Wednesday, August 5th, 2020


Humanity Amidst the Rubble

"I was not so well-trained, but the Lebanese who would help me in the hours to come had the heartbreaking steadiness that comes from having lived through countless previous disasters. Nearly all of them were strangers, yet they treated me like a friend." The NYT's Vivian Yee survived the Beirut blast. Her piece about her experience is an homage to human kindness during disasters, and a reminder that while we're all facing the pandemic, a lot of people around the world are facing it on top of a multitude of challenges that they already faced. Walk a mile in Vivian Yee's shoes: I Was Bloodied and Dazed. Beirut Strangers Treated Me Like a Friend.

+ Beirut in state of emergency after blast as death toll rises and rescues continue.

+ President Trump told reporters that, it "looks like a terrible attack." There was no evidence it was an attack. Ammonium nitrate may have sparked the Beirut explosion. (World leaders don't listen to Trump's comments much in moments like these, but the conspiracy theorists are taking it to the internet.)

+ Photos from the unbelievable scene from Time and Buzzfeed.


The Trust Buster

He's not beating the virus. He's not beating back racism. He's not beating economic strife. But he is beating down the media. The numbers from the latest Gallup/Knight study are worrisome, especially as we've seen the cost (in lives) of not believing trusted sources. Americans Are Losing Faith in an Objective Media. They don't believe it, and yet they can't turn it off. No one said 2020 had to make sense.


Alternate Reality is No Game

"Many people feel alienated and left behind by the world. There's something about QAnon like ARGs (alternate reality games) that reward and involve people for being who they are. They create a community that lets people show off their "research" skills and those people become incredibly valuable to the community." The NYT's Charlie Warzel and Adrian Hon (exec of a gaming company) with one of the most interesting looks at QAnon that I've seen. Is QAnon the Most Dangerous Conspiracy Theory of the 21st Century? (And is the alienation that drives members of these groups an issue we can address?)

+ Excellent video on the topic: Trump, QAnon and The Return of Magic. (This a weird, confusing subject that you might feel like ignoring. But it's a big deal and the links in this section will help you understand it.)


Census Vs Them

"These last-minute changes to the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the U.S. threaten the accuracy of population numbers used to determine the distribution of political representation and federal funding for the next decade." NPR: Census Cuts All Counting Efforts Short By A Month. The pandemic makes it infinitely harder to collect important data, so we're shortening the time we'll give to collecting it. Make sense? It does if you don't want that data collected.

+ Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria: Stealing the census.

+ You can't keep up with all the cheating and criming. And neither can the inspectors general. WaPo: "The internal State Department watchdog, whom President Trump installed after the previous inspector general was abruptly fired, has resigned, the department said in a statement, marking another significant shake-up for an office sworn to investigate malfeasance and wrongdoing."


Cog Sigh

"If it weren't for their better childhood health, more favorable family background, more years of education and higher likelihood of having a white-collar occupation, baby boomers would have even worse cognitive functioning." In a reversal of a several generation trend, baby boomers show concerning decline in cognitive functioning.


Rod and Reel

Facebook's Instagram "borrowed" the Stories feature from Snap. And now they're launching, Reels, their Tik Tok clone. (They're "Like" "Reel" similar.) "Reels and TikTok are, for the most part, functionally identical, and Instagram is positioning it as such: as a place to hop onto trending memes and dances, to create goofy content, and perhaps, ultimately, to find fame." What does it look like to the world when an American president attacks a foreign-held social network, and an American social network launches a direct competitor—all in the same week?


Q Tips

"Travelers from 35 states are now required to quarantine for 14 days when traveling to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, per New York state's health department." This makes sense to me. I wish we had done more to restrict community to community and state to state movement from day one. Many islands seem to be doing well. We should all be an island now.

+ Chicago is the latest major school system to go remote learning only in the Fall.

+ Joe Biden will no longer travel to Milwaukee to accept Democratic nomination. (It turns out you're supposed to lead by example in a pandemic.)

+ NYT: Could My Symptoms Be Covid-19? (Really useful interactive guide.)


Market Makers

"A reasonable person might argue that GDP fell by about a third in the second quarter and the S&P 500 should be in synch with that. What's more, of the 500 companies in the S&P 500, about 450 of them are doing terribly. Industries such as retail, travel, energy, entertainment, dining have seen sales evaporate. Bankruptcies are piling up -- legendary retailer Lord & Taylor is just the latest -- and more are surely coming. Yet, the S&P 500, after a huge plunge in March, is up 2% this year. Market capitalization explains why." In other words, the giant companies are killing it. Bloomberg's excellent Barry Ritholtz: Why Markets Don't Seem to Care If the Economy Stinks.


The Sound of NYC

"'The truly great Pete Hamill died this morning,' tweeted Dan Barry, columnist at The New York Times. 'Newspaperman, novelist, mentor to so many, citizen of the world. I once wrote that if the pavement of New York City could talk, it would sound like Pete Hamill. Now that city weeps.'" Legendary journalist and writer Pete Hamill dead at 85 after fall.


Bottom of the News

"He said nearly two grams of heroin, two SIM cards and a memory chip were found in a small plastic bag tied around the cat's neck. But it escaped on Sunday from a prison room where it was kept." Detained 'drug smuggler' cat escapes Sri Lanka prison. (He always seemed more like a cat burglar to me...)

+ Atlanta "WNBA players are wearing 'Vote Warnock' T-shirts to games this week to support Rev. Raphael Warnock." Why is this news? He's running against their team's owner. (Is this what we call a party foul?)

+ "First came the bike rush, which caused shortages that began in March and have extended, for some brands, into next year. Next to run low were kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. Soon, running shoes were picked over. Sales at outdoor retailers were up almost across the board, with a few exceptions in specialized categories (indoor climbing gear, for example). Next up: camping gear. In the space of a few months, outdoor retailers went from solving a marketing problem to wresting with supply chain problems." NYT: Summer Recreation? It's Backordered. (I've somehow escaped camping this summer. As I often tell people, I only sleep outdoors if I'm being chased.)