29 December, 2019

Lovers in Auschwitz, Reunited 72 Years Later. He Had One Question - Was she the reason he was alive today?


The first time he spoke to her, in 1943, by the Auschwitz crematory, David Wisnia realized that Helen Spitzer was no regular inmate. Zippi, as she was known, was clean, always neat. She wore a jacket and smelled good. They were introduced by a fellow inmate, at her request.
Her presence was unusual in itself: a woman outside the women’s quarters, speaking with a male prisoner. Before Mr. Wisnia knew it, they were alone, all the prisoners around them gone. This wasn’t a coincidence, he later realized. They made a plan to meet again in a week.
On their set date, Mr. Wisnia went as planned to meet at the barracks between crematories 4 and 5. He climbed on top of a makeshift ladder made up of packages of prisoners’ clothing. Ms. Spitzer had arranged it, a space amid hundreds of piles, just large enough to fit the two of them. Mr. Wisnia was 17 years old; she was 25.
“I had no knowledge of what, when, where,” Mr. Wisnia recently reminisced at age 93. “She taught me everything.”

28 December, 2019

eastonxd on depression

When you have depression it’s like it snows every day.

Some days it’s only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you still make it to work, the grocery store. Sure, maybe you skip the gym or your friend’s birthday party, but it IS still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to just head home. Your friend notices, but probably just thinks you are flaky now, or kind of an asshole.

Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling out your driveway and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt from shoveling. You leave early because it’s really coming down out there. Your boss notices.

Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning but your street never gets plowed. You are not making it to work, or anywhere else for that matter. You are so sore and tired you just get back in bed. By the time you wake up, all your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people are wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling them back, too tired from all the shoveling. Plus they don’t get this much snow at their house so they don’t understand why you’re still stuck at home. They just think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely come out and say it.

Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.

On Self-Respect: Joan Didion’s 1961 Essay from the Pages of Vogue

To protest that some fairly improbable people, some people who could not possibly respect themselves, seem to sleep easily enough is to miss the point entirely, as surely as those people miss it who think that self-respect has necessarily to do with not having safety pins in one's underwear. There is a common superstition that "self-respect" is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation. 

Grieving the Death of a Child in ‘Once More We Saw Stars’

Eventually, they return home: “Nothing in here knows about Greta’s death — not her red horsey with its empty smile, the toy bin beneath the living room chair. … We bring the news with us into each room, like smallpox.”
At Greta’s funeral, Stacy decides unexpectedly to speak. Greene writes: “Her face is pale, but her eyes are blazing. Everything and everyone she has ever been in her life — daughter, sister, colleague, wife, mother — is visible to me. She is overwhelmingly beautiful in this moment.” Stacy talks about her daughter’s loving relationship with her mother: “‘She wanted nothing more than to spend time with her Grandma Suz. She had the best day,’ she finishes, her eyes filling and her voice breaking. She sits down, spent from effort.”
Greene too finds himself spent, also enraged, at having to repeatedly explain his family’s plight. “Greta was the victim of an accident. … I have to learn to state this grievously unacceptable information over and over again. … I am the reminder of the most unwelcome message in human history: Children — yours, mine — they don’t necessarily live.” 

'Heavy' Brilliantly Renders The Struggle To Become Fully Realized

I have dog-eared too many pages to close my copy of Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir. I found something noteworthy on almost every page.

 Heavy recounts growing up in a ferociously intellectual household — the only child of a single mother — as a black boy who struggles with weight. It is about the jagged, uneven road to becoming a writer and a man; it is a chronicle of daily confrontations with the twin assaults of American racism and America's weight-obsessed culture. Heavy is a compelling record of American violence and family violence, and the wide, rutted embrace of family love.

In clear, animated prose, Laymon writes in the second person, addressing himself to his mother. This fierce woman is a prominent political scientist who completed her Ph.D. and postgraduate work as Laymon was coming up in Jackson, Mississippi, and in Maryland. To raise him to excellence, she beats him regularly. She has a violent relationship with a man whom Kiese loathes and goes out of his way to avoid. She keeps a running critique of her son's weight.

