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The Lede: It’s President’s Day and You Are Reading Email? Also Hyperloop Wants to Pull the Rust Belt Tight and Buckle It

The Lede, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018
By David Royse

I’m sorry, but you are one of the millions of American suckers checking email on a federal holiday.


Holidays are supposed to give us a break, I say as I work on compiling and writing this email, which a surprisingly large number of you will actually open and read.

A couple years ago, sales and email software firm Yesware analyzed 23 million sales emails sent by its users over a year and learned something about how we spend our holidays.

Many of us spend them reading emails. Email open rates for most federal holidays were basically the same as any other Monday. Yesware did find that the number of inbound emails was lower on the Thursday and Friday heading into President’s Weekend a couple years ago, but that people were more likely to reply to emails on those days (because, presumably, they had fewer emails to read so had more time to reply).

Whatever, people are opening emails on holidays. I won’t begrudge you if you want to close this up now – maybe come back to it tomorrow. Get out and do something fun today.

But most of you won’t.


While federal government employees and school teachers in most places will have the day off, 6 out of 10 workers actually have to be at work today, according to a Bloomberg BNA survey of employers. Some of it comes down to which holiday it is. Lots of people do still actually take time off on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, the most-observed federal holidays, according to several studies. Yesware found, for example, that people do still check their email on Memorial and Labor Day, but it takes them longer to do it (in other words, they check it less often).

“Presidents’ Day is one of the federal holidays that is lower in popularity,” Molly Huie, manager of surveys and research at Bloomberg BNA,” says in this Cleveland Plain Dealer story about the survey. “Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day — just about everyone gets them off. Most people are only familiar with Presidents’ Day as a holiday because all the kids are off from school.”

Lest you bemoan that no one respects the presidency anymore, things are even worse for Christopher Columbus. Yesware finds that the holiday that is most like a regular day in terms of email productivity is Columbus Day – which isn’t even observed as a holiday in some places.

Happy President’s Day

Also, on President’s Day, a recommendation: There’s a guy named Howard Doore who is reading biographies of all the presidents. During that reading, he often has thoughts that are pretty funny – and he puts them in a blog, Plodding Through the Presidents. Since today is President’s Day, I’ll recommend it. It’s brilliant – but if you enjoy American history, and wierdness, it’s a presidential rabbit hole. Save it for a day when you’re off work (like President’s Day) or you’ll regret it.


What Rust Belt? Where Do You Go to Build Things That Shoot People Through a Vacuum Tube at 700 mph? You go to cities that build.

The list of the presidents notwithstanding, THIS is the best video of the day, bringing you today’s announcement from Hyperloop that it has an agreement on a feasability study for its first interstate hyperloop project, connecting two storied cities of industry, Cleveland and Chicago.

Where do you go to build big, bold new things? To quote Hyperloop, you go to places with people known for making things. “Places that have had dreams, and that have made them.”

Hyperloop’s announcement is that it has signed agreements with local transportation agencies in Ohio and Illinois to begin the feasibility study.

While the audacious proposal is a testament to private-sector initiative, the government’s going to have to be on board, Hyperloop officials acknowledge.

“Regulations are the ultimate barrier for Hyperloop implementation, and we are excited to build the first real public-private partnership to bring Hyperloop travel to the US,” said Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. “With this agreement, we welcome innovative and industry-leading partners in both government and industry to our movement.”

The system, which shoots cars through a tube at over 700 mph, would create a Chicago to Cleveland trip in under 30 minutes, the company claims. Getting from Chicago to Cleveland by airplane right now takes a little over an hour, not counting time spent getting to the airport (which if you’re going to O’Hare from downtown Chicago can take nearly another hour). Driving between the two Midwestern cities takes more than 8 hours, There is no easy rail route.

“We came here because places like Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh have the manufacturing, the raw materials and the talented, hard working people in order to make it happen,” said Andrea La Mendola Chief Global Operations Officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies. “We can source everything from this area. This is a place where you make big things.”


In a weekly look at mental health issues, in this particular week, as much as we may not want to, it would be impossible not to go back to mental health issues surrounding mass shootings.

First, high-profile, mass killings are so rare, and such a tiny part of the spectrum of mental health issues, it seems unfair to the topic of mental health to focus on this one sensational part of the discussion.

But at the same time, as long as we have these horrific crimes and as long as school kids live in fear of actually going to school, it remains an issue. And as people look for solutions to this one particular danger, mental health is a central part of what has become a political debate.

