Tuesday, December 5th, 2023


Humanity’s Last Stand

Irony may be on its last legs, but it's not dead yet. This was a year in which tech news was dominated by stories about the ways artificial intelligence is quickly assuming tasks formerly carried out by humans. This seems to include many a homework assignment. If we're to believe the trends, humanity's last stand could also be humanties' last stand. So maybe it's hopeful that when internet users wanted to find out more about this new, life-changing technology, they went to the most human of all sites: Wikipedia. AP: Wikipedia, wrapped. Here are 2023's most-viewed articles on the internet's encyclopedia. "English Wikipedia raked in more than 84 billion views this year, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit behind the free, publicly edited online encyclopedia. And the most popular article was about ChatGPT." It could be worse. The second most read article was Deaths in 2023.

+ And Alan Taylor's always moving collection of the Top 25 News Photos of 2023 in The Atlantic.


Avant Bard

"'It's arguably the most important secular book in western culture," Fernie told the Guardian from his University of Birmingham headquarters. Were it not for the First Folio, we wouldn't have half of Shakespeare's plays today.' That includes Macbeth, Julius Caesar, The Tempest, the Taming of the Shrew and more than a dozen other works among the 37 tragedies, comedies and histories in the folio, less than half of which were published in the Bard's own lifetime." The Guardian on one of the first (and most important) examples of self-publishing. Shakespeare's First Folio: State Library of NSW takes the Bard's ‘radical' 400-year-old book out of the vault.


The Jury Selection Election

"We know what Trump would like to do with that power, because he's said so out loud. He is driven by self-interest and revenge, in that order. He wants to squelch the criminal charges now pending against him, and he wants to redeploy federal prosecutors against his enemies, beginning with President Joe Biden. The important question is how much of that agenda he could actually carry out in a second term." Short answer: A lot. And it would start with the firing of Jack Smith and replacing a jury of one's peers with a jury of one. Barton Gellman has gotten Trump as right as any journalist. The Atlantic (Gift Article): How Trump Gets Away With It.


Quiet as It’s Kept

Mass and brutal rape was part of the plan and was used as a weapon on October 7. Just the lede in this article from the NYT is horrific. (Warning: The descriptions here are disturbing. But not as disturbing as the other images included in these articles.) "The body of one woman had 'nails and different objects in her female organs.' In another house, a person's genitals were so mutilated that 'we couldn't identify if it was a man or a woman.'" The world's governing bodies have been largely silent on this issue. Accounts of Sexual Violence by Hamas Are Aired Amid Criticism of U.N. (One could argue that these events have been overshadowed by Israel's incredibly aggressive war effort and the deeply troubling humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But there was silence before Israel launched its response.)

+ "For the past three decades, women have stood up for other women. When our sisters' bodies and dignity were targeted and violated, women and allies of all ages and backgrounds organized, supported, and spoke out. Except somehow, not this time." Slate: The World's Feminists Need to Show Up for Israeli Victims.

+ "The State Department announces travel bans on extremist Jewish settlers implicated in a rash of recent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank." Israel considers flooding Gaza tunnels with seawater. The IDF has entered large cities in the south, including Khan Younis where they believe key Hamas leaders are hiding. Here's the latest from CNN, BBC, and Times of Israel.


Extra, Extra

FDA For Effort? "One might assume the US drug regulator, which dates to the 19th century Division of Chemistry, leads the mission of testing drugs. In fact, the FDA resists the idea of grading drugs by quality and rarely conducts tests of its own." There are probably a lot of details you didn't know in this Bloomberg Gift Article: The Pentagon Wants to Root Out Shoddy Drugs. The FDA Is In Its Way. And an interesting look at the drug industry from a patient's perspective from Neil Barsky: I reversed my type 2 diabetes. Here's how I did it.

+ Box Out: When it comes to news about strikes, you may be tempted to ignore them until something actually happens. But this one will hit close to home for a lot of people. Like as close as the front stoop. Wired: The Pilots Delivering Your Amazon Packages Are Ready to Strike.

+ Facial Recognition: "Users could have their faces scanned to prove their age, with extra checks for young-looking adults, draft guidance from Ofcom suggests." BBC: UK p-rn watchers could have faces scanned.

+ Don't Mask, Don't Tell: "Responding to the persistence of violent crime and high-profile incidents of retail theft, Philadelphia is on the cusp of becoming the first major American city to pass a widespread ban on ski masks, which legislators there argue have been used by criminals seeking to avoid identification."

+ Flower Power: "It wasn't until the first Spanish settlers arrived in Mexico in the 16th century that the plant was specifically linked to the Christmas season." How the Christmas poinsettia became a $213 million industry in the US.

+ Messi Ah: "Few could have imagined this scene—the pink sea of fans losing their minds over their new local sensation—seven months earlier as Messi kissed the World Cup trophy, finally securing the ultimate prize that had long eluded him." Lionel Messi is Time's Athlete of the Year. (You could also easily make the argument for Novak Djokovic who won three of four tennis grand slams at the age of 36.)


Bottom of the News

One lede can't possibly define an entire era. But that doesn't mean it can't try. CNN: "A 30-year-old YouTube creator and former Olympic athlete was sentenced Monday to six months in federal prison for staging a small plane crash for social media clicks."

+ Researchers in Japan found that wasabi improves both short- and long-term memory. (I remember every time I've accidentally eaten too much wasabi.)