The Longest Weekend Read
September 6, 2019
Daily Pnut’s mission is to educate and entertain. And to do so in a short and snappy newsletter. In order to succinctly summarize what we think are the most important pieces of news we review hundreds of articles each day. We self describe ourselves as content carnivores.
In over a month we collect a ton of extra material that is left out of a Daily Pnut edition for a variety of reasons: doesn’t thematically connect with an edition(s), overcoverage, too depressing, not strategic enough, overly political, etc…
For those curious, here are hundreds of articles (over just the past few weeks) that we considered including in previous Daily Pnut editions. Here’s our longest weekend considerations.
“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.” – Herbert Hoover
“Any future defense secretary who advises the president to send a big American land army into Asia, or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as Gen. [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it,” – Robert Gates (Former Defense Secretary)
A War to Begin All Wars
American diplomats are close to announcing the Afghanistan peace deal they’ve been negotiating for nearly a year — with the Taliban. The proposed agreement has a timetable, roughly 16 months long, during which American and coalition troops will exit the country. In return, the Taliban assures it will break from international terrorist groups and start direct negotiations with Afghan officials over the country’s political future.
But Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and his senior officials in Kabul are worried. The agreement’s current wording does not link troop withdrawal to progress made in negotiations with the Taliban. A government official told reporters Thursday this is deeply concerning, not only for the government, but the Afghan people. “[They’ve] been bitten by this snake before — they’ve seen the results of hasty deals they and their voices weren’t part of.”
Afghan officials and the Taliban are supposed to start negotiations right after the US-Taliban deal is announced. But the reality is that the government and the Taliban have completely opposing views on governance, and decades of grievances. The process will undoubtedly be complicated and time-consuming. And even if Afghan negotiators were able to overcome their profound differences and agree to a political power-sharing deal, the US will have completed its troop withdrawal, leaving little leverage to ensure the peace deal holds.
AI Gets A B+ On It’s Biology Report And We’re Very Proud (Also Scared)
- Computer scientists at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a prominent lab in Seattle, have developed artificial intelligence that can pass not only an eighth-grade science exam, but a 12th-grade one. Four years ago even the most sophisticated system couldn’t do better than 60 percent on an eighth-grade exam.
- The new system, called Aristo, was unveiled Wednesday. It had taken standard multiple choice exams written for students in New York, correctly answering more than 90 percent of questions on the eighth-grade exam, and more than 80 percent of questions on the 12th-grade exam.
- Progress in developing AI that can understand language and mimic the logic and decision-making capabilities of humans is practically catching up with the speed of light. (NYT)
- Billionaires Jack Ma and Elon Musk debate good, evil and AI at conference in China (GeekWire)
We’re Blowing A Pretty Big Bubble
- The passive investment phenomenon has taken over nearly half the stock market. Investors have been shunning stock pickers and flocking to index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that mirror just about anything that can be tracked, like the S&P 500 or the Russell 2000.
- Equity passive funds alone have ballooned to a more than $3 trillion market in less than 10 years. According to Michael Burry, one of the first investors to call and profit from the subprime mortgage crisis over ten years ago, it is the massive flow of cash into these passive investments that is inflating stock and bond prices in a similar way that collateralized debt obligations did for subprime mortgages.
- Burry says when the massive cash inflows reverse “it will be ugly….Like most bubbles, the longer it goes on the worse the crash will be.” Burry was depicted in Michael Lewis’ staggering book “The Big Short,” and the subsequent Oscar-winning movie of the same name. (CNBC)
The Pope Ropes-A-Dope
- Pope Francis, enroute to a six-day trip to Africa, received a copy of a French reporter’s new book How America Wanted to Change the Pope. The book explores the criticism of Francis by a group of American conservatives who disagree with the pontiff’s inclusive approach to the papacy, including his championing of migrants, his absolute opposition to the death penalty, and his willingness to offer the sacraments to divorced and remarried Catholics.
- For his part, Francis said it’s “an honor that Americans attack me.” Supporters hope during this week’s trip to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius Francis will focus on poverty, climate change and migration. (NYT)
Additional World News
- The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran: Hawks in Israel and America have spent more than a decade agitating for war against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Will Trump finally deliver? (NYT, $)
- China’s Backyard Battles
- Hong and Kong? Berlin’s panda cubs at centre of Chinese human rights row: Competition to name Meng Meng’s twins intensifies pressure on German government (Guardian)
- Brexit’s ‘Doomsday Politics’ Mean Voters May Be Last Chance to Resolve Crisis (NYT, $)
- Thousands protest in South Africa over rising violence against women: President promises to do more after the most deadly month for violent crimes against women country has ever seen (Guardian)
- Mike Pence accused of humiliating hosts in Ireland: ‘He shat on the carpet’: The vice-president’s comments on Brexit while visiting Ireland and his stay at his boss’s golf course did not go down well (Guardian)
- A Million Refugees May Soon Lose Their Line to the Outside World (NYT, $)
What Happens In Vegas, Raises The Heat Index
- The fastest warming city in the US is Las Vegas. Its temperatures have risen 5.76F since 1970.
- Heat waves and heat-related deaths are on the rise, but so is growth. Southern Nevada has welcomed unfettered development since the 1930s, and its population has doubled in size nearly every decade despite limited water resources and increased drought.
- Already in this century hundreds of miles of desert landscape have been paved over with heat-absorbing asphalt and concrete, worsening a “heat island” effect in the cauldron-like valley. Outward growth has led to more vehicles traveling further across the sprawling metropolis, increasing heat-trapping carbon emissions.
- A recent Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report warns that without global action to reduce carbon emissions, Las Vegas will probably experience 96 days of heat above 100F by the end of the century, including 60 days over 105F, and seven “off the chart” days that would break the current heat index. (Guardian)
Keep Calm And Carry On Keeping Calm
- In Maine, a program called Portland Identification and Early Referral (PIER) has been responsible for reducing new hospital admissions for psychotic symptoms by 35 percent.
- The program was developed in 2001 by a psychiatrist who believed that if early intervention could reverse the course of diseases like cancer and heart disease it should also work for psychosis.
- At the time, conventional wisdom didn’t support the theory, but Dr. William McFarlane persevered, and proved that an impending psychotic break can be identified and prevented if it is recognized early and appropriate steps are taken to head it off. (NYT)
Just a Few Weekend Reads
Choose your own adventure: entertainment or productivity
- First the entertainment: The Best and Biggest Movies to See This Fall: Cats, Frozen II, Little Women, and more. (Vulture)
- The Planets, the Stars and Brad Pitt: With two major performances this year, the 55-year-old actor and producer talks frankly about his future onscreen, masculinity and getting sober. (NYT, $)
- The Big Show Never Ends: How Dan and Keith’s ‘SportsCenter’ Changed TV Forever: Upon the 40th anniversary of ESPN, we revisit Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick, the wisecracking anchors who revolutionized sports broadcasting and late-night TV (The Ringer)
- Now the productivity: How to focus on one single goddamn thing: Chris Bailey, the author of Hyperfocus: How to Manage Your Attention in a World of Distraction, explains. (Vox)
- Check Out These Free Online Courses Starting This September (Lifehacker)
- If you want to get things done, pause: Taking time out is crucial. Don’t fill up your whole day and you can kickstart a new sense of rhythm (Guardian)
- Many of us have a little bit of hoarder inside us — here’s what to do (TED)
- A seven-step guide to taking better notes (Quartz)
- The Manconomy Is Cynical and Exploitative and It’s Going to Save Us All: Can a new cottage industry that preys upon our deepest insecurities actually be a force for good? (Men’s Health)
- Or maybe forget about productivity for the weekend: What to Do With a Day Off: Step one: Give yourself permission to actually take the day off. (NYT, $)
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