25 December, 2019

The Places Where the Recession Never Ended

Goldberg: Do people in Idaho and people in New York City have more in common than they think? Or are we really becoming two countries?
Westover: We have a shared history and shared interests as Americans, that’s true, but it’s also true that Democrats and Republicans increasingly live and work in different places. We have different experiences. As a general rule, I think we focus far too much on Donald Trump. We act like he’s the problem, but he’s not. He’s just a symptom—a sign of poor political hygiene.
Goldberg: Poor political hygiene?
Westover: Social media has flooded our consciousness with caricatures of each other. Human beings are reduced to data, and data nearly always underrepresent reality. The result is this great flattening of human life and human complexity. We think that because we know someone is pro-choice or pro-life, or that they drive a truck or a Prius, we know everything we need to know about them. Human detail gets lost in the algorithm. Thus humanity gives way to ideology.
Goldberg: So good political hygiene includes a respect for human complexity?
Westover: Our political system requires us to have a basic level of respect for each other, of empathy for each other. That loss of empathy is what I call a breaking of charity.
Goldberg: What does that mean?
Westover: It’s a term that’s associated with the Salem witch trials, and it refers to the moment when two members of a tribe disfellowship each other, and become two tribes. That, I think, is the biggest threat to our country, more than any single issue or politician. It’s the fact that the left and the right, the elite and the non-elite, the urban and the rural—however you want to slice it up—they no longer see themselves reflected in the other person. They no longer interpret each other as having charitable intent.

04 December, 2019

How This Con Man’s Wild Testimony Sent Dozens to Jail, and 4 to Death Row

With the help of his public defender, Skalnik filed a motion with the trial court in which he claimed a history of extensive prosecutorial misconduct. In the motion, he asserted that prosecutors had coached him on how to testify in numerous cases so as to give jurors the false impression that he “had actually heard all these ‘confessions,’ and had no agreement with the state for a reward for his testimony.” Prosecutors “knew of the potential questionability of said confessions,” the motion charged. Skalnik provided the names of 11 prosecutors whom he accused of misconduct but provided few specifics. He claimed to have given information or testimony in more than 50 cases and suggested that much of that evidence was tainted.
Just as the men whom Skalnik leveled outrageous claims against over the years had faced accusations that were maddeningly difficult to disprove, prosecutors found themselves on the defensive, scrambling to discredit what Skalnik claimed was the honest truth. In formal responses submitted to the court, the state attorney’s office categorically denied his assertions, dismissing them as “falsehoods, ranging in degree from gross exaggeration to preposterous fabrication” — a richly paradoxical about-face for an office that had asked scores of jurors to take him at his word. Trying to preserve the integrity of the cases Skalnik had participated in, prosecutors simultaneously argued that his earlier testimony as a state witness “was credible, was often independently substantiated and withstood extensive cross-examination.”

It’s a Terrible Day in the Neighborhood, and That’s O.K.

Playing the piano as a child, Rogers wrote, taught him to express the whole range of his feelings. He recounts banging on the low keys when he got mad, and I imagine him exploring the minor keys when he felt sad. In multiple episodes, Rogers showed viewers how to tell their feelings through the piano. When he had famous musicians like Yo-Yo Ma or Wynton Marsalis on the program, Rogers would ask whether they played differently when they were sad or angry. They always reported that yes, they did, and that playing their darker emotions helped.
“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was purportedly a show for children. But I think Rogers also meant it for adults. We’d be better off if we’d stop negating children’s dark emotions with stifling commands like “Don’t cry,” “Calm down,” “Be quiet.” If we are convinced by Rogers’ and Aristotle’s claim that feelings are not wrong and that “what’s mentionable is manageable,” we should begin mentioning our own sad, lonely and disappointed feelings. In doing so, we would show children — and our grown-up selves — how to appropriately manage them.

