News 09.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 09.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 09.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 09.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

My mother’s ex-husband, Jim (who, until I turned 8, I’d thought was my uncle), had Google alerts set for me. Every time my name appeared in the news — if you can call gossip websites “news” — he was notified immediately via email. Jim was well meaning but an alarmist; he wished to maintain a relationship with me, and these alerts provided him with perfect opportunities to reach out.

I was walking through Tompkins Square Park with a friend and her dog and sipping a coffee when Jim’s name lit up my phone. “See you’re getting sued. My advice …” he began. Jim was a lawyer, familiar with people calling him up to ask for legal advice and therefore used to doling out his opinion even when it wasn’t solicited. “I guess this comes with the territory of being a public persona,” he wrote in a follow-up text.

I guess, I thought.

I sat down on a bench and Googled my name, discovering that I was in fact being sued, this time for posting a photo of myself on Instagram that had been taken by a paparazzo. I learned the next day from my own lawyer that despite being the unwilling subject of the photograph, I could not control what happened to it. She explained that the attorney behind the suit had been serially filing cases like these, so many that the court had labeled him a “copyright troll.” “They want $150,000 in damages for your ‘use’ of the image,” she told me, sighing heavily.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

News 09.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

August besieged California with a heat unseen in generations. A surge in air-conditioning broke the state’s electrical grid, leaving a population already ravaged by the coronavirus to work remotely by the dim light of their cellphones. By midmonth, the state had recorded possibly the hottest temperature ever measured on earth — 130 degrees in Death Valley — and an otherworldly storm of lightning had cracked open the sky. From Santa Cruz to Lake Tahoe, thousands of bolts of electricity exploded down onto withered grasslands and forests, some of them already hollowed out by climate-driven infestations of beetles and kiln-dried by the worst five-year drought on record. Soon, California was on fire.

Over the next two weeks, 900 blazes incinerated six times as much land as all the state’s 2019 wildfires combined, forcing 100,000 people from their homes. Three of the largest fires in history burned simultaneously in a ring around the San Francisco Bay Area. Another fire burned just 12 miles from my home in Marin County. I watched as towering plumes of smoke billowed from distant hills in all directions and air tankers crisscrossed the skies. Like many Californians, I spent those weeks worrying about what might happen next, wondering how long it would be before an inferno of 60-foot flames swept up the steep, grassy hillside on its way toward my own house, rehearsing in my mind what my family would do to escape.

But I also had a longer-term question, about what would happen once this unprecedented fire season ended. Was it finally time to leave for good?

I had an unusual perspective on the matter. For two years, I have been studying how climate change will influence global migration. My sense was that of all the devastating consequences of a warming planet — changing landscapes, pandemics, mass extinctions — the potential movement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees across the planet stands to be among the most important. I traveled across four countries to witness how rising temperatures were driving climate refugees away from some of the poorest and hottest parts of the world. I had also helped create an enormous computer simulation to analyze how global demographics might shift, and now I was working on a data-mapping project about migration here in the United States.

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

A weird thing happened to Andrew Schipke in early March. Schipke is a vice president at Winkler+Dünnebier, a German-born manufacturing company that runs its U.S. operations from a city in eastern Kansas. One of its most popular products is the “inserter,” an obscure but essential component in the business of voting by mail. An inserter stuffs the envelope that contains a ballot and voting instructions. Pick whatever metaphor you like — linchpin, keystone — as long as it conveys that without inserters, you can basically forget about a fair presidential election.

Inserters can cost millions and last a long time. In a typical year, Schipke might sell seven or eight. On the afternoon of March 10, he was sitting in his office when a longtime client called with a last-minute order. Runbeck Election Services, a Phoenix-based ballot printer, wanted ten new inserters. $500,000 apiece. Schipke thought: What the hell?

