In the News 23.12.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 23.12.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 23.12.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 23.12.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2017, Key Facebook Builders Disowned Their Creation

Less than a week ago, Facebook published an extraordinary statement unlike anything in its history. The company acknowledged for the first time that ordinary use of its product could be harmful. “The badIn general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward,” wrote the authors, who work on Facebook’s internal research team. The company added that more active use of social media, in which users trade messages and comments, “was linked to” improvements in well being.

The post arrived unexpectedly, but it was a long time coming. 2017 was a bruising year for Facebook’s reputation. The closest comparison would be 2007, when the company faced a public backlash and advertiser revolt over its controversial Beacon ad tool. But Facebook was then at a fraction of its current size and power. As it reckoned with its immense responsibilities this year, the company was dealt another blow: a handful of high-profile former employees became vocal critics of what the company had created.

Read the rest of this article at: The Verge

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Jordan Peele’s X-Ray Vision


Jordan Peele is famous, in part, for imitations — of rappers and dingbats and the 44th president of the United States. But he would be impossible to imitate. He isn’t ribald. He’s droll. Sometimes he’s not even that. Sometimes he’s quiet. Sometimes he’s sitting across from you expecting you to hold up your end of a conversation. Sometimes he’s listening and hearing you — like, really hearing you. This is the Peele who made “Get Out,” and it takes a minute to square him with the Peele from “Key & Peele.”

On Halloween, we had lunch at one of those casually cool American bistros in Los Angeles where all the food seems as if it was grown out back. He chose a spot outside, not to be seen (although a few people saw him) but mostly to see. Peele, who is 38, lives in his head, and he watches the world around him intensely. I got the duck, then so did he, and while we ate I was pretty sure I could hear him thinking. It was toward the end of the meal when he saw someone he recognized. Well, he thought he did.

“He’s dressed like Chris,” he said with some amusement. “Do you think he’s being Chris?” He was looking past me, so it was hard to turn all the way around to confirm with any subtlety. But Peele’s gaze made it perfectly obvious to the person approaching that Peele was looking at him. “Are you Chris from ‘Get Out’ for Halloween?” Peele asked, committing less an act of racial profiling than an uncanny identification of his own handiwork. “Get Out,” of course, is the surprise hit movie that Peele wrote and directed about a black man named Chris, who discovers that his white girlfriend’s family is running a nasty racist conspiracy. Chris has big, watery eyes that seem red from weariness (or weed) and wears a collarless blue chambray shirt over a gray T-shirt and jeans.

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

The Monster Beneath

In the heat of a summer afternoon, Vincenzo Morra, a professor of petrology at the University of Naples, took me up into the low brown hills of Pisciarelli just west of Naples. We drove past large, out-of-town discount stores and abandoned football pitches, and parked opposite a derelict, flat-roofed building. “We are going to the place where you can touch the volcano,” he told me. As I got out of the car, two things struck me simultaneously: the smell – the pungent, rotten-egg stink of sulphur – and a great rushing sound, shockingly loud against the silence of the hillside.

Morra, who is also the co-ordinator of the Italian Volcanic Risk Committee, led the way down a track towards a small, rocky gully. Turning the corner, the noise intensified. It sounded like an immense waterfall or some sort of infernal machine. In front of us, I saw its origin: a large cloud of steam rising from a fissure in the grey rocks. Below the fissure, a pool of churning mud belched and bubbled. No vegetation grew nearby and the earth beneath my feet felt hot. We were looking at what volcanologists call a fumarole. The heat emanated from a pool of magma that had collected some 3km below the ground.

Read the rest of this article at: 1843

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Bussed out

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To say that Thomas Robert Malthus was unpopular would be putting it mildly. His 19th-century contemporary Percy Shelley, the revered poet, called him a eunuch and a tyrant. The philosopher William Godwin dubbed him “a dark and terrible genius that is ever at hand to blast all the hopes of all mankind.” As Malthus’ biographer later put it, he was the most abused man of his age. And that was the age of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The catalyst for this vilification was the 1798 book An Essay on the Principle of Population. In it, Malthus—a curly haired, 32-year-old curate of a small English chapel—attacked the claims of utopian thinkers like Godwin, who believed that reason and scientific progress would ultimately create a perfect society, free of inequality and suffering. Malthus took a more pessimistic view. Using United States census data compiled by Benjamin Franklin, he predicted that the “passion of the sexes” would soon cause human populations to outstrip their resources, leading to poverty and hardship. If unchecked, people would continue to multiply exponentially, doubling every 25 years. Agricultural yields, however, would at best increase linearly, by a similar amount each year. In 100 years, Great Britain would have 16 times as many mouths to feed (112 million), but less than half enough food.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

How DR Congo Lost Control Of The Fabric Of Its Culture And Economy

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Positioning a stand at the entrance to one of Lubumbashi’s largest breweries is part entrepreneurial savvy, part defiance by Mwehu Kashala. Each day he sells mobile phone airtime vouchers under a large umbrella, displaying the disposable vouchers on a rickety table. It’s been his main source of income since he lost his job a decade ago from the textile factory that used to operate from the same large industrial complex that is now a brewery.

The Syntexkin textile factory was the economic heart and cultural soul of Lubumbashi. The Democratic Republic of Congo was known for its intricate fabrics, and this is one of the factories that produced them for decades. Syntexkin would produce thousands of rectangles of cotton cloth with myriad designs from patterns made of everyday objects to swirls that are almost abstract. The cloth is often brightly colored, always bold, and instantly recognizable as uniquely African.

Then in the early 2000s production buckled and eventually collapsed under an influx of cheap imports from China, unravelling the local economy. The cultural significance of these prints was not enough to save the factory or the jobs of hundreds of family breadwinners.

Chinese market entry in DRC was subtle. At first, they only supplied cotton bales. Then came the printed fabric. Then the quality improved.  The fabric known as kangas are everywhere, even today. Their cuts have evolved, from simple wraps to tailored suits—the matching of their graphic print along a modern seam is no easy task. It is also what springs to mind when people from outside the country and continent think of when they hear the generic words “African print,” or Ankara.

Similar prints are worn in other African countries, and increasingly by a diaspora trying to reconnect with an African aesthetic. In the DRC, these printed fabrics about a yard wide and one and a half yards long have been a way of life for generations. It is why the loss of the commercial control of this print is so great.

Read the rest of this article at: Quartz

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