June 16th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Negotiating with big tech, and Ranked Choice voting.

There are increasing signals that DC is preparing to crack down on big tech. The ball is already rolling via bills in progress. “The results could bring big changes to some of the industry’s best-known products, from Amazon Prime and Google’s search results to Apple’s App Store and Facebook’s Messenger and Instagram. LinkedIn and Microsoft Office could even feel the bite.” Then there are the hires by Biden administration that have included many critics of the runaway power of big tech. The latest move was the appointment of a new FCC chair. “By naming tech critic Lina Khan to chair the Federal Trade Commission Tuesday, the White House made clear it is dead serious about antitrust enforcement and other measures to rein in Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.” But reining in big tech will be less like governing corporations and more like negotiating with superpowers. It’s not just that the companies are huge financially and in terms of population, it’s that they have made themselves vital in some key ways. And the government knows that. Here’s an example from TechCrunch. Biden admin will share more info with online platforms on ‘front lines’ of domestic terror fight. From the Biden administration: “The widespread availability of domestic terrorist recruitment material online is a national security threat whose front lines are overwhelmingly private-sector online platforms, and we are committed to informing more effectively the escalating efforts by those platforms to secure those front lines.” The big platforms created the opportunity for these threats to emerge and now they’re being recruited to stem the tide because they’re the only ones in a position to do so. Big tech is too big, but breaking up is gonna be hard to do.


Rank and Phile

“Supporters of the new system hope it will have even more dramatic benefits — indeed, that it will help cure much of what they think ails American politics. They argue that ranked choice’s incentives could lead to less negative campaigning and polarization. And many of them hope it will help new ideas and types of candidates, which had been previously blocked by the two-party system and party establishments, to thrive.” Ranked Choice voting is about to get a lot more attention when NYC voters pull rank in the city’s mayoral election. And it’s “the reform of wonky activists’ dreams.” Vox: Ranked-choice voting, explained.


Vlad Handing

“That’s going to be the test. I am not sitting here saying because the president and I agreed that we would do these things that all of a sudden it’s going to work. I’m not saying that. What I am saying is I think there’s a genuine prospect to significantly improve the relations between our two countries, without us giving up a single, solitary thing based on principle and our values.” The much-anticipated summit between Biden and Putin has happened. Here’s a look at what went down from CNN.

+ AP: The Latest: Biden, Putin work through summit agenda briskly. “President Joe Biden said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to further discussions on keeping certain types of critical infrastructure off-limits to cyberattacks. Biden also said they will have additional talks on the pursuit of criminals carrying out ransomware attacks.” (Working with Putin on cybersecurity is like hiring a car thief to secure your garage.)

+ Photos from the summit, including one long-ass motorcade.


Paternity Rest

“In more than two dozen interviews with young women in Phoenix and Denver, some said they felt they could not afford a baby. They cited the costs of child care and housing, and sometimes student debt. Many also said they wanted to get their careers set first and expressed satisfaction that they were exerting control over their fertility — and their lives — in a way their mothers had not.” NYT: Why American Women Everywhere Are Delaying Motherhood. (I’ve had kids for more than a decade, and yet I’m still delaying fatherhood.)


Mayoral Compass

The pandemic era has been brutally stressful for everyone, but especially for municipal leaders who were tasked with making life or death decisions on topics that were new to all of us. Politico: ‘It was exhaustion, it was sadness, it was fatigue’: America’s mayors call it quits.


Cargo Shortlist

“Aboard the ship were nearly 1,500 containers, dozens of which contained dangerous goods, including nitric acid, sodium methoxide and methanol. In addition to the chemicals, the small plastic pellets pose a danger to marine life. ‘It’s very close to a nuclear disaster, what has happened here.'” WaPo with a very detailed examination of how a fire aboard a container ship has caused one of the worst environmental disasters Sri Lanka has ever seen.



“Excited researchers anticipate using the helmets to gain insight into brain aging, mental disorders, concussions, strokes, and the mechanics behind previously metaphysical experiences such as meditation and psychedelic trips. ‘To make progress on all the fronts that we need to as a society, we have to bring the brain online,’ says Bryan Johnson, who’s spent more than five years and raised about $110 million—half of it his own money—to develop the helmets.” Ashlee Vance in Businessweek: Can a $110 Million Helmet Unlock the Secrets of the Mind? (I’m sure the people who believe the vaccines have magnets and tracking beacons will be more than willing to wear a helmet that brings their brains online.)


It’s All Leak to Me

“Beyond those crumbs of truth, however, everything is just speculation.” Justin Ling in FP: The Lab Leak Theory Doesn’t Hold Up. “The rush to find a conspiracy around the COVID-19 pandemic’s origins is driven by narrative, not evidence.”


Web Sites

“In one area, a spider-web covered more than a kilometer along a road. Experts say the veils are created by a survival tactic known as ‘ballooning,’ where spiders throw out silk to climb to higher ground.” Spider-webs blanket Australian landscape after floods.


Bottom of the News

“Royal Caribbean International has postponed the inaugural sailing of its Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship ‘out of an abundance of caution’ after eight crew members tested positive for COVID-19, the company’s CEO said.” (The pandemic isn’t over until we stop using the phrase “an abundance of caution.”)

+ An Alabama lawmaker wants to ban critical race theory, so I asked him what it is.

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