Tuesday, April 16th, 2019


The Towering Inferno

We're used to watching things burn on the internet. But usually they're things like ideas, reputations, values, decency, and truth. On Monday, we gathered around our screens to watch the realtime combustion of something more concrete, something many of us had seen up close, something we felt that -- unlike the hundreds of trillions of ephemeral pixels that we endlessly hurl into the online abyss -- we were supposed to be able to protect. In an age when everything feels digital we were reminded of the unrivaled meaning of a physical, real world structure. Here's the latest on the fire at Notre-Dame.

+ The Atlantic's Rachel Donadio on Witnessing the Fall of Notre-Dame. "How could Notre-Dame, which had survived for eight centuries—survived plague and wars of religion, survived the French Revolution, survived the Nazis—be falling? Notre-Dame, the heart of Paris, not only a Catholic site but the preeminent symbol of European cultural consciousness, the heart of France, the kilometer zero from which all its farthest villages are measured—how could this majestic structure collapse so fast?"

+ The internet is covered with photos of the structure burning. But this is not just a story of wood and artifacts. It's the story of us. So here are photos of people reacting to the fire.

+ "They mounted the Leica on a tripod, put up markers throughout the space, and set the machine to work. Over five days, they positioned the scanner again and again—50 times in all—to create an unmatched record of the reality of one of the world's most awe-inspiring buildings." Alexis Madrigal on the The Images That Could Help Rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral.


The Beat Goes On

"Journalists helped change bad laws, made local leaders more accountable to keep our kids safe, and put eyes on horrific abuse and injustice in places far and near. It's all the more inspiring because it comes as journalists are under direct threat and news companies must work harder than ever to find the financial means needed to keep this vital work coming." Here's a look at the winners of the 2019 Pulitzer Prizes. (For longtime subscribers, almost all of them will be familiar.)

+ And here are this year's Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoons.


You’re as Cold as ICE

Speaking of the power of local journalism: "Immigration officials last week deported the spouse of a U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2010, leaving the couple's 12-year-daughter in Phoenix, then abruptly reversed its decision on Monday when the deported man was allowed to return to the US." AZ Central: US deports spouse of fallen soldier, quickly reverses decision.


Fuct Over?

"Brunetti, the graffiti bomber and skater who started Fuct in 1990, showed up to court in a pair of metallic gold cowboy boots and his signature wide-brimmed felt hat. (Bowing to court etiquette, he took the hat off once inside) ... The Feds' argument? That it is the government's responsibility to refuse registration of trademarks that consist of 'scandalous' material, as exemplified by Fuct. Brunetti counters that this violates his First Amendment rights to free speech." GQ: Here's What Happened At Fuct's Supreme Court Hearing.


Blow it Out Your Air

Just how bad is our plastic pollution problem? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. "Amid the rugged peaks of the Vicdessos region of the French Pyrenees, the only visible signs of a human presence are a smattering of villages and the odd hiker or skier; it is considered a pristine environment. But even here, scientists have detected tiny pieces of plastic falling out of the air like artificial dust."

+ A six-decade plankton study charts the rise of ocean plastic waste.

+ "Amid this plastic wasteland, a new bacterium species, Ideonella sakaiensis, took root. Scientists prospecting for traces of life at the recycling facility named it after the city where it was found. And in 2016, they reported that the hot dog-shaped microorganism wasn't just surviving; it was thriving." Vox: Scientists are trying to accelerate evolution to make plastics rot. A tiny new organism is showing them how.


Anxiety Attacked

"When Joseph would get scared about sleeping alone, Jessica and her husband, Chris Calise, did what he asked and comforted him. 'In my mind, I was doing the right thing,' she says. 'I would say, 'I'm right outside the door' or 'Come sleep in my bed.' I'd do whatever I could to make him feel not anxious or worried.' But this comforting — something psychologists call accommodation — can actually be counterproductive for children with anxiety disorders." (My mom and three older sisters are nodding their heads right now...) NPR: For Kids With Anxiety, Parents Learn To Let Them Face Their Fears. (In Jewish families, it's less about helping our kids face their fears and more about confirming that their fears are entirely justified.)


Resting Snitch Face

"To demonstrate how easy it is to track people without their knowledge, we collected public images of people who worked near Bryant Park (available on their employers' websites, for the most part) and ran one day of footage through Amazon's commercial facial recognition service." Sahil Chinoy in the NYT: We Built an ‘Unbelievable' (but Legal) Facial Recognition Machine.


Rock a Bye

"The story of how and why the Rock 'n Play was marketed as a safe sleeper is a depressingly straightforward tale of industry muscle and bureaucratic complicity." Jessica Winter in The New Yorker: The Life and Death of a Wildly Popular Baby Sleeper.


Scanning Ahead

"For now, the scanners are primarily used to check for pneumonia, which is a major killer of children in poor countries and is frequently misdiagnosed. But Dr. Cherniak's team has found other fascinating uses for the devices — which they deployed under conditions almost as stark and dusty as those found in battlefield medicine." NYT: In African Villages, These Phones Become Ultrasound Scanners.


Bottom of the News

An amazing photo (and event) captured in the NYT: A Crashing Small Plane Was Snagged by Power Lines, Stopping a Foot From Disaster.

+ "It can feel somehow reassuring to condemn deaths like these as foolish or self-absorbed, but that doesn't seem entirely fair. And, frankly, emerging research doesn't support that position." Outside: Selfie Deaths Are an Epidemic.

+ The Game Of Thrones cast has a helpline to help fans confused by all of the plotlines.