The Supreme Court Giveth and Taketh. Iran’s Nuclear Standoff.


“The reigning view among longevity scientists is that aging is a product not of evolutionary intent but of evolutionary neglect: we are designed to live long enough to pass on our genes, and what happens afterward doesn’t much matter…if you just kept aging at the rate you age between twenty and thirty, you’d live to a thousand. At thirty, everything starts to change. From that point, our risk of mortality doubles every seven years. We’re like salmon, only we die in slow motion.” – Tad Friend, New Yorker, Silicon Valley’s Quest to Live Forever (April 2017)


Tough Road Ahead for the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal: President Trump does not like the 2015 Iran Deal. His national security team has talked him out of ripping it up three times. He’s demanding the deal be rewritten and if Britain, France, and Germany haven’t fixed the deal by May 12, he will pull the United States out. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been trying to win European support for Trump’s three key issues: A commitment to renegotiate limits on missile testing by Iran; an assurance that inspectors have unfettered access to Iranian military bases; and an extension of the deal’s expiration dates to prevent Iran from resuming the production of nuclear fuel long after the current restrictions expire in 2030. Once fixed, the strict new terms would be presented to Iran as a fait accompli, with the threat of renewed sanctions if Tehran fails to comply.

Of course, not only would Iran then have to agree to the new terms, but also Russia and China. And it’s not that Britain, France, and Germany don’t think that would ever happen, but just in case, they are proposing an alternate idea: Don’t scrap the 2015 deal, just add on an extension, and could the State Department please guarantee that if they all agreed to an extension, Trump would promise not to tear up the accord on some other pretext?

Should a new deal be reached but fall through, and the US re-imposes sanctions, such as blacklisting the Central Bank of Iran, it would cause serious problems for European companies. American and European negotiators continue to work feverishly on a deal to preserve the 2015 accord and convince the president that deal has changed when it actually has not.


Shifts Afoot in the Chinese Auto Industry: The Chinese government has set a goal of 20% of cars sold by 2025 to be electric or rechargeable-hybrid vehicles. To that end, Chinese carmaker Geely is investing $9 billion in Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler. Germany’s Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries warned that just because her country is open to investment from outside, the deal should not be used as a “gateway” for Chinese industrial policy interests. Zypries said that Germany will not block the deal, but it must “keep an especially watchful eye.” Geely already owns 100% of Sweden’s Volvo and black cab maker London Taxi Company.

Some have concerns that Chinese firms could gain too much influence in European economies, pointing out that the EU is much more open to investment from abroad than Beijing allows on its territory. Foreign production is often only permitted through partnerships with Chinese firms, which explains why over the weekend, Daimler announced a $1.9 billion investment in partnership with another Chinese auto firm, BAIC, and BMW announced a deal with Chinese manufacturer Great Wall Motor to build electric powered mini-cars in China for the local market.


– The Supreme Court Giveth: DACA will stay in place for now; justices say the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California (famously liberal-leaning) should hear the case first.

– The Supreme Court Taketh Away: Although not yet decided (arguments were Monday), a sharply divided Court appears poised to overturn a 40-year-old Supreme Court decision that would remove a key revenue stream for public sector unions.

– Russia Giveth: Vladimir Putin has ordered a daily five hour “humanitarian pause” for civilians trapped in eastern Ghouta, where 560 people have died in the last eight days. From 9am to 2pm local time, the Syrian government will not be murdering people.

– No surprise Norway exited the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang with 39 medals. Have         you been to Norway in winter? Winter’s their boo.

– Now that Mr. Popular’s out, the lawsuits are pouring in, and a potential sale fell through, the board of directors of the studio co-founded by Harvey Weinstein says it has no choice  but to pursue the “only viable option to maximize the company’s remaining value: an orderly bankruptcy process.”

– California Democrats Taketh Away: Grass-roots Democratic activists at the party’s annual convention in San Diego declined to endorse Dianne Feinstein for another term. Guess they’ve had enough moderation and compromise.


DoD Anti-Propaganda Program Finds Funding: The Department of Defense has finally funded a $40 million initiative that allows the State Department to battle state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda targeting the US and its interests. The effort was ordered by Congress last summer in response to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and to counter Russian efforts to impact US politics that continue to the present. The Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy at the State Department acknowledged the funding took longer than expected, but said, “This administration takes [meddling] very seriously.”

The program will start with a $1 million Information Access Fund that will be run from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC). The fund will eventually grow to $5 million and be used to offer grants to “civil society groups, media content providers, non-governmental organizations, federally-funded research and development centers, private companies and academic institutions” who are working to counter propaganda and disinformation. In other words, you-in-the-crowd-out-there, send the government your best ideas.


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– We found and mistakenly took the time to read another article about millennials but chose not to share it because we are guessing you all are just as fatigued as us by these pieces. And we don’t want you all to fall into the trap of clicking on the clickbaity sensational headline.

– As social media becomes increasingly polluted with fake news many “real news” sites are increasingly becoming paywalled. In rough chronological order: The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, and most recently Wired have built quite high fenced paywalls. It is concerning that just at a time when there is a major need for people to have easy access to quality reporting, many fine publications are restricting access to their reporting due to revenue.

– Speaking of Wired, paywalls, real news, and fake news. A Wired piece explores how “The Like button is our new ballot box, and democracy has been transformed into an algorithmic popularity contest.” We hope you haven’t hit your Wired paywall (four articles a month) so you can read the above quoted piece on “How Trump Conquered Facebook—Without Russian Ads.”

– In case you can’t get enough of Wired’s reporting on Facebook. Here’s a longform piece on the company: “How a confused, defensive social media giant steered itself into a disaster, and how Mark Zuckerberg is trying to fix it all.” (two more articles left for the month)

– Here’s a quick ranking of the most powerful people in the world, we should do a longer form piece on this, in rank order: Xi Jinping, Mark Zuckerberg, and Vladimir Putin. Note that all three are autocrats in their own way.


“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”  – Anaïs Nin

“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak


Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: