• The Asylum Issue

    Bad News: Too Much of a Bad Thing

    The Asylum Issue
    Bad news mud

    Bad News

    Too Much of a Bad Thing

    Another week happened, which means you have another long list of really terrible shit to read. As usual, I’ve been taking notes, and edited this list from thousands of links down to the cream of the crop. The absolute worst.

    This week’s theme seemed to be our frail bodies. I don’t know why, that’s just the way the news cycle goes sometimes. This episode is a whopping two-thousand words, so no time to waste with small talk, let’s get down to business.

    Click the play button, and get scrolling:

    Monday, October 12

    It was a rough week for organic life on all fronts, but especially this morning which began with the publication of 10 years of research on the role genes play in growing old. Namely, that over 230 genes related to aging which, when “turned off,” could increase the lifespan of humans up to 60 percent.

    Speaking of impossibly long lifespans: Gloria Steinem, the 81-year-old feminist icon, took up a new post today at VICE. Pretty sure that makes her older than the entire editorial staff combined. But hey, obviously I think it’s cool to bring older viewpoints onto the internet – yeah, even outdated second-wave feminists who have had outrageous transphobic opinions for decades.

    Steinem first gained widespread recognition back in ’63, when her exposé of a Playboy-themed bar went back-in-the-day viral, which is why it’s somewhat serendipitous that Playboy announced today that they would no longer be publishing fully nude models in the magazine. Is this the victory against the Male Gaze imagined during the so-called “feminist sex wars”? Probably not.

    I try to avoid including absurd crimes in this column – this thing is long enough as it is – but I just couldn’t help myself today. If I start rambling about why I think this story of a 23-year-old woman livestreaming while drunk driving really captures the contemporary tragedy what with the social internetting and surveillance and pure nihilism and spectacle, just take my keys. I’m in no condition to blog.

    And oh shit by the way, my main man Ben Carson got taken way out of context when a reporter hit him with a curve ball: “Do you think we’re at the End of Days?” We all know what my answer is, but Carson has a little more to lose. I probably wouldn’t advise that a candidate for president responds “we are getting closer to that.”

    I’ve covered a lot of research on teenagers and internet habits. Today, The New York Times Wellness section featured a round-up of pretty much every study I’ve linked to this season. From compulsive texting, to social media negatively effecting grades, to cyberbullying and sleep loss – it’s all there folks. The only thing missing from this article is a link to my Twitter.

    Here, how’s this – *rubs magic hands together* – check out this recent study that found a whopping 1 in 6 young Americans steal. Print that one.

    Imagine checking the pollution clouds moving through your city and mapping your commute route around plumes of carcinogenic airborne particles. Sounds like something straight out of the parallel universe in that show Fringe, but in fact scientists at the Berkley National Laboratory are working with Google to fit their streetview cars with air-quality sensors to map out the country’s dirtiest air. Literally cannot wait.

    DARPA, the military research institution that invented the internet and pretty much everything else, is in search of photo-sensitive airplanes that dissolve in sunlight. This would make it possible to launch one-way spy missions “behind enemy lines” or preserve the deniability of domestic spying. I’d like to think the uniformed guys in that smoky cigar parlor are just showing off at this point because adding another terrifying adjective to this already a pretty damning list of disappearing autonomous stealth surveillance assassin drones seems a bit superfluous at this point.

    Tuesday, October 13

    Remember those Bush-era daily terrorism risk warnings? Green? Yellow? Orange? Red? Well Homeland Security wants to throwback to the good old days and bring this rating system back for a domestic terror–related risk index. They’re citing an incident in Chattanooga, TN, where five soldiers were shot by a “homegrown terrorist.” What about white people burning churches, or misogynists shooting up schools? Or racially-motivated police killings? Or the murder of transgender people? Yeah, I doubt those will be included, because if they were we’d be seeing red 24-7.

    Lifestyles of the rich and famous, apocalypse edition: that’s right, the rise of luxury bomb-shelters swept the news today. These leather and brass dugouts promise to keep the world’s wealthiest survivalists in the comfort to which they’ve grown accustomed. Personally, I’m for this. When my hoard of discerning doomsday warthogs and I are scouring the desert for water, food, and entertainment, we’ll surely get a bit of each when we peel these preppers out of their sardine cans and feast on their excesses – bones, guts, and all.

    Oh, this caught my eye. It’s the story of how the NYPD has been experimenting with X-ray vision. Namely, the new Z Backscatter Vans, vehicles equiped with a mobile X-ray imaging device capable of photographing the inside of cars and trucks. Not comfortable with getting a daily dose of radiation on your commute? Too fucking bad.

    It comes as no surprise to learn that scientists believe the human brain might be an elaborate hallucination machine. I say no surprise because every day I see apparitions. They try to talk to me in my apartment, at my office, in the subway station, at the bodega and grocery store. I keep reminding myself: humans are only illusions caused by the internet.

    Speaking of seeing things, astronomers at the Kepler Space Telescope think they may have found an alien civilization – or the remains of what we’d expect one to look like – somewhere between the Cygnus and Lyra constellations. They say they’ve never seen anything like it before, and they’ll be looking again for technological radio signatures this January. If you need me, I’ll be shivering in my bathtub.

    Wednesday, October 14

    The nice folks over at the Intercept published a collection of reports following new leaks regarding the US drone program today. It’s a huge document dump, and the first of this scale in the two years since Snowden released information that led to the NSA scandal. I watch Homeland, so personally I haven’t read any of these documents yet as I’m pretty steadfast about protecting myself from spoilers.

