- Front Page
- Issue 1
- Issue 2
- New America
- Page 1
- Page 2
- Page 3
- Scrap Bin
Shortly after 5 p.m. on a recent Saturday in April, the Chem 1179 lecture hall at the University of California, Santa Barbara, erupts in the kind of screaming you usually only hear when the headliner finally walks onstage at a concert. Coming down the right aisle of the auditorium is a man whose hair is highlighted with blonde streaks, in leopard-print shorts and a military-style jacket with red epaulettes, sunglasses still on (indoors), and diamond studs gleaming in his ears. The woman behind me turns the color of an anguished beet and screams his name: “Milo!!!”
Right-wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos has arrived as the surprise guest during the second day of this year’s California College Republicans Convention, where college Republicans from around the state are meeting for a weekend of speeches and drinking. The convention will conclude in a vote on the third day for a handful of leadership positions, including communications director, secretary, and the big one: chairperson. Today is mostly dedicated to students and guest speakers lecturing on “foes” in the liberal media (turns out it’s me!), the future of the GOP, and how to convince other millennials and Gen Z kids to become Republicans.
The mechanics of campus politics are rarely interesting. The stakes are low, the rules are complicated and tedious, and the impact of their elections is rarely explicitly seen or felt. But here the mood is more like a three-day prom, where it’s abundantly clear who’s popular, who’s not, and who’s going to be prom king or queen. And Yiannopoulos might have just nabbed that ultimate honor without even running for it.
Yiannopoulos begins greeting his audience, currently losing their fucking minds over him. The woman who screamed his name clasps her hands over her mouth and looks like she’s in physical pain, so much so that I have to ask if she’s happy or (as I naively imagined) upset. In response, she screams, “I’m happy, I’m happy! What the fuck! Oh my god, I don’t have my glasses on!”
You might be someone who thinks of Yiannopoulos, who was booed out of a bar in New York this week, as a defeated figure of the far-right. But here, he walks among the students like a high school quarterback who’s returned for homecoming, still the hero. Young women are literally weeping at the sight of him, boys are begging him for hugs and calling him “gorgeous.” One woman just wants to talk about free speech, telling him, “You should be able to say anything you want. You can’t say we’re for freedom of speech if you’re going to critique people for what they say.” Another takes a photo with him and screams, “I can’t wait to tell my parents I took a picture with a famous gay person!” A brown man with family in India praises Yiannopoulos for being “the only one” talking about “Islamist violence,” which isn’t the most uncomfortable thing to happen all weekend, but it’s certainly up there.
For most of the crowd, being in proximity to Yiannopoulos is the coolest fucking thing to ever happen. They love his type of politics: loud, ugly, self-serving, attention-grabbing, an approach in which a fierce attitude trumps any sort of discernible political policy. But for a small minority of college Republicans gathered here, this is their worst-case scenario.
Read more at BuzzFeed.
MEDAMAHANUWARA, Sri Lanka — Past the end of a remote mountain road, down a rutted dirt track, in a concrete house that lacked running water but bristled with smartphones, 13 members of an extended family were glued to Facebook. And they were furious.
A family member, a truck driver, had died after a beating the month before. It was a traffic dispute that had turned violent, the authorities said. But on Facebook, rumors swirled that his assailants were part of a Muslim plot to wipe out the country’s Buddhist majority.
“We don’t want to look at it because it’s so painful,” H.M. Lal, a cousin of the victim, said as family members nodded. “But in our hearts there is a desire for revenge that has built.”
The rumors, they believed, were true. Still, the family, which is Buddhist, did not join in when Sinhalese-language Facebook groups, goaded on by extremists with wide followings on the platform, planned attacks on Muslims, burning a man to death.
But they had shared and could recite the viral Facebook memes constructing an alternate reality of nefarious Muslim plots. Mr. Lal called them “the embers beneath the ashes” of Sinhalese anger.
We came to this house to try to understand the forces of social disruption that have followed Facebook’s rapid expansion in the developing world, whose markets represent the company’s financial future. For months, we had been tracking riots and lynchings around the world linked to misinformation and hate speech on Facebook, which pushes whatever content keeps users on the site longest — a potentially damaging practice in countries with weak institutions.
Time and again, communal hatreds overrun the newsfeed — the primary portal for news and information for many users — unchecked as local media are displaced by Facebook and governments find themselves with little leverage over the company. Some users, energized by hate speech and misinformation, plot real-world attacks.
A reconstruction of Sri Lanka’s descent into violence, based on interviews with officials, victims and ordinary users caught up in online anger, found that Facebook’s newsfeed played a central role in nearly every step from rumor to killing. Facebook officials, they say, ignored repeated warnings of the potential for violence, resisting pressure to hire moderators or establish emergency points of contact.
Facebook declined to respond in detail to questions about its role in Sri Lanka’s violence, but a spokeswoman said in an email that “we remove such content as soon as we’re made aware of it.” She said the company was “building up teams that deal with reported content” and investing in “technology and local language expertise to help us swiftly remove hate content.”
Sri Lankans say they see little evidence of change. And in other countries, as Facebook expands, analysts and activists worry they, too, may see violence.
Read more at The New York Times.
Wharton professors, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs are fueling an entire generation of Warby Parkers. Now there are more than 400 startups tackling products from toothbrushes to bras. What could go wrong?
James McKean wants to revolutionize the manual toothbrush. It’s January 2018. The 31-year-old MBA candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School whirls his laptop around to show me the prototype designs. Bristle, as the product might be called, has a detachable head and a colorful pattern on the handle–like faux wood grain, flowers, or plaid. Customers would pay somewhere around $15 for their first purchase, and then get replacement heads, at $3 or $4 a pop, through a subscription service.
There are a few reasons McKean likes this plan. A Bristle subscription would be more convenient than going to CVS when you need a new toothbrush–you’d order online, set your replacement-head frequency, and forget about it. Also, Bristle brushes are friendlier looking than, say, Oral-B’s spaceship-like aesthetic. “To me, brushing your teeth is such an intimate act. You engage with these products by putting them in your mouth,” he says. A toothbrush, he adds, is “almost an extension of your individuality.”
A former McKinsey consultant and private equity investor from Utah, McKean caught the entrepreneurial bug from watching his clients. We’re sitting in a small study room at Wharton’s Huntsman Hall, named after a fellow Utahn, the late industrialist Jon M. Huntsman. When it was established in 1881, Wharton became the world’s first business college. Its alumni, in addition to Huntsman, include Elon Musk, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen, and Donald Trump.
For most of its history, Wharton’s reputation has been built on turning out the world’s finest spreadsheet jockeys. But, a few years ago, four students met at Wharton and started a company that would help ignite a startup revolution: Warby Parker. The concept: selling eyeglasses directly to consumers (DTC) online. Few thought the idea would work, but today Warby is valued at $1.75 billion, and its founding story has become a fairy tale at Wharton. Co-founders and co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa give guest lectures at the business school–as does Jeff Raider, the third Warby co-founder, who went on to help hatch Harry’s, a DTC razor brand.
With the Instagram-friendly branding of Glossier, Hims is a DTC company for erectile dysfunction and male baldnesswith investors including Forerunner Venture’s Kirsten Green and DTC razor company Harry’s. Harry’s co-founder Jeff Raider recently invested in Lola, a DTC tampon company co-founded by a Wharton alum and the wife of DTC PR maven Jesse Derris.
Read more at Inc.
The “crazy Stormy Daniels deal” got even crazier Thursday as President Donald Trump made bombshell statements about that porn star’s legal claim against him — and his lawyer Michael Cohen prepared to deal with the fallout from pleading the Fifth Amendment in the Daniels suit.
Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, immediately crowed that Trump’s comments were “hugely damaging” to the president’s legal defense against a lawsuit by the actress.
All of this occurred shortly before a key hearing in Manhattan federal court, where prosecutors and lawyers for Cohen and Trump were set to discuss details of how to handle evidence recently seized from Cohen as part of a criminal probe of him.
Trump, during an interview on “Fox and Friends,” said Cohen “represents me with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”
“From what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong,” Trump added.
The president also said Cohen has handled just a “tiny, tiny fraction of his “overall legal work.”
Cohen has admitted paying Daniels $130,000 on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.
Daniels says the money was for her signed agreement to keep publicly silent about an affair she claims to have had with Trump a decade earlier. The White House has denied any such affair.
Daniels earlier this year sued Cohen and Trump seeking to be released from the nondisclosure agreement based on the argument that the president never signed the deal.
Trump has publicly claimed recently that he was unaware of the payment from Cohen or the deal the lawyer cut with Daniels at the time it happened.
Read more at CNBC.
Ilsan, South Korea (CNN) — The leaders of North and South Korea have committed themselves to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and pledged to bring a formal end to the Korean War, 65 years after hostilities ceased.
In a remarkable day-long summit that weighed heavy with symbolism, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un embraced, planted a tree and talked alone for more than 30 minutes.
Then they signed the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula, which commits the two countries to denuclearization and talks to bring a formal end to conflict. It was a startling conclusion to the first meeting between leaders of the two countries in 10 years.
In separate speeches, Kim and Moon promised a new era. Addressing the world’s media live on television for the first time, Kim said the Koreas “will be reunited as one country.” Moon said: “There will not be any more war on the Korean peninsula.”
But behind all the ceremony, at the Panmunjom “peace village” in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea, there were few concrete details. The Panmunjom Declaration largely steered clear of specifics regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities, and did not set out what North Korea would expect to get in exchange for denuclearization.
The pledge to end the Korean war faces major hurdles — any final peace deal must also involve China and the US, both of whom were participants in the original conflict that began in 1950 when the North Korean People’s Army invaded the South. Although an armistice was signed in 1953, no formal peace treaty was ever concluded, and technically, the peninsula remains at war.
Read more at CNN.
Part I: “I quit doing the figure. I’m only doing abstract art.”
Male artists wonder whether they can work with the female form, while the world questions what their intentions were in the first place. By Michael Slenske
The western art canon is in no small part a parade of famous female nudes, from Praxiteles’s Aphrodite of Knidos from the fourth century B.C. to Manet’s 19th-century prostitutes (notably the recumbent, unamused Olympia) to John Currin’s Playboy-meets-Fragonard women — and almost all of them have been made by white male artists. Of course, as art historian Linda Nochlin famously observed, it was difficult for women to paint nudes when historically they weren’t even allowed to attend figure-drawing classes because of the naked people necessarily present.
While feminist art critics have for decades pointed out the shortcomings of the “male gaze,” the post-#MeToo reckoning with the art world’s systemic sexism, its finger-on-the-scale preference for male genius, has given that critique a newly powerful force. And the question of the moment has become: Is it still an artistically justifiable pursuit for a man to paint a naked woman?
To answer this question, I reached out to a number of prominent male artists known for doing just that (as well as for painting nude men). But most of them — including Currin, Carroll Dunham, Jeff Koons, and the young Mexican-American painter Alex Becerra (some of whose nudes are drawn from escort ads) — declined to talk about their work’s relationship to the current social climate. Presumably, they worried about unintentionally saying the wrong thing that would then echo endlessly across social media, damaging their reputations. For emerging artists, there is the fear of a possibly career-derailing gestalt fail. “I’ve been in conversations with other [male artists], and they were just like, ‘I quit working with the figure. I’m only doing abstract work, because I don’t want to touch it,’ ” says Marty Schnapf while walking me through his recent solo show “Fissures in the Fold” at Wilding Cran Gallery in Los Angeles. He thinks we could be living through “a new Victorian age” — or at least that’s his explanation for the mixed responses he’s received for his gender-confusing neo-Cubist nudes, which play out sexualized fantasies in hotel rooms and surrealist swimming-pool dreamscapes, and evoke Joan Semmel’s erotic works from the 1970s. “I counted: There’s actually more male nudes in my show,” Schnapf says, though it wasn’t immediately discernible to my eye, which is perhaps the point. One of Schnapf’s female artist friends grilled him about the intent of the work, while a few collectors even gasped when confronted with the infinity loop of breasts, Day-Glo mane, and charcoal-blackened genital geometries of his ghost-lit spider dame, Will-o’-the-wisp.
Read more at The Cut.
All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.”
(Listed on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook profile under “Favorite Quotes”)
There’s a story about Mark Zuckerberg visiting his hometown of Dobbs Ferry, New York: A few years ago, he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, allegedly walked into Yuriy’s Barber Shop, a four-chair parlor with a blue awning over the doorway and a neon “open” sign buzzing in the window. The shop sits in a brick building at the end of Cedar Street, one of the main drags in town.
Zuckerberg, who grew up in the sleepy town about 25 miles north of New York City, was supposedly visiting from California. Yuriy Katayev, who claims to have been his high school barber, says he was excited to see his old regular. The 50-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan tells me he asked Dobbs Ferry’s most famous son about — What else? — Facebook.
“It’s OK. People give me shit over it now,” Katayev says Zuckerberg told him.
“It’s not easy to control now — because it’s too much,” Katayev tells me Zuckerberg said. “It’s too big.”
Great story, but Zuckerberg says it’s not true. Three days after telling Zuckerberg’s representatives that we’d spoken to his barber, Zuckerberg says he doesn’t know Katayev and never visited his barbershop. Katayev, who proudly posed for photos in his shop, swears the visit really happened.
Which shows how much Facebook’s chairman and chief executive gets caught up in his own version of fake news.
And fake news was one of the issues that drew Zuckerberg to Capitol Hill last week, where he was grilled by US lawmakers over how he and the world’s biggest social network have screwed up. Facebook, Zuckerberg now admits, has become a tool for hate groups who use the platform to harass and intimidate, and for state actors like Russia to manipulate opinion through false news with the aim of interfering with elections, including the 2016 US presidential race.
Just in the past month, Facebook has been hammered for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it mishandled users’ data by being, in its own words, “naive” about how others could exploit the personal information Facebook collects on its 2.2 billion users. That info is its main currency. Knowing your age, location, likes, interests and other personal data allows it to target lucrative ads on your news feed. It’s also why Zuckerberg, 33, is now the fifth richest person in the world, with a net worth of about $71 billion.
“We didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm,” Zuckerberg said as he apologized repeatedly during 10 hours of testimony in two hearings before the Senate and House. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”
For better or worse, Facebook and Zuckerberg have become the proxy for all of Big Tech. It’s part of the reason lawmakers, already concerned that companies like Facebook, Google and Apple have too much power and influence over our lives and the economy, demanded Zuckerberg testify — as if answering for the entire industry.
Facebook’s mistakes have also raised questions about whether Zuckerberg is a trustworthy custodian of people’s data, and whether he’s the right person to oversee one of the most powerful information platforms on the planet. Forty-three percent of Facebook users say they’re “very concerned” about invasion of privacy, up from 30 percent in 2011, according to a Gallup poll released last week.
Read more at CNet.
mbassador Nikki Haley has the tricky job of being the diplomatic face of an administration whose foreign policy is often set in motion by a president who tweets his thoughts to the world before most of us have even had our morning coffee. Suffice it to say, any given day can be quite a wild ride.
But rather than smoothing things over behind the scenes, Haley has been more visible and vocal than ambassadors past. She’s publicly disagreed with her boss, Donald Trump; successfully lobbied for tougher U.N. sanctions against North Korea; and had fiery words for Russia, calling the Kremlin’s election meddling “warfare” and saying the country “is not, will not, be our friend.”
Perhaps none of that should come as a surprise, since Haley has made a career out of being different. She was the first female governor of South Carolina and the second Indian-American to serve as governor of any state—and she’s widely expected to run for president someday.
In an interview conducted in her office on International Women’s Day, Haley discussed the challenges facing female politicians, her response to all those presidential tweetstorms, and what she thinks of potentially being the first female president.
Marie Claire: What hurdles must women overcome to reach the highest levels of government, like you?
Nikki Haley: It’s hard for anyone to be in politics. Politics is not easy. The challenges women face from what I have seen is just having the strength to believe in themselves. Men tend to just do things, while women second guess themselves a lot, so what I wish for every woman is that they stop second guessing and trust their gut from the very beginning because it’s always right. Women in every arena, but also in politics, need to trust their decisions.
MC: Twice in your career, people have alleged you were having extramarital affairs; how did you deal?
NH: It’s a sad thing. What I’ve found is if you do your job well and if you get attention for doing your job well, people are going to want to bring you down. They do that to men; they do that to women. The difference is, with women, they immediately go not to something credible, but to the one thing that weakens them immediately. They throw out an affair allegation or something that implies something like that. When that happens, stand strong. Be proud and call them out because they don’t get the right to do that.
I laugh at it because it doesn’t mean anything—you expect it. But it bothers me more for my daughter and for girls growing up—that shouldn’t be the thing they are worried about, that if they get too loud or too good that they are going to have to face criticism.
Read more at Marie Claire.
Just how masterfully Tammie Jo Shults, the pilot of the badly crippled Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, handled the problem of an engine exploding at 30,000 feet is winning admiration from thousands of her fellow pilots—and should finally help to temper the hubris of what has been a notoriously testosterone-charged profession.
Consider this: The Boeing 737’s left engine suffered a catastrophic failure when one of its fan blades—a part that looks like a pirate’s scimitar and is just as lethal when let loose—broke away, ripped through the engine casing that was supposed to contain it, and then, along with other pieces of shrapnel, tore into the skin of the airplane’s cabin.
Airplane cabins are like a pressure vessel. At 30,000 feet, where the jet was when the failure occurred, the pressure inside the cabin was far higher than in the outside air. The debris instantly punctured this pressure vessel, releasing an explosive rush of air. One cabin window was shattered and with the violent release of air, the woman seated at that window, Jennifer Rioardan, was partly sucked out, suffering injuries that were fatal.
Oxygen masks were automatically dropped to passengers to provide air that they could breathe—but inevitably this added to the visceral sense of impending catastrophe.
Simultaneously the crew put on their own oxygen masks. At this point Captain Shults and her copilot were carrying out a visual and audio assessment of the damage to the 737, simultaneously scanning all the instruments to note the condition of vital systems. Most alarmingly, they saw an alarm flashing, indicating that they had an engine fire. Fire of any kind is the last thing a pilot wants to see in a situation like this because if it gets out of control it can destroy an airplane in seconds.
The pilots’ first priority was to make a rapid descent to 10,000 feet where the difference between the outside air pressure and the cabin pressure begins to equalize. This greatly reduces the risk that other parts of the cabin structure will rupture because of the pressure stresses.
At the same time Captain Shults was talking to controllers to report her situation, and requesting an emergency landing at Philadelphia, as well as requesting medical help for passengers.
Read more at the Daily Beast.
The end of history — that is, the American 1990s — came for a handful of reporters in Belarus, where the big story of Sept. 10, 2001, was the flowering of free markets and democracy with a capital D.
The country was then known as Europe’s Last Dictatorship, a backward, Soviet-style state ruled by a giant former collective farm boss, Alexander Lukashenko, who towered over the nation’s politics. An election was scheduled for two days before 9/11, and correspondents from every major Western news outlet had gathered to cover it, and — perhaps — to watch the final communist domino fall.
I was then a lowly “stringer” for the Wall Street Journal’s European edition, based in nearby Latvia. As such, I was probably the most clueless reporter who had attached himself to a brand-name outlet to cover the curiosity of a dictatorship hanging on between a booming European Union and a modernizing Russia. I was 24, and as a true child of the 1990s, complacent about the direction of history in a way that made me a particularly bad reporter.
Getting access was harder than I expected. While a salesman was ready to brag about sales to the east and promising opportunities in the west, he wouldn’t tell me anything about the factory and wouldn’t let me inside. But I got enough for what I thought was a funny, anecdotal story and a gently sneering headline: “A Tractor In Every Pot.”
You learn how to be a reporter in large part by making mistakes, and I made most of my worst ones in Belarus. I’ve been thinking about them lately because so much of what we were wrestling with then feels relevant: questions about American and post-Soviet power, about the allegiances and responsibilities of reporters, and about the power of narratives. I’ve been thinking, in particular, about what I did to a young Belarusian activist named Alexei Shydlovski back in 2001, and when I returned to the subject recently I found I’d been wrong about more than I realized.
Read more at BuzzFeed.
Imagine if you could gather thousands of writers in a circle to discuss one question. What would optimist Thomas L. Friedman say about intervening in Syria, for example? Would chaos theorist Santo Banerjee concur?
Google now has a way to convene that kind of forum—in half a second. Speaking to TED curator Chris Anderson yesterday (April 13), legendary futurist Ray Kurzweil introduced “Talk to Books” a new way to find answers on the internet that should bring pleasure to researchers, bookworms and anyone seeking to expand their thinking on a range of topics.
Type a question into “Talk to Books,” and AI-powered tool will scan every sentence in 100,000 volumes in Google Books and generate a list of likely responses with the pertinent passage bolded.
Talk to Books will tackle any query you have, however trivial, esoteric, or abstract. For example, here are the first two results for “How can I stop thinking and fall asleep?”:
Often people with sleep problems do actually sleep during some part of the night but don’t realise that they do. If you suspect that this is happening for you, then try giving yourself reassuring messages that you can gradually fall asleep. You can also reassure yourself that: from Self-Hypnosis For Dummies by Mike Bryant, Peter Mabbutt
…asleep right away, I try to focus my thoughts on God’s protection until I naturally drift away (Psalm 3:5-6, 4:8; 121:4). By sending your mind to something restful, stimuli to the brain is reduced and you naturally fall asleep. The more you get in a routine, the easier it is to keep it, since your body gets used to it.(view in book) from Thriving at College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready for the … by Alex Chediak, Alex Harris, Brett Harris
Read more at Quartz.
If Mark Zuckerberg’s appearances before Congress this week did nothing else, they should have made absolutely clear to policymakers of all stripes that one of the bedrock assumptions long made in privacy law and contracts is a complete and utter fraud.
For years now, web services, app makers, and other companies have been operating on the notion of informed consent. That’s the idea that such companies can do whatever they want to with consumer data, or structure their interactions with consumers just about any way they want, as long as they disclose those practices and conditions first.
But as several members of Congress illustrated in their interactions with Facebook’s CEO, when it comes to the social network, that notion is a joke. Facebook’s terms of service document is more than 3,200 words long and includes 30 links to supplemental documents, noted Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. Its data policy is another 2,700 words and includes more than 20 links.
As Schatz put it: “I think the point has been well made that people really have no earthly idea of what they’re signing up for.”
In an earlier interaction, Zuckerberg essentially acknowledged the point, saying he thought the average user didn’t read Facebook’s entire terms of service document. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, pounced on that concession, striking right at the assumption of informed consent by name.
Given that not everybody reads or understands the terms of services, “is that to suggest that the consent that people give subject to that terms of service is not informed consent? In other words, they may not read it, and even if they read it, they may not understand it?” he asked.
Zuckerberg didn’t answer Cornyn’s question. But to ask it is to answer it.
Read more at Business Insider.
Avenge! No such revenge—revenge for
the blood of a little child—has yet been
devised by Satan.
Thus wrote Chaim Nahman Bialik after the Kishinev massacre of 1905. Proportionality, in this case, would require asphyxiating Bashar al-Assad’s children slowly with chlorine gas, and making sure that the world knows about it. We do not do such things.
What did we do, instead? “We believe that by hitting Barzeh in particular we’ve attacked the heart of the Syrian chemicals weapon program,” said the director of the Joint Staff. Parse those words: “we believe” (not, “we know”); “we’ve attacked” (not, “we’ve destroyed”: throwing a rock counts as an attack); “the heart of the Syrian chemical weapons program” (not their stockpiles, not their scientists, not their decision-makers, not their munitions handlers, not their pilots, not even necessarily all or even most of their laboratories). Military people know, none better, how to be precise when they wish to be. The art of command rests in part on accuracy and concreteness. The Pentagon’s language here tells you that the generals know better, but that they are being molded by the American President.
This attack was unserious but intended to relieve emotional pressure, a kind of martial onanism masquerading as strategy. Its effects can be compared to the police coming upon a mass murderer, cited multiple times for firearms violations, reloading his AR-15 in the midst of a massacre. The cops step past the twitching bodies, take the weapon, eject the 30-round magazine, take out half a dozen bullets, and return the remainder and the weapon to the murderer with a stern look. They then swagger back to the squad room shouting, “Showed him, didn’t we!”
Read more at The Atlantic.
In 1982, Tammy Shellhammer, a young white woman, walked into the Toledo Fair Housing office because she felt she was the victim of discrimination by her landlord, Norman Lewallen. In their interactions, Lewallen was sexually aggressive with her and had begun to demand that she pose for nude photos, perform oral sex, or have intercourse with him. When she repeatedly refused, Lewallen evicted Tammy and her husband. Tammy suspected she was not the only woman in the building who had been harassed, but worried no one would come forward to fear of losing their place to live. She told her story to Shanna Smith, the no-nonsense executive director of the Toledo Fair Housing Center.
“After talking with Mrs. Shellhammer, the all-female staff of the center and I knew we had to take this on.” Shanna remembered as we spoke about the case. “I went to the most progressive attorney we knew, C. Thomas McCarter. I told him, ‘This ought to be against the law.’”
McCarter’s response was blunt.
“It ought to be, but it isn’t.” he told Smith, “There is no case law to support sexual harassment as the basis for a Fair Housing claim. And most of the women who rent from this guy are black and on welfare. No one is going to believe them. But listen, I am willing to try if you are.”
The Fair Housing Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago this week. Dr. Martin Luther King became convinced of the vital need for a federal housing law during his 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement, an expansion of his Southern justice work intended to address inequity and discrimination black citizens were facing in the northern city. He described the racism and open virulence he experienced there saying, “I have seen many demonstrations in the South, but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today.” Through demonstrations, marches, and meetings with government officials, the campaign sought to create a more equitable environment in housing, education, employment opportunities, and the criminal justice system, among others. The Fair Housing Act, a culmination of these efforts, was created to reverse and end the multiple systems that engineer and reproduce residential racial segregation. However, it is wrong to think of it exclusively in racial terms.
And this brings us back to Toledo, 14 years later, where Smith and McCarter set out to use Shellhammer’s case as a test of whether the protections of the Fair Housing Act could be expanded to effectively combat sexual harassment.
Smith and her team set out to track down other survivors. There were dozens, ranging in age from 12 to 65. All had stories of being harassed, propositioned, photographed, molested, or cajoled into trading sexual acts for their housing or being threatened with losing their housing altogether. They told stories of the landlord using his passkey to enter their apartments without their consent, of pulling their underage daughters onto his lap, of being blackmailed with explicit pictures, and more. But because she understood how racism and classism might invalidate the experiences of these survivors in a courtroom, Smith worked with Toledo police to go undercover.
Read more at Elle.
The Middle East is a “troubled place,” President Donald Trump said Friday night as he described his decision to use America’s “righteous power” in a retaliatory attack against government targets in Syria following a suspected chemical attack there.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems to have won the civil war in his country—but that doesn’t mean peace is coming. In fact, the conflict seems to be escalating—fueled by the many outside powers who have joined the Syrian battlefield with interests of their own.
“If you look at the literature on civil wars, it tends to suggest that the more foreign powers involved, the more difficult it is for a civil war to end—because most of those powers aren’t willing to quit until either they are exhausted or their claims and desires have been met,” said Christopher Phillips, author of the book The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East. “And because a lot of them are backing proxies, the cost isn’t necessarily that high.”
Over the seven years of Syria’s war, it has sucked in numerous other countries, who have attempted to shape the conflict with every tool from bombing to mercenaries to special operators to weapons shipments to money. The war has grown ever more complicated and more deadly over time, and Syria’s future is now largely being determined outside of its borders. Who is fighting in Syria now, and why?
Read more at The Atlantic.
IT’S A COLD JANUARY NIGHT in D.C., and I’m at the Hart Senate Office Building, trailing U.S. Senator Kamala Harris into a conference room. Inside, a group of young Latino congressional staffers has gathered to meet the Democratic star from California. When she enters, flanked by aides, and dressed in a navy suit, matching ruffled blouse, black pearls, and stilettos that give her petite five-feet-four frame a few extra inches of height, the staffers immediately rise from their chairs.
Harris has an air of celebrity that, under normal circumstances, a freshman senator wouldn’t have had time to acquire. But this year has been anything but normal. She greets the 20-somethings as though they’re relatives at a family reunion: “Hi, everybody! Hi, guys!” Then she notices that one of the staffers is still seated, and her voice drops a full octave: “Stand up, man!”
The startled staffer springs to his feet. “Kevin,” he says, extending a hand.
“What’s your last name?” demands Harris.
“Thank you!” She shakes his hand. “Kamala Harris.” (That’s pronounced “comma-la,” by the way, and you’d better get it right.)
Harris is a courtroom litigator. This means that, although she is warm and funny, she is also comfortable with confrontation—at home with it, even—and a casual conversation can become a rapid-fire deposition without warning. But exchanges like this one are also tutorials. In Figueroa’s case: Here is how you greet an elected official. He’s going to need to know this, you see, if he runs for office, or applies to law school, or makes any of the life choices Harris expects of him.
She settles into a chair and tells the group—they are all policy fellows with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute—that, in her sophomore year of college at Howard University, she worked as an intern for the senior senator from California at the time, Alan Cranston. “So you’re looking at your future,” Harris says. “He was succeeded by Barbara Boxer, and I succeeded Barbara Boxer. So you neva know!”
Tonight is the State of the Union. In two hours, at the Capitol Building, President Trump will address the fate of DACA—the legal protections that the Obama administration granted to some 700,000 undocumented immigrants, and which Trump rescinded in September. Harris reads the room. “You guys are living in a pivotal moment in the history of our country, and you’re witnessing something we’ve never seen before.” The group nods solemnly. Harris says she’s resolved to leave anger behind. “At the end of the year, I thought back to 2017, and I was like, ‘Bye, Felisha.’ ” The Friday reference draws big laughs. “This year, I’m just gonna be a joyful warrior.”
Harris calls on the staffers to say what they’re working on. It’s a heavy list: deported veterans, bail reform, Puerto Rico relief, affordable housing. One staffer from Arizona reports that she is investigating the dangers posed to pregnant women in immigration detention centers. “Arpaio—is he running?” Harris asks, referring to Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County known for vigilante-style roundups. Yes, the staffer responds, Arpaio has announced his campaign for Senate. “Another reason to be a joyful warrior!” Harris exclaims.
The meeting ends. Before Harris heads to the Capitol, she must first stop by her office to welcome the date she’s bringing along, a DACA recipient named Denea Joseph, who emigrated from Belize at the age of seven and grew up in South Los Angeles. (She cofounded a Facebook group called “Slay, Kamala, Slay.”) At Harris’s office, Joseph is waiting on a beige couch, wearing a graphic-print blouse, black slacks, and heels. Harris settles down next to her while an aide runs through Joseph’s lineup of media interviews. “It’s about you, but it’s not about you,” Harris says to calm her nerves. “Think of all the people who are counting on you to deliver your message.” Before they leave, Joseph asks to take a selfie with the senator. I pretend not to be listening as Joseph, fumbling with her phone, tells Harris: “You’re my Beyoncé.”
Read more at Vogue.
The classics. They’re the bane of many a high schooler’s existence. And yet, we all have one or two (or 20) classic books that we’ve been meaning to read… eventually. But when you walk into the bookstore, you’re instantly distracted by all those shiny new books, and it seems like up and coming YA authors probably need your money a lot more than Charles Dickens does right now. Lucky for you, though, there’s this secret, hidden realm known as the “public domain,” where you can read all the classics books your literary heart desires. Right now. For free.
Websites like Project Gutenberg have collected tens of thousands of public domain books for your reading pleasure. You can download e-books for your phone or kindle, or just read them right there in your browser. So if you’re looking for a free way to read more contemporary works, allow me to direct you to your friendly local library. But if you’re looking to read up on the classics, right now, from the comfort of your own phone, laptop, or sci-fi ocular implant, then here are a whole slew of incredible books that can be found and legally read for free in the wilds of the web.
Read more at The Bustle.
The United States suffers from a gun violence crisis, a problem exacerbated by misinformation and a lack of understanding of the epidemic’s dimensions and scale. Knowing the facts can be a first step toward advancing solutions and preventing some of the tens of thousands of homicides, assaults, and other crimes committed with firearms each year.
Below is a guide to the data and research that provides a complete picture of gun violence in the United States — and ways to reduce it.
18 Essential Facts About Gun Violence in America
More than 38,000 people died from gunshot wounds in 2016.
That’s the most recent year for which federal data is available. By that count, the national firearm death rate climbed to 12.0 per 100,000 people in 2016 — a level not seen since the mid-1990s.
In 2016, about 59 percent of gun deaths were suicides, according to the CDC. Over the past five years, the share of gun deaths caused by suicide has declined slightly, while the proportion of homicides has increased. Accidental shooting deaths have also declined relative to other gun deaths.
More than 80,000 people survive a gunshot every year.
The vast majority of people who are shot every year survive. Victims report dealing with chronic pain, crushing medical bills, PTSD, underemployment, and social isolation.
By one definition, mass shootings are a daily occurrence in the United States.
The FBI does not track “mass shootings.” Instead, it maintains statistics on “mass murders,” which the bureau defines as an event in which four or more people are killed — excluding the perpetrator — at one time.
The narrow definition of mass shootings is useful for studying rampage attacks like the shootings in Parkland, Florida, Las Vegas, and Orlando. But it omits many instances of two significant categories of gun violence: domestic violence cases and multiple-victim shootings resulting in the deaths and injuries of people of color. Counting mass shootings by counting only the dead can therefore underplay the harms firearms impose on those communities.
Using a broader definition – instances in which four or more people are wounded or killed by guns, under any circumstance — mass shootings occur more than once a day in America, according to three years worth of data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which culls its statistics from press reports and social media.
Read more at The Trace.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — She likes to say that she slept through the last 13 years of her life, and indeed, much of it is a blur: Abusive relationship. His-and-her arrests for domestic violence. Meth habit. A period of quasi-homelessness. A 37-day stint in jail for petty theft.
Now, at 38, Sandra Alvarez says she is awake — and duly awoken, she is aiming for a massive do-over: She’s newly sober. She’s off cash assistance. She’s got a job temping and a place to call her own. And most importantly, she’s got career aspirations: She wants to work in construction.
“The first time I went on a construction site, I felt some kind of power,” said Alvarez, sturdy and tattooed with a swath of dark, wavy hair. “It’s weird, but I felt like I belonged.”
But the construction field is a hard one to crack, particularly if you’re female. Women comprise less than 3 percent of the trade workforce, roughly the same portion as 30 years ago. The barriers are many. Sexism is a given — like the foreman who told Alvarez he didn’t need her help on his job site, but sure could use her help in the bedroom.
So Alvarez is hanging her hopes on a state-funded “pre-apprenticeship” program in California, where she is learning the basics of the industry, from blueprints and construction math to job safety. Above all, she’ll learn which trade would suit her best. Carpenter or electrician? Ironworker or pipefitter? (She’s pretty sure carpentry is her thing.)
The goal: With some training under her belt — and with some industry contacts — she’ll land a highly coveted apprenticeship that will lead to a good-paying union job.
More women might soon be able to take advantage of similar programs.
These days, states are faced with an aging infrastructure and an aging workforce. And just when the country is considering mammoth investments to repair its deteriorating roads, bridges and highways, there’s a shortage of skilled trades workers — which will only get worse as baby boomers enter retirement. California’s new Road Repair and Accountability Act aims to tackle both problems at once.
Mostly, it’s an ambitious, $50 billion, 10-year building program that will use a gas tax increase to fund road repairs, bridge maintenance and public transit.
But the law also includes an unusual provision: a $25 million investment to get more women like Alvarez into pre-apprenticeships.
The idea is to give disadvantaged Californians, including poor women, the tools they need to get accepted into trade apprenticeship schools — and in so doing, reduce the number of people receiving public assistance while moving more people into the workforce. The law’s funding will be used beginning next year by the California Workforce Development Board, which is the statewide coordinator for the pre-apprenticeship training programs.
Read more at Pew Charitable Trust.
Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children.
White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households.
Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys fare worse than white boys in 99 percent of America. And the gaps only worsen in the kind of neighborhoods that promise low poverty and good schools.
According to the study, led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, income inequality between blacks and whites is driven entirely by what is happening among these boys and the men they become. Though black girls and women face deep inequality on many measures, black and white girls from families with comparable earnings attain similar individual incomes as adults.
“You would have thought at some point you escape the poverty trap,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and an author of the study.
Black boys — even rich black boys — can seemingly never assume that.
The study, based on anonymous earnings and demographic data for virtually all Americans now in their late 30s, debunks a number of other widely held hypotheses about income inequality. Gaps persisted even when black and white boys grew up in families with the same income, similar family structures, similar education levels and even similar levels of accumulated wealth.
The disparities that remain also can’t be explained by differences in cognitive ability, an argument made by people who cite racial gaps in test scores that appear for both black boys and girls. If such inherent differences existed by race, “you’ve got to explain to me why these putative ability differences aren’t handicapping women,” said David Grusky, a Stanford sociologist who has reviewed the research.
A more likely possibility, the authors suggest, is that test scores don’t accurately measure the abilities of black children in the first place.
If this inequality can’t be explained by individual or household traits, much of what matters probably lies outside the home — in surrounding neighborhoods, in the economy and in a society that views black boys differently from white boys, and even from black girls.
“One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea,” said Ibram Kendi, a professor and director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “But for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”
Read more at The New York Times.
Several industries have become notorious for the millions they spend on influencing legislation and getting friendly candidates into office: Big Oil, Big Pharma and the gun lobby among them. But one has managed to quickly build influence with comparatively little scrutiny: Private prisons. The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO and Corrections Corporation of America – and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar. They now rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute. Private companies house nearly half of the nation’s immigrant detainees, compared to about 25 percent a decade ago, a Huffington Post report found. In total, there are now about 130 private prisons in the country with about 157,000 beds.
Marco Rubio is one of the best examples of the private prison industry’s growing political influence, a connection that deserves far more attention now that he’s officially launched a presidential bid. The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company. (Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)
The Justice Policy Institute identified the private-prison industry’s three-pronged approach to increase profits through political influence: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and building relationships and networks. On its website, CCA states that the company doesn’t lobby on policies that affect “the basis for or duration of an individual’s incarceration or detention.” Still, several reports have documented instances when private-prison companies have indirectly supported policies that put more Americans and immigrants behind bars – such as California’s three-strikes rule and Arizona’s highly controversial anti-illegal immigration law – by donating to politicians who support them, attending meetings with officials who back them, and lobbying for funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Showing just how important these policies are to the private prison industry, both GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America have warned shareholders that changes in these policies would hurt their bottom lines.
Read more at The Washington Post.
Shoplifting has become something of a lifeline for Japan’s elderly population.
As Bloomberg reports, nearly one in five women in prison is 65 or older. These elderly women commit minor crimes in order to escape poverty and solitude. Often, women are repeat offenders so that they can return to prison once they are released. To serve this group, the government is constructing prison wards specifically for elderly inmates and increasing nursing staff.
A 78-year-old inmate referred to as Ms. O has stolen energy drinks, coffee, tea, a rice ball, and a mango. She told Bloomberg: “Prison is an oasis for me—a place for relaxation and comfort. I don’t have freedom here, but I have nothing to worry about, either. There are many people to talk to. They provide us with nutritious meals three times a day.”
Most of us have accepted that our time on Earth has an expiration date. But some researchers and a few ambitious Silicon Valley titans have begun to question whether our years are really numbered. Maybe if we tinkered around with the body—adjusted our diet, popped a promising supplement, tried out some experimental tactics—we could push that date. Maybe we could even live forever. “Today, we’re starting to really think, is aging and death a natural process or is it associated with less-than-optimal functioning?” says Equinox advisory board member Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine. “If we could optimize everything in our environment, would that eradicate death? That’s something we’re trying to figure out now.”
In their quest to extend life, some enthusiasts are picking up new habits in hopes of tacking on a few more years or even decades. Here’s how their aspirational tactics measure up against science.
NEXT LEVEL SUPPLEMENTS
The claim: Five hundred dollars will get you a one year supply of Basis, a supplement that’s reported to increase levels of NAD+, a coenzyme that helps energy production, regulates circadian rhythms, maintains the health of DNA, and unfortunately, declines as we age. Two of its main ingredients, pterostilbene and nicotinamide riboside, are also thought to activate sirtuins, which are proteins—fueled by NAD+—that play a role in turning our genes on and off in response to environmental changes. In mouse studies, it’s been shown to rejuvenate cells.
The expert opinion: For a while, Basis’ claims were only backed up by animal studies, but recent research found that people who took Basis once a day had 40 percent higher levels of NAD+ levels after four weeks. Still, it’s not clear if that increase necessarily translates to a longer and healthier lifespan for humans. “There’s no evidence that it’s not safe, but I think that at this point, we’re still waiting for more human trials to better evaluate what the outcomes are,” Bland says.
The claim: Many immortalists swear by some form of fasting. Instead of taking in three square meals a day (or six smaller ones) they’re switching to something more restrictive. There are two basic fasting formats: one is your purely calorie restriction and the other has you eating during short intervals and abstaining from food for at least 12 to 16 hours (sometimes even a day or two). The thinking is that fasting pushes the body to repair cells and burn fat instead of glucose, staving off conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and maybe even cancer.
The expert opinion: Scientists seem to be optimistic about fasting practices that aren’t too restrictive. For example, researchers at the University of Southern California found that people who followed a fast-mimicking diet—where you eat normally for five days a week and then limit yourself to around 600 calories the other two days—lowered their blood pressure, body fat, and waist size, conditions which are typically risk factors for disease. An earlier study found that mice who were put on the same diet lived longer, experienced less incidences of cancer, and had better cognitive abilities; and a small human trial in that same study showed that they had decreased risk factors and biomarkers for aging, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. “Put together, for researchers, this work gives us the confidence that our eating patterns really do influence our bodies right down to the cellular level—something really important is happening here,” says Bland.
Read more at Furthermore.
What will happen when the U.S. unemployment rate falls below 4 percent, which is expected to occur by this summer? One way to tell is to look at cities where joblessness is already lower than that. Bloomberg News reporters traveled to Iowa, Georgia, and Maine. What they saw there is encouraging. They discovered that employers have found ways to cope with tight labor markets and still make money. Businesses have pulled in workers from the sidelines—including retirees, immigrants, and the homeless—and retooled processes to use less labor. Some have raised pay considerably for certain jobs, but so far there are no signs of an overall wage explosion. That should embolden those at the Federal Reserve who want to raise interest rates slowly to give growth a chance.
Portland, Maine: Making Do With Fewer Workers
From polished sea-salt caramel balls to truffles packaged with hand-tied bows, the treats on sale at Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections in Freeport exude artisanal charm. While that’s a source of pride for owner Andrew Wilbur, whose parents started the business, he’s staring down a dilemma. Manufacturing workers are hard to come by in Freeport, which is 15 miles north of Portland and part of its statistical area. At 1.8 percent, the unemployment rate is the third-lowest in the country. “It’s made me think, Do I go to more mechanization?” Wilbur says from inside his production plant, where three employees are making candy in what look like mini cement mixers.
Wilbur has raised wages for his 40 employees by more than 20 percent over the past three years, but he’s passed hardly any of his costs onto consumers. Business at his three brick-and-mortar outlets is already unchanged or down, and he would have lost online and wholesale customers if he’d raised prices substantially, he says.
It takes a full year for these employees to get up to speed and five for them to hit what Wilbur, without a hint of irony, calls “the sweet spot.” With inexperienced workers starting at $12 to $14 an hour, onboarding is becoming a major expense. Lowering his voice a little, Wilbur admits that he’s changed some of his packaging to make it less labor-intensive, including doing away with hand-applied labels.
Shipwreck & Cargo, a souvenir shop in downtown Portland that stocks items such as lobster-printed boxers and Maine blueberry tea, staffed its floor with only two sales assistants during the busy summer season instead of the usual three. The supply of workers has dried up just as the tourism industry is on an upswing, says store manager Jennifer Smith. “You want the right people, standing and smiling in front,” says Smith, who adds that the applicant pool has gotten smaller and less qualified in the five years she’s been running the shop.
Read more at Bloomberg.
Since consolidating his power in rigged elections at the start of the decade, the Russian leader has pioneered a politics of fictional threats and invented enemies. By Timothy Snyder
mericans and Europeans have been guided through our new century by what I will call the politics of inevitability – a sense that the future is just more of the present, that the laws of progress are known, that there are no alternatives, and therefore nothing really to be done. In the American, capitalist version of this story, nature brought the market, which brought democracy, which brought happiness. In the European version, history brought the nation, which learned from war that peace was good, and hence chose integration and prosperity.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, communism had its own politics of inevitability: nature permits technology; technology brings social change; social change causes revolution; revolution enacts utopia. When this turned out not to be true, the European and American politicians of inevitability were triumphant. Europeans busied themselves completing the creation of the European Union in 1992. Americans reasoned that the failure of the communist story confirmed the truth of the capitalist one. Americans and Europeans kept telling themselves their tales of inevitability for a quarter-century after the end of communism, and so raised a millennial generation without history.
The American politics of inevitability, like all such stories, resisted facts. The fates of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus after 1991 showed well enough that the fall of one system did not create a blank slate on which nature generated markets and markets generated rights.
Iraq might have confirmed this lesson, had the initiators of America’s illegal war reflected upon its disastrous consequences. The financial crisis of 2008 and the deregulation of campaign contributions in the US in 2010 magnified the influence of the wealthy and reduced that of voters. As economic inequality grew, time horizons shrank, and fewer Americans believed that the future held a better version of the present. Lacking a functional state that assured basic social goods taken for granted elsewhere – education, pensions, healthcare, transport, parental leave, vacations – Americans could be overwhelmed by each day, and lose a sense of the future.
The collapse of the politics of inevitability ushers in another experience of time: the politics of eternity. Whereas inevitability promises a better future for everyone, eternity places one nation at the centre of a cyclical story of victimhood. Time is no longer a line into the future, but a circle that endlessly returns the same threats from the past. Within inevitability, no one is responsible because we all know that the details will sort themselves out for the better; within eternity, no one is responsible because we all know that the enemy is coming no matter what we do. Eternity politicians spread the conviction that government cannot aid society as a whole, but can only guard against threats. Progress gives way to doom.
In power, eternity politicians manufacture crisis and manipulate the resultant emotion. To distract from their inability or unwillingness to reform, they instruct their citizens to experience elation and outrage at short intervals, drowning the future in the present. In foreign policy, eternity politicians belittle and undo the achievements of countries that might seem like models to their own citizens. Using technology to transmit political fiction at home and abroad, eternity politicians deny truth and seek to reduce life to spectacle and feeling.
Inevitability and eternity translate facts into narratives. Those swayed by inevitability see every fact as a blip that does not alter the overall story of progress; those who shift to eternity classify every new event as just one more instance of a timeless threat. Each masquerades as history; each does away with history. Inevitability politicians teach that the specifics of the past are irrelevant, since anything that happens is just grist for the mill of progress. Eternity politicians leap from one moment to another, over decades or centuries, to build a myth of innocence and danger. They imagine cycles of threat in the past, creating an imagined pattern that they realise in the present by producing artificial crises and daily drama.
Inevitability and eternity have specific propaganda styles. Inevitability politicians spin facts into a web of wellbeing. Eternity politicians suppress facts in order to dismiss the reality that people are freer and richer in other countries, and the idea that reforms could be formulated on the basis of knowledge. The 2010s have seen the deliberate creation of political fiction – outsized stories that commanded attention and colonised the space needed for contemplation.
