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The American Scheme
I don’t think The New Yorker’s Sheelah Kolhatkar set out to write a story that, to a great extent, explains modern day America. But she may have done just that. Her absorbing look at a hedge fund’s repeated attempts to make big bucks by short-selling Herbalife (a company it viewed as a pyramid scheme) has it all. Big money financiers pulling economic and social levers like slot machine handles. Consumers determined to believe in the health benefits of products despite evidence to the contrary. An army of salespeople selling to other salespeople, all of them so desperate for a glimpse of the American dream that joining a multilevel marketing company seemed like a good career move. And through it all, a trail of money that changes hands over and over until eventually landing in the bank accounts of those at the top of the food chain. On the surface it’s a Wall Street story about a short sale gone wrong and the near impossibility of bringing down a company that makes money for investors. But, if you read between the lines, it’s a Main Street story about a lot more than that. Financiers Fight Over The American Dream.
Snap’s Kodak Moment
As Snap (which describes itself as a camera company) enters the public market, Time’s excellent Jeff Stein provides an interesting look at what makes Snapchat so compelling to young people (many of whom use it almost obsessively). “Snapchat is aware that most of our conversations are stupid. But we want to keep our dumb conversations private. When Snapchat first launched, adults assumed it was merely a safe way for teens to send nude pictures, because adults are pervs. But what Spiegel understood is that teens wanted a safe way to express themselves.”
+ “As the five-year-old company enters the public market, the enthusiasm is palpable. So is the fear.” Nick Bilton: Is Snap The Next Facebook — or Twitter?
Calling All Cars
Uber’s Travis Kalanick is trying to get out in front of a series of bad stories about the company, including the release of a video of him arguing with an Uber driver (something the rest of us are afraid to do because we don’t want our passenger star rating to go down). “Its clear this video is a reflection of me — and the criticism weve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”
+ “This could be the start of a deep, long-term and thorough effort to remake a culture that has long sidelined women — not just at Uber but across the tech business, too.” The NYT’s Farhad Manjoo suggests that Uber’s sexual harassment scandal could be a watershed for women in tech.
He Writes the Songs
“Adele said that as she was told who Taylors collaborator was, she had to look him up: ‘I was unaware that I knew who Max Martin was. I Googled him, and I was like, ‘Hes literally written every massive soundtrack of my life.’” If Adele didn’t know music’s top hitmaker, there’s a decent chance you don’t either. Meet Max Martin.
A Chill in the Air
“Posted in one of the grayest of the Soviet satellites, Putin entirely missed the sense of awakening and opportunity that accompanied perestroika, and experienced only the states growing fecklessness. At the very moment the Berlin Wall was breached, in November, 1989, he was in the basement of a Soviet diplomatic compound in Dresden feeding top-secret documents into a furnace. As crowds of Germans threatened to break into the building, officers called Moscow for assistance, but, in Putins words, ‘Moscow was silent.’” In The New Yorker, Evan Osnos, David Remnik, and Joshua Yaffa provide an excellent look at Trump, Putin, and The New Cold War: What lay behind Russias interference in the 2016 election — and what lies ahead?
“So many ordinary objects and experiences have become technologized — made dependent on computers, sensors, and other apparatuses meant to improve them — that they have also ceased to work in their usual manner.” Yes, yes, yes. Keep your touch screens and give us back our damn knobs! Ian Bogost explains why nothing ever works anymore. (I don’t want to have to take an online course to figure out how to work my car’s air conditioner.)
Wasabi or Not to Be
“Until the 1970s, bluefin tuna was a literal trash fish. If it wasnt put into cat food, sport fishermen paid to have it hauled off to dumps (after taking a smiling photo next to their strung-up carcasses). Until the mid-1900s, tunas reputation was so bad in Japan that it was referred to as neko-matagi, food too low for even a cat to eat.” Sadly for bluefin, they got a lot more popular. And now bluefin tuna is endangered. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you could soon run out of fish.
Man’s Best Lend
“‘I asked them: ‘How in the heck can I owe $5,800 when I bought the dog for $2,400?’ They told me, ‘Youre not financing the dog, youre leasing.’” Bloomberg explains how, whether you know it or not, you could be renting your dog.
+ Newshour goes deep on the form and function of your cat’s tongue.
+ Birds are flying into the reflective glass facade of the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium.
Bottom of the News
“Asked earlier this month about the most important person in her life, Ginsburg, who was widowed in 2010 and lost a close friend with the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, responded, ‘My personal trainer.’” Politico on the country’s most important trainer: I Did Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Workout. It Nearly Broke Me.
+ The worst possible response to a troll is to give that troll a wider audience. But sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to respond. There could be a solution. Chris Long of the New England Patriots may have just saved the Internet—and saved you from yourself.
+ The Atlantic explains how the chili dog transcended America’s divisions.
+ March 1st. The day President Trump finally went a full 24 hours without a false or misleading claim. (Maybe Twitter was down…)
This is a weekly best-of version of the NextDraft newsletter. For daily updates and to get the NextDraft app, go here. (Original story reprinted with permission from NextDraft.)