Facebook’s Frankenstein moment, McCain pulls the plug, and eight other stories you missed

Social media is about to become as central to our political discourse as it has been to our lives over the past decade.
Social media is about to become as central to our political discourse as it has been to our lives over the past decade.
Image: Reuters/ Stephen Lam
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1. What hump?

Social media is about to become as central to our political discourse as it has been to our lives over the past decade. After facing “calls for greater transparency about 470 Russia-linked accounts—in which fictional people posed as American activists—which were taken down after they had promoted inflammatory messages on divisive issues,” Facebook will turn over more than 3,000 Russia-linked ads to Congress. It’s worth noting that in the early days of the Internet, we were convinced we were creating a new system of transparency that would make life increasingly difficult for evil-doers who had operated freely in the shadows. Instead, we ended up with a cesspool of hate speech and fake stories that cast a shadow between us and reality.

+ “The company has been hit with a series of scandals that have bruised its image, enraged its critics, and opened up the possibility that in its quest for global dominance, Facebook may have created something it can’t fully control.” The NYT’s Kevin Roose on Facebook’s Frankenstein Moment. Roose shares this quote from Victor Frankenstein: “I had been the author of unalterable evils, and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.” (Even Victor got tired of all the winning.) I like the metaphor, but I think our current social media and political discourse is more accurately represented in the scene in Young Frankenstein when the doctor says to Igor: “You know, I’m a rather brilliant surgeon. Perhaps I can help you with that hump.” And Igor responds: “What hump?”

+ While I worry that Facebook provides a platform for Russians to push lies into our news stream, I worry more that certain politicians lie directly to our face. From Reuters: Trump dismisses Facebook ads controversy as part of Russia hoax.

2. McCain unable

Next week was setting up to be the final showdown as the Senate GOP looked to replace Obamacare with the Graham-Cassidy bill. But the plug may have just been pulled on that plan as John McCain goes the way of Jimmy Kimmel and says he’s unable to back the bill: “I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”

+ It probably didn’t help that all 50 Medicaid directors opposed the GOP’s latest health care bill, and a Brookings report indicated at least 21 million would lose insurance.

3. Weekend whats

What to Watch: After only two episodes, The Deuce has been renewed by HBO (there goes my chance to use the headline, HBO Drops a Deuce) and looks to have the network’s drama hit streak back on track. The show is produced by the great David Simon and features one of my all-time favorite backdrops: 1970s NYC.

+ What to Read: “Donald Trump is a values clarifier. He’s a living, breathing, pontificating, lying, tweeting reminder of which values you cherish and what you’re willing to stand up for. We’ve spent countless hours analyzing the character of Donald Trump. But that’s a settled issue. The real character being tested right now is yours.” This is one of my favorite recent pieces by one of my favorite writers: The Real Jimmy Kimmel Test.

4. Nestlé’s Toll House crunch

“Meanwhile, the people of Flint have been forced to use this bottled water for several years and are required to pay some of the highest water bills in the country for undrinkable water. The people of Detroit have experienced massive shutoffs since 2014, with up to 90,000 people shut off at times. If Detroiters could pay Nestlé rates, few would owe more than a dollar, and the majority would owe less than a dime.” Businessweek sheds a lot of light on the bottled water industry with this piece: Nestlé makes billions bottling water it pays nearly nothing for.

5. Rocketman, Dotard Don, and Nasty Nukes

The war of words between president Trump and Kim Jung Un would be funny (in a surreal way) if they weren’t actually two world leaders potentially driving the world towards a nuclear exchange. Following Trump’s bombshell UN speech, Kim fired back, calling Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard.” Trump continued the flame war with a twitter blast: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!” (If this escalates, it would be SAD!)

+ NYT: Trump poised to drop some limits on drone strikes and commando raids. (And Obama didn’t exactly skimp on the drone strikes…)

+ Politico: “Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price has taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers’ expense since early May.” But don’t get on his case. “This is Secretary Price, getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people.” (At least I can admit that when I fly business, it’s for the legroom and to create a little more space between me and the real American people.)

6. To helmet and back

“Hernandez, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2015, was found to have ‘the most severe case [CTE researchers] had ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age,’ Hernandez’s lawyer, Jose Baez, said at a press conference Thursday. Baez also announced a federal lawsuit against both the NFL and the New England Patriots on behalf of Hernandez’s daughter, Avielle, for $20 million, claiming the league and the Patriots deprived her of companionship with her father.” The lawsuit probably doesn’t have a great chance of succeeding, but the intersection of the Aaron Hernandez story with the NFL’s handling (or non-handling) of the sport’s head injury crisis makes this a story that will drive the issue into the red zone.

7. Rxile on Main Street

“Kubota and his Partnership colleagues were faced with a question: How does a system of doctors change the decades-old practice of treating pain—from an ankle sprain to a chronic back problem—with addictive pills? And if not opioids, what do you give patients in pain?” MoJo: Inside a massive, successful effort to stop prescribing so many opioids.

+ Ben Popper: How a startup hopes to treat the rural opioid epidemic—at a profit.

8. Geoffrey the giraffe up to his neck in debt

“It’s no wonder that Tom Hanks’s character in the movie Big, finding himself transformed into an adult, wants to get out of the toy business and go back to being a kid.” The Toys R Us bankruptcy is of course a story about the pressures created by online shopping. But it’s just as much (if not more) a story about debt. From Amy Merrick in The New Yorker: How Toys R Us succumbed to its nasty debt problem.

9. Seeing the forest through the tree huggers

“Forest Green is the first completely vegan professional sports team in the world. But its ethos extends way beyond food. The team plays on an organic and vegan field, called the New Lawn, which is fed with a solution of Scottish seaweed that’s hand-cut and cold-pressed.” The world’s greenest sports team is a century-old football club in a tiny English town. (I live in the Bay Area. This article basically describes every team I’ve ever been on…)

10. Bottom of the news

“The world’s largest retailer announced Friday that it is testing a delivery program in Silicon Valley that would allow customers to use smart-home technology to remotely open the door for delivery workers and watch a live stream of the delivery by linking their phones with home security cameras.” From WaPo: Walmart wants to send people into your house to stock the fridge—even when you’re not home. (We’re seriously losing our minds…)

+ “It was Mr. Shaw, a man who loved numbers even more than he loved a slice of pizza, who transformed the endless number into an endless celebration of mathematics, joy, and pepperoni.” Larry Shaw died at the age of 78. He leaves behind his greatest invention: Pi Day.

+ After six decades, BYU has ended its ban on caffeinated soda sales. We should let them enjoy the victory for a bit before we tell them everyone else stopped drinking sodas because of the sugar.

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