April 21st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Life Metrics, Doggy Dining, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday

America is a nation fixated on winning. We love success stories. We love to see ourselves as a superpower. We love getting Ws. But how do we define winning? Is it about money, productivity, and military might? Or is there a scoreboard that is both more elemental and monumental—one that holds the only metric that really matters? Depending on your answer, you’ll either be tired of all the winning or tired of all the dying. Derek Thompson in The Atlantic (Free Article): America Fails the Civilization Test. “Imagine I offered you a pill and told you that taking this mystery medication would have two effects. First, it would increase your disposable income by almost half. Second, it would double your odds of dying in the next 365 days. To be an average American is to fill a lifetime prescription of that medication and take the pill nightly … When graded on a curve against its peer nations, [America] is failing. The U.S. mortality rate is much higher, at almost every age, than that of most of Europe, Japan, and Australia.” (But at least we’re finally getting control of all those life-threatening library books and drag shows…)

+ “For years, the conventional wisdom has been that a lack of sex-specific health research mainly hurts women and gender minorities. While those concerns are real, a closer look at longevity data tells a more complicated story. Across the life span – from infancy to the teen years, midlife and old age – the risk of death at every age is higher for boys and men than for girls and women.” WaPo (Free Article): A silent crisis in men’s health gets worse.


Chit Disturbers

“As reports of hate propaganda surge to record highs, authorities across the country are torn over how to address rhetoric they fear could inspire violence. Some police departments have condemned the bigotry, sparking praise and criticism in a nation divided over where free speech ends and criminal intimidation begins. Others have declined to comment, aiming to minimize attention on white supremacist sentiments.
Chitwood has rejected this playbook he sees as flimsy and futile. His strategy? Go nuclear. Shame the organizers on the radio and television. Roast them on the internet. Keep at it for months. Keep going even though no one knows if it’s working.” WaPo (Gift Article): The Florida sheriff vs. the neo-Nazi ‘scumbags.’ (I’m rooting for the sheriff.)

+ We have to wholeheartedly and loudly back antihate leaders like Florida Sheriff Mike Chitwood because pro-haters loudly oppose him. “A Florida sheriff who has taken a hard line against antisemitic extremism in his county announced Thursday that authorities have arrested a third person for making online threats against him. And just like the first two men arrested, this one also is living with his mother.”


Cloud (K)9

I have an unspoken arrangement with my two beagles who are by my side 24/7. I agree to pick up their shit and they agree not to tell my wife and kids what I eat after everyone else has gone to bed. In light of this next story, I’m getting off pretty easy. NYT (Gift Article): No More Begging for Treats. Dogs Now Have Restaurants. “Dog menus have become the new version of children’s menus at some restaurants. Pet parents can now order their dog a steak or Alaskan salmon with steamed rice. The dog can wash that down with a nonalcoholic ‘beer’ made of pork broth, or a bowl of Dög Pawrignon made with wild-caught-salmon oil. Other restaurants have gone a step further, catering exclusively to dogs, from custom canine birthday cakes to food trucks serving chicken nuggets and burgers. At Dogue, dogs eat a fine-dining tasting menu.” (One of my cats just saw the name “Dogue” and coughed up a furball.)


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: The great Damon Lindelof (Watchmen, The Leftovers, Lost) is back with a new show, and the timing couldn’t be better. Mrs. Davis is the world’s most powerful Artificial Intelligence. Simone is the nun devoted to destroying Her. Let the games begin. Watch Mrs. Davis on Peacock.

+ What to Book: I loved City on Fire, book one of Don Winslows new trilogy. Book two continues the fast-paced, character-driven action. Read the first book if you haven’t and then order, City of Dreams.

+ What to Read: This article on the crime-scene investigators who worked the Sandy Hook scene will disturb you. And it should. No one should see what they saw. But since they saw it, everyone should. “After 9/11, Sam was embedded with the Navy in Iraq, as part of the bureau’s largely unadvertised C.E.X.C. (Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell), deployed to suicide bombings to collect DNA for its database of bomb makers. He had picked limbs from trees. Defused homemade explosives. But the worst thing he’d ever seen was the inside of an elementary school in Connecticut.” NYT Mag (Gift Article): They Saw the Horrific Aftermath of a Mass Shooting. Should We? If we’re gonna have laws that allow high-powered weapons, we need to see the results of those laws.

+ What to Pod: Want to catch up on the way officials around the country are looking to expand their own powers at the expense of democracy? Listen to this excellent podcast of That Trippi show featuring NYT columnist Thomas Edsall.


Extra, Extra

Trade Route: “Mechanic and repair trade programs saw an enrollment increase of 11.5% from spring 2021 to 2022, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. In construction trades, enrollment grew 19.3%, and in culinary programs, it increased 12.7%. Meanwhile, overall enrollment declined 7.8% at public two-year colleges, and 3.4% at public four-year institutions.” While some students skip college, trade programs are booming. (I was an English major at Cal, so I basically went to trade school for newsletter writers without a business model.)

+ Putin Harm’s Way: A Russian warplane accidentally bombed its own city. (Why would Putin care about a few more innocent people killed.)

+ Deep Thoughts: Google is consolidating its AI research divisions into Google DeepMind. Remember, AI is not just about search. It’s not even mostly about search. DeepMind is working on issues ranging from health to climate change. Meanwhile, AI is taking the jobs of Kenyans who write essays for U.S. college students.

+ Bad Beat: The “NFL suspends 5 players, including Lions 2022 first-round pick Jameson Williams, for gambling violations.”

+ Always Be Closing Cases: “Charges against Alec Baldwin have been dropped in the fatal on-set ‘Rust’ shooting, according to sources familiar with the matter.” (These charges were obviously stupid from the get-go. As is the relentless coverage of this story.)

+ Hyundia Hard: “Attorneys general in 17 states on Thursday urged the federal government to recall millions of Kia and Hyundai cars because they are too easy to steal, a response to a sharp increase in thefts fueled by a viral social media challenge.” (We’re at risk of raising a generation of unskilled thieves.)

+ Carbo-Loading Zone: “Pandemic pop-ups pushed the needle for bakeries. When COVID closed restaurants, pop-ups exploded as a way to fill that niche. Baked goods — a combination of take-out-friendly structures and a salve in a sad time — were ready for the taking.” How NYC’s Bakery Lines Became as Fierce as Streetwear Drops.


Feel Good Friday

“Ron Brady was 52 years old when he was diagnosed with ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease that eventually causes most people to lose their ability to speak, walk or breathe. Now, at 55, he can’t swallow food, and it’s getting harder to brush his teeth and put on clothes. He likes to crack jokes, but his speech is slurred to the point where few understand him. But he has not lost his voice.” WaPo (Gift Article): Patients were told their voices could disappear. They turned to AI to save them. (Again, the AI story is not just about Chat programs or office productivity.)

+ “Ever wondered why your hair turns gray as you age? A team of researchers says it has identified the root cause as trapped stem cells — and that means new tips for naturally fending off grays from your mane could be coming soon.” (I already found a cure for graying hair. Going bald.)

+ Volcanic microbe eats CO2 ‘astonishingly quickly’, say scientists. “Discovery of carbon-capturing organism in hot springs could lead to efficient way of absorbing climate-heating gas.”

+ Potential Alzheimer’s treatment discovered by MIT.

+ Scores of rightwing US extremists were defeated in school-board elections in April.

+ “The Biden administration announced more than $80 million in funding Thursday in a push to produce more solar panels in the US, make solar energy available to more people.”

+ The Amazing Story of How Philly Cheesesteaks Became Huge in Lahore, Pakistan.

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