    Uber is jumping headfirst into on-demand delivery. They’ll be competing with startups like Postmates to deliver food and retail items around Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. Soon, you’ll be able to tap a button and some poor schmuck will drive to buy you hot dogs from that place you like. I’m going to wait on this one – let me know when you can get on-demand MacBook charging cables because I go through those things like Báhn Mis.

    If you ever doubted that perhaps this new age of hacking, leaks, and cyber-warfare was just media sensation of the same-old, I don’t think you’ve been paying attention. But, if I can just have a moment of your time to make one final argument ... today, the US Navy announced that it plans to reconsider celestial navigation (that’s right, m’fucking stars) to avoid the potential of hacked computer navigation systems. This reminds me of a story I shared last year about the German intelligence agency using typewriters, and just goes to show: nothing is safe on the internet, not even aircraft carriers.

    Hmm. Let’s see. *Flips through loose papers*. Ah, here’s one from today about a shoulder-mounted anti-drone pulse gun that is being developed for police departments that are increasingly “menaced” by private drones trying to get a peak into the “free-speech zone” or whatever. The cannon would hit drones with a radio pulse that would disable remotes, but leave the emergency safety features of the drone intact.

    Thursday, October 15

    A new handheld DNA sequencer was announced today, a device about the size of a Nokia. It can’t sequence huge samples, but it is smart enough to identify bacteria, viruses, species, and individual people. Oh greaaaat.

    While we’re on the subject of the beginning of the end of the world, Hungarian officals announced today that they have completed their construction of a massive fence running along the entire Croatian border to prevent unregulated migration and asylum.

    A spot of dark news from Hell today, as California corrections chief defends his use of prisoners to fight the state’s uncontrollable wildfires. Just absolutely disgusting.

    I’ve been following this story for years now, for reasons that will become obvious in time, and researchers are now confident that we’re only five years from lab-grown hamburgers.

    You can imagine how my eyes lit up on the back of this news that a company is forming an Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) for Twitter chatter. Basically, it’s an index of the 25 most-tweeted-about stocks of the day. You can buy a share of the fund and if the companies “going viral” do well, you make bank. If they do poorly, literally everyone you told about this will be like “I told you so, you fucking idiot.” Either way, I’m bullish.

    Friday, October 16

    It was a pretty decent Friday all-in-all. That is, unless you count the new chiropractic disorder caused by too much texting during spinal development stages. Or this new study that seems to conclusively link antibiotics with vulnerability to infectous disease at a massive scale. Or this city using autonomous robots to repair itself. Or this complete map of traffic cameras in the US. Or the lawsuit that Google just won in favor of scanning literally every book they get their grubby little hands on. Or the record flooding that ripped through southern California following months of drought, leaving cars frozen in waves of mud. (Sorry are floods swallowing this continent right now or is it just me?) Or the fact that police departments around the country are trying to obtain access to massive databases of genetic material stored by online geneology services.

    There was just a tiny bit of good news today though, as the Washington Post published this report on the sorry state of the J. Edgar Hoover building, which houses the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Pull yourself together, you literal scums of the Earth.

    Saturday, October 17

    Today, Hawaii announced a state of emergency regarding homeless residents. Crazy idea: every single one of those overpriced resorts should have to give 5% of their units to displaced locals free of charge. There, boom, solved your problem.

    McDonalds serves breakfast. Yay. Sound the cool alarm. No one cares. And here is proof. How can the brand reach hip cool millenials? They can’t, ha ha. Let’s cyberbully them. Oh shit, let’s actually do that you guys. Let’s cyberbully McDonalds. Hey McDonalds: delete your account. (Wait, I think that actually worked for Arby’s.)

    Actually, here is how you could save your brand – Are you listening people on LinkedIn always bugging me? – build a moonbase. I can see it now, go to McDonalds in space. I’d do it. Breakfast or no. But as usual, Americans are too conservative for the real shit. That’s why we’re way behind where moonbases are concerned. We can make a billion one-dollar hamburgers, but we can’t chill on the moon? What the fuck do you expect?!

    Sunday, October 18

    Ok, trolls, time to settle-up. Amazon filed more than 1,000 suits against its growing barnacle crust of “fake reviewers.” Say goodbye to whoever’s job it is to write the near-weekly BuzzFeed listicle of phony reviews.

    Samsung is currently being pressed by the South Korean government to develop robots capable of producing at the same rate as Foxconn (the manufacturing company that assembles iPhones and other electronics in China) for less than it costs to pay humans to perform the same work. Is this good news or bad news for the exploited proletariat? Only time will tell. Spoiler alert: nothing is ever good news for us.

    It’s a rare moment when I get to link to an article that an actual friend of mine wrote, so pardon me while I cherish this rarity-upon-rares: the new Prison Architect game is addictive. It’s a new video game somewhere between The Sims and, well, the prison-industrial complex where you get to build and control an incarceration facility. Tweet your high score to me, and maybe I’ll start curating a leaderboard on this column.

    Did you see this piece about the pothead high school student who claimed hacking the director of the CIA’s personal AOL account? Two crazy things about this story, and both of them have to do with AOL.

    Here is the worst thing that happened last week. Are you sitting down? Japanese engineers have created a robot designed to help people commit suicide – called SeppuKuma, or Suicide Bear – the device is cute, emotionally intelligent, and strong enough to drag your lifeless body down the stairs.

    Tune in next week!

    Star Wars tickets sell out! Steve Jobs biopic a little grizzly when you think about it! Bernie Sanders embroiled in racy sex scandal!

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