Now, what has already happened in Russia is what might happen in America and Europe: the stabilisation of massive inequality, the displacement of policy by propaganda, the shift from the politics of inevitability to the politics of eternity. Russian leaders could invite Europeans and Americans to eternity because Russia got there first. They understood American and European weaknesses, which they had first seen and exploited at home.
For many Europeans and Americans, events in the 2010s – Brexit, Trump’s election, the Russian turn against Europe and the invasion of Ukraine – came as a surprise. Americans tend to react to surprise in two ways: either by imagining that the unexpected event is not really happening, or by claiming that it is totally new and hence not amenable to historical understanding. Either all will somehow be well, or all is so ill that nothing can be done.
Read more at The Guardian.
Brexit is entering some make-or-break weeks. The contentious issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is coming due.
It’s a little after 3pm in Detroit’s 8 Mile neighbourhood, and the cicadas are buzzing loudly in the trees. Children weave down the pavements on bicycles, while a pickup basketball game gets under way in a nearby park. The sky is a deep blue with only a hint of an approaching thunderstorm – in other words, a muggy, typical summer Sunday in Michigan’s largest city.
“8 Mile”, as the locals call it, is far from the much-touted economic “renaissance” taking place in Detroit’s centre. Tax delinquency and debt are still major issues, as they are in most places in the city. Crime and blight exist side by side with carefully trimmed hedgerows and mowed lawns, a patchwork that changes from block to block. In many ways it resembles every other blighted neighbourhood in the city – but with one significant difference. Hidden behind the oak-lined streets is an insidious piece of history that most Detroiters, let alone Americans, don’t even know exists: a half mile-long, 5ft tall concrete barrier that locals simply call “the wall”.
“Growing up, we didn’t know what that wall was for,” says Teresa Moon, president of the 8 Mile Community Organization. “It used to be a rite of passage to walk on top of the wall, like a balancing beam. You know, just kids having fun, that kind of thing. It was only later when I found out what it was for, and when I realised the audacity that they had to build it.”
In 1942, 8 Mile was a black neighbourhood – segregated by law, segregated by culture, segregated from white Oakland County by the eponymous 8 Mile Road. It was a self-contained community, filled with not only African Americans but immigrants of all colours, some of whom had built their houses with their own hands.
It was also adjacent to empty land – valuable land that developers were rapaciously turning into homes for a surging postwar population. Land that one housing developer wanted to use to build a “whites-only neighbourhood”. The only problem was, he couldn’t get federal funding to develop the land unless he could prove he had a strategy to prevent black people and white people from mixing. His answer: wall off the white neighbourhood with a concrete barrier.
“That wall is a monument,” says Moon. “We survived it. It’s a part of what happened, and no one feels any negativity towards what happened.”
Her neighbour, Lou Ross, agrees. “What that Wall was intended for, it didn’t work that way. It did for a minute – but it didn’t last.”
Today, policymakers are making plans to revamp the nation’s infrastructure. The Trump administration has pledged to create a $1tn infrastructure renewal plan, and came to power, after all, on the promise of building a massive wall. But, like Trump’s wall and the 8-mile wall, infrastructure is not value-free – and the decisions made now will affect the future of inequality in our cities.
To get an understanding of how infrastructure transforms communities, there’s no better place to start than the Federal Housing Authority “redlining” housing maps. Commissioned by the federal government in the 1930s, these maps were critical to decisions of where and what type of infrastructure, lending and housing each neighbourhood of each American city would be able to receive.
“The FHA promoted home ownership in new – and primarily suburban – neighbourhoods so long as they were white and not ethnically or economically diverse,” writes Antero Pietila in Not in My Neighbourhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City.
If your neighbourhood had the misfortune to be “redlined”, it was often doomed to a future of stillborn investment and decay. Specifically, it would be impossible to secure federally backed mortgages, a sort of scarlet letter branded across huge swaths of the city. Developers avoided these areas and concentrated investment into white areas, and services stagnated. The seeds of the future ghettos of America had been sown.
Read more at The Guardian.
Shivaun Moeran and Adam Raff met, married and started a company — thereby sparking a chain of events that might, ultimately, take down this age of internet giants as we know it — because they were both huge nerds. In the late 1980s, Adam was studying programming at the University of Edinburgh, while Shivaun was focused on physics and computer science at King’s College London. They had mutual friends who kept insisting they were perfect for each other. So one weekend, they went on a date and discovered other similarities: They both loved stand-up comedy. Each had a science-minded father. They shared a weakness for puns.
In the years that followed, those overlapping enthusiasms led to cohabitation, a raucous wedding and parallel careers at big technology firms. The thing is, though, when you’re young and geeky and fall in love with someone else young and geeky, all your nerdy friends want you to set them up on dates as well. So Adam and Shivaun, who took Adam’s last name after marriage, approached the problem like two good programmers: They designed a dating app.
The app was known as MatchMate, and the idea was simple: Rather than just pairing people with similar interests, their software would put together potential mates according to an array of parameters, such as which pub they were currently standing in, and whether they had friends in common, and what movies they liked or candidates they voted for, and dozens of other factors that might be important in finding a life partner (or at least a tonight partner). The magic of MatchMate was that it could allow a user to mix variables and search for pairings within a specific group, a trick that computer scientists call parameterization. “It was like asking your best friend to set you up,” Shivaun told me. “Someone who says, ‘Well, you probably think you’d like this guy because he’s handsome, but actually you’d like this other guy because he’s not as good-looking, but he’s really funny.’ ”
Within computer science, this kind of algorithmic alchemy is sometimes known as vertical search, and it’s notoriously hard to master. Even Google, with its thousands of Ph.D.s, gets spooked by vertical-search problems. “Google’s built around horizontal search, which means if you type in ‘What’s the population of Myanmar,’ then Google finds websites that include the words ‘Myanmar’ and ‘population,’ and figures out which ones are most likely to answer your question,” says Neha Narula, who was a software engineer at Google before joining the M.I.T. Media Lab. You don’t really care if Google sends you to Wikipedia or a news article or some other site, as long as its results are accurate and trustworthy. But, Narula says, “when you start asking questions with only one correct answer, like, Which site has the cheapest vacuum cleaner? — that’s much, much harder.”
For search engines like Google, finding that one correct answer becomes particularly difficult when people have numerous parameters they want satisfied: Which vacuum cleaner is cheapest but also energy-efficient and good on thick carpets and won’t scare the dog? To balance those competing preferences, you need a great vertical-search engine, which was something Adam and Shivaun had thought a lot about.
Read more at The New York Times Magazine.
A few weeks ago, I went into my son Chase’s class for tutoring. I’d e-mailed Chase’s teacher one evening and said, “Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you’re sending home is math—but I’m not sure I believe him. Help, please.” She e-mailed right back and said, “No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime.” And I said, “No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me.”
And that’s how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth-grade classroom while Chase’s teacher sat behind me, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the “new way we teach long division.” Luckily for me, I didn’t have to unlearn much because I’d never really understood the “old way we taught long division.” It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but I could tell that Chase’s teacher liked me anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously we have a whole lot in common.
Afterward, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are not the most important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community—and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are kind and brave above all.
And then she told me this.
Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns.
Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who can’t think of anyone to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
Read more at Reader’s Digest.
In a time when no one agrees on anything, some vague consensus can be found around the idea that more American manufacturing would be good. Rarely does someone say publicly, “Actually, I think there should be less American manufacturing.” (Although it happens.)
Politicians, particularly our current president, love to talk about American manufacturing. Donald Trump tried to make the deal he struck to save factory jobs at the Carrier HVAC plant in Indiana a synecdoche for his professed concern over the welfare of the American worker. The deal didn’t stop jobs from moving to Mexico, and when a union leader complained that the arrangement hadn’t improved the lives of the employees as much as it had garnered positive press for the new president, the commander in chief bashed him on Twitter. Between the election and January of this year, the president made 31 claims of adding or saving jobs by intervening with companies; ProPublica found that 90 percent of those jobs were not saved or never materialized. But while the scale of these claims was questionable and the results were missing and the actual effect was actively pretty bad, nearly everyone was able to agree that, in a vacuum, saving those jobs would be a nice thing. More American manufacturing: good.
And yet, there is less. Twelve-and-a-half million Americans worked in manufacturing in 2017, down from 14.1 million 11 years earlier. There’s been some growth since the sector dipped to its lowest point in 2010, as a result of the Great Recession, but American businesses are rarely moved by the common public sentiment to make the change and bring their supply chains (and all the jobs they represent) to the US.
As is often the case when there’s agreement that something should change in the United States and still it doesn’t, the answer to the obvious question — who wants to keep the status quo? — is “business.” Or, more and more of late, “capitalism.” If a decision doesn’t cut costs, it’s understood to be bad for business, in violation of the indomitable will of capitalism. And if a decision were to increase costs, well, who would dream of making a decision like that? Not a business person. Basing a supply chain in the US is more expensive than moving it — or, more likely, much more expensive than moving it back from — abroad, thanks to our rules and regulations and unions and minimum wage and child labor laws. Thus, we conclude, it’s impossible to change.
There’s an undercurrent of futility to conversations about American business, a presumption of inevitability to the often-devastating effects of capitalism in its current stage (you know, late). It makes the topic exhausting. You might want to want to read a story about American manufacturing; you might say, “Hmm, yes, American manufacturing, very important” and nod if asked about it in a social setting, but the reality of it — how cotton is grown and yarn is made and fabric is dyed and finished, how factory workers do their jobs to maximize efficiency and how plants and mills adapt to innovation and how companies are structured to make the margins possible — is complex and, frankly, boring.
So you might see a story like this and click it but realize you also need to get started on making dinner or finish those other tabs you have open, and also there are a lot of other really important concerns in the world, and how about that stuff, huh? And anyway, good luck with that American manufacturing thing, you’re really rooting for them, you’ll definitely try to read it later, but you know what they say: Business is business. Business, like the heart, wants what it wants.
Bayard Winthrop, CEO of American Giant, wants you to know that it is not that simple.
Read more at Racked.
Good morning, America. All your recent talk of gender equality has only shown just how far from woke you really are. Despite best intentions, the current cultural conversation about feminism continues to perpetuate sexism.
From my perspective, I’m already equal and was born that way in 1972. No need to fight about it now. I wasn’t waiting around for anyone to wake up or make space. Instead, I crafted an adventurous, independent, and productive existence with gusto, moxie, and swashbuckle.
Men never seemed inherently better at anything but hauling hay. So I’m impatient with discussions about gender premised on the assumption that I’m struggling at an imaginary starting line. Inequalities certainly exist, but women have been getting ahead, and doing great things, for a while, in the workforce and beyond. Yet the overwhelming messaging now is that we don’t own our power unless we shout about our woes, and that strong ladies talk a lot about how bad they’ve got it.
That is one way to be a feminist, but certainly not the sole approach. Another way is to just be powerful. Advancing womankind by emphasizing that we’re behind, perpetually viewing our lives, careers, and finances as less than they might be if only we weren’t women, seems to me to do a disservice to all women, especially powerful ones.
Because I am equal, I only focus on gender inequality when others do, or are subconsciously sexist—not mutually exclusive concepts. Disconcertingly, that’s been happening a lot lately. More than ever in this time of alleged feminist awakening.
I’m not sure what all the excitement’s about right now, just that stories which seem to hearten many instead make me despair. Take the cultural embrace of #MeToo—a slogan first created for abused girls, which presumes sexual violence is a positive unifying theme for grown women. The current movement implies that women couldn’t manage our jobs, bodies, or colleagues until Twitter and feisty young ladies were finally born and grew up to save us. The cultural thirst for stories on this topic signals to women that our humiliation is fascinating—especially if it involves rich men and their perversions. All the press only titillates a society already enthralled by sex, violence, money, and power.
We’re talking about women today, yes, but the discussion is still dictated by the male gaze and patriarchal values. There’s little nuance in this conversation, or room for all the different women doing their thing, nor is there recognition of the retrograde messaging being reinforced as progress is claimed. Women must all be victims or support-warriors, singing a single jeremiad. This strengthens dated notions that we’re weak, and that we agree about what we need and want or how feminism manifests—which we don’t.
Consider the conversations about what feminist allies should do at work. Much of the advice strengthens gender stereotypes, suggesting that big men aid little women squeaking at meetings, say. Yet the female leaders and attorneys at the Palm Beach County Public Defender, where I worked, need no such assistance, given that they speak for Florida’s meanest men. Likewise, at Quartz, ladies are avowed interrupters. Incessantly repeating that women are timid and need help getting basic respect on the job confirms a false sense of male superiority and just isn’t true; how will that cultivate strong people dealing as equals? Respectful colleagues are awesome, but patronizing assists are unnecessary.
Read more at Quartz.
In the past, Olympic host cities spent billions of dollars on grandiose structures that soon become “white elephants.” Montreal’s “Big O” Olympic stadium, used for the 1976 games, currently costs the Canadian province about $32 million to maintain each year and has never been able to pay for itself, despite its afterlife hosting trade shows and movie shoots. More recently, Athens and Rio de Janeiro each saw their Olympic venues deteriorate soon after the games concluded.
This year’s Winter Olympics host, Pyeongchang, is taking a different tack.
The most visible of the South Korean county’s new venues is the 35,000-seat Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. After being used four times in total, including at this Sunday’s closing ceremony, and next month’s Paralympics, the plan is to tear it apart. Some might argue that demolishing a brand-new stadium is wasteful. But it’s one of basically two ideas—at opposite ends of the spectrum—for how to host large-scale games more economically.
The temporary stadium
Increasingly, cities are thinking about short-term or “pop-up” stadiums, not a structure that’ll last for decades.
Rather than let a venue fall into inevitable disrepair, the logic goes, it’s better to build in a short shelf life. That allows you to skip things you’d include in a long-term structure and keep costs down. According to the Pyeongchang organizing committee, Pyeongchang Olympic Plaza cost about $110 million, including $75 million for the stadium.
By comparison, Russia’s Fisht Olympic Stadium cost around $600 million to build, and Tokyo’s new national stadium for the 2020 games is expected to cost $1.5 billion. The Pyeongchang stadium is no-frills: for example, it features no roof and no heating. Given Pyeongchang’s frigid climate, that’s impractical for long-term use.
Not that demolition is an easy option. One reason Montreal’s stadium hasn’t been demolished, for example, is that experts don’t see demolition costing less than $100 million, and possibly much, much more. (The Pyeongchang committee referred Quartz’s queries on the cost and time-frame for the dismantling to the county.)
Outside the Olympics, Qatar, which will host the World Cup in 2022, is pursuing a different approach to “temporary.” Plans unveiled late last year show the 40,000-seat Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is modular, built out of shipping containers so it can be disassembled and reassembled like a jigsaw puzzle, possibly at other locations.
Read more at Quartz.
5G will be the lifeblood of the new economy.
Self-driving cars, virtual reality, smart cities and networked robots will all be powered by 5G networks someday soon. 5G promises to open the door to new surgical procedures, safer transportation and instant communication for first responders.
It’s no wonder the Trump administration is considering a government-funded 5G public utility, according to a report Sunday in Axios.
There’s no reason to believe that will happen. A publicly financed 5G project would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It would be a moonshot unlike anything the government has taken on since it sent people to the moon.
5G is on its way whether the government backs it or not. Major internet companies are far along in their 5G network development, and the first networks will be up and running in the next couple years.
What is 5G?
Like every “next generation” wireless network technology, 5G will give your phone a speedier connection — about 10 times faster than 4G, industry experts expect. That’s enough to stream “8K” video or download a 3D movie in 30 seconds. (On 4G, it would take six minutes.)
The extra capacity will make service more reliable, allowing more gadgets to connect to the network at the same time.
But 5G is about much more than smartphones. Sensors, thermostats, cars, robots, and other new technology will all connect to 5G one day. Today’s 4G networks don’t have the bandwidth for the vast amounts of data all those devices will transmit.
5G networks will also reduce to virtually zero the lag time between devices and the servers they communicate with. For driverless cars, that means uninterrupted communication between a car and other vehicles, data centers and outside sensors.
To accomplish all that, 5G will need to travel over super-high-frequency airwaves. Higher frequencies bring faster speeds and more bandwidth. But they can’t travel through walls, windows or rooftops, and they get considerably weaker over long distances.
That means wireless companies will need to install thousands — perhaps millions — of miniature cell towers on top of every lamp post, on the side of buildings, inside every home and potentially in every room.
That’s why 5G will complement 4G rather than outright replace it. In buildings and in crowded areas, 5G might provide a speed boost. But when you’re driving down the highway, 4G could be your only option — at least for a while.
Read more at CNN.
The erotic is a realm where desire and imagination meet.
This is the statement Rowan Pelling used to describe the subject of The Art of the Erotic, a Phaidon Editors book for which Pelling wrote the introduction. The Art of the Erotic examines the phenomenon of erotic art through a timeless prism, providing us with insights into human sexuality throughout the ages.
With over 1,500 titles in print, Phaidon is the leading global publisher of the creative arts headquartered in London and New York City. They collaborate with the globe’s most influential artists, writers and thinkers who help Phaidon produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel.
The Art of the Erotic
The sexual desire of one human being for another is probably the most basic, universal and consistent instinct of our society. From ancient to the present times, artists have tirelessly sought to represent and invoke erotic impulses via their artworks and Phaidon will be attempting to put this fact into its true perspective.
Published in October 2017, The Art of the Erotic is a chronological publication which confirms human sexuality and art have always gone hand in hand with each other. The book covers more than 2500 years of human history, starting with hand-painted Athenian cups and mosaics from Pompeii, and going two and a half millenniums ahead to recent works by Wolfgang Tillmans and Anish Kapoor, covering everything in between.
Read more at WideWalls
Today is Oprah Winfrey‘s big day – and there sure is plenty to celebrate.
After being handed the honourable Cecil B. de Mille Award at the Golden Globes and giving an extremely touching and powerful acceptance speech, people were quickly reminded of Oprah’s excellence and thus begun the Oprah for 2020 presidency campaign.
The queen of pep talks has had some incredible moments throughout her career and, with that, an enormous list of inspiring quotes we should all live by.
So here are 20 of the best quotes by Oprah on happiness, love and, of course, success that are bound to leave you feeling seriously inspired.
Read them all at Glamour.
It’s week six in your new job at a bootstrapped startup, and the founder asks you: “Create a prototype of our software to share with investors. We don’t have a company name yet. And I need it in two days.” If this sounds familiar, chances are you’ve been an early employee at a startup. If this is your precise scenario, you’re Stacy La, Clover Health’s Director of Design.
When La first started with Clover Health, it was just the founders, head of product and a data scientist. She was its first designer and the company hadn’t raised any money. Now she leads an eight-person design team, Clover is 500+ people-strong and the startup has raised over $425M. Though La was a seasoned design leader (Yammer, Microsoft) before Clover Health, it was her first time as a very early employee forged in the crucible of a fast-scaling company.
In this exclusive interview, La reduces nearly every motion of an early employee to flexing one of two muscles: ruthless prioritization and high-return troubleshooting. For the former, she outlines a sequence of time management milestones to expect as an early employee in year one. For the latter, La asserts that every challenge must produce double the return in takeaways — and gives examples of that principle in action.
Ruthless Prioritization as a Timeline
From the list-making apps like Asana and Things 3 to hyperfast email like Superhuman, there are many tools that can help generate greater efficiency. Then there are philosophies from productivity aces like Getting Things Done’s David Allen or Lifehacker’s Gina Trapani. All these resources can be valuable for the overworked, under-resourced early employee, but according to La, time management operates as a unique frequency for a startup’s first employees.
“At the start, it was fun taking the leap and deciding to get involved as an early employee. I was back together with people I had worked well with before,” says La. “But then it got daunting very quickly. The magnitude of the task ahead hit at once: my hybrid doer/leader role for a functional area, my learning curve in the health insurance space, and all the opportunities that Clover could go after in the market. Suddenly, spinning up felt more dizzying than galvanizing.”
Read more at First Round.
North Korea has drastically increased the range of its missiles. In tests last year, the nation showed that it could probably strike the United States.
North Korea is among a number of countries that have been working to improve the accuracy and range of their missiles.
“We believe we’re entering a missile renaissance,” said Ian Williams, an associate director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has been compiling data on missile programs in different countries.
A growing number of countries with ready access to missiles increases regional tensions and makes war more likely, Mr. Williams said. Countries are more apt to use their arsenals if they think their missiles could be targeted.
In addition, many of the missiles being developed by these countries are based on obsolete technologies, which makes them less accurate, increasing the risk to civilians. And there is a risk that missiles could fall into the hands of militias and terrorist groups.
Many of the countries that have heavily invested in missiles over the last two decades are in well-known hotspots in Asia and the Middle East.
Countries investing in missiles are often trying to deter regional adversaries. But the effects of this arms race ripple across the globe.
North Korea is an example of the danger. Estimates of the country’s maximum missile range went from 745 miles in 1990 to more than 8,000 miles now. That’s enough to strike about half of the world, including the United States mainland. (During the same period, South Korea gained the ability to strike anywhere in North Korea.)
Read more at the New York Times.
Drew was 8 years old when he was flipping through TV channels at home and landed on “Girls Gone Wild.” A few years later, he came across HBO’s late-night soft-core pornography. Then in ninth grade, he found online porn sites on his phone. The videos were good for getting off, he said, but also sources for ideas for future sex positions with future girlfriends. From porn, he learned that guys need to be buff and dominant in bed, doing things like flipping girls over on their stomach during sex. Girls moan a lot and are turned on by pretty much everything a confident guy does. One particular porn scene stuck with him: A woman was bored by a man who approached sex gently but became ecstatic with a far more aggressive guy.
But around 10th grade, it began bothering Drew, an honor-roll student who loves baseball and writing rap lyrics and still confides in his mom, that porn influenced how he thought about girls at school. Were their breasts, he wondered, like the ones in porn? Would girls look at him the way women do in porn when they had sex? Would they give him blow jobs and do the other stuff he saw?
Drew, who asked me to use one of his nicknames, was a junior when I first met him in late 2016, and he told me some of this one Thursday afternoon, as we sat in a small conference room with several other high school boys, eating chips and drinking soda and waiting for an after-school program to begin. Next to Drew was Q., who asked me to identify him by the first initial of his nickname. He was 15, a good student and a baseball fan, too, and pretty perplexed about how porn translated into real life. Q. hadn’t had sex — he liked older, out-of-reach girls, and the last time he had a girlfriend was in sixth grade, and they just fooled around a bit. So he wasn’t exactly in a good position to ask girls directly what they liked. But as he told me over several conversations, it wasn’t just porn but rough images on Snapchat, Facebook and other social media that confused him. Like the GIF he saw of a man pushing a woman against a wall with a girl commenting: “I want a guy like this.” And the one Drew mentioned of the “pain room” in “Fifty Shades of Grey” with a caption by a girl: “This is awesome!”
Watching porn also heightened Q.’s performance anxiety. “You are looking at an adult,” he told me. “The guys are built and dominant and have a big penis, and they last a long time.” And if you don’t do it like the guys in porn, Drew added, “you fear she’s not going to like you.”
Leaning back in his chair, Drew said some girls acted as if they wanted some thug rather than a smart, sensitive guy. But was it true desire? Was it posturing? Was it what girls thought they were supposed to want? Neither Q. nor Drew knew. A couple of seats away, a sophomore who had been quiet until then added that maybe the girls didn’t know either. “I think social media makes girls think they want something,” he said, noting he hadn’t seen porn more than a handful of times and disliked it. “But I think some of the girls are afraid.”
Read more at the New York Times Magazine.
The real Jessica Rychly is a Minnesota teenager with a broad smile and wavy hair. She likes reading and the rapper Post Malone. When she goes on Facebook or Twitter, she sometimes muses about being bored or trades jokes with friends. Occasionally, like many teenagers, she posts a duck-face selfie.
But on Twitter, there is a version of Jessica that none of her friends or family would recognize. While the two Jessicas share a name, photograph and whimsical bio — “I have issues” — the other Jessica promoted accounts hawking Canadian real estate investments, cryptocurrency and a radio station in Ghana. The fake Jessica followed or retweeted accounts using Arabic and Indonesian, languages the real Jessica does not speak. While she was a 17-year-old high school senior, her fake counterpart frequently promoted graphic pornography, retweeting accounts called Squirtamania and Porno Dan.
All these accounts belong to customers of an obscure American company named Devumi that has collected millions of dollars in a shadowy global marketplace for social media fraud. Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers, a New York Times investigation found.
The accounts that most resemble real people, like Ms. Rychly, reveal a kind of large-scale social identity theft. At least 55,000 of the accounts use the names, profile pictures, hometowns and other personal details of real Twitter users, including minors, according to a Times data analysis.
“I don’t want my picture connected to the account, nor my name,” Ms. Rychly, now 19, said. “I can’t believe that someone would even pay for it. It is just horrible.”
These accounts are counterfeit coins in the booming economy of online influence, reaching into virtually any industry where a mass audience — or the illusion of it — can be monetized. Fake accounts, deployed by governments, criminals and entrepreneurs, now infest social media networks. By some calculations, as many as 48 million of Twitter’s reported active users — nearly 15 percent — are automated accounts designed to simulate real people, though the company claims that number is far lower.
In November, Facebook disclosed to investors that it had at least twice as many fake users as it previously estimated, indicating that up to 60 million automated accounts may roam the world’s largest social media platform. These fake accounts, known as bots, can help sway advertising audiences and reshape political debates. They can defraud businesses and ruin reputations. Yet their creation and sale fall into a legal gray zone.
“The continued viability of fraudulent accounts and interactions on social media platforms — and the professionalization of these fraudulent services — is an indication that there’s still much work to do,” said Senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating the spread of fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
Read more at The New York Times.
A history of America from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the rise of Donald Trump, by the editor of Lapham’s Quarterly.
In twenty-five years of imperial adventure, America has laid waste to its principles of democracy. The self-glorifying march of folly steps off at the end of the Cold War, in an era when delusions of omnipotence allowed the market to climb to virtual heights, while society was divided between the selfish and frightened rich and the increasingly debt-ridden and angry poor. The new millennium saw the democratic election of an American president nullified by the Supreme Court, and the pretender launching a wasteful, vainglorious and never-ending war on terror, doomed to end in defeat and the loss of America’s prestige abroad.
All this culminates in the sunset swamp of the 2016 election—a farce dominated by Donald Trump, a self-glorifying photo-op bursting star-spangled bombast in air. This spectacle would be familiar to Aristotle, who likened the coming to power of a government to the rise of a “prosperous fool”— an individual so besotted with money as to “imagine there is nothing it cannot buy.”
Available for purchase at the Lapham’s Quarterly Bookstore.
You’re not alone in facing a chorus of doubters. So did Steve Jobs, Oprah, and other superstars.
“If people aren’t laughing at your dreams, your dreams aren’t big enough,” some guru once said (the internet can’t seem to decide which). It makes an awesome meme, but I wonder if just hearing this sort of uplifting but generic encouragement is enough to help people persevere when they’re surrounded by doubters.
Thanks for the sentiment, you might think, but perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something with this chorus of derisive laughter. Maybe all these people smirking at my dreams are right and I really am wasting my time.
If that’s you and the usual rah-rah quotes aren’t cutting it, you need some stiffer medicine to help you persevere, I suggest a recent campaign from British insurance marketplace Go Compare (yes, this is totally an unlikely source of inspiration).
To buck up those who feel beaten down by their detractors, the company gathered up incredibly harsh burns superstars received early in their careers. If even these icons faced such incredibly negative feedback, maybe there really is a pretty poor correlation between random other people’s opinions and eventual success.
Read more at Inc.com
On the morning of the Oscar nominations, I was chatting with a stranger about movies, as one does. The conversation turned to Woody Allen. “My son has seen all his movies, and he thinks he’s innocent,” she said. “I’ve seen all his movies, and I think he’s guilty,” I said. There was not much else to say.
There is a lot more to say. The words we chose weren’t quite the right ones. Innocence and guilt are legal (and also metaphysical) standards, but when we talk about the behavior of artists and our feelings about them, we are inevitably dealing with much messier, murkier, subjective issues. It’s not just a matter of whether you believe Dylan Farrow’s accusation of sexual abuse — reiterated a few weeks ago in a television interview — or the denial from her father, Mr. Allen. It’s also a matter of who deserves the benefit of the doubt.
The charge that Mr. Allen molested Dylan Farrow surfaced in 1992, in the wake of his breakup with Mia Farrow. That rupture was caused by Mia Farrow’s discovery that Mr. Allen was sexually involved with Soon-Yi Previn, who was her adopted daughter, though not Mr. Allen’s. His defenders (including his and Mia Farrow’s adopted son Moses) suggest that the allegation of abuse was the invention of a spurned woman lashing out against the man who had humiliated her.
The severity of that accusation, and Mr. Allen’s steadfast denial of it, had the curious effect of neutralizing what might otherwise have been a reputation-destroying scandal. “The heart wants what it wants,” he famously said, and what his 56-year-old heart desired was a 21-year-old woman he had known since she was a child. He married her, kept making movies, and the whole business faded into tabloid memory.
I remember the debating points vividly, which is to say I remember invoking them in arguments with friends at the time. Ms. Previn was not a minor. Mr. Allen and her mother had never lived together. He was not Soon-Yi’s father, or even her stepfather, even if he was the father of her half-siblings. And besides, Mr. Allen’s love life was personal, and therefore irrelevant. What mattered was the work.
For more than two decades, Mr. Allen’s credibility as an artist was undiminished. The reception of his movies fluctuated, but critics (myself included) often enough found reason to hail a return to form after a fallow period. He won awards, and actors clamored for the chance to appear in his films. Only now has that started to change.
The old defenses are being trotted out again. Like much else that used to sound like common sense, they have a tinny, clueless ring in present circumstances. The separation of art and artist is proclaimed — rather desperately, it seems to me — as if it were a philosophical principle, rather than a cultural habit buttressed by shopworn academic dogma. But the notion that art belongs to a zone of human experience somehow distinct from other human experiences is both conceptually incoherent and intellectually crippling. Art belongs to life, and anyone — critic, creator or fan — who has devoted his or her life to art knows as much.
Read more at The New York Times.
We asked CEOs across a wide range of industries to put on their futurist hats and predict which issues and ideas we’ll be debating by this time next year.
New Applications For Blockchain And Cryptocurrency
By the close of 2017, says Tricia Martinez, CEO of Wala, a blockchain-powered personal finance platform, blockchain and cryptocurrency were “just beginning to touch the masses.” In the next 12 months, she expects those technologies to go fully mainstream. “More companies are building on top of blockchain technologies, and anyone can issue a token now. I believe more banks, governments, and individuals will embrace crypto and everything it has to offer,” she says.
ea Arthur, CEO of The Difference, an artificial intelligence company, is a little more circumspect. “In most parts of the country, it’s still an unknown,” she observes. “And if our government was paying attention, they would have regulated the shit out of it by now.” But Arthur suspects that the growing applications for blockchain and cryptocurrencies will compel regulators to ease the way for wider adoption. “I think next year, we’ll be exploring its utility and legality,” says Arthur.
The Future Of Human Resources
Next year, Matt Straz, CEO of HR platform Namely, believes “the conversation around how data and AI is changing work will continue to ramp up,” especially after last year’s upheavals like the “Google memo,” Uber’s various meltdowns, and rampant sexual harassment allegations.
“Given the public HR nightmares that have come to light, companies are beginning to understand just how much a diverse and inclusive workplace is critical for success,” says Straz. “Data has the potential to help implement checks and balances, so that HR challenges are addressed sooner rather than later.” Adds Marah Lidey, co-CEO of wellness app Shine, “Last year showed us that our existing system is broken. We’ve heard account after account of leaders abusing positions of power, discriminating against marginalized communities, and so forth. In tech, we’re finally asking ourselves: What’s changing at the top?”
Read more at Fast Company.
Is that all there is? Not quite.
Against the advice of many of his advisors, Donald Trump authorized the release of a Republican-penned congressional memo about the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in 2016 presidential election.
The memo isn’t the “smoking gun” proving the FBI was biased against Trump that pro-Trump talking heads like Fox News’s Sean Hannity have promised. In fact, it seems to do the opposite—pointing out that a member of Trump’s campaign staff triggered the investigation, not the disputed “Golden Showers” memo. The president sees it differently, of course.
This makes it all the more tempting to dismiss the memo’s release as yet another strange attention-grabbing moment in Trump’s unorthodox presidency, one that we’ll all forget about when the next bizarre situation crops up.
Don’t do it.
The memo drama is the latest evidence that the US could be tumbling toward a constitutional crisis, a political situation that the institutions of government and the country’s founding documents are not up to the task of solving.
For the country and its people, the system that apportions specific powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches stands as a guarantee of the rule of law and a bulwark against authoritarian rule. When the intended balance is disturbed by one branch failing to follow the law or even long-standing standard protocol, the very idea of a representative democracy is threatened.
The current situation can be read as the US president choosing to favor the interests of the Russian regime of Vladimir Putin over those of American citizens. Already, the White House has refused to impose the latest Russian sanctions passed by Congress, while critics can say the memo seems to indicate that some Republican members of Congress are willing to forgo their sworn duty to protect the US from foreign interference, to shield Trump. (The president does have some discretion in enacting the sanctions. As Vox noted, “The president may waive sanctions if he determines that it is in the United States’ national security interests to do so.”)
Here is a worst-case scenario short list for the US. It’s a dark forecast, of how time-tested governmental practices could begin to unravel in America—if the worst is yet to come.
Read more at Quartz.
Cape Town, a coastal South African city of 4 million people, is about to run out of fresh water.
After three years of persistent drought, the government is warning that “Day Zero” — when they will be forced to turn off the faucets — will be April 16, 2018. That’s when reservoirs and water sources will hit 13.5% capacity, at which point the city will move most residents to a strict bucket- and jug-based water rationing system.
As Cape Town’s reservoirs of fresh water get dangerously close to running dry, locals are beginning to store water in jugs and fill up at spring-fed taps set up by local breweries. Those who can afford it are boring mini backyard wells to collect private water stashes, and some hotels are investing in pricey desalination plants to make ocean water drinkable.
Take a look at how people are dealing with the looming crisis at Business Insider.
There they were at lunch at an outdoor restaurant in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, that afternoon in the fall of 1969, a divorced father and his 13-year-old son. The father said he had some papers that he wanted to copy. Would the son help?
“I said, ‘Yes, sure,” the son recalled. Off they went to a Xerox machine that was big, clunky and, by today’s standards, very, very slow.
It was the first time anyone had let the son run such a monster. He was thrilled.
Saying that the father wanted to copy “some papers” is like saying that the Vatican is “a church.” The papers — which the father was smuggling out of his office, a briefcase-full at a time — would become known as the Pentagon Papers, the sprawling, classified history of the Vietnam War. The father was Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department official who by then was deeply discouraged about the conflict.
The son, Robert Ellsberg, may have had a cameo role in history as his father’s helper, but not in the film “The Post,” Steven Spielberg’s drama about the newspaper that played catch-up after another newspaper — this one — broke the story of the Pentagon Papers.
There was no 13-year-old at the Xerox machine in the movie, only grown-ups, but then, there was a lot of copying to be done, Mr. Ellsberg’s father put him to work only twice and moviegoers expect edge-of-your-seat action. Old-fashioned Xeroxing — slapping a single sheet of paper on a glass plate, pushing a button, waiting for the copy to print out, then doing it all over again with the next page — is anything but.
“It’s funny about the film,” Mr. Ellsberg said. “At one of the premieres, Steven Spielberg said there were things we would have liked to have put in this film that nobody would have believed, like that Ellsberg brought his kids to help copy the papers.”
Mr. Ellsberg knows that because he read it somewhere — no V.I.P. screenings for him. He paid for his own ticket to see “The Post” at a theater in Pleasantville, N.Y. No one in the audience realized that the fingerprints on someone’s bucket of popcorn would have matched fingerprints the F.B.I. found on the Pentagon Papers. As he dryly put it, “I didn’t introduce myself.”
He has been happy not being in the limelight or his father’s shadow — he said that for years, he did not want to be remembered as “Robert Ellsberg, son of Daniel Ellsberg.”
“I wanted to be my own kind of person,” he said, adding that he had never given a long interview until we spoke last week.
But “The Post” has people calling. The Harvard Divinity School posted a question-and-answer session with Mr. Ellsberg on its website. And on Saturday, he will take part in a conversation at the New-York Historical Society that it says is intended “to help young visitors better understand one of the biggest scandals of the 20th century and the role that one kid played in it.”
Read more at The New York Times.
Though now more than twenty years gone, Carl Sagan, through his many books and his classic television series Cosmos, continues to teach us all he knew about life, the universe, and everything. Three decades’ worth of students will also remember learning from him in person, in the lecture halls of Harvard and Cornell where he kept up his professorial duties alongside the considerable demands of his career as a public intellectual. If you’ve ever learned anything from Sagan, whether from the man himself or from his work, you know he didn’t just want to teach humanity about outer space: he wanted to teach humanity how to think.
That goal became explicit in Astronomy 490, also known as “Critical Thinking in Science and Non-Science Context,” which Sagan taught at Cornell in 1986. You can read its course materials at the Library of Congress, whose Jennifer Harbster writes that they “include mention of the important balance between openness to new ideas and skeptical engagement with those ideas in science,” a point that “animates much of Carl Sagan’s work as an educator and science communicator.”
The LoC offers the course’s introduction and syllabus, its final exam, and Sagan’s lecture notes, as well as the information he assembled to design the course in the first place, which show just how wide a range of contexts for critical thinking he had in mind.
Sagan collected examples of reporting on and public perception of phenomena related to sports playoff series, car-loan interest rates, tobacco industry-sponsored tobacco health-risk research, and the number of helicopters that crash in Los Angeles. Harbster explains that “these notes illustrate how he wanted to use students’ every day experience with things like television to prompt them to think more skeptically about how claims are made and warranted in everyday life.” Though some of his examples (the language of cigarette advertisements, for instance) may look dated now, the course’s core principles have only grown more useful, and indeed necessary, with time — as Sagan, who wrote darkly of “the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media,” surely knew they would.
Read more at Open Culture.
On a summer day in the San Joaquin Valley, 101 in the shade, I merge onto Highway 99 past downtown Fresno and steer through the vibrations of heat. I’m headed to the valley’s deep south, to a little farmworker town in a far corner of Kern County called Lost Hills. This is where the biggest irrigated farmer in the world — the one whose mad plantings of almonds and pistachios have triggered California’s nut rush — keeps on growing, no matter drought or flood. He doesn’t live in Lost Hills. He lives in Beverly Hills. How has he managed to outwit nature for so long?
The GPS tells me to take Interstate 5, the fastest route through the belly of the state, but I’m partial to Highway 99, the old road that brought the Okies and Mexicans to the fields and deposited a twang on my Armenian tongue. The highway runs two lanes here, three lanes there, through miles of agriculture broken every 20 minutes by fast food, gas station, and cheap motel. Tracts of houses, California’s last affordable dream, civilize three or four exits, and then it’s back to the open road splattered with the guts and feathers of chickens that jumped ship on the slaughterhouse drive. Pink and white oleanders divide the highway, and every third vehicle that whooshes by is a big rig. More often than not, it is hauling away some piece of the valley’s bounty. The harvest begins in January with one type of mandarin and ends in December with another type of mandarin and in between spills forth everything in your supermarket produce and dairy aisles except for bananas and mangoes, though the farmers here are working on the tropical, too.
I stick to the left lane and try to stay ahead of the pack. The big-rig drivers are cranky two ways, and the farmworkers in their last-leg vans are half-asleep. Ninety-nine is the deadliest highway in America. Deadly in the rush of harvest, deadly in the quiet of fog, deadly in the blur of Saturday nights when the fieldwork is done and the beer drinking becomes a second humiliation. Twenty miles outside Fresno, I cross the Kings, the river that irrigates more farmland than any other river here. The Kings is bone-dry as usual. To find its flow, I’d have to go looking in a thousand irrigation ditches in the fields beyond.
There’s a mountain range to my left and a mountain range to my right and in between a plain flatter than Kansas where crop and sky meet. One of the most dramatic alterations of the earth’s surface in human history took place here. The hillocks that existed back in Yokut Indian days were flattened by a hunk of metal called the Fresno Scraper. Every river busting out of the Sierra was bent sideways, if not backward, by a bulwark of ditches, levees, canals, and dams. The farmer corralled the snowmelt and erased the valley, its desert and marsh. He leveled its hog wallows, denuded its salt brush, and killed the last of its mustang, antelope, and tule elk. He emptied the sky of tens of millions of geese and drained the 800 square miles of Tulare Lake dry.
He did this first in the name of wheat and then beef, milk, raisins, cotton, and nuts. Once he finished grabbing the flow of the five rivers that ran across the plain, he used his turbine pumps to seize the water beneath the ground. As he bled the aquifer dry, he called on the government to bring him an even mightier river from afar. Down the great aqueduct, by freight of politics and gravity, came the excess waters of the Sacramento River. The farmer moved the rain. The more water he got, the more crops he planted, and the more crops he planted, the more water he needed to plant more crops, and on and on. One million acres of the valley floor, greater than the size of Rhode Island, are now covered in almond trees.
I pity the outsider trying to make sense of it. My grandfather, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, traveled 7,000 miles by ship and train in 1920 to find out if his uncle’s exhortation — “The grapes here are the size of jade eggs” — was true. My father, born in a vineyard outside Fresno, was a raisin grower before he became a bar owner. I grew up in the suburbs where our playgrounds were named after the pioneers of fruit and canals of irrigation shot through our neighborhoods to the farms we did not know. For half my life, I never stopped to wonder: How much was magic? How much was plunder?
Read more at The California Sunday Magazine.
The world is disturbingly comfortable with the fact that women sometimes leave a sexual encounter in tears.
When Babe.net published a pseudonymous woman’s account of a difficult encounter with Aziz Ansari that made her cry, the internet exploded with “takes” arguing that the #MeToo movement had finally gone too far. “Grace,” the 23-year-old woman, was not an employee of Ansari’s, meaning there were no workplace dynamics. Her repeated objections and pleas that they “slow down” were all well and good, but they did not square with the fact that she eventually gave Ansari oral sex. Finally, crucially, she was free to leave.
Why didn’t she just get out of there as soon as she felt uncomfortable? many people explicitly or implicitly asked.
It’s a rich question, and there are plenty of possible answers. But if you’re asking in good faith, if you really want to think through why someone might have acted as she did, the most important one is this: Women are enculturated to be uncomfortable most of the time. And to ignore their discomfort.
This is so baked into our society I feel like we forget it’s there. To steal from David Foster Wallace, this is the water we swim in.
The Aziz Ansari case hit a nerve because, as I’ve long feared, we’re only comfortable with movements like #MeToo so long as the men in question are absolute monsters we can easily separate from the pack. Once we move past the “few bad apples” argument and start to suspect that this is more a trend than a blip, our instinct is to normalize. To insist that this is is just how men are, and how sex is.
This is what Andrew Sullivan basically proposed in his latest, startlingly unscientific column. #MeToo has gone too far, he argues, by refusing to confront the biological realities of maleness. Feminism, he says, has refused to give men their due and denied the role “nature” must play in these discussions. Ladies, he writes, if you keep denying biology, you’ll watch men get defensive, react, and “fight back.”
This is beyond vapid. Not only is Sullivan bafflingly confused about nature and its realities, as Colin Dickey notes in this instructive Twitter thread, he’s being appallingly conventional. Sullivan claims he came to “understand the sheer and immense natural difference between being a man and being a woman” thanks to a testosterone injection he received. That is to say, he imagines maleness can be isolated to an injectable hormone and doesn’t bother to imagine femaleness at all. If you want an encapsulation of the habits of mind that made #MeToo necessary, there it is. Sullivan, that would-be contrarian, is utterly representative.
The real problem isn’t that we — as a culture — don’t sufficiently consider men’s biological reality. The problem is rather that theirs is literally the only biological reality we ever bother to consider.
So let’s actually talk bodies. Let’s take bodies and the facts of sex seriouslyfor a change. And let’s allow some women back into the equation, shall we? Because if you’re going to wax poetic about male pleasure, you had better be ready to talk about its secret, unpleasant, ubiquitous cousin: female pain.
Research shows that 30 percent of women report pain during vaginal sex, 72 percent report pain during anal sex, and “large proportions” don’t tell their partners when sex hurts.
That matters, because nowhere is our lack of practice at thinking about non-male biological realities more evident than when we talk about “bad sex.” For all the calls for nuance in this discussion of what does and doesn’t constitute harassment or assault, I’ve been dumbstruck by the flattening work of that phrase — specifically, the assumption that “bad sex” means the same thing to men who have sex with women as it does to women who have sex with men.
The studies on this are few. A casual survey of forums where people discuss “bad sex” suggests that men tend to use the term to describe a passive partner or a boring experience. (Here’s a very unscientific Twitter poll I did that found just that.) But when most women talk about “bad sex,” they tend to mean coercion, or emotional discomfort or, even more commonly, physical pain. Debby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health, and one of the forces behind the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, confirmed this. “When it comes to ‘good sex,'” she told me, “women often mean without pain, men often mean they had orgasms.”
Read more at The Week.
- The majority of people spend most of their week working and looking forward to free time outside work hours.
- However, it is important that the time we invest in our professional lives is also rewarding and enjoyable.
- In order to maximize our time in life, we should ensure that each pursuit we engage with— from business to leisure — brings happiness and fulfillment.
One of the biggest mysteries in modern day life is something that we’re all guilty of.
Please answer me this: Why do we work 8–9 hours a day so that we can earn free time, while we endlessly waste that hard-earned free time?
Have you ever looked at it this way? It’s an absurd way of living. And yet, everyone with a traditional job lives that way.
I remember the moment I realized that vividly. It was about three years ago. At the time, I worked at an IT Research firm in London while working on my own business in the evenings and weekends.
I was sitting on the train to home after a day at the office. And I was reading “On The Shortness Of Life” by Seneca. That book is famous for causing a shift in thinking for a lot of people.
I’ve met (and read about) many people who say that Seneca had an impact on the way they live. I don’t know why, but the simplicity and directness of Seneca’s writing hits you hard.
So I was just sitting there on the train like the millions of other folks who commute daily in London. It sounds like I’m setting the scene of a cheesy drama movie about an alcoholic who decides to better their life.
Believe me, my situation wasn’t that dramatic. It was just an ordinary day. A day that you forget you ever had because it’s similar to the day before … And the day before that. Do you know that feeling? Sometimes life feels like an endless deja vu.
But this specific section from On The Shortness Of Life made me think:
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.”
I thought about how I invested my time: About two and a half hours on the train each day, working a job I wasn’t passionate about and spending my free time drinking in the pub with coworkers, watching TV shows or gossiping at work.
We all work hard to earn two things: Money and free time that we can spend on leisure activities. Sounds pretty normal, right? But the s—– part is that we end up wasting that time on bull—- activities. Seneca continues to talk about time:
“But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it … Life is long if you know how to use it.”
Read more at Business Insider.
Late at night I gaze upon the faces of the women of the YPJ, the Kurdish all-female military organisation, as they unfurl flags in Raqqa. ISIS is not entirely gone. Everything is still complicated. But for a moment these women have won. They vanquished the rapists. They have confronted our worst nightmares. They know what they are doing. In interviews these young women tell us that rape is a planned way to destroy a culture and that this is what ISIS fighters were doing to the Yazidis. They tell us they scream with happiness when they go into battle because they know that, according to the ISIS interpretation of Islam, to be killed by a woman means a fighter won’t go to heaven.
