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News 11.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 11.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 11.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 11.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Two years ago, Dr. Ugur Sahin took the stage at a conference in Berlin and made a bold prediction. Speaking to a roomful of infectious disease experts, he said his company might be able to use its so-called messenger RNA technology to rapidly develop a vaccine in the event of a global pandemic.

At the time, Dr. Sahin and his company, BioNTech, were little known outside the small world of European biotechnology start-ups. BioNTech, which Dr. Sahin founded with his wife, Dr. Özlem Türeci, was mostly focused on cancer treatments. It had never brought a product to market. Covid-19 did not yet exist.

But his words proved prophetic.

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

News 11.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 11.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Growing up in Arizona in the 1990s, Justin Posey wanted to be Indiana Jones. At age 9, he started wearing the archaeologist-adventurer’s trademark khaki pants, Stetson, and leather jacket and carrying a bullwhip nearly every day. When other kids bullied him, his mother gently suggested he dress more normally. “He wouldn’t have any part of it,” his mother, Lorri, remembers. He carried the whip until he was 13. “I got pretty good with that thing,” he says. “Of course, they wouldn’t let me bring it to school.”

Posey’s parents were both railroad engineers, and during summers at the family’s cabin in Montana, where his grandfather was a fish-and-game warden, his favorite thing to do was get out in the hills with a metal detector. He collected books of magic and magicians’ biographies and devoted himself to demystifying illusions like levitation, sleight of hand, and escapes, which he performed in his sixth-grade talent show. He tore apart his mother’s new computer (and put it back together in the face of her fury) and built himself one from off-the-shelf parts. He had a book about the Spanish conquistadores and their long-buried treasure, and with his younger brothers, he recalls, he would “forge out on our own across the desert outside of Tucson in search of hidden loot.”

When Posey was 11, he became obsessed with the Victorio Peak treasure, a hoard of perhaps thousands of gold bars supposedly found by a hunter named Milton Noss in a hilltop cavern in New Mexico in 1937. Before Noss was able to recover most of the gold he had seen, the shaft leading to it caved in; after World War II, the U.S. government seized the whole area, adding it to the White Sands Missile Range. “This concept that there could be, around the corner, a vast fortune with an unimaginable historical context was just enthralling,” Posey says. He learned everything he could about it, even attending a summit held by descendants of Noss. He joined tours of the missile range, cooking up schemes to peel off from the group and sneak away to the treasure site. “That was the agonizing part,” he recalls. “I felt I could do this, but the physical barriers made it all the worse. It consumed the majority of my childhood.”

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

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On 29 October 1945, the New York City branch of Gimbels department store unveiled a new product. Billions upon billions would follow in its wake.

Gimbels was the first to sell a new kind of ink pen, the design of which had taken several decades to come to fruition. The pens, made by the Reynolds International Pen Company, promised an end to the messy mishaps users of fountain pens encountered – leaking ink, smudges and pooling ink blots.

The new ballpoint pens did away with this, using a special viscous ink which dried quickly and didn’t leave smudges. At the heart of it, the rolling ball in the nib – and gravity – ensured a constant, steady stream of ink that didn’t smear or leave solid pools of ink on the page.

The new ballpoint was clean and convenient. What it wasn’t was cheap.

The new Reynolds ballpoint cost $12.50 – convert that to 2020 money and it’s more than $180 (£138.50). Today, if you were buying your pens in bulk, from stack-‘em-high superstores, you could end up with more than 1,000 for the same price.

Read the rest of this article at: BBC

News 11.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 11.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

IT HAS COME for genius and aristocrat, conqueror and king. Like a succubus, it descends at night, first as a fevered dream, then pain in darkness, the body turned rude animal, reduced to its lowest, humblest extremity: the foot, red and swollen, throbbing like a heart. You are left to hobble, if that; the flutter of a bedsheet over the distended foot is anguish enough, let alone the full weight of the body bearing down. To take a step is to see the abyss. Often the pain is concentrated in the big toe, ridiculous, stubby and chubby, Napoleonic, the fat piggy sent to market. So acute is the sensitivity of this bloated hallux — “so exquisite and lively,” in the words of the 17th-century English physician Thomas Sydenham, chronicling his bouts with the disease — that the faintest footfall of a sympathetic visitor is a gunshot straight to the nerve. The American poet and novelist Jim Harrison, writing in 1991, likened his throes to those of “a wolf with the steel teeth of a trap buried in its paw.” It will not help, at such a moment, to recall that Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton and Henry James reportedly suffered thus, and that you have joined, in your abasement, the noblest ranks.