03 December, 2019

"Peace, like war, is waged" - A personal remembrance of Walker L. Knight

Walker’s 1969 book, The Struggle for Integrity, is the reason my wife and I moved to Atlanta after finishing seminary in New York City. We had no jobs waiting; we just wanted to be part of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, whose pastoral leadership (clergy and lay) refused to move to the suburbs when the neighborhood de-gentrified. It was a risk-your-assets moment, resulting in substantial membership loss. The refusal to comply with Jim Crow almost killed the church. But then came Epiphany’s visionary renewal. Clarity is often reserved for those with their backs against the wall.

Over the ensuing years, Walker’s insightful voice helped lead the congregation through a longer series of dramatic decisions about its ever-deepening grasp of its mission as a countersign to larger cultural values. But not without renewed conflicts.

Walker knew that faith is often clarified not in the absence of conflict but within and through it. In a long prose poem printed in the December 1972 issue of Home Missions Magazine, which he edited, Walker dwelled at length on the risk of Advent and the fact that peacemaking entailed an active, even provocative engagement—whose practice is not for the faint of heart.

“Peace plans its strategy and encircles the enemy. / Peace marshals its forces and storms the gates. / Peace gathers its weapons and pierces the defense. / Peace, like war, is waged. / But Christ has turned it all around: / the weapons of peace are love, joy, goodness, longsuffering; / the arms of peace are justice, truth, patience, prayer; / the strategy of peace brings safety, welfare, happiness; / the forces of peace are the sons and daughters of God.”

Seven years later, then-US President Jimmy Carter quoted some of those lines in his speech marking the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which he worked so hard to accomplish.

02 December, 2019

Doctors and techies are clashing at digital health companies, and one start-up exec is seeking a fix

One San Francisco-based physician recalled the excitement he felt when he first showed up to work in 2018 at a diagnostic testing start-up. The company seemed to be growing quickly and was backed by tens of millions of dollars in venture capital.

But during his first month on the job, he saw behavior that would surely raise questions if regulators were aware of it. The company used doctors from a staffing agency to prescribe tests to patients. Those doctors appeared to be liberally issuing prescriptions, without doing thorough reviews, out of concern that the agency would lose its contract with the company if it was perceived to be limiting business.

After bringing up the issue with management, the “CEO flipped out,” the physician said, and accused him of not being a team player. He was subsequently put on a performance improvement plan.

“I stayed away from the regulatory issues after that,” and then left the company a year later, the physician said.

01 December, 2019

Remembering Walker Knight

He coined the phrase, “Peace, like war, is waged.”
He challenged Baptists and others to live out the gospel of justice and inclusion — when it challenged their cultural norms.
He founded an independent publication (at great personal cost) in which such truth could be written, even if not celebrated — which I’m now privileged to serve as editor.
He shared his inspiring life story in Zion to Atlanta: Memoirs, published by Nurturing Faith.
He was small in size, but huge in integrity and influence.
Devoted husband to his late wife, Nell, and a caring father.
Mentor to many.
Longtime, rock-solid member of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., the community of faith that helped launch his publishing venture.
Walker Leigh Knight, publisher emeritus of Nurturing Faith Journal, died this morning at age 95.
He was beloved. He will be well remembered and deeply honored — today and in the days ahead.

30 November, 2019

Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale

Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. Prompted by this finding, many states and school districts have adopted value-added measures as indicators of teacher job performance. In this paper, we conduct a new test of the validity of value-added models. Using administrative student data from New York City, we apply commonly estimated value-added models to an outcome teachers cannot plausibly affect: student height. We find the standard deviation of teacher effects on height is nearly as large as that for math and reading achievement, raising obvious questions about validity. Subsequent analysis finds these “effects” are largely spurious variation (noise), rather than bias resulting from sorting on unobserved factors related to achievement. Given the difficulty of differentiating signal from noise in real-world teacher effect estimates, this paper serves as a cautionary tale for their use in practice.

