March 21st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

New Zealand just banned assault weapons, Trump inserts himself into Israeli elections, and the problem isn't getting into college, it's getting out.

Like their American counterparts, New Zealand politicians offered thoughts and prayers following last week’s mass killing. Unlike Americans, they followed up with almost immediate action. From Buzzfeed: New Zealand is banning military-style semiautomatic weapons following the Christchurch terror attack. I know, I know. It’s strange that obstinate New Zealand politicians seem stubbornly unwilling to wait for a few hundred more mass murder incidents before banning the weapons designed for mass murder. Places of worship were hit, but this rash move threatens to cut off the weapons supply without allowing the cycle of violence to fully run its course at malls, workplaces, and of course, schools. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explained the strategy: “In short, every semiautomatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country.” Crazy, right?

+ Vox: It took one mass shooting for New Zealand to ban assault weapons. (It took America a few hundred to ban bump stocks.)

+ Not satisfied with taking weapons of war off the street, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also thinks global leaders need to do more to address the rise of hate and role of social media platforms. “Social media platforms have been used to spread violence, material that incites violence. All of us need to present a united front … I would have hoped from all of the evidence that we have seen to date that the moral rationale for self regulation already exists and it hasn’t happened. So if what has been seen in the past week isn’t enough to score self regulation, I’m not sure what will.” (Lately I’ve been wondering … If Elon Musk can be CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and Jack Dorsey can be CEO of Twitter and Square, why can’t Jacinda Ardern be Prime Minister of New Zealand and President of the United States?)


Reality Check Comes Due

“In two internal memos, Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said the ‘unplanned/unbudgeted’ deployment along the border that President Trump ordered last fall, and shifts of other funds to support border security, had forced him to cancel or reduce planned military training in at least five countries, and delay urgent repairs at bases.” Marine Corps commandant says deploying troops to the border poses unacceptable risk. (And just like that, there really is an emergency…)

+ Vox: “Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan is under investigation by the Pentagon’s internal watchdog for allegedly boosting his former company, Boeing, while on the job.” (If you want to go from “acting” to a permanent post in this administration, you need a scandal.)


Surveillance ‘R’ Us

“Today even the smallest countries can buy digital espionage services, enabling them to conduct sophisticated operations like electronic eavesdropping or influence campaigns that were once the preserve of major powers like the United States and Russia. Corporations that want to scrutinize competitors’ secrets, or a wealthy individual with a beef against a rival, can also command intelligence operations for a price, akin to purchasing off-the-shelf elements of the National Security Agency or the Mossad.” An NYT special report: A New Age of Warfare: How Internet Mercenaries Do Battle for Authoritarian Governments. And these battles pay little attention to old borders. This lede says is all: “The man in charge of Saudi Arabia’s ruthless campaign to stifle dissent went searching for ways to spy on people he saw as threats to the kingdom. He knew where to go: a secretive Israeli company offering technology developed by former intelligence operatives.”


Tall Order

“Like the Trump administration’s decision to move the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, this will be seen as another demonstration of its unreserved support for Israel, and for Mr Netanyahu in particular.” With a tweet (what else), President Trump announced that, “after 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” (And, perhaps, to Israel’s upcoming election.)


I’d Like My Plane to Come Fully Loaded

By this point, you’re used to airlines charging you fees for extras that should probably be included in the base price. Well, it turns out that plane manufacturers do the same thing to the airlines. NYT: Doomed Boeing Jets Lacked 2 Safety Features That Company Sold Only as Extras.

+ Retuers: “The captain of a doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight did not get a chance to practice on his airline’s new simulator for the Boeing 737 MAX 8 before he died in a crash with 157 others.”


Lose Yourself

“Brian knew how to talk a person out of it. Debra, however, had thought things through. So who were we to judge whether her cognitive decline was sufficiently severe? Who were we to say that it needed to be severe for the exit to be — what, worth it? ‘She doesn’t want to lose her selfhood,’ Brian said. ‘She sees it happening.’ Brian believes that nobody wants to die, only sometimes they can’t live this way.” Katie Engelhart in California Sunday Magazine: Debra Koosed was diagnosed with dementia at 65. That’s when she decided she no longer wanted to live.


Tidal Wave

“Unlike the poppies needed for heroin, which can be spoiled by weather or a bad harvest, fentanyl’s ingredients are easily supplied; it’s a synthetic combination of chemicals, often produced in China and packaged in Mexico, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. And because fentanyl can be 50 times more powerful than heroin, smaller amounts translate to bigger profits.” The first wave was prescription painkillers, the second wave was heroin. NPR: The U.S. Opioid Epidemic’s Third Wave Begins.


Cap and Groan

Nicholas Lemann in The New Yorker: Want to Fix College? Admissions Aren’t the Biggest Problem. “No change in whom the most selective colleges admit would have a fraction of the good effect on the country that increasing the proportion of college graduates would have. What’s the barrier to this? It isn’t that we don’t have a big enough higher-education system. These days, about ninety per cent of young people have some interaction with college. The problem is that not enough of them graduate, and so they cannot reap the copious benefits that a degree provides.” (If people can cheat their way into college, maybe they can cheat their way out…)


Welter in Place

“An active-shooter training exercise at an Indiana elementary school in January left teachers with welts, bruises and abrasions after they were shot with plastic pellets by the local sheriff’s office conducting the session.”


Bottom of the News

“Though foggy weather may have played a role, the real culprit is a new checkpoint that forces traffic to merge from 50 lanes down to just 20.” China’s 50-Lane Traffic Jam Is Every Commuter’s Worst Nightmare.

+ America Vs. Adam Levine’s Nipples: All The FCC Viewer Complaints About The Super Bowl Halftime Show.

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