News 07.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 07.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 07.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 07.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Kilynn Johnson walks out the door of the house her parents bought in 1972, where she grew up and lives to this day, she steps into the warm embrace of a community where neighbors feel more like kin. Her home sits across the street from Stinger Square Park, where Johnson passed long days of her childhood playing alongside her siblings and cousins and friends. But by age 8, diagnosed with asthma, she spent more time sitting on the sidelines, watching the other children tumble on playground equipment or rip and run through the park. Once in a while a neighbor, Ms. Sylvia or any number of Black mother figures whom Johnson and everyone knew never to call by just their first names, might come by and check on her. “You doing all right, Kilynn?” they would ask the quiet little girl.

Near the end of 2015, Johnson felt short of breath and wondered whether the asthma that plagued her when she was a child had flared up once again. By the last week of December, she was able to leave her house on the corner of Dickinson Street and South 32nd Street, in the Grays Ferry neighborhood of South Philadelphia, only once, to drag herself to church on New Year’s Eve. Three nights later, she began vomiting uncontrollably. At sunrise, she managed to call her former partner, Tony, and could get out only one word: “Hospital.”

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

News 07.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 07.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

ONE OF THE MOST POTENT MYTHS of mainstream U.S. historiography concerns what Indigenous archaeologist Michael V. Wilcox calls “terminal narratives”: an obsession with the death, disappearance, and absence of Indigenous people rather than their continued, visible presence and challenge to colonialism. The most obvious example of this tendency are historical models that assign blame for the mass killing of the Indigenous to invisible, chance forces—above all, the diseases colonizers unwittingly carried with them—rather than to calculated warfare and theft over centuries of relentless European invasion.

Debates about the epidemiological vulnerability of Indigenous people first came to prominence in the 1970s as historians backed away from narratives of European cultural superiority in search of more scientific explanations. This biological turn identified microbes as a primary culprit in the mass death of the Indigenous, suggesting that the depopulation of the Americas was an inevitable result of Native communities’ contact with diseases from the old world. In a 1976 essay, the historian Alfred W. Crosby put forth the “virgin-soil epidemics” thesis, which posited that Europeans brought diseases—in particular, smallpox and measles—that wiped out 70 percent or more of Native people in the Western Hemisphere because they lacked immunity. In what was framed as the most extreme demographic disaster in human history, the most affected regions experienced a 90 percent depopulation rate, including deaths related to disease, which is estimated to have reduced the population of the Americas from one hundred million to ten million.

Read the rest of this article at: The Baffler

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In 2011, a 27-year-old musician named Tom Ruskin split from Chicago, frustrated with what his life had become. He wanted to get away from the city—from the struggle, from the noise, from the girlfriend who had just dumped him—and out of the creative rut he’d been stuck in. The music career just wasn’t working, so he said to hell with it and headed to a cabin in the backwoods of Illinois. When he left, pretty much all he had with him was an acoustic guitar, a few extra packs of strings, and a four-track recording device. The stage was set to make his masterpiece.

Tom Ruskin’s music never did reach the audiences he was hoping, because Tom Ruskin is the fictional subject of the Onion article “Man Just Going to Grab Guitar and Old Four-Track, Go Out to Cabin in Woods, Make Shittiest Album Anyone’s Ever Heard.” But you were with me for a few sentences because this tale is as well trod in the music world as the Appalachian Trail.

The most deliberate touchstone for Ruskin, of course, is Justin Vernon, whose first album as Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago, was put together with more or less the same map as our Onion protagonist. (Vernon was feeling broken in 2006, dealing with a bout of heartbreak in addition to a bout of mononucleosis, so he went to his father’s hunting cabin in remote Wisconsin, where he made the record that vaulted him to stardom.) Stories like his are enduring for understandable reasons: They’re romantic, they’re dramatic, they’re about taking control of your own life back when you feel like you’ve lost it. They’re basically Jerry Maguire walk-out scenes for musicians.

Read the rest of this article at: The Ringer

News 07.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 07.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Northwest of Beijing’s Forbidden City, outside the Third Ring Road, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has spent seven decades building a campus of national laboratories. Near its center is the Institute of Automation, a sleek silvery-blue building surrounded by camera-studded poles. The institute is a basic research facility. Its computer scientists inquire into artificial intelligence’s fundamental mysteries. Their more practical innovations—iris recognition, cloud-based speech synthesis—are spun off to Chinese tech giants, AI start-ups, and, in some cases, the People’s Liberation Army.

I visited the institute on a rainy morning in the summer of 2019. China’s best and brightest were still shuffling in post-commute, dressed casually in basketball shorts or yoga pants, AirPods nestled in their ears. In my pocket, I had a burner phone; in my backpack, a computer wiped free of data—standard precautions for Western journalists in China. To visit China on sensitive business is to risk being barraged with cyberattacks and malware. In 2019, Belgian officials on a trade mission noticed that their mobile data were being intercepted by pop-up antennae outside their Beijing hotel.

After clearing the institute’s security, I was told to wait in a lobby monitored by cameras. On its walls were posters of China’s most consequential postwar leaders. Mao Zedong loomed large in his characteristic four-pocket suit. He looked serene, as though satisfied with having freed China from the Western yoke. Next to him was a fuzzy black-and-white shot of Deng Xiaoping visiting the institute in his later years, after his economic reforms had set China on a course to reclaim its traditional global role as a great power.

The lobby’s most prominent poster depicted Xi Jinping in a crisp black suit. China’s current president and the general secretary of its Communist Party has taken a keen interest in the institute. Its work is part of a grand AI strategy that Xi has laid out in a series of speeches akin to those John F. Kennedy used to train America’s techno-scientific sights on the moon. Xi has said that he wants China, by year’s end, to be competitive with the world’s AI leaders, a benchmark the country has arguably already reached. And he wants China to achieve AI supremacy by 2030.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 07.29.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The sound of the waves is not so different from the traffic of the city. But as soon as you lift your face and taste the fresh tang of salt on the air, you will mark how this sky is as different, fickle and changeable as all you have left behind. Then, if you listen, you will hear the laughing gulls. And beyond that, heading off in a low V-shape, the haunting call of the geese.

I have lived in the Hebrides for more than 16 years – the first years with my husband, and for the past decade with my dog, Maude, alone. I had been dreaming of staring out at a raw, open horizon for years – ever since I found an old map of Scotland and pinned it up in the hallway in my London flat. It was positioned across the full length of a narrow wall where I always saw it as I was passing, at an angle where your eyes fell into that empty space between giant masses of land. It is always during that notion of transit, of passing from one space to another, that your heart opens and all of your dreaming begins. I would press my nose to that thick paper, inhaling its musty scent, as my finger traced the ragged coastline of the fractured islets and islands. In those moments, as my eyes closed, the traffic, shouts from the street, neighbours slamming doors, would evaporate into the hurl of fresh spindrift, the thick, curling crests of the breakers drenching the salt-stung air, the gulls tearing the skies apart with an aching, screaming call.

I had loved my early years in London. I lived in Notting Hill, in a flat with an iron gate leading out on to communal garden. It was a sanctuary in the heart of the city, with a buzzing, cosmopolitan local community on tap. I was there years before the film came out, when you bought your vegetables in a brown paper bag with cash, knew all the street vendors, got your cigarettes from the cashier at the toy shop on the corner of Kensington Park Road. It was a time of hope and dreaming of your beautiful life, and Britpop singing the world real again.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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

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