28 November, 2019

Bulls*** jobs and the yoke of managerial feudalism

The Economist: What is a “bullshit job” and can you give a few examples?
David Graeber: A bullshit job is one that even the person doing it secretly believes need not, or should not, exist. That if the job, or even the whole industry, were to vanish, either it would make no difference to anyone, or the world might even be a slightly better place.
Something like 37-40% of workers according to surveys say their jobs make no difference. Insofar as there’s anything really radical about the book, it’s not to observe that many people feel that way, but simply to say we should proceed on the assumption that for the most part, people’s self-assessments are largely correct. Their jobs really are just as pointless as they think they are.
If anything, just taking people’s word for it might understate the problem, since if you think that what you’re doing is pointless, but there’s some non-obvious larger big-picture way that you’re really contributing to the greater good, at least the greater good of the organisation, then what’s the chance no one is going to tell you that?

25 November, 2019


People love me. Why? Because I’m fun. I’m the life of the party. I bring levity to any situation. Need to soften the blow of a harsh message about restroom etiquette? SLAM. There I am. Need to spice up the directions to your graduation party? WHAM. There again. Need to convey your fun-loving, approachable nature on your business’ website? SMACK. Like daffodils in motherf**king spring.

21 November, 2019

Sacha Baron Cohen's Keynote Address at ADL's 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate


What do all these dangerous trends have in common?  I’m just a comedian and an actor, not a scholar.  But one thing is pretty clear to me.  All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.
The greatest propaganda machine in history.

Think about it.  Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people.  The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.  It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times.  It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.  And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous.  As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate.  Breitbart resembles the BBC.  The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report.  And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner.  We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.

19 November, 2019

My years working on black programs

17 November, 2019

Why Google’s Quantum Supremacy Milestone Matters

Google officially announced last week in the journal Nature that it achieved the milestone of “quantum supremacy.” This phrase, coined by the physicist John Preskill in 2012, refers to the first use of a quantum computer to make a calculation much faster than we know how to do it with even the fastest supercomputers available. The calculation doesn’t need to be useful: much like the Wright Flyer in 1903, or Enrico Fermi’s nuclear chain reaction in 1942, it only needs to prove a point.
Over the last decade, together with students and colleagues, I helped develop much of the theoretical underpinning for quantum supremacy experiments like Google’s. I reviewed Google’s paper before it was published. So the least I can do is to try to explain what it means.

16 November, 2019

Interview: Ex-head of legislature Jasper Tsang says the gov’t is weakest player of four in Hong Kong’s struggle

It is dangerous for Hong Kong. I don’t know what the people in Beijing want. Up to now, they have no intention to interfere.  Now, I see four players:
  1. The protesters: they don’t have any intention to stop.
  2. The people: a large part of our population is supporting them.
  3. The SAR government: it is incapable of doing anything, Carrie Lam has admitted it. The government is made up of very competent administrators but there are no politicians.
  4. Beijing: they have no intention to interfere.
If all this doesn’t change, we cannot expect it to end.
The Central and the SAR governments want to appeal to the public to denounce the radicals. But is not working.
My hope lies in the protesters; it seems that, recently, some of them have called to stop the violence. And there is a very good reason for that. Elections are coming and it is very probable, as public sentiment is very much against the government, that if they take place in November, the pro-government camp will lose.

14 November, 2019

Radar finds more than 120 coffins buried beneath Tampa apartment complex

TAMPA — Zion Cemetery has been found.
Ground-penetrating radar has detected what appear to be more than 120 coffins under an apartment complex in Tampa, the remains of the lost cemetery revealed by the Tampa Bay Times.
The 2½-acre, segregation-era burial ground, believed to be the city’s first for African-Americans, was established in 1901 along the 3700 block of Florida Ave. and extended back around 400 feet.

It disappeared nearly a century ago when the land was parceled off for white developments.

12 November, 2019

The SoftBank Effect: How $100 Billion Left Workers in a Hole

For five years, Sunil Solankey, a retired captain in the Indian Army, had run the 20-room Four Sight Hotel in a New Delhi suburb. Business was steady, but he longed to make the establishment a destination for lucrative business travelers.
Last year, a hospitality start-up called Oyo told Mr. Solankey that it would turn the Four Sight into a flagship hotel for corporate customers. It guaranteed him monthly payments whether the rooms were booked or not, as long as he rebranded the property with Oyo’s name and sold the rooms exclusively through its site.
At Oyo’s request, Mr. Solankey sank 600,000 rupees, or $8,400, into reupholstering the hotel’s furniture and adding new linens. But corporate guests did not materialize, and Oyo stopped making the payments. Now he is on the verge of eviction.