Watch, if you can bear it, the accounts of the Rohingya women who have been raped in Myanmar. Again, rape is being used systematically to destroy a culture. It was used in the Balkans, too. It has always been used.
Men rape old women, and they rape tiny girls in front of their mothers. In some cases, they rape with guns and metal bars. Dying women are raped. This is about power, not sex.
We are warned not to generalise. We must always be specific about male violence. “Not all men”, we must say, in case someone gets upset. We must not connect the horrendous violence of war zones with anything nearer our own safe spaces, our homes and gardens. And, as well as that, we must not connect what happens in UK homes – two women murdered a week – to our own lives, because then we might realise that we cannot fully live in these conditions.
To be paralysed by the fear of what men do would shrink our world. Which, of course, is precisely what has been revealed by all the #MeToo accounts of assault and harassment that have been shared on social media, accounts that illustrate the myriad ways women live smaller lives in anticipation of male violence. It breaks my heart to see it is the same, and perhaps even worse, for younger women today. I would quite like a day off from all this, but so much fiction, TV, so many films, are about the murder of women. A real-life murderer of a woman – Bertrand Cantat, the musician who beat his girlfriend Marie Trintignant to death – is the cover star of a French magazine this week. The publishers say perhaps this was bad timing. Yet this is just one one-off occurrence, of course. It has no connection, we are told, to anything else.
I must not join the dots. God forbid I become “reductive” about male violence. No, I must be sophisticated and unknowing. I must play to the better angels: men who are nice. We have to get them on side.
Well no. Get real. This strategy has failed. Without an analysis of the “p” word, patriarchy, we remain powerless to change it. Either a) men are just naturally aggressive because of testosterone, women are passive breeders, and this is biologically determined, or b) there is a power structure in play here that can be challenged.
I am going with b) because I am an optimist. The concept of patriarchy is overarching and universalising, it is trans-historical and nowhere near cross-cultural enough. You cannot talk of women as a class, say the materialists, the post-structuralists, the anti-feminists. Be more specific about the gradations of difference, and talk of intersectionality. Talk of class and race. Yes, do, but we also have to understand and recognise that Marx’s writing never could and never will quite explain the subjugation of women.
Read more at The Guardian.
The first time Nick Mullins entered Deep Mine 26, a coal mine in southwestern Virginia, the irony hit him hard. Once, his ancestors had owned the coal-seamed cavern that he was now descending into, his trainee miner hard-hat secure.
His people had settled the Clintwood and George’s Fork area, along the Appalachian edge of southern Virginia, in the early 17th century. Around the turn of the 1900s, smooth-talking land agents from back east swept through the area, coaxing mountain people into selling the rights to the ground beneath them for cheap. One of Mullins’ ancestors received 12 rifles and 13 hogs—one apiece for each of his children, plus a hog for himself—in exchange for the rights to land that has since produced billions of dollars worth of coal.
“I probably ended up mining a lot of that coal,” says Mullins, a broad-shouldered, bearded 38-year-old with an easy smile.
There were other ironies to savor too. Mullins was a fifth-generation coal miner. But growing up in the 1990s, his father and uncles—all of them miners—begged him not to get into coal mining.
“No one wanted to see you in the mines,” he says. “And they were all union miners too—had it good for a long time.” Those protections were gone by the time Mullins was growing up. The US government’s ongoing assault on organized labor through the 1980s and 1990s meant that the mammoth energy conglomerates that dominated the coal industry were free to open non-union mines with increasing impunity. But mining was still just as rough—replete with injuries, accidents, and black lung deaths.
During the coal bust in the 1990s, Mullins’ dad was laid off from Bethlehem Steel’s mines. Mullins recalls living off the green beans his family had diligently canned during the good times, and watching his parents grow desperate. Go to college, they urged him. Mining offered no future.
Mullins planned on following their advice. But he, like so many of his friends, family, and neighbors, soon found that the industry that has wreaked havoc on the economy of central Appalachia—composed of southwest Virginia, southern West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky—was also nearly impossible to escape.
Read more at Quartz.
Republicans may pride themselves on upholding family values, but their new tax law could soon lead to a surge in married couples calling it quits.
Lawyers are counseling couples considering divorce to do it this year — before a 76-year-old deduction for alimony payments is wiped out in 2019 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“Now’s not the time to wait,” said Mary Vidas, a lawyer in Philadelphia and former chair of the American Bar Association’s section on family law. “If you’re going to get a divorce, get it now.”
Potential divorcees have all of 2018 to use the alimony deduction as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with estranged spouses.
The deduction substantially reduces the cost of alimony payments — for people in the highest income-tax bracket, it means every dollar they pay to support a former spouse really costs them a little more than 60 cents.
The change is an example of how the tax law is having far-reaching consequences beyond its corporate and individual tax cuts, in some cases by quietly overturning decades of tax policy.
Read more at Politico.
The National Portrait Gallery has unveiled the official portraits of former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, both painted by African American artists, and both striking additions to the museum’s “America’s Presidents” exhibition. The 44th president is seen sitting on a wooden armchair that seems to be floating amid a scrim of dense foliage and flowers in an image by Kehinde Wiley. The first lady, painted against a robin’s egg blue background, rests her chin on one hand and stares at the viewer with a curious mix of confidence and vulnerability in a canvas by Amy Sherald.
The artists, chosen by the Obamas, have combined traditional representation with elements that underscore the complexity of their subjects, and the historic fact of their political rise. And both painters have managed to create compelling likenesses without sacrificing key aspects of their signature styles. The Obamas took a significant chance on both artists and were rewarded with powerful images that will shake up the expectations and assumptions of visitors to the traditionally button-down presidential galleries.
Wiley, an established artist whose work is held by prominent museums worldwide, has produced a characteristically flat, almost polished surface, with intensely rich colors and a busy, sumptuous background that recalls his interest in historical portraiture.
Sherald, who won the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever prize in 2016, has painted Michelle Obama’s face in the gray tones of an old black-and-white photograph, set against a preternaturally bright background, a technique she has used to introduce a heightened sense of the surreal in many of her works.
But both artists also have tempered aspects of their usual styles to create works that emphasize the dignity of the subject over the irony of the artist. Wiley, who has made portraits of LL Cool J, Michael Jackson and Notorious B.I.G., often skewers the pomp and grandiloquence of historical portraiture, painting his subjects in poses familiar from classic works by Napoleon’s propagandist, Jacque-Louis David, or Tiepolo or Peter Paul Rubens (Wiley depicted Jackson on horseback, wearing the armor of a Habsburg king, crowned by angelic flying figures). Many of his works, which engage with hip-hop culture, have a distinct homoerotic quality as well.
Wiley’s portrait of the former president doesn’t go there. Indeed, the pose of Obama, who is seen in a dark suit with an open-collar shirt, sitting with his arms crossed and resting on his knees, recalls Robert Anderson’s official 2008 portrait of George W. Bush, who is rendered in a similar, casual pose. Nor does Sherald, who often depicts her subjects with some curiously evocative object (a bunch of balloons or a model ship) that creates a dreamlike atmosphere, emphasize the phantasmagorical in her portrait of Michelle Obama.
Read more at The Washington Post.
Aziz Ansari is a comedian and writer who has made a career out of exploring the nuances of love in the 21st century. But he turns out to be an awful date.
Over the weekend, online publication Babe published a piece in which a 23-year-old woman recalled a date she had with the 34-year-old Hollywood star, whom she had met at an Emmys afterparty. As Grace (a pseudonym to protect her identity) describes it, once they got to his apartment, Ansari behaved “like horny, rough, entitled 18-year-old,” aggressively trying to have sex with her and ignoring the words and actions that signaled her discomfort and lack of consent. Ansari confirmed that he had gone on a date with the woman and engaged in sexual activity with her, which he said “by all indications was completely consensual.”
The Babe story was inexpertly reported and edited—an act of irresponsible journalism, made worse by the fact that the publication pursued the story, rather than Grace bringing it to them on her own. Because of this, much of the debate has centered on whether Ansari deserved to have intimate details of his sex life exposed this way. But while not criminal, Ansari’s behavior does warrant scrutiny. It arises from the deep-seated sexism that permeates modern dating culture, conditioning men to disregard women’s comfort, desires, and expectations.
There’s a reason Ansari behaved the way he did: Misogyny.
Read more at Quartzy.
Every morning, Washington wakes up to Axios AM — Mike Allen’s top 10 stories of the day, filled with short bits of breaking news, feuding White House insiders, and, some days, sober, moral pronouncements on how weird the Trump era is. Go deeper: Learn how Axios became a major player in Washington in no time (and jumpstarted a vicious debate about access and “normalization” in Trump’s Washington).
It’s 6:20 a.m. on a frigid Friday morning and Mike Allen is sitting in a TV studio overlooking the Capitol, pinpointing — in the parlance of Axios, the short-form news outlet he cofounded — “Why It Matters.”
“Jonathan Swan has a good take,” Allen says, texting with his news protégé as they wait to appear on separate morning shows. “He just texted me, ‘Guarantee you that the Mike Schmidt story” — a piece in the New York Times about the Russia investigation — “was damage control [from] McGahn or Priebus’s lawyer,’” the White House chief counsel and former chief of staff, respectively. Allen texts back that Swan should say this good take when he appears on Morning Joe, but Swan, a 32-year-old Australian who has quickly become a dominant reporter on the White House beat, responds that he won’t because it’s too speculative. “Rare in TV,” Allen says approvingly.
By the order of Allen’s email newsletter, Axios AM, which he has written seven days a week since the company was founded a year ago, the Mike Schmidt story is the third most important thing that busy professionals need to know about this morning. The first two are 1) What’s true and what’s false in Michael Wolff’s explosive book documenting the roiling chaos of Donald Trump’s White House, and 2) How Trump’s threats of legal action, resisted by aides, likely jacked up book sales.
Despite outright falsehoods and violations of off-the-record understandings, Wolff nails two central ideas about the president, Allen writes: “His spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.” Allen, who is recognized in Fire and Fury’s acknowledgments for helping make it a “smarter book,” concludes the item with a signature denouement, in keeping with Axios’s ethos of “smart brevity.”
Read more at Buzzfeed.
Patriarchy is often defined as a system of male dominance. This definition does not illuminate, but rather obscures, the complex set of factors that function together in the patriarchal system. We need more complex definition if we are to understand and challenge the patriarchal system in all of its aspects.
Patriarchy is a system of male dominance, rooted in the ethos of war which legitimates violence, sanctified by religious symbols, in which men dominate women through the control of female sexuality, with the intent of passing property to male heirs, and in which men who are heroes of war are told to kill men, and are permitted to rape women, to seize land and treasures, to exploit resources, and to own or otherwise dominate conquered people.
Marx and Engels said that the patriarchal family, private property, and the state arose together. Though their understanding of the societies that preceded “patriarchy” was flawed, their intuition that patriarchy is connected to private property and to domination in the name of the state was correct. It has long seemed to me that patriarchy cannot be separated from war and the kings who take power in the wake of war. Many years ago I was stunned by Merlin Stone’s allegation that in matrilineal societies there are no illegitimate children, because all children have mothers. Lately, I have been trying to figure out why the Roman Catholic and other churches and the American Republican party are so strongly opposed to women’s right to control our own bodies and are trying to prevent access to birth control and abortion. In the above definition of patriarchy, I bring all of these lines of thought together in a definition which describes the origins of patriarchy and the interconnections between patriarchy, the control of female sexuality, private property, violence, war, conquest, rape in war, and slavery.
The system I am defining as patriarchy is a system of domination enforced through violence and the threat of violence. It is a system developed and controlled by powerful men, in which women, children, other men, and nature itself are dominated. Let me say at the outset that I do not believe that it is in the “nature” of “men” to dominate through violence. Patriarchy is a system that originated in history, which means that it is neither eternal nor inevitable. Some women and some men have resisted patriarchy throughout its history. We can join together to resist it today.
My definition of patriarchy is influenced by new research collected and analyzed by Heide Goettner-Abendroth in Societies of Peace, who advances our understanding of prepatriarchal societies which she calls “matriarchal” “societies of peace.” Goettner-Abendroth identifies the deep structure of matriarchies using four markers: 1) economic: these societies usually practice small scale agriculture and achieve relative economic equality through gift-giving as a social custom: 2) social: these societies are egalitarian, matrilineal, and matrilocal with land being held in the maternal clan and both men and women remaining in their maternal clan; 3) political: these societies are egalitarian and have well-developed democratic systems of consensus; 4) culture, spirituality: these societies tend to view Earth as a Great and Giving Mother. Most importantly and permeating everything, these societies honor principles of care, love, and generosity which they associate with motherhood, and believe both women and men can and should practice.
Read more at Feminism and Religion.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) had the utterly thankless task of delivering the response to the State of the Union. Speaking in front of a live audience that frequently applauded was smart. Did he look awfully young and have a distracting bead of sweat (or was it saliva) at the corner of his mouth? Yes, but by gosh he gave a fair to very good speech. (Moreover, millennials are overwhelmingly anti-Trump so a youthful image for the Democrats is probably a net plus.)
On Tuesday I urged Kennedy to give a nod to reality, by saying, for example: We are in abnormal, frightening times, led by an unfit president. He did just that: “Many have spent the last year, anxious, angry, afraid, we all feel the fractured fault lines across our country.” He went on, “We hear the voices of Americans who are forgotten and forsaken. Corporate profits climb but fail to give their workers their fair share. A government that struggles to keep itself open. Russia, knee deep in our democracy. An all-out war on environmental protection. A justice department rolling back civil rights by the day. Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets. Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts and congregations, targeting our safest and sacred places. This nagging and sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs, this is not right, this is not who we are.” The nagging and sinking feeling this is not right, this is not who we are. That surely will resonate with Democrats, independents and despondent Republicans and ex-Republicans.
He also drilled down on the abuses of power and violations of democratic norms that have intensified just this week. “This administration is not just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.” Moreover, especially for Democrats who too often fall into a laundry list of constituent complaints, he made an admirable stab at unity — real unity, unlike the pretense of unity that President Trump cynically set forth. Kennedy insisted that “we are all equal, that we all count in the eyes of our laws, our leaders, our God, and our government. That is the American promise.” And indeed, it’s what Republicans would abandon and, worse, reject on the premise that America is a pitiful giant willing to take only people who are already successful and look like us.
Read more at The Washington Post.
A few weeks ago, Catherine Deneuve wrote an open letter, signed by a hundred other French women, calling the #MeToo campaign a “witch hunt.” Brigitte Bardot also attacked the movement, claiming that actresses who complain of sexual harassment are only looking for publicity. “The vast majority are being hypocritical and ridiculous,” Bardot told the magazine Paris Match.
Would you like to be able to dismiss an epidemic of sexual harassment just like these powerful French women? Here’s how!
The Future Of Human Resources
French women don’t publicly demonstrate their dismissal of how women have historically been treated by men in power by making one giant hashtag statement. They make dozens of small, idiotic statements throughout the day.
Unlike Americans, many of whom speak only English, the French woman knows multiple languages. So, while an American might naïvely think that “no means no,” the multilingual French woman knows that nee means no, and nein means no, and non means no, but, most important, “no” generally means “Unless you insist—I don’t want to seem like a prude!”
A French woman would never blame a victim of harassment for wearing a low-cut blouse or a tight skirt. She would blame her for wearing a low-cut blouse that is a poly-cotton blend.
The French woman embraces minimalism: minimal makeup, minimal hair product, minimal standards for appropriate behavior by men in power.
Read more at The New Yorker.
THE BIG IDEA: A little humility goes a long way.
President Trump really enjoys talking about himself, his grievances and how he’s never treated fairly. In his first State of the Union address, he showcased other people. As a result, his approval rating is likely to inch up in the coming days.
The businessman who likes to put his name on buildings and declared “I alone can fix it” during his acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican convention spoke less in the first-person Tuesday than in any major address since he came down the escalator at Trump Tower three years ago to launch his campaign.
He used the word “we” 130 times, “our” 103 times and “us” 15 times. He mentioned “the people” nine times. He used the word “I” just 35 times and “my” 14 times. He went with the second person “you” 25 times, though that includes “thank you.”
Trump is a consummate showman, and his stagecraft was top notch. He played the pomp and circumstance to his advantage. The first reality television president seemed to be channeling Mike Deaver, Ronald Reagan’s image guru, by pointing to a bevy of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.
Reagan began this tradition by highlighting the heroism of Lenny Skutnik in his 1982 State of the Union. The federal employee had jumped into the icy Potomac to save a woman from drowning after a plane crash.
The official White House transcript shows that Trump was interrupted by applause 117 times in 80 minutes. The bulk of those came when the president was praising others: the cop from New Mexico and his wife who adopted the baby of a heroin addict, the victim of torture in North Korea who escaped to freedom and defiantly held up crutches he no longer needs, the Army staff sergeant who performed CPR for 20 minutes and artificial respiration for two-and-a-half hours to save a comrade after an explosion in Iraq. He offered a touching tribute to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who recovered after being shot at congressional baseball practice.
He didn’t whine about “witch hunts,” or even elliptically refer to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, and he made just one passing mention of Russia (it was critical).
— The speech offered a window into what might have been, if he had stuck to script and shown more self-discipline during his first year. Trump’s approval rating could easily be 10 points higher right now if he just behaved the way he did last night, even while pursuing an identical agenda. The speech worried politically savvy Democrats because it suggested that he has upside potential.
Read more at The Washington Post.
About halfway through writing my biography of Henry Kissinger, an interesting hypothesis occurred to me: Did the former secretary of state owe his success, fame and notoriety not just to his powerful intellect and formidable will but also to his exceptional ability to build an eclectic network of relationships, not only to colleagues in the Nixon and Ford administrations, but also to people outside government: journalists, newspaper proprietors, foreign ambassadors and heads of state—even Hollywood producers? If Volume I had surprised readers with its subtitle—“The Idealist”—should Volume II perhaps be subtitled “The Networker”?
Whatever your views of Kissinger, his rise to power is as astonishing as it was unlikely. A refugee from Nazi Germany who found his métier as a scholar of history, philosophy and geopolitics while serving in the U.S. Army, Kissinger was one of many Harvard professors who were drawn into government during the Cold War. His appointment as Richard Nixon’s national security adviser in December 1968 nevertheless came as a surprise to many people (not least Kissinger himself), because for most of the previous decade he had been so closely identified with Nelson Rockefeller, Nixon’s patrician rival within the Republican Party. From his sickbed, the former President Eisenhower expressed his skepticism about the appointment. “But Kissinger is a professor,” he exclaimed when he heard of Nixon’s choice. “You ask professors to study things, but you never put them in charge of anything.”
Most writers who have studied his subsequent career in Washington have tended to explain the rapid growth of Kissinger’s influence in terms of his close relationship to Nixon or his talent for the very bureaucratic infighting he had condemned as an academic. This, however, is to overlook the most distinctive feature of Kissinger’s mode of operation: While those around him continued to be bound by the rules of the hierarchical bureaucracy that employed them, Kissinger from the outset devoted considerable energy to building a network that extended horizontally in all directions beyond the Washington Beltway: to the press and even the entertainment industry inside the United States and, perhaps more importantly, to key foreign governments through a variety of “back channels.” Kissinger brought to this task an innate capacity to make emotional as well as intellectual connections even with the most aloof of interlocutors, a skill he had honed long before his appointment by the famously aloof Nixon. It was Kissinger’s unique talent for networking, not just his scholarly acumen or his astute reading of power politics, that made him such a formidable figure. And it was his arrival on the political scene just as the world was shifting from the ideological bifurcation of the early Cold War—a duel between two hierarchical superpowers—to a new era of interdependence and “multipolarity” that made Kissinger precisely (in the words of TIME magazine) “the right man in the right place at the right time.”
Read more at Politico.
When President Trump steps into the well of the House on Tuesday to give his first formal State of the Union address, he will be performing one of the most familiar presidential rituals.
But for nearly half the nation’s history, the idea of a president personally delivering a speech on Congress’s turf was considered an act so presumptuous as to be nearly unthinkable.
The president who broke the mold — and introduced the kind of speech that modern Americans expect to hear each year — was Woodrow Wilson.
Wilson tested out the idea barely a month after his 1913 inauguration, when he traveled to Capitol Hill to give a speech on tariffs.
“Washington is amazed,” The Washington Post pronounced in a headline, over a story that noted no president since John Adams had done such a thing.
“Disbelief was expressed in congressional circles when the report that the President would read his message in person to the Congress was first circulated,” The Post reported, but assured its readers that such spectacles were “not to become a habit.”
Wilson had other ideas. Eight months later on December, 2, 1913, he returned to Capitol Hill “in pursuance of my constitutional duty to ‘give to the Congress information of the state of the Union.’”
It is indeed spelled out in Article II of the Constitution, that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
Read more at The Washington Post.
When Yvonne van Amerongen received a phone call from her mother two decades ago, relaying that her father had died of a heart attack—sudden and painless—one of the first things she thought was, Thank God he never had to be in a nursing home.
Van Amerongen was working as a staff member at a traditional Dutch nursing home at the time, getting a front-line view of what she never wanted for her parents. That call from her mother spurred Yvonne into action as she became committed to making nursing homes more livable and less of a departure from reality for their residents. She envisioned a setup as far away as possible from the nondescript buildings and polished floors of her workplace, where everything carried the scent of a dentist’s medical cabinet. Over the next 20 years, she worked to secure the funding she’d need to make the idea a reality.
Today, the isolated village of Hogewey lies on the outskirts of Amsterdam in the small town of Wheesp. Dubbed “Dementia Village” by CNN, Hogewey is a cutting-edge elderly-care facility—roughly the size of 10 football fields—where residents are given the chance to live seemingly normal lives. With only 152 inhabitants, it’s run like a more benevolent version of The Truman Show, if The Truman Show were about dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Like most small villages, it has its own town square, theater, garden, and post office. Unlike typical villages, however, this one has cameras monitoring residents every hour of every day, caretakers posing in street clothes, and only one door in and out of town, all part of a security system designed to keep the community safe. Friends and family are encouraged to visit. Some come every day. Last year, CNN reported that residents at Hogewey require fewer medications, eat better, live longer, and appear more joyful than those in standard elderly-care facilities.
There are no wards, long hallways, or corridors at the facility. Residents live in groups of six or seven to a house, with one or two caretakers. Perhaps the most unique element of the facility—apart from the stealthy “gardener” caretakers—is its approach toward housing. Hogeway features 23 uniquely stylized homes, furnished around the time period when residents’ short-term memories stopped properly functioning. There are homes resembling the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s, accurate down to the tablecloths, because it helps residents feel as if they’re home. Residents are cared for by 250 full- and part-time geriatric nurses and specialists, who wander the town and hold a myriad of occupations in the village, like cashiers, grocery-store attendees, and post-office clerks. Finances are often one of the trickier life skills for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients to retain, which is why Hogewey takes it out of the equation; everything is included with the family’s payment plan, and there is no currency exchanged within the confines of the village.
Read more at The Atlantic.
I will always remember the first time I walked into a Tokyo bathroom and, with the automatic lift of its lid, a Japanese “smart toilet” happily greeted me. It didn’t end there.
Mounted to the wall was a panel of buttons, illustrated by stick men and symbols open to wild interpretation. It transpired that they controlled functions such as toilet seat heating, the water pressure level of the electronic bidet, and music to cover, er, embarrassing noises. I had just one question: Which one was for the flush?
After deadly Hurricane Irma struck, an entire university was relocated 4,000 miles away from the Caribbean – to Preston, northern England.
When more than 700 students and staff from an American university in the Caribbean were unexpectedly relocated to the small English city of Preston in October, they may as well have been moving to another planet.
St Martin, a small Caribbean island just south of Antigua, is about as far from Preston, Lancashire, as you could imagine, and not just because 4,000 miles of ocean lies between them.
The American University of the Caribbean is based in the south of the island, in the Dutch territory Sint Maarten. It’s a tropical beach paradise where the sea glistens with year-round sunshine by day and the streets sparkle with frenzied nightlife after dark. Fresh fish fill the hundreds of restaurants scattered around its beachy edges.
Preston, once the heart of the UK’s now largely defunct textile industry, lies in the North West of England. It regularly sees a handful of tourists with a taste for brutalist architecture mingle with the pensioners and schoolkids at the city’s concrete bus station, although you’d be wise to bring an umbrella there since around a metre of rain falls on the city every year. Its best-known dish is “butter pie”, a potato, onion, and pastry concoction originally cooked up to feed Catholics on a Friday when they were avoiding meat.
Read more at BuzzFeed News.
These 20 executives, entrepreneurs, investors, CTOs, and influencers are driving the Internet of Things industry forward.
The Internet of Things (IoT) industry has quickly transformed from a futuristic idea to the next massive evolution of the internet. It’s disrupting a variety of industries; savvy entrepreneurs, investors, and corporations are diving head first into this space, racing to carve out a piece of a pie that McKinsey Global Institute predicts could deliver up to $6.2 trillion USD in economic impact by 2025.
Here is a list of executives, entrepreneurs, investors, CTOs, and influencers that are driving the Internet of Things industry forward. These are not consultants or commentators. Each person on this list is directly and positively impacting the industry in a significant way. These are the individuals you should watch while carving out your position in this rapidly growing industry.
1.Charlie Kindel: GM, Alexa Smart Home, Amazon
The Amazon Echo and Alexa voice assistant were the first massive consumer hits in the Smart Home. By focusing on voice as the user interface, Kindel and Amazon have redefined how consumers engage their everyday lives. Kindel and Amazon’s forward thinking and fast growth have put their competitors in catch-up mode. Amazon’s Alexa is the hottest innovation in IoT and Charlie Kindel is leading the charge.
2. Stacey Higginbotham: Journalist; Founder, Internet of Things Podcast
Ask anyone in the Internet of Things to name the top journalist in the space and you’ll almost certainly hear “Stacey Higginbotham.” A former writer for GigaOm and Fortune, Stacey hosts The Internet of Things Podcast, manages a weekly IoT newsletter and writes for The Wirecutter and PC Mag. She is the best resource for going from beginner to expert in IoT.
3. Andrew Thomas: Co-Founder & Chief Revenue Officer, SkyBell
Despite only being in the industry for a few years, Andrew Thomas has quickly built a reputation as one of the top dealmakers and marketers in IoT. He led SkyBell’s $600,000 Indiegogo campaign in 2013, and has helped scale SkyBell by landing significant deals with big companies in the space. Andrew is an active IoT speaker, social influencer, and advisor. He also has an Inc.com column where he contributes relevant content on IoT and startups.
Read more at inc.com
The first thing to know about crows is that a group of them is called a murder.
In America, crows count as a Halloween decoration, like skeletons and mini-gravestones. Homeowners perch plastic ones in their trees to instill fear in passersby. People in many cultures consider the crow to be an omen, a harbinger of war and death. In Islamic hadith, reports about Muhammad’s sayings and practices, crows are one of the five animals “for which there is no blame on the one who kills them.” On the Faroe Islands, virginal women once had to throw a stone, a bone, and a clump of dirt at a crow for some reason. Farmers literally erect mannequins in their fields to scare them.
Can we give crows a break?
The world’s treatment of crows is grossly unfair. When I was a kid, my parents told me about their friend Linda, an elementary-school teacher in Illinois. One day, Linda and her class decided to adopt a zoo animal as a service project. When she was reading to them from a list of available animal adoptees, “crow” came up as an option. “Who would want a stupid old crow?” one little boy asked. The class adopted a polar bear instead.
When I heard this story as a child, it devastated me. I knew what it was like to get picked last. I would feel a pang of pity whenever I saw a crow perched on the power lines behind my house or pecking through the yard. Stupid old crow, I would say to myself sadly. But in fact, crows are not stupid. That little boy in Illinois can eat crow—because these birds are really, really smart.
Crows, along with magpies, jays, and ravens, are members of the family Corvidae, a group known for two things: exhibiting complex behaviors, and having massive brains. A New Caledonian crow named Betty once made a TED Talk audience go bananas by bending a wire to make a hook. And researchers believe the Hawaiian crow is likely to have the same talent.
Read more at The Atlantic.
What is this late capitalism we keep hearing about? As a pop culture term, it refers to capitalism run amok with its drive for profits over everything (e.g., the United passenger who was beat up and dragged off the plane so the company’s employees could fly). It’s a term often used by Marxist economists (also called Monopoly Capitalism or Late-Stage Capitalism), suggesting the unsustainable nature of purely instrumentalist market-based societies, where success means cutting costs and expanding production in a process that results in constant capital accumulation by the owners of the means of production. If you’ve ever read The Lorax, you get the idea.
Players (1977) by Don DeLillo
I am continually astonished that this novel is from 1977, and that it’s not considered one of DeLillo’s masterworks. It’s a tone poem involving disaffected elites in New York, a shooting on the floor of the stock exchange, terrorism, and an Occupy Wall Street-type protest. It’s one of the most contemporary (i.e., superbly prescient) depictions of the underlying anxiety of rapacious capitalism—we worship and receive its word as if fixed from a bible, but on some level we know it is neither morally neutral or sustainable.
Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? (2016) by Katrine Marçal
I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis in economics on “Economic Development and Women’s Labor Force Participation,” and concluded that in developed versus under-developed countries, the end game was the same: women did most of the work, including the never-off labor that does not get counted in traditional economic measures. Additionally, the financial penalties of this unpaid work (family stress, “mommy track” drag on careers, unequal pay due to gender discrimination, etc.), don’t factor into our economic world view because the variables that are “important” in economic models have been mostly decided by men. Marçal does a brilliant job making economics accessible and shows the egregious mistake of excluding women from basic economic market principles, and how this invisibility reinforces inequality.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) by Thomas Piketty: If you want a meaty yet general-read-friendly book to help explain the severe and growing income inequality in the U.S. (and around the world), economist Thomas Piketty’s book is the one for you. It’s a decade-long exploration (via painstakingly reverse-engineered tax data) of how, in the current industrialized world, rich people work less and earn more because their wealth (real estate, stocks, inheritance, tax breaks) works for them, while poorer people who depend on income—i.e., working at a wage job—desperately scramble to make ends meet in a trickle-down economy. Don’t be put off by the graphs and equations—this book is also a fascinating account of economic history from Adam Smith to Simon Kuznets to Karl Marx and beyond.
Read more at The Millions.
The Biden tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving on Nantucket started in 1975. By 2014, the year after Beau’s brain-cancer diagnosis, the gathering had grown to include our three children—Beau, Hunter, and Ashley—their spouses, and our five grandchildren.
Beau kept to himself our first day in Nantucket. His Secret Service detail had become really good at walling him away. He was easily fatigued and increasingly shy about interacting with people. He was losing feeling in his right hand, and it wasn’t strong enough for a good firm handshake, and he had been wrestling with a condition called aphasia. Radiation and chemotherapy had done some damage to the part of his brain that controlled the ability to name things. He had been going from his home in Wilmington to Philadelphia most days for an hour of physical therapy and occupational therapy and then an hour of speech therapy, all above and beyond his regular chemo treatments.
It was slow going, but he never showed frustration. Nobody in the family, or among his friends, or among his staff at the attorney general’s office, saw him angry or down. It just took a little patience, and a few extra words when he couldn’t recall “mayor”: “You know, that guy who runs the city.” Or “dinner roll”: “Pass the, you know, the brown thing you put the butter on.”
We got up Thanksgiving morning and did our annual Turkey Trot—a 10-mile run (for anybody who felt up to it) to the other side of the island. I rode the route on a bike with some of the grandchildren. We spent part of the day tossing a football around the beach. I showed young Hunter, Beau’s son, the bluffs where his father and his uncle used to jump off and catch passes when they were about his age. Beau and Hallie and their kids made sure to get some nice pictures of the four of them together on the beach. And for our annual family photo we went over to the little saltbox house above the dunes at ‘Sconset Beach that we called “Forever Wild,” after a carved wooden sign on its porch bearing that inscription. Jill and I first saw the house in 1975, when it was for sale. The asking price then had been too rich for a senator’s salary.
Read more at Vanity Fair.
TRENTON—Chris Christie had some thoughts on how I should write this article.
“You should break out of leading with ‘the most unpopular governor in galactic history’ and all this other shit that everybody hits F2, F3, F4 [on and] bang, bang, bang, the paragraphs flip in,” the outgoing New Jersey governor said on a recent afternoon, tapping his conference room table like a keyboard. “You should do something different.”
Christie had spent almost three hours reminiscing on his meteoric political rise, the bridge saga, his failed 2016 campaign and his controversial Donald Trump endorsement, his subsequent White House adventures and some of his more infamous misadventures, like sitting on a beach he had ordered closed and being caught by a photographer’s long-lens camera.
So, with 68 days left in his governorship and the interview winding down, he urged me to forget all that and focus on the good things he had done for his state—and perhaps memorialize him as the pragmatic Republican governor who had cleaned up New Jersey and won a second term in hostile territory. He essentially wanted the story to ignore much of what happened afterward.
And yet, any fair assessment of Christie’s legacy has to reckon with the highs and the lows. For four years, from 2009 until 2013, he was a political rock star. Iowa activists wooed him to run for president in 2012, even flying to New Jersey to make their case. Magazine covers hailed his brilliance. (“THE BOSS,” blared one TIME cover he loves to read.) He screamed at people on the boardwalk while carrying an ice cream cone. It didn’t matter. His approval rating soared above 75 percent in a reliably blue state. After two stinging defeats to Barack Obama, some in the GOP saw a potential winner in Christie’s combination of raw talent, fundraising prowess and ability to woo minorities and Democrats. Many on his team thought him a shoo-in GOP nominee. But he passed up a run in 2012, figuring he wasn’t ready.
Then, for the next four years, Christie became something of a national punching bag. Everything people loved about him seemed to become what they hated. The bridge lanes closed. Investigations mushroomed around his office. Allies and aides were convicted in the closings. His presidential ambitions cratered. Christie, who prides himself a prodigious fundraiser, couldn’t attract donors to his campaign. He was beaten by Trump, a political novice, and then mocked for fetching Trump McDonald’s—even though he didn’t do that—and for looking like a hostage during his endorsement of Trump, even though he says he wasn’t. His musical hero, New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen, even sang a duet mocking him with Jimmy Fallon, his favorite late-show host.
“They shut down the toll booths of glory because we didn’t endorse Christie,” the two men sang to the tune of “Born to Run.” “We’re stuck in Gov. Chris Christie’s Fort Lee, New Jersey traffic jam.”
In the longest interview Christie has given in years, as he dropped oyster crackers into a large vat of chili, he said the story of his rise and fall had not been told accurately. He was never as good as depicted—nor as bad.
“I never felt 78, and I don’t feel the 22,” he said of his approval ratings. “What I hope at the end of the day is that this really is about my eight years, and the bridge stuff is part of that, and the Trump stuff is part of that, but it’s only a part.”
Read more at Politico.
My mother recently found piles of my notebooks from when I was a small child that were filled with plans for my future. I was very ambitious. I wrote out what I would do at every age: when I would get married and when I would have kids and when I would open a dance studio.
When I left my small hometown for college, this sort of planning stopped. The experience of going to a radically new place, as college was to me, upended my sense of the world and its possibilities. The same thing happened when I moved to New York after college, and a few years later when I moved to Istanbul. All change is dramatic for provincial people. But the last move was the hardest. In Turkey, the upheaval was far more unsettling: after a while, I began to feel that the entire foundation of my consciousness was a lie.
For all their patriotism, Americans rarely think about how their national identities relate to their personal ones. This indifference is particular to the psychology of white Americans and has a history unique to the US. In recent years, however, this national identity has become more difficult to ignore. Americans can no longer travel in foreign countries without noticing the strange weight we carry with us. In these years after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the many wars that followed, it has become more difficult to gallivant across the world absorbing its wisdom and resources for one’s own personal use. Americans abroad now do not have the same swagger, the easy, enormous smiles. You no longer want to speak so loud. There is always the vague risk of breaking something.
Some years after I moved to Istanbul, I bought a notebook, and unlike that confident child, I wrote down not plans but a question: who do we become if we don’t become Americans? If we discover that our identity as we understood it had been a myth? I asked it because my years as an American abroad in the 21st century were not a joyous romp of self-discovery and romance. Mine were more of a shattering and a shame, and even now, I still don’t know myself.
I grew up in Wall, a town located by the Jersey Shore, two hours’ drive from New York. Much of it was a landscape of concrete and parking lots, plastic signs and Dunkin’ Donuts. There was no centre, no Main Street, as there was in most of the pleasant beach towns nearby, no tiny old movie theatre or architecture suggesting some sort of history or memory.
Most of my friends’ parents were teachers, nurses, cops or electricians, except for the rare father who worked in “the City”, and a handful of Italian families who did less legal things. My parents were descendants of working-class Danish, Italian and Irish immigrants who had little memory of their European origins, and my extended family ran an inexpensive public golf course, where I worked as a hot-dog girl in the summers. The politics I heard about as a kid had to do with taxes and immigrants, and not much else. Bill Clinton was not popular in my house. (In 2016, most of Wall voted Trump.)
We were all patriotic, but I can’t even conceive of what else we could have been, because our entire experience was domestic, interior, American. We went to church on Sundays, until church time was usurped by soccer games. I don’t remember a strong sense of civic engagement. Instead I had the feeling that people could take things from you if you didn’t stay vigilant. Our goals remained local: homecoming queen, state champs, a scholarship to Trenton State, barbecues in the backyard. The lone Asian kid in our class studied hard and went to Berkeley; the Indian went to Yale. Black people never came to Wall. The world was white, Christian; the world was us.
We did not study world maps, because international geography, as a subject, had been phased out of many state curriculums long before. There was no sense of the US being one country on a planet of many countries. Even the Soviet Union seemed something more like the Death Star – flying overhead, ready to laser us to smithereens – than a country with people in it.
Read more at The Guardian.
Lipetsk is already on the map: right there, on page 23 of the Collins World Atlas, a region of 1.2 million people, dead south from Moscow and not far from the border with Ukraine. But it’s not really on the map: it doesn’t feature in the slim mental atlas most of us carry in our heads; no one we know takes holidays there, and it doesn’t appear in our newspapers. Even in Russia, people may fail to place it. In September, when Natasha Grand was passing through Moscow on her way back from Lipetsk, she told a Russian acquaintance where she’d been. “I don’t even know where Lipetsk is”, he replied, only partly in jest. Some Russians confuse it with Vitebsk, which is in Belarus.
This is why Natasha Grand was going to Lipetsk, though: to define its brand, to mould its image, to put it on the metaphorical map. Natasha and her husband, Alex, are the founders of a London firm called Institute for Identity (Instid for short), which works with the governments of cities, regions and nations. Instid develops strategies to brand places, and although a part of this involves burnishing tourism – coining a tagline, say, or producing a suite of logos for travel literature –the Grands are after deeper rewards. They believe they can fix upon, and excavate, a place’s very identity – or at least an identity, something that can guide a government in figuring out how to rise in the esteem of its neighbours, how to allocate its resources, how best to compose the face it presents to the world.
In the 21st century, nation branding has grown to be busy business, and its practitioners take great pains to emphasise that what they do is different from the more straightforward marketing and advertising work that came before them. A particularly skilled copywriter sold Moses on Israel by calling it “The Promised Land”; Erik the Red named a large block of ice “Greenland” in the hope of tempting more settlers there; Milton Glaser slapped “I ❤ NY” upon a trillion T-shirts; a Las Vegas ad agency cooked up “What happens here, stays here”, the allure of sin encapsulated. To the Grands, this is all mere sloganeering. They regard their line of work as a kind of psychology: counselling for countries, therapy for towns. Look inward, discover yourself, find your place in the world.
The Grands have made a speciality of what might be seen as hard cases: cities and regions across the former Soviet Union. Their client in Lipetsk, the department of tourism and culture, occupies the fifth floor of a dreary building in the region’s administrative centre, a city also called Lipetsk. The head of the department is Vadim Volkov, a man with a square face and a rectilinear torso, who confessed to the Grands that he has a complicated relationship with Lipetsk. He’s from here, from a town called Gryazi – literally, “Dirt” – and said that he loves the region but doesn’t like it. He lived in the US once, working as a restaurant chef in Minnesota, but in his two years there, he never managed to adjust to the time difference, so he came home. He’s reluctant to go to most other places; when his wife took him on an 11-day vacation to Rhodes, he left after four days. “I didn’t know what to do there!” he told me. That’s how much he wants to be in Lipetsk.
At the same time, Volkov thought, Lipetsk needs change. Earlier this year, when his tourism officials were developing a range of representative souvenirs, they found they lacked any coherent image for their region. Lipetsk needs direction, a sense of purpose, Volkov told the Grands. Really, he wished it was more like Voronezh – a bigger city in a neighbouring region, the kind of place people instantly recognise. In English, Volkov imagined a conversation that one of his compatriots might have overseas.
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from Lipetsk.”
“A city near Voronezh.”
“Ohhhhh, I know Voronezh!”
The Grands took notes.
Read more at The Guardian.
(CNN) — The world’s first “space nation” has taken flight.
On November 12, Asgardia cemented its presence in outer space by launching the Asgardia-1 satellite.
The “nanosat” — it is roughly the size of a loaf of bread — undertook a two-day journey from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the United States, to the International Space Station (ISS).
It contains 0.5 TB of data belonging to 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, such as family photographs, as well as digital representations of the space nation’s flag, coat of arms and constitution.
Russian scientist Dr Igor Ashurbeyli founded the world’s first independent nation to operate in outer space in October 2016.
Named after a Norse mythological city of the skies, Asgardia is free to join and so far, about 114,000 people have signed up.
Ashurbeyli says the project’s mission is to provide a “peaceful society”, offer easier access to space technologies, and protect Earth from space threats, such as asteroids and man-made debris in space.
While Asgardia’s citizens will — for the time being –remain based on earth, the satellite launch brings the nation one step closer to space.
The satellite’s mission
Asgardia-1 made its journey to the ISS aboard the OA-8 Antares-Cygnus, a NASA commercial cargo vehicle.
Now it must wait for about three weeks as vital supplies and scientific equipment are transferred from the NASA ship to the six people currently living at the ISS.
The nanosat will then be detached from the NASA vehicle and begin its own orbital journey around the earth. Citizens’ data will remain in orbit for between five and 18 months, the typical lifespan of this type of satellite. It will then burn out and disappear.
For Ashurbeyli, the launch fulfills a pledge he made when establishing the “space nation” to take its citizens to space via their data.
“I promised there would be a launch,” he says. “We selected NASA as a reliable partner … because we have to meet the commitments that I made 13 months ago.”
Getting it off the ground
Within 40 hours of the project being announced in 2016, over 100,000 people had applied for citizenship on Asgardia’s website. After three weeks, Asgardia had 500,000 applicants.
Anyone over 18 years old, with an email address, regardless of gender, nationality, race, religion, and financial standing, can apply for citizenship — including ex-convicts, provided they are clear of charges at the time of application.
Read more at CNN.
During the 2016 election season, Facebook provided political advertisers with a targetable breakdown of a fractured United States, which could’ve been used as a blueprint for exploiting the country’s divisions.
According to a political advertising sales pitch obtained by BuzzFeed News, Facebook carved the US electorate into 14 segments — from left-leaning “youthful urbanites” to a pro-NRA, pro–Tea Party group it bizarrely labeled as “the great outdoors.” It detailed their demographic information — including religion and race in some cases — and offered them to political advertisers via Facebook’s sales teams. For advertisers using Facebook’s self-serve platform, the segments could be reached by purchasing larger bundles ranging from “very liberal” to “very conservative.”
The “very liberal” bundle included an estimated audience of 28.6 million people broken down into three groups — “youthful urbanites,” “transitionals,” and “politically engaged city dwellers.” The “very conservative” bundle included an estimated audience of 22.8 million people broken down into three groups — “post grad nest builders,” “family values,” and “the great outdoors.”
“We typically help marketers across all verticals understand audiences this way, and we briefly used this framework to help inform how a small number of marketers built their campaigns,” a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, adding the pitch had been removed as part of a “regular refresh.” Said the spokesperson, “these segments are no longer available.”
A senior Democratic operative who’s run extensive digital political campaigns suggested political targeting options of the sort Facebook offered might be particularly intriguing to people looking to sow discord in the political system. “Any legitimate, aboveboard organization that is trying to actually win an election is going to have a much higher set of standards,” the operative told BuzzFeed News. “This type of approach is almost exclusively designed for nonpolitical professional people who want to mix it up,” or cause chaos.
Campaigns looking to win elections, the operative said, would likely target more sophisticated, granular segments built using voter file and email data. But to those without access to proprietary data, the targeting options Facebook detailed in its pitch could be appealing.
“Small town America,” one of the segments, was made up of 5.7 million people who were “anti-Obama,” for instance. A bad actor looking to sow division in the country might use such information to create ads exploiting some people’s disdain for the then-president.
A person familiar with the Trump campaign’s Facebook operation told BuzzFeed News the campaign used some the company’s broader targeted categories — such as “conservative” or “very conservative” — during the US 2016 presidential primary in an effort to spread Trump’s message wide and take advantage of cheaper ad rates. The Trump campaign went on to use microtargeting on a more specific basis than Facebook’s categories allowed for during the general election.
Read more at BuzzFeedNews.
When you hear the phrase “classic car,” what comes to mind? A 1950s Ferrari? An ’80s Porsche? Well, compared to this car, those might as well be spaceships.
This is a 1894 Santler 3½-horsepower Dogcart. According to Bonhams, it’s the oldest surviving British car in existence at 123 years old. It’s coming up for sale next month at the auctioneer’s London to Brighton sale, and you should buy it.
Constructed in the late 1890s by brothers Charles and Walter Santler, this Dogcart was originally steam-powered, but was fitted with a single-cylinder, water-cooled Benz engine during a restoration in the 1950s.
The car is in running condition, and is equipped with a belt-driven transmission, and chain drive to the rear wheels. It has a foot-operated brake that works only on the driver’s side rear wheel, plus hand-operated brakes that slow both rear wheels. The wheels measure 28 inches up front, and 40 inches in the rear.
Bonhams estimates the car will sell for between $260,000 and $330,000 on November 3rd. If you want to own a seriously classic car, it doesn’t get much more classic than this.
From Road and Track
It is dark in the workshop, but what light there is streams in patches through the windows. Cobwebs coat the wrenches, the cans of spray paint and the rungs of an old wooden chair where Matt Peters used to sit. A stereo plays country music, left on by the renter who now uses the shop.
“It smells so good in here,” I say. “Like …”
“Men, working,” finishes Ginnie Peters.
We inhale. “Yes.”
Ginnie pauses at the desk where she found her husband Matt’s letter on the night he died.
“My dearest love,” it began, and continued for pages. “I have torment in my head.”
On the morning of his last day, 12 May 2011, Matt stood in the kitchen of their farmhouse.
“I can’t think,” he told Ginnie. “I feel paralyzed.”
It was planting season, and stress was high. Matt worried about the weather and worked around the clock to get his crop in the ground on time. He hadn’t slept in three nights and was struggling to make decisions.
“I remember thinking ‘I wish I could pick you up and put you in the car like you do with a child,’” Ginnie says. “And then I remember thinking … and take you where? Who can help me with this? I felt so alone.”
Ginnie felt an “oppressive sense of dread” that intensified as the day wore on. At dinnertime, his truck was gone and Matt wasn’t answering his phone. It was dark when she found the letter. “I just knew,” Ginnie says. She called 911 immediately, but by the time the authorities located his truck, Matt had taken his life.
