We built the network with a clear goal. To disrupt every business, one by one, and make industries more transparent and efficient. Even transactions like buying a mattress, that had hitherto felt like shady ripoffs, would be tossed and turned into feel-good experiences where buyers and sellers—freed from the clutches of commission-driven middlemen—could both rest easy, knowing they got a fair shake. In the new digital panacea, no bedfellow was too strange. We were going to live the dream. But after a series of wake-up calls, we’ve realized not everything we set out to build in the early days of the internet ended up looking exactly like it did when we drew it up on the whiteboard. And the new version of buying a mattress may end up being pretty much like the old version. From FastCo’s David Zax: The war to sell you a mattress is an internet nightmare. “Casper was on its way to becoming a 750-million-dollar company. It was the hottest of the bed-in-a-box disruptors, with investments from celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Nas. And it was picking on some skinny blogger from Arizona?” (Sorry to wake you from your slumber, internet generation. You made your bed, now lie in it.)
+ Today, maybe the idea of disruption is just a pipedream. The original disrupters are in charge, and they’re not about to let you do to them what they did to others. The NYT’s Farhad Manjoo explains how the frightful five put start-ups in a lose-lose situation.”Where 10 or 20 years ago we looked to start-ups as a font of future wonders, today the energy and momentum have shifted almost completely to the big guys. In addition to the many platforms they own already, one or more of the Five are on their way to owning artificial intelligence, voice assistants, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, home automation, and every other cool and crazy thing that will rule tomorrow.” Wake me when it’s over…
“The Chinese nation…has stood up, grown rich, and become strong—and it now embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation…It will be an era that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind.” Xi Jinping heralds “new era” of Chinese power. (And he went on heralding it, for three hours and 23 minutes. Maybe governing by Tweet isn’t such a bad idea after all…) If you’re short of time, by about three hours and 20 minutes, here’s an overview of five things you need to know.
+ “China, which has already deployed the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship system, is building a surveillance state in Xinjiang, a four-hour flight from Beijing, that uses both the newest technology and human policing to keep tabs on every aspect of citizens’ daily lives.” From Buzzfeed: This is what a 21st-century police state really looks like.
The New Yorker’s Robin Wright on the ignominious end of the ISIS Caliphate: “History will record that the Islamic State caliphate—a bizarre pseudo-state founded on illusory goals, created by a global horde of jihadis, and enforced with perverted viciousness—survived for three years, three months and some eighteen days.”
+ Eery drone footage shows what was left of Raqqa when it fell.
+ The LA Times with one hell of a roadtrip: A trip through horror, confusion, and contradictions in Syria.
“The family’s leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: The first is selling oxycontin; the second is promoting the sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and the second have nothing to do with one another.” Esquire on the secretive family making billions from the opioid crisis. Their name covers museums and universities. Should organizations care where the money came from?
“I didn’t say what that congresswoman said; didn’t say it all. She knows it. I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who was — sounded like a lovely woman.” The woman/wife Cowanda Jones-Johnson has a different view of the conversation she had with the president who called to offer condolences about her son, a soldier killed in Niger. “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.” (Come on, Trump would never disrespect a gold star family…) The whole story has been sick from the start. Here’s a quick review.
+ Why does Trump repeatedly argue that the media is making up stories about him, without ever offering any proof? Because it works. 46% of Americans believe major news outlets make up stories about Trump.
+ The bipartisan health care bill being touted just yesterday appears to be all but doomed today.
+ “The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars developing, testing, and fielding ballistic-missile-defense systems over the past few decades. But in tests, these systems hit their target only about 50 to 60 percent of the time.” Trump said it was more like 97% of the time. What if he really believes that?
“So how in the world could a chocolate bar be convincingly sold as a health food?” Well, a spoonful of health study sponsorships helps the medicine go down. Vox: Dark chocolate is now a health food. Here’s how that happened.
One of the big selling points of Uber and other ride-hailing companies is that they reduce the traffic in municipalities. But a new study questions whether than benefit really exists. From the NYT Upshot: Is Uber helping or hurting mass transit?
“Both eyedrops and cancer drugs are sold by volume, and we spend billions of dollars every year on them. Chemotherapy drugs can run thousands of dollars per infusion. Crucial eye medications to treat conditions like glaucoma may cost hundreds of dollars for a small bottle that only lasts a month, making the waste of even a drop a problem for low-income patients.” Pro Publica and NPR on the waste that adds to the bottom line of drug companies. “If you’ve ever put in an eyedrop, some of it has almost certainly spilled onto your eyelid or cheek.” (You’re paying the same amount for the medicine on your face…)
“Ronald Evans realized the word was out when scores of strangers, some fit and some fat, started showing up at his biology lectures around the country. Soon, via email and voicemail, they were hounding him at all hours. Was it true, some wanted to know, that he had pills that could vaporize fat? Could the pills really, others asked, increase athletic endurance by 70 percent? Would he be interested in coming over and doping a racehorse?” Businessweek on One scientist’s marathon quest for the exercise pill. Cynical News Gatherer Me: Never Happen. Real Life Me: Please Work!
Lists like “The Top Fifty Greatest Living Athletes” are ultimately just linkbait intended to get you to argue with the list, thus sending it even more traffic. That said, I’ll take any break from the real news. So here’s the list.
+ LA Times: Wounded casino security guard vanishes from Las Vegas—and surfaces on the set of Ellen.