September 11th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

California goes after gig economy, the feds go after flavored vapes, and Trump goes after meteorologists.

“Hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, including Uber and Lyft drivers; DoorDash, Uber Eats, Instacart and Postmates couriers; Amazon Flex drivers; taxi drivers; translators; medical professionals; franchise owners and more, could become employees after the law takes effect in 2020.” As the SF Chronicle reports, California is close to passing a law which would turn contractors into employees, a move that could dramatically impact the business models of your favorite internet era services. “Proponents say that companies call workers independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and a range of other benefits … But opponents, who include both companies and workers, say they value the flexibility of independent contractors. Businesses … warned that adding the costs of employment could be devastating and result in higher charges to consumers and curtailed service.”

+ The move could threaten the existence of gig economy companies, some of which have business models that don’t pencil out even with the advantages offered by the current system; and instead are propped up by a bottomless pit of investor money. (Don’t get me wrong, if deep-pocketed Silicon Valley VCs want to subsidize the delivery of my kitty litter, I’m all for enjoying it while it lasts.) In other words, there’s gonna be a fight. Motherboard: Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash Plan to Spend $90 Million to Undo a Law That Protects Their Workers.


Juice Barred

Following the lead of San Francisco (though I’m not sure they’d position it quite like that), the Trump administration is taking steps to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The American Vaping Association argues that such “a ban will remove life-changing options from the market that have been used by several million American adults to quit smoking.” (It seems like adults could continue their quest to quit smoking sans flavors like Banana Split, Cotton Candy, Hawaiian Punch, and Skittles.)

+ Vaping likely has dangers that could take years for scientists to even know about.


Remembering 9-11

“In all those published accounts and audio clips, and in the interviews I conducted, one theme never ceases to amaze me: the sheer randomness of how the day unfolded, who lived, who died, who was touched, and who escaped.” Garrett Graff in The Atlantic: When the terrorist attacks happened, trivial decisions spared people’s lives—or sealed their fate. On 9/11, Luck Meant Everything. (It means a whole lot every other day too…)

+ Graff has written an oral history of 9/11. Here is a powerful excerpt from Politico: Deena Burnett, wife of Tom Burnett, passenger, United Flight 93: “It was silent, and I could feel my heart racing. [On the phone with me,] Tom said, ‘We’re waiting until we’re over a rural area. We’re going to take back the airplane.’ I became very frightened and I begged, ‘No, no, Tom. Just sit down, be still, be quiet, and don’t draw attention to yourself.’ He said, ‘No, Deena. If they’re going to crash this plane, we’re going to have to do something.'”

+ “In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion.” Tom Junod in Esquire: The Falling Man. An unforgettable story.

+ Buzzfeed: These Harrowing Photos Show The Brave 9/11 First Responders In Action.


Pain Killers

“Some states objected the Sacklers were not contributing enough cash from their personal fortunes, built almost entirely on the sale of OxyContin and taken out of the company in recent years.” WaPo: Purdue Pharma reaches tentative deal in federal opioids lawsuit.

+ A reminder of how we got here. The New Yorker: The Family That Built an Empire of Pain.

+ And a reminder that this crisis has hurt everyone it touches, including those who are legitimately hurt. WaPo: Opioid crackdown forces pain patients to taper off drugs they say they need. “Long-term use of opioids creates dependency. Tapering can cause extreme pain from drug withdrawal, regardless of the underlying ailment.”


Weather Vain

“Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly disavow the forecasters’ position that Alabama was not at risk.” It probably won’t come as much a surprise, but the pressure to repudiate forecasters who contradicted the president’s bizarre Alabama hurricane warning came from the very top. (This is what they’re spending their time on…)

+ “It’s easy to wonder how he lasted as long as he did. It may be more important to wonder why he bothered at all.” The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins on the inevitable clash between John Bolton and Trump. “Trump seems to see the global arena as a kind of supersized real-estate market, where bluster prevails, even the worst people are persuadable, and, if your adversary isn’t giving you what you want, you walk away. It’s a simpleton’s view of the world, but in this case the simpleton has a five-hundred-ship Navy and sixteen hundred nuclear warheads at his disposal. Someone has to contain him.”


Hot Pockets

“The South Atlantic blob is part of a global trend: Around the planet, enormous ocean currents are traveling to new locations. As these currents relocate, waters are growing warmer. Scientists have found similar hot spots along the western stretches of four other oceans — the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, the South Pacific, and the Indian.” We’re all watching out for the dreaded 2 degrees celsius temperature rise. But in many places, it’s happened already. WaPo: Dangerous new hot zones are spreading around the world.


Queen Be Illin’

CNN: “In his latest disaster, Scotland’s highest civil court ruled on Wednesday that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament was unlawful, leading to accusations that his government deliberately misled the Queen. That in itself might not be illegal. But lying to one of the most loved people in the country is hardly a great look for a Prime Minister already up to his neck.”


Social Fretwork

“A study published today in the journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests that teenagers who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to develop mental health problems.” MIT Tech Review: Teens are anxious and depressed after three hours a day on social media. (To save time, they should try Twitter. I can usually get anxious and depressed in under five minutes.)


Basic Training Wheels

“My name is Vivian. I am six years old. Why do you not make girl army men?” Vivian asked a pretty good question. How a 6-Year-Old Girl’s Letter Launched Plastic Army Women.

+ Buzzfeed: “The mega-popular kids YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview has been accused of tricking preschoolers into watching ads in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission by a consumer watchdog. The channel stars Ryan, a 7-year-old who has been YouTubing since 2015.” (I hope I haven’t waited to long to teach my kids how to seamlessly blend sponsored and editorial content…)


Bottom of the News

“A French company has been found liable for the death of an employee who had a cardiac arrest while having sex with a stranger on a business trip. A Paris court ruled that his death was an industrial accident and that the family was entitled to compensation.” BBC: French company liable after employee dies during sex on business trip.

+ The finalists for 2019’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

+ And a great parody from the archives: Artisanal Firewood.

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