News 08.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 08.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When estranged parents take children across borders, a shadowy industry of “recovery agents” can get them back — for a fee.

The site of the second snatching. It was a January morning, and N. was chatting with her grandmother when her father and another man, dressed in dark clothing, sprinted toward the house and took her. “It was as if they emerged from the earth,” the grandmother said.Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

A few days before Christmas 2013, Stuart Dempster hired a car to take him from Bangkok to the rural town of Ban Phai, in northeastern Thailand. Mr. Dempster, a 55-year-old track and field coach from Australia, was accompanied by a tall, burly security contractor. The two men were preparing to abduct Mr. Dempster’s daughter.

As they sped north, winding past the mountain-rimmed Lam Takhong reservoir and Khao Yai National Park, Mr. Dempster wasn’t sure what to expect. He had not seen his 5-year-old, N., in almost a year. At home in Brisbane, he had agreed to spend several thousand dollars to hire the contractor, Brad Stilla, through a company called Child Recovery Australia, one of a handful of agencies that reunite parents with children taken by estranged partners. Mr. Stilla met Mr. Dempster at a hotel in Bangkok, after flying in from China, and boasted that he knew kung fu.

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

News 08.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Back in April, as the pandemic was cresting over New York, Iris Navarro-Millán, a physician at Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan, treated a Covid-19 patient, a Hispanic woman in her 60s, who would prove to be a turning point in how she approached the disease. The woman was just a little short of breath when Navarro-Millán first saw her; a day later, she deteriorated so rapidly that she was rushed to intensive care, put on a ventilator and hooked up to a dialysis machine for her failing kidneys. Navarro-Millán feared that she would die. (She survived after spending two months sedated on the breathing machine.) When Navarro-Millán saw another Covid-19 patient soon after — a white man in his 60s already struggling to breathe — her first thought was, Not again. Believing that the prevailing standard of care — which, lacking drugs to directly fight the virus, consisted primarily of supportive measures like supplemental oxygen — was insufficient, she resolved to try something different, a treatment that was heretical in some circles but that she thought could save his life.

Navarro-Millán had unusual expertise for a hospitalist. Weill Cornell had asked her to move into that role when the pandemic hit, but she was a rheumatologist by training, a doctor whose specialty is autoimmune ailments in which the immune system, tasked with defending the self from invading pathogens, inexplicably turns on the body’s own tissues. Now she drew on her experience to try to help this Covid-19 patient.

She suspected that the greatest danger here wasn’t the coronavirus itself but an immune overreaction so severe that it could cause lungs to fill up with fluid and prompt organs to shut down, possibly killing the patient. Rheumatologists often describe this type of immune reaction as a “cytokine storm” or “cytokine release syndrome.” Cytokines are proteins released by cells in order to send messages to other cells — signaling, for instance, that a viral invasion is underway. The number of different cytokines is large, perhaps exceeding 100, and each one calls for a specific response. To save her patient, Navarro-Millán decided that she would have to calm his immune system and prevent that storm from getting started.

Read the rest of this article The New York Times


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In the mid-1990s, as part of a carpet-bombing campaign to market the still nascent World Wide Web to potential consumers, America Online offered free dial-up Internet trials and mailed CDs containing software to several million Americans. Reportedly, half the CDs in the world at one point were branded with the AOL logo. For several weeks in 1998, the company apparently used the entirety of the earth’s CD manufacturing power.

The ad blitz was an astonishing, almost unbelievable feat of logistics, and it set the stage for the Internet as we know it today—that is, as one of history’s most expensive, extractive, and manipulative advertising apparatuses, dominated by a shrinking handful of giant platforms. The story is one of the countless pieces of Internet history breezily covered in Joanne McNeil’s new book, Lurking: How a Person Became a User, a conversational and idiosyncratic account of the past 30 years of online life that reminds us that the Internet didn’t have to become what it is today.

