September 9th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

MIT gets Ronan Farrowed, the Taliban gets uninvited, and Pollen nerds are nothing to sneeze at...

Over the weekend, the leadership at MIT’s Media Lab encountered the six words they least wanted to hear: Ronan Farrow is on the story. It turns out MIT took more money from Jeffrey Epstein than we thought, and they knew exactly what they were doing. The New Yorker: How an Elite University Research Center Concealed Its Relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Shortly after the story was published, Joi Ito, the director of MIT Media Lab, resigned; proving once again that the top three drivers of job losses in America are globalization, automation, and Ronan Farrow. If you’re broke or need to feed your family, I get crossing some ethical lines. But knowingly working with a convicted pedophile to raise money for a rich school? Isn’t there enough money in the tech industry to fill the void left by not taking money from those who rape kids?

+ I admire loyalty. I think the Twitter resignation mobs are a terrible trend. I know a lot of really good people are impacted by this bad situation. But we must have some lines we won’t cross. This situation is clearly such a line. Like, really clearly. I’ll let the NYT’s Kara Swisher take it from here, as she assesses a problem that is much broader than this story. He Who Must Not Be Tolerated. “If you can’t manage to say a hard no to those responsible for the dismemberment of a journalist or to a predator of young girls, I am not sure what to say.”


Mexico Dependent

“Border arrests peaked at more than 144,000 in May, an influx that prompted Trump to threaten Mexico with crippling tariffs unless the government of president Andrés Manuel López Obrador took immediate steps to curb the flow. Mexico responded by deploying thousands of national guard troops to ramp up arrests and intercept more Central American families heading north.” WaPo: Trump officials say border crossings fell again in August, heap praise on immigration enforcement deal with Mexico.


Talibanana Republic

“Mr. Trump came up with an even more remarkable idea — he would not only bring the Taliban to Washington, but to Camp David, the crown jewel of the American presidency. The leaders of a rugged militant organization deemed terrorists by the United States would be hosted in the mountain getaway used for presidents, prime ministers and kings just three days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001.” The NYT with the pretty remarkable story of How Trump’s Plan to Secretly Meet With the Taliban Came Together, and Fell Apart. (It’s a shame Trump couldn’t meet with the Taliban. If history is any indicator, he would have loved them.)

+ “The removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.” CNN: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017.

+ “The president and his children—who declined to be interviewed for this story—have labored to project an image of unity. But over the past several months, I spoke with dozens of people close to the Trumps, including friends, former employees, White House officials, and campaign aides. The succession battle they described is marked by old grievances, petty rivalries—and deceptively high stakes.” The Atlantic’s McCay Coppins with something to tide you over until next week’s episode of HBO’s Succession. The Heir: Ivanka was always Trump’s favorite. But Don Jr. is emerging as his natural successor.

+ Speaking of the family business, Air Force leaders have ordered probe of Trump resort stays. (Trump will be the first person to use the presidency to enrich himself and still end up going bankrupt…)


What Dorian Left Behind

“It’s impossible to fully capture the devastation we see every day. We’re only about 80 miles from Florida, but the miles of rubble Dorian left in its wake have made this part of the Bahamas feel as remote as any place on Earth.” ‘Grand Bahama right now is dead’: A firsthand look at Dorian’s destruction.

+ Trump on hurricane survivors trying to leave the Bahamas: “We have to be very careful. Everyone needs totally proper documentation…I don’t want to allow people who weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people.”


Nothing to Sneeze At

“The concept is pretty simple: All plants have a unique pollen grain. Each region is made up of different plants, or the same plants in different abundances — percentages on the landscape. So every part of the world is going to have a different pollen print.” Pollen ‘nerds’: U.S. government enlists scientists to track drug loads, crack cold cases.


Tennis Anyone (Else)?

“On Saturday, in the U.S. Open final, Andreescu faced Serena Williams in front of a crowd so loud that, at one point, it compelled her to cover her ears. And still! The Canadian played like a fireball, bludgeoning strokes and fist-pumping wildly and punctuating big moments with come ons that could be heard clear across the East River back in Manhattan.” The Ringer: The US Open Gave Us a Revelation, an Iconic Champion, and a Look at the Future of Tennis.

+ This year’s Open felt like the tournament when younger players would (finally) wrest control of the majors from some of the most familiar names in all of sport. But on the men’s side, Rafael Nadal gut-tested his way to another title, and took another step towards history. (Rafa, Joko, and Roger have won 55 majors. Imagine what the numbers would be like if any one of them didn’t have to deal with the others in the same era. The record would be insurmountable. In the end, it still might be.)


Tech Bros

“The show’s most frequent listener these days might in fact be Ray himself. He said he still listens to the show ‘all the time,’ mostly to hear his brother’s voice and remind himself about times they had together. To remind himself of the jokes they shared. To remind himself of the good times. ‘I love to hear his laugh, and I love to hear his take on things,’ Ray said. ‘It’s a rare opportunity that I’ve had to still communicate with my brother that most people don’t get.'” Erik Shilling in Jalopnik: Car Talk’s Long Goodbye.


Monticello Strings Attached

“At Monticello, George Washington’s Mount Vernon and other plantations across the South, an effort is underway to deal more honestly with the brutal institution that the Founding Fathers relied on to build their homes and their wealth: slavery.” WaPo: As plantations talk more honestly about slavery, some visitors are pushing back. (The slavery pushback is about 400 years too late…)


Fandom Come

“As I walked through the hall, I found myself thinking less about the negative side of fandom than about its benefits. At its core, fandom is a love story, like something out of Greek myth; it’s Pygmalion falling in love with someone else’s statue. Like romantic love, it can range from gentle companionship—cosplay and curtain fic—to deranged obsession.” The New Yorker’s Michael Schulman on the positive and negative aspects of extreme fandom. Superfans: A Love Story. “From Star Wars to Game of Thrones, fans have more power than ever to push back. But is fandom becoming as toxic as politics? (Or has politics become fandom?)


Bottom of the News

“A man named Winter has visited at least 15,061 Starbucks locations on four continents since 1997, he claims. And what started as a quest for espresso became his ticket to the world. ‘I call it an extreme hobby.'” Oh, for peet’s sake…

+ Scientists have identified the genes linked to left-handedness.

+ An NYT photo collection: The Shifting City: Shadows of New York.

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