Thursday, December 15th, 2022


Don’t Touch That Dial

A future that includes a whole lot of electric cars is finally starting to come into view. But with that advance, we may lose something from the past. Your old radio is about to get Wolfman Jacked. It turns out that AM radio is running on fumes. Tesla, BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volvo ... even the new Ford F-150 Lightning will be dropping AM radio. "Carmakers say that electric vehicles generate more electromagnetic interference than gas-powered cars, which can disrupt the reception of AM signals and cause static, noise and a high-frequency hum. (FM signals are more resistant to such interference.)" AM radio can be useful in the case of emergencies and there's still plenty of great content. AM is all right now, in fact, it's a gas, gas, gas. But only gas. NYT (Gift Article): In a Future Filled With Electric Cars, AM Radio May Be Left Behind.


Tucker Punch

"Spinning together a counternarrative for tens of millions of viewers, Russian propagandists ... latched onto claims that Western embargoes of Russian oil would be self-defeating, that the United States was hiding secret bioweapon research labs in Ukraine and that China was a loyal ally against a fragmenting West." And so far, Putin and his cronies are doing a pretty good job of keeping their own citizens in the dark. But where do they get all the propaganda? The same place Americams kept in the dark get their propaganda. Fox News. NYT (Gift Article): Leaked emails detail how Russia's biggest state broadcaster, working with the nation's security services, mined right-wing American news and Chinese media to craft a narrative that Moscow was winning. "They excerpted and translated footage from favorite pundits, like the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose remarks about the war were shown to millions of Russians. 'Be sure to take Tucker,' one Russian news producer wrote to a colleague. The email referred to a clip in which Mr. Carlson described the power of the Chinese-Russian partnership that had emerged under Mr. Biden — and how American economic policies targeting Russia could undermine the dollar's status as a world-reserve currency." (Even people who hate Fox News underestimate the damage it's doing to America and the world.)


The Grass is Always Greener

"Qatar, a desert nation not known for its verdant meadows or babbling brooks, has three main challenges: water, air and light." So how do you end up with perfect grass for eight stadium pitches and 81 practice fields? You call Atlas Turf International in Georgia. How a Georgia company grew the grass for the World Cup—and then flew it to Qatar. (This was just one more selling point to convince FIFA that Qatar was the perfect spot for the World Cup. We can't grow grass here! No worries, FIFA can always find the green...)


Talk is Cheap

"I was one of about 60 operators. Most of us were poets and writers with MFAs, but there were also PhDs in performance studies and comparative literature, as well as a number of opera singers, another demographic evidently well suited for chatbot impersonation – or, I suppose, for impersonating a chatbot that's impersonating a person." The Guardian: Becoming a chatbot: my life as a real estate AI's human backup. (Sooner or later we'll all have a gig like this...)


Extra, Extra

Peru Pall: "The declaration suspends the rights of assembly and freedom of movement and empowers the police, supported by the military, to search people's homes without permission or judicial order. Otarola said it had not been determined whether a nightly curfew would be imposed." Peru's new government declares police state amid protests.

+ The Way of the Gun: "Since the horrific murders at Sandy Hook Elementary a decade ago, America has seen hundreds more mass shootings, a sharp rise in gun deaths generally, and an alarming turn toward gun-glorifying political extremism. Yet we still depend on hundreds of laws that keep guns out of crowded public places, stop teenagers from buying handguns, and prohibit criminals from arming themselves with assault rifles. Now, because of a recent Supreme Court ruling, many of these remaining regulations are in danger of being dismantled. As bad as America's gun-violence problem is, it could be about to get much worse." The Atlantic: One Nation Under Guns. Plus, NYT: Childhood's Greatest Danger: The Data on Kids and Gun Violence.

+ Night Moves: "That trip was the first time I'd heard of the secretive units, which I'd soon learn were funded, trained and armed by the CIA to go after targets believed to be a threat to the United States. There was something else: The Afghan soldiers weren't alone on the raids; U.S. special operations forces soldiers working with the CIA often joined them. It was a "classified" war, I'd later discover, with the lines of accountability so obscured that no one had to answer publicly for operations that went wrong." ProPublica: The Night Raids.

+ Liberate Michigan: The men convicted of supporting a plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer just got lengthy prison sentences. Now what about those who motivated them? Remember, this all started with Trump tweeting, "Liberate Michigan" and the Operation Gridlock protest, that included honking cars, traffic jams, Trump supporters, small business owners calling for the quarantine rules to be relaxed, and of course, plenty of armed militia members. Also familiar were the chants of "Lock her up." It was like a Kid Rock concert, but with better music.

+ No Ryan Buy In: A lot of celebrities found themselves swept up by the crypto craze. Not Ben McKenzie. He's long been calling the crypto market "the largest Ponzi scheme in history."

+ Twitch Response: At first I wasn't sure if the passing of Stephen Boss (better known as tWitch) was big enough news to cover here. My wife and I loved him during the early days of So You Think You Can Dance. It turns out everyone on the web seems to know him and everyone is similarly saddened by the news. tWitch's legacy of kindness makes his loss all the more tragic.

+ Queens Gambit: "He's a lifelong New Yorker who was raised in Borough Park. He's Jewish, so didn't have much to do with Santa until his secretary suggested, in the months after 9/11, that dressing as Santa might be a way to give back to the families of first responders. A natural performer, Friedman found that he enjoyed the role, and even went to a Santa class to learn the basics. Now he juggles over 100 bookings per season alongside his actual job." Curbed: The Hardest-Working Santa in Northeastern Queens.


Bottom of the News

"The initial episode happened in June, when officials received complaints that a female black bear was grabbing food off picnic tables, sniffing trash cans, and even stealing backpacks. Wildlife crews trapped the animal and relocated her 1,000 miles to an area of South Cherokee National Forest in Georgia." So, the Relocated Bear Walked 1,000 Miles Back to Its Favorite Campsite.

+ From toe wrestling to wife carrying, here are 32 Weird Sports from Around the World.