11 November, 2019

About the Apple Card

My name is Jamie Heinemeier Hansson. Since my husband, David, tweeted about an unfortunate and ridiculous situation with AppleCard that involves me, I have been (or my credit-worthiness has been) the subject of lots of speculation. Unlike David, I am an extremely private person who does not post on social media. I am slightly mortified to have my name in the news. However, lest I be cast as a meek housewife who cannot speak for herself, I would like to make the following statement:
I care about digital privacy. It’s why I wanted an AppleCard in the first place.
I care about transparency and fairness. It’s why I was deeply annoyed to be told by AppleCard representatives, “It’s just the algorithm,” and “It’s just your credit score.” I have had credit in the US far longer than David. I have never had a single late payment. I do not have any debts. David and I share all financial accounts, and my very good credit score is higher than David’s. I had a career and was successful prior to meeting David, and while I am now a mother of three children — a “homemaker” is what I am forced to call myself on tax returns — I am still a millionaire who contributes greatly to my household and pays off credit in full each month. But AppleCard representatives did not want to hear any of this. I was given no explanation. No way to make my case.

10 November, 2019

The Legend of A-N-N-A: Revisiting an American Town Where Black People Weren’t Welcome After Dark

Loewen said sundown towns sprang up all around the country from 1890 to 1940, a period he calls the “nadir” of race relations in America. “For the small, independent towns all around the state that are still all white or almost all white, it’s like the civil rights movement never happened,” he told me.
Anna’s historical resistance to black people is, and has long been, well known in the region. Even though it may never have been codified, I found references to the fact that black people weren’t allowed to live in Anna in newspaper articles from as early as 1903. In that particular reference, a woman from Anna who worked as a hotel maid in Indianapolis was quoted as saying, “I never saw more than 10 negroes in all my life until I was 18 … as a negro is not allowed to stop in our little village of Anna.”
Over the past two years, I visited the town several times to try to understand where Anna’s history had left the town today. I talked with people going about their lives — in the library, the Farm Fresh milk store, the Blue Boar restaurant, the city’s park, the Walmart parking lot and other pockets of Anna. I talked with public officials, historians and longtime residents. I visited a grave in the Anna cemetery that belongs to the man deemed by a local newspaper in 1916 to be “the only colored man who has ever lived in this city” and I spent some time with one of the few black families (if not the only one) living in Anna today.
Still, I’m not going to claim I know Anna’s full story — I’m an outsider. But after hearing A-N-N-A said aloud that night, I realized my race made me a sort of insider, too. Would the man who first recited A-N-N-A have done so if I weren’t white? Nearly everyone I met knew what Anna stands for — whether they heard it first as a “joke” at school or from their grandparents or just from living here long enough. Most people said they wished the A-N-N-A reputation would just go away and were quick to say Anna wasn’t “like that” anymore.
Like what? I’d ask. If Anna has changed, how?

09 November, 2019

CBP agents wrote fake court dates on paperwork to send migrants back to Mexico, records show

Asylum seekers who have finished their court cases are being sent back to Mexico with documents that contain fraudulent future court dates, keeping some migrants south of the border indefinitely, records show.
Under the Migrant Protection Protocols policy, asylum seekers with cases in the United States have to wait in Mexico until those cases are resolved. The Mexican government agreed to only accept migrants with future court dates scheduled.
Normally, when migrants conclude their immigration court cases, they are either paroled into the United States or kept in federal custody depending on the outcome of the case.
However, records obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune show that on at least 14 occasions, Customs and Border Protection agents in California and Texas gave migrants who had already concluded their court cases documents with fraudulent future court dates written on them and sent the migrants back to Mexico anyway.

