Wednesday, July 17th, 2019


Ludicrous Mode

Elon Musk is in the news. He's in your Twitter stream. He's on the road in front of you. He's in outer space. He's collecting solar on your roof. There's no use trying to avoid him. Elon Musk is in your head (figuratively, for now). Wired: Here's How Elon Musk Plans to Stitch a Computer Into Your Brain: "Even in a benign AI scenario we will be left behind. With a high-bandwidth brain-machine interface, we can actually go along for the ride. We can have the option of merging with AI." (My brain merged with my Macbook Air a long time ago.)

+ This sure is an interesting juxtaposition of stories on Engadget.


Race Course

"The measure, the first House rebuke of a president in more than 100 years, passed nearly along party lines, 240 to 187, after one of the most polarizing exchanges on the floor in recent times. Only four Republicans and the House's lone independent, Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, voted with all Democrats to condemn the president." NYT: House Condemns Trump's Attack on Four Congresswomen as Racist.

+ Here's a (cold, hard) reality check: Republican support for Trump rises after racially charged tweets.


Deal or No Deal

"In addition to a police contingent, helmeted soldiers stood guard on the sidewalk outside the doors of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, holding automatic rifles and wearing camouflage." NPR: Mexican Drug Kingpin 'El Chapo' Is Sentenced To Life Plus 30 Years In U.S. Prison.

+ "Just six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills during this period: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart, according to an analysis of the database by The Washington Post. Three companies manufactured 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallinckrodt; ­Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals. Purdue Pharma, which the plaintiffs allege sparked the epidemic in the 1990s with its introduction of OxyContin, its version of oxycodone, was ranked fourth among manufacturers with about 3 percent of the market." WaPo with some unbelievable stats from a recently released DEA database. "In case after case, the companies allowed the drugs to reach the streets of communities large and small, despite persistent red flags that those pills were being sold in apparent violation of federal law and diverted to the black market, according to the lawsuits."

+ "A decline in prescriptions for opioid painkillers was the major factor for the overall drop in overdoses. Fatal overdoses involving other drugs, particularly the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl as well as methamphetamine, which has come roaring back over the last few years, continued to rise." NYT Upshot: Drug Overdose Deaths Drop in U.S. for First Time Since 1990. (The number is still way higher than peak death years for guns, AIDS, or car accidents.)


Apollo’s Creed

As we relive the original moonshot, we're constantly reminded that we carry more computing power in our pockets than NASA had in 1969. It's true. Sort of. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal: "Of course, any contemporary device has vastly more raw computational ability than the early machine, but the Apollo computer was remarkably capable, reliable, and up to the task it was given. You could not actually guide a spaceship to the moon with a smart doorbell." (Now I feel like a total ding dong...)


Let History Judge

"Justice Stevens's own explanation for why his views had changed was simply that he had learned on the job. 'I know that I, like most of my colleagues, have continued to participate in a learning process while serving on the bench. Learning on the job is essential to the process of judging. At the very least, I know that learning on the bench has been one of the most important and rewarding aspects of my own experience over the last 35 years.'" NYT: Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Who Led Liberal Wing, Dies at 99.

+ John Paul Stevens: The Supreme Court's Worst Decision of My Tenure.

+ "It seems to me that one of the overriding principles in running the country is the government ought to be neutral. It has a very strong obligation to be impartial and not to use the power to advance political agendas or personal agendas. That's just one of the most basic principles that cuts through all sorts of law." Jeffrey Rosen in The Atlantic: The Impartial Justice.


There’s No Rush

"The researchers found that sugar consumption actually lowers people's alertness within 60 minutes after consumption, and it increases feelings of fatigue within 30 minutes after eating. That means chugging a Gatorade before a run or snacking on a Twix to combat the afternoon dip is an act of futility." Elemental: Scientists argue that there is no such thing as a sugar rush.


Dame Flame Blame Game

"The first hour was defined by that initial, critical mistake: the failure to identify the location of the fire, and by the delay that followed. The second hour was dominated by a sense of helplessness ... That Notre-Dame still stands is due solely to the enormous risks taken by firefighters in those third and fourth hours." The NYT with a minute by minute look at how close Notre-Dame came to collapsing.


Slave State

"There isn't an official legal definition of modern slavery, but the UN describes it as the condition of people whose work 'is performed involuntarily and under the menace of any penalty.' Modern slaves can be coerced to work through explicit measures like violence, but also through subtler means like financial pressure, or by limiting someone's movement by retaining their identification." Quartz: There are 16 million slaves around the world making our stuff.


Let Them Stu For a Bit

"When it's your last day on the job, assuming you've worked at your job for a long time, there will probably be a toast with some sort of alcoholic beverage. You'll say a few words. Your boss will make some nice remarks. There may be some gentle ribbing. But, all in all, it's a friendly affair — if you are not Stu Bykofsky." Inside the wild farewell party for a controversial Philly columnist. (Damn, I'm glad I work alone...)


Bottom of the News

"Their paper is design-forward, made of theoretically sustainable materials, and available in more modern ways — namely, a subscription-based web purchase, sold through a direct-to-consumer model. Toilet paper is sold the same way as millennial-focused makeup, reusable straws, and foam mattresses." Vox: Disruption has come for toilet paper. (Related: The U.S. Leads the World in Toilet Paper Consumption. MAGA!)

+ Tears of joy as South Korea's water polo team score – but concede 94. (The goal came with the team down 27-0. Trust me, this is a sports highlight you want to watch.)

+ CNN: Second Mississippi gubernatorial candidate says he will not be alone with a woman who is not his wife. (Wham, bam, thank you, Graham.)