October 1, 2014
1. It Is Here
Ebola is here. And if the immediate media coverage is any indication, you are supposed to follow a two step process. First, totally freak out because the virus has arrived in Texas. Second, stop making such a big deal about Ebola. With the current pace of Internet news, most of us barely had a chance to panic before being admonished to calm down. Here are the facts: A man began to develop symptoms last week but he was released by hospital officials who didn’t all seem to know he was visiting from Liberia (in a way, this blunder is the scariest part of the story). The man is back in the hospital, and those who had any contact with him — “including three members of the ambulance crew that transported him to the hospital and five schoolchildren” — will be closely monitored by the CDC for the next three weeks. Hopefully that makes you feel worse/better.
+ Take the Vox Quiz: Have you touched the vomit, blood, sweat saliva, urine, or feces of someone who has Ebola? If you answered no, you don’t have Ebola.
+ Once you’ve panicked and calmed down about one disease, it’s the perfect time for the media to tell you about the viral epidemic that should really terrify you.
+ Some positive news on the Ebola front: outbreaks in Nigeria, Senegal, appear to be contained.
2. The Silent Treatment
According to the NYT, Hong Kong’s leaders have decided not to negotiate with protestors (who, among other things, have called for Leung Chun-ying’s resignation). They’ve also decided not to use force to disperse the crowd. The plan: Wait them out.
+ Buzzfeed is providing live updates of the growing protest.
+ This seems like a good time to watch a new 2 minute film celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Berkeley’s free speech movement.
3. Forecast Calls For Worse
The New Yorker’s George Packer sums up the situation in Middle East in his piece, Two Speeches and a Tragedy: “A hands-off approach toward internal conflict in countries like Egypt, Syria, and Iran, did not create the space for a new partnership between the United States and the Muslim world, or allow for positive change within those societies. It’s hard to think of a worse year in modern history for the life conditions of Muslims internationally than 2014 (and there’s been plenty of competition).”
+ WaPo’s Alan Taylor introduces his collection of nine charts that try to explain the Middle East with a line that could open any article on the subject: The Middle East is complicated.
+ We know the Iraqi military needs some work on the ground. And apparently they need it in the air as well. “Iraqi military pilots mistakenly gave food, water and ammunition to enemy ISIS militants instead of their own soldiers.”
As more companies analyze the data and see how damaging worker burnout can be to the bottom line, they are coming up with creative ways to attack the problem. For starters, how does unlimited paid vacation days sound? Not good enough? Maybe you’d prefer a precation: You get a two-week paid vacation before you even start a new job. (I’d take 13 days off and spend the last day finding a new job with the same perk.)
5. Elevator Glitch
The Secret Service is not having a good week. First we learned how easy it was for a man with a knife to run across the lawn and into the White House. And now it turns out that “a security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama.” (At least the guy didn’t enter the elevator before first allowing those inside to exit.)
+ “One intruder in a white karate outfit carried in a knife hidden in a Bible. A stranger slipped in to watch a movie with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. And a pilot crashed his Cessna into the mansion.” The NYT’s Peter Baker takes a look at the ever-expanding list of unwelcome visitors to the White House.
6. Paying a Debit To Society?
Think your bank fees are high? This excellent six-month investigation from the Center for Public Integrity uncovers how prison bankers cash in on captive customers. “JPay and other prison bankers collect tens of millions of dollars every year from inmates’ families in fees for basic financial services. To make payments, some forego medical care, skip utility bills and limit contact with their imprisoned relatives.”
+ And even after they’re released, the former prisoners still have to pay exorbitant fees to access their own money.
7. The Algorithm Method
“As we grow more reliant on applications and algorithms, we become less capable of acting without their aid.” So says Nicholas Carr in this excerpt from his new book, The Glass Cage. You can either click through to read this excerpt or have your drone pick up a copy.
8. Ample Sample
My dad used to disappear from his office for an hour or so at a time, and he never told anyone where he was going. It was a company and family mystery for years until he finally told us that he liked to go to Costco, order a hot dog, and just watch how the business worked. Apparently, he wasn’t dining alone. If it were considered a restaurant, “Costco would be number 11 on the list of the biggest pizzerias in the U.S., just ahead of Round Table.” And one of their best ways to get you to buy lunch and a whole lot more is through the psychology of samples. (Of course, my dad probably could have told you that.)
9. Splash Mob
“It’s been hard to find a comfy chunk of sea ice this summer. So walruses are opting for the next best thing: Alaska.” From Quartz: 35,000 walruses have mobbed the Alaskan coast — because there’s no sea ice left to rest on.
+ At least there are a lot of them. According to the London Zoological Society, “populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%. Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.” Let’s assume those stats are way off. Still scary.
10. The Bottom of the News
“What a nervous day it must have been in the industry when Bounty or Brawny or whoever decided to place towel perforations more closely together … Machines were retooled, perforation distances reset, and smaller sized paper towels made their way onto the shelves of Stop & Shop and ShopRite and Walmart. Consumers, waking up from a wasteful slumber, realized how useful and smart and feel-goody smaller sized paper towels were.” I highly suggest you soak up the knowledge shared in Craig Mod’s piece: There is much to learn from the paper towel.
+ If you spend twenty-three grand on a plane ticket, this is what your flight will look like.
+ Now vending machines sell local, farm fresh foods. (We’re ruining the world.)