Megyn Kelly Interviews Producer Fired For Accessing ABC’s Hot Mic Tape On Epstein

Megyn Kelly nabbed an exclusive interview with former ABC News employee Ashley Bianco, the journalist who had access to a tape released earlier this week of Amy Robach venting on a hot mic that the network killed her reporting on convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Bianco, who was an associate producer at “Good Morning America” before leaving for “CBS This Morning” last month, admitted that she made a clip of the Robach moment after seeing it at her desk while still at ABC. The producer said she saved the clip she made in the ABC News system ― something that producers do all the time ― but insisted that she did not leak it to anyone. 
“I did it just for office gossip,” said Bianco, who said the intention wasn’t to embarrass Robach or ABC News.

04 November, 2019

Fear and Loathing in Beaumont, Texas - TDY Edition (self.MilitaryStories)

"I thought my war was bad, I feel bad for your situation with those bombs they put on the roads. Scary stuff."
"You were in?"
"Army, Vietnam. I was a forward observer."
This dude then proceeds to tell me stories about hiding in the brush from dog handlers who were hunting them down since they were forward observers. He proceeds to mention that if it wasn't for some Native American teaching them how to hide their scent, he would have been found. Basically learned how to rub shit on themselves so they could evade dog handlers. I'm sitting there in dismay at how he felt bad for my war... I may have gone into Iraqi shit creeks more than I cared for but I wasn't purposely rubbing shit in my hair so I could be behind deadly frontlines.
He then proceeds to talk about a battle he was in. How they were being overran at one point by the Vietnamese.
"We lost a lot of good men that day. Lots of friends." A slight tear rolls down his cheek and I saw him brush it away. You can usually spot a bull shitter with their gloats of heroism and valor. You know you're dealing with a man who had seen some shit when eyes water. A man who had seen some real hard shit in the bush. I could be wrong but I got the feeling he was the type that buried his experiences deep into his mind and never really got the chance to express his memories. He was a successful construction owner but I'm sure he still has nights judging by what he was telling me. Only to be probably spit on when he came home.

30 October, 2019

Privileged Poor vs. Doubly Disadvantaged at Elite Schools

Each of these questions are considered in Anthony Abraham Jack’s The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students. Jack’s argument is that it is well and good that elite campuses continue to diversify their student bodies, but it is not enough. They must also recognize that lower income students are different. Among these students there are real cultural differences and levels of college preparedness because of the high schools from which they graduated. These differences are captured in what he refers to as the Privileged Poor and the Doubly Disadvantaged. 
The Privileged Poor are lower-income graduates of wealthy private high schools like St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire and Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts. These students, according to Jack, have benefited from all the resources and opportunities their exclusive high schools provided—study abroad programs, language immersion, and contact with faculty with higher degrees. As Jack puts it, “Lower income graduates from these schools enter college already accustomed to navigating elite academic arenas, already familiar with the ways and customs of the rich. True, they are poor, but they have the privilege of an early introduction to the world they will enter in college.” 
The Doubly Disadvantaged on the other hand, tend to be students of color and from local public high schools that are under-sourced, racially and socioeconomically segregated, overcrowded, and chaotic. Often the teachers in these schools are younger, inexperienced, and unsupported. According to Jack, when these students “first set foot on an elite college campus, it looks, feels, and functions like nothing they have experienced before.” 

29 October, 2019

Everything is Amazing, But Nothing is Ours

We love services. Services free us to be pure consumers, seeking exactly what we want for as little friction and overhead as possible. So long as everything works, trading ownership for access is an attractive deal: everything under the hood just gets magic-ed away, and provided for us as a service. No files, no updates, no maintenance; just access.
This isn’t just a software thing, by the way. New technology generally reorganizes our consumption away from ownership and towards access. 100 years ago, music came from a piano, then it came from the record store, and now it comes from Spotify. 100 years ago, food came from a farm, then it came for a grocery store, and now it comes from DoorDash. There’s no denying that this is forward progress for the consumer. You would not want to go backwards. But there’s a cost. The more you can access, the less it’s yours. 

