#MeToo, killer smartphones, and eight other stories you might have missed

The goal of #MeToo is simply to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
The goal of #MeToo is simply to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
Image: Reuters/ Lucas Jackson
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1. The droids we’re looking for

“Over the several months we are in contact, Ishiguro will share information that strikes me as deeply personal: He has contemplated suicide twice in his life; though he has a family, he considers himself a lonely man. I will hear him use that word to describe himself—lonely—about half a dozen times.” That’s a line that seems out of place in an article about robots. But as Alex Mar writes in Love in the time of robots, “Hiroshi Ishi­guro builds androids…but his true quest is to untangle the ineffable nature of connection itself.” To make androids realistic, we have to gain a deep understanding of our own communication modes and motivations. Even if we can pull that off, are we ready for intimacy with robots? (Hopefully, they treat us better than we treat each other.)

+ “Ellie’s capacity for subtle and supportive engagement reveals fascinating things about humans, and how we choose to guard our secrets.” Virtual therapists help veterans open up about PTSD.

+ “In each grisly permutation, the Moral Machine invited visitors to cast a vote about who the vehicle should kill.” In order to teach computers (like autonomous cars) how to react, we need to figure out what the average human would do.

2. Lose yourself

“There was some irony in T’s predicament, since so much of his music was about identity: proclamatory, sometimes prideful, singing a song of oneself. And yet, T could barely summon a self to sing about.” In GQ, the always-excellent Josh Bearman shares the unusual and intriguing story of The man who forgot he was a rap legend.

3. Her too

“A decade ago, I couldn’t have conceived of the fact that so many women had experienced sexual coercion or intimidation; now, I’d be surprised if I could find a single one who hadn’t.” The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert on the movement of #MeToo. The sharing was eye-opening and awesome, and a reminder that we can use social media for some good once in a while.

+ Variety: Harvey Weinstein scandal could finally change Hollywood’s culture of secrecy: “But is an industry that gave convicted rapist Roman Polanski an Oscar, lionized and named buildings for sexual predators like MGM founder Louis B. Mayer, and looked the other way as Weinstein’s behavior with women became an open secret, ready to change? Will the latest abuse scandal—the worst in modern-day movie business history—force studios to embrace a zero-tolerance environment where it will no longer be possible for powerful, privileged men to prey on actresses and underlings and not be held accountable for their bad behavior?”

+ Jennifer Lawrence on the time she was force to pose in a nude lineup: “I asked to speak to a producer about the unrealistic diet regime and he responded by telling me he didn’t know why everyone thought I was so fat, he thought I was perfectly ‘f*ckable.'”

+ Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg: “And to me, if Harvey’s behavior is the most reprehensible thing one can imagine, a not-so-distant second is the current flood of sanctimonious denial and condemnation that now crashes upon these shores of rectitude in gloppy tides of bullshit righteousness. Because everybody-f*cking-knew.”

+ The Daily Beast: Hollywood’s other open secret besides Harvey Weinstein: Preying on young boys.

4. Capital punished

ISIS strongholds are continuing to fall. The latest ISIS defeat is in Raqqa, the so-called capital of the Islamic State.

+ “The end of ISIS’s temporal empire and first capital does nothing to spare the Middle East and the world of the array of strategic threats and headaches of which jihadis are but one leading edge. At best, the war against ISIS pressed a “pause” button on the unspooling narrative of conflict and fragmentation. With the fall of Raqqa, the sad story will pick up exactly where it left off in 2014.” The Atlantic: The war on ISIS held the Middle East together.

5. Ash backwards

“I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point, I fight back, and it won’t be pretty.” So said president Trump in response to John McCain’s acceptance speech at the National Constitution Center, where he was presented this year’s Liberty Medal. McCain, showing the strain of his cancer, delivered brief remarks. This is the line that made its way to Trump (and should be heard by all): “To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems, is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.” You can watch his whole speech (and Joe Biden’s intro) here.

+ DC is still spinning from the latest of example of Trump putting his bonespur-riddled foot in mouth with Monday’s outlandish suggestion that past presidents didn’t meet with families of fallen soldiers. And surprise, he doubled-down today (and he’s still wrong). But he has (once again) successfully shifted the conversation away from his role as commander in chief, to Obama’s performance.

+ NYT: “Two leading senators have reached a bipartisan deal to provide funding for critical subsidies to health insurers that president Trump said last week that he would cut off.”

+ WaPo: Federal judge blocks Trump’s third travel ban.

6. Witness box

“In Washington State, a sexual-assault victim was arrested and jailed to secure her testimony against the alleged perpetrator. (He was found guilty of kidnapping, attempted rape, and assault with sexual motivation.) In Hillsboro, Oregon, a Mexican immigrant was jailed for more than two years—nine hundred and five days—to obtain his testimony in a murder case. (The case was being brought against his son.) And in Harris County, Texas, a rape survivor suffered a mental breakdown in court while testifying against her assailant. Afraid that the woman would disappear before finishing her testimony, the court jailed her for a month.” What do all of these jailed individuals have in common? They weren’t suspects. They were witnesses. From The New Yorker: Why are prosecutors putting innocent witnesses in jail?

7. Finding out what’s left

“One by one Monday, Northern California residents returned to the burned out remains of their homes looking for family heirlooms, keepsakes or other reminders of the lives they led a week ago, before an inferno struck in the middle of the night.” Sacramento Bee: California fire victims search for shreds of their lives, while deputies search for bones.

+ Here’s one paragraph from the SF Chronicle that indicates both the scope of the disaster and the power of the human spirit: “Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital stayed open even though 51 of its doctors lost their homes. It stayed open even when twice as many patients as normal crowded into its emergency room, coughing and gasping. It stayed open and delivered 36 babies.”

+ LA Times: Will northern California soon have southern California’s climate?

8. Text me those stats

There’s been an unexplained spike in the number of driving fatalities since 2015. But if you’ve spent more than five minutes out on the roads during that period, you have a pretty good idea what’s going on. From Bloomberg: Smartphones are killing Americans, but nobody’s counting.

9. Bar tab

“Inmates, they decided, could give away money saved in their commissary accounts; instead of spending their balances on snacks or sneakers, they would be allowed to give a few dollars to the American Red Cross.” From the NYT: Texas inmates donated nearly $54,000 for hurricane relief.

10. Bottom of the news

“The cow escaped from a slaughterhouse on Fourth Avenue near 16th Street in Park Slope and hoofed it to the Prospect Expressway and then south towards Prospect Park, police sources said.” A Rogue calf was captured after running loose in Brooklyn. (Onlookers were able to pick the calf out of the Park Slope crowd because it had no beard.)

+ WaPo: She claimed tall, blond aliens kidnapped her as a child. Now she’s running for Congress.

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