Read more at The Guardian.
Among many other things, Kanye West prides himself on his exacting architectural taste. His $4.5 million Claudio Silvestrin-designed New York apartment, for instance, is an aggressively minimalist space filled with hard right angles and French limestone. And West’s Hollywood Hills bachelor pad provided a showcase of SoCal Brutalism (he sold it for $2.95 million in 2017). But, if reports and local chatter north of the Ventura Freeway are to be believed, these were but precursors to his masterpiece, the 20,000-square-foot Shangri-La he’s building with wife Kim Kardashian West in the very-much-gated and until-very-recently sleepy enclave of Hidden Hills.
Since August 2014, when the world’s most famous couple purchased their dream home from Lisa Marie Presley for $20 million, their mega-mansion has remained in a state of constant construction. Among locals it has become known as the “never-ending remodel,” and outside of the community, it has become an object of total tabloid fascination. According to TMZ, convoys of dump trucks have rumbled through the exclusive neighborhood’s near-trafficless, pin-drop quiet streets as the Kardashian-Wests’ two separate swimming pools were filled in and excavation began for an artificial lake. A forest of mature trees as well as two vineyards appear, in aerial tabloid photography, to have been removed. The Daily Mail reported that textured beige finish was added to the home’s facade then, as if on a whim, buffed away—and that an entire new wing was added to one section of the property. One’s mileage may vary on such reports, but whatever the case, the renovations continue.
In Hidden Hills, however, an insider says West has been frustrated by strict local rules and regulations enforced by the powerful Hidden Hills Community Association that effectively limit how much he can alter his mansion’s original aesthetic (a “French Country piece de resistance” according to its listing). He may have spent $110,000 on a Le Corbusier lamp made of “rocks and cement” and admire the buildings of Catalan surrealist Antoni Gaudí, but if West is considering erecting any kind of cutting-edge steel-and-glass edifice he would need approval from the community, in the interest of neighborhood orthodoxy. Think three-dimensional Norman Rockwell painting—a throwback to Hidden Hills’ establishment as an equestrian-based, ranch-style alterna-L.A. in the 1950s.
“The homeowners association is run by volunteers from the community who aren’t impressed—at least publicly—by who you are,” says a local architect who works in the community, but who requested anonymity for fear of running afoul of Hidden Hills’ unofficial omertà. “Their goal is to maintain the lifestyle. You can’t get away with whatever you’re trying to get away with: ‘We’re Hidden Hills and we’re bigger and better than you.’ They’re almost religious in their zeal.”
Read more at Vanity Fair.
For a soft-spoken man, Ted Sarandos makes a lot of thunderous news. Just consider the headlines he’s generated over the last week alone with a succession of game-changing deals. The chief content officer for Netflix stole Shonda Rhimes from ABC, lured retiree David Letterman back into talk-show mode, prodded the reclusive Coen brothers into TV production and snapped up Millarworld, a comic-book empire with buzzy titles like “Jupiter’s Legacy” and “Huck.”
Netflix could conceivably rival Disney and Marvel by assembling its own superhero universe. On Aug. 8, a day after the announcement of the Millarworld purchase, Disney dropped a bombshell when it unveiled plans to launch a streaming service and yank its branded family and Pixar films from Netflix beginning in 2019.
Over the weekend, Netflix fired back by announcing it had poached TV’s most powerful showrunner from her longtime home at Disney’s ABC. “Shonda and I have gotten to know each other over the years and I have always had a tremendous amount of respect,” says Sarandos, who lives blocks away from Rhimes in Hancock Park. “I have sought her feedback and even delivered DVDs to her house myself of our upcoming projects.”
The dramatic events of the last few days suggest that Netflix is in an escalating arms race with Disney. It also ratchets up the blood sport between Netflix and all the major studios and TV networks as Hollywood grapples with how to adapt to the seismic shifts in technology and consumer habits.
“I would say that the relationship between studios and networks has always been that of a frenemy,” says Sarandos. The Netflix boss downplays Disney’s move to establish itself as a streaming rival. “Everyone is doing some version of it already,” he says. “They just have to make a decision for their companies, their brands and their shareholders on how to best optimize the content.” Netflix, suggests Sarandos, has long been preparing for that inevitability. “We started making original content five years ago, betting this would happen,” he says.
These days, where there’s smoke or fire in the media business, there’s usually one revolutionary holding the match. At the center of most industry angst — or, often, bewilderment and excitement — is Sarandos, who engineered the company’s stunning transformation from a mail-order DVD-rental company in the early aughts to a full-fledged studio that is competing dollar for dollar with a crowded field of rivals for Hollywood’s top stars, directors, showrunners and writers.
In a wide-ranging interview at a downtown Manhattan hotel, Sarandos, 53, who is Variety’s 2017 Showman of the Year, revealed that he anticipates spending a whopping $7 billion on content next year — up from more than $6 billion over the past year and $5 billion in 2016. “The vast majority is still licensed content,” he says. “We’re still a couple years from seeing it go 50-50.”
Read more at Variety.
Elizabeth “Liz” Logelin was a young, fit woman with a promising career in operations management at Disney. On March 24, 2008, after a complicated pregnancy that saw her bedridden for nearly two months (three weeks of which were in the hospital), she delivered her daughter Madeline (“Maddy”) through an emergency cesarean section. Two and a half months early, Maddy was healthy, if tiny. Twenty seven hours after the delivery, Liz was finally cleared to hold her firstborn. Her husband Matt Logelin already was, he teased her, several diaper changes ahead of her. She got up from the bed, ready to make her way to the nursery, and stopped in front of the mirror. “My hair looks like shit,” she said, of her long tresses. She laughed, Matt laughed, the nurses laughed. He thought her hair looked great.
She walked towards the wheelchair that was going to take her to the nursery, and suddenly didn’t feel well. “I feel lightheaded,” she complained. Moments later, at age 30, Liz was dead.
The cause was a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot that travelled from her leg to her lungs, and killed her instantaneously.
Though she had a family history of blood clots, suggesting a genetic predisposition, and her risk was increased by the prolonged bed rest and the subsequent c-section surgery, to Matt’s knowledge Liz wasn’t given anticoagulant medications, or advised to exercise to help stimulate her blood flow. Everyone’s attention, hers included, was turned elsewhere, to baby Maddy—so precious, so perfect.
Read more at Quartz.
Ask 50 people to list the world’s best kiteboarding spots and you’ll hear 50 different views. But one thing is certain: Nothing beats the pure feeling of harnessing the power of the wind to ride. For those who have caught the bug, kiteboarding becomes an obsession inspiring travel to far-flung reaches of the globe.
Check out this gallery featuring 13 of the world’s top kiteboarding destinations. Use this guide to choose a spot—then talk to locals for intel on epic sessions to suit your skill.
At the outlet of Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald, a lonely dock stretches into glassy water over kaleidoscopic gravels, framed by the reflection of fearsome mountains.
The lake is only a few steps from a major parking lot, so it draws legions of tourists. It is not, however, the place to find cutthroat trout in late June.
I’d been trying for over a month to set up an outing with Ryan Zinke, the freshly minted secretary of the interior, who was born and raised in nearby Whitefish, Montana. I’d already met him once, at Alaska’s Denali National Park, but his harried schedule didn’t allow for anything more than a cursory walk on a trail that might as well have been paved. I wanted to see my former congressman, who has always billed himself as an outdoorsman—and who now oversees more than 400 million acres of federal public land, 700 million acres of subsurface mineral rights, and thousands of offshore energy leases—in his natural habitat. In Denali last May, I’d floated plans to take horses into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, but in the end all I could wrangle was this 45 minutes of casting practice.
Zinke’s crew of aides and security people were assembled under shade trees by the shore. The secretary was wearing a tan fishing vest, slacks, and a pair of Keens. Absent his entourage, he might have passed for anyone’s unusually fit uncle: his hair has gone gray, but at 56 the former Navy SEAL still holds his tall frame plank-straight, and his shoulders are broad and athletic. He already had his rod rigged. As soon as I walked up, I checked out the fly hooked to one of his guides—a black foam-bodied number with a puffy white wing and rubber legs, segmented with purple dubbing.
“You’ve got a Chubby on,” I said. Zinke looked at me, then down at the zipper on his pants. “Your fly,” I said. “It’s called a Chubby Chernobyl.” Zinke laughed. “We killed them on the Middle Fork with this one last summer,” he said.
This outing happened just a few weeks after then Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed a Guardian reporter the night before a special election to fill Zinke’s vacated seat. Zinke had flown to Montana to stump for Gianforte, a Montanan by way of New Jersey who sold his Bozeman-based tech company to Oracle in 2009 for nearly $1 billion and had just lost the governor’s race despite spending $5 million of his own money. At the campaign rally in Billings, Zinke warmed up the crowd for the headliner, Vice President Mike Pence.
“You should not be afraid to say that you’re a Christian,” Zinke said, “and you should not be afraid to say, ‘The government stops at the mailbox, and if you come any further, you’re going to meet my gun.’ ”
The National Rifle Association loves Zinke. Chris Cox, the executive director of the group’s Institute for Legislative Action, has said that Zinke’s nomination marked “the end of a hostile era towards hunters and sportsmen.” But it wasn’t always so. As a state senator, freshly retired from the Navy, Zinke said that .50-caliber rifles were too dangerous for ordinary citizens to own. “He felt very strongly about that then,” Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, wrote on his blog. “Then, about the time he announced his candidacy for the U.S. House, he sent me a card saying he’d changed his position on .50-caliber rifles. Yes, a sudden election season conversion.”
Zinke’s moderate-by-Montana-standards position on guns and a handful of other issues, including climate change, annoyed the right wing of the state’s Republican Party. That Zinke was a fifth-generation native son, had been a starter on the University of Oregon’s football team, and had served two tours in Iraq with the SEALs somehow made things worse: here was a Republican who didn’t need to swagger around Helena behind the wheel of a lifted dualie. Zinke drove a Toyota Prius, which, outside liberal havens like Bozeman, Missoula, and Helena, is the vehicular way of saying “I’m from California, I’m a communist, and I love wolves.”
Read more at Outside.
YouTube videos of police beatings on American streets. A widely circulated internet hoax about Muslim men in Michigan collecting welfare for multiple wives. A local news story about two veterans brutally mugged on a freezing winter night.
All of these were recorded, posted or written by Americans. Yet all ended up becoming grist for a network of Facebook pages linked to a shadowy Russian company that has carried out propaganda campaigns for the Kremlin, and which is now believed to be at the center of a far-reaching Russian program to influence the 2016 presidential election.
A New York Times examination of hundreds of those posts shows that one of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents used to reshape American politics was the anger, passion and misinformation that real Americans were broadcasting across social media platforms.
The Russian pages — with names like “Being Patriotic,” “Secured Borders” and “Blacktivist” — cribbed complaints about federal agents from one conservative website, and a gauzy article about a veteran who became an entrepreneur from People magazine. They took descriptions and videos of police beatings from genuine YouTube and Facebook accounts and reposted them, sometimes lightly edited for maximum effect.
Other posts on the Russian pages used stilted language or phrases rarely found in American English. Yet their use of borrowed ideas and arguments from Americans, which were already resonating among conservatives and liberals, demonstrated a deft understanding of the political terrain. The Russians also paid Facebook to promote their posts in the feeds of American Facebook users, helping them test what content would circulate most widely, and among which audiences.
“This is cultural hacking,” said Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. “They are using systems that were already set up by these platforms to increase engagement. They’re feeding outrage — and it’s easy to do, because outrage and emotion is how people share.”
Read more at The New York Times.
Chinese engineers are testing techniques that could be used to build a 1,000km tunnel – the world’s longest – to carry water from Tibet to Xinjiang, experts involved in the project say.
The proposed tunnel, which would drop down from the world’s highest plateau in multiple sections connected by waterfalls, would “turn Xinjiang into California”, one geotechnical engineer said.
China’s longest tunnel is the eight-year-old 85km Dahuofang water project in Liaoning province, while the world’s longest tunnel is the 137km main water supply pipe beneath the city of New York.
However, the Chinese government started building a tunnel in the centre of Yunnan province in August that will be more than 600km long, local media reported. Comprising more than 60 sections, each wide enough to accommodate two high-speed trains, it will pass through mountains several thousand metres above sea level in an area plagued by unstable geological conditions.
Researchers said building the Yunnan tunnel would be a “rehearsal” of the new technology, engineering methods and equipment needed for the Tibet-Xinjiang tunnel, which would divert the Yarlung Tsangpo River in southern Tibet to the Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang. Downstream, in India, the river becomes the Brahmaputra, which joins the Ganges in Bangladesh.
Read more at South China Morning Post.
The only sounds came from strip lights fizzing in the ceiling and the slow, eerie echo of footsteps in the distance.
Aromas of coffee, grease and chlorine mingled in my nostrils as I pushed through heavy double doors, rounding a corner to a dizzyingly long magnolia-coloured corridor.
To my right was the ground-floor entrance to Macy’s department store, its food hall, with few customers inside, visible through the glass. Opposite was a different kind of window display – a row of 22 rectangles of American Victorian stained glass, backlit and glowing dramatically from the inky black wall.
I was exploring Chicago’s weirdest neighbourhood, the Pedway – an unlikely candidate for regeneration, and an even less likely design muse.
Mazing for five miles under 40 blocks of The Loop (Chicago’s business district), this network of tunnels connects some of the city’s most famous buildings, including Macy’s, City Hall and the Chicago Cultural Center.
Construction began in 1951 to provide safe, weatherproof passage between the buildings, and the hotchpotch of corridors has been built piecemeal ever since. Each section is independently owned and maintained by the corresponding building above, so each section has different lights, even different air temperatures.
“Most people don’t get it,” said Margaret Hicks, who runs tours of the Pedway with her company Chicago Elevated. “But I just love it.”
The stained glass display was installed in December 2013, a joint project between Macy’s and Chicago’s Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows before the latter closed the following October. It was unusual at the time, and it still feels incongruous in this empty subterranean stretch.
Those who use the Pedway do so to escape sweltering summers and bitter winters, striding through on their daily commutes and lunch breaks. The busiest part is through Millennium Station, a Metra train hub with a wavy, fluorescent ceiling and floor lined like a race track. Scenes from the Batman film, The Dark Knight, were filmed here.
But, Hicks reckons, most people who pass through the station don’t realise they are in the Pedway, or even know what the Pedway is. And it isn’t considered a place to linger, to stop and smell the daisies – or even to admire the daisies intricately fashioned from tiny triangles of glass.
The stained-glass panels include a gourd overspilling with blooms, a blackbird soaring against a patchwork sky of greys and blues, and an owl in the heart of a bold floral display. Many are by unknown artists but one – Spider Web – was created by renowned stained-glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose father founded jewellery giant Tiffany & Co. This window has tangles of blushing petals overlapping a watery, ethereal blue.
“It’s weird, right?” said Hicks, as we gazed at the display. “I mean, there’s nothing else down here.”
But that’s changing, as others are learning what Hicks has known for years – that the Pedway’s oddness is oddly alluring.
Read more at the BBC.
Seen side-by-side in photographs, they struck an almost comic pose: his girth dwarfing her petite frame. When they married, her parents called them ‘the elephant’ and ‘the dove’. He was the older, celebrated master of frescoes who helped revive an ancient Mayan mural tradition, and gave a vivid visual voice to indigenous Mexican labourers seeking social equality after centuries of colonial oppression. She was the younger, self-mythologising dreamer, who magically wove from piercing introspection and chronic physical pain paintings of a severe and mysterious beauty. Together, they were two of the most important artists of the 20th Century.
When it comes to telling the story of the complex relationship between Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, historians invariably reach for the same set of biographical soundbites: his early career in Paris in the 1910s as a Cubist and her childhood struggles with polio; their fleeting first acquaintance in 1922 when she was just 15 and he was 37; the bus accident three years later that shattered her spine, pelvis, collarbone and ribs; her discovery of painting as salvation while she was bedridden and recuperating; their re-acquaintance in 1927 and his early awe at her talent; his affairs and her abortions; their divorce in 1939 and remarriage a year later.
Portrait of the artists
But if you really want to comprehend the passions and resentments, adoration and pain that defined the intense entanglement of Kahlo’s and Rivera’s lives, stop reading and start looking. Everything you need to know is there in the way the two artists portrayed each other in their works. Take Frida and Diego Rivera (1931), the famous double portrait she painted two years after they married for the first time in 1931, when the couple were living in California’s Bay Area.
Though the ribbon pinched in the beak of the pigeon that hovers in the top right of the painting may joyously declare “Here you see us, me, Frieda Kahlo, with my dearest husband Diego Rivera”, this is hardly the picture of uncomplicated marital bliss. With its criss-crossing, out-of-sync stares and slowly unclasping hands, the canvas vibrates with subtle tensions. The relationship it depicts is anything but straightforward or easily captioned.
What are we to make of the slight swivel of Diego’s head, forever away from hers, while his eyes drift back like a compass’s needle in Kahlo’s direction? What can we gather from the cockeyed, quizzical tilt of her own gaze, fixed as it is in dead space somewhere to our left, refusing either to run in parallel with his or engage ours? How do we read the curious clash of sartorial styles – his European suit and her traditional Mexican dress? Though Kahlo painted the work, why is it that we find Diego clutching the palette and brushes, as she grips a knot at her stomach with one hand and, with the other, begins to let go?
Read more at the BBC.
This week, the House and Senate will work to reconcile their different versions of the tax bill into something that president Donald Trump can sign into law. As they do, dozens of protests and rallies against the bill are being planned from California to Chicago to Staten Island, New York. Citizens are frantically organizing to try to shut down the only major legislative success of a president who ran on a platform of populism, and Democrats are growing optimistic about flipping one or both houses of Congress. How did the country get here just a year after Donald Trump’s historic win?
To understand that, you need to look back to the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision in 2010, which opened the floodgates for wealthy donors in political races. Since then, corporations and the rich have plowed money into both parties. Three extremely wealthy families, the Mercers, the Kochs, and the Adelsons, all prominent donors to the Republican party, now seem locked in a struggle over the future of the GOP.
As campaigning for the midterm elections in November 2018 gets under way, the three families are facing off against each other in battleground states. They’re lighting a fire under Republican politicians who are now determined to get something, anything, passed in Washington—even if it’s a last-minute tax bill that most voters don’t agree with and legislators barely had time to read.
But Republicans who fail to pass tax reform risk losing donor support, and getting wiped out by a rival Republican candidate. As Lindsay Graham, the veteran Republican senator from South Carolina, told an NBC news reporter early last month, a failed tax reform will look a lot like a failed party.
Read more at Quartz.
In some ways, Naples is really two cities in one. By day, it’s a city of such beauty and character that it’s often used as a set for films. But by night, away from the busy piazzas, the isolated side streets become the stage for violent turf wars, as young, ambitious criminals seek to dominate lawless streets.
From afar, it appears that not much has changed in Naples. The city’s traditional problems persist; crime, and the fear of it, continues to cripple the local community, at times scaring people from going out at night, starting new businesses and letting children play in the streets. Objections are stifled by an “omertà”—a conspiracy of silence, fed by fear of retribution, which stops people from speaking out against organized crime groups.
But recently, a silent transformation has been taking place on the streets of Naples and its surrounding region, Campania. Slowly, civil society has started taking back control of the public collective space. Culture and education once again are providing a remedy to the ill-effects of organized crime groups, and their activities in Naples.
Building on initiatives from the 1970s, such as the “canteen for working class children,” which sought to transform society starting with its youngest members, many urban and cultural regeneration projects have sprung up in Naples over the past 15 years. For example, the Teatro dei Mendicanti (Beggars’ Theatre) works to make Shakespeare accessible to children in San Giovanni a Teduccio, and Il Tappeto di Iqbal offers circus training to local kids in the district of Barra, as an alternative to roaming the streets.
Such projects have successfully carved out places for local communities to come together and participate in cultural, educational, and artistic activities, away from the threat of violence. But there’s another form of regeneration, which is helping citizens to reclaim isolated, abandoned or inaccessible spaces throughout Naples and its surrounds—street art.
Unlike more traditional visual arts, which are sometimes considered elitist and can be confined to specific audiences, street art speaks to all people. It activates not only cultural, but also social, economic, and political processes, developing a personal and collective sense of belonging, fostering a unique cultural identity, and sparking social awareness.
Street art can also bring fame, and sometimes fortune, to areas which were formerly overlooked, as happened with Ernest Pignon-Ernest in Naples during the 1980s and ‘90s, and Banksy in the UK and Palestine today. Today, it is empowering local people to reclaim public spaces and to shatter the “omertà” which has so long held sway over Naples.
Read more at Quartzy.
What inspires you? It’s one of the most asked questions during Fashion Month, and also one of the least helpful for truly understanding why designers actually create what they create, or — more essentially — why we wear what we wear. For most people, clothes are a product of utility and often anxiety, too; they’re what we need to put on in order to move through the world with least resistance. But capital-F Fashion hasn’t been designed with “most people” in mind. Fashion Week can oftentimes be a play-world where real-life rules whiz out the window: everyone can afford anything, everyone is the same size, and the biggest concern isn’t about safety or survival, but whether a ball-gown is chic enough.
But that veneer has cracked. Though the runways have always reflected the times in some way, 2017 has been an especially oppressive year. Forget inspiration. It’s more about what motivates — what wills you to push forward, do better, and make something that propels others out ahead, too. Many of the collections this season didn’t just show us the necessarily uplifting fantasies we can always depend on for dream-weaving; instead, designers did it within the contexts of the world we live in, in all its humbling ways.
And frankly, Fashion Month is better for it — because the more it recognizes that fashion needs to have a genuine purpose before it can inspire, the more interesting — and more wantable — the clothes can be. This past season did a pretty good job at addressing our needs while tapping into our wants. And so, with a few weeks to reflect, we’re capturing the 29 biggest moments we think are the real inspiration, shaping so much more than just trends.
Read more at Refinery29.
WASHINGTON — Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.
Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in night clothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.
As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.
For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.
Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals. People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.
“He feels like there’s an effort to undermine his election and that collusion allegations are unfounded,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who has spent more time with the president than most lawmakers. “He believes passionately that the liberal left and the media are out to destroy him. The way he got here is fighting back and counterpunching.”
Read more at The New York Times.
On the first day of school—it was going to be a ninety-degree scorcher—Eddie Williams jogged up the four stone steps at the main entrance to South High School in Denver, Colorado, half an hour before the first bell rang, eager to meet his new students. The teacher was a tall man, six foot four inches in his socks. He was thirty-eight years old, but could have passed for twenty-eight, and he was wearing a short-sleeved purple South High polo shirt. All the teachers had put on purple shirts, that being the school color, so that the students could easily see whom they should turn to if they had a question about how to find a particular classroom, or how to read the confusing schedules they carried. Mr. Williams usually avoided short-sleeved shirts, because they revealed the dark blue tattoo that circled one of his biceps, and he feared his students might misinterpret the inked designs as macabre, given their backgrounds. He worked diligently to communicate in all sorts of ways that he was a person they could trust.
Mr. Williams had inherited his Anglo father’s rangy height and propensity to freckle, along with his Latina mother’s dark eyes and hair. Fluent in both Spanish and English, he was the sort of teacher who devoted an enormous portion of his kindness, vitality, and intellect to his students. Most of the classrooms in the school were crowded with noisy, chattering teenagers. That morning, however, as he looked around his room, Mr. Williams saw many empty chairs and only seven students. The teenagers assigned to him wore shut-door expressions on their faces. Nobody in the room was talking, not even to one another. The teacher had expected. His room always got off to a quiet start.
“Welcome to newcomer class!” he said, in a deliberately warm tone of voice. “My name is Mr. Williams. What is your name? Where are you from?”
The seven teenagers who had reported to Room 142 said nothing. Just the act of showing up by 7:45 in the morning had required enormous fortitude. It was August 24, 2015, and the students assigned to Mr. Williams had spent on average more than an hour negotiating the local public transit system to get here. They lived crammed with other relatives into small houses or apartments located in parts of the city where a dollar could be stretched. Getting from the patchwork zones of cheap housing located on the farthest edges of the city to South via the public transit system took dogged commitment, but that was a quality that Mr. Williams’s students typically possessed in abundance. What they did not possess, for the most part, was the ability to understand what he was now saying.
“Welcome to newcomer class!” the teacher repeated, taking care to enunciate each word even more deliberately. “My name is Mr. Williams. What is your name?”
The students continued to stare back at the teacher without speaking. The technical description for what was happening is “preproduction,” which in the academic literature about language acquisition is also known as “the silent period.” The vast majority of second-language learners begin in a quiet receptive phase, able to produce hardly any English themselves, even as their brains furiously absorb everything being said. That year, about sixteen hundred teenagers attended South High School, and roughly one-third of them had been born in another country. South served as a regular neighborhood school and also the designated destination for students who spoke foreign languages other than Spanish and whose education had been interrupted. This meant South handled the bulk of the city’s teenage refugees, for it was primarily children in refugee families who had significant gaps in their education. War—that was what generally caused children to be unable to attend school for long periods.
Read more at Longreads.
Finding a hike that’s easy enough for youngsters and still enticing for adults can be difficult, but there are several worthwhile hiking trails throughout the U.S. for a family outing. Taking into account scenery, walkability, and accessibility from major cities, we’ve rounded up the nine best family-friendly hikes in America.
Acadia National Park features a gorgeous mix of water features, lush mountains, and rich wildlife, and all can be enjoyed by hiking the Jordan Pond Path. Although considered a moderate hike, it’s largely flat (aside from a stretch of planks and rocks) and suitable for all ages, plus dogs are allowed on a leash. The 3.2-mile loop is along the water’s edge and offers vistas of The Bubbles mountains, making for a scenic hike the entire time. Swimming is prohibited, but visitors often spot beavers, loons, frogs, and other birds. We suggest going in autumn when Maine‘s foliage is a striking array of colors.
Read more at Oyster.
From the window of a NASA aircraft flying over the Arctic, looking down on the ice sheet that covers most of Greenland, it’s easy to see why it is so hard to describe climate change. The scale of polar ice, so dramatic and so clear from a plane flying at 450 metres (1,500ft) – high enough to appreciate the scope of the ice and low enough to sense its mass – is nearly impossible to fathom when you aren’t sitting at that particular vantage point.
But it’s different when you are there, cruising over the ice for hours, with NASA’s monitors all over the cabin streaming data output, documenting in real time – dramatising, in a sense – the depth of the ice beneath. You get it, because you can see it all there in front of you, in three dimensions.
Imagine a thousand centuries of heavy snowfall, piled up and compacted into stone-like ice atop the bedrock of Greenland, an Arctic island almost a quarter the size of the US. Imagine all of modern human history, from the Neolithic revolution 12,000 years ago – when humans moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from there, eventually, to urban societies – until today. All of the snow that fell on the Arctic during that entire history is gathered up in just the top layers of the ice sheet.
Imagine the dimensions of that ice: 1.71m sq km (656,000 sq miles), three times the size of Texas. At its belly – from the top layer, yesterday’s snowfall, to the bottom layer, which is made of snow that fell out of the sky 115,000-130,000 years ago – it reaches 3,200 metres (10,500ft) thick, nearly four times taller than the world’s highest skyscraper.
Imagine the weight of this thing: at the centre of Greenland, the ice is so heavy that it warps the land itself, pushing bedrock 359 metres (1,180ft) below sea level. Under its own immense weight, the ice comes alive, folding and rolling in solid streams, in glaciers that slowly push outward. This is a head-spinningly dynamic system that we still don’t fully understand – and that we really ought to learn far more about, and quickly. In theory, if this massive thing were fully drained, and melted into the sea, the water contained in it would make the world’s oceans rise by 7 metres (23ft).
When you fly over entire mountain ranges whose tips barely peek out from under the ice – and these are just the visible ones – it’s possible to imagine what would happen if even a fraction of this quantity of pent-up freshwater were unleashed. You can plainly see how this thing would flood the coasts of the world, from Brooklyn to Bangladesh.
Read more at The Guardian.
MONTGOMERY — Doug Jones special election victory over Roy Moore marks the first time Alabama has elected a Democrat to the Senate in 25 years.
But who is Jones?
Here’s a primer on the newly elected Democratic Senator:
University of Alabama alum
One day in 1973, Doug Jones was in a cotton tie mill in Fairfield’s steel works, where red-bithot steel billets 10 feet long would “go through this press that would reduce it down to metal that would be real thin metal that would tie up bales of cotton,”Jones had just finished his first year at the University of Alabama. His grades, he recalled in a recent interview, “weren’t that great” and his father, a longtime company veteran, decided his son “needed some incentive to work harder.”
So Jones worked six days a week, 10 hours a day at the mill, performing different jobs. On this day, the teenager helped collect scrap metal to go into a machine known as a scrap baller, which turned the excess into balls for salvage. As Jones and a co-worker fed the machine, it got stuck.
“You’ve got these big old hooks you’re supposed to use,” Jones said in a recent interview. “Well, the other old guy who was using it was not using the hook, so I didn’t use the hook either. I yanked on that big old ball of scrap when I did, and a piece of metal sprung up and hit me right between the eyes.”
Jones got away with a bleeding wound. It could have been worse.
“If it had been left or right in any eye, I know I would have lost an eye and it would have done serious damage and probably killed me,” he said. “It hit in the right spot, because I’m hard-headed as hell anyway.”
Jones graduated from the University of Alabama in 1976; his accident in the steel mill, he said, spurred him to improve his grades. At Alabama, he served in the Student Senate and as president of the Off-Campus Association; he also worked in the office of then-Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley. He later attended the Cumberland School of Law, stealing away from his classes in 1977 to watch then-Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley wage his successful prosecution of Bob Chambliss for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.
Read more at USA Today.
It’s mid-afternoon on a Friday at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and three of Elon Musk’s children are gathered around him – one of his triplets, both of his twins.
Musk is wearing a gray T-shirt and sitting in a swivel chair at his desk, which is not in a private office behind a closed door, but in an accessible corner cubicle festooned with outer-space novelty items, photos of his rockets, and mementos from Tesla and his other companies.
Most tellingly, there’s a framed poster of a shooting star with a caption underneath it that reads, “When you wish upon a falling star, your dreams can come true. Unless it’s really a meteor hurtling to the Earth which will destroy all life. Then you’re pretty much hosed, no matter what you wish for. Unless it’s death by meteorite.” To most people, this would be mere dark humor, but in this setting, it’s also a reminder of Musk’s master plan: to create habitats for humanity on other planets and moons. If we don’t send our civilization into another Dark Ages before Musk or one of his dream’s inheritors pull it off, then Musk will likely be remembered as one of the most seminal figures of this millennium. Kids on all the terraformed planets of the universe will look forward to Musk Day, when they get the day off to commemorate the birth of the Earthling who single-handedly ushered in the era of space colonization.
And that’s just one of Musk’s ambitions. Others include converting automobiles, households and as much industry as possible from fossil fuels to sustainable energy; implementing a new form of high-speed city-to-city transportation via vacuum tube; relieving traffic congestion with a honeycomb of underground tunnels fitted with electric skates for cars and commuters; creating a mind-computer interface to enhance human health and brainpower; and saving humanity from the future threat of an artificial intelligence that may one day run amok and decide, quite rationally, to eliminate the irrational human species.
So far, Musk, 46, has accomplished none of these goals.
But what he has done is something that very few living people can claim: Painstakingly bulldozed, with no experience whatsoever, into two fields with ridiculously high barriers to entry – car manufacturing (Tesla) and rocketry (SpaceX) – and created the best products in those industries, as measured by just about any meaningful metric you can think of. In the process, he’s managed to sell the world on his capability to achieve objectives so lofty that from the mouth of anyone else, they’d be called fantasies.
Read more at Rolling Stone.
She is known as ‘the most painted woman in the world’: around 225 artists have captured the captivating likeness of Suzy Solidor, including Tamara de Lempicka, Jean Cocteau, Francis Bacon, Man Ray and Francis Picabia. A French cabaret star, she was a major mainstream recording artist in the 1930s – even though she sang really rather explicit songs of lesbian desire. Today, however, the chanteuse is hardly a familiar face.
She’d be furious, no doubt, at this slide into obscurity. Solidor was a woman ahead of her time – she matched a risqué artistic persona with shrewd business acumen, and possessed a striking awareness of the power of propagating her own image. She was probably the first woman to own a nightclub in Paris, La Vie Parisienne, where she would perform in front of a line of portraits of herself – the more she favoured the painting, the closer it would be to her (less flattering works were stuck by the toilets). For the artists, it was considered invaluable advertising.
You could consider Solidor a 1930s Kardashian, with painterly portraits in place of selfies. Solidor was hyper aware of her own image, and unabashed at turning her sex life and her body into a commodity. Adept at self-mythologising, she was, however, always true to her own sense of self, her own artistic urges: this was no ‘lipstick lesbianism’.
“Now, when [celebrities] present themselves as gender fluid or out-there in their sexuality and desires, it seems to be a little bit of a pose: you get pop stars flirting with it, but their songs are never full throttle like these,” says Jessica Walker, a performer whose show about Solidor, All I Want Is One Night, has been seen at Manchester’s Royal Exchange theatre and at Wilton’s Music Hall in London; it will be part of the Brits off Broadway Season in New York in 2018.
Walker delved into Solidor’s story after stumbling across her songs – and was surprised at how little known she was, given she had such a dramatic life. Solidor was born in St Malo in Brittany. Her mother had worked as a charwoman for her father, a lawyer, who did not recognise the child (although he would get in touch once his illegitimate daughter became a famous singer). He was, however, a descendant of the Privateer Robert Surcouf – a fact that Solidor made the most of. She liked to sing saucy sea shanties, and her paintings often depicted her in a nautical setting: on the prow of a boat, as a mermaid, or a buccaneering captain.
Read more at the BBC.
Three blessings: Why does the daily liturgy thank God for not making you a Gentile, slave, or a woman?
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Ideas Daily.
The Jewish prayer book is thick with texts: blessings, thanksgivings, and petitions, instructions, theological claims, and historical memories. Some traditional texts bear especially outsized burdens. In this respect, few can rival three lines that begin “Blessed are you O God, King of the Universe, Who has not made me…” and conclude, respectively, “a goy [Gentile],” “a slave,” and “a woman.”
These three blessings, a standing provocation to all sorts of sensibilities, are at the center of a new book on the Jewish liturgy. Its author, Yoel Kahn, traces their history from antiquity down to the present, illuminating how they have been interpreted, revised, translated, excised, and, in varying ways, restored.
The three lines are embedded in a string of similarly-worded formulas that open the preliminary morning prayers known as birkhot ha-shahar or the “dawn blessings.” Most of these thank God Who “gives the rooster understanding to distinguish day from night…gives sight to the blind…clothes the naked…raises those who are bent down,” and so forth. They appear in the (Berakhot 60b) and, as presented there, are meant to be recited in private at home as one starts the day: awaking, opening one’s eyes, dressing, standing upright, and so on. Today we might call them an exercise in mindfulness, aligning our consciousness with the acts that knit together our daily routines and, as Kahn points out, heightening our awareness of God’s hand at work in the world.
Where Do They Originate?
The three blessings in particular seem to have originated outside Jewish circles. From the third century B.C.E., we find written record of a quip, ostensibly attributed to Socrates, that expresses gratitude for having been born human and not a brute, a man and not a woman, Greek and not barbarian. An analogous one-liner circulated in Zoroastrian circles. The Jewish formula, a version of which first appears at about 200 C.E., was unconnected with the dawn blessings and was recorded in a different tractate of the Talmud (Menahot 43b).
That changed during the centuries known as the Geonic period, when the great yeshivas of Babylonia emerged as the leading institutions of Jewish learning. The first text featuring both sets of blessings is the Sefer Halakhot Gedolot (“Book of Major Laws”), circa 750-825, and soon thereafter they were amalgamated into a single set. Although the details of the liturgy remained in flux for centuries, by the early Middle Ages the basic text had stabilized into what we know today: the full complement of blessings, recited not at home but in the synagogue.
In the 13th century, the Church, for reasons of its own, began to take a vigorous interest in the contents of Jewish prayers. As, with time, the Inquisition expanded its writ and printing enhanced the reach of the censor, Jews began to insert an “explanatory note” to the effect that mention of Gentiles anywhere in the siddur referred not to Christians but to proper heathens. When it came specifically to the goy of the dawn blessings, Jews also took positive action to alter the text: either substituting a euphemism (like “Samarian”), employing the affirmative statement, “Who has made me a Jew,” or skipping the line entirely. Sometimes the same scribe would have recourse to all three. But while the Church may have succeeded at times in driving the word into the shadows, it may also have inspired its preservation. Kahn: “If the effect of censorship and expurgation was to muzzle Jewish religious speech, this blessing was an act of spiritual resistance and identity-formation that reasserted the superiority of the Jews over the Gentile oppressors.”
The “slave” blessing was problematic for another reason. The Hebrew word eved means not only slave but also servant and, more to the point, serf—which is just what many Jews in medieval Europe were. Some therefore eliminated the blessing altogether, some embellished it (as in: “Who did not make me a slave to humans”), and some replaced the troublesome word with “boor” or “beast.”
What about “Who has not made me a woman”? The first real alternative phrasing for women at prayer was “Who has made me according to His will,” which appears early in the 14th century in the authoritative code of Jacob bar Asher. It seems to have been intended as an expression more of acceptance than of empowerment, though it also testifies to the engagement of women in the religious life of the time. In southern Europe in the 14th-15th centuries, women using the Judeo-Provençal vernacular adopted a more assertive stance, intoning “Who did not make me a man” or “Who made me a woman.”
There were also internal, Jewish critics of the dawn blessings who were troubled not by any anti-Gentile content but by the danger of the formulas’ becoming so ritualized as to be detached from lived experience. Two such critics were Maimonides and his son, the Judeo-Sufi pietist Abraham Maimuni. They were joined by the Franco-German pietists known as Hasidei Ashkenaz, whose richly mythic worldview otherwise differed greatly from Maimonides’ rationalism. By contrast, the later kabbalists saw good reason for ritualizing the blessings: after all, they sustained the social and, implicitly, the cosmic order, both of which were threatened in the nighttime when the spirits of darkness were afoot and the unconscious soul experienced the whiff of death.
The Standardizing of Jewish Texts
Meanwhile, the advent of printing standardized the texts of these and other prayers like never before. But then, starting in the 18th century, once emancipation came around, the three blessings became problematic again—not only because of Christian sensitivities but because of the Jews’ own aspirations to merge their particularity with the values of the broader society. “Not surprisingly,” Kahn observes, “not a single 19th-century European liberal prayer book includes ‘did not make me a Gentile’ in Hebrew.” Even unimpeachably Orthodox figures changed the wording from goy to nokhri (foreigner), a term shorn of the negative connotations accrued by the former word over the centuries.
In America, liturgists were freer still. By 1872, almost a decade after slavery had been abolished in the nation, “Who did not make me a slave” was gone from Reform prayer books, to be followed by the removal of the other blessings from the 1895 edition of the Union Prayer Book. Proto-Conservative siddurim like Avodat Yisrael of 1873 replaced the three blessings with one: “Who made me an Israelite.” The leading modern-Orthodox siddur of the 20th century, by Joseph Hertz, substituted nokhri for goy and added an elaborate apologetic commentary: “He who would serve humanity must first of all to himself be true.” As for “Who has not made a woman,” it was glossed as “Who has set upon me the obligations of a man,” while the corresponding blessing recited by a woman thanked God for allowing her “to win hearts for Thee by motherly or wifely devotion.”
The Blessings Today
And today? Unfortunately, Kahn does not investigate the work of Israeli liturgists of various denominations. He does, however, attend to the further evolution of Reform and Conservative prayer books—and, pointedly, to the Artscroll phenomenon, in which everything old has become new again. (The Art scroll siddur contains the three blessings in unadulterated form, asserting unapologetically that it “assigns missions to respective groups of people.”)
Toward the end of his study, Kahn also offers interesting reflections on his experience in his own synagogue in San Francisco, a gay community that has proved more than willing to re-engage traditional liturgies from its perspective of theological agnosticism and commitment to inclusion: “Who has led me to my Jewish heritage…Who has made each of us unique, and all of us according to Your will.” Today’s non-halakhic communities, he notes, perhaps because they are more distanced from the old texts and the forms of authority that accompanied them, are more eager than their immediate forebears both to appreciate those texts and to experiment with them.
The world in which the ancient prayers emerged was one in which clear social boundaries and correspondingly well-defined roles were a value and an end in themselves, however imperfectly realized in practice. Today, the category of slave has been discarded with a moral vehemence that can only be termed religious, and that was nourished in no small measure by both Scripture and the historical experience of Jewish suffering. The second two categories, distinguishing between man and woman, Jew and Gentile, are still with us but in a continual process of redefinition that shifts once-fixed expectations, rights, and responsibilities by seeking to minimize friction and maximize the reach of human freedom.
Can God ground and guide these explorations as He once guaranteed those boundaries? That would be blessing indeed.
Welcome to a contemporary attic bedroom that exudes personality. The owner, a young lawyer, decided to convert the empty attic of a building in Sopot, Poland, into a quiet place for relaxation.
Studio Raca Architekci began by changing the geometry of the roof to make more space inside the new bedroom. A peaceful ambiance was achieved by cladding the ceiling and floor in oiled wood planks. Simple, modern furniture in black and gray complements the interior. A reading corner was placed by the window, with a modern chair designed by Hans J. Wegner and a minimalist Zuiver floor lamp.
The work area features a simple black desk and an Eames swivel chair. A modular sofa in the corner is used by the owner as a comfortable spot for watching computer movies.
“It was impossible to design a standard wardrobe because of the geometry of the roof,” the designers said. “We decided to build a cabinet at the back wall, opposite to the entrance. The doors in dark gray lacquer finish create a good contrast with the wood and reflect the space.”
Take a virtual tour of the bedroom at Freshome.
A century ago, the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia and created the world’s first Marxist state.
The dramatic events of 1917 still reverberate.
But what legacy of the revolution can be seen in four cities in Vladimir Putin’s Russia?
The portrait with the holes
Soviet propaganda would portray what happened as a mass uprising of workers, peasants and soldiers who – led by the Bolsheviks – stormed the Winter Palace to seize power for the people.
That was the picture dutifully painted by Soviet cinema. A decade later, film-maker Sergei Eisenstein re-enacted the revolution for his epic entitled October.
Filmed on location at the Winter Palace, it depicted Red October as Russia’s Bastille moment, with thousands of people breaking down the gates of the palace and pouring inside. The cruiser Aurora was accorded a starring role – firing the shot that signalled the start of the uprising.
It was a magnificent spectacle. But it wasn’t true. The Winter Palace is widely believed to have suffered more damage from Eisenstein’s film crew than from the actual revolution.
In 1917 there was no dramatic storming of the Winter Palace. Most of the Red Guard revolutionaries who had got inside did so through an unlocked door.
As for claims of a mass uprising, this was fake news from the Bolsheviks. Red October was a coup. Vladimir Lenin’s party had seized power in Russia.
Its slogans, though, were attractive to people trapped in poverty: “Land to the peasants! Factories to the workers!”
American journalist John Reed witnessed the Bolshevik takeover of Russia. In his book Ten Days That Shook the World he described the chaos before the coup.
“The peasants… were burning manor houses and massacring landowners. Immense strikes and lock-outs convulsed Moscow, Odessa, and the coal mines of the Don. Transport was paralysed; the army was starving, and in the big cities there was no bread.”
But the revolution plunged Russia into the bloodiest period of its history. Civil war, world war, famine and Joseph Stalin’s Great Terror would claim tens of millions of lives.
“It is our historical fate,” Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky tells me of his country.
“We make experiments. We show how things shouldn’t be done. Just having a good goal or a good idea doesn’t mean the results will be good. We gave a lesson to the world.”
The Bolsheviks wanted to do more than just teach the world. They wanted to change it. They believed their coup would set the dominoes tumbling and spark a global uprising of workers.
“Proletarians of the world, unite!” was the rallying cry of communism.
The new world was to look very different. Portraits of tsars gave way to posters of factory workers. Newborn babies were given revolutionary first names, like “Barricade”, “Kim” (short for “Communist International of Youth”) and “Ninel” (“Lenin” backwards).
The new world would sound different, too.
In a tiny St Petersburg art studio, Petr Theremin demonstrates the exotic instrument his great-grandfather Leon invented soon after the revolution. Without touching it, Petr is producing haunting tones, simply by moving his hands up and down near two antennae. Invisible electromagnetic waves conjure up a sound reminiscent of a lilting voice or violin.
The theremin was one of the world’s first electronic instruments. The Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin was captivated by it. He enlisted the machine and its maker in his campaign to spread electricity across Russia. Lenin gave Theremin a free pass for the railways, so the inventor could display his masterpiece – and promote electrification – across the country.
Read more at BBC.
In Washington, Luigi Di Maio stood out. Trim and clean-shaven, the Italian politician is a generation younger than most of the members of Congress that he met this week. But if the seemingly improbable occurs and Di Maio’s once-renegade Five Star Movement emerges victorious in Italy’s general election in March, the 31-year-old may join the growing list of youthful European statesmen as Italy’s next prime minister.
In France, 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron shook up the political system by siphoning votes from both the left and right into a new centrist political juggernaut. In Austria, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz is poised to form a conservative coalition under his rule.
“Now is the moment of young people in Europe,” Di Maio told Today’s WorldView in Washington this week. “The entire political class is getting younger and younger.”
But few stories of political ascension are quite as striking as his. Di Maio, who grew up in the corruption-blighted environs of Naples, is a university dropout and has never held a job as a professional. Numerous headlines in international newspapers describe him as a “former waiter.” He rose to attention only through his activism and blogging on behalf of the Five Star Movement, a protest organization founded less than a decade ago by irreverent comedian Beppe Grillo.
In 2013, the fledgling party capitalized on widespread disenchantment with the status quo in Italy and won close to 9 million votes in that year’s elections — a staggering result that shook up the country’s political landscape. Through the movement’s unorthodox system of online primaries, then-26-year-old Di Maio became the vice president of the lower house of Italy’s Parliament, the youngest person to hold the post.
In the years since, the Five Star Movement has jockeyed with the Italian establishment, bringing down the center-left government of former prime minister Matteo Renzi last December after opposing his push for sweeping constitutional reforms. It’s also vying against a resurgent right, with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — yes, the man behind the “bunga bunga” parties and myriad other scandals — at the helm of a coalition of right-wing parties.
In September, with Grillo’s blessing and the support of other power brokers within the movement, Di Maio won leadership of the party in another online primary. Il Fatto Quotidiano, a daily newspaper, pointed to the online vote as “proof of the eternal immaturity, incompetence, inexperience and thrown-together nature of a movement that is getting bigger but not growing up.”
But to Di Maio and his allies, everything the Five Star Movement does presents a clear challenge to all that preceded their arrival on the political stage.
Read more at the Washington Post.
KANSAS CITY, Missouri—It is strange, if a bit unsettling, to see U.S. Marshals constantly hovering near the U.S. secretary of education, a 59-year-old evangelical Christian grandmother whose hobbies are bike riding, yoga and visiting grade schools. But as Betsy DeVos approached Kansas City Academy on a sunny Friday morning in mid-September, it was clear why she wants them there.
