Wednesday, October 16th, 2019


The Wreck and The Wrecking Ball

Let's begin with a small, personal story that's indicative of a much broader and more urgent problem. The parents of a 19 year-old motorcyclist killed in a car wreck when the wife of an American diplomat in the UK drove on the wrong side of the road were invited to the White House. After meeting with the president, the grieving parents were informed that the woman who killed their child (and who had returned to the US to avoid prosecution) was right behind a door. "Trump, it seems, thought he could convince the Dunns to meet the woman who killed their son, and would do so by opening a side door through which she would walk. The whole scene would be captured by a pool of photographers who had been summoned for the meeting." Of course, the parents declined the invitation, felt ambushed, and in the words of the president, "they weren't ready for it." Any person with a hint of sense, decorum, empathy, thoughtfulness, logic, or decency (and I mean any of those, not all) would have known that this was a horrific idea. But no one in the White House has the guts or common sense to warn the president against acting in a way that borders on madness. That's a big problem, which brings us to another border, (this time) in Syria...

+ NPR: Trump Defends Syria Withdrawal. "They have a problem at the border; it's not our border ... they've got a lot of sand over there. There's a lot of sand they can play with." Trump explained that the Kurds, longtime US allies, are "much safer right now " and added, "They're not angels." He continued with a series of nonsensical comments, and some talking points that will sound very, very familiar ... to Putin, Assad and Erdogan.

+ Maybe you buy the talking point that this wanton betrayal of an ally and American interests is really part of an America First strategy to pull troops out of the Middle East and end the forever wars. Here's the problem: Since May, US forces have increased the in the Middle East by about 14,000. Trump's Middle East Policy Is a Fraud.

+ Meanwhile, Pence and Pompeo are enroute to Turkey to push for a ceasefire. Erdogan has rejected that notion, and so far, is refusing to even meet with them. NBC: Erdogan rejects Syria cease-fire call ahead of Pence meeting. Maybe he'll change his mind if Pence and Pompeo hide behind a side door. But probably not.


Not Copping To It

"The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1963 that prosecutors must tell anyone accused of a crime about all evidence that might help their defense at trial. That includes sharing details about police officers who have committed crimes, lied on the job or whose honesty has been called into doubt." It turns out not everyone follows that law. USA Today: Hundreds of police officers have been labeled liars. Some still help send people to prison.


Pay Dirt

"In practice, this system has made Hassenplug and other collectors the real arbiters of who gets arrested and who is shown mercy. If debtors can post bail, the judge almost always applies the money to the debt. Hassenplug, like any collector working on commission, gets a cut of the cash he brings in." ProPublica: When Medical Debt Collectors Decide Who Gets Arrested.


Putting the Joy Into Joystick

"It's my escape. I'm not disabled in video games. I have people telling me all the time how amazing I am at games." WaPo with a very cool look at how video games help people cope with disabilities.


Hippocamp, Fire!

"The brain fragment, cut from the hippocampus, looked like a piece of thinly sliced garlic. It rested on a platform near the center of the contraption. A narrow tube bathed the slice in a solution of salt, glucose, and amino acids. This kept it alive, after a fashion: neurons in the slice continued to fire, allowing the experimenters to gather data." MIT Tech Review: The US military is trying to read minds. "A new DARPA research program is developing brain-computer interfaces that could control 'swarms of drones, operating at the speed of thought.' What if it succeeds?" (I'm gonna use this excuse when I'm being distracted at home. "Kids, Daddy is controlling a swarm of drones with his mind. Ask your mother.")


The New Storm Norm

"More than 100,000 rescue workers are still combing through flooded and damaged areas of central Japan after it was struck by Typhoon Hagibis, the most powerful storm to hit the area in more than 60 years." This massive storm didn't get much play in American news sources. Are we getting used to the new normal of natural disasters? Hard to get used to seeing images like these from In Focus.


Inmate Running Asylum

"Asylum officers who do this work are the ones tasked with applying it. We are the hands-on agents of this policy, and I don't know of any asylum officers who think it is the right thing to do." Buzzfeed: Asylum Officers Are Urging a Court To Strike Down Trump's Asylum Ban and Saying It "Rips At The Moral Fabric Of Our Country."


Hearing A Tree Fall in the Forest

"Used cellphones, powered by solar panels, upload audio data. It is analyzed in real time by artificial-intelligence software capable of distinguishing the sounds of chain saws, logging trucks and other telltale audio signatures of illegal activity. The software then sends rangers instant alerts, through a specialized app that, in theory, could help them make arrests." As the stakes rise, people are finding creative new ways to keep others from deforesting. NYT: Using Old Cellphones to Listen for Illegal Loggers.


Receiver Gives

"If her son scores, she explains, her daughter will help her stand up and lean over the barrier so she can accept the football from Hopkins. This ritual serves as a reminder that, while she can't see her son, he still sees her -- and he wants the world to see her too. 'I've not always been your typical role-model mother, and he still respects me enough to let everybody see him give me that ball,' she says. 'That ball symbolizes so much more than people ever could understand.'" ESPN's Mina Kimes on Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins who says he owes his career to his mom. The Unbreakable Bond.


Bottom of the News

"It's a reminder of a time when we weren't surrounded by the internet, and instead had to invite it in—and that rush of anticipation when you could hear it coming." Quartz: A series of mysterious bleeps and bloops defined the early days of the internet. This is what they meant.

+ Wildlife photographer of the year 2019 winners.

+ Stop, you can't pop: Prosecco Pringles seized in Italy.