He started asking around. In the vote-by-mail industry — they call it “VBM” in the trade — everyone knows everyone, so Schipke could swiftly gather intel. It was early March: COVID-19 cases were minimal and lockdowns hadn’t gone national, but VBM people were already predicting an unprecedented scenario. In 2016, a little more than 20 percent of Americans had voted by mail. This year, when polling places could be hobbled on November 3, they were projecting 50 percent. There could be tens of millions of new ballots in the system, and each one would have to be printed, sorted, distributed, and counted. It was the biggest VBM business opportunity of all time, or the prelude to a quite big mess.

Read the rest of this article at: The California Sunday Magazine

News 09.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the spring of 2017, an Iranian materials scientist named Sirous Asgari received a call from the United States consulate in Dubai. Two years earlier, he and his wife, Fatemeh, had applied for visas to visit America, where their children lived. The consulate informed him that their requests had finally been approved. The timing was strange: President Donald Trump had just issued an executive order banning Iranians from entering the U.S. on the very kind of visa that Asgari and his wife were granted. Maybe applications filed before the visa ban had been grandfathered through, or some career State Department official wanted to give families like his a last chance to reunite.

Asgari, who was then fifty-six years old, considered the U.S. a second home. In the nineties, he had attended graduate school at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, and he came to like America’s commonsense efficiency. His daughter Sara was born in the U.S., making her an American citizen. His two older children, Mohammad and Zahra, had attended American universities and stayed on. Asgari was now a professor at Sharif University of Technology, in Tehran, and former graduate students of his worked in top American laboratories; his scientific research, on metallurgy, sometimes took him to Cleveland, where he had close colleagues at Case Western Reserve University.

Asgari and Fatemeh boarded a flight to New York on June 21, 2017. They planned to see Mohammad, who lived in the city, and then proceed to California, where they would visit Zahra and meet the man she had married. But when the Asgaris stepped off the jet bridge at J.F.K. two officials accosted them.

The officials whisked the Asgaris into a room, where a phalanx of F.B.I. agents awaited them. Asgari was under arrest, the agents told him, accused of serious charges in a sealed indictment whose contents they couldn’t reveal at the airport. He could go with them to a hotel and look over the indictment, or he could go to a local detention center, and then be transferred to Cleveland, for an arraignment. In the turmoil of the moment, he barely registered that nobody had stamped his visa or returned his passport.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 09.16.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When a fish is in crisis, the public wants to blame the fishermen. It is preferable to blaming ourselves. But a fish whose only problem was overfishing, a fish stock that could be saved simply by a ban on all commercial fishing, would be very rare. It would be an enviably easy problem to fix.

The salmon is as magnificent an animal as anything on the Serengeti – beautiful in its many phases; thrilling in its athleticism; moving in its strength, determination and courage – and it would be a tragedy if it were to disappear. All that is true, but a more important point is that if the salmon does not survive, there is little hope for the survival of the planet.

The salmon, though it belongs only to the northern hemisphere, has always been a kind of barometer for the planet’s health. That is because anadromous fish – fish that live part of their life in freshwater lakes and rivers and part of it in the sea – offer a clear connection between marine and terrestrial ecology. Most of what we do on land ends up impacting the ocean, but with salmon we are able to see that connection more clearly.

Our greatest assaults on the environment are visible in salmon. Complex as the problem of survival is for most fish, few species are faced with as many difficulties as salmon. This is partly because it is central to the “food web” (now that we understand the importance of biodiversity and the interdependence of species, this term has replaced the more familiar “food chain”) and partly because of a complicated life cycle that depends on both marine and inland habitat. In 2005, a group of scientists studying the survival prognosis for Pacific salmon concluded that 23% of all salmon stocks in the world were at moderate or high risk of complete extinction. For Atlantic salmon, the situation is even more desperate.

There is a growing realisation, greatly promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), that we have to start producing much more protein to sustain a growing world population. The FAO believes that we cannot afford to plough up more land for agriculture and we need to derive more protein from the sea. This is clearly not going to be accomplished with wild fish, already struggling under the effects of climate change. One way to make the sea productive is fish farming. But fish farming currently creates as many problems as it solves.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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

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