January 30th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Turning 18 (Again), Violence Intervention, the Woke Cafe

“Novak Djokovic, age 35, sometimes hangs out in a pressurized egg to enrich his blood with oxygen and gives pep talks to glasses of water, hoping to purify them with positive thinking before he drinks them. Tom Brady, 45, evangelizes supposedly age-defying supplements, hydration powders and pliability spheres. LeBron James, 38, is said to spend $1.5 million a year on his body to keep Father Time at bay. While most of their contemporaries have retired, all three of these elite athletes remain marvels of fitness. But in the field of modern health science, they’re amateurs compared to Bryan Johnson.” What is Bryan Johnson’s sport? The 45 year-old is racing to be 18 again. Finding out whether that’s possible takes a lot of poking, prodding, testing, and treatment. It sounds a little crazy, but maybe we should thank him. He’s offered himself up as a humanity’s guinea pig, and he’s doing it all on his own dime. Ashlee Vance in Bloomberg/BusinessWeek: How to Be 18 Years Old Again for Only $2 Million a Year. “Getting the program up and running required an investment of several million dollars, including the costs of a medical suite at Johnson’s home in Venice, California. This year, he’s on track to spend at least $2 million on his body. He wants to have the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, tendons, teeth, skin, hair, bladder, penis and rectum of an 18-year-old.” (I’m not sure I want to spend that much, so I’ve asked the team if I can order some of these items a la carte.)


TV Will Plot Your Brain

“Neil Postman Postman saw a public that confused authority with celebrity, assessing politicians, religious leaders, and educators according not to their wisdom, but to their ability to entertain. He feared that the confusion would continue. He worried that the distinction that informed all others—fact or fiction—would be obliterated in the haze.” In other words, the author of the 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death was pretty good at making predictions. Has streaming entertainment and the near-immediate TV fictionalization of news stories accelerated our pace to the future Postman feared? Megan Garber in The Atlantic: We’ve Lost the Plot. “Our constant need for entertainment has blurred the line between fiction and reality—on television, in American politics, and in our everyday lives.” (If this notion stresses you out, you can take your mind off it the same way you always do, by watching a good TV show.)


The Intervening Years

“The programs have only a few years to prove that they deserve lasting support after the federal money runs out. Public safety agencies that until recently consisted of a handful of people are having to expand rapidly to oversee millions in spending, building a new civic infrastructure in a matter of months. And the evidence for how well some of the programs work is mixed and sometimes elusive, not least because it’s hard to measure crimes that never happen. “The money creates a problem,'” Eddie Woods said. ‘Everybody’s an intervention specialist now.'” Alec MacGillis in ProPublica on the rise violence intervention groups in cities where police and politicians can’t seem to stop the killing. Can Community Programs Help Slow the Rise in Violence?


The Hurt Blocker

“This was pain that knifed and throbbed ― that consumed my life. Pain that would cause me to vomit repeatedly, long after my stomach was empty. Pain that left me curled in the fetal position, holding my head. Pain that kept me from sleeping for days and would not abate. My son was a young child during the worst of these years. OxyContin pills and Fentanyl patches made it possible for me to function at all. Without these medications, there were few days I was able to leave my bed — to have a family dinner, to see my son in his kindergarten play, to sit upright ” Rebecca Stanfel: I Took Oxy And Fentanyl For Years. Here’s What No One Is Telling You About The Opioid Crisis.

+ SciAm: Rising Physical Pain Is Linked to More Deaths of Despair. Chronic pain causes despair. Despair makes chronic pain hurt more.


Extra, Extra

Peaceful Uneasy Feeling: “They were part of SCORPION — an acronym for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods — a specialized squad of 40 officers formed in 2021 to address the city’s rising crime rate by targeting ‘hot spots’ of illegal activity.” The unit just got disbanded. But what were they doing in a relatively peaceful neighborhood in the first place? Buzzfeed: The Unit Was Formed to Target High Crime Areas, but Locals Say His Neighborhood Was Peaceful. And from The New Yorker: The Police Folklore That Helped Kill Tyre Nichols. “The study’s core lesson about the imperative to dominate dovetailed with a nineties-era turn in law-enforcement culture toward what was known as a ‘warrior mind-set,’ teaching officers to see almost any civilian as a potentially lethal assassin.”

+ Pace Yourself or Brace Yourself: “The surge of attention around ChatGPT is prompting pressure inside tech giants including Meta and Google to move faster, potentially sweeping safety concerns aside, according to interviews with six current and former Google and Meta employees, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak.” The race to win the AI wars will leave no time to reflect on what role we think this tech should play in society. We’ve seen this story before. The difference is that this story will make the last one seem like it was in slow motion. WaPo (Gift Article): Big Tech was moving cautiously on AI. Then came ChatGPT.

+ Cox Sure? “Governor Cox was one of two Republican governors last year to veto a bill that would have barred transgender students from participating in girls’ sports. At the time, he cited the high rates of suicide among transgender youth and acknowledged the concerns of transgender advocates that the bill would adversely affect the mental health of transgender children. After that measure had been passed by the Legislature, Mr. Cox addressed the transgender community in a news conference, saying: ‘We care about you. We love you. It’s going to be OK.'” Well, maybe not. NYT: Utah Bans Transition Care for Transgender Youth.

+ If You’re Being Bombed, Press One: “‘What do I do?’ he asked the U.S. military team member, far away at a base in southeastern Poland. ‘What are my options?'” How to fix a howitzer: US offers help line to Ukraine troops.

+ Class Ring: “‘It is up to us to ensure our children know him for the deceitful, dishonest, riot-inciting negro he actually was,’ the administrator of the network’s Telegram channel wrote, alongside a downloadable lesson plan for elementary school children. ‘He is the face of a movement which ethnically cleansed whites out of urban areas and precipitated the anti-white regime that we are now fighting to free ourselves from.'” Welcome to MLK Day Inside a US Neo-Nazi Homeschool Network With Thousands of Members.

+ Here We Go Again: Even serious media can’t keep from elevating Trump to presidential status. Who cares what a racist, deranged, seditionist has to say about a Tyre Nichols? AP apparently.

+ Near Beer Here: “Somehow, with all the immense sales growth and large-scale investment in craft beer across the late 20th and early 21st centuries, nonalcoholic beer remained staid—a drinking culture castaway relegated to an afterthought produced by only the largest beermakers. Any consumer of nonalcoholic beer can share a war story or two from those days: the askance looks from a skeptical barkeep, forced to fish a lonely Clausthaler from the back of some dusty storeroom. You’d be lucky to get one cold, if you could get one at all.” Now Entering the Golden Age of N/A Beer.

+ Woke Screen: When she named her breakfast cafe Woke, a conservative backlash followed. (This seems like a small, meaningless story. But it’s actually a pretty good example of the way modern media (mostly social) has enabled the stupidity once reserved for unpublished letters to the editor to seep into mainstream discourse, and then onto main street itself.)


Bottom of the News

“If there’s a burn, flannels will go up like a candle. More importantly, for the day-to-day stuff, they’re walking around without heating, it’s raining, it’s in the temperate US. When cotton gets wet, it sucks the heat out of your body. It might not wick away moisture so well. Just really don’t wear it during the apocalypse.” GQ-UK: When the world ends, why do we all wear flannel?

+ “They were amazed when they checked one camera out of many they have placed across thousands of acres and found that out of 580 images on it about 400 were of one bear.” And maybe related: A NASA spacecraft discovers a formation on Mars resembling a bear.

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