25 October, 2019

The 2010s Broke Our Sense Of Time

This isn’t contained to Twitter: The internet has finally and firmly moved from being an obscure gathering for nerds to the foundation for most communication. Linguist Gretchen McCulloch traces that history in Because Internet, her recent book that is particularly interested in the different waves of users — people who started using email at work in the ’90s, for instance, or millennials who grew up chatting on instant messaging apps — and how those platforms or users have affected language. These generational differences can manifest in small but familiar ways; McCulloch explores why people who are long accustomed to chat and text use line breaks for timing and emphasis, and intuit information left unsaid in an ellipsis. (Hey are you around…) She contends that a younger generation of users over the last decade, who’ve never known an internet without Facebook or YouTube, have turned to a phone experience that emphasizes control over context: disappearing messages, live video, using second and third accounts for specialization and privacy.
As the 2010s went on, the platforms adopted the live and the disappearing and attempted to reach you with what you care about most — to make the experience less disorienting by focusing on what garners the most attention. During the 2016 election, Instagram added the ephemeral stories and shifted to an algorithmic timeline. “If your favorite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in,” reads the corporate unveiling, a cheerful promise of permanent detachment from the clock in favor of what you (are thought to) care about.

Here's Why Ants Are Practically Immune to Traffic Jams, Even on Crowded Roads

Filming 170 repeat experiments, researchers observed how this particular species of ant moved along a bridge between their nest and a food source. The experiments included different widths of bridge (5 mm, 10 mm, and 20 mm), holding anywhere between 400 and 25,600 ants.
Throughout the process, data was collected on traffic flow, the speed of the ants, and the number of collisions that occurred.
What the authors found was surprising: these ants appeared to be immune to traffic jams.
"The exact nature of the mechanisms used by Argentine ants to keep the traffic flowing in this study remains elusive," they write, "yet when density on the trail increases, ants seemed to be able to assess crowding locally, and adjusted their speed accordingly to avoid any interruption of traffic flow."
In fact, compared to humans, these ants could load up the bridge with twice the capacity without slowing down. When humans are walking or driving, the flow of traffic usually begins to slow when occupancy reaches 40 percent. Argentine ants, on the other hand, show no signs of slowing, even when the bridge occupancy reached 80 percent.

24 October, 2019

Dropshipping journalism - No one working at Newsweek can tell me why it still exists

Newsweek has the name and the professional website it has built in years past, but it’s increasingly repurposing the work of others—whether the Washington Post, the outrage fiends at Fox News, or a dozen people on Twitter—and packaging it as its own. Plenty of news sites aggregate, and in many ways the story of Newsweek is the story of the industry. But whereas other aggregators—Mashable, BuzzFeed, Upworthy; the list goes on—built their sites around this kind of internet-first strategy, Newsweek is selling off its own legacy while hoping that readers won’t notice. Reporters and editors there tell me they’re willing to do good work; the question is whether Newsweek is willing, or even able, to find a business model that allows them to do it.

22 October, 2019

British journalists have become part of Johnson’s fake news machine

Had the comment been made on the record by an official government spokesperson Shipman would have been well within his rights.
The spokesperson would have been accountable for her or his allegation against Rudd. He or she could have been identified and questioned about it.
Instead Shipman allowed an unknown Whitehall figure to label Rudd a liar, while granting him or her complete impunity.
Put another way, he allowed his Twitter account to be used as a vehicle for someone unknown to smear a prominent public figure as dishonest.

20 October, 2019

Remembering Action Park, America's Most Dangerous, Daring Water Park

Over the decades Andy has relived the Action Park fatalities many times, especially since in one case, the 1984 DePass drowning, he was the one who, as a 20-year-old lifeguard, pulled the body from the bottom. "It was devastating," he says.
But the Mulvihills lived by a code. Amusement/water parks come with an implicit buyer-beware contract. "Do they close the Jersey Shore when there's a drowning?" Andy asks. "Should you only have things for people that are 100% safe? Life would be pretty boring, right?" Needless to say, those questions are rhetorical.
In his reflective moments, though, Andy concedes his father was to a large degree the author of his own misfortunes, and he certainly walked an ethical tightrope in his business operations. "Gene cut a lot of corners—a lot of corners," he says, "and sometimes he got caught and there were repercussions. That's what happens when you live life like there's no tomorrow."

