Thursday, August 29th, 2019


Photo Ops and Robbers

"The mission has always been making the neighborhood safer. We've had a lot of success in terms of deterring crime and solving crimes that would otherwise not be solved as quickly." So said said Eric Kuhn, the general manager of Neighbors, Ring's crime-focused companion app, as he explained why the growing partnership between Amazon's Ring and local police departments is a good thing. In some ways, it probably is. But it's also another sign of the forces driving us towards becoming a surveillance society, and the increasingly government-like role of big tech. I spend a lot of time worrying about the the role of technology, but when I heard my neighbors installed a couple of industrial grade cameras along the routes approaching my block, it made me happy. And there's the rub. WaPo: Doorbell-camera firm Ring has partnered with 400 police forces, extending surveillance concerns. (Big tech companies may not be able to police themselves. But that doesn't mean they can't police us.)


Methane Gasbag

"The rollback is particularly notable because major energy companies have, in fact, spoken out against it — joining the ranks of automakers, electric utilities and other industrial giants that have opposed other administration initiatives to dismantle climate-change and environmental rules." NYT: EPA to Roll Back Regulations on Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas. "Erik Milito, a vice president at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing the oil and gas industry, praised the new rule, saying, 'We think it's a smarter way of targeting methane emissions.'" (OK, phew.)


Mass Shooting (In Slow Motion)

I want to report a series of shootings that has taken the lives of 13 kids, including 3-year-old Kennedi Powell, 8-year-old Jurnee Thompson, and Xavier Usanga, "a 7-year-old who died after a bullet pierced his throat while he was playing with his sisters in their backyard." You probably haven't heard about these murders. And, across all of the cases, the police have only arrested one suspect. Buzzfeed: Black Kids In St. Louis Are Getting Shot And Killed So Often, Police Are Offering $100,000 To Help Solve Cases. (That reward offer is the first thing that got the attention of the rest of the country.)

+ Vox: Black children are being killed in St. Louis. Their deaths are going unsolved.


Passing Notes

From NPR: "Former FBI Director James Comey violated official policy in the way he handled his memos describing his exchanges with President Trump, an investigation concluded — but Comey won't be charged." Total exoneration!


Out of the Shadows

"Leaders on all sides say they do not want an all-out war, but the accelerating pace of violent strikes, often with cheap drones and other covert technologies, has raised the possibility that even a minor attack could spiral into a larger conflict. And public taunting, saber-rattling and domestic politics are all contributing to an atmosphere of volatility and brinkmanship." NYT: The Israel-Iran Shadow War Escalates and Breaks Into the Open.

+ NYT: U.S. Cyberattack Hurt Iran's Ability to Target Oil Tankers. (It turns out America's cyber strategies go beyond the tweets...)


James and the Giant Peach

"That afternoon, Mattis called John Kelly, the former Marine general who was then nearing the end of his calamitous run as Trump's chief of staff. 'I need an hour with the boss,' Mattis said. The next day, he met Trump in the Oval Office. Mattis made his case for keeping troops in Syria. Trump rejected his arguments. Thirty minutes into the conversation, Mattis told the president, 'You're going to have to get the next secretary of defense to lose to ISIS. I'm not going to do it.' He handed Trump his resignation letter, a letter that would soon become one of the most famous documents of the Trump presidency thus far." The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg on James Mattis. The Man Who Couldn't Take It Anymore. (There goes my memoir title...) What's amazing about this and all Mattis interviews is his unwillingness to unload on his former boss, or anyone else. He may have been a great military man. But he's gonna suck at Twitter.


Israelites, Camera, Action

"Americans like to think of ourselves as being at the center of the universe, with Hollywood serving as a giant air freshener spraying our pop-cultural essence all over a grateful globe. But the transmission has long worked in the other direction too, with the U.S. entertainment industry adapting work from other countries." And these days, American producers (and audiences) are loving shows adapted from Israel. Vanity Fair: Why Israeli TV Is Irresistible to American Producers.

+ "Los Angeles, she is told repeatedly there are things you should do and should not do if you want to make it in Hollywood. Don't be a contrarian. Don't be a tough sell. Don't wear your hair natural; it only makes you look dated. Try doing stand-up. Do stuff that's more marketable, more mainstream, or else people in the Midwest won't like it." The always interesting Rosecrans Baldwin with the real story of making it in Hollywood (and a few questions about why anyone would want to). How to Make It in Hollywood When You're Gay, Female, and Thirtysomething.


The Edge of Glory

"I'd often heard this kind of language—the vocabulary of addiction—not just in the climbing world but among many who pursue dangerous activities like BASE jumping, wingsuiting, ski mountaineering, big-wave surfing, and so on. I marveled at the power of such pursuits to override our hardwired instinct for self-preservation. How close one needed to stand—or fly, or ski, or surf—to their own mortality was, to me, a question of infinite fascination with no correct answer." Nick Heil in Outside: The Tragedy on Howse Peak.


Legal Zoom

"When she found a job listing on Craigslist for a Spanish-speaking paralegal, she applied immediately. She landed an interview, where she was told the firm needed someone to communicate with a client in a big upcoming case. Once Colón Miró got the job, she finally asked who the defendant was." NYMag: The 26-Year-Old Defense Attorney Whose First Two Clients Were El Chapo and Jeffrey Epstein.


Bottom of the News

"Cold cereal has remained America's favorite breakfast food for decades not because of its health benefits, but rather because of its price (cheap), taste (sweet), and appeal among a very picky group of consumers (kids). It doesn't hurt that it's also extremely easy to prepare, requiring only a bowl, spoon, and milk — and even those are mostly optional." But now the health fads are coming for breakfast. The newest cereals are hip, expensive, and keto-friendly. (I've always been less likely to count calories and more likely to count chocula...)

+ "She was the first foreign photographer allowed to take pictures of Soviet industry, she was the first female staff photographer for LIFE magazine and made its first cover photo, and she was the first woman allowed to work in combat zones in World War II. Gathered here, a small collection of the thousands of remarkable images she made over a lifetime." Amazing collection: The Photography of Margaret Bourke-White.