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In the News 23.06.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 23.06.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 23.06.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 23.06.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Secret of Taste: Why We Like What We Like

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If you had asked me, when I was 10, to forecast my life as an adult, I would probably have sketched out something like this: I would be driving a Trans Am, a Corvette, or some other muscle car. My house would boast a mammoth collection of pinball machines. I would sip sophisticated drinks (like Baileys Irish Cream), read Robert Ludlum novels, and blast Van Halen while sitting in an easy chair wearing sunglasses. Now that I am at a point to actually be able to realise every one of these feverishly envisioned tastes, they hold zero interest (well, perhaps the pinball machines in a weak moment).

It was not just that my 10-year-old self could not predict whom I would become but that I was incapable of imagining that my tastes could undergo such wholesale change. How could I know what I would want if I did not know who I would be?

Read the rest of this article at The Guardian

How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions

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ATLANTIC CITY — The Trump Plaza Casino and Hotel is now closed, its windows clouded over by sea salt. Only a faint outline of the gold letters spelling out T-R-U-M-P remains visible on the exterior of what was once this city’s premier casino.

Not far away, the long-failing Trump Marina Hotel Casino was sold at a major loss five years ago and is now known as the Golden Nugget.

At the nearly deserted eastern end of the boardwalk, the Trump Taj Mahal, now under new ownership, is all that remains of the casino empire Donald J. Trump assembled here more than a quarter-century ago. Years of neglect show: The carpets are frayed and dust-coated chandeliers dangle above the few customers there to play the penny slot machines.

On the presidential campaign trail, Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, often boasts of his success in Atlantic City, of how he outwitted the Wall Street firms that financed his casinos and rode the value of his name to riches. A central argument of his candidacy is that he would bring the same business prowess to the Oval Office, doing for America what he did for his companies.

“Atlantic City fueled a lot of growth for me,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in May, summing up his 25-year history here. “The money I took out of there was incredible.”

His audacious personality and opulent properties brought attention — and countless players — to Atlantic City as it sought to overtake Las Vegas as the country’s gambling capital. But a close examination of regulatory reviews, court records and security filings by The New York Times leaves little doubt that Mr. Trump’s casino business was a protracted failure. Though he now says his casinos were overtaken by the same tidal wave that eventually slammed this seaside city’s gambling industry, in reality he was failing in Atlantic City long before Atlantic City itself was failing.

But even as his companies did poorly, Mr. Trump did well. He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

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Why Viggo Mortensen Is Off the Grid

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Viggo Mortensen has come bearing pancake mix. We are curbside at the tiny airport in Syracuse, New York, on a truly dreary day (even by Syracuse standards), and within seconds of hopping into his rented Ford Fusion, I learn two things about him: He’s the kind of guy who picks you up at the airport, and he’s the kind of guy who brings presents. Pancake mix is a delicacy in upstate New York. “Do you like maple syrup?” Because he brought me some of that, too. He’s prepared a gift bag.

“You can smoke in the car,” Mortensen says, gesturing with his own smoldering American Spirit. “There’s an ashtray.” It’s a cardboard cup from the airport Best Western, where he got his coffee this morning, that he has filled with an inch of water. For us.

Is he always this chivalrous?

He smiles. “I try.”

Clooney, I tell him, probably never picks anyone up at airports.

He laughs. “He’s probably a lot busier than I am.”

Read the rest of this article at Esquire

The Nature of Britain

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Britons have been on the move for centuries. In the 17th century, they began to cross the seas and people other continents, seeking both economic opportunities and religious independence. Nonconformist Protestants from East Anglia and the younger sons of the West Country departed to establish colonies in New England and Virginia. Later, following England’s union with Scotland in 1707, southern absentee landowners took control of land along the Anglo-Scottish border. Emigrants driven from the borderlands pushed deeper into the North American continent, including the Appalachian mountains, the American ‘back country’. En route, they often passed first through northern Irish cities.

Meanwhile, new peoples were coming from Europe to Britain. London, a polyglot city, was already home to traders and merchant bankers from across the continent. French Protestants, called Huguenots, fled religious persecution in their home country to settle in London as ‘Strangers’. Practising their trades, they disrupted the economic livelihoods of native, English-born artisans. In short, it was a time of movement of peoples, currents of them, coming and going from near and far.

Read the rest of this article at aeon

The New Panama Canal: A Risky Bet

How a $3.1 Billion Expansion Collided With Reality

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PANAMA CITY — On July 8, 2009, the champagne finally flowed.

After an intense two-year competition, a consortium led by a Spanish company in severe financial distress learned that its rock-bottom bid of $3.1 billion had won the worldwide competition to build a new set of locks for the historic Panama Canal.

The unlikely victors toasted their win at La Vitrola, a sleek restaurant in an upscale neighborhood east of downtown Panama City. Within days, executives of the four-nation consortium, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, flew to Europe to begin planning the project.

This time, there would be no champagne. Disputes quickly erupted over how to divide responsibilities. Some executives appeared not to fully grasp how little money they had to complete a complex project with a tight deadline and a multicultural team whose members did not always see things the same way.

Internal arguments soon gave way to bigger problems. There would be work stoppages, porous concrete, a risk of earthquakes and at least $3.4 billion in disputed costs: more than the budget for the entire project.

Seven years later, and nearly two years late, the locks have finally been declared ready to accept the new generation of giant ships that carry much of the world’s cargo but cannot fit in the original canal. To mark the occasion, Panama has invited 70 heads of state to watch on Sunday as a Chinese container ship becomes the first commercial vessel to attempt the passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific through the larger locks.

For more than 100 years, the canal has been a vital artery nourishing the world economy, a testament to American engineering and one of the signature public works of the 20th century. The new locks, built by Panama without help from other governments, were sold to the nation and the world as a way to ensure that the canal remained as much of a lifeline in the hyperglobalized 21st century as it was in the last.

But when the speeches and the celebrations end, one inescapable fact will remain: The expanded canal’s future is cloudy at best, its safety, quality of construction and economic viability in doubt, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

In simple terms, to be successful, the new canal needs enough water, durable concrete and locks big enough to safely accommodate the larger ships. On all three counts, it has failed to meet expectations, according to dozens of interviews with contractors, canal workers, maritime experts and diplomats, as well as a review of public and internal records.

The low winning bid, a billion dollars less than the nearest competitor’s, made “a technically complex mega-project” precarious from the outset, according to a confidential analysis commissioned by the consortium’s insurer. “There is little room in the budget for execution errors or significant inefficiencies,” the analysts, from Hill International, wrote in 2010, adding, “This is a high-risk situation.”

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @blushshop, @happilygrey, @rachparcell