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In the News 06.13.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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Blood Will Out

THOSE WHO DIDN’T GO OUT of their way to follow the story of Theranos, the ambitious blood-testing company founded by Elizabeth Holmes when she dropped out of Stanford at age nineteen, will likely remember two moments when the company burst into national media attention. The first was in 2014, when Holmes appeared on the covers of Forbes and Fortune and was declared to be “the youngest woman to become a self-made billionaire”—her company had been valued at $9 billion earlier that year. Theranos promised to create a device that would test for hundreds of diseases and health markers from a single drop of blood; Holmes called it “the iPod of healthcare” and envisioned a day when the device would be in every home. Her vision sounded grand. “We see a world in which no one ever has to say, ‘If only I’d known sooner,’” she told a TEDMED audience, “A world in which no one ever has to say goodbye too soon.” It was a great idea. One wanted to believe it.

Read the rest of this article at: The Baffler

The Strange Case Of The Missing Joyce Scholar

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Some 16 years ago, The Boston Globe published an article about a jobless man who haunted Marsh Plaza, at the center of Boston University. The picture showed a curious figure in a long overcoat, hunched beneath a black fedora near the central sculpture. He spent his days talking with pigeons to whom he had given names: Checkers and Wingtip and Speckles. The article could have been just another human-interest story about our society’s failing commitment to mental health, except that the man crouched in conversation with the birds was John Kidd, once celebrated as the greatest James Joyce scholar alive.

Kidd had been the director of the James Joyce Research Center, a suite of offices on the campus of Boston University dedicated to the study of “Ulysses,” arguably the greatest and definitely the most-obsessed-over novel of the 20th century. Armed with generous endowments and cutting-edge technology, he led a team dedicated to a single goal: producing a perfect edition of the text. I saved the Boston Globe story on my computer and would occasionally open it and just stare. Long ago, I contacted Kidd about working on an article together, because I was fascinated by one of his other projects — he had produced a digital edition, one that used embedded hyperlinks to make the novel’s vast thicket of references and allusions, patterns and connections all available to the reader at a click.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

Shop the Tuscany Tote in Midnight
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Why Do We Care So Much About Privacy?

The reason you’ve been receiving a steady stream of privacy-policy updates from online services, some of which you may have forgotten you ever subscribed to, is that the European Union just enacted the General Data Protection Regulation, which gives users greater control over the information that online companies collect about them. Since the Internet is a global medium, many companies now need to adhere to the E.U. regulation.

How many of us are going to take the time to scroll through the new policies and change our data settings, though? We sign up to get the service, but we don’t give much thought to who might be storing our clicks or what they’re doing with our personal information. It is weird, at first, when our devices seem to “know” where we live or how old we are or what books we like or which brand of toothpaste we use. Then we grow to expect this familiarity, and even to like it. It makes the online world seem customized for us, and it cuts down on the time we need to map the route home or order something new to read. The machine anticipates what we want.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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Does Theranos Mark the Peak
Of The Silicon Valley Bubble?

Silicon Valley has a term for startups that reach the $1 billion valuation mark: unicorns. The term is instructive. It suggests not only that hugely successful startups are rare, but also that there’s something unreal about them.

There’s no recent Valley startup that satisfies both dimensions better than Theranos. Founded by a 19-year-old Stanford dropout, Elizabeth Holmes, who went on to become the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, it raised nearly a billion dollars from investors and was valued at $10 billion at its peak. It claimed to have developed technology that dramatically increased the affordability, convenience, and speed of blood testing. It partnered with Safeway and Walgreens, which together spent hundreds of millions of dollars building in-store clinics that were to offer Theranos tests. Tens of thousands of Americans had their blood tested by its proprietary technology.

The problem was that Theranos’ technology was never close to ready. In a series of devastating articles published in the Wall Street Journal starting in 2015, reporter John Carreyrou reminded us that unicorns are usually found only in fairy tales. Theranos, he reported, was analyzing many of the blood samples it received using off-the-shelf commercial blood analyzers. Samples analyzed with Theranos’ own technology often produced inaccurate results. Some patients were rushed to a hospital on the basis of erroneous readings, only to be sent home when their blood was properly analyzed by the hospital. Even worse, Theranos was using brutal intimidation tactics against its own employees to stop the truth from coming out.

This month, Carreyrou’s book about the Theranos saga, Bad Blood, was released. It reads like a page-turner in the finest tradition of Michael Crichton, complete with secondary and tertiary characters and finely detailed scene settings, with the tragic difference that everything in it is true. It has already been purchased—after a bidding war—by a Hollywood studio, which has cast Jennifer Lawrence as Holmes.

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

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The headquarters of Sanitation Salvage, one of the largest private trash haulers in New York City, is a squat brick building that sits unremarkably amid the garbage dumps and razor wire of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx.

The Squitieri brothers, owners for decades, can be found on the top floor of the house-like structure on Manida Street. The three brothers are men of considerable wealth and fixtures in Bronx politics, and one of them, Steven, has been seen riding to special events in a white chauffeured Rolls Royce. They are also, according to employees, unforgiving bosses, profane taskmasters who push a small army of drivers and off-the-books workers through grueling shifts of 18 hours or longer.

The building’s basement is the domain of the men who work in neon reflective gear. Each night the workers, most of them black or Hispanic, descend the steps to sign in and get their assignments. The supervisors make sure everyone has the printout from the Squitieris: “Do your job or get written up.”

From the basement, the workers head to the trucks out in the yard. Once on their routes, the drivers and their helpers often pick up young men on the street as additional hands, everyone sprinting through fatigue and red lights to finish nightly routes of 1,000 stops or more.

In 2016, Mouctar Diallo, a teenage African immigrant, stepped into the rough-and-tumble world of Sanitation Salvage. He was hired off the streets of the Bronx for a few bucks in cash, then spent 18 months as one of the company’s “third men,” hustling ahead of the trash trucks to grab garbage from the curb and keep the gritty show rolling.

Then, nearing the end of a shift on Nov. 7, 2017, Diallo wound up crushed to death under the wheels of a Sanitation Salvage truck. The men he’d been helping lied to the police, saying their dead colleague was a homeless person who had come out of nowhere. The police took them at their word, and Diallo was buried quietly by his family, the circumstances of his death a cynical fiction.

Read the rest of this article at: ProPublica

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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