Read the rest of this article at: The Nation

News 08.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The HeyTea shop in the Chaoyang district of Beijing is an expression of svelte minimalism, its LED lettering and black tiles giving off a vaguely retro vibe. On a recent weekend, one of the last truly warm days of early fall, the location was full of upmarket customers — families with strollers, Gen Z-ers in knockoff Supreme streetwear — enjoying the popular cheese tea. On the front facade, right by the door, an illustration of a hand holding a phone displayed a two-dimensional bar code, or QR code. “Scan the code to avoid lines,” a sign read.

The scene was far removed from the days 18 months earlier, when HeyTea, one of the hottest brands in China, was infamous for its long lines. Stories on WeChat, the ubiquitous Chinese social media and messaging app, of customers waiting two, three, four hours for a cup of tea only served to stoke greater demand. “I think that curiosity, the desire to wait in line because everyone else is doing it, it speaks to something fundamental in human nature,” says Peilin Chan, HeyTea’s chief technology officer. Yet as much as the shop had benefited from the viral marketing, Chan knew it was also unsustainable if HeyTea wanted to become anything more than a pop-culture gimmick. Customers were hiring people to stand in line for them (a practice known as daigou, or ‘“substitute buying”). Long delivery times were spoiling the quality of its teas. Complaints were starting to flood in online.

To solve the problem, Chan turned to the same platform that made it too big to live with. In early 2017, WeChat announced a new feature called miniprograms. Such apps are part of WeChat and don’t need to be downloaded, allowing anyone to set up a digital storefront within WeChat. Chan could have created a regular mobile app, but the integration with WeChat Pay, the platform’s mobile payment service, made billing easy, and most important, customers were already there. “At the time, we just thought that the miniprogram provided a pretty good user experience,” Chan says. The resulting miniprogram, called HeyTea Go, is opened by scanning a QR code and lets customers place orders without having to stand in line. Simultaneously, it created technological opportunities for the company, like online marketing and the collection of data about its patrons. Chan describes the adoption of the platform as — in what has been the case for hundreds of thousands of other businesses in China — “the starting point of our digital transformation.”

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

News 08.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A woman stands in an otherworldly landscape, looking out. The landscape is sublime, though not the European sublime of cliffs, peaks, and mist. Here the sublime is African. It has many textures—conglomerations of stone, waterfalls, verdant grasslands—and may remind Nigerians of their own Jos Plateau. The woman stands with her left leg raised, surveying it all, with no sense of urgency; indeed, she appears to be in a state of philosophical contemplation. She seems assured both of her mastery over this land and of her natural right to it. This sovereignty is expressed primarily by her body—the fabrics she wears, the pose she strikes, all of which find their reflection in the land around her. The same dark lines tracing her impressive musculature render the rippling rocks; the ridges of her bald head match the ridges in the stone; the luxurious folds of the fabric are answered by the intricate layering of the earth beneath her feet. Toyin Ojih Odutola’s “The Ruling Class (Eshu)” appears, at first glance, to be a portrait of dominion. For to rule is to believe the land is made in your image, and, moreover, that everyone within it submits to you. Structurally, it recalls Caspar David Friedrich’s depiction of Enlightenment dominion, “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog”: the same raised left leg, the same contemplation of power in tranquillity, the echoes of hair, pose, and fabric in the textured landscape. But the red-headed man with the cane and his back to us has been replaced by a black woman with a staff, facing forward. The script has been flipped.

The show containing this image is called “A Countervailing Theory.” Countervail: to offset the effect of something by countering it with something of equal force. The word could not be more apposite. We are in a cultural moment of radical countervailing, perhaps as potent as that experienced in the sixties, when what was offered as counter to the power of the gun, for example, was a daisy placed in its barrel. A period of hierarchical reversal, or replacement, of this for that. And “The Ruling Class” might seem wholly part of this countervailing movement, oppositional and constructed of opposites: black replacing white, by way of a restricted black-and-white palette of charcoal, chalk, and pastel. A picture that offers a new image of power as counter to an old one.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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