The disease can be chronic (the pain goes away but may return at will) and excruciating (if not fatal), yet say its name — gout — and people snicker. It has a whiff of the powdered wig, of a time when the powerful could continue to rule the world even half incapacitated, with one grotesquely tumescent foot lolling atop a dainty cushioned stool, like some priapic cartoon. The phallic symbolism is inevitable, especially since the condition predominantly afflicts men — the 18th-century British Queen Anne, shown groaning from a gout-inflamed leg in Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2018 film, “The Favourite,” was a notable historical exception — and in keeping with the belief that attacks were triggered by wanton appetite, whether in bed or at table. In fact, genetics are most often the culprit and sex has nothing to do with it, although diet can play a part: If, in breaking down food for digestion, the body produces more uric acid than the kidneys can filter out, the excess may form microscopic, dagger-shaped crystals that stiffen in the joints and trigger inflammation. The foods most likely to contribute to these inner stalagmites are high in the chemical compound purine, among them venison and foie gras, pheasant and scallops, goose and caviar. In short, a grandee’s banquet.

 

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

News 11.15.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Towards the end of 2017, Bentinho Massaro, a 29-year-old self-styled spiritual teacher with a considerable online following, chose the town of Sedona, Arizona, as the location for a 12-day-long spiritual bootcamp. Among the red sandstone cliffs that rise like temples from the desert floor, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Dutchman offered to guide his most dedicated adherents towards communion with a higher life force, or in his words, “the absolute truth of the one infinite creator”.

For those who could afford the $1,199 ticket, this would be achieved through group meditation, self-inquiry and grape juice cleanse fasting. For those who couldn’t, enlightenment would be available for a reduced price online via livestream.

Over the preceding seven years, Bentinho had built a near half-million-strong following on the internet. On YouTube (86,000 subscribers), he uploaded lengthy “third eye power” meditations to help followers “activate their pineal gland”. On Facebook (300,000 followers), he offered advice on how to maintain intimate and empowering relationships. His Instagram feed (32,000 followers) rendered a “super accelerated” lifestyle of adventure sports, international travel and cigar smoking.

The Sedona Experiment II, as the retreat was called, was set to be an intense distillation of Bentinho’s most profound teachings. But a few days before the retreat started, an independent journalist named Be Scofield self-published an article on Medium claiming that Bentinho was using his social media nous to foster a cult-like following. His content, she alleged, encouraged devotees to abandon critical thinking and embrace Bentinho as a God-like figure.

This was not the first time Bentinho had come under scrutiny. Some detractors occasionally accused him of using his platforms to hook vulnerable seekers into endless engagement and blind support. And he did peddle some fringe ideas, like his plan to build a fully enlightened society by 2035, or his belief that he vibrated at a higher frequency than other humans. But for the most part, his followers consumed his content with relish. Though most had never met Bentinho in person, he became a daily, intimate presence in their lives. He was their spiritual influencer and they were his devotional fandom.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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

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News 12.02.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

At the very beginning of her new book Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett writes that each chapter will present “a few compelling scientific nuggets about your brain and considers what they might reveal about human nature.”

News 11.30.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

This February, I began obsessively making lists. Songs with cellos. Every book I read or every documentary I watched this year. Different things that you can eat with ginger-scallion sauce. Stories involving balloons. I don’t usually make lists, although I will generally risk malware or worse to read other people’s rankings.

News 11.27.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

There’s a scene toward the beginning of Asif Kapadia’s documentary, Diego Maradona, where Maradona is standing in some dusty locker room, somewhere in Argentina, waiting to be interviewed. It’s the early ‘80s: He hasn’t moved to Europe yet, hasn’t won the World Cup, hasn’t quite become El Diego. But he’s started to score goals, started to make some money, started to realize he is, in fact, hot shit.