August 20, 2014
1. The World is Appalled
President Obama spoke following an official confirmation that the video of the beheading of an American journalist was authentic: “Today the entire world is appalled at the brutal murder of James Foley by the terrorist group ISIL.” Foley was a photojournalist from New Hampshire who was kidnapped two years ago while covering the war in Syria. Obama also said that groups like ISIL have “no place in the 21st century.” Unfortunately, they won’t leave willingly. James Foley risked his life bringing us important stories. His death is a reminder that one of the era’s most defining stories — the broad struggle between extremists and moderates — is far from over.
+ James Foley: “It’s part of the problem with these conflicts … We’re not close enough to it. And if reporters, if we don’t try to get really close to what these guys … are experiencing, we don’t understand the world.” The Atlantic: James Foley and the last journalists in Syria.
+ In May, Vanity Fair’s James Harkin wrote about the most dangerous place in the world for journalists (more than 60 have been killed in Syria) and followed the trail of two of his colleagues, including James Foley: Evaporated.
+ We are appalled today. People in Iraq and Syria have been appalled for quite a while. From Reuters: “When Islamic State militants stormed into a northern Iraqi village and ordered everyone to convert to Islam or die only one person refused.” That’s when the killing started.
2. Show and Tell?
The beheading of James Foley brings up a complex set of choices for editors and those who manage social media networks. How much graphic content is too much? As you might imagine, different publications had different answers. Meanwhile, Twitter began suspending users who shared images of Foley’s beheading.
3. Ferguson or Bust
I don’t remember a time when my Twitter stream was as totally locked in on a single topic as long as its been locked in on Ferguson. Apparently, a lot of people want to see (and take part) in the story firsthand. From MoJo: From Anarchists To Tibetan Monks, here are some of the outsiders joining protests in Ferguson.
+ “Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero.” The Economist with a “reminder that civilians — innocent or guilty — are far more likely to be shot by police in America than in any other rich country.”
+ German journalist Ansgar Graw on his arrest in Ferguson: “I’ve been in several conflict zones: I was in the civil war regions in Georgia, the Gaza strip, illegally visited the Kaliningrad region when travel to the Soviet Union was still strictly prohibited for westerners, I’ve been in Iraq, Vietnam and in China, I’ve met Cuba dissidents. But to be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police? For that I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America.”
In Liberia, an entire neighborhood called West Point has been surrounded by barbed-wire barricades in an attempt to control the spread of Ebola. From the NYT: “Soldiers repelled the surging crowd with live rounds, driving hundreds of young men back into the neighborhood, a slum of tens of thousands in Monrovia.”
+ James Surowiecki on Ebolanomics: “The lack of an Ebola treatment is disturbing. But, given the way drug development is funded, it’s also predictable.”
5. Way Offline
“He said he had no address, no vehicle, did not file a tax return, and did not receive mail. He said he lived in the woods.” Christopher Thomas Knight spent three decades living in the woods in Central Maine, only occasionally crossing the border into society to steal from the locals. (Just think of how much great television this guy can now binge-watch?) GQ’s: Michael Finkel on the strange and curious tale of the last true hermit.
6. It’s Not Synching In
According to recent research, people who read material on a Kindle are “significantly” worse at recalling key plot points than their paperback-reading counterparts. Now I just need a paperback with backlighting and a way to increase the font size.
7. Decade of Dominance
It’s been ten years since Google went public. And so far, things seem to be going pretty well for the company. Quartz’s Dan Frommer charts the company’s amazing growth since its IPO.
+ WSJ: Google’s IPO, 10 years later: Just 10 stocks beat it.
+ James Temple: Google’s 10 zaniest projects in the 10 years since the IPO.
8. It’s Mourning in America
“I awoke incredibly puffy and sad. I started crying almost immediately when I found out … I’m still incredibly sad. You can probably hear the choke in my voice. But I’ve decided I’m going to mourn for one week and then celebrate him without sadness, as I’m sure he would not have wanted that.” Are those the words of a close friend of Robin Williams? No. They’re the words of a fan. NY Mag’s Tim Murphy on those who grieve for dead celebrities.
+ “Public mourning is there in order to allow private mourning to express itself.” New Republic’s Meghan O’Rourke: Twitter Grief is Real Grief. (Though, one hopes real grief is at least a few characters longer…)
9. Ice on the Cake
The ice bucket challenge is working. The ALS Association has raised more than $22 million since the viral project’s kick-off. Vox’s Julia Belluz wonders if viral memes should be dictating our charitable giving.
+ Wired: How long would it take the whole world to do the ice bucket challenge? (By that time, due to climate change, we’d be pouring room temperature water over our heads.)
10. The Bottom of the News
Enough with all the bad news. This will cheer you up. A four year-old reviews The French Laundry.
+ If you want to wake up in the city that never sleeps, you better head somewhere other than NYC. According to data collected by Jawbone, people who live there go to bed at a perfectly reasonable hour.
+ NPR: If You’re Born In The Sky, What’s Your Nationality?
+ Want a successful marriage? Have a big wedding.
+ Slate: What makes people look like their pets?
+ The NFL wants Super Bowl halftime performers to have to pay for the right to perform. (And given which acts they’re considering, that actually makes a lot of sense.)