It was the final day of her “Rethink School” tour, the familiar fly-around trip taken by a Cabinet secretary to capture some local news coverage and emphasize priorities—in DeVos’ case, to highlight unique and innovative learning environments across the country. But at this particular stop, tension filled the air. Several hundred protesters gathered outside—vastly outnumbering the 76 students, grades 6 through 12, who attend the school—while a procession of speakers denounced DeVos as a destroyer of public education and an enabler of campus rape.
This was not an atypical reception for the billionaire school-choice advocate, who was loathed by the organized left well before President-elect Donald Trump tapped her for a Cabinet post. Inside the modest brick building, however, DeVos encountered something different: walls covered with artwork, designed by the students just for her visit, celebrating equality and civil rights. The school, home to exceptionally gifted kids, is an achievement in social progressivism; many of the students identify as LGBT or are questioning their gender identities, and the culture is one of tolerance. This is why DeVos was welcomed over the objections of some faculty and parents: as a symbol of acceptance. But her visit wasn’t an olive branch to the far left of the academic spectrum; it was an occasion to use what she calls her “bully pulpit,” drawing attention to a private school that is inventive and dynamic, while not-so-subtly contrasting it with local public schools that are not.
Sitting in a second-floor classroom, fielding questions from a dozen students, DeVos likely didn’t win over any of her critics. Asked about the fate of a hypothetical underperforming public school, she said, “The school won’t be able to survive. … Just like we see in lots of other parts of our world, if people don’t choose something, it can’t continue to stay in business.” But for those listening closely, some of the secretary’s answers might have provided relief. The most revelatory exchange came when Kory Gallagher, Kansas City Academy’s principal and government teacher, asked DeVos to explain what her job actually entails. “The Department of Education is there to carry out the laws that are passed by Congress,” she said. “And I think, really key, is that we remember what our role is and not confuse it with the role of Congress—which is to make and pass laws.”
Read more at Politico.
(CNN) — Eight people — six foreign tourists and two Americans — were killed Tuesday in the deadliest terror attack that New Yorkers have seen since 9/11.
A man drove a rented pickup truck down a crowded bike path near the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, crushing and striking cyclists and pedestrians. In addition to those killed, about a dozen people were hurt.
Here’s what we know about those killed:
The 23-year-old software developer had recently started his first job out of school, one of his friends told CNN affiliate WABC.
“He was a really, really kind, not heartless, intelligent and curious person. We always had conversations about what he was studying at school,” Bahji Chancey told WABC.
Cleves recently graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. The college said in a statement that Cleves also worked as an analyst and web developer.
“An incident of terrorism that takes the lives of innocent people anywhere in the world touches each of us in our fundamental humanity,” the statement said. “But the effect is more pronounced — and far more personal — when our community is directly linked to such a horrendous event.”
Cleves grew up biking around the city and would bike everywhere around town, Chancey said.
Read more at CNN.
One Friday morning in January 2017, a crowd gathered along the beach fringing Cox’s Bazar, a port town in southern Bangladesh. Old men wearing panjabi robes stroked their beards. Pot-bellied middle-aged men pushed their sunglasses up onto their foreheads. Boys took off their skullcaps, scratching their heads. They all stared at a bizarre sight: the Bangladesh Girls and Boys Surf Club.
Nine girls and 13 boys stood at parade attention, propping up foam-top surfboards. The equipment intrigued the onlookers, since surfing is almost unknown in Bangladesh. Despite the country’s lengthy coastline and the fact that 80% of the nation lies in a marshy floodplain, few Bangladeshis can swim and over 17,000 children drown annually.
But the girls were more startling to the crowd than the surfboards. As their uncovered ponytails blew freely in the wind, the male onlookers whispered and glared. Women are often cloistered in the conservative Islamic country. From their early teens, they are usually chaperoned by male relatives, and 74 percent are married by age 18, according to UNICEF. Few participate in sports. Wearing a headscarf or burqa is not legally required, but there are strong cultural pressures to do so, especially in backwaters like Cox’s Bazar.
The children focused on Rashed Alam, a muscular 28-year-old Bangladeshi lifeguard and the club’s founder, as he called forward two of the girls, Suma Atkar and Shumi Atkar (no relation), to demonstrate how to rescue a drowning victim. Suma, a 15-year-old with a knife-like scar dividing her right cheek, seemed to flinch from the attention, staring at her toes. Shumi, 13, reveled in it, smiling at everyone. They were next-door neighbors and best friends, and their sister-like solidarity ran deeper than their matching golden earrings, red lipstick, and orange-painted fingernails.
Suma swam through the breakers and splashed in simulated distress. Shumi paddled to her on a longboard, dragged her friend onto it, then surfed them both to shore. On the sand, Shumi pretended to give Suma CPR. Murmurs ran through the crowd at the sight of a girl in wet clingy clothes, almost kissing another girl. The men pressed forward.
Shumi snapped her hand, as if flicking water from her fingertips, and the crowd retreated, seemingly staggered by her forwardness.
The rest of the young surfers practiced while Rashed asked Suma and Shumi to instruct two 11-year-old girls. They were proud of their role as teachers. “Rescuing people makes me feel capable,” Suma told me. “In our culture, men always rescue the women,” Shumi added. “I feel good when I do this, because almost no woman rescues anyone.” The Surf Club was everything to them, they said. “It lets us be who we want to be when the world won’t,” Shuma said.
Read more at Elle.
A few days before the Supreme Court returned from its summer break, Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court’s newest member, attended a luncheon at the Trump International Hotel, where he was to give the keynote address. The location of the speech attracted the attention of dozens of protesters and a number of ethics watchdogs, who noted the apparent conflict of interest posed by Justice Gorsuch—a Trump nominee—keynoting an event at a hotel whose revenue goes in part to President Trump. That arrangement was bad enough on its own. But there was another potential conflict of interest created by Justice Gorsuch’s speaking engagement—and it highlights the ongoing ethical issues that threaten the credibility of our nation’s highest court.
The same morning that Justice Gorsuch gave his speech, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Janus v. AFSCME. This is a case that will determine whether public sector unions—which represent teachers, nurses, firefighters and police in states and cities across the country—can collect fees from all employees in the workplaces they represent. Justice Gorsuch is widely expected to deliver the court’s deciding vote to strip unions of this ability. A decision along these lines would seriously undercut workers’ freedom to have a real voice to speak out and fight for higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions.
Here’s the rub. Justice Gorsuch’s speech at the Trump hotel was hosted by the Fund for American Studies. And who funds the Fund of American Studies? The Charles Koch Foundation and the Bradley Foundation. The Charles Koch Foundation is dedicated to promoting limited government, free markets and weaker unions; and the Bradley Foundation has worked for decades to, in their own words, “reduce the size and power of public sector unions.” In fact, the Bradley Foundation helped pay the litigation expenses for Janus—the case in which Justice Gorsuch is likely to be the deciding vote. Think about that: Just as the ink was drying on the court’s announcement that it would hear Janus, Justice Gorsuch was off to hobnob with some of the biggest supporters for one side of this important case—the side that wants to deny workers the freedom to build a future that doesn’t hang by a thread at the whim of a few billionaires.
This isn’t the first time the Supreme Court has strayed over the ethical line. Take a look, for example, at ABC v. Aereo. The court concluded that Aereo, a small television streaming service, had violated the copyright of broadcasters by capturing signals from television stations and retransmitting programming from those stations to the company’s subscribers. Time Warner—one of the broadcasters who stood to lose if the court allowed the practice—filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the court should side with the broadcaster. At the time, Chief Justice John Roberts owned as much as $500,000 in Time Warner stock. Despite this blatant conflict of interest, Roberts would not recuse himself from the case. Instead, he joined the majority in effectively killing the small streaming service.
Read more at Politico.
The stench of dead flesh and discarded bones wafts through a chattering crowd dressed in sequins, wacky wigs and neon Lycra. It’s 7am, and hundreds of ticket holders are waiting near Brixton’s meat market to enter a “rooftop beach” venue in south London.
They’re here for the fourth birthday of Morning Gloryville, an event that pitches itself as “a non-alcoholic rave”. The crowd here includes everyone from young families to yuppies, Instagramming teens, and Ibiza casualties who have traded in booze and drugs for protein bars and bikram. The rave is held in a big open plan space, decked out with posters that read: “I am in charge of how I feel and today I’m choosing happiness”. As the morning unfolds, the scene becomes increasingly bizarre. Couples kiss as if it were New Year’s Eve; a grown woman holds a bucket and spade; there are impromptu yoga sessions, head massages, and a polyamorous collective appears, dressed as glittery unicorns. All the while, Fatboy Slim DJs in a Lucha libre mask.
Extroverts are everywhere, and I have the lurching feeling that if I lock eyes with anyone long enough they might rope me into something I don’t want to do: dancing on stage to Balearic house, for instance, while holding an inflatable slice of watermelon. Everyone is, of course, stone cold sober.
The heaving crowd is a sign of something bigger: the current appetite for combining music events and healthy living. Morning Gloryville was set up by Samantha Moyo who, having left hedonistic days behind her, wanted to keep seeking the communal thrills and escapism of raving. Her parties soon went from passion project to a fully functioning empire, often attracting big-name DJs who have abandoned the excessive lifestyle that can come with being a touring musician, including Roger Sanchez and Fatboy Slim.
The absence of bar profits might have represented an impossible financial hit for Moyo’s parties, had the stars not aligned in other areas. The popularity of the events has rocketed as the trend for clean living has grown – a trend that is captured on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, with images of Morning Gloryville’s parties spreading out across social media.
The unexpected relationship between clubbing and clean living has been building for a few years now. In 2014, for example, there was a craze for voga, a fitness class combining yoga and voguing. Then there is Ministry of Sound’s role. Eric Prydz’s notoriously raunchy aerobic video for the song Call On Me led to Ministry creating a series of wildly successful workout compilations, and this year it even opened its own workout space in south London, with a club-standard sound system. But the latest wave is more bohemian. It includes the club Awakening, a “conscious rave” where cacao and smoothies are served, there are classes in hip-hop hot yoga, and meditation sessions are accompanied by expert gong practitioner Mona Ruijs of Sound Interventions. In the last few weeks alone I have been alerted to an event that combines “guided group meditation” with “classic album listening parties”; a music festival that boasts a pop-up eco spa; another with a “deep listening, meditation and laughter” class; and an album by a singer who is also described as a “sound therapist”. The party picture website The Cobrasnake – once a photo stream of It girls and fashion freaks at clubs and gigs – recently turned its attention away from hedonism to concentrate instead on its Cobra Fitness hiking club.
Read more at The Guardian.
His father used to tell him that sitting in front of the computer, playing video games for hour after hour, was a waste of time.
So Cody Altman didn’t quite know what to think when a college from halfway across the country called to offer him a scholarship — for playing video games.
“Honestly,” he said, “I was skeptical.”
The young man from Anaheim changed his mind when he learned that Maryville University in St. Louis had an e-sports team with a coach, daily practices and league matches against other schools.
Two years later, Altman — who goes by “Walrus” in competition — found himself back in Southern California, seated with his teammates at a row of monitors on a high-tech stage, ready to do battle in the “League of Legends” college championship.
Several hundred fans came to watch, filling the stands, as Maryville faced the University of Toronto in the final match.
Players banged away at keyboards and chattered commands — “Go, go, go … hold … I’ve got two” — over bulky headsets. Above them, a giant screen showed the game action, with fantastical creatures flittering across a jungle landscape, hurling spears and bombs and shooting cannons.
“There’s the stun,” a play-by-play announcer bellowed. “There’s the CC chain coming out.”
Glitzy college tournaments represent the latest evidence that competitive gaming is big-time.
At the professional level, tournaments pay as much as $20 million in prize money, filling basketball arenas and drawing millions of viewers online. Team owners spend in excess of six figures to sign the best free-agent players.
But as e-sports continue to expand at a breakneck pace, they may have reached a wake-up moment.
“It’s this really interesting time where you have this industry that is growing but is still, at its core, made up of young gamers,” said Nick Geracie, who covers gaming for the HOWLA web site. “It’s like a boy trying to fit into a man’s body.”
Read more at LA Times.
1776 was an annus mirabilis for English and American prose, a year to compare with 1859 (Darwin’s On the Origin of Species; Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities; Mill’s On Liberty). In February, Gibbon published the first volume of his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; while in March a brilliant intellectual, a star of the Scottish Enlightenment, single-handedly invented the subject of modern political economy with An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations which swiftly became established in the minds of intelligent readers as The Wealth of Nations. When the first edition sold out in six months, the story went round that another celebrated Scot, the philosopher David Hume, was now joking that The Wealth of Nations probably required too much thought to be as popular as Gibbon’s Decline and Fall.
Gibbon, in fact, was full of generous praise for his rival. He wrote to the Scottish historian and philosopher Adam Ferguson: “What an excellent work is that with which our common friend Mr. Adam Smith has enriched the public! An extensive science in a single book, and the most profound ideas expressed in the most perspicuous language”.
Smith’s work, indeed, was every bit as singular as Gibbon’s. Although it provided a comprehensive and magisterial treatment of its subject, it was also a work of robust common sense, intelligible to any careful reader, braiding history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology in a compelling tapestry of theory and experience. Smith, writes one commentator, was concerned to improve “the human condition in practical ways for real people”. This was a book that had begun as a series of lectures delivered to audiences in Glasgow. Smith’s friend Hume, joking aside, declared that the book had “depth and solidity and acuteness, and is so much illustrated by curious facts, that it must at last take the public attention”.
Read more at The Guardian.
“I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of stories about very bad people,” says Los Angeles Times journalist Christopher Goffard, host of the newspaper’s first podcast, Dirty John. “I’ve been a reporter for 20 years … but there’s something about this guy, John Meehan, that chills me, that gets under my skin in a way that nobody else has.”
John Meehan first appeared on Goffard’s radar almost a year ago exactly, when he learned that police were investigating a possible murder in the sleepy nearby enclave of Newport Beach – coincidentally, the same Orange County suburb where Goffard got his start as a reporter for The Daily Pilot. The story piqued Goffard’s interest because, as he notes at the start of Dirty John, Newport Beach is not a city where a lot of murders happen. The early details were scant but strange; intrigued, Goffard began asking questions, and soon found himself unraveling a bizarre tale of deceit so compelling, it was quickly deemed “a natural candidate for our first really ambitious podcast.”
Goffard spent seven months reporting the story, and then another three months writing and recording with the podcast network Wondery, and writing an accompanying print feature for the Times. “It’s reinvigorated my love of storytelling in ways that I could not have expected,” Goffard says. “I think the structure of Dirty John owes a lot more to the stuff to the stuff I absorbed as a kid – like old time radio suspense dramas and anything with Orson Welles – than any of the current podcasts I enjoy.”
What began as an intriguing crime story “grew and grew,” Goffard says, to an “all-consuming” deep dive. “One success begets another, you know? One person opens up and that opens another door and that opens another door.” And with each open door, the more fascinating and disturbing Meehan became.
“I think it has to do with the complete concentrated malice that this guy exhibited, and the way that he seemed to have no pleasure in life other than to hurt people,” Goffard says about the podcast’s titular character. “It was as if he was finding victims and feeding them into the void where his soul ought to be, like a sacrifice to the volcano god, you know?”
Read more at Rolling Stone.
It was late summer, and the gray towers of the Salk Institute, in San Diego, shaded seamlessly into ocean fog. The austere, marble-paved central courtyard was silent and deserted. The south lawn, a peaceful retreat often used for Tai Chi and yoga classes, was likewise devoid of life, but through vents built into its concrete border one could detect a slight ammoniac whiff from more than two thousand cages of laboratory rodents below. In a teak-lined office overlooking the ocean, the biologist Ron Evans introduced me to two specimens: Couch Potato Mouse and Lance Armstrong Mouse.
Couch Potato Mouse had been raised to serve as a proxy for the average American. Its daily exercise was limited to an occasional waddle toward a bowl brimming with pellets of laboratory standard “Western Diet,” which consists almost entirely of fat and sugar and is said to taste like cookie dough. The mouse was lethargic, lolling in a fresh layer of bedding, rolls of fat visible beneath thinning, greasy-looking fur. Lance Armstrong Mouse had been raised under exactly the same conditions, yet, despite its poor diet and lack of exercise, it was lean and taut, its eyes and coat shiny as it snuffled around its cage. The secret to its healthy appearance and youthful energy, Evans explained, lay in a daily dose of GW501516: a drug that confers the beneficial effects of exercise without the need to move a muscle.
Exercise has its discomforts, after all: as we sat down to talk, Evans, a trim sixtysomething in a striped polo shirt, removed a knee brace from a coffee table, making room for a mug of peppermint tea; he was trying to soothe his stomach, having picked up a bug while hiking in the Andes. Evans began experimenting with 516, as the drug is commonly known, in 2007. He hoped that it might offer clues about how the genes that control human metabolism are switched on and off, a question that has occupied him for most of his career.
Mice love to run, Evans told me, and when he puts an exercise wheel in their cage they typically log several miles a night. These nocturnal drills are not simply a way of dealing with the stress of laboratory life, as scientists from Leiden University, in the Netherlands, demonstrated in a charming experiment conducted a few years ago. They left a small cagelike structure containing a training wheel in a quiet corner of an urban park, under the surveillance of a motion-activated night-vision camera. The resulting footage showed that the wheel was in near-constant use by wild mice. Despite the fact that their daily activities—foraging for food, searching for mates, avoiding predators—provided a more than adequate workout, the mice voluntarily chose to run, spending up to eighteen minutes at a time on the wheel, and returning for repeat sessions. (Several frogs and slugs also made use of the amenity, possibly by accident.)
Read more at The New Yorker.
On a wind-swept, frigid night in February 2009, a 37-year-old schoolteacher named Scott Nailor parked his rusted ’92 Toyota Tercel in the parking lot of a Fireside Inn in Auburn, Maine. He picked this spot to have a final reckoning with himself. He was going to end his life.
Beaten down after more than a decade of struggle with student debt, after years of taking false doors and slipping into various puddles of bureaucratic quicksand, he was giving up the fight. “This is it, I’m done,” he remembers thinking. “I sat there and just sort of felt like I’m going to take my life. I’m going to find a way to park this car in the garage, with it running or whatever.”
Nailor’s problems began at 19 years old, when he borrowed for tuition so that he could pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern Maine. He graduated summa cum laude four years later and immediately got a job in his field, as an English teacher.
But he graduated with $35,000 in debt, a big hill to climb on a part-time teacher’s $18,000 salary. He struggled with payments, and he and his wife then consolidated their student debt, which soon totaled more than $50,000. They declared bankruptcy and defaulted on the loans. From there he found himself in a loan “rehabilitation” program that added to his overall balance. “That’s when the noose began to tighten,” he says.
The collectors called day and night, at work and at home. “In the middle of class too, while I was teaching,” he says. He ended up in another rehabilitation program that put him on a road toward an essentially endless cycle of rising payments. Today, he pays $471 a month toward “rehabilitation,” and, like countless other borrowers, he pays nothing at all toward his real debt, which he now calculates would cost more than $100,000 to extinguish. “Not one dollar of it goes to principal,” says Nailor. “I will never be able to pay it off. My only hope to escape from this crushing debt is to die.”
After repeated phone calls with lending agencies about his ever-rising interest payments, Nailor now believes things will only get worse with time. “At this rate, I may easily break $1 million in debt before I retire from teaching,” he says.
Nailor had more than once reached the stage in his thoughts where he was thinking about how to physically pull off his suicide. “I’d been there before, that just was the worst of it,” he says. “It scared me, bad.”
He had a young son and a younger daughter, but Nailor had been so broken by the experience of financial failure that he managed to convince himself they would be better off without him. What saved him is that he called his wife to say goodbye. “I don’t know why I called my wife. I’m glad I did,” he says. “I just wanted her or someone to tell me to pick it up, keep fighting, it’s going to be all right. And she did.”
From that moment, Nailor managed to focus on his family. Still, the core problem – the spiraling debt that has taken over his life, as it has for millions of other Americans – remains.
Read more at Rolling Stone.
The iPhone X is the best phone of all time. Having spent little over 24 hours with the handset, critics are claiming that it “changes everything” and is “clearly the best iPhone ever made”.
Reading most iPhone X reviews is an ordeal. Join us as we take the pain away.
“Waking the phone snaps me back to the present,” writes Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff. “I’m suddenly unmoored as my eyes dart across the nearly unblemished Super Retina OLED screen, searching desperately for the home button.” Except, of course, there is no home button.
Ulanoff refers to the notch atop the X as a “peninsula of darkness”, though later posits that there is “no other way to describe the black area” other than “the notch”. Writing for Forbes, David Phelan describes how apps move around the notch as “like spilt paint gently filling in the gaps between floorboards”.
The Verge’s Nilay Patel argues that the X is “clearly the best iPhone ever made”, which has “ambitious ideas about what cameras on phones can be used for” – such as scanning your face. “I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it drastically redefines the iPhone as we know it,” writes Engadget’s Chris Velazco. The screen is “subdued and natural” and the phone, overall, “doesn’t feel foreign at all”. But, he notes, “Apple is changing what it means for an iPhone to be an iPhone”.
Seemingly unafraid of hyperbole, Ulanoff claims that “everything the iPhone X is serves as a roadmap for future iPhones”. For TechCrunch, reviewer Matthew Panzarino, the X is “like using the future of smartphones, today”. As for Face ID, Ulanof describes it as “a journey, and you need to be ready for it”.
At Business Insider, Steve Kovach explains that having spent 18 hours with a phone he hasn’t paid for, he is “already sold”. The X has also caused a minor beard-shearing epidemic amongst the technology press, with correspondents at Business Insider, CNET and USA Today all shaving off their facial hair to try and trick Apple’s Face ID system. Spoiler: Face ID doesn’t ID you using your beard.
On iMore, Rene Ritchie explains he’s spent “the better part of one day” with the X and has been “smiling the whole time”. A worrying state of affairs. It is also “the best damn product Apple has ever made” – a point hammered home not once, not twice, but thrice.
Read more at Wired.
WEST CHESTER, Ohio—He swings the golf club like a right-hander, which he is, but putts as a southpaw. Maybe it’s a metaphor for a conservative politician who often turned to liberals in crunch time, but I’m too busy losing $20 on this hole to appreciate it. We’re on the green now, surveying his 10-foot par attempt, a modest breeze transporting his tobacco cologne. With a posture as unique as his personality—back hunched over nearly parallel to the turf, left shoulder dipped well below the right, fingers interlocked around a grip of blue rubber—he gazes downward and shuffles his feet. The veins are still dancing in his muscular, leathery legs as the blade retreats from the ball, and it’s apparent within moments of their reunion that something isn’t right. As the Titleist Pro V1 finds its resting place, several feet shy and slightly west of its final destination, he can’t mask his frustration. “Nice one, Boner,” he mutters.
To play golf with John Boehner is to learn there are unwritten rules governing the use of the word Boner. When spoken by his close friends—“Thatta boy, Boner!”—it’s almost always to congratulate him on a good shot. When the former U.S. House speaker uses it—“Aww, Jee-sus, Boner!”—it’s almost always to rebuke himself for a bad one. Today he is saying it with ruinous frequency.
We’re on Boehner’s home course, the Wetherington Golf and Country Club, on a Monday afternoon in early June. Tucked away in West Chester, Ohio—an affluent enclave of suburban Cincinnati, part of his old district—the club is hosting a charity fundraiser, dubbed the “Boehner Classic,” benefiting a nearby Boys & Girls Club. The former speaker is one of two star attractions; the other is his friend, the professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, a character known more for his off-color jokes than his two major championships. With wealthy donors ponying up to play alongside them—but some of his old buddies also in town—Boehner decides to form a group of nine players, myself and Zoeller included, and creates a team scramble that pits five golfers against the other four.
But something isn’t right with the former speaker’s game. Long considered one of Washington’s finest golfers, he is spraying shots left and right with choppy, self-doubting swings. Sensing my surprise, Boehner says his handicap has skyrocketed since leaving Congress two years ago. After he misses that 10-foot putt, and we climb into our cart, I ask why. “You have to concentrate while you hit the ball,” he tells me. “That’s my biggest problem in golf these days. I just can’t concentrate. I could always concentrate on what I had to do. But these days … ” Boehner pauses for several seconds, then pulls hard on the Camel 99 wedged between his knuckles. “I just can’t concentrate.”
Read more at Politico.
Perhaps no other company in history has sold so many different products (354 million) while competing against so many other companies (hundreds). In the past, that power hasn’t lasted. Amazon is betting it will be different.
Amazon today is a retailer, a logistics network, a book publisher, a movie studio, a fashion designer, a hardware maker, a cloud services provider, and far, far more. The private equity firm Pitchbook estimates the company Jeff Bezos founded in 1994 competes head-to-head with at least 129 major corporations just in major markets. That number grows higher as it adds new business units such as fashion, food, and analytics.
The company so far has escaped serious antitrust scrutiny by US regulators in part because it can point to so many commercial adversaries with a piece of the market. Even in its primary business—e-commerce—Amazon only took in 23% of the $395 billion Americans spent online last year, and far less when that spending is broken down into individual markets. The one exception is books, where it controls about 65% of the e-book market.
But Amazon’s unprecedented logistics and delivery infrastructure, paired with access to personal data about Americans’ purchasing habits, means it is unique in the history of global commerce. No company has ever wielded this combination of consumer insight and infrastructure, say historians and legal analysts, which means the company grows stronger and less assailable with every purchase.
The seed of Bezos’s vision of a store that could sell everything was planted long ago. Bezos told shareholders (pdf) in 1998 that Amazon “may make decisions and weigh tradeoff differently than some companies…At this stage, we choose to prioritize growth because we believe that scale is central to achieving the potential of our business model.” Not much has changed. This year’s $13.7 billion Whole Foods acquisition, and Bezos’s personal purchase of The Washington Post in 2016, are merely stepping stones in Bezos’ globe-spanning ambitions.
Regulators are starting to size up whether Amazon is on the verge of becoming a monopoly. Amazon may find it doesn’t like the answer.
Read more at Quartz.
Bestselling author and Wharton professor Adam Grant has spent years researching and interviewing originals. There’s the seasoned chief executive who cusses freely and challenges candidates to apply for jobs by tweeting at her. Or the author who tackles weighty topics like artificial intelligence and virtual reality with stick figure illustrations. And the former spy who founded an airline and is betting on Utah as the next big tech hub. In Originals, Grant shows how to identify, foster, and nurture nonconformists—here he expounds on how to recognize and recruit them in a startup setting.
As a former magician and Junior Olympic springboard diver, Grant is in the company of the curious, versatile brethren he’s profiled. But for those seeking conventional curriculum vitae, he’s got that in spades, too. Grant is perennially recognized as Wharton’s top-rated professor and has been named one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers. He’s spoken to and consulted with a range of organizations, from Google to Johnson & Johnson and from Pixar to the US Army. A prolific writer, Grant is the author of Give and Take, an active blogger, and a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times.
In this interview, Grant explains why it’s imperative for early-stage companies to hire originals. He shares how he singles them out and delves into recommended questions and exercises that can help startups find and hire them.
The case to hire originals at startups
The initial act of founding a company is an expression of nonconformity. They must eventually convince others to join them, internalize that vision and will it into reality. But isn’t it counterintuitive to bring other originals—who may buck their ideas—into the fold?
“It’s true that every leader needs followers. We can’t all be nonconformists at every moment, but conformity is dangerous—especially for an entity in formation,” says Grant. “If you don’t hire originals, you run the risk of people disagreeing but not voicing their dissent. You want people who choose to follow because they genuinely believe in ideas, not because they’re afraid to be punished if they don’t. For startups, there’s so much pivoting that’s required that if you have a bunch of sheep, you’re in bad shape.”
Here’s more of Grant’s thinking on why it’s so essential to bring aboard originals early in the life of a company:
- To seed a resilient culture. By default, companies are built in the image of their founders, which is why it’s vital to proactively introduce diversity of thought. “A resilient culture has a certain amount of resistance embedded in it. Not too much to capsize it, but enough so that it doesn’t atrophy,” says Grant. “What happens when startups get successful and grow is that they become more and more vulnerable to the attraction-selection-attrition cycle, where people of the same stripes are increasingly drawn to the organization, chosen by it, and retained at it. The way to combat that homogeneity creep is to proactively infuse the culture with originals, who have the will and skill to think differently. It’ll put you in a much better position to continue innovating, not only on a product—or technology—level, but all the decisions that go into running a company.”
- To anticipate market movements. The more you can internally mirror the evolving market you’re aiming to change, the better you will manage it. “As mentioned, if you only hire people who fit your values and business model, you’re going to end up breeding groupthink and losing diversity of thought,” says Grant. “That’s a great way to ensure that you’ll be left in the dust as soon as your world changes around you, competitors enter the market, or new technologies develop. You need originals to keep bringing fresh ideas that can challenge your current business model, your assumptions and your principles. That accelerates your ability to adapt to—or better yet, initiate—change, as opposed to getting caught by surprise.”
- To repurpose dissent. From the company name to a go-to-market plan, the early stages of a startup are rife with big decisions. A diversity of thought on the way forward will mean some ideas will get scrapped. The key is to not let the owners of those ideas get left behind, too. “After Toy Story, Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull was worried that the animation studio would start following a predictable formula to get its big wins. So as not to lose its originality, he brought in outside director Brad Bird. Bird convened all the disgruntled Pixar employees—the ones who are always whining and complaining,” says Grant. “Instead of ushering them to the door, Bird’s instinct was that they’d be so dissatisfied that they’d think in new ways and try ideas that hadn’t been considered. He supplied a tiny budget and set them free. The result was a new illustration technique that’d keep Pixar’s standard, but could be executed more quickly and at a fraction of the cost. The proof in the pudding was one of Pixar’s blockbuster hits: The Incredibles.”
Read more at Quartz.
TOKYO – The car industry is a stark example of the disparity of the sexes.
Business Insider was at the opening of the 45th Tokyo Motor Show last week and for the most part, it was a sea of men in dark suits talking about the industry (yes, we plead guilty to complicity in that scenario).
It’s a strange disconnect when women are intimately involved in decisions about what car to buy. In the US, they’re a clear majority with women buying 65% of new vehicles and involved in 85% of decisions.
In Australia, 45% of new cars sold go to women and they’re involved in 82% of all decisions. They make their own choice on 47% of purchases.
Yet the industry itself is dominated by men, with women making up an estimated 17% of car industry jobs, with representation at executive level even lower.
Those figures are what made the Mercedes-Benz media presentation at the Tokyo Motor Show stand out.
After a brief introduction from Mercedes-Benz Japan president and CEO Kintaro Ueno, he handed the floor to Daimler AG board member Britta Seeger, who’s responsible for sales.
She presented the GLC F-Cell, the Mercedes plug-in hybrid SUV that combines a hydrogen fuel-cell with lithium-ion battery for electric charging.
After her short pitch she passed the baton to Dr. Annette Winkler, head of Smart, the mini electric car spinoff, to unveil the “EQ fortwo”, a two-seat driverless ride-sharing vehicle, as the company’s vision for the future.
The fourth presenter was Eva Wiese, Mercedes-AMG director branding & marketing, with the jaw-dropping Project One, a two-seater hybrid super sports car that will punch out 1000hp, with a top speed of 350km/h, thanks to an F1 plug-in drive that combines the turbocharged internal combustion engine with four electric motors.
It was a smart and seamless presentation from Mercedes-Benz and the three women not only stood out for their intelligence and enthusiasm, the way they delivered it emphasised collaboration and innovation, positioning the company not only as a manufacturer looking to the technological future, but also demonstrating an intimate understanding of who they’re selling their story to – the customer.
Which in majority of instances, means a woman.
Read more at Business Insider.
We’re all only about ten years away from sauntering into stores, grabbing whatever it is we want, then quick-stepping out like we stole it.
It’ll be possible because many shops will be ringed with machine vision-enabling cameras and sensors that keep tabs on what you take while inside and then charge it to the corresponding app as you leave. Analysts say the big shift is being ushered in by retailers trying to stave off the online shopping explosion. People tend to cite crowds and lines as reasons they avoid stores, so the hope is that tech will be the savior of the remaining brick and mortar mainstays. But while that checkout change might thrill some customers, it’ll also dramatically change employment for low-skilled retail jobs and comes with a host of privacy concerns.
“Consumers right now have been leaving stores, they’re shopping online a lot more,” said Yory Wurmser, a senior analyst at eMarketer. “And at the same time, the vast majority of shopping is still happening in stores, so there’s a need to stop hemorrhaging all this traffic.”
If machine vision checkout all seems too futurist to contemplate, there are already signs that the checkout lane change is headed our way. Online ordering juggernaut Amazon released a video last December of its surprise project, the Amazon Go store. In the video, beta-testing employees at the Seattle campus stroll inside a small grocery store, then let cameras, sensors, RFID tags and more work to associate people with their Amazon accounts. It charges the app as they walk back out.
The idea caught hold, but it’s also presumed to be quite expensive, since Amazon reportedly built sensors into the floor and walls to make the experience relatively seamless. Cheaper, “Amazon Lite” versions of this kind of tech are already popping up in various places around the world.
Read more at Engadget.
On May 1, 1886, in booming, industrial Chicago, at least 30,000 workers walked off the job in what would become one of the most famous rallies for a shorter workweek in America. The shutdown left the usually smoke-filled skies eerily clear. The “great refusal,” as it is sometimes known, ultimately resulted in a confrontation a few days later between police and protesters that left several people on both sides dead. In a courtroom spectacle, eight demonstrators were convicted of murder, and seven of those eight were sentenced to death. One killed himself in jail and four were hanged in public.
Still, protests continued, as did bloodshed, until the passing of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 enshrined the modern weekend for all workers. Americans had finally achieved the promise of an eight-hour day and 40-hour workweek, a buttress against the Industrial Revolution’s crippling workload.
Less than a century later, however, the weekend has been eroded by overbooked schedules, pinging devices and encroaching work demands. It took decades for American workers to wrest a precious fraction of their week’s hours away from the iron grip of the factory boss. Yet for many of today’s workers, the concept of 48 work-free hours is an anachronism. The weekend as it was originally envisioned is being lost.
Importantly, while the weekend is a relatively new invention, the five-day workweek was not a solely altruistic creation. Henry Ford was an early adopter of the five-day workweek after realizing that a weekend could both keep workers happy and give them an incentive to spend — which might make him even more money. “People who have more leisure must have more clothes,” he said. “They eat a greater variety of food. They require more transportation in vehicles.”
Read more at NBC.
Exactly 500 years ago, on October 31, Martin Luther posted the “95 Theses,” a.k.a. the Disputation on the Power of Indulgences, on the door of Württemberg Cathedral, commencing the Protestant Reformation. And 100 years ago, on November 7, Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd, inaugurating the first communist regime.
These were watershed moments for capitalism, which most people may not like, but they do accord it grudging respect.
Technically, capitalism predated the Protestant Reformation, and Luther himself didn’t have much to say about business and economics. He was more concerned with salvation than stock options.
As for the Russian Revolution, it was supposed to mark the end of the end of the capitalist era. But a century later, you can shop for jewelry at a Cartier shop or a handbag at Hermes only a few tens of meters from Lenin’s own tomb. It wasn’t capitalism that he buried.
Nevertheless, the German scholar Max Weber got it right when he detected the roots of capitalism in the rise of Protestantism. In his path-breaking book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” (1905), Weber says that Luther started Europe down the road of capitalism when he extracted personal salvation from the supernatural world of sacraments and papal indulgences, and made it the personal business of each Christian. Your place in heaven now hinged on your personal faith.
But how could you know for sure you weren’t slated for damnation, especially after John Calvin averred that faith alone wasn’t sufficient, and insisted that salvation or damnation was predestined?
Calvinists and other Protestants answered that you should live like you were confident of being on the road to salvation by, among other things, working hard and disdaining luxury. Labor and enterprise became religious values, not something you did just to sustain yourself until heaven snatched you up.
The catch was that all the money that came from hard work and enterprise couldn’t be endlessly stuffed into a mattress. It had to go somewhere and that ended up being in investing in new enterprises, hence the rise of business and industry and with it continuous economic growth.
Read more at Good King News.
Jenna Abrams had a lot of enemies on Twitter, but she was a very good friend to viral content writers across the world.
Her opinions about everything from manspreading on the subway to Rachel Dolezal to ballistic missiles still linger on news sites all over the web.
One website devoted an entire article to Abrams’ tweet about Kim Kardashian’s clothes. The story was titled “This Tweeter’s PERFECT Response to Kim K’s Naked Selfie Will Crack You Up.”
“Thank goodness, then, that there are people like Twitter user Jenna Abrams to come to the celebrity’s wardrobe-lacking aide,” reads a Brit & Co. article from March of 2016.
Those same users who followed @Jenn_Abrams for her perfect Kim Kardashian jokes would be blasted with her shoddily punctuated ideas on slavery and segregation just one month later.
“To those people, who hate the Confederate flag. Did you know that the flag and the war wasn’t about slavery, it was all about money,” Abrams’ account tweeted in April of last year.
The tweet went viral, earning heaps of ridicule from journalists, historians, and celebrities alike, then calls for support from far-right users coming to her defense.
That was the plan all along.
Congressional investigators working with social-media companies have since confirmed that Abrams wasn’t who she said she was.
Her account was the creation of employees at the Internet Research Agency, or the Russian government-funded “troll farm,” in St. Petersburg.
Jenna Abrams, the freewheeling American blogger who believed in a return to segregation and said that many of America’s problems stemmed from PC culture run amok, did not exist.
But Abrams got very real attention from almost any national news outlet you can think of, according to a Daily Beast analysis of her online footprint.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
I remember what he smelled like.
Cigarettes and dirt. Kind of metallic, too.
He was a construction worker and he smoked. You can’t really wash those smells off.
My family was close. I used to sleep over at relatives’ houses all the time. He lived in one of the houses I slept at the most. There was a big couch in the living room and a smaller loveseat under a window that looked out on the front lawn. I’d stay up late, watching TV on the couch after everyone went to sleep. That’s also where I slept — there wasn’t a guest bed or bedroom. I was a shy nine-year-old, with a long, lanky body and a head that felt too big. I didn’t fit on the loveseat.
I’d flip through the channels, wide-awake, under a big blanket.
I wasn’t always alone. Sometimes there’d be someone else asleep on the loveseat. But I was always the only one awake when it happened.
I’d hear his footsteps coming down the stairs.
He’d sit down next to me, pretending to watch TV. Sometimes, he never went upstairs to sleep and just waited on the couch.
I knew what was coming next.
I don’t know how to say this part. I haven’t told many people. I’m not the most vulnerable person — I don’t talk about my feelings much — so this is uncomfortable.
Read more at The Players Tribune.
People in the United States will feel a bit more rested on November 5, as daylight saving time 2017 comes to an end. The clocks fall back at 1 a.m. local time that Sunday, ensuring another precious hour of sleep and a corresponding extra hour of daylight during common working hours.
You’ve probably heard that Ben Franklin kind of proposed daylight saving time (also erroneously called daylight savings time) centuries before it was implemented, and that the twice-yearly switch was initially adopted to save us money on energy needs.
But if you dig deeper, you’ll find out that the daylight-hoarding tradition has an even more colorful history, affecting international relations, creating nested time zones, and potentially influencing your health.
Here are a few of the lesser-known facts about daylight saving time.
Thrift Wasn’t the Only Reason for Saving Daylight
In 1895, George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand, came up with the modern concept of daylight saving time. He proposed a two-hour time shift so he’d have more after-work hours of sunshine to go bug hunting in the summer.
Seven years later, British builder William Willett (the great-great grandfather of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin) independently hit on the idea while out horseback riding. He proposed it to England’s Parliament as a way to prevent the nation from wasting daylight. His idea was championed by Winston Churchill and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—but was initially rejected by the British government. Willett kept arguing for the concept up until his death in 1915.
In 1916, two years into World War I, the German government started brainstorming ways to save energy. “They remembered Willett’s idea of moving the clock forward and thus having more daylight during working hours,” explains David Prerau, author of Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. “While the British were talking about it year after year, the Germans decided to do it more or less by fiat.”
Soon, England and almost every other country that fought in World War I—including the United States—followed suit. In those days, coal power was king, so people really did save energy (and thus contribute to the war effort) by changing their clocks.
Read more at National Geographic.
After 5½ months of speculation, anticipation and, in some cases, dread, Americans on Monday learned of the first charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign. Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman and a longtime Republican strategist, along with Rick Gates, Manafort’s business associate and deputy on the Trump campaign, were indicted on 12 counts, including money laundering, operating as unregistered foreign agents, failing to disclose overseas bank accounts and making false statements to federal authorities. (The two men pleaded not guilty on Monday afternoon.) Separately, Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his interactions with a professor with ties to the Russian government.
What does all this mean for Mueller’s ongoing investigation—and for President Trump himself, who has called the probe a “witch hunt”? What’s more significant: Manafort’s and Gates’ charges or Papadopoulos’ plea? And who might be Mueller’s next target? We asked legal experts—former federal prosecutors, law professors, practicing attorneys—to consider what Monday’s developments portend, and while all said the president is so far in the clear, many suggested Mueller’s probe could close in further on his inner circle.
Everyone who sails into Trump’s orbit eventually gets burned. Today it is Manafort and his colleague Gates. If the Manafort allegations are true, he and Gates engaged in an extensive scheme to launder Ukrainian money and avoid taxes. And possibly none of it would have come to light if Manafort had never gone to work for Trump’s campaign.
Now the game changes in two ways. First, all eyes will be on Manafort. Will he cooperate with the investigation? Or will he hold out hope of a presidential pardon? If he were to choose to cooperate, the special counsel would now have the testimony of a Trump campaign insider, and that would be the quickest way possible to get to the bottom of what (if anything) happened during the election cycle involving Russian interference and allegations of cooperation.
Second, the Papadopoulos charges make it clear that the collusion investigation has potential substance. Although Papadopoulos appears to be a relatively minor player, the charges are littered with references to senior campaign officials, whose identities are obviously known to the special counsel. They, in turn, are now also subjects of his investigation.
In short, the game has just begun. Don’t expect a resolution anytime soon—this is just the bottom of the second inning in a long game.
Read more at Politico.
The other day, I had a foie gras hot dog,” says Jimmy Kimmel, dressed in a gray hoodie and baggy jeans, sitting in a makeshift office at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where he was hosting a week of his namesake show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! “That might sound gross, but it was the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten,” he raves. “A foie gras hot dog. That’s me in a nutshell right there.” At least it was until a couple months ago, when, spurred by his newborn son’s congenital heart defect, he began laying into Republicans for their attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and, in the process, became an enemy to some on the right and an unlikely hero to many on the left. Those partisan feelings only intensified when, in the wake of the mass shooting in his hometown of Las Vegas, Kimmel tearfully admonished Washington for failing to take any meaningful action on gun control. It was a moment that recalled Walter Cronkite speaking out against the Vietnam War. In the space of six weeks, this seemingly apolitical 49-year-old comedian, who, since his show debuted in 2003, has done exceptionally well by coming across as late-night’s unexceptional guy, had transformed himself into a riveting teller of truths — with the ratings bump to match. “I never wanted to come on too strong politically,” Kimmel says. “I never wanted to preach to the choir.” Yet here he is, talking about not just his politicization and whether the Trump era has changed late-night TV forever but other, crucial things, like loopholes in vanity-license-plate laws and why now’s the right time for a Man Show reboot.
We’re in this moment where it’s expected that people with your job — late-night-talk-show hosts — be part of the political conversation. Do you think in the future there will still be the Jimmy Fallons, the Jay Lenos, the hosts who are just like, “Sorry, talking politics is not my thing”?
I never really thought about it that way. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we’ll never go back. Maybe the days of fun are over, but I like to think that they aren’t. I don’t think politics affect daytime television. Ellen DeGeneres is doing pretty well without talking about a lot of this stuff, for example. I just think that for me personally, it so happened that my son had a heart operation, and then my hometown got attacked. So that’s what prompted me to speak out in a way that a lot of people noticed, but the truth of the matter is, we have been talking about politics for a very long time. I mean, with the exception of one show that I declared a “No-Trump Tuesday,” there wasn’t one night of the year leading up to the election where we didn’t talk about politics. So, for me, it’s always just a matter of what people are talking about and commenting on and what’s going on in the news.
Read more at Vulture.
In the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a massive post-military industrial compound of warehouses converted into creative offices and bespoke manufacturing operations, there is a factory that builds houses. It’s a long, cavernous 100,000-square-foot warehouse with a string of workstations for welding together steel-trussed wall panels, threading them with electrical wiring and plumbing, and finishing them off with drywall and window sashes. Stacks of plywood and steel beams fill large racks next to industrial-sized spools of plastic conduit. It’s a construction site gone linear.
Not long ago this factory was used to fabricate the 930 steel-frame modules that were stacked and interconnected to create 461 Dean, a 32-story, 363-unit residential building that opened in 2016 adjacent to the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn. It’s considered the world’s tallest building built through modular construction, a form of off-site construction that uses nearly finished sections of rooms and units that are built in a factory and snapped together at the construction site. Originally, 461 Dean was supposed to be one of 15 modular buildings in the 22-acre Pacific Park megaproject, but conflict between the developer, Forest City Ratner, and its construction partner, Skanska, stretched construction time to more than four years, wiping out the savings in cost and time and pushing the developer to fall back on conventional construction for the rest of the project. Immediately after construction on the building was finished, Forest City Ratner sold the factory and all its associated technology.
They didn’t have to look far for a buyer. Roger Krulak was an executive at the company who led the Brooklyn project, and he thought the factory-based building approach could still work. The key was bringing the process under one roof—break down the lines between design, development, and construction, and the delays they saw on 461 Dean would disappear. “Complete inefficiency. That’s what’s wrong with construction,” says Krulak, a 25-year veteran of the industry, as he walks the factory floor.
Krulak became familiar with prefabrication while studying management in Japan in the 1990s, when he toured factories of some of the country’s major prefab homebuilders. Seeing how their systematized factory methods made construction faster, more resource-efficient, and potentially cheaper than conventional building, he knew he wanted to try to replicate Japan’s success back in the U.S. His company, Full Stack Modular, is now operational and focusing on 10- to 45-story buildings, with current projects ranging from a hotel to a mid-rise housing project in Brooklyn to an 11-story building in Manhattan. “We are trying to do it differently and we think we have the model to do it differently,” he says.
Differently for the U.S., at least. This approach to construction is becoming almost mainstream in many parts of the world—from Sweden to Germany to Australia. But the world leader in prefabricated housing is undoubtedly Japan. More than 15 percent of the nearly 1 million new homes and apartments built there last year were made inside factories, either as stackable modular blocks or panelized walls and floors pieced together on empty lots. Millions of buildings now standing in Japan were prefabricated, and several Japanese companies regularly produce more than 10,000 new prefab homes every year. “They’re leap years ahead of where we’re at today,” Krulak says.
Read more at Curbed.
In Nov. 9, 2016, about 12 hours after Hillary Clinton conceded defeat to Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, convened a conference call with her fellow House Democrats. Most of them were still back home in their respective districts and still in shock. Not only would Trump be president, but the Senate remained in G.O.P. control, and — despite rosy predictions from Pelosi and her party’s pollsters — so did the House.
Several members on the call later told me they expected their leader to offer some show of contrition, an inventory of mistakes made or, at minimum, an acknowledgment that responsibility for the previous night’s disaster began at the top. Already, Trump’s sweep of what had for years been Democratic strongholds in the Rust Belt had led to a fast-congealing belief that the party had lost touch with white working-class voters.
