Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019


The Gestalt of Our Stars

If you're a person who has a screw loose, the internet provides a hammer. It's now easier than ever to spread conspiracy theories, whether you really believe them or not. "The internet's biggest stars are using irony and nonchalance to refurbish old conspiracies for new audiences, recycling them into new forms that help them persist in the cultural imagination. Along the way, these vloggers are unlocking a new, casual mode of experiencing paranoia. They are mutating our relationship to belief itself: It's less about having convictions than it is about having fun." Amanda Hess in the NYT: They Kinda Want to Believe Apollo 11 Was Maybe a Hoax. "The point isn't whether the conspiracy is true or false, opinion or fact, or even remotely plausible. The point is that it's stimulating." (That's the case whether were talking about moon landings, UFOs, or American politics...)


Coming of Digital Age

"Asking a few times for a photo doesn't rise to the level of what should be on the sex offender registry. Just because you have a 15-year-old asking another 15-year-old for photos doesn't mean you're a threat to children for the next 20 years." WaPo on a Colorado case that highlights how difficult it can be for laws to keep up (or keep making sense) as technology changes human interactions. A teen traded naked selfies with girls his age. A court is making him register as a sex offender.

+ Deepfake revenge porn is now illegal in Virginia


CBP Hole

"CBP officers were 'contentious and uncooperative ... They tried to restrict what we saw, take our phones, block photos and video.' Some people had been in their cells for 50 days or more, and were sleep-deprived and filthy ... Women they encountered were sobbing after being separated from their children." The day members of Congress visited detention camps on the border.

+ "At CBP, one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country, more than 100 employees died by suicide between 2007 and 2018, according to the agency itself. Morale among CBP officers ranks among the lowest of all federal agencies." The situation on the border is a lose-lose situation. (And one could safely add a few more loses without challenging that statement's validity.) Quartz: "Bodies and minds are breaking down": Inside US border agency's suicide crisis.


Plowed Under

"The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle." But you probably didn't hear about these studies. Politico: Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change.

+ Buzzfeed: Farmers Are Losing Everything After Forever Chemicals Turned Up In Their Food.

+ June was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.


Malware It’s At

"This is yet another example of why the surveillance regime in Xinjiang is one of the most unlawful, pervasive, and draconian in the world." In an investigation with The Guardian and the NYT, Vice provides a glimpse into the surveillance future (or present, in parts of China). China Is Forcing Tourists to Install Text-Stealing Malware at its Border.

+ Of course, loading software on your phone is pretty old school. Soon, satellites will be able to watch you everywhere all the time.


Mongolian Beef

"In the lexicon of power politics, sending rivals or unwieldy subordinates to Mongolia has been a metaphor for consigning them to oblivion. In Bolton's case, it's been given a blatantly literal spin. The fact that Trump's daughter Ivanka and even Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson escorted the president across the Demilitarized Zone, while the national security adviser was marooned on the terrestrial equivalent of the dark side of the moon, highlights the pink slip in neon." Fred Kaplan in Slate: Bolton of Mongolia. The national security adviser's banishment during Trump's big diplomatic weekend suggests his days may be numbered.

+ The Atlantic: How Long Can John Bolton Take This?


Tanks, But No Tanks

"Big 4th of July in D.C. ‘Salute to America.' The Pentagon & our great Military Leaders are thrilled to be doing this & showing to the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced Military anywhere in the World. Incredible Flyovers & biggest ever Fireworks!" AP: Trump promises tanks, 'biggest ever fireworks' on July 4. (Maybe Trump's 4th of July military parade should just be a bunch of guys faking foot injuries...)

+ Speaking of DC fireworks, House Democrats Are Suing To Get Trump's Tax Returns.

+ America's latest cultural flashpoint is a recalled Nike shoe called the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July. Now they're selling for thousands online. (I'll take my 4th of July without the politicization or the commercialization. I'm just going to eat until I'm bloated and complain about the humidity.)


By Hook or By Crook

"Here's what hell looked like: Hathaway was now homeless and living in a Subaru Outback in the Boeing parking lot with his 18-year-old son, Conner, who was also an addict. Hathaway says 2010 was a pivotal year—that's when Purdue Pharma LP, maker of OxyContin, changed the pill's chemistry so it couldn't be crushed into a snortable powder or heated into a vapor for inhaling. The new version had a time-release formulation; it was useless to addicts who were crashing. 'That is the beginning of the heroin epidemic,' Hathaway says." Bloomberg: Hooked. A raging heroin addiction fueled a former Boeing engineer's yearlong, 30-bank robbery spree.


Poison IV

This is not a headline from The Onion. Also, don't doubt people when they describe racism. CNN: A black hospital patient went on a walk with an IV drip. A security guard thought he was stealing medical equipment.


Bottom of the News

"Twenty years after its release, [it] enjoys the gilded status of America's second-most popular song of all time, right behind Chubby Checker's The Twist and right above Bobby Darin's Mack the Knife, according to Billboard. Its potency derives largely from the fact that it is impossible to not react to—whether with excitement, exasperation, derision, or muddled, semi-ironic affection. It was meme bait before memes even existed: the rare cultural product whose very existence morphed into a sort of provocation." Esquire: How the Santana and Rob Thomas Song 'Smooth' Became as Essential as Sex. (I miss the days when we just hated songs, not each other...)

+ An Amazon employee made an AI-powered cat flap to stop his cat from bringing home dead animals.

+ Taco Bell's first hotel may not be its last. (It seems like a shell company to me...)