Documentary desires, the skinny repeal, and and eight other stories you might have missed

Do documentaries make us feel connected with nature?
Do documentaries make us feel connected with nature?
Image: AP Photo/Jerome Delay
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1. Dressed to kill

The Pentagon and just about all politicians seemed surprised (yes, that’s still possible) by president Trump’s series of tweets announcing a decision to bar transgender people from serving openly in the United States military: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the US government will not accept or allow …transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.”

+ Echoing many on both sides of the aisle, Joe Biden responded to the move: “Every patriotic American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to serve. Full stop.” (I agree. And that even includes people who have bone spurs in their feet.)

+ Here’s some excellent reporting from Rachael Bade And Josh Dawsey in Politico that explains how (and how fast) this decision took place.

+ Trump argued that the decision was based in part on the “tremendous medical costs.” Here’s the truth about that. Try to guess which drug the military spends five times as much on as it would on transgender troops’ medical care. (Hint: If your search for an answer lasts more than four hours…)

+ “Chris would be awarded the bronze star with valor, the purple heart, the meritorious service medal, and about 50 other ribbons and medals. He would dislocate a shoulder, shatter a kneecap, be hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on his fortieth birthday, break two vertebrae in his back on a boat near Somalia and complete the mission anyway, and fly home sleeping among the flag-draped coffins of 19 of his brothers.” From GQ: Kristin Beck: A Navy SEAL in Transition. Plus, Beck’s response to today’s announcement.

+ David Remnick: “Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from the military is pure politics, cheap and cruel politics, a naked attempt to divert attention from his woes, to hold on to support from his base—a base that he believes will cheer his latest attempt to do battle with the secular-humanist coastal élites who are so obsessed with identity politics.”

2. Nature observancy

Yesterday, my family went to the Galapagos. We went by way of a documentary we watched on our big screen. It’s not the same of course, but it turns out that virtual nature can have some of the same positive impacts as the real thing. From Quartz: The primal reason you love watching nature documentaries.

3. Repeal, replace, rinse, repeat?

Now that the Senate has voted to proceed with the goal of repealing Obamacare, what do they plan to pass? So far, one repeal and replace plan has been voted down, as has one replace only plan, and the debate continues. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, “What we need to do in the Senate is figure out what the lowest common denominator is.”

+ The latest idea being floated is the so-called skinny repeal. Here’s ongoing coverage from FiveThirtyEight.

4. The quit hits the fan

“Good jobs were ones with a good salary, benefits, etc. Now, it’s one that prepares you for your next job.” In Aeon, Ilana Gershon on how employees have reinvented themselves as marketable goods: The Quitting Economy.

+ Amazon is looking to hire 50,000 warehouse workers. The biggest challenge—warehouse workers are in high demand.

5. Your kids are remaking entertainment

“The videos that surface on the app are generated by YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which takes into account a user’s search history, viewing history, demographic region, gender, age, and other individual data. The algorithm is basically a funnel through which every YouTube video is poured—with only a few making it onto a person’s screen.” The Atlantic’s Adrienne Lafrance examines what kids choose to watch on YouTube, and what that could mean for the future of narrative structure. (Hint: There will be a lot of slime.) The Algorithm That Makes Preschoolers Obsessed With YouTube.

+ Technology Is Biased Too. How Do We Fix It?

6. DOE, oh dear

“There might be no time in the history of the country when it was so interesting to know what was going on inside these bland federal office buildings—because there has been no time when those things might be done ineptly, or not done at all. But if you want to know how the Department Of Energy works—the problems it manages, the fears that keep its employees awake at night, the things it does you just sort of assume will continue being done—there’s no real point in being inside the D.O.E. Anyone who wants a blunt, open assessment of the risks inherent in the United States government now has to leave it to find it.” Michael Lewis with a deep (and deeply disturbing) look at exactly what the Department of Energy is supposed to do. From Vanity Fair: Why the scariest nuclear threat may be coming from inside the White House.

7. The revolution will not be streamed

“The real irony is that if the internet does topple the government and bring democracy to this democracy-starved island, it’ll happen just as democracy itself is being undone by Facebook and every other filter-bubble-­creating, political-polarization-amplifying, algorithm-optimized feed. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, and also oversimplifying, because the Cubans—the very resourceful Cubans—haven’t exactly been sitting around sipping mojitos as the digital revolución passed them by. They have workarounds. Oh, do they have workarounds.” Wired’s Antonio García Martínez takes you inside Cuba’s DIY Internet revolution.

8. Down for the count

“The latest findings reveal that between 1973 and 2011, the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate of men in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, leading to an overall drop of just over 52%.” The sperm counts of Western men have been consistently plummeting for decades, and researchers don’t seem to know why.

9. Tube job

“Roosevelt Island is home to a trash disposal system that eliminates stinky piles of trash. On the surface, nothing appears unusual about how its residents dispose of their garbage. But look beneath the surface (literally) and it’s a different story.” From NPR: Garbage on Roosevelt Island isn’t collected and hauled off. It’s whisked away at 65 mph through underground tubes. (They need this system on Capitol Hill…)

10. Bottom of the news

Are your feelings hurt easily? Are you ever troubled by feelings of guilt? Do you worry too long after an embarrassing experience? If you answered yes to all those question, you may live longer than others. According to some researchers, being neurotic may help you live longer. (Sadly, the extra time will feel like a burden…)

+ “Island-hopping with Weight Watchers means your tablemates will encourage you to skip the butter on your whole-wheat toast. It means you’ll decide (surprisingly) to take the stairs instead of the elevator to the pool. It means you’ll learn the brand-approved serving size for a glass of wine. And it means on-board activities will consider your feelings.” Paradox at Sea: My Week on a Weight-Loss Cruise.

+ And McSweeney’s: If you give a poor a doctor

Quartz now syndicates NextDraft, a daily roundup for the day’s most fascinating news curated by Dave Pell. Read the archive here. Sign up to get the newsletter or download the app here.