But Pelosi sounded downright peppy on the call, noting a few vulnerable House seats that the Democrats had managed to hang onto. As for those working-class voters, “To say we don’t care about them is hard to believe,” Pelosi insisted, according to a transcript of the call I obtained. “I have to take issue and say I don’t think anybody was unaware of the anger.” The Democrats weren’t out of touch, she said. They just hadn’t made their case clearly enough to voters — or as she put it, “We have to get out there and say it in a different way.”
“It reminded me of that scene at the end of ‘Animal House,’ where Kevin Bacon is standing in the middle of all this chaos, screaming: ‘Remain calm! All is well!’ ” Scott Peters, a congressman from California who was on the call, told me. “After telling us before that we were going to pick up 20 seats, and we end up with six, underlaid with Clinton losing, I had no use for that kind of happy talk.” During and after Pelosi’s monologue, Democratic representatives who were listening texted and called one another incredulously, but Peters was one of the few who spoke up on the line. “I think we’re missing something,” he told Pelosi. “We’re just not hearing what’s on people’s minds.”
The discontent was palpable enough that two days after the conference call, Pelosi announced that leadership elections would be taking place less than a week later — leaving little time for a revolt to build, which some members I spoke to suspected was the point. By that time, one of Pelosi’s House allies, Doris Matsui of California, had already sent out an email to all the women in the Democratic House caucus, urging them to sign on to a letter of support for Pelosi as leader. Three second-term Democrats — Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Kathleen Rice of New York and Ruben Gallego of Arizona — wrote to Pelosi, urging her to delay the elections. Rice would later tell her colleagues in a closed-door meeting, according to notes that were taken by a participant: “Look, I know from losing the state attorney general race in 2010: Losing sucks. But you have to get up the next day and take responsibility for it, take a hard look at every decision your team made, figure out what went wrong and learn from it.”
Read more at The New York Times Magazine.
Just after dawn on a Monday morning in Ibiza, you will find Paris Hilton decked out in a shiny bathing suit, standing high above thousands of partiers at the mega-club Amnesia, spraying giant streams of foam onto the soaked masses below. She’s cheerily posing for pictures with fans, hangers-on and VIPs. She’s dancing exuberantly in heels, surrounded by bikini-clad models. As night turns to morning, the bubbly energy that cemented her as a fixture on the party circuit will never falter. As Hilton will be the first to tell you, she’s a professional. And this is her business.
“Inventing getting paid to party — I’m sorry, people want to hate on that? I think it’s pretty awesome,” Hilton said the day before, sipping rosé and reclining on a shady poolside couch at the Nobu Hotel on the famed Spanish vacation island. She may have risen to fame playing a simpleton on the reality series The Simple Life in 2003, but arriving at the place she is now — creator of a lucrative global business empire and reportedly the highest-paid female DJ in the world — has required brains far beyond what that caricature might have suggested she possesses.
Now 36, she is the master of an ever-expanding franchise that counts 23 perfumes, 19 product lines (including a new “Unicorn Mist” spray), over 45 stores, an upcoming app and VR project, one album and another forthcoming, not to mention her charity work to raise money for underprivileged children. She’s gone from heiress to a hotel fortune — her great-grandfather Conrad Hilton founded Hilton Hotels — to bonafide hotelier: she plans to open her second self-branded hotel site soon, after opening the Paris Beach Club residences in the Philippines in 2013. In fact, she insists, she’s barely taken a dollar from her family since flying the coop as a teenager.
And then there’s the DJ thing.
Despite what it might look like to skeptical onlookers — celebrity makes a foray into a glamorous side gig on a whim — Hilton’s career as a DJ is a relentless grind. She is on the road 250 days a year, she says, and makes sure her team books her until 4:00 a.m. whenever they can. “As a businesswoman, I want to get the biggest fee possible, so I want to go to the places where they have a budget and it’ll be worth my time,” she says. That’s why she’s spending Monday morning at the club for her weekly summer Foam and Diamonds Party. Amnesia is a regular gig: she’s been a resident summer DJ for five years running, putting on an eclectic set for two near-dawn hours every Sunday night.
This particular gig is something of a homecoming. Amnesia was the first big party Hilton ever checked out on the island, after tricking her father Richard into letting her and her sister Nicky jet off to Ibiza as teens. (They told him they were headed to Cannes.) She met the owner on that first night and says she knew even then that she would one day be behind the booth.
Read more at Time.
Russian accounts bought thousands of social media ads on hot-button U.S. issues ranging from Black Lives Matter to illegal immigration, according to a batch of the ads released Wednesday by members of the House intelligence panel.
Here is a sampling of ads purchased by Russian-linked accounts and aimed at U.S. Facebook and Instagram users:
Black Lives Matter
This ad features images of three African-Americans whose deaths — either from police shootings or while in police custody — inspired protests and called attention to the “Black Lives Matter” movement: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
Posted on: Facebook
Created: July 2015
Targeted: People ages 18 or older in Georgia, Maryland, Missouri or Virginia
Results: 201,428 impressions, 12,127 clicks
Ad spend: 53,425 rubles ($915)
Blue Lives Matter
An image of police saluting a fallen comrade and a flag-draped casket blames a “Black Lives Matter” activist for “another gruesome attack on police.” The fine print, however, describes a Boston “gun battle” in which officers were shot and critically injured — making it unclear whose funeral is being depicted. In any case, the ad warns that Hillary Clinton is “the main hardliner against cops” and says that “among all the candidates Donald Trump is the one and only who can defend the police from terrorists.”
Posted on: Facebook
Created: October 2016
Targeted: People age 18 or older who like the Facebook group “Being Patriotic”
Results: 3,362 impressions, 761 clicks
Ad spend: 500 rubles ($8.56)
‘Buff Bernie’ coloring book
This ad promoted a coloring book called “Buff Bernie,” filled with “very attractive doodles of Bernie Sanders in muscle poses.” It added that “I’ve recently heard some hateful comments from the Hillary supporters about Bernie Sanders and his supporters” — language aimed at stirring up the kinds of intra-party divisions that would later flare after the first release of Russian-hacked Democratic Party documents during the summer of 2016.
Posted on: LBGT United group on Facebook
Created: March 2016
Targeted: People ages 18 to 65+ in the United States who like “LGBT United”
Results: 848 impressions, 54 clicks
Ad spend: 111.49 rubles ($1.92)
Read more at Politico.
LOS ANGELES — How do you measure strength, as in the capacity of Houston Strong? Material strength, for example, can be defined as the ability to withstand an applied load without failure. It could be seen in the constellation of needle marks on the left thumb of shortstop Carlos Correa, who revealed only after the Astros won their first World Series Wednesday night that he had received pain-killing injections “every day” since he wrecked his thumb Oct. 14 in the postgame euphoria of his walkoff hit in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
“I look like a drug addict,” he joked. “My hand is just numb. I couldn’t feel anything for weeks. I couldn’t say anything, because I didn’t want the [other] teams to know.”
It was there in one of the most impressive postseason runs of all time, when Houston took out the three teams with the top payrolls in baseball, and climbed the financial ladder in proper order while doing so, from the Red Sox to the Yankees to the Dodgers.
It was there every time the Astros faced a must-win situation. In three elimination games, two against the Yankees and one in World Series Game 7 against the Dodgers, they never trailed while outscoring their would-be conquerors, 16–2.
Mostly, it was there in how they responded to Hurricane Harvey, the most severe rainfall event in recorded United States history that hit the Houston area hard in late August. The Astros gave Houston and Southeast Texas a diversion at the very least, and a source of community pride and healing at its best. After the deluge, the Astros went 18–3 at home, including 8–1 in the postseason, all the while dealing with their own worries.
Moments after the World Series, Houston manager A.J. Hinch revealed that when the storm hit as the team was on the road, second baseman Jose Altuve “came up to me and asked how long would he have to play like this”—with his family back in Houston, getting surrounded by water. They were safe, but scared.
Read more at Sports Illustrated.
Four decades ago, while working for Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), I had a hand in creating the Republican tax myth. Of course, it didn’t seem like a myth at that time — taxes were rising rapidly because of inflation and bracket creep, the top tax rate was 70 percent and the economy seemed trapped in stagflation with no way out. Tax cuts, at that time, were an appropriate remedy for the economy’s ills. By the time Ronald Reagan was president, Republican tax gospel went something like this:
- The tax system has an enormously powerful effect on economic growth and employment.
- High taxes and tax rates were largely responsible for stagflation in the 1970s.
- Reagan’s 1981 tax cut, which was based on a bill, co-sponsored by Kemp and Sen. William Roth (R-Del.), that I helped design, unleashed the American economy and led to an abundance of growth.
Based on this logic, tax cuts became the GOP’s go-to solution for nearly every economic problem. Extravagant claims are made for any proposed tax cut. Wednesday, President Trump argued that “our country and our economy cannot take off” without the kind of tax reform he proposes. Last week, Republican economist Arthur Laffer said, “If you cut that [corporate] tax rate to 15 percent, it will pay for itself many times over. … This will bring in probably $1.5 trillion net by itself.”
That’s wishful thinking. So is most Republican rhetoric around tax cutting. In reality, there’s no evidence that a tax cut now would spur growth.
Read more at The Washington Post.
House Republicans have finally released their tax package. But an unusual array of corporate interests — which typically ally with Republicans in major legislative battles — are siding against it in what could be an ominous development.
The prominent naysayers include the National Association of Realtors and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which immediately said they couldn’t support the overhaul that makes changes to both the individual and corporate side of the tax code. The National Association of Home Builders had already announced it’s opposition and vowed to fight the revamp with its considerable firepower. “We will do everything we can to defeat this thing,” said Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders, even before the plan made its debut to House Republicans this morning.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce praised the release of the bill, but said in a statement that “a lot of work needs to be done.” And The BUILD Coalition — which represents financial services companies, real-estate developers, and farm interests — has come out against the bill’s proposed limitation of the deduction for interest on business debt.
The biggest problem for Republicans appears to be the decision to halve — rather than keep entirely intact — the deduction for mortgage interest. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would reduce that deduction to homeowners with $500,000 mortgages instead of the $1 million mortgages that are currently allowed. Property tax deductions would now be capped at $10,000.
Moderate Republicans from high-cost states like New York and New Jersey had fiercely opposed any changes to the state-and-local tax deduction and early reports had thought the final product would potentially eliminate it. But that was not the case, provoking opposition from them as well.
Read more at the Washington Post.
Xi Jinping has heralded the dawn of a “new era” of Chinese politics and power at the start of a historic Communist party congress celebrating the end of his first term in office.
Speaking in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, at the start of the week-long 19th party congress, Xi told delegates that thanks to decades of “tireless struggle” China stood “tall and firm in the east”.
Now, Xi said, it was time for his nation to transform itself into “a mighty force” that could lead the world on political, economic, military and environmental issues.
“This is a new historic juncture in China’s development,” China’s 64-year-old leader declared in his bold 3hr 23 minute address outlining the party’s priorities for the next five years.
“The Chinese nation … has stood up, grown rich, and become strong – and it now embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation … It will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind.”
Xi warned that achieving what he has hailed the “China Dream” would be “no walk in the park”: “It will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there.”
“[But] our mission is a call to action … let us get behind the strong leadership of the party and engage in a tenacious struggle.”
Xi became the Communist party’s general secretary – and thus China’s leader – at the last party congress in 2012, and has since emerged as one of China’s most dominant rulers since Mao Zedong.
In the surprisingly long speech – titled “Secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” – Xi struck an upbeat tone that contrasted with the grey skies and drizzle outside.
“The Chinese nation is a great nation; it has been through hardships and adversity but remains indomitable. The Chinese people are a great people; they are industrious and brave and they never pause in pursuit of progress,” he said.
“The Communist party of China is a great party; it has the fight and mettle to win.”
Read more at The Guardian.
One of the most commonly taught stories American schoolchildren learn is that of Ragged Dick, Horatio Alger’s 19th-century tale of a poor, ambitious teenaged boy in New York City who works hard and eventually secures himself a respectable, middle-class life. This “rags to riches” tale embodies one of America’s most sacred narratives: that no matter who you are, what your parents do, or where you grow up, with enough education and hard work, you too can rise the economic ladder.
A body of research has since emerged to challenge this national story, casting the United States not as a meritocracy but as a country where castes are reinforced by factors like the race of one’s childhood neighbors and how unequally income is distributed throughout society. One such study was published in 2014, by a team of economists led by Stanford’s Raj Chetty. After analyzing federal income tax records for millions of Americans, and studying, for the first time, the direct relationship between a child’s earnings and that of their parents, they determined that the chances of a child growing up at the bottom of the national income distribution to ever one day reach the top actually varies greatly by geography. For example, they found that a poor child raised in San Jose, or Salt Lake City, has a much greater chance of reaching the top than a poor child raised in Baltimore, or Charlotte. They couldn’t say exactly why, but they concluded that five correlated factors—segregation, family structure, income inequality, local school quality, and social capital—were likely to make a difference. Their conclusion: America is land of opportunity for some. For others, much less so.
A new working paper authored by the UC Berkeley economist Jesse Rothstein builds on that research, in part by zeroing in on one of those five factors: schools. The idea that school quality would be an important element for intergenerational mobility—essentially a child’s likelihood that they will one day outearn their parents—seems intuitive: Leaders regularly stress that the best way to rise up the income ladder is to go to school, where one can learn the skills they need to succeed in a competitive, global economy. “In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education,” Barack Obama declared in his 2010 State of the Union address. Improving “skills and schools” is a benchmark of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s poverty-fighting agenda.
Indeed, this bipartisan education-and-poverty consensus has guided research and political efforts for decades. Broadly speaking, the idea is that if more kids graduate from high school, and achieve higher scores on standardized tests, then more young people are likely to go to college, and, in turn, land jobs that can secure them spots in the middle class.
Rothstein’s new work complicates this narrative. Using data from several national surveys, Rothstein sought to scrutinize Chetty’s team’s work—looking to further test their hypothesis that the quality of a child’s education has a significant impact on her ability to advance out of the social class into which she was born.
Read more at The Atlantic.
United Airlines is a giant company. It earns billions every year, operates more than 4,500 flights every day, and shuttled upwards of 143 million people through the air in 2016.
But it only took one customer and a video that raced across the internet to send the company into turmoil. The footage of a security officer violently dragging passenger David Dao from his seat on an overbooked flight quickly shaved $1 billion from United’s market value and prompted CEO Oscar Munoz to adopt numerous policy changes on how the company deals with customers and overbooked flights.
With work, United has since bounced back, but the incident illustrates a vital point corporations everywhere would do well to keep in mind. The balance of power between companies and their customers is rapidly shifting in favor of the customers. As A.T. Kearney, a global consulting firm, explains in a new report, brands no longer have the same control they used to over the flow of information, which means they no longer get to dictate how, when, and sometimes even where customers buy whatever it is they’re selling. At the same time, customers are increasingly buying based on values—not just value—and their trust in corporations is eroding.
For its new report, titled “America’s Next Commercial Revolution: Influence vs. Affluence,” A.T. Kearney examined demographic, economic, and technological trends to predict how US buying behavior will change over the next 10 years. (The firm also released a global version based on surveys with more than 7,000 consumers across seven countries.) The main finding was that a “perfect storm of demographic shifts, changing values, and hyper-connectivity” is permanently altering how we spend our money.
“The destabilization goes deeper than anyone really appreciates,” says Greg Portell, lead partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney and one of the report’s authors.
The marketplace of decades past had companies at the center. For the most part, information and influence flowed outward from brands to the consumer. A.T. Kearney calls this the “Affluence” model, since brands spent huge sums convincing consumers that their self-worth was based on what and how much they owned.
But the internet and social media have dramatically altered this, amplifying consumers’ voices to the same volume as the brands’, as new, online communities coalesced around shared beliefs. A.T. Kearney calls this the “Influence” model.
Read more at Quartz.
A lot of buzz is circulating in the financial and technology space over cryptocurrencies. Whether or not you’re bullish on investing in bitcoin and altcoins, it would still be wise to invest in learning more about the space. Particularly fascinating is the underlying technology of decentralized systems and blockchains (an ingenious platform that allows digital information to be distributed but not copied or modified).
If all goes to plan, this technology will fundamentally transform everything from financial markets, to social communication, to developer tools. Every part of society has the potential to be impacted by this new model for building products and for distributed ownership. And, as consumers in this digital age, we will have a front-row view of the disruption.
The most pressing question is no longer whether this technology has the potential to have an impact . . . we are well past that point. The questions entrepreneurs need to be asking now are: When will this technology come to the masses? When will we be able to reap the benefits? And how long will it be until governments change their policies to follow this new model?
While progress is inevitable, the implementation of blockchains into everyday systems remains uncertain. Implementation, in fact, is dependent on a number of factors, both internal and external.
Luckily, there are plenty of brilliant engineers and founders building today’s cryptocurrency companies for the future. Here, I’ve compiled a list of 10 cryptocurrency companies that should be on your radar.
Javvy brings an extremely secure (not web-based), easy-to-use cryptocurrency exchange and wallet to the market. It is essentially eliminating the need to have several unsecured web accounts and giving you everything you need to buy, sell and use your crypto in just a few clicks.
Javvy’s corporate philosophy prioritizes security while understanding that ease of use is paramount to the user. In a global economy, with millions of transactions happening every second, a platform like Javvy will be crucial, to securely and conveniently handle these transactions.
Read more at Entrepreneur.
“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.” This is a line from John Green’s young-adult book Looking for Alaska. It’s pretty, and melancholy, and very popular on Tumblr. It’s also scientifically accurate.
Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia, because humans predict what the future will be like by using their memories. This is how things you do over and over again become routine. For example, you know generally what your day will be like at the office tomorrow based on what your day at the office was like today, and all the other days you’ve spent there. But memory also helps people predict what it will be like to do things they haven’t done before.
Say that you are imagining your future wedding (if you’ve never gotten married before). You probably see it as a scene—at a church, or on the beach, or under a wooded canopy in a forest with the bridal party all wearing elf ears. There are flowers, or twinkling lights, or mason jars everywhere. You can envision the guests, how they might look, what your soon-to-be spouse is wearing, what look they have on their face. All of these details come from your memory—of weddings you’ve been to before, as well as weddings you’ve seen depicted in pop culture, or in photo albums. The scene also relies on your memory of your friends and family.
“When somebody’s preparing for a date with someone they’ve never been on a date with before, or a job interview—these situations where we don’t have past experience, that’s where we think this ability to imagine the future really matters,” says Karl Szpunar, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. People “can take bits and pieces, like who’s going to be there, where it’s going to be, and try to put all that together into a novel simulation of events.”
The first clue that memory and imagining the future might go hand in hand came from amnesia patients. When they lost their pasts, it seemed, they lost their futures as well. This was the case with the famous patient known by his initials, “H.M.” H.M. had epilepsy, and to treat it, he received an experimental surgery in 1953 that removed several portions of his brain, including almost his entire hippocampus, which is a vital brain structure for memory. After the surgery, H.M. had severe amnesia, and also appeared to struggle with the future. A researcher once asked H.M., “What do you think you’ll do tomorrow?” He replied, “Whatever is beneficial.”
Since then, functional MRI scans have allowed researchers to determine that many of the same brain structures are indeed involved in both remembering and forecasting. In a study Szpunar did, he and his colleagues looked at activity in the brain’s default network, which includes the hippocampus as well as regions that involve processing personal information, spatial navigation, and sensory information. They found that activity in many of these regions was “almost completely overlapping” when people remembered and imagined future events, Szpunar says.
Researchers are still trying to pin down exactly how different brain regions are involved in these processes, but much of it has to do with the construction of scenes. You can remember facts, sure, and you can make purely informational predictions—“We will have jet packs by 2050”—but often, when you remember, you are reliving a scene from your memory. You have a mental map of the space; you can “hear” what’s being said and “smell” smells and “taste” flavors; you can feel your emotions from that moment anew. Similarly, when you imagine something you might experience in the future, you are essentially “pre-living” that scene. And just as memories are more detailed the more recent they are, imagined future scenes are more detailed the nearer in the future they are.
“It takes so much cognitive effort to come up with detailed simulations,” Szpunar says. “So it’s like, why would you spend all that time when it’s not going to happen for 30 or 40 years? Whereas if it’s something happening this weekend, and you’re like ‘How’s this date going to go?’—those things, people just anguish over them and really come up with these detailed simulations.”
Read more at The Atlantic.
Tony Fadell is at the Grove, a spectacularly beautiful country estate outside of London. The event is Founders Forum: the ultra exclusive invite-only tech conference. Prince William is in the house. The guest list is lousy with knights and lesser officers of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Marissa Mayer, the now ex-CEO of Yahoo, and Biz Stone, recently returned to Twitter, are mingling with the other hundred or so invitees. But this is really Fadell’s moment.
It’s almost exactly 10 years since the iPhone was released, and the media buzz is inescapable. The press is having trouble coming up with superlatives to describe the impact of a device that has sold more than a billion units. A new book, The One Device, is lighting up the intertubes with fresh gossip about “the secret history of the iPhone.” And Fadell—both the source and the subject of that gossip—is getting his due as one of the guys most responsible for turning Steve Jobs’ one-device-to-rule-them-all vision into reality.
The title of the afternoon session is “What to Build Next?” and Fadell is onstage with two other bona fide tech zillionaires—Niklas Zennström, the Skype guy; and Kevin Ryan, one of New York City’s most successful internet entrepreneurs—as well as a couple of other founder-investor types. Of the five people onstage, Fadell is the only one who helped build an object that every person in the audience has most likely used at one time or another. First Fadell helped build the iPod for Apple, then the iPhone, and then he ventured out on his own to build the Nest thermostat.
Fadell is the star of the show, and he knows it. His self-confidence is well earned but can come across as overweening—especially to those who suddenly find themselves in his shadow. “Any VC who tells you that you have to move to Silicon Valley,” Fadell says at one point, gesticulating wildly, “is being very lazy.” Two of the other people onstage are, in fact, from Silicon Valley venture capital firms, and their collars seem to squeeze a bit tighter. Fadell, in comparison, is supremely comfortable: relaxed and expansive in a pair of bright red sneakers—no socks—and a polo shirt. The moderator, wrapping things up, calls for a lightning round: a rapid-fire series of questions—with only one-word answers allowed.
What’s the biggest problem facing the world right now?
“Climate,” Fadell says. Then he adds, “We’regoingtohavetogonuclear …” before being hushed by the moderator for busting the one-word rule.
What’s the next big thing in tech?
“Computational synthetic biology,” Fadell says, bending the rules a second time.
Read more at Wired.
Money can be confusing, and the vast majority of us don’t have nearly enough of it — or at least not as much as we’d like. That’s why those folks who find a way to channel their economic knowledge or power into making the world a better place for others are so impressive.
Indeed, these financial heroes come in many types, from the leaders who help us all make sense of our budgets (without being too judgmental), to those elevating disenfranchised groups into better jobs and careers.
To that end, here are five money heroes — call them the Payoff protectors — making the financial world easier for vulnerable people. At the very least, they’re worth a follow on Twitter, whether you’re looking for a new place to put charitable dollars or just want to learn more about the fight for economic justice in 2017.
1. The immigrant helping undocumented workers get credit scores — and more
Even if you are an American citizen, it can be tricky to take the key steps you need to grow wealth — like by opening a bank account. Millions of Americans, mostly low-income, actually spend hundreds of extra dollars each year because of the high costs of being unbanked.
Suffice it to say, these financial hurdles get even higher if you don’t have a photo ID or Social Security number. To address this problem, José Quiñonez launched the Mission Asset Fund in 2007 to help undocumented immigrants gain access to the financial system.
“A lot of the things people think about immigrants and poor people generally are wrong,” Quiñonez told Mic in a 2016 interview after he won a MacArthur genius grant. “We’re not broken, we’re not delinquent, we’re not rapists. In fact, there’s a lot of hardworking, value-driven, faith-driven people that are out there in the margins.”
The Mission Asset Fund helps immigrants formalize what are known as lending circles, informal groups of people who pay a certain amount of money into a fund each month and then take turns claiming that lump sum. Thanks to Quiñonez’s MAF, that payment activity can now be reported to the credit bureaus, which in turn helps members gain access to better financial products.
Read more at Mic.
America’s little-known war on terrorists in Africa is becoming more perilous as the U.S. deploys growing numbers of troops to the continent’s most lawless regions, including the part of Niger where four special operations soldiers died in an ambush last week.
The escalation is occurring with little public debate — and, some military experts say, too little attention from top decision-makers in Washington. The U.S. military presence in the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions has grown to at least 1,500 troops, roughly triple the official number of American troops in Syria, according to Pentagon and White House figures.
As with Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the dispatch of hundreds of additional U.S. troops to countries like Niger, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Uganda and South Sudan is another instance where President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric hasn’t kept his administration from being drawn deeper into far-flung war zones. And the U.S. lacks a comprehensive strategy for pursuing its mission in Africa, military and intelligence experts told POLITICO.
“I don’t think there is any congressional oversight in this,” said Michael Shurkin, a former CIA analyst specializing in Africa who is now a researcher at the Rand Corp., a Pentagon-funded think tank.
He also pointed to vacancies in top policymaking posts in the State and Defense departments, saying they’ve left military operations such as Africa Command and its special operations component “pretty much doing their own thing.”
“It is not that there is a good policy or bad policy,” Shurkin said. “There is just no policy. It is inertia.”
Read more at Politico.
For two days in late June, Disney’s board of directors gathered at Walt Disney World in Florida to wrestle with one topic: how technology was disrupting the company’s traditional movie, television and theme park businesses, and what to do about it?
The most startling presentation came from Disney’s biggest division — a $24 billion television operation anchored by ESPN and Disney Channel. Cord cutting was accelerating much faster than expected. Live viewing for some children’s programming was in free fall. At the same time, streaming services like Netflix were experiencing explosive growth.
With Disney’s board exhorting speedy action, Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive and chairman, proposed a legacy-defining move. It was time for Disney to double down on streaming.
And that was how the Disney board, which includes Silicon Valley stars like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter, came to bet the entertainment giant’s future on a wonky, little-known technology company housed in a former cookie factory: BamTech.
In August, Disney announced that it would introduce two subscription streaming services, both built by BamTech. One, focused on sports programming and made available through the ESPN app, would arrive in the spring. The other, centered on movies and television shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, would debut in late 2019.
“We’re going to launch big, and we’re going to launch hot,” Mr. Iger promised at a subsequent investor conference.
Disney had experimented with building a streaming platform on its own, to mixed results. It also toyed with the idea of buying Twitter.
Read more at The New York Times.
In rural Mecosta County, Mich., sits a near-windowless facility with a footprint about the size of Buckingham Palace. It’s just one of Nestlé’s roughly 100 bottled water factories in 34 countries around the world.
Inside, workers wear hairnets, hard hats, goggles, gloves, and earplugs. Ten production lines snake through the space, funneling local spring water into 8-ounce to 2.5-gallon containers; most of the lines run 24/7, each pumping out 500 to 1,200 bottles per minute. About 60 percent of the supply comes from Mecosta’s springs and arrives at the factory via a 12-mile pipeline. The rest is trucked in from neighboring Osceola County, about 40 miles north. “Daily, we’re looking at 3.5 million bottles potentially,” says Dave Sommer, the plant’s 41-year-old manager, shouting above the din.
Silos holding 125 tons of plastic resin pellets provide the raw material for the bottles. They’re molded into shape at temperatures reaching 400F before being filled, capped, inspected, labeled, and laser-printed with the location, day, and minute they were produced—a process that takes less than 25 seconds. Next, the bottles are bundled, shrink-wrapped onto pallets, and picked up by a fleet of 25 forklifts that ferry them to the plant’s warehouse or loading docks. As many as 175 trucks arrive every day to transport the water to retail locations in the Midwest. “We want more people to drink water, keep hydrated,” Sommer says. “It would be nice if it were my water, but we just want them to drink water.”
Read more at Bloomberg.
When director Henry-Alex Rubin requested the FBI’s help with his 2012 cyber drama Disconnect, he wanted notes on the screenplay’s accuracy. But he suspected they wanted something more.
“They understand that perception is everything,” he told BuzzFeed News of the FBI. “The more they are perceived well, the easier their job is.”
He recalled that the FBI employee who reviewed the shooting draft of his film proposed changes to a scene in which two agents aggressively questioned a journalist.
“I remember distinctly the consultant saying to me, ‘This is not at all how we operate,’” he said. As Rubin recalled, the consultant told him that the FBI approaches people in a manner that “at least on the surface” is “kind and cooperative, and that attitude usually yields much more results than being suspicious or aggressive.”
Rubin changed the scene.
The director was right to think that the FBI is keenly concerned with its public perception: Hundreds of pages of FBI documents BuzzFeed News has obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit reveal that the FBI actively seeks to control and burnish its image through consulting work on films. Over the past five years, the FBI’s Hollywood-focused Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit has played a role in the development of hundreds of movies, television shows, and documentaries. Examples are varied, and include the newly released Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, a biopic about the famous Watergate leaker Deep Throat; the 2012 straight-to-DVD Miley Cyrus romp So Undercover; and an episode of the docuseries Fatal Encounters. The bureau views these projects as marketing tools for an agency that desperately wants to build the FBI “brand,” the documents say.
“If we don’t tell our story, then fools will gladly tell it for us,” reads an August 2013 FBI PowerPoint slide advising bureau personnel how to use the media to their benefit. “Most people form their opinion of the FBI from pop culture, not a two-minute news story.”
Read more at BuzzFeed.
CAIRO (AP) — The leader of the Islamic State group urged followers to burn their enemies everywhere and target “media centers of the infidels,” according to an audio recording released Thursday that the extremists said was by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The reclusive leader of IS, who has only appeared in public once, also vowed to continue fighting and lavished praise on his jihadis for their valor in the battlefield — despite the militants’ loss of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in July.
The recording was released by the IS-run al-Furqan outlet, which has in the past released messages from al-Baghdadi and other top figures of the extremist group. The voice in the over 46-minute-long audio sounded much like previous recordings of al-Baghdadi. His last previous purported message was released in November, also in an audio recording.
“You soldiers of the caliphate, heroes of Islam and carriers of banners: light a fire against your enemies,” said al-Baghdadi, a shadowy cleric who has been surrounded by controversy since the Sunni terror group emerged from al-Qaida in Iraq, its forerunner.
Russian officials said in June there was a “high probability” that al-Baghdadi had died in a Russian airstrike on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital. U.S. officials later said they believed he was still alive.
Al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts are unknown but he is believed to be in IS’ dwindling territory in eastern Syria. The IS-held cities of Raqqa and Deir el-Zour are under siege and likely too dangerous for him to hide in. Some IS leadership is believed to have gone to the nearby town of Mayadeen, and the group still holds a stretch of the Euphrates River from Deir el-Zour to the Iraqi border, as well as remote desert areas along the border.
Read more at AP News.
(CNN) — Wanderlust doesn’t discriminate. It creeps up on lifelong homebodies, blossoms in the hearts of grumpy teenagers and pushes those who “can’t afford it” out the door, bank accounts be damned.
Because traveling the world is for everyone that means that none of us should be surprised to hear thatthose on the autism spectrum get itchy feet, too.
When thinking about travel it’s important to understand that autism isn’t a monolithic diagnosis. “Autism is a diverse disability and everyone’s needs are different,” says Zoe Gross, director of operations at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
Autism, as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is “a developmental disability that causes social communication and behavioral challenges.” An estimated one in 68 children are affected, with the rate higher in boys than girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Depending on personality, where they are on the autism spectrum, and how their particular disability manifests, each autistic traveler will have different needs and challenges. Some might be physical, others might be cognitive, or a mix of the two.
Examples include trouble dealing with unexpected routine changes; finding acceptable food; sensory issues with loud spaces or bright lights; and physical disabilities from minor to significant.
“Travel with service animals might be hard especially in other countries where they have different rules for animals,” says Gross. And of course, just like anyone, autistic travelers will have varying interests, passions and bucket-lists.
Travel can be especially onerous for people on the spectrum — but it can be especially enriching, too.
Read more at CNN.
As Ursula the sea witch famously said, “Don’t underestimate the importance of body language.”
Some tricks, like remembering to smile, are easy to implement in your everyday life. However, other techniques, while relatively common sense, are somewhat trickier to tackle. Still, they can make a huge difference.
Here are eight body-language hacks that can be tricky to master but will pay off forever once you do:
1. Mirror the person you’re speaking to.
Mirroring — aligning your body to match the position of whoever you’re speaking to — can be a tough skill to master. But doing it shows admiration and agreement, says Rosemary Haefner, the chief human-resources officer at CareerBuilder.
It can be hard to do this subtly, without looking like you’re mimicking or mocking someone, but it’s a good trick to employ if you’re trying to make a good impression.
2. Walk with purpose and energy.
Not everyone walks with confidence. Some of us shuffle through life with a slumping, awkward gait.
And it can be tough to change the way we walk. But if you take some steps to improve it, you can help to ensure that people don’t make snap judgments about your confidence, attractiveness, and trustworthiness, according to Scientific American.
Read more at The Guardian.
Hugh Hefner, the founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy, always said that his ideal for the magazine’s famous Playmate of the Month, the woman in the centerfold photo, was “the girl next door with her clothes off.” In other words, he was trying to take his readers back to a time before their first sexual experience, a time when they still liked their stuffed bear and thought that a naked woman might be something like that. Taschen has just published “The Playmate Book: Six Decades of Centerfolds” ($39.99), by Gretchen Edgren, a contributing editor to Playboy, and the book is a testament to Hefner’s fidelity to his vision. Six hundred and thirteen women are represented, but there is one basic model. On top is the face of Shirley Temple; below is the body of Jayne Mansfield. Playboy was launched in 1953, and this female image managed to draw, simultaneously, on two opposing trends that have since come to dominate American mass culture: on the one hand, our country’s idea of its Huck Finn innocence; on the other, the enthusiastic lewdness of our advertising and entertainment. We are now accustomed to seeing the two tendencies combined—witness Britney Spears—but when Hefner was a young man they still seemed like opposites. Hence the surprise and the popularity of Playboy. The magazine proposed that wanton sex, sex for sex’s sake, was wholesome, good for you: a novel idea in the nineteen-fifties.
When Hefner started out, he couldn’t afford to commission centerfold photos, nor did he know any women who would take their clothes off at his bidding. So he bought girlie pictures from a local calendar company, and he chose well. In his first issue, he ran a nude photograph that Marilyn Monroe, famous by 1953, had posed for in 1949, when she was not famous, and needed money. It made the first issue a hit. Within a year, Playboy was able to afford its own photography, at which point the calendar girls were swept aside in favor of the girls next door. Unlike their predecessors, these girls tend to have their nipples covered, and they are not brazenly posing but, oops, caught by the photographer as they are climbing out of the bath or getting dressed. Several have on regulation-issue white underpants, up to the waist; one wears Mary Janes.
A decade later, the innocence has become less innocent, more self-aware—in a word, sixties. Now we get racial equality. (The first African-American Playmate appeared in 1965.) We get the great outdoors: Playmates taking sunbaths, unpacking picnics, hoisting their innocent bottoms into hammocks. Above all, we get youth. In January of 1958, the magazine had published a centerfold of a sixteen-year-old girl, with the result that Hefner was hauled into court for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. (The case was dismissed. Miss January had written permission from her mother.) After that, he made a rule that Playboy would never again publish a photograph of an unclothed woman under eighteen, but in the following years he did everything in his power to make the centerfold models look like jailbait. Two of the sixties Playmates have pigtails, tied with bows. One is reading the funny papers. Most of them have chubby cheeks, and flash us sweet smiles. At the same time, many of these nice little girls are fantastically large-breasted. Strange to say, this top-loading often makes them appear more childlike. The breasts are smooth and round and pink; they look like balloons or beach balls. The girl seems delighted to have them, as if they had just been delivered by Santa Claus.
Now and then over the years, Hefner experimented with small- or smallish-breasted Playmates. In late 1960, he had a serious fit of restraint: Joni Mattis, Miss November of that year, is posed in such a way as to cover not just her chest but most of her bottom. According to “The Playmate Book,” this centerfold was the least popular that the magazine ever published. Mattis received exactly one letter, from a clergyman advising her to find another line of work. By contrast, DeDe Lind, Miss August 1967, who looks to be about thirteen, and who displays, together with a big yellow hair ribbon, a pair of knockers rivalling Mae West’s, got more fan letters than any Playmate before or after. Playboy learned a lesson from DeDe: breasts count. At the end of “The Playmate Book,” we are given the average measurements of the Playmates from the sixties to the present: a modest 35-23-35. I don’t believe this. Or, if it’s true, there’s more to photography than I understand. In response to the Playboy centerfolds, Esquire eliminated its own pinups, the celebrated George Petty and Alberto Vargas drawings. In the words of Clay Felker, an editor at Esquire at that time, “Playboy out-titted us.” Hefner then had the field to himself. By the end of the sixties, one-fourth of all American college men were buying his magazine every month.
Read more at The New Yorker.
Back in 2004, The New York Times described Eva Moskowitz as having “sharp elbows.” At the time, Moskowitz represented Manhattan’s affluent Upper East Side on New York’s City Council and had, according to the Times profile, emerged as one of the council’s most influential members. Those sharp elbows helped her get things done, whether that meant replacing plastic newspaper racks with stylish fiberglass ones or taking on powerful teachers’ unions in the name of improving the city’s beleaguered public schools. They inevitably also positioned her as a perennial antagonist—someone who inspires so much vitriol in her opponents that she has, for more than a decade, contended with an endless list of disparaging labels. Public-school teachers, for example, got in the habit of calling her “Evil Moskowitz.”
Now, as the founder and CEO of Success Academy, the largest charter-school network in New York City, the criticism is as loud as ever. Success has produced stellar academic outcomes, even winning the prestigious Broad Prize this year for its successes in closing race- and income-based achievement gaps at its 45-plus schools.
But it has also come under intense scrutiny in recent years amid student-discipline scandals and allegations that it employs discriminatory enrollment strategies. Success has, teachers unions and their allies insist, come to epitomize why market-based approaches to education—school choice, in other worlds—end up hurting the kids most in need of quality learning opportunities.
Moskowtiz is used to all the flak. But based on how much space she devotes in her new memoir to analyzing and defending herself against those labels, it’s clear the backlash she’s faced hardly leaves her unfazed. Her reputation as a pugnacious politician-turned-charter-school founder is something that, she argues, is completely at odds with who she truly is as a person. Bad impressions, however, have long been a sacrifice she’s willing to make when it comes to New York City’s neediest children, who she’s convinced will remain stuck in the poverty cycle as long as the city’s moneyed interests (read: powerful politicians and the unions they court) maintain control over what happens in its district schools.
“I was a persona non grata with the Democratic machine,” she writes in The Education of Eva Moskowitz, but “it hadn’t always been this way. … My ability to build coalitions was precisely what had allowed me to pass so many laws. My views on the labor contracts, however, were diametrically opposed to those of my colleagues so I’d inevitably alienated them when I’d taken on this issue.” This recounting embodies the leadership style she practices to this day. A lifelong Democrat whose schools primarily serve students of color, including many undocumented immigrants, she was a vocal defender of Donald Trump after the election and was even on the short list to head up the Education Department; when the nomination for education secretary went to the highly unpopular Betsy DeVos, Moskowitz was quick to endorse her. (In a note to parents and staff last month, Moskowitz distanced herself from the president, citing his response to the fatal white supremacist riots in Charlottesville.)
The Education of Eva Moskowitz offers the most intimate look to date into perhaps the nation’s most high-profile education reformer, a woman who is as infamous as she is admired. She walks readers through all the obstacles that almost prevented Success from coming to fruition, and all the obstacles—from a barrage of bad press to a vicious rivalry with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—that it has had to overcome since.
I recently spoke to Moskowitz about her memoir, her crusade to reform education, and her efforts to change the often-cynical narrative about that crusade. A lightly edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.
Read more at The Atlantic.
As ad dollars that used to fund journalism pour into the coffers of Facebook and Google, the information business is experiencing a trend familiar to other American industries: The product they produce is now competing with cheaper versions coming from overseas.
Content farmers in the Philippines, Pakistan, Macedonia (of course), and beyond are launching websites and Facebook pages aimed at Americans in niches such as politics, mental health, marijuana, American muscle cars, and more.
Based on Facebook engagement and other metrics, some of these overseas publishers are now beating their American counterparts. In the process they’re building an industry centered on producing and exporting cheap (and sometimes false) information targeted at the US.
“This is like all of the basic stuff happening in economics and politics today,” said Tyson Barker, a political economist with the Aspen Institute Germany who specializes in international economic policy. “It’s a globalization trend and you’ve seen it also in manufacturing and other industries.”
Americans and others in the English-language world are used to buying clothing and other products with labels that say “Made in China” or “Made in Bangladesh.” Thanks to the rise of platforms like Facebook and Google, a growing amount of the information being served up in English is now coming from overseas, albeit without the same kind of labeling.
Read more at BuzzFeed.
There’s one more reason to love Friday. Not only is it the last day of the workweek and the final hurdle before the weekend, Condé Nast Traveler reports that it’s also the cheapest day of the week to fly.
Using data from travel site Kayak, which looked specifically at travel between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, CNT found that for both domestic and international flights, Friday is the best option for travelers on a budget. By choosing to fly out on Friday, fliers can save up to $100 on booking a flight out on the most expensive day: Monday. As if you needed any more reason to hate that particular day of the week, add being a budget-buster when it comes to travel to the list.
However, there is one reason to appreciate Monday. The much-maligned first day of the week actually happens to be the cheapest day for a return flight. Flying back home on a Monday could save you $100, too, compared to coming back on the most expensive day, Thursday. For those keeping track, that means quick weekend getaways from Friday to Monday are the best option. Or, extend those trips to longer affairs by flying out on a Friday and coming back 10 days later to save on extended vacations.
Of course, CNT notes that these findings are just general information. Like the myth of what day to buy airline tickets to save money or how far ahead to book a trip, results will vary depending on where you’re headed, what airline you book, and what time of year you’re traveling. Think of the Friday-Monday rule as more of a best practices instead of strict guidelines and you’ll feel better about taking that long weekend.
Read more at Refinery29.
In technology, big breakthroughs always seem to take longer than we assume. There’s an amusing recursive “law” that describes this phenomenon, Hofstadter’s Law, which states: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”
Hofstadter’s Law is a wry way of saying that the time it takes to solve super complex problems — even factoring in extra time because they’re super complex — is fiendishly difficult to calculate. Let’s take self-driving cars, for instance. That’s a technical problem of enormous magnitude which involves weaving together mechanical and digital systems of breathtaking sophistication. And then you’ve got to make the whole thing work — without harming anyone — within a crazy quilt framework of federal, state and laws.
A fully autonomous car sounds like something we’ll get in the latter half of the century. And yet, it’s increasingly likely that we’re only a few years away.
One of the more interesting stories of the past week was that the Ford Motor Company announced a partnership with Lyft to bring autonomous cars to consumers in 2021. Ford, the second-largest car manufacturer in the U.S., is the latest to join a growing list of auto makers and smart-car systems developers that have agreed to participate in Lyft’s Open Platform Initiative. That’s already a thing — Lyft provides APIs, dispatching, network connectivity, and all the trimmings the self-driving car industry needs to rapidly test and deploy its technology.
Of course, some pundits suspect the smart car is further out than it looks. McKinsey & Co., notably, offers a more skeptical, Hofstadter-like estimate, and says truly autonomous cars “could be more than a decade away.” Ethical issues need to be resolved — when a child chases a ball into the street and the driver must choose between running it over or swerving into an oncoming school bus, what’s the right call? Presumably, the car’s algorithms will need to make that choice. (Good expatiation in The Atlantic, here, and why this might be a straw-man argument, here.)
Self-driving cars are still being debugged (this Brookings Institution report on the April 2016 Tesla crash is worth a scan). Once they arrive in force they’ll displace professional drivers. And even if, within the next few years, suddenly a swarm of cheap, take-you-anywhere electric Lyfts and Ubers are at your command, The Verge asks a reasonable question: What do you do with that obsolete, costly, piece of gasoline-powered junk in your driveway?
Read more at Medium.
William of Occam would have hated conspiracy theories. A 14th-century philosopher and Franciscan friar, William is celebrated for developing the “law of parsimony,” better known today as “Occam’s razor.” According to the razor principle, the simplest explanation for an event is almost always the best; shave away any extraneous assumptions, and what you’ve got left is usually the truth.
That’s not exactly the way conspiracy theorists think. Either Barack Obama was actually born in Hawaii, or an international plot unfolded over multiple decades to conceal his Kenyan birthplace and install him in the presidency. Either vaccines are safe and effective, or every major hospital and health organization in the world is covering up the fact that they actually cause autism. Never mind the razor — conspiracy theories are nothing but extraneous assumptions.
The question is, Why do so many people believe in them? Why do even the most preposterous theories — the Nazis survived but they fled to the moon; the world is secretly being run by a reptilian elite — have fiercely loyal adherents? There are nearly as many explanations for conspiracy theories as there are theories themselves, but some patterns do appear again and again.
The most common theories are the ones that follow the eddies of politics. As a broad rule, a party or group that’s out of power will be more inclined to believe in conspiracies than a group that’s in power.
“Conspiracy theories are for losers,” says Joseph Uscinski, associate professor of political science at the University of Miami and co-author of the 2014 book American Conspiracy Theories. Uscinski stresses that he uses the term literally, not pejoratively. “People who have lost an election, money or influence look for something to explain that loss.”
So consistent and predictable is this phenomenon that in the U.S. at least, leading conspiracy theories flip almost the moment the presidency does. When Bill Clinton was President, the principle conspiracy tales involved stories of Clintonian cocaine dealing in Arkansas and the alleged murder of Presidential friend and confidante Vince Foster. Once George W. Bush took over, so too did new conspiracy fables, this time involving Vice President Dick Cheney, Halliburton energy and the Blackwater protection company masterminding the Iraq war in order to seize the nation’s oil.
Read more at TIME.
SAN FRANCISCO — Their complaints flow on Reddit forums, on video game message boards, on private Facebook pages and across Twitter. They argue for everything from male separatism to an end to gender diversity efforts.
Silicon Valley has for years accommodated a fringe element of men who say women are ruining the tech world.
Now, as the nation’s technology capital — long identified as one of the more hostile work environments for women — reels from a series of high-profile sexual harassment and discrimination scandals, these conversations are gaining broader traction.
One of those who said there had been a change is James Altizer, an engineer at the chip maker Nvidia. Mr. Altizer, 52, said he had realized a few years ago that feminists in Silicon Valley had formed a cabal whose goal was to subjugate men. At the time, he said, he was one of the few with that view.
Now Mr. Altizer said he was less alone. “There’s quite a few people going through that in Silicon Valley right now,” he said. “It’s exploding. It’s mostly young men, younger than me.”
Mr. Altizer said that a gathering he hosts in person and online to discuss men’s issues had grown by a few dozen members this year to more than 200, that the private Facebook pages he frequents on men’s rights were gaining new members and that a radical subculture calling for total male separatism was emerging.
“It’s a witch hunt,” he said in a phone interview, contending men are being fired by “dangerous” human resources departments. “I’m sitting in a soundproof booth right now because I’m afraid someone will hear me. When you’re discussing gender issues, it’s almost religious, the response. It’s almost zealotry.”
Read more at the New York Times Magazine.