19 October, 2019


(U) Analysis of the behavior of the IRA-associated social media accounts makes dear that while the Russian information warfare campaign exploited the context of the election and election-related issues in 2016, the preponderance of the operational focus, as reflected repeatedly in content, account names, and audiences targeted, was on sociapy divisive issues-such as race, immigration, and Second Amendment rights-in an attempt to pit Americans against one another and against their government. The Committee found that IRA influence operatives consistently used hot-button, societal divisions in the United States as fodder for the content they published through social media in order to stoke anger, provoke outrage and protest, push Americans further away from one another, and foment distrust in government institutions. The divisive 2016 U.S. presidential election was just an additional feature of a much more expansive,, target-rich landscape of potential ideological and societal sensitivities.

(U) The Committee found that the IRA targeted not only Hillary Clinton, but also Republican candidates during the presidential primaries. For example, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were targeted and denigrated, as was Jeb Bush. 14 As Clint Watts, a former FBI Agent and expert in social media weaponization, testified to the Committee, "Russia's overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adversarial views towards the Kremlin." IRA operators sought"to impact primaries for both major parties and "may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed."

Brexit: The uncomfortable truth about Boris Johnson's deal

But this is about something deeper: the Tory hardliners are coming onboard because their side has finally won.
The fight against Mrs May's deal was as much about her as about its contents.
Her opponents voted against it repeatedly because they wished to remove her and wagered that that was the best way.

18 October, 2019

A Million People Are Jailed at China's Gulags. I Managed to Escape. Here's What Really Goes on Inside

“At the end of 2016, the police began arresting people at night, secretly,” Sauytbay related. “It was a socially and politically uncertain period. Cameras appeared in every public space; the security forces stepped up their presence. At one stage, DNA samples were taken from all members of minorities in the region and our telephone SIM cards were taken from us. One day, we were invited to a meeting of senior civil servants. There were perhaps 180 people there, employees in hospitals and schools. Police officers, reading from a document, announced that reeducation centers for the population were going to open soon, in order to stabilize the situation in the region.”

By stabilization, the Chinese were referring to what they perceived as a prolonged separatist struggle waged by the Uyghur minority. Terrorist attacks were perpetrated in the province as far back as the 1990s and the early 2000s. Following a series of suicide attacks between 2014 and 2016, Beijing launched a tough, no-holds-barred policy.

17 October, 2019

WeWork and Counterfeit Capitalism

The goal of Son, and increasingly most large financiers in private equity and venture capital, is to find big markets and then dump capital into one player in such a market who can underprice until he becomes the dominant remaining actor. In this manner, financiers can help kill all competition, with the idea of profiting later on via the surviving monopoly.
Engaging in such a strategy used to be illegal, and was known as predatory pricing. There are laws, like Robinson-Patman and the Clayton Act, which, if read properly and enforced, prohibit such conduct. The reason is very basic to capitalism. Capitalism works because companies that thrive take a bunch of inputs and create a product that is more valuable than the sum of its parts. That creates additional value, and in such a model companies have to compete by making better goods and services.
What predatory pricing does is to enable competition purely based on access to capital. Someone like Neumann, and Son’s entire model with his Vision Fund, is to take inputs, combine them into products worth less than their cost, and plug up the deficit through the capital markets in hopes of acquiring market power later or of just self-dealing so the losses are placed onto someone else. This model has spread. Bird, the scooter company, is not making money. Uber and Lyft are similarly and systemically unprofitable. This model is catastrophic not just for individual companies, but for their competitors who have to *make* money. I’ve written about this problem before. Amazon has created a much less competitive and brittle retail sector. Netflix’s money-losing business is ruining Hollywood.

15 October, 2019

After 80 years, DeKalb to demolish water tower in Decatur

For about 80 years, the water tower bearing the Decatur logo hovered over residents and guests as they drove in to the city.

But by 2019, the tower will be no more.