1. Can you hear me now?
“If you believe that these broadcasts have a plausible chance of making contact with an alien intelligence, the choice to send them must rank as one of the most important decisions we will ever make as a species. Are we going to be galactic introverts, huddled behind the door and merely listening for signs of life outside? Or are we going to be extroverts, conversation-starters? And if it’s the latter, what should we say?” The always interesting Steven Johnson provides an update on our latest efforts to make contact with other life forms across the universe; and considers an important question: What if they hear us? Maybe they’ll want to communicate back and create a planetary alliance. Or maybe they’ll destroy us. Think about it. What are the odds that aliens will like humans? We don’t even like each other. From the NYT Mag, Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us.)
2. Dog bites man story
Breaking news: President Trump was offensively sexist for the first time since … yesterday. Just about everyone from the halls of Capitol Hill to the pits of social media is ripping President Trump for his latest offensive/sexist tweets; the latest salvo being aimed at MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski: “I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…..to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” The tweets were met with condemnation from both sides of the aisle, with politicians arguing that the comments were beneath the dignity of the office (pretty sure we crossed that line a long time ago). Were the comments offensive? Sure. But feigning shock at these tweets is like hiring a clown to perform at your house and then being surprised when a guy wearing floppy shoes and a red nose shows up at your door.
+ Melania’s war on cyberbullying; still coming soon: “As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.”
3. Georgia breach
“It’s a bad place to live, which is why I moved here. I was looking for a place that needed me.” One of the few benefits to come out of the current health care fight is that we’ve gotten perspectives on the state of the industry from every corner of the union. Here’s a doctor’s view of Obamacare and Trumpcare from rural Georgia. “The low levels of literacy and engagement of people here—I think a lot of them just aren’t even aware of these discussions going on. The uninsured don’t have anything or expect to get anything.”
+ “In few places are the political complexities of health care more glaring than in this poor state with crushing medical needs, substantially alleviated by the Affordable Care Act, but where Republican opposition to the law remains almost an article of faith.” The NYT on Kentucky: In McConnell’s Own State, Fear and Confusion Over Health Care Bill.
+ “More women in labor or brand new mothers die here than in any other high-income country. And the CDC Foundation estimates that 60 percent of these deaths are preventable.” Vox: California decided it was tired of women bleeding to death in childbirth.
+ In the Senate, more new ideas to get the votes to repeal and replace, but little consensus.
4. Getting the ban back together
Following the recent decision by the Supreme Court, a pared-down version of the travel ban is set to kick in on Thursday night. From Vox: Trump’s travel ban is going into effect today. Here’s what we know.
5. Search party over?
The EU levied a huge fine against Google for abusing its role as the dominant search engine by marketing its own shopping service. It’s a big deal, in part because Google isn’t really a search engine anymore. Like all the other big players, its a destination. Ben Thompson on the decision and its broader meaning: Ends, Means, And Antitrust.
6. Road test
Just for a second, don’t believe the fear mongers. Don’t believe the haters. And don’t believe the dividers. This too is America: Strangers buy car for 20-year-old Texas man who walks 3 miles to work every day.
+ “I’m not going to let you go.” An MLB umpire saved a woman trying to jump off bridge in Pittsburgh.
7. You need some of that good shit
“It’s difficult, and perhaps futile, to control a ‘drug’ that’s so abundant, free, and 100% natural.” Buzzfeed on fecal transplants, a treatment that is both promising, and perhaps being abused: Meet the people doing poop transplants the government doesn’t want them to do. (Where? Florida, where else?)
+ In a divided nation, could we possibly find any overlap between Goop fans and Infowars listeners? Yup. Both audiences are marketed the same wellness products.
8. Getting through a book
“Before Monday, before the 911 call and police investigation, Pedro Ruiz III, an aspiring YouTube star in rural Minnesota, spent considerable time persuading his girlfriend to fire a gun at his chest. There would be a thick encyclopedia between the muzzle and his body, authorities say he told 19-year-old Monalisa Perez. The pages, he reasoned, would stop the bullet.” A story that is both tragic and a metaphor for our era. From WaPo: He thought a book would stop a bullet and make him a YouTube star. Now he’s dead.
9. Better off Ted
“He seems to portray this thirst for new ideas as a positive development even while conceding that the ideas currently thirsted for are at best shallow and banal, at worst deeply anti-democratic, and at times outright fraudulent.” New Republic on The Rise of the Thought Leader. (For the record, I prefer to think of myself as a social critic.)
10. Bottom of the news
“The Street View project has become a way for Kenny to visit places that she could never go to herself—the more remote, the better.” From The New Yorker: An Agoraphobic Photographer’s Virtual Travels, on Google Street View.
+ The mere presence of one’s own smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity. (At this point, I don’t even need the phone to be present. I feel phantom vibrations beneath my pocket whether it’s there or not.)
+ The Economist breaks down how people around the world pronounce the word GIF, including both those who use the soft G, and those who pronounce it correctly.