“Blade Runner 2049” is going to struggle to make it past the $100 million mark at the domestic box office, hardly the response Warner Bros. was looking for given the film’s estimated $300 million production and marketing budget. In a way, the odds were always against “2049” given that its predecessor was also a financial disappointment and only went on to become a cult classic with a very specific demographic of moviegoers. “Blade Runner” is no multi-generational favorite a la “Star Wars” or “Jurassic Park.”
But while the sequel is a box office dud, it’s unquestionably a huge step in the right direction for studio filmmaking.
In a blockbuster age dominated by comic book fare and endless cash-grabbing sequels, it has become increasingly rare to see a big-budget studio film driven not by mind-numbing spectacle or the demands of universe-building but by an auteur’s singular vision. “2049” lacks the epic action set pieces that define Marvel movies, but it has a kind of patience and cerebral edge any superhero movie wouldn’t dare touch. The film has a gun fight or two, but it’s largely made up of characters reflecting on their own shifting perceptions of what it means to be human.
Making a blockbuster like “2049” in 2017 is a huge risk, but it’s the kind of risk studios need to keep taking. Director Denis Villeneuve was able to make a pure Villeneuve movie for $300 million, and that alone should be celebrated by cinephiles, regardless of the film’s financial outcome.
Villeneuve did the exact same thing just last year with “Arrival,” another cerebral slice of science-fiction that traded in action scenes for thought-provoking human drama. “Arrival” was made for a fraction of the cost of “2049,” but it was a similar creative risk. Villeneuve made an alien invasion movie and didn’t destroy a single skyscraper; instead, he pieced together the past and future memories of a grieving mother, which isn’t exactly your typical major studio release. “Arrival” ended up grossing over $100 million and earning eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, but the film is the exception, not the rule. More times than not, allowing a director to see his or her vision through without studio censorship will have a polarizing result with fans and at the box office. Just look at what’s happening to “2049” or what happened to Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” earlier this year for proof.
Fortunately, the post-“2049” future for studio films looks somewhat bright, and it appears we have the science-fiction genre to thank for that. More so than any other genre right now, science-fiction has become the one area where major Hollywood studios seem comfortable taking a risk and giving an auteur the budget he needs to try something bold and different. We saw it with “Arrival” and “2049,” and we even saw it with Matt Reeves’ more elegiac and mournful “War For the Planet of the Apes” (which also struggled at the box office over the summer). Usually, audience would have to go indie if you wanted to see challenging sci-fi (“Ex Machina,” “Coherence,” “Primer,” and “Moon” being some examples), but it looks like that’s no longer the case.
Read more at IndieWire.
Less than 24 hours after setting up a Go Fund Me page, YouTube stars Casey Neistat and Jerome Jarre, with the help of Ben Stiller, have reached their ten-day target goal of $1 million for aid relief in Somalia.
It’s an incredibly inspiring moment, and one that proves the power of social media and how the stars of tomorrow are influencing today’s generation.
‘Using social to raise a million dollars for those in need in less than a day really illustrates the power of social,’ Casey told Metro.co.uk.
‘The world of media and communication is changing quickly.’
The drought in Somalia has caused an historic famine that is affecting at least 5 million people; in early March 110 people from the same region died within 48 hours according to the country’s prime minister.
After Jerome, a French Vine and Snapchat star, read about the famine he set up a movement called Love Army For Somalia with the hope that social media pressure may be able to convince Turkish Airlines, the only company to fly to the African country, to use one flight to send a shipment of aid and food.
Within days he had the support of A-list stars including Ben Stiller and Ed Norton, as well as NFL player Colin Kaepernick, and Turkish Airlines had agreed to make available one cargo flight which will take 60 tonnes of food to the region on March 27.
They will also allow Love Army For Somalia to ship food containers on commercial aircrafts to the country until the end of the famine.
Read More at METRO
Renowned art adviser Sara Kay recommends nine must-see art exhibits this autumn.
1 Items: Is Fashion Modern?
DALLAS (AP) — At some point during many flights, the captain will calmly announce that there could be some bumps ahead and so passengers must be seated with their seat belts on.
The plane might seem to bobble or bounce a bit, but rarely does it turn into a serious threat to safety. That, however, is just what happened to an American Airlines flight last weekend, when 10 people were injured as the plane plowed through turbulence on its way to landing in Philadelphia.
A rundown of statistics, recent incidents, and what pilots and airlines do to avoid hitting potholes in the sky:
About 40 people a year are seriously injured by turbulence in the U.S., according to Federal Aviation Administration figures from the last 10 years. The FAA counted 44 injuries last year, the most since more than 100 were hurt in 2009.
But the official count is almost certainly too low.
The National Transportation Safety Board requires airlines to report incidents that result in serious injury or death, and FAA uses those reports to tally the number of people hurt by turbulence. But airlines are not required to report injuries unless they require a 48-hour hospital stay or involve certain specific injuries such as major broken bones, burns or organ damage.
Saturday’s American Airlines flight to Philadelphia likely won’t meet those standards — the injured people were released from the hospital within a few hours and didn’t suffer the types of injuries that trigger a report to the federal safety board.
Read more at Popular Mechanics.
The president and his favorite prime-time pundit are both New Yorkers of significant means who talk like they grew up in the tough part of town. One drenches his well-done steaks in ketchup and the other favors Coors on ice. Both have long traveled by private jet, yet both feel somehow spurned by the elites.
Donald Trump and Sean Hannity champion the little guy, the forgotten men and women, the audience that has cheered Hannity on as he emerged in the past nine months as perhaps the most dependable pro-Trump voice in the mainstream media, as well as a friend and adviser to the president.
In the process, Fox News’s top-rated host has regained ratings supremacy, pushed back against an organized boycott of his advertisers and quieted rumors of his impending departure from the network.
Hannity, long a movement conservative, nonetheless embraced Trump, who is largely allergic to ideology. Like the president, who has been a Republican, a Democrat and an independent through the years, Hannity isn’t necessarily what he appears to be.
He denies being a journalist, but has said, “I think a lot of the reporting we do is better than the mainstream media.” He covets being in a position of authority, leading a movement, yet he repeatedly embraces storylines that prove to be inaccurate. He’s not a politician, but he takes positions, which have, as he puts it, a way of “evolving.” He was, for example, against amnesty for illegal immigrants, and then he was for creating “a pathway to citizenship,” and then he was against that idea.
What Hannity has stood for — at least for the past couple of years — is Trump. Rival TV host Joe Scarborough calls him Trump’s lap dog. Hannity, a still-rambunctious 55, insists he’s not; he’s pushed back against the president on tax reform and health care, for example.
But the president instinctively understands that his people are Hannity’s people and vice versa. At an August rally, when Trump bashed the media as “the source of division” in the nation, he made a single exception: “How good is Hannity?” he said to rising cheers. “How good is Hannity? And he’s a great guy and an honest guy.”
Read more at The Washington Post.
Lisa Grunwald, co-author, The Marriage Book
Adam and Eve were responsible, literally or metaphorically, for—in no particular order—the subservience of women; the pain of childbirth; the concepts of sin, shame, and clothing; a lot of great artwork; and oh yes, procreation, without which there would have been no one else to influence.
Jeffrey Eugenides, author, The Marriage Plot
I nominate Adam and Eve. My second choice is Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet, the woman often referred to as his mistress but who was more like a collaborator. They performed critical analyses of the Bible, from which Voltaire concluded that our first parents never existed and therefore weren’t powerful at all.
Stephanie Coontz, author, Marriage, a History
Marc Antony and Cleopatra had a claim to rule both Rome and Egypt, and were a couple in pursuit of power. They lost, but transformed, an empire.
Read more at The Atlantic.
Urban farms are popping up all over the world as more communities are gaining interest in growing their own food as a way to address access, boost local economy, and spark conversations around our food systems. There’s something magical about starting a seedling, tending to its growth, and harvesting it from the earth to eat. These days, you don’t necessarily need soil or lots of space to grow food, as new ways and technologies to grow it are developed.
Below, we highlight seven ingenious and unexpected community farms. Now, how can we incorporate something similar into our own neighborhoods?
Shipping containers are repurposed into all sorts of uses now. In Brussels, Damien Chivialle created one into an Urban Farm Unit, or UFU. The shipping container was designed with a greenhouse roof extension, and the entire unit has the ability to move and live wherever there is space. Hyrdoponic technology is used to grow fresh vegetables to supply local residents or restaurants, and act as a public educational garden space.
Read more at Food52.
The future of health care in the U.S. is far from settled, but how people receive it now is also undergoing a revolution. Health records are antiquated, there’s a shortage of primary care physicians and access to birth control and emergency contraception is limited in some places.
Health and technology companies operating largely outside of the standard health care system are attempting to solve these and other problems with alternative approaches. Whether they have staying power remains to be seen, but here are four compelling methods on the rise.
Video chatting your doctor
It can take more than three weeks to get an appointment with a new doctor, but now, people in all 50 states can visit a physician through their smartphone. “Telemedicine has been touted as the next big thing for several years, and I think it’s finally getting to a stage where adoption is kicking in,” says Hill Ferguson, CEO of Doctor On Demand, an online video chat app. The app provides a platform for more than 1,000 doctors and more than one million users, Ferguson says.
Whether that means obtaining a prescription from your couch or chatting with a therapist for 10 minutes at the office, video chat visits are becoming increasingly common: By 2020 there could be an estimated 45.6 million virtual consultations performed in the U.S., according to data and analysis company IHS Markit. Ad option of telemedicine in health care has increased from about 54% in 2014 to 71% in 2017, and the use of telemedicine in health care increased 9% from last year, according to April 2017 research from HIMSS Analytics, a global healthcare IT market research group.
Read more at TIME.
Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.
Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.
He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.
A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.
These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. “It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”
Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.
There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”
Read more at The Guardian.
There is nothing she would rather do than teach. But after supplementing her career with tutoring and proofreading, the university lecturer decided to go to remarkable lengths to make her career financially viable.
She first opted for her side gig during a particularly rough patch, several years ago, when her course load was suddenly cut in half and her income plunged, putting her on the brink of eviction. “In my mind I was like, I’ve had one-night stands, how bad can it be?” she said. “And it wasn’t that bad.”
The wry but weary-sounding middle-aged woman, who lives in a large US city and asked to remain anonymous to protect her reputation, is an adjunct instructor, meaning she is not a full-time faculty member at any one institution and strings together a living by teaching individual courses, in her case at multiple colleges.
“I feel committed to being the person who’s there to help millennials, the next generation, go on to become critical thinkers,” she said. “And I’m really good at it, and I really like it. And it’s heartbreaking to me it doesn’t pay what I feel it should.”
Sex work is one of the more unusual ways that adjuncts have avoided living in poverty, and perhaps even homelessness. A quarter of part-time college academics (many of whom are adjuncts, though it’s not uncommon for adjuncts to work 40 hours a week or more) are said to be enrolled in public assistance programs such as Medicaid.
They resort to food banks and Goodwill, and there is even an adjuncts’ cookbook that shows how to turn items like beef scraps, chicken bones and orange peel into meals. And then there are those who are either on the streets or teetering on the edge of losing stable housing. The Guardian has spoken to several such academics, including an adjunct living in a “shack” north of Miami, and another sleeping in her car in Silicon Valley.
The adjunct who turned to sex work makes several thousand dollars per course, and teaches about six per semester. She estimates that she puts in 60 hours a week. But she struggles to make ends meet after paying $1,500 in monthly rent and with student loans that, including interest, amount to a few hundred thousand dollars. Her income from teaching comes to $40,000 a year. That’s significantly more than most adjuncts: a 2014 survey found that the median income for adjuncts is only $22,041 a year, whereas for full-time faculty it is $47,500.
Read more at The Guardian.
There’s nothing better than a good Scandinavian crime novel. The genre’s grit, moody atmosphere, sharp social commentary, and complex characters never fail to deliver my favorite crime fiction reads—and this fall is going to be a huge one for new Scandinavian crime releases! From new series installments to compelling standalones to a major movie adaptation, there’s a little something for everyone releasing this fall.
This October, my all-time favorite book will be adapted into a feature film starring MIchael Fassbender! THE SNOWMAN is Book 7 in Nesbo’s internationally-bestselling Harry Hole series, and is my personal favorite. While of course it’s always preferable to read a book series in order for full character development, you can read THE SNOWMAN as a standalone—in fact, in just about a week, I’m going to be launching something very exciting for readers who want to check out the book in anticipation of the movie release! In the meantime, you can check out my Beginner’s Guide to Jo Nesbo here.
Read more at Crime by the Book
Gardens are a wonderful addition to any property, that’s a given, but the amount of up-keep they can require puts so many people off! We understand it, to be honest, as the last thing we want to do after a long week at work is sacrifice our entire weekend to weeding and mowing the grass, which is why we want to explore the beauty and convenience of natural stone!
Any gardener will tell you that gardens with a lot of stone always look stylish and effortless, but you’ll probably want to include some flora as well, so before we show you some great reasons to consider stone for your own space, let’s think about the types of plants that will work with it. Your choice of plants will be directly affected by what aesthetic you are aiming for, but to capture a Japanese garden look, bamboo and grasses are key. For a more Mediterranean feel, lavender, rosemary, thyme, palms and aloe vera will all thrive in a stone environment.
Are you ready to be convinced that a stone garden is for you? Then take a look at these amazing ideas!
Read more at Homify.
Last weekend, while hiking with my wife on an otherwise beautiful Sunday, a drone buzzed by.
I don’t know about you, but these days we’re frequently seeing amateurs flying the things in parks, at the beaches, and in school yards. A few months ago, a neighborhood kid accidentally crash landed his on my roof and I had to do the cranky Mr. Wilson thing and get out the extension ladder and retrieve the gizmo. But secretly, I was thrilled. I mean, who doesn’t love drones?
“I wish I had a gun,” my wife said of the drone that disrupted our peaceful walk.
“Oh come on,” I said. “You better get used to it. Don’t you want Amazon Prime Air deliveries?” I mansplained that, what with the Whole Foods purchase and all, in no time, Amazon will have a perfect platform to reach us fast with its fleet of drones. Forget two-day delivery: The Prime Air program will deliver packages of 5 pounds or less, within 30 minutes. “Won’t that be cool,” I said.
“No,” she said—though here I am paraphrasing. (My wife’s people come from eastern Kentucky and they are a plain-spoken lot.)
Apparently, some people do not embrace the techno-future as fervently as me. That’s also evident in how the Prime Air program is rolling out: Amazon has been running trials in the UK (to mixed reviews) but is only permitted to do demos here while it works to overcome regulatory hurdles from our government, which is (I suppose) understandably cautious.
While Amazon waits for the regulators to get their act together, it’s been filing a flurry of drone-related patents here and around the world to cover a variety of logistics schemes to house and deploy drones in a retail environment.
Everywhere you look, drones are taking flight. According to Engadget, after an FAA law went into effect in 2015 requiring people to register their drones, some 770,000 people signed up. Of course, most hobbyists were unaware of the rule and didn’t register their flying machines, which is OK: in May, the law exempted hobbyists (to the chagrin of the FAA and others). Now, only commercial drone operators must get FAA licensing.
Regardless, the number of non-commercial drones in the U.S. is expected to triple in three years and reach 3.5 million by 2021, says Engadget, with another 440,000 in the commercial sector, per Reuters. And that doesn’t even include other kinds of drones, such as boats.
That’s a lot of drones, and you can be sure that it’ll take time for all of us—including drone operators—to adjust to our new drone reality. Last week, for instance, wildfires ravaged Northern California—which brought out a number of photographers who wanted to get some aerial pictures of the devastation. While The New York Times’s drone fly-over (here) was a terrific piece of photojournalism, firefighters and rescue workers caught in the hellscape complained that drones got in their way.
Indeed, elsewhere in California, localities have moved to ban hobbyist drones from disaster sites, such as fires.
Drones have caused other problems, too. A few weeks ago, a civilian drone collided with an Army helicopter in New York. No one was injured but the helicopter sustained some damage and the drone was pretty much destroyed. It could have been worse, I guess: Had the drone been flying over a military base, it could have been legally shot down, thanks to the green light the Pentagon gave the armed forces in August to do just that in instances where drones got too close to bases.
Drones have been used to deliver illegal drugs to prisoners in the UK, meth from Mexico to San Diego, and is such a common practice among drug cartels along that border that U.S. authorities have taken to using blimps to intercede. Personal injuries resulting from drone crashes are apparently frequent enough that the problem is gaining traction as a subspecialty among lawyers. And a recent NASA study found that people think drone noise is more annoying than automobile noise.
On the upside though, drones are being deployed in rural, remote areas and appear to be the right tool for many jobs in hard-to-reach places. The Moose Cree Nation, for instance, on a remote island in Ontario, will be getting drone deliveries by Christmas. The people who live there currently have to pay twice what people on the mainland pay for typical goods like laundry detergent. But drone delivery should be much cheaper than the airplanes that now do the job.
Last week, USA Today reported that Flirtey, a drone delivery company, is teaming up with a local ambulance service in Reno, Nevada, to race defibrillators to heart attack victims. (The company is hiring by the way. Here’s how to make money as a drone pilot!)
Swiss-based Passenger Drone’s drone seats two and can be flown remotely or by a pilot.
VTOL-MAVs? Sign me up. Naming problems aside, Uber, Google, Airbus and others are investing in VTOL technology, as if self-driving cars aren’t enough to solve our commuter needs. Dubai is already beta testing autonomous drone taxis, and Uber hopes to start testing air taxis there and in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by 2020, according to NBC. Detroit is looking to passenger drones as the evolutionary descendant of the automobile. I’ll never be able to get my wife in one.
Found on Flipboard.
Edvard Munch turned his mental struggles into spectacular work. But do artists need to be tortured to achieve greatness?
Look out for the quiet kids who hide in the school library. They’re looking for answers — and if you’re not careful, they might find some. My school had a huge old library full of recesses where an enterprising reader could stay out of sight of the big kids. That’s where I went to work out my mad moods in the best tradition of pretentious teenagers everywhere. Like any fretful pubescent who ever had an anxiety disorder and more black eyeliners than friends, I felt alienated, ashamed — and utterly convinced that nobody in the history of the human race had felt quite the same way. Until I found the books that told me otherwise.
There’s sorcery in that sudden sense of kinship when you discover a piece of art or writing by a stranger from a different time who nonetheless knows exactly how you feel, especially when you’re at the age of accelerating into adulthood with the rickety thrill of a rollercoaster you can’t get off.
Crazy dead poets really got me. Or at least, I got them. They may not have known the indignities of having to wipe the spit off your hair after another morning on the school bus, but they knew what it was like to feel like your body did not belong to you, to be overwhelmed by nameless dread in the middle of a normal day, or to wonder if you were going bonkers.
So I read Sylvia Plath. I worshipped Francis Bacon and Arthur Rimbaud. I kept a postcard version of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” tucked into my school diary, next to my list of what to do when I thought I might be about to hyperventilate myself to death, including memorize three French verbs and find a novel dark and weird enough to hide inside.
The attraction was obvious, and it was ordinary: those tortured artists made the torture seem, well, rather artistic. I came away with the impression that mental illness was a necessary adjunct to genius. That it made you somehow special. That it was a little bit cool. The really serious writers I loved all seemed to have had bipolar disorder: I found myself wishing that maybe I could have it, too.
Shortly afterwards, I was diagnosed with an entirely different disorder, and ended up in hospital.
I never wished for mental illness again. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
It didn’t make me an artist. It didn’t give me special insight. It just made me very sick, and very sad, and came close to making me very dead.
Read more at Anxy.
Headlines about crushing student loan debt seem to have made a pretty strong impression on college-bound students in Generation Z, defined as a more-than 70 million strong cohort of teens and young adults born after 1996 — or more generally as those who can’t remember 9/11. How, exactly?
A new report from Sallie Mae and Ipsos shows families of Gen Zers are finding more innovative ways to pay for college. The study points to parents and students becoming craftier and more defensive when it comes to financing education — learning from the plight of deeply indebted millennials.
“Students and parents are sharing more in the responsibility of paying for college, which is one of the newest trends we are seeing,” Rick Castellano of Sallie Mae told Mic by phone. “Families are also becoming savvier consumers and are more value-conscious by taking proactive steps to make college more affordable.”
Even beyond ballooning college costs, the financial lessons of the last decade have had an effect on today’s teens, as a recent TransUnion report found Gen Z to be increasingly informed on spending, saving and credit, though they’re still learning.
“Overall, the Generation Z report suggests that teens are committed to sound money management, but still lack crucial experience in credit and borrowing,” Heather Battison, vice president of consumer communications at TransUnion, said in an email. “Given that 84% of teenagers learn about money from a parent or guardian, it’s crucial they continue to receive the hands-on guidance they need… spending less than they earn and learning responsible credit card use can help teenagers build and maintain their financial health as they prepare to embark on their college journey.”
One big shift? An increasing number of college students work during the school year to defray costs and rack up less debt. A study by the Center for Generational Kinetics found millions of students plan to work while in college, which is supported by Sallie Mae’s research: At least 76% of the students in the Sallie Mae report said they planned to do so, with 55% working year round.
What are other smart ways the current college-bound generation is making college more affordable? Here are three big moves that are growing more popular, according to the Sallie Mae report.
1. Getting more mileage from scholarships and grants
One of the biggest trends is that scholarships and grants are covering the largest share of college expenses in at least a decade. Approximately 35% of college costs are being paid through scholarships or grants, and while some grant and scholarship resources are new, the majority of the money has actually been available for years.
“Over the last 10 years some states have introduced new scholarships, but there’s nothing new with federal funding,” Julia Clark of Ipsos said to Mic by phone. “About 87% of these scholarships are coming from the schools.”
Awareness of scholarships may be increasing, with many different sources making funds available: 75% of students are receiving scholarships from private, nonprofit or community-based organizations, whereas 65% earn scholarships from state or local governments.
How can you score some grant or scholarship money? Advice is to start searching as early as you can, Mark Kantrowitz of scholarship search site Cappex told CNBC: But, as Mic has advised before, it can pay off to try again for tuition help even after you are already in college, as new sources of funding can open up unexpectedly.
Don’t forget to check your school’s policy on outside scholarship money, and file that FAFSA. Sallie Mae also offers a free scholarship research tool that offers access to five million scholarships.
Read more at Mic.
GRUNDY, Va. — Five days earlier, his mother had spent the last of her disability check on bologna, cheese, bread and Pepsi. Two days earlier, he had gone outside and looked at the train tracks that wind between the coal mines and said, “I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this.” One day earlier, the family dog had collapsed from an unnamed illness, and, without money for a veterinarian, he had watched her die on the porch. And now it was Monday morning, and Tyler McGlothlin, 19, had a plan.
“About time to go,” said his mother, Sheila McGlothlin, 57, stamping out a cigarette.
“I’m ready,” Tyler said, walking across a small, decaying house wedged against a mountain and strewn with dirty dishes, soda cans and ashtrays. They went outside, stepping past bottles of vodka his father had discarded before disappearing into another jail cell, and climbed a dirt path toward a housemate’s car.
He knew his plan was not a good one. But what choice did he have? He had looked inside the refrigerator that morning, and the math didn’t add up. Five people were living in the house, none of whom worked. It would be 17 days before his mother received another disability check and more food stamps. And the refrigerator contained only seven eggs, two pieces of bologna, 24 slices of Kraft American cheese, some sliced ham and one pork chop.
It had to be done.
Tyler would hold a sign on the side of the road and beg for money. He would go to a town 30 miles down the road and stand at one of the region’s busiest intersections, where he prayed no one would recognize him, to plead for help from people whose lives seemed so far removed from his own.
To Tyler, the collapse of the coal industry had left two kinds of people in these mountains. There are those who work. And there are those who don’t: the unemployed, the disabled, the addicted, and the people who, like his family, belonged to all three groups. Those who work rarely mix with those who don’t, except in brief encounters at the grocery store, at the schools or, for Tyler, along the side of the road, where he knew he was likely to encounter acts of generosity as well as outbursts of resentment.
As he walked toward the car and got inside, he had so many hopes in his head. He hoped he would get enough money to feed his family. He hoped the cops wouldn’t arrest him. But most of all, he hoped he wouldn’t run into a man named David Hess.
Read more at The Washington Post.
WASHINGTON — For Sarah Huckabee Sanders, chaos in President Donald Trump’s White House has proven to be a ladder.
Not that she would call it that.
Just days after she replaced Sean Spicer as press secretary in July — a job she’d been moonlighting in for months — Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was also out the door.
It looked like an administration in turmoil, but Sanders faced the press corps with a smile.
“If you want to see chaos, come to my house with three preschoolers. This doesn’t hold a candle to that,” Sanders said. “Just to be clear, that’s not an open invitation to come to my house. But if you guys want to schedule babysitting time, I’ll be happy to work that out.”
The laughter from the White House reporters was an early indicator of cooler, less contentious briefings to come as women ascended in a White House communications office that had seen unprecedented turnover and no shortage of drama in the early days of Trump’s term.
For the first time in any administration, two women are now in command of its top public-facing roles — press secretary (Sanders) and communications director (Hope Hicks). And thanks to another recent hire — Mercedes Schlapp as a senior communications strategist — women now make up 62 percent of Trump’s small but nimble press operation.
They say it makes a difference.
Read more at NBC News.
On August 2, 2017, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a record-breaking 22,000—its fourth 1,000-point advance in less than a year. That same day, I read the first sentence in Peter Georgescu’s new book, Capitalists Arise! End Economic Inequality, Grow the Middle Class, Heal the Nation: “For the past four decades, capitalism has been slowly committing suicide.”
How does Georgescu, the chairman emeritus of Young & Rubicam (Y&R) and a 1963 graduate of Stanford Graduate School of Business, reconcile the Dow’s ascent with his gloomy assertion?
“The stock market has nothing to do with the economy per se,” he says. “It has everything to do with only one thing: how much profit companies can squeeze out of the current crop of flowers in the garden. Pardon the metaphor. But that’s what corporations do—they squeeze out profits.”
In the latter half of the 1990s, Georgescu shepherded Y&R through a global expansion and an IPO. He has served on the boards of eight public companies, including Levi Strauss, Toys “R” Us, and International Flavors & Fragrances. He also is the author of two previous books, The Constant Choice: An Everyday Journey from Evil Toward Good and The Source of Success. An Advertising Hall of Fame inductee, the 78-year-old adman is still pitching corporate leaders. Now, however, he is trying to convince them to fundamentally rethink how—and for whom—they run their companies.
The fault lines in capitalism
Capitalism is an endangered economic system, Georgescu says. He sees a dearth of demand across the global economy, even as American corporations record their highest profits ever. “How does this magic happen?” he asks rhetorically. “You engineer it. You buy back your stock at 4% and change. Your earnings per share go up and the market says, ‘We like that.’”
What does he mean? He cites the seminal research by economist William Lazonick, who studied S&P 500 companies from 2003 to 2012 and discovered that they routinely spend 54% of their earnings buying back their own stock (reducing the number of outstanding shares and driving up share prices) and 37% of their earnings on dividends—both of which benefit shareholders. That leaves just 9% of earnings for investment in their business and their people.
This financial legerdemain obscures two fundamental fault lines in capitalism, and particularly in the US economy, according to Georgescu. The first is a lack of investment by companies in their own futures. “Our companies are not competitive because they don’t invest in themselves,” he says. “Total R&D investment is down. Total basic research, which is the precursor of innovation, is down dramatically. Investment in infrastructure has fallen to critical levels.”
The second fault line is the lack of investment by companies in their employees. “Innovation is the only real driver of success in the 21st century, and who does the innovation? Our employees. How are we motivating them? We treat them like dirt. If I need you, I need you. If I don’t, you’re out of here. And I keep your wages flat for 40 years,” says Georgescu, who points out that growth in real wages has been stagnant since the mid-1970s.
Read more at Quartz.
On a Tuesday morning in June 2016, Nathan Brown, a reporter for The Times-News, the local paper in Twin Falls, Idaho, strolled into the office and cleared off a spot for his coffee cup amid the documents and notebooks piled on his desk. Brown, 32, started his career at a paper in upstate New York, where he grew up, and looks the part of a local reporter, clad in a fresh oxford and khakis that tend to become disheveled over the course of his long days. His first order of business was an article about a City Council meeting from the night before, which he hadn’t attended. Brown pulled up a recording of the proceedings and began punching out notes for his weekly article. Because most governing in Twin Falls is done by a city manager, these meetings tend to deal with trivial subjects like lawn-watering and potholes, but Brown could tell immediately that this one was different.
“We have been made aware of a situation,” said the first speaker, an older man with a scraggly white beard who had hobbled up to the lectern. “An alleged assault of a minor child and we can’t get any information on it. Apparently, it’s been indicated that the perpetrators were foreign Muslim youth that conducted this — I guess it was a rape.” Brown recognized the man as Terry Edwards. About a year earlier, after The Times-News reported that Syrian refugees would very likely be resettled in Twin Falls, Edwards joined a movement to shut the resettlement program down. The group circulated a petition to put the proposal before voters. They failed to get enough signatures to force a referendum, but Brown was struck by how much support around town the movement attracted. In bars after work, he began to overhear conversations about the dangers of Islam. One night, he heard a man joke about dousing the entrance to the local mosque with pig’s blood.
After he finished watching the video, Brown called the police chief, Craig Kingsbury, to get more information about the case. Kingsbury said that he couldn’t discuss it and that the police reports were sealed because minors were involved. Brown made a couple phone calls: to the mayor and to his colleague at the paper who covers crime. He pieced together that 12 days earlier, three children had been discovered partly clothed inside a shared laundry room at the apartment complex where they lived. There were two boys, a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old, and a 5-year-old girl. The 7-year-old boy was accused of attempting some kind of sex act with the 5-year-old, and the 10-year-old had used a cellphone borrowed from his older brother to record it. The girl was American and, like most people in Twin Falls, white. The boys were refugees; Brown wasn’t sure from where. In his article about the meeting, Brown seems to anticipate that the police chief’s inability to elaborate was not going to sit well with the people whose testimony he had just watched.
Read more at the New York Times Magazine.
There were two events that were to change the life of 49-year-old French-Canadian film-maker Denis Villeneuve. The first was the arrival of three boxes, given to him before he reached his teens, by an aunt who strongly believed in extraterrestrials. The boxes – battered, overspilling – were full of sci-fi comic books by French artists from the 60s and 70s, the likes of Philippe Druillet and Jean “Moebius” Giraud, Enki Bilal and Raymond Poïvet. They were often baroque and bizarre, a little bit funny, a little bit nightmarish. Stories in Métal Hurlant depicted a sci-fi warrior who rose on a pterodactyl-like creature – and featured no words. In Pilote, a Victorian adventurer guarded his own pocket universe, situated on an asteroid, from invaders (think Doctor Who with a much bigger Tardis).
He didn’t know, he says now, what these artists were taking – but he wanted some. “It was just something I didn’t have any contact with. Still today, I think the best sci-fi has been designed by those guys.” It was, he says, a “storm of ideas” that hit him.
The second was a ticket he bought when he was 14, in a theatre near the small Canadian village where he grew up, for Blade Runner. At that point, pre-internet, his only link with the wider cultural world was magazines such as Starlog or Fantastic Films – “magazines made by maniacs”, which he means in the best possible way – and it was on the cover of one of these that he’d seen the first Blade Runner still.
“I remember the emotion,” he says, “of seeing my favourite actor at the time [Harrison Ford] doing a new character.” But, crucially, it was an adult character; a sci-fi film, like the comics he’d come to love, that wasn’t pitching down. “Yes! An adult world. A sci-fi film for adults. Which for me, when you’re a teenager, was a big thing. Like, it’s serious. It’s not a comedy. It felt like an existential sci-fi. It had a strong aesthetic. It felt new.”
Read more at Wired.
In 2005, two years after Sameer Sahay arrived in the United States from India to pursue an MBA, he was thrilled when an Oregon health care company hired him and agreed to sponsor his green card. His life as an American, he thought, had begun.
Twelve years later, Sahay, now 50, is still a data architect, still working for the same firm, and still waiting for that green card. It’s not clear when he’ll clear the government backlog. He does know that his provisional status stalled his career — changing jobs would have required the company to file a new petition.
“Personally, I have sacrificed my career to help my family to have a better life,” Sahay says. “That has taken its toll. Had I gotten a green card, I could have moved on, moved up, done a lot more things. This held me where I was 10 years ago.”
Tangled and contradictory immigration policies of this sort have frustrated Indian immigrants for years, but the United States was seen as a prize worth pursuing. Now, though, many Indians — long a vital pillar of U.S. hospitals, tech firms, and engineering efforts — are reconsidering their options. Despite a chummy Rose Garden meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June, the permanent legal status of many Indians in America has become far more uncertain since Trump’s election.
In the president’s short time in office, his promises and policies — from the “Muslim ban” to a directive that may alter who gets a work visa — have convinced many foreign nationals that they are not welcome. For many of the 2.4 million Indian nationals living in the United States, including roughly 1 million who are scientists and engineers, the fears are existential; although roughly 45 percent are naturalized citizens, hundreds of thousands still depend on impermanent visas that must be periodically renewed.
Changes in the U.S. skilled visa scheme could trigger large economic and intellectual losses, especially in states with many South Asian residents such as California and New Jersey. Some foreign nationals there wonder if Trump’s policies will trigger an Indian brain drain.
Read more at Business Insider.
Richard Dever had swabbed the campground shower stalls and emptied 20 garbage cans, and now he climbed slowly onto a John Deere mower to cut a couple acres of grass.
“I’m going to work until I die, if I can, because I need the money,” said Dever, 74, who drove 1,400 miles to this Maine campground from his home in Indiana to take a temporary job that pays $10 an hour.
Dever shifted gently in the tractor seat, a rubber cushion carefully positioned to ease the bursitis in his hip — a snapshot of the new reality of old age in America.
People are living longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working — now nearly 1 in 5. That proportion has risen steadily over the past decade, and at a far faster rate than any other age group. Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000.
While some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Fundamental changes in the U.S. retirement system have shifted responsibility for saving from the employer to the worker, exacerbating the nation’s rich-poor divide. Two recent recessions devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.
Polls show that most older people are more worried about running out of money than dying.
“There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist who specializes in retirement security. “People are coming into retirement with a lot more anxiety and a lot less buying power.”
As a result, many older workers are hitting the road as work campers — also called “workampers” — those who shed costly lifestyles, purchase RVs and travel the nation picking up seasonal jobs that typically offer hourly wages and few or no benefits.
Amazon’s “CamperForce” program hires thousands of these silver-haired migrant workers to box online orders during the Christmas rush. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Walmart, whose giant parking lots are famous for welcoming RV travelers, has hired elderly people as store greeters and cashiers. Websites such as the Workamper News list jobs as varied as ushering at NASCAR tracks in Florida, picking sugar beets in Minnesota and working as security guards in the Texas oil fields.
In Maine, which calls itself “Vacationland,” thousands of seniors are drawn each summer to the state’s rocky coastline and picturesque small towns, both as vacationers and seasonal workers. In Bar Harbor, one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations, well-to-do retirees come ashore from luxury cruise ships to dine on $30 lobsters and $13 glasses of sauvignon blanc — leaving tips for other senior citizens waiting on oceanfront tables, driving Oli’s Trolley buses or taking tickets for whale-watching tours.
The Devers have noticed this economic divide. They found their campground jobs online and drove here in May, with plans to stay until the season ends in October. On a recent day off, they took a bus tour near Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, where the tour guide pointed out the oceanfront Rockefeller estate and Martha Stewart’s 12-bedroom mansion.
Read more at The Washington Post
Washington spends billions of dollars every year collecting information on the country, from high-profile surveys like the monthly jobs report to the little-known census of mink operations. But for all the resources expended to collect, interpret and disseminate this data, there are some huge holes in our statistical system. You might thing we collect data on the gig economy, or firearm deaths? Nope.
For one reason or another—lack of interest, or difficulty in collecting it—the government doesn’t have information on some key components of American society, forcing policymakers and businesses to make decisions, relatively speaking, in the dark. We asked more than a dozen statistical experts, policymakers and businesspeople, what are the most worrisome data holes in our statistical system? Here are five big areas where we don’t have enough—or any—data:
1. The great housing unknown
The U.S. government spends tens of billions of dollars a year on housing policies, from housing vouchers to the mortgage-interest deduction. Owning a home is considered a principal component of the American dream, and the housing market is tracked with near-obsessive granularity. But on one big housing issue, there is almost no good data: evictions. As the Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond documented in his 2016 book “Evicted,” being forcibly removed from your rental property is a traumatizing experience. But neither the government nor the private sector consistently track almost any information on evictions—how many happen in a year, where they happen or the demographics of those evicted. More than 40 million people live in rental housing, but policymakers are much more focused on homeowners than renters—and the lack of data makes evictions all too easy to ignore.
2. How many Uber drivers are there?
For years, headline after headline has spoken about the rise of the so-called gig economy—companies like Uber, Airbnb and Postmates that are transforming their respective industries by creatively turning freelancers into a full-time workforce. Depending where you stand, it’s a welcome disruption or a threat to labor standards. There’s only one problem: We don’t actually know if the gig economy is growing.
The Department of Labor conducts a survey to measure what it calls so-called alternative work arrangements but it hasn’t published the survey since 2005, long before Uber was founded. Economists have run their own surveys attempting to fill in the gaps, but they aren’t as rich or informative as the DOL survey. So even as think tanks have held endless events on the “Future of Work” and talking heads have proposed new labor rules, we don’t really know how much they’re affecting the workplace. Fortunately, the Labor Department scrounged together enough money last year to conduct the survey; the results are due early next year, giving policymakers their first real look at the size and demographics of this segment of the labor market. But the agency, despite requests to Congress, doesn’t have money to continue running the survey in the future, leaving policymakers in the dark on a potentially transformative trend.
Read more at Politico
“You know what?” Nicki Minaj says, catching a laugh in the back of her throat. “This era will be a billion times more epic than anything ‘Anaconda’ could have delivered. I think this era will definitely be the most memorable and the most impactful of my career yet.”
Lately, the Trinidadian-born, Queens-raised, international hip hop superstar has been keeping vampirical hours. “I’ve been a little bit swamped,” she explains – a funny choice of words, considering her current residence in the sinking cosmopolis of Miami Beach. Minaj has been here for most of 2017 working on her new album – her first since 2014’s The Pinkprint. “This is my main stomping ground. Every day is different. Some days I’ll go into the studio at six in the morning, some days I won’t come out until six in the morning.”
When it comes to giving intel on any direction the new album might be taking, Minaj keeps all the juicy details firmly locked away, including when it may actually see the light of day. “I’ve made it my business with this album to not even put a date or a deadline on it,” she says. “I can’t say if I’m fifty-per-cent, eighty-per-cent or ten-per-cent done, because I don’t know. Tomorrow, I might walk into the studio and decide that I don’t like anything I’ve done in the last six months. Or, tomorrow I might walk in and feel like the whole album is done. There’s so much beauty in not knowing. I just want to go in the studio and create like I used to, before there were any expectations. You know? When I was just having fun, working on my mixtapes, going in and creating… writing my little life.”
Because of her recording schedule, Minaj often wakes up to sweeping night views of the Atlantic Ocean. She loves to gaze at it, she says. It makes her feel small. “I didn’t realise the water would have so much of an effect on me,” she reveals, “but it keeps me calm. It does something to me. Even when it’s raining I go out on my balcony and all I can see is water and the sky, and I feel so small in relation to the world that I have no choice but to feel super-grateful. It’s been making me centre into myself.”
One can imagine Minaj’s difficulty in escaping her own bigness. Since 2007, she has become not just globally famous, but one of music’s most iconic presences. She has, by any available metric, surpassed every other female hip hop artist to become the most successful in history. Minaj will be as important to this decade as The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac were to the 90s. It’s likely her career will span many decades, like Madonna’s or Cher’s. She is the embodiment of millennial pink. The New York Times called her the most influential female rapper of all time. And, at the time of our chat, Billboard reports that emerging star Cardi B has landed the first top-ten solo female rap song (“Bodak Yellow”) since Minaj, underscoring the Queens rapper’s stature as the standard-bearer for female emcees.
Read more at Dazed Digital.
The most iconic image of midcentury American architecture is arguably Julius Shulman’s photo of the glass-walled Case Study No. 22 house in Los Angeles, which appears to float weightlessly, almost magically above the city. The appeal of the image—which Time magazine called “the most successful real estate image ever taken” (and which was in fact staged with models in cocktail attire)—lies in the way that the silhouetted inhabitants appear to live in another plane, absent any extraneous furnishings or walls, yet safely enclosed and bathed in the home’s light. The luxury the house evokes is neither gaudy nor accessible; it is desirable because of what and who isn’t there—walls, clutter, crowds, or street. Shulman’s photo and the architecture it depicts have in years since helped stoke a mimetic desire for a weightless, minimalist, perfectly curated life, a desire that now drives an entire industry of midcentury real estate, furniture, and associated lifestyle goods.
But midcentury modern homes are increasingly rare and can require expensive repairs, while suburban upper-middle-class homes built after the midcentury period, with their thick walls and frequently Southwest or Mediterranean features, tend to be the formal opposite of the Stahl house. With actual midcentury homes out of reach for most, developers and architects are now attempting to satisfy—and of course sell to—this desire with midcentury-inspired construction. But the new midcentury-inspired home does not look quite like the Case Study house in Shulman’s photo. Comparing Case Study House No. 22 and its ilk to new midcentury-inspired homes tells us not just what was so appealing about midcentury architecture, but also what architecture has lost since that period.
Midcentury modern architecture has been less popular with practicing architects than with homebuyers, since architects are incentivized by their trade and its publications to architect forward, not backward. Several architects I spoke to said that even as the midcentury fervor has grown, many refuse to rebuild the old styles, favoring new work in organic and futuristic forms over repetitions of old designs. According to architect Ray Kappe, who is known for his glassy, transparent midcentury home designs, “most graduates of schools of architecture since the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s have wanted to move architectural ideas forward. They are interested in having their work published in the magazines and books, [and] most publications are presenting other work.”
“We would rather design for this era than a 70-year-old era,” says Palm Springs architect James Cioffi, who worked in the ’70s with iconic midcentury architects like Hugh Kaptur and says he is often called a midcentury architect but doesn’t consider himself one. Cioffi, with other contemporary architects, like Lance O’Donnell, is building new homes in an area of Palm Springs called Desert Palisades. These homes are intended to be truly modern, rather than what Cioffi calls “throwbacks.”
Read more at Curbed.
Driving or taking a bus to a neighboring town, you’d hit checkpoints where armed police officers might search your phone for banned apps like Facebook or Twitter, and scroll through your text messages to see if you had used any religious language.
You would be particularly worried about making phone calls to friends and family abroad. Hours later, you might find police officers knocking at your door and asking questions that make you suspect they were listening in the whole time.
For millions of people in China’s remote far west, this dystopian future is already here. China, which has already deployed the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship system, is building a surveillance state in Xinjiang, a four-hour flight from Beijing, that uses both the newest technology and human policing to keep tabs on every aspect of citizens’ daily lives. The region is home to a Muslim ethnic minority called the Uighurs, who China has blamed for forming separatist groups and fueling terrorism. Since this spring, thousands of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have disappeared into so-called political education centers, apparently for offenses from using Western social media apps to studying abroad in Muslim countries, according to relatives of those detained.
Over the past two months, I interviewed more than two dozen Uighurs, including recent exiles and those who are still in Xinjiang, about what it’s like to live there. The majority declined to be named because they were afraid that police would detain or arrest their families if their names appeared in the press.
Read more at BuzzFeed.
Women in Saudi Arabia are to be allowed to drive – ending a law which made the Gulf nation the only country in the world to forbid female drivers.
On Twitter, the news was being celebrated widely.
The change, which will not happen immediately, was announced on state television and in a simultaneous media event in Washington.
It highlights the damage that the policy has done to the kingdom’s international reputation and its hopes for a public relations benefit from the reform.
Campaigners have for many years argued that women should be allowed to drive, saying that it makes virtual prisoners out of women who do not have a male family member or chauffeur to drive them around.
In June 2011, about 40 women got behind the wheel and drove in several cities in a protest sparked when Manal Sharif, one of the founders of the movement, was arrested and detained for 24 hours after posting a video of herself driving.
Another was arrested and sentenced to 10 lashes – a sentence later overturned by the king – and the rest were told to sign statements guaranteeing they would not drive again.
In October 2013, shortly after a prominent cleric claimed that medical studies showed driving damaged a woman’s ovaries, 60 women took part in a protest, driving in spite of warnings from the authorities.
Read more at Telegraph.
It’s not often you’ll find these 24 names in the same place. They are historians and musicians, computer scientists and social activists, writers and architects. But whatever it may read on their business cards (if they’ve even got business cards), they now all have a single title in common: 2017 MacArthur Fellow.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s fellowship — often better known as the “genius” grant — and the list includes a characteristically wide array of disciplines: There’s painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby, for instance, and mathematician Emmanuel Candès and immunologist Gabriel Victora, among many others.
(Note: The foundation is among NPR’s financial supporters.)
Each of the recipients has been selected for having “shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction” — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation “as an investment in their potential,” paid out over five years with no strings attached.
Jason De León, an anthropologist who studies and preserves the objects left behind by people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers he’s got an idea of how he’s planning to use that money: “Pay off my student loans,” the 40-year-old scholar laughs.
“But you know, really, we see this grant as a way to facilitate the work that we’re doing even more and to push it in new directions,” De León continues. “It’s really exciting to think about all these projects that me and many of my collaborators have been workshopping for years now. We’re going to have resources to do these things.”
You can find the full list of winners below — paired with the foundation’s description of their work and, where possible, links to NPR’s previous coverage to get to know them better.
Read more at NPR.
For all the effort employers are pouring into advancing women in the workplace, why are they making so little headway?
One big obstacle: Men and women are at odds over whether there even is a problem to begin with.
In the same offices and on the same teams, women largely view gender equality as a work still in early progress, while many male colleagues see a mission accomplished. Significantly more men than women say their companies are level playing fields and have plenty of women leaders, even in places where less than 1 in 10 top executives are women. And they are much more likely to say gender diversity isn’t a priority for them, often because they think merit would suffer.
The disconnect matters given that so many middle and senior managers are men. Among factors that smooth or stymie career advancement, women say that daily interactions with their direct bosses are more important than the tone set by top leadership—and one of the many ways that their experiences diverge from those of their male co-workers. Women are less likely than men to feel that their managers give them opportunities to grow, and less likely to feel that their managers consider a diverse set of people for promotions. The sexes are even more divided on whether bosses consistently challenge biased or disrespectful behavior toward women.
Those are some of the findings of LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co.’s 2017 Women in the Workplace report. In one of the largest efforts ever to gauge the attitudes and experiences of working women, researchers collected data on promotions, attrition and career arcs at 222 companies and surveyed 70,000 of those companies’ employees in North America.
The perception gap could explain why so many employers are still struggling to crack the code to retaining and promoting more women, despite no shortage of initiatives.
The information shows that 85% of the companies surveyed track women at each rung of the managerial ladder. Roughly one-third set gender targets for senior roles and in key operations; 40% hold top leaders accountable for how well they meet those goals.
It isn’t just lip service that is driving such measures. A growing body of evidence shows that having more women in power and having more diverse decision makers boosts the bottom line.
A 2015 McKinsey study of 366 companies, for instance, found those with more women on their leadership teams and boards of directors were more likely to post higher profits than their competitors compared with companies that had relatively low numbers of senior women. More than three-quarters of the companies tracked by Lean In and McKinsey say they have made that business case to employees.