I’ve read several stories in the last few days about mental health and shooting, many related to the rampage in South Florida last week. But most, by far, have said mostly nothing. They’ve quoted experts saying the problem is hard, with vague assertions that you simply can’t identify every dangerous person before they act out. A few have made the valuable reminder that most mentally ill people by far, aren’t dangerous – though hopefully most rational people would already understand that. Yet few have done anything to shed any light on what we’re doing wrong, and what we might do better in this realm.

One story that did stand out as potentially productive was Olga Khazan’s piece in The Atlantic, “So You Think Someone Might Be Mentally Ill.” 

Rather than repeat what are now sad cliches about guardians missing signs, or a system that failed to take warning systems seriously enough to force treatment, the article discusses practical realities, with concrete examples of problems that need to be fixed. Consider:

On how authorities get someone into treatment involuntarily:

“In a state like Florida, the focus ends up being on whether the person is dangerous to themselves or someone else. That, unfortunately, becomes something of a barrier [to] getting care. The common story you hear from families is, “Obviously something is going on with my son, but every time I tried to do something, they said, ‘Well but he’s not dangerous yet.’”


“In Florida, [as in much of the United States], you don’t have enough hospital beds. That is obviously a simple place to start. There also aren’t enough community services, there aren’t enough psychiatrists. Basically, every angle that you can think of for looking at the system for getting someone care for mental illness is essentially broken in Florida.”

The article also mentions some possible solutions – for example noting that many states are moving away from the need to have someone considered dangerous before they can be admitted for psychiatric treatment.

“What we have seen across the country is a move to ensure that these standards don’t just focus on dangerousness. Our organization focuses on making it a much more medical model, and instead of focusing on immediate harm, let’s look at their medical history and their ability to make informed decisions….About half the states have updated their standards to move to something more like a medical determination. But in Pennsylvania, for example, the standard is, are you a clear and present danger? Most people with mental illness aren’t going to be actively dangerous. A standard like “clear and present danger” leaves a huge amount of people without treatment for no reason. A homeless person on the street talking to themselves needs help, but they aren’t dangerous.”


BBC: First Steps Toward Biological Autism Test


OLD STATE U: In celebration of land grant universities. In our time, especially, we need to broaden education’s reach, not narrow it. The New York Times and the excellent Sarah Vowell this past weekend brought us this appreciation of land grant schools and their mission – and a warning about our decreasing interest in paying for them. If you wonder if public universities are important (and there are many, many people in this country who do), this is an important read. It starts in the 1930s, and while I tend to look to the future more than the past in this newsletter, the scenario at the center of this piece remains plausible today.

KIDS AND TECH: While this newsletter typically looks favorably on the promise of technology to solve problems, it obviously doesn’t come without the potential to actually create problems. Fear of kids being de-socialized by over-reliance on personal technology is one of those. It’s kind of similar to the gun debate – the technology may not be inherently wrong, but if we’re not careful about who uses it and how they use it, it can create some serious negative consequences. This storynotes that many in Silicon Valley, those most familiar with ways some in the tech industry try to make their products addicting, often shield their kids from their own creations.


Falcon Heavy may have increased our chances of mining asteroids: Gizmodo

Students Have Created an Endless Power Source: Hothardware.com

And this TechCrunch podcast today has three things we cover extensively at LedeTree: robot overlords, Facebook and the cannabis industry.


POWERING POT: This is amazing. Colorado Public Radio reports that nearly 4 percent of Denver’s electricity is used for growing marijuana. CPR

MEDICAL IN MARYLAND: Licensed medical marijuana companies have settled a lawsuit over racial diversity in the program. Baltimore Sun

A KOCH AND A SMILE: This may prove difficult for some on the left to figure out what to do with. The Koch Brothers are criticizing U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his stepped-up effort to enforce federal marijuana laws. “It does little to improve the lives of people in our communities,” the conservative Koch brothers said in calling out Sessions, and saying the DOJ isn’t “on the side of individual liberty.” Strange bedfellows. Westword

BUZZ INDUSTRY, MEET INDUSTRY BUZZ: The marijuana industry has almost no parallel in terms of hype about growth potential. Except possibly anything involving blockchain. Put them together, and you have some serious buzz. Blockchain could be a game changer for the cannabis industry. Business Insider

Happy President’s Day and have a great week.

Presidents. Presidents. BTW, whom have we picked to be presidents?

Take us out Shoeless Jeff and Scott Free (if those are your real names)

If you know someone else who likes reading about efforts to solve problems by looking at things in new ways, forward this email to them so they can subscribe too. Also, follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for LedeTree news throughout the day.

Want to read past editions of The Lede? Find them all here

About David Royse

David Royse
David Royse is the Editor-in-Chief of Ledetree.com. He has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, including stints with The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida. He enjoys writing about health and medical science, and hopeful stories about scientific breakthroughs and new technology.

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