Monday, August 14th, 2023


A Come to Jesus Moment

Are you there god, it's me Margaret?

Yes, I'm here, and for a limited time only, there's no subscription required.

"What would Jesus do?" is no longer merely a rhetorical or philosophical question. You can now get an answer. It didn't take long for AI to reach its come to Jesus moment. There's an app that let's you chat with Jesus and other religious figures, which is a selling point so long as people still worship religious gods, not technological overlords. "There are few limits to what users can ask the app's characters. Whether the topic is personal relationship advice or complex theological matters, they formulate elaborate responses, incorporating at least one Bible verse." Chatting with Jesus is free for a limited time, but if you want a response from Mary Magdalene, it will require a premium subscription. Can getting Jesus to write work emails or do birthday greetings on Cameo be far off? WaPo (Gift Article): A new AI app lets users ‘text' with Jesus. Some call it blasphemy. Jesus on social media. Talk about turning water into whine.


And a Child Shall Lead Them

"The judge who heard the US's first constitutional climate trial earlier this year has issued an order which is a win for a group of young plaintiffs who had accused state officials in Montana of violating their right to a healthy environment ... On Monday, Judge Kathy Seeley said that by prohibiting government agencies from considering climate impacts when deciding whether or not to permit energy projects, Montana is contributing to the climate crisis and and stopping the state from addressing that crisis." Judge in landmark climate trial issues order that is win for young activists. Nice to see the kids get a few wins before the damage their forebears have done destroys the planet.


Child Labor

"Ashley was discharged from the hospital only hours ago, but there are no baby presents or toys in the room, no visible diapers or ointments or bottles. Almost nobody knows that Peanut exists, because almost nobody knew that Ashley was pregnant. She is 13 years old. Soon she'll start seventh grade. In the fall of 2022, Ashley was raped by a stranger in the yard outside her home, her mother says ... Seven months earlier, Balthrop could have directed Ashley to abortion clinics in Memphis, 90 minutes north, or in Jackson, Miss., two and a half hours south. But today, Ashley lives in the heart of abortion-ban America." Time: She Wasn't Able to Get an Abortion. Now She's a Mom. Soon She'll Start 7th Grade.


Dirty Money

Those of us of a certain age remember the Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! commercials that preceded a weekend monster truck jam. Well, the jams are still around, and they're making more money than ever. While the trucks can now leap fifty feet in the air, creating an "almost religious" reaction from fans, the shows come down to one key factor. The dirt. Zach Helfand in The New Yorker: When Trucks Fly. "Every dirt is different. The U.S.D.A. has identified and named about twenty thousand types of American soil. Allen knows that Atlanta's clay is red, and Glendale, Arizona's stains concrete. Chicago has dark topsoil. New England's dirt has rocks; Allen puts it through giant sieves so the spinning truck tires don't launch stone missiles into the crowd. He likes a mix of seventy per cent clay, which is moldable enough to build jumps and durable enough that the tires don't burn through to the floor below, and thirty per cent sand, which is strong, absorbent, and good for power slides. Sometimes finding that mix is impossible."


Extra, Extra

No Water, No Warning: "Officials on the Hawaiian island have repeatedly warned that the death toll will continue to rise as they work to contain the blazes and assess the damage." Governor launches 'comprehensive review' as death toll rises. As the death toll rises, so do questions about how little warning residents had, and how few tools they had to fight the fire. Maui is famous for its sirens. Why didn't they go off? And from the NYT (Gift Article): As Inferno Grew, Lahaina's Water System Collapsed. "The hydrants sputtered and became largely useless. 'There was just no water in the hydrants,' said Keahi Ho, one of the firefighters who was on duty in Lahaina."

+ Press Box: "In an unprecedented raid Friday, local law enforcement seized computers, cellphones and reporting materials from the Marion County Record office, the newspaper's reporters, and the publisher's home." Police stage ‘chilling' raid on Marion County newspaper, seizing computers, records and cellphones. And from AP: "A small central Kansas police department is facing a torrent of criticism for raiding a local newspaper's office and the home of its owner and publisher, seizing computers and cellphones, and, in the publisher's view, stressing his 98-year-old mother enough to cause her weekend death." This story is already a terrible look for the police. It could get much worse. "What has remained unreported until now is that, prior to the raids, the newspaper had been actively investigating Gideon Cody, Chief of Police for the city of Marion. They'd received multiple tips alleging he'd retired from his previous job to avoid demotion and punishment over alleged sexual misconduct charges." A conversation with the newspaper owner raided by cops. Definitely worth a read.

+ This is the Trend, My Friend: "Milei, an admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump, says Argentina's Central Bank should be abolished, thinks climate change is a lie, characterizes sex education as a ploy to destroy the family, believes the sale of human organs should be legal and wants to make it easier to own handguns." Argentine peso plunges after shaggy-haired rightist who admires Trump comes first in primary vote. This is a global trend.

+ Once Was Blind... "Retired NFL star Michael Oher, whose supposed adoption out of grinding poverty by a wealthy, white family was immortalized in the 2009 movie "The Blind Side," petitioned a Tennessee court Monday with allegations that a central element of the story was a lie concocted by the family to enrich itself at his expense."

+ Tamper Tantrum: "In phone calls, speeches, tweets and media appearances, Trump and his allies pushed to overturn the 2020 election results in six swing states where certified results declared Joe Biden the winner ... Nowhere was the effort more acute than in Georgia, where all of their strategies came together in a complex and multilayered effort that unfolded against the hyperpartisan backdrop of two ongoing U.S. Senate races." Trump is likely facing his next big indictment this week. Here's some background. How Donald Trump tried to undo his loss in Georgia in 2020. The charges could include racketeering. Meanwhile, the indictment hasn't yet come, but Trump is already witness tampering. (Premature Retaliation.)

+ Tamp Down: And yes, it turns out witness tampering is frowned upon in legal circles. "U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan ruled on Friday that Bankman-Fried, the founder of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, must be jailed for tampering with witnesses while free on $250 million bond at his parents' home in Palo Alto, California."

+ The Godfather: "Clarence Avant, whose unofficial title of the 'Black Godfather' spanned the worlds of music, sports, entertainment and politics, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles ... he was 92." For an amazing look at his life, check out the Netflix doc, The Black Godfather. Sadly, Avant's final years were hit with tragedy when his wife was killed during a burglary attempt in 2021.

+ Grain of Wisdom: "This isn't your typical cooking lesson on Zoom and Facebook. It's part of a 'food prescription' experiment—prescriptions for healthy food instead of pills. Diabetics get a free box full of fruits, vegetables, chicken breast, quinoa and other nutritious food delivered to their homes every two weeks—and then can learn some recipes." San Francisco Among California Cities Paying for Fresh Food Prescriptions.


Bottom of the News

"Our obsession with testing the boundaries of folded flight is relatively recent, but our desire to explore and explain the complex world of aerodynamics goes back much further." A Living History of The Humble Paper Airplane.

+ There's still time to check out the Illinois State Fair Butter Cow (though doing so could raise your cholesterol.)

+ Surprise, surprise. The cage match between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk is over before it even began. (Give Elon some credit. He completely resuscitated Zuck's image without throwing a single punch.)