But at every career stage, the disparities between men and women have barely narrowed in recent years. Though roughly equal shares of men and women make up entry-level jobs, men outnumber women nearly 2 to 1 by the first move up the management ladder.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal
The business world is constantly changing and now it’s changing at an accelerated speed. American workers no longer have decades to adapt to new technologies or business advancements. People need to be able to adapt — and adapt quickly — if they want to thrive in the business world and not fall behind or become obsolete. The idea that you can go to college and receive a two-year or four-year degree and then be equipped to work at a job for the next 30 years is not true anymore.
Bono, lead vocalist for the rock band U2, and Thomas L. Friedman, a foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and author of the book, Thank You for Being Late, recently shared what skill sets workers should have to be successful now and in the future — whether they are a new graduate or have already been in the workforce for 10 years or 40 years. Here are the three traits workers should possess to help them quickly adapt to changes in business and set themselves apart as a leader in the workplace.
1. Embrace a lifelong passion for learning. We no longer live during a time where it’s beneficial to stock up a bunch of knowledge and resources and be set for your career. What you know today could be obsolete tomorrow or the job you perform now may be taken over by a computer system. This is why it’s imperative to embrace learning as a means to adapt to a shifting marketplace. “When you have an accelerated pace of change, the single most competitive advantage is to be a lifelong learner,” Friedman says.
Part of being a lifelong learner means being connected to the flow of the world. That is what digital globalization is all about, Friedman says. During the Middle Ages, it was wise to build a town near a river, because the river provided transportation, food, energy and ideas. It’s just as important today to be connected to the pulse of the world by surrounding yourself with innovative people, who have a global perspective as well as employees, who are able to take advantage of a changing marketplace.
“We are in the middle of three climate changes at once,” Friedman notes. “First, there is climate change, and the knowledge that the time where we could fix any environmental problem either now or later has shifted to needing to be fixed now. Next, the climate of globalization has changed. The world is no longer just interconnected; it is now interdependent. Lastly, the climate of technology has changed. People are adapting to a world with cloud computing, artificial intelligence and big data. These changes have created a business environment where you can analyze, optimize, prophesize, customize and digitize anything.” In fact, Friedman says if your business is not taking advantage of those five business practices, then your company will be at a real disadvantage.
Read more at Forbes.
Toward the end of the Supreme Court’s argument in Gill v. Whitford, about the future of partisan gerrymandering, there was a revealing moment about the place of the newest Justice in the esteem of at least one of his peers. In less than a year, Neil Gorsuch has dominated oral arguments, lectured his colleagues, and given dubiously appropriate public speeches. Questioning Paul Smith, the lawyer challenging Wisconsin’s contorted district lines, Gorsuch made another pedantic gesture.
The argument had gone on for nearly an hour when Gorsuch began a question as follows: “Maybe we can just for a second talk about the arcane matter of the Constitution.” There was a rich subtext to this query. Originalists and textualists such as Gorsuch, and his predecessor on the Court, Antonin Scalia, often criticize their colleagues for inventing rights that are not found in the nation’s founding document. Gorsuch’s statement that the Court should spare “a second” for the “arcane” subject of the document was thus a slap at his ideological adversaries; of course, they, too, believe that they are interpreting the Constitution, but, in Gorsuch’s view, only he cares about the document itself.
Gorsuch went on to give his colleagues a civics lecture about the text of the Constitution. “And where exactly do we get authority to revise state legislative lines? When the Constitution authorizes the federal government to step in on state legislative matters, it’s pretty clear—if you look at the Fifteenth Amendment, you look at the Nineteenth Amendment, the Twenty-sixth Amendment, and even the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 2.” In other words, Gorsuch was saying, why should the Court involve itself in the subject of redistricting at all—didn’t the Constitution fail to give the Court the authority to do so?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is bent with age, can sometimes look disengaged or even sleepy during arguments, and she had that droopy look today as well. But, in this moment, she heard Gorsuch very clearly, and she didn’t even raise her head before offering a brisk and convincing dismissal. In her still Brooklyn-flecked drawl, she grumbled, “Where did ‘one person, one vote’ come from?” There might have been an audible woothat echoed through the courtroom. (Ginsburg’s comment seemed to silence Gorsuch for the rest of the arguments.)
Read more at The New Yorker.
President Trump and congressional Republicans are ramping up their push to pass tax reform. What, exactly, “reform” means is still an open question; as my colleague Perry Bacon Jr. has detailed, different Republican factions put a higher priority on different elements of a possible bill. There are divides, for instance, over how regressive any measure should be and how much emphasis to put on tax cuts versus deficit reduction.
With the policy details still in flux, let’s take a step back to consider a few broad facts on how the American public thinks about taxes. Consider this “The Politics of Taxes: 101.”
1. Tax reform is not a top priority for most Americans, which might make it less divisive than health care.
The various Republican health care bills that Congress considered were all unpopular. That was obviously problematic. But one of the big reasons GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare became such a big problem for Republicans is that health care is important to Americans. During the health care debate earlier this year, Americans consistently listed health care among their top concerns. In a May Gallup poll, health care tied with “dissatisfaction with government/poor leadership” as the most important problem facing the country, at 18 percent.
Taxes are different. Just 2 percent of Americans rate it as the nation’s most important problem, according to Gallup. And while 53 percent of Republicans rated Obamacare repeal as an “extremely important” priority for Congress this year in a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey, only 34 percent of Republicans felt the same way about “reducing federal taxes on individuals and businesses.” Meanwhile, only 4 percent of the most active members of the “Resistance” movement against Trump rated the economy as their No. 1 voting issue, according to a nonscientific Lake Research Partners poll. In the same survey, 37 percent said health care was their top voting issue.
Of course, repealing Obamacare has been the top story for much of the year, but health care has consistently outranked taxes as a priority for Americans in a variety of poll questions for most of the past 15 or so years.
The point is that members of Congress are less likely to feel pressure from their constituents on tax reform than on health care. That doesn’t mean pressure won’t develop, particularly if the GOP plans are super unpopular (something that seems very possible at the moment). But all else being equal, taxes are less likely than health care to ignite a firestorm among the public.
2. Taxes are a top priority for business groups and GOP donors, which could skew the legislation in their favor.
An overhaul of the tax system is reportedly a huge priority for conservative interest groups, including the Koch network. The Kochs are investing more than $10 million to advocate for a tax bill, including ads on television to pressure members to vote for the legislation.
That potential disconnect — an absence of public pressure and attention vs. high engagement from GOP donors and business groups — could have big ramifications in terms of what legislation Congress pushes, and therefore what the political fallout of the tax effort ends up being. Republicans might be more responsive to wealthy donors and interest groups who put a high priority on taxes. The bill might therefore disproportionately benefit those groups, which would likely make it really unpopular.
3. Still, Republicans start off in a much better position on taxes than on health care.
Another major problem Republicans faced on health care is that Americans trusted Democrats more on the issue. In a June Gallup survey, for example, 55 percent of Americans said the Democratic Party would do a better job dealing with health care, compared with just 36 percent who said Republicans would. That meant that pretty much any health care package Republicans put forth was starting at a disadvantage and would have to overcome deep skepticism from the American public.
On taxes, Republicans are on a much more level playing field. The same Gallup poll found that 45 percent felt Democrats could deal better with taxes, while 43 percent said the Republicans could. When it came to the national debt — which might become a Democratic line of attack against the eventual GOP bill — 49 percent said Republicans could better deal with it to just 35 for the Democrats.
If Republican legislators can agree on a plan, the public is likely to be more willing to listen to the party’s pitch on taxes than on health care.
Read more at Five Thirty Eight
The newly installed Sackler Courtyard at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the most glittering places in the developed world. Eleven thousand white porcelain tiles, inlaid like a shattered backgammon board, cover a surface the size of six tennis courts. According to the V&A’s director, the regal setting is intended to serve as a “living room for London,” by which he presumably means a living room for Kensington, the museum’s neighborhood, which is among the world’s wealthiest. In late June, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was summoned to consecrate the courtyard, said to be the earth’s first outdoor space made of porcelain; stepping onto the ceramic expanse, she silently mouthed, “Wow.”
The Sackler Courtyard is the latest addition to an impressive portfolio. There’s the Sackler Wing at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses the majestic Temple of Dendur, a sandstone shrine from ancient Egypt; additional Sackler wings at the Louvre and the Royal Academy; stand-alone Sackler museums at Harvard and Peking Universities; and named Sackler galleries at the Smithsonian, the Serpentine, and Oxford’s Ashmolean. The Guggenheim in New York has a Sackler Center, and the American Museum of Natural History has a Sackler Educational Lab. Members of the family, legendary in museum circles for their pursuit of naming rights, have also underwritten projects of a more modest caliber—a Sackler Staircase at Berlin’s Jewish Museum; a Sackler Escalator at the Tate Modern; a Sackler Crossing in Kew Gardens. A popular species of pink rose is named after a Sackler. So is an asteroid.
The Sackler name is no less prominent among the emerald quads of higher education, where it’s possible to receive degrees from Sackler schools, participate in Sackler colloquiums, take courses from professors with endowed Sackler chairs, and attend annual Sackler lectures on topics such as theoretical astrophysics and human rights. The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science supports research on obesity and micronutrient deficiencies. Meanwhile, the Sackler institutes at Cornell, Columbia, McGill, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sussex, and King’s College London tackle psychobiology, with an emphasis on early childhood development.
The Sacklers’ philanthropy differs from that of civic populists like Andrew Carnegie, who built hundreds of libraries in small towns, and Bill Gates, whose foundation ministers to global masses. Instead, the family has donated its fortune to blue-chip brands, braiding the family name into the patronage network of the world’s most prestigious, well-endowed institutions. The Sackler name is everywhere, evoking automatic reverence; the Sacklers themselves, however, are rarely seen.
Read more in Esquire to learn source of all their wealth.
Between 2014 and 2016, Tiffany Wright attended 17 weddings. As well as becoming an expert on guest etiquette, Wright noticed the brides had one thing in common.
“They always seemed quite stressed at certain points in the wedding,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “Although she had family and friends around her, I didn’t feel there were things she could ask them to do in case they missed out on the fun.”
This observation was enough to inspire Wright, who had previously worked as a marriage proposal planner, to think about a new role in the wedding industry. She started a career as a professional bridesmaid, with the option of working “undercover” for the brides who might prefer to keep their helping hand a secret.
“I had been used to dealing with other people’s wedding problems, so it felt like the right time to set up my bridesmaid business,” she explained. Reflecting on her own experience as a bride also encouraged her to make the move.
“I got married in 2012 and and I had six bridesmaids,” Wright recalled. “When we were all getting ready together I discovered that my strapless bra, which I hadn’t tried on, was so uncomfortable. I would have loved to ask one of them to run out and get me another bra, and I remember thinking at that stage – ‘who is there to help me with this?'”
Wright recognised that brides, and sometimes grooms, often need an extra pair of hands to do the “boring jobs,” from organising transport to finding a quick way to remove a nail polish stain from a bridesmaid’s dress. By becoming a “bridal PA,” she has also tapped in to the multi-million pound wedding business which shows little sign of slowing down.
Wright offers three packages as part of her Undercover Bridesmaid service. For £250, the ‘Online Bridesmaid’ option is the most basic and includes 1:1 sessions where Wright will advise on arranging bridesmaid duties and the endless wedding planning choices, from colour themes to seating plans.
Read more at Harper’s Bazaar.
‘We feel huge responsibility’ to get information right
“I view it as a big responsibility to get it right,” he says. “I think we’ll be able to do these things better over time. But I think the answer to your question, the short answer and the only answer, is we feel huge responsibility.” Later, he added, “Today, we overwhelmingly get it right. But I think every single time we stumble. I feel the pain, and I think we should be held accountable.”
Learning about Google’s “stumble” after we talked put some of our conversation in a different light. I was there to talk about how Pichai’s project to realign the entire company to an “AI-first” footing was going in the lead-up to Google’s massive hardware event. Google often seems like the leader in weaving AI into its products; that’s certainly Pichai’s relentless focus. But it’s worth questioning whether Google’s systems are making the right decisions, even as they make some decisions much easier.
When the subject isn’t the failure of its news algorithms, Pichai is enthusiastic about AI. There’s not much difference between an enthusiastic Sundar Pichai and a quiet, thoughtful Sundar Pichai, but you get a sense of it when he names a half-dozen Google products that have been improved by its deep learning systems off the top of his head.
Google’s lead in doing clever, innovative things with AI is impressive, and the examples Pichai cites can sometimes even verge on inspiring — but there’s clearly still work to do.
Read more at The Verge.
Recruiting manager Casey Miller noticed something different about the intern presentations at Enterprise Holdings Inc. this summer.
In previous years, the proceedings at the car-rental company followed a similar pattern: Male interns typically organized, delegated and spoke on behalf of the groups, says Ms. Miller.
This year, in many cases, female interns took the lead, and the men played supporting roles. “The male interns weren’t concerned or giving it another thought,” Ms. Miller says. “It was very natural.”
The recruiter was witness to what researchers say are changing attitudes and behaviors among the youngest entrants to the workforce. Young millennial women, those born from 1988 to 1995, are joining the workplace with significantly higher levels of ambition than older women. And though women still trail men in the desire to be a top executive, the gap in ambition appears to be narrowing.
More surprisingly, men and women under age 30 hold similar views on some issues concerning gender at work, according to a large study of women in the workplaceconducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co.
Women’s growing assertiveness may stem from their formative years, which coincided with the 2008 recession, says Lisa Walden, a researcher and communications director at the research and consulting firm BridgeWorks.
Shayla Owodunni, a 27-year-old finance manager at Expedia , was finishing high school in the Minneapolis suburbs when her father was laid off from his engineering job at Northwest Airlines. She originally wanted to study law in college and “fight for the underdog,” she says, but the recession prompted her to change course.
Taking her father’s advice to consider financial security in her career choices, she went into accounting. Her sights are now set on rising to chief financial officer of a company someday, she says.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal
Tank, a veteran singer with a decade and a half of R&B hits, remembers the moment when rappers took over the airwaves.
“Bone Thugs-n-Harmony are the Jesuses of melody rap,” he says. “What they did was theirs at the time; nobody could touch it, so nobody did. But when Nelly came around [in 2000] with hip-hop fully infused with melody, that’s when people started to take notice. Then Ja Rule came. It’s like, ‘Hey – you’re in my lane!'”
“We didn’t stop and realize what was happening,” Tank continues. “With hip-hop growing and taking over at the rapid pace that it was, I would say us R&B guys couldn’t compete – and we didn’t compete.”
The ascent of rap on mainstream radio has had wide-reaching consequences for R&B, fundamentally changing the types of voices you hear in the genre’s mainstream. Historically, singers with a mastery of clean, high tones – from Patti Labelle to Deniece Williams to Ralph Tresvant to Usher – flourished next to singers who favored lower, rougher registers, artists like Barry White, Chaka Khan, Anita Baker and Toni Braxton. This variety allowed for a breathtaking range of expression: No other genre celebrated as many fine gradations of the human voice as R&B. But as melodic rappers became ever more dominant, the lower-register R&B singers largely disappeared from the mainstream, and young singers hoping for mainstream success began staying away from deeper tones and rougher textures.
“I’m in my high interview voice so I won’t frighten you,” jokes Braxton, whose low vocals graced multiple platinum-selling records during the 1990s. “I’m prejudiced because I’m a contralto, but I don’t hear many of them anymore.” Kuk Harrell, a vocal producer for superstars like Rihanna and Usher, offers a similar observation. “I really do miss that lower-register voice,” he says. “That’s not to say we don’t have great emotions out of higher-voiced singers, but that particular thing is not here.”
“A certain grit went into something else,” adds the singer Bilal. “Ain’t nobody singing like Teddy Pendergrass no more.”
Why did the doors close for deep and gritty vocalists, who were an important part of R&B’s mainstream as the genre progressed through soul, funk, Quiet Storm, disco, Eighties synth fusions, house music and the hip-hop-inflected mutations of the Nineties? More than 20 conversations* with artists, producers, label executives and radio programmers indicate that low-register R&B singers were squeezed on two sides at the turn of the millennium: First, rappers took over the vocal ranges that once belonged to R&B, and then struggling labels abandoned R&B groups, which traditionally supported a wide variety of voices. These shifts were compounded as mainstream radio stopped playing R&B songs, which limited the avenues of exposure for all R&B singers but especially hurt those who favor low, throaty intonations.
Read more at Rolling Stone.
Most descriptions of troubled marriages don’t seem to fit my situation,” Priya insists. “Colin and I have a wonderful relationship. Great kids, no financial stresses, careers we love, great friends. He is a phenom at work, fucking handsome, attentive lover, fit, and generous to everyone, including my parents. My life is good.” Yet Priya is having an affair. “Not someone I would ever date—ever, ever, ever. He drives a truck and has tattoos. It’s so clichéd, it pains me to say it out loud. It could ruin everything I’ve built.”
Priya is right. Few events in the life of a couple, except illness and death, carry such devastating force. For years, I have worked as a therapist with hundreds of couples who have been shattered by infidelity. And my conversations about affairs have not been confined within the cloistered walls of my therapy practice; they’ve happened on airplanes, at dinner parties, at conferences, at the nail salon, with colleagues, with the cable guy, and of course, on social media. From Pittsburgh to Buenos Aires, Delhi to Paris, I have been conducting an open-ended survey about infidelity.
Adultery has existed since marriage was invented, yet this extremely common act remains poorly understood. Around the globe, the responses I get when I mention infidelity range from bitter condemnation to resigned acceptance to cautious compassion to outright enthusiasm. In Paris, the topic brings an immediate frisson to a dinner conversation, and I note how many people have been on both sides of the story. In Bulgaria, a group of women I met seem to view their husbands’ philandering as unfortunate but inevitable. In Mexico, women I spoke with proudly see the rise of female affairs as a form of social rebellion against a chauvinistic culture that has long made room for men to have “two homes,” la casa grande y la casa chica—one for the family, and one for the mistress. Infidelity may be ubiquitous, but the way we make meaning of it—how we define it, experience it, and talk about it—is ultimately linked to the particular time and place where the drama unfolds.
Read more at The Atlantic.
Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc spent nearly four years shooting portraits of — and collecting stories about — women from around the world. The product of her vision — and her travels to 50 countries — can be seen in her book The Atlas Of Beauty.
The project, she says, began as something “very genuine and sincere” that she financed, initially, with her own savings — and by being frugal in her backpacking adventure. She later crowd-funded, including a Facebook campaign in March.
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navaro spoke with the 31-year-old via phone from Berlin about her photography. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This book is called The Atlas Of Beauty. What is beautiful to you? What kind of beauty were you trying to evoke?
That’s a very long story, actually. I’m going to try to make it short. You know nowadays the word usually has a little bit of a bad meaning in the end. And everything that’s related to beauty is just related to marketing and sales. If you’re going to put into Google, for example, ‘beautiful woman,’ you’re just going to see women with parted lips and a little bit over-sexualized. And that’s not what beauty means. In the end, I think beauty just means just being yourself. I don’t think we have to change ourselves to be in a certain way; I think we just have to keep ourselves as we are and don’t necessarily [need] to change.
Were you trying to reclaim the word ‘beauty,’ perhaps, from the male gaze and make it more about the way women see other women?
Maybe people that are going to look at my work are going to draw their own conclusions. I think I started the project in a very sincere way and the way it developed made us see some lessons from it.
The book features all these portraits of different women in different situations, of different ages, of different colors, of different sizes all over the world, and little snippets of their stories. How did you choose your subjects?
That’s a very beautiful question because I think everything is very instinctual and, maybe, it’s something that attracts you more than the appearance. Like a chemistry that happens for a moment between you and the person that you photograph. And you’re just drawn to the people that you’re going to photograph. It’s something very natural, it’s nothing planned. That’s the beauty of it, and that’s why the book is more honest and more sincere. Because if I would have planned everything, probably it would be very different.
Read more or listen at NPR.
At the beginning of Gloria Steinem’s career, she filed all her stories in person. There was no email, no internet, no Google Drive. She delivered her work face-to-face.
Once, she dropped off her piece at a prominent New York-based magazine, and her editor gave her a choice: “Either I could mail his letters on the way out, or I could go to a hotel room with him in the afternoon.”
Steinem bolted. And then she warned every woman she knew. It was the late 1960s, and it was a kind of induction ritual: a woman writer would move to New York, and her new female peers in the business would tell her which editors were “good.” That is, which ones didn’t ask you to drop off their mail or demand sexual favors or, as one editor at another magazine had when Steinem was still new, glance up from his papers after she’d come in to pitch a piece and tell her, “We don’t want a pretty girl. We want a writer. Go home.”
Women make sure “the word gets out,” Steinem says. And when we meet on Tuesday afternoon her claim has indeed been substantiated. It’s just hours after women have gotten the word out (for the third time this week) about Harvey Weinstein.
Steinem has a deep reverence for the power of public testimonies, especially as she first encountered them as a salve for trauma in talking circles in India; “those groups,” she wrote in My Life on the Road, “in which anyone may speak in turn, everyone must listen, and consensus is more important than time.” Stories, she tells me, give consciousness and power to all social justice movements, not only in America, but around the world.
Next month, Steinem will co-host the Festival Albertine, the annual French-American cultural event, with Robin Morgan, the feminist activist who founded the Sisterhood Is Global Institute with the writer Simone de Beauvoir in 1984 and the Women’s Media Center with Steinem and Jane Fonda in 2005. The theme is “Feminism Has No Boundaries,” more mission statement at this point than statement of fact.
Our interview has been scheduled for weeks, but in the meantime, both the New York Times (twice) and the New Yorker have reported on over a dozen allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Weinstein. (In a statement released through his spokesperson to the New Yorker, Weinstein denies the allegations, including all allegations of non-consensual sex.) When I arrive at the Payne Whitney Mansion on the Upper East Side, where the festival will be held in November, a plate of mini madeleines is proffered, but never mind those. I came for a deeper nourishment, an assurance that despite all the bad news and the bad men, Steinem still believes in redemption. “Are you kidding!” Of course, she does. The events of the past several months and the birth of a renewed progressive movement in particular have just bolstered her convictions — that there’s a kind of divine spark in all men, women, and nature, that the world is worth the trouble. (Even in her youth, when politicians would end their speeches with “God bless America,” she liked to respond, with fervor, “She will!”)
Read more at Elle.
OBERSTDORF, Germany — The next effort to defuse the nuclear brinksmanship over North Korea’s missile and bomb testing may come, not from diplomats, but from a pair of North Korean figure skaters who perform to music by the Beatles.
An obscure competition on Thursday and Friday here in Bavaria has gained geopolitical urgency as the pairs team of Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik seek to become the first North Korean athletes to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in February in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“We’re aware there is a lot of interest,” Kim Hyon-son, who coaches the pair, said after a training session on Wednesday, speaking briefly through an interpreter.
Despite the nuclear tests, missile launches and other saber-rattling threats, North Korea has signaled recently that it would consider participating in the Games. Its four-person skating delegation here appears somewhat guarded but approachable and friendly.
And no one would be more relieved by a North Korean triumph of sequins and Salchows this week than the International Olympic Committee and South Korean officials. They have stated adamantly and repeatedly a desire to have North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated countries, compete in what is being promoted as the Games of Peace.
While the Olympics have been tainted by staggering costs and endemic corruption, they still strive for the ideal that sport can bring people together even as governments remain hostile and apart.
At the United Nations last week, Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, called North Korea’s aggressive behavior “extremely deplorable.” But he has promoted diplomacy with the North and opposes military action. Mr. Moon struck a cautiously hopeful tone at a ceremony to unveil the design of the 2018 Olympic medals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
South Korea would embark on a “difficult but meaningful challenge” in seeking to have a tranquil Games with North Korea participating, he said in a speech.
If North Korean athletes fail to qualify, Olympic officials have said they will consider wild-card entries for North Korean athletes to encourage the country to participate. A plan to have a delegation of North Korean athletes and officials march through the demilitarized zone to the Games as a peace gesture remains under consideration.
“Tensions are high now, but because of that, peace is all the more needed,” Mr. Moon said. “If the two Koreas come together at this point in time, it will become a great opportunity to send a message of reconciliation and peace to the world.”
He added, “I do not think it is impossible.”
Read more at The New York Times.
The Supreme Court does not compute. Or at least some of its members would rather not. The justices, the most powerful jurists in the land, seem to have a reluctance — even an allergy — to taking math and statistics seriously.
For decades, the court has struggled with quantitative evidence of all kinds in a wide variety of cases. Sometimes justices ignore this evidence. Sometimes they misinterpret it. And sometimes they cast it aside in order to hold on to more traditional legal arguments. (And, yes, sometimes they also listen to the numbers.) Yet the world itself is becoming more computationally driven, and some of those computations will need to be adjudicated before long. Some major artificial intelligence case will likely come across the court’s desk in the next decade, for example. By voicing an unwillingness to engage with data-driven empiricism, justices — and thus the court — are at risk of making decisions without fully grappling with the evidence.
This problem was on full display earlier this month, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case that will determine the future of partisan gerrymandering — and the contours of American democracy along with it. As my colleague Galen Druke has reported, the case hinges on math: Is there a way to measure a map’s partisan bias and to create a standard for when a gerrymandered map infringes on voters’ rights?
The metric at the heart of the Wisconsin case is called the efficiency gap. To calculate it, you take the difference between each party’s “wasted” votes — votes for losing candidates and votes for winning candidates beyond what the candidate needed to win — and divide that by the total number of votes cast. It’s mathematical, yes, but quite simple, and aims to measure the extent of partisan gerrymandering.
Four of the eight justices who regularly speak during oral arguments1 voiced anxiety about using calculations to answer questions about bias and partisanship. Some said the math was unwieldy, complicated, and newfangled. One justice called it “baloney” and argued that the difficulty the public would have in understanding the test would ultimately erode the legitimacy of the court.
Read more at Five Thirty Eight.
(CNN) — Do you like crossword puzzles and are you engaged to be married?
Those were the questions asked of many college-age American women by their professors, college presidents, or military officers to assess their suitability to do secret work breaking German and Japanese codes during the Second World War.
From students at the Seven Sisters colleges in the Northeast to schoolteachers from across the South, some 10,000 women answered the call and became the backbone of America’s intelligence infrastructure. Their efforts saved lives and shortened the war. Code breaking was pivotal to the Allied defeat of Japan at sea and on the Pacific Islands, as well as to neutralizing the threat posed in the Atlantic by Nazi submarines.
Unlike the fits of genius dramatized in the films “Enigma” or “The Imitation Game,” code breaking was actually a marathon of tedium, an activity defined by comparing and recognizing patterns. In this, women’s abilities were thought to be superior to men’s. Though they went about recruiting women quite differently, both the Army and the Navy saw in American women an untapped resource for improving America’s odds for winning the war.
In her new book “Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II,” journalist Liza Mundy tells the stories of many of these women who, because they were sworn to secrecy about the nature of their work, have been all but forgotten. Just because these women agreed to be invisible to the enemy, however, doesn’t mean they need to be invisible to history.
Some of these barrier-breaking code breakers are still alive and in Mundy’s estimation would be “delighted” by developments like the renaming of a residential college at Yale for Grace Hopper, “the queen of code” and “mother of computing” who was a pioneering American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral.
Says Mundy: “We need a few more buildings to be renamed or named after some of these figures and I hope that happens. I think it will.”
On the occasion of the publication of “Code Girls,” and International Day of the Girl on Wednesday, CNN Opinion spoke with Mundy about her experience writing a book about the women she calls “the hidden figures of the greatest generation.”
Read more at CNN.
She urged any women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted to write two words on Twitter: “Me too.”
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” wrote the actress, who is known for her roles in “Who’s the Boss?” “Melrose Place” and “Charmed,” and as a host of “Project Runway All Stars.”
Milano starred in “Charmed” alongside Rose McGowan, one of film producer Harvey Weinstein’s accusers. She is also friends with Weinstein’s wife, Georgina Chapman, and wrote in a blog post that she was sickened by the “disturbing” sexual abuse allegations against him.
Women listened. Within hours, tweets with the words “me too” began appearing in droves. By 4 a.m. Monday, more than 200,000 #metoo tweets were published by Twitter’s count. The stories came pouring forth on Facebook as well with nearly 80,000 people said to be “talking about this” by the wee hours Monday.
The messages were striking in their simplicity, and in the sheer number of them. Those two words soon became a hashtag, the top trend nationwide on Twitter and yet another rallying cry for women — and men — who have experienced some type of sexual harassment or assault.
Many shared brief but painful personal stories of their experiences, some reaching back to their teen years, others to bad memories of abuse in the workplace never revealed, of troubles they encountered in their families and of their own silence in the face of harassment or assault.
“#MeToo When I served in the military,” tweeted one woman. “More than a few times. I stayed silent for self preservation. I regret it daily.”
“I imagine there are teen girls who haven’t told their parents they’ve been threatened, groped, even WORSE just like I didn’t,” wrote another.
“I have been raped twice in my life,” tweeted one woman, “stalked four times and was threatened with my life when I tried to speak out @ 14.”
There was the woman who said she was assaulted by a man who pretended to work at a local YMCA, and the woman who said she was groped in an elevator by a superior who was nearly two decades older. “I never told anyone,” she said.
Read more at The Washington Post
In 1948, German philosopher Josef Pieper predicted that society was headed for a dystopia he called ‘Total Work’. With most of us in 2017 working too long, missing social events, working on weekends, and egging on our older years just for the retirement, practical philosopher Andrew Taggart believes we have reached the verge of that dystopia. He describes the conditions that are tightening around us—our lives are scheduled around the needs of our jobs, our time with family and friends is subordinated to it (in a 5:2 ratio!), and our free time increasingly resembles work, in vocabulary and in action: we run errands, aim to have “productive” days, try to rest so that we are fresh for Monday—the start of another week. Taggart thinks Universal Basic Income is the ideological push we need to begin questioning how we can cut loose from our cultural obsession with work, and how we might live in a world without it. Are we human beings, or instruments of productivity? Has our intense focus on work become pathological?
If you believe Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway, her company is a major disruptor in fashion. It rents out designer clothes from some 500 different brands to subscribers who pay a monthly fee, allowing them to borrow a high-end wardrobe for much less than it would cost to actually buy. The company has thrived, topping $100 million in revenue last year and becoming profitable for the first time.
One particular segment of fashion retail should be afraid, Hyman says, and that’s fast fashion. “I plan to put Zara out of business,” she told Glossy after Rent the Runway announced a new, lower-priced subscription plan that will make the service accessible to more customers. The new $89 plan allows subscribers to borrow four items per month. The standard plan, which offers unlimited items per month, is increasing to $159, but now allows customers to borrow four items at a time, rather than the previous three.
The narrative of Rent the Runway’s narrative as a fast-fashion killer (paywall) is one Hyman has been pushing for some time. She raised the point last year, for instance, when speaking with Quartz about a partnership the company established with Neiman Marcus. As Hyman sees it, people shop fast fashion for trendy items, while they invest more in classic wardrobe staples that they’ll keep for years.
It makes sense, then, that people would prefer to rent fleetingly fashionable items instead of buying them. Consumers are also increasingly open to renting what they want through a service, rather than owning something outright. Think of the way streaming services such as Spotify have changed the music industry and eliminated the need to actually own the music you listen to.
But there’s more than a little hyperbole in Hyman’s comments about putting Zara out of business. For starters, Zara pulled in €15.4 billion (about $18.1 billion) last year, across 93 global markets. Rent the Runway’s revenue, while growing fast, is still a drop in a bucket that size—and the company only operates in the US. According to research firm NPD’s Checkout Tracking data on e-commerce apparel, which analyzes actual spending by consumers who have opted into their panel, only 5% of Zara’s US online buyers also subscribe to Rent the Runway.
Still, Rent the Runway’s success does raise some questions about the future of shopping: Could clothing rental, including Rent the Runway and the growing crop of similar businesses, steal enough customers from fast-fashion brands in the US to make a noticeable dent in their sales?
Read more at Quartz.
Hugh Hefner (who died at 91 on September 27th) was a complicated individual whose notions of sexuality and human relationships were at once woke and predatory, who stumbled upon a brilliant idea at a time when American culture was milquetoast. A loss of identity in the 1950s, particularly among men, was palpable for a generation who no longer had a war to fight. It took a magazine that paired the mind and the body, high culture and naked women, to shake the male from his slumber.
Since the magazine’s founding, the joke “I read it for the articles” was always tongue in cheek. Yes, Playboy did publish some of the country’s most celebrated writers. No, the articles weren’t all great. Playboy was rather conservative in which stories made it past final proof. The magazine paid well — fantastically so for freelancers — and so the best and the brightest of the typewriter set clamored for decades to get between Playboy‘s covers.
But what truly set Playboy apart from the Esquires, Saturday Evening Posts, and Rolling Stones was its interviews: Thousands and thousands of words spilled from some of America’s greatest activists, thinkers, and celebrities. As Hefner explained in an editorial for Playboy‘s inaugural issue in 1953, which offered a never-before seen set of nude Marilyn Monroe photos, “We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex.” To live life with a diverse set of interests fascinated Hefner, and he banked on it fascinating millions of American men. It was that diverse intersection that Hefner hoped to exploit with the Playboy interview.
Hefner didn’t launch the format until about a decade after the magazine’s founding, following the closure of Show Business Illustrated. According to G. Barry Colson, the magazine’s executive editor, who edited the 1981 anthology The Playboy Interview, writers often came back with at least six hours of taped conversations; it wasn’t unusual for a writer to submit twenty hours of recordings for transcription. The hours-long chats revolutionized the idea of the magazine interview.
The series began with Miles Davis, who spoke with Alex Haley only after the writer spent hours tailing Davis, eventually boxing with him at a gym in Harlem. From the start, subjects were leery of appearing in the magazine. (Some of the early interviews featured European intellectuals like Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell.) It wasn’t until the mid-1960s, and certainly into the ’70s, when the Playboy interview was viewed as a cultural imprimatur. Playboy featured some of the most important figures of the day, including Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and Walter Cronkite, and appearing on the magazine’s pages guaranteed their words and message would reach an audience who might otherwise miss the point.
Read more at Longreads.
The man does not perspire. I discovered that on 12 September, on the island of Saint Martin, a French territory in the Caribbean that had been devastated a few days earlier by Hurricane Irma. Uprooted trees, roofs ripped from houses, streets blocked by mountains of debris: for three hours Emmanuel Macron, president of France, has been walking through what remains of the village of Grand Case in the sweltering, clammy heat amid the strong odour of burst sewage pipes – or in other words, of shit. Everyone accompanying him, including the author of these lines, is dripping with sweat, literally soaked, with large circles under their arms. Not him. Although he hasn’t had a second to change or freshen up, his white shirt with elegantly rolled-up sleeves is impeccable. And so it will remain until late in the night, when the rest of us are exhausted, haggard and reeking, and he’s still as fresh as a daisy, always ready to shake new hands.
Every interaction with Macron follows the same protocol. He turns his penetrating blue eyes on you and doesn’t look away. As for your hand, he shakes it in two stages: first a normal grip, and then, as if to show that this was no ordinary, routine handshake, he increases the pressure while at the same time intensifying his gaze. He did the same thing to Donald Trump and it almost turned into an arm wrestle. Then, with his other hand, he clasps your arm or shoulder, and when the time comes to move on, he relaxes his grip while lingering almost regretfully, as if pained to cut short an encounter that meant so much to him. This technique works wonders with his admirers, but it’s even more spectacular with his enemies. Contradiction stimulates him, aggression galvanises him. To those who complain that the state took its time bringing relief, he explains calmly and patiently that the state does not control extreme weather conditions and that everything that could be anticipated was anticipated. At the same time – and we’ll come back to this “at the same time” – he never stops repeating, just as calmly, just as patiently: “I came to Saint Martin to hear your anger.”
And it’s a good thing, too, because up comes an angry woman named Lila, who bars his way and accuses him of not giving a damn about the victims’ suffering, and of coming “just to perform” before the TV cameras in his ironed shirt and plain tie that doesn’t look like much but must have cost a fortune. She’s so vehement that the group of islanders who have gathered around them start booing and jeering and saying that’s no way to talk to the president. Anyone else would have taken advantage of the situation and said: “You see, the people are behind me.” Not Macron. For him, Lila is a challenge. He takes her hand and his face divides in two – something I’ve often seen it do: the right half, brow creased, is determined, grave, almost severe, giving you the feeling that whatever he does, he’s doing it in the eyes of history. The left half, meanwhile, is cordial, optimistic, almost mischievous, giving you the feeling that now he’s there, things will be all right.
Read more at The Guardian.
September 24, 2017 has been a day of immense consequence for the National Football League. Across the nation, an unprecedented number of players, coaches, and even owners have stood—or kneeled—in solidarity in the face of an avalanche of invective from the President of the United States. Donald Trump has demonstrated himself to be perhaps the one human capable of making the NFL look like a sympathetic character in our national story. The president set out to demonize a group of primarily black athletes exercising their First Amendment rights to protest, silently, during a ceremony celebrating American values because they do not think America is living up to those values. It seems his attempt to isolate and marginalize them has only grown their movement.
Sunday’s protests kicked off during a game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens in London. More than two dozen players from both teams knelt during the anthem, Yahoo! News reports, and many more locked arms together on the sideline. But it wasn’t just the players: They were joined by Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh and, even more consequentially, Jaguars owner Shad Khan.
It’s unusual for owners to involve themselves in any on-field matters, much less something of this political significance. But Khan called it “a privilege.”
“I met with our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump, and was honored to be arm in arm with them, their teammates and our coaches during our anthem,” he added. Khan was one in a chorus of owners voicing their support, according to The New York Times:
Even Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a well known friend of Trump’s, had sharp criticism for the president’s rhetoric.
“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday,” Kraft said in a statement. “I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics.”
Read more at Esquire.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — When Leticia Miranda had a job selling newspapers on the streets, she earned about $160 a month, just enough to pay for a tiny apartment she shared with her 8-year-old son in a poor neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.
When she lost her job about six months ago amid Brazil’s worst economic crisis in decades, Miranda had no choice but to move to an abandoned building where several hundred people were already living. All of her possessions — a bed, a fridge, a stove and some clothes — have been jammed into a small room that like all the others in the building has windows with no glass. Residents bathe in large garbage cans filled with water and do their best to live with the stench of mountains of trash and rummaging pigs in the center of the building.
“I want to leave here, but there is nowhere to go,” said Miranda, 28, dressed in a bikini top, shorts and sandals to deal with the heat. “I’m applying for jobs and did two interviews. So far, nothing.”
Between 2004 and 2014, tens of millions of Brazilians emerged from poverty and the country was often cited as an example for the world. High prices for the country’s raw materials and newly developed oil resources helped finance social welfare programs that put money into the pockets of the poorest.
But that trend has been reversed over the last two years due to the deepest recession in Brazil’s history and cuts to the subsidy programs, raising the specter that this continent-sized nation has lost its way in addressing wide inequalities that go back to colonial times.
“Many people who had risen out of poverty, and even those who had risen into the middle class, have fallen back,” said Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.
The World Bank estimates about 28.6 million Brazilians moved out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. But the bank estimates that from the start of 2016 to the end of this year, 2.5 million to 3.6 million will have fallen back below the poverty line of 140 Brazilian reais per month, about $44 at current exchange rates.
Those figures are likely underestimates, de Bolle said, and they don’t capture the fact that many lower-middle class Brazilians who gained ground during the boom years have since slid back closer to poverty.
Read more at The Associated Press News Archive.
It was the night his supporters waited nine long months for. Barack Obama returned to the fray on Thursday with a fervent denunciation of Donald Trump in all but name, condemning the politics of division and rekindling the politics of hope.
The former US president earned deafening cheers at a rally ostensibly for the Democratic candidate in a gubernatorial election in Virginia. In championing Ralph Northam’s cause, Obama expressed his views on the state of the nation in the strongest terms since the inauguration of his successor and antithesis.
“You’ll notice I haven’t been commenting a lot on politics lately,” Obama told thousands of supporters in Richmond. “But here’s one thing I know: if you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you’re not going to be able to govern them. You won’t be able to unite them later if that’s how you start.”
Campaigning for fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton last year, Obama hammered Trump regularly during the presidential election but became more circumspect after the Republican’s shock win. He initially expressed a wish to follow the example of George W Bush, who refrained from commentary once he left the White House. He has also trodden carefully to avoid outshining the next generation of would-be Democratic stars.
Nevertheless, he has taken Trump to task in written statements for efforts to gut his signature healthcare law and reverse his immigration and environmental policies. He has also offered spare, pointed criticisms during public appearances. But on Thursday he returned to full campaign mode in New Jersey and Virginia, both of which elect governors on 7 November.
While not mentioning Trump by name, Obama delivered a withering critique of the president’s time in office. His polished style and elegant, erudite sentences contrasted with the bellicose, scattergun approach of his successor, as did the racial diversity of the crowd who queued for hours to see him.
“Instead of our politics reflecting our values, we’ve got politics infecting our communities,” said Obama, looking relaxed in a tieless blue shirt and suit. “Instead of looking for ways to work together to get things done in a practical way, we’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonise people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage.”
He continued: “The question now, at a time when our politics seem so divided and so angry and so nasty, is whether we can recapture that spirit, whether we support and embrace somebody who wants to bring people together,” Obama said. “Yes, we can.”
The crowd erupted in chants of the winning 2008 slogan, “Yes, we can!”
Read more at The Guardian.
America is an exceptional country when it comes to guns. It’s one of the few countries in which the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected. But America’s relationship with guns is unique in another crucial way: Among developed nations, the US is far and away the most violent — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms. These charts and maps show what that violence looks like compared with the rest of the world, why it happens, and why it’s such a tough problem to fix.
1) America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany
This chart, compiled using United Nations data collected by Simon Rogers for the Guardian, shows that America far and away leads other developed countries when it comes to gun-related homicides. Why? Extensive reviews of the research by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center suggest the answer is pretty simple: The US is an outlier on gun violence because it has way more guns than other developed nations.
Read more at Vox.
In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.
By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.
A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.
The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.
The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino,a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.
For years, some drug distributors were fined for repeatedly ignoring warnings from the DEA to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills, while they racked up billions of dollars in sales.
The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies, according to internal agency and Justice Department documents and an independent assessment by the DEA’s chief administrative law judge in a soon-to-be-published law review article. That powerful tool had allowed the agency to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street.
Political action committees representing the industry contributed at least $1.5 million to the 23 lawmakers who sponsored or co-sponsored four versions of the bill, including nearly $100,000 to Marino and $177,000 to Hatch. Overall, the drug industry spent $102 million lobbying Congress on the bill and other legislation between 2014 and 2016, according to lobbying reports.
“The drug industry, the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and chain drugstores, have an influence over Congress that has never been seen before,” said Joseph T. Rannazzisi, who ran the DEA’s division responsible for regulating the drug industry and led a decade-long campaign of aggressive enforcement until he was forced out of the agency in 2015. “I mean, to get Congress to pass a bill to protect their interests in the height of an opioid epidemic just shows me how much influence they have.”
Besides the sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill, few lawmakers knew the true impact the law would have. It sailed through Congress and was passed by unanimous consent, a parliamentary procedure reserved for bills considered to be noncontroversial. The White House was equally unaware of the bill’s import when President Barack Obama signed it into law, according to interviews with former senior administration officials.
Read more at The Washington Post
How do you begin to distill the most historically and socially important items of clothes of modern times? As you can imagine, it’s quite a task. Paola Antonelli, curator of Items: Is Fashion Modern?, a newly opened exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, started simply by listing “garments that changed the world” off the top of her head: Levi’s 501 jeans; the beret; door knocker earrings; Speedos; the keffiyeh. It went on: the little black dress; a Rolex; the bumbag; a kilt. Before she knew it, Antonelli and her team had a list of over 500 items, and were having heated debates on the significance of the tube sock. They become obsessed with recording outfits they spotted while riding the New York subway and began to arduously whittle down their list of fashion’s most significant items to a more exhibition-friendly 111.
The result is a broad (and rather delicious) survey of what the world has worn for the past two centuries. And that’s the whole world, not just the Western one. There’s a democracy to Items, which is MoMA’s second ever fashion design-related exhibition (the first was way back in 1944). “Whether we think of what we wear as fashion or not (and I would argue it is), it’s our first interface with the world and, as such, a crucially important area of design to interrogate,” says Antonelli. After all, what we wear isn’t an isolated topic, it’s tied intimately with issues of culture, politics, labour, environment and power, just as much as any of the other artworks under the museum’s roof.
Read more at AnOther.
In the media world, as in so many other realms, there is a sharp discontinuity in the timeline: before the 2016 election, and after.
Things we thought we understood—narratives, data, software, news events—have had to be reinterpreted in light of Donald Trump’s surprising win as well as the continuing questions about the role that misinformation and disinformation played in his election.
Tech journalists covering Facebook had a duty to cover what was happening before, during, and after the election. Reporters tried to see past their often liberal political orientations and the unprecedented actions of Donald Trump to see how 2016 was playing out on the internet. Every component of the chaotic digital campaign has been reported on, here at The Atlantic, and elsewhere: Facebook’s enormous distribution power for political information, rapacious partisanship reinforced by distinct media information spheres, the increasing scourge of “viral” hoaxes and other kinds of misinformation that could propagate through those networks, and the Russian information ops agency.
But no one delivered the synthesis that could have tied together all these disparate threads. It’s not that this hypothetical perfect story would have changed the outcome of the election. The real problem—for all political stripes—is understanding the set of conditions that led to Trump’s victory. The informational underpinnings of democracy have eroded, and no one has explained precisely how.
We’ve known since at least 2012 that Facebook was a powerful, non-neutral force in electoral politics. In that year, a combined University of California, San Diego and Facebook research team led by James Fowler published a study in Nature, which argued that Facebook’s “I Voted” button had driven a small but measurable increase in turnout, primarily among young people.
Rebecca Rosen’s 2012 story, “Did Facebook Give Democrats the Upper Hand?” relied on new research from Fowler, et al., about the presidential election that year. Again, the conclusion of their work was that Facebook’s get-out-the-vote message could have driven a substantial chunk of the increase in youth voter participation in the 2012 general election. Fowler told Rosen that it was “even possible that Facebook is completely responsible” for the youth voter increase. And because a higher proportion of young people vote Democratic than the general population, the net effect of Facebook’s GOTV effort would have been to help the Dems.
Read more at The Atlantic.
In 1979, IBM was putting its stamp on the American landscape. For 20 years, it had been hiring the greats of modernism to erect buildings where scientists and salespeople could work shoulder-to-shoulder commanding the burgeoning computer industry. But that year, one of its new facilities—the Santa Teresa Laboratory, in Silicon Valley—tried an experiment. To ease a logjam at the office mainframe, it installed boxy, green-screened terminals in the homes of five employees, allowing them to work from home.
The idea of telecommuting was still a novelty. But this little solution seemed effective. By 1983, about 2,000 IBMers were working remotely. The corporation eventually realized that it could save millions by selling its signature buildings and institutionalizing distance work; the number of remote workers ballooned. In 2009, an IBM report boasted that “40 percent of IBM’s some 386,000 employees in 173 countries have no office at all.” More than 58 million square feet of office space had been unloaded, at a gain of nearly $2 billion. IBM, moreover, wanted to help other corporations reap the same officeless efficiencies through its consulting services. Leading by example was good marketing.