcome To Spotsylvania: The East Coast Battleground For Big Solar.


The Angels Sleep with the Fishes

The Ringer on baseball’s biggest contract ever. Mike Trout Isn’t Worth $430 Million—He’s Worth Much More. “Trout will retire with more than $500 million in career earnings. He’s doing fine financially. But as hefty as his salary is, it won’t shatter the scale in the way his performance on the field does. The problem for Trout is that he’s too good to be paid exactly what he’s worth.” (Editor’s note: Same.)


Bottom of the News

David Stillman pays A Visit to the McFarthest Spot, the point in the contiguous United States farthest from any McDonald’s restaurant. I recently found the spot farthest from any Starbucks (which turned out to be in the middle of a block between two Starbucks).

+ Italian Politician who opposes mandatory chickenpox vaccinations contracts chickenpox.

+ The Truth About Wasabi. (Or, more accurately, the truth about ground horseradish and green food coloring.)

+ The Atlantic: Who Still Buys Wite-Out, and Why.

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