News 12.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 12.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

As a child, Suzanne Simard often roamed Canada’s old-growth forests with her siblings, building forts from fallen branches, foraging mushrooms and huckleberries and occasionally eating handfuls of dirt (she liked the taste). Her grandfather and uncles, meanwhile, worked nearby as horse loggers, using low-impact methods to selectively harvest cedar, Douglas fir and white pine. They took so few trees that Simard never noticed much of a difference. The forest seemed ageless and infinite, pillared with conifers, jeweled with raindrops and brimming with ferns and fairy bells. She experienced it as “nature in the raw” — a mythic realm, perfect as it was. When she began attending the University of British Columbia, she was elated to discover forestry: an entire field of science devoted to her beloved domain. It seemed like the natural choice.

By the time she was in grad school at Oregon State University, however, Simard understood that commercial clearcