Chipping away the ice for hot news
Wow, it’s a good thing this is a Saturday and most people can stay home this morning. As we’re writing this, roads around Indianapolis are still a complete mess with a number of people on the Interstate having been stuck in traffic most the night. The good news is that temperatures are finally above freezing and the rain that’s currently falling should help melt most the ice. The bad news is that temps drop back down below freezing after about 7:00 this evening and at that point the rain could turn to snow. Your best best is to stay inside if you can. If you must go out, please be careful.
The news takes a couple of interesting turns this morning. The President reaffirmed his earlier statements on Russian hacking during the election and Republicans in North Carolina are being complete assholes toward their incoming Governor. There’s also plenty still developing so we’ll leave those stories alone and go with these five things you really should know.
China stole our drone ship!
China apparently didn’t think they were getting enough of our attention since the US has been focused on Russia pretty much all week. So, they went out into the South China Sea and took an underwater drone being tested by the US Navy1. The drone was about 50 nautical miles off the coast of the Philippines and the USS Bowditch was on its way to retrieve the unmanned vessel when China decided to pluck the thing out of the water.
It’s no secret that China has been feeling very territorial about the South China Sea and this event happened the same day satellite photos seemed to confirm that the communist country has militarized a number of artificial islands it has built in disputed waters2. Still, this is the most aggressive action that China has committed in the past 50 years and is part of a continuing aggression that is more than a little disturbing.
Fortunately, this morning, China says that the matter is being handled amicably between the two militaries3 and that the US will get their drone back. The Navy says the unmanned vessel was built using commercially available technologies and that no top-secret information was compromised.
Uber Is Making Waves
Uber has been getting in trouble this week with the city of San Francisco after one of its driverless cars was caught running a red light in the city4. The problem stems from the fact that San Francisco requires a permit for testing driverless cars, something that limits the days, times, and locations of such testing. Apparently Uber doesn’t like those limitations, so they set about running their cars through the city anyway, hoping that their technology was good enough that they wouldn’t get caught. It wasn’t.
On Thursday, California transportation officials demanded that Uber stop its testing until it had obtained the required permits. Seems like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? Not if you ask Uber. On Friday, the head of Uber’s self-driving car program, Anthony Levandowski, said the company would keep right on testing despite objections from the state. He argues that because there is a back-up driver in the car at all times that, technically, they are not driverless under state law.
Yeah, that excuse isn’t going to fly. Late Friday evening the state’s Department of Justice sent a letter to Uber threatening legal action if they didn’t stop testing5. Uber promptly sent another fleet of SUVs into the streets6.
Bypassing The Press
Here’s an interesting question for you: how many politicians do you follow on social media? If you’re like me, you see enough of them in the news to not want their ugly mugs popping up between videos of kittens playing and puppies frolicking. Most of us like our social media feeds to be happy places.
You may want to change up your approach, however, if you want to keep up with what’s going on. The Associated Press is reporting that politicians at both the state and federal level are increasingly bypassing the press and using social media as a means of getting their message directly to the voters7. Most famously, we’ve all see how the president-elect makes effective use of his Twitter account. By contrast, Mr. Trump hasn’t had an actual press conference in over 140 days according to NPR8.
Using social media is attractive for a couple of reasons. First, it’s cheap. All one needs is a cell phone and they can broadcast live on a number of platforms. Secondly, it removes any chance for a sharp reporter to directly challenge the politician’s statements. Without a challenge, however, the politician, as we’ve frequently seen, can lie through their teeth. People then believe those lies and vote accordingly. There’s no question this is a dangerous trend, but those who want to stay informed have no choice but to follow along.
And baby makes … 4?
You know that talk you had with your adolescent child about how babies are made? Well, you might need to adjust your story just a little bit. Britain’s fertility regulator has approved a controversial method through which doctors can use the DNA of three people rather than two when creating new babies9. The method is intended to avoid incidents of children inheriting mitochondrial disease from their parents.
This is an extremely significant development in the field of medicine and trying to explain it quickly is almost impossible. Damaged mitochondria can result in life-threatening diseases such as muscular dystrophy, organ failure, and muscle weakness. The new process removes the nucleus DNA from the egg of the would-be mother and inserts it into an egg from someone else which has had the donor DNA removed. This occurs before the egg is fertilized.
The procedure is not legal in the United States at this time. The FDA has been very slow in approving measures such as this given the legal and social implications surrounding parenthood. Critics also claim that this procedure opens the door to genetically modified “designer babies.” The ethics are quite blurry for some, but from here it seems that saving the life of a child is more important than the threat of future misuse of the technology.
And finally …
Five UK modeling agencies are in trouble after Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority fined them a total of £1.5 million ($1.8 million) for fixing prices charged to fashion retailers between April of 2013 and March of 201510. The CMA claims the agencies, “colluded with each other over their approach to pricing and, in some instances, the agencies agreed to fix minimum prices.” The agencies involved include some major names in the UK market: FM Models, Models 1, Premier, Storm, Viva, as well as their trade group, the Association of Model Agents.
Of course, the agencies say they’ve done nothing wrong and are only trying to protect the best interest of their models. Yeah, right. What they’re protecting are their profit margins. Models are seen as a commodity and incidents of mistreatment and even abuse run rampant. While the agencies all say they’ll fight the fines in court, the reality is that unless clients are made aware of set minimums ahead of time they’re illegal.
Could the same thing be happening in the United States? Quite possibly so, but since model agencies here are all independent proving such a claim would be almost impossible.
That’s all we have time for this morning. Looking out the window, I’m not sure road conditions have improved from when we started. Please be careful out there. Better yet, stay inside and catch up on some of the stories you’ve missed this week. We have plenty that you likely haven’t seen yet. Take care and make the most of your day.