1. President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely. Xi abolishing the decades old China communist party rule for term limits is undoubtedly the biggest news of the past week. New York Times piece is pretty good.
2. Ancient elephant DNA reveals straight-tusked elephants were hybrid species. These elephants were European, and went extinct 50k years ago. What’s interesting is not just that ancient DNA reveals their origins as a hybrid species. But the larger pattern. Mammals speciation through hybridization is far more common than once believed. Bonobos, wolves, jackals, and of course humans and Neanderthals. As Razib Khan quotes from the conclusion of the paper: “Our results in elephantids thus add to the growing weight of evidence in favor of the view that capacity for hybridization is the norm rather than the exception in many mammalian species over a time scale of millions of years.” See good write ups by John Hawks and by Razib Khan. I also enjoyed the title from this gizmodo piece: Ancient Elephants and Mastodons Were Totally Down With Inter-Species Boning.
3. Stories which will won’t change minds. Some stories are so politicized that new info tends to make people commit harder to their existing beliefs. And to be clear, as you can see by how I’ve linked below, I’m the same. Anyway. If one these strike your fancy, click through.
- Claim: School segregation on the rise. Counterclaim: nope. statistical artifact caused by white demographic decline. Contrarian countercliam: Center-left Matthew Yglesias tweets counterclaim, gets beat on.
- Claim: Bogus race science on the rise. Counterclaim: you got your facts wrong. Compromise counterclaim: you got your fact mostly wrong.
- Claim: Cornell food scientist Brian Wansink is super popular with TED Talks on mindless eating studies. Counterclaim: Wansink is a hack who turned shoddy data into viral stories. Double Down Counterclaim: Concerns about Brian Wansink’s claims and research methods have been known for years. Most Entertaining Counterclaim: Joy of Cooking trashes Wansink. Expected result: Nobody gets fired. Sweep under the rug.
- Claim: Zoning restrictions are not self serving for the rich. Counterclaim: Housing prices skyrocket in Bay Area. Anecdotal Counterclaim: what it’s like to try to get an added floor approved on a house.
4. Ezra Klein podcast with Amy Chau on how tribalism is tearing America apart. Contrary to links above where nobody changes their mind, this is a thoughtful discussion on a highly politicized topic that may well change people’s minds. Hard to pull off! So good job. Note: Klein is more pessimistic on tribalism than Chau. Worth listening to.
5. Exit polls systematically overestimated Trump’s support among college educated whites. Exit polls being off is not that big a deal. But this is surprising: exit polls showed whites without a college degree were 34% of voters. But the real number is 45% of voters. That’s 11% points off! Changes the narrative around college educated white voting. They didn’t go from pro-Trump to against. Rather they never were (as a group) pro-Trump. Nate Cohn story.
6. Stock and flow essay. Jay Rosen mentioned on twitter that he links to this post every year. Argues you need to keep a flow of small stories/tweets coming to keep your audience, but don’t want to avoid doing bigger work and projects. Books and long form articles are the deeper intellectual stock you need to write for your short term flow to be valuable. It’s good. Read it here.
7. Twitter is improving. Let me finish positive by linking to this Will Oremus story on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey conceding they have real problems. Twitter just admitting they have to do something about fake news and trolls is a big step. And the shift to 280 characters was good, despite the naysayers at the time (for the record I was and remain pro-280). And the new bookmarking save for later feature is great. I like twitter, so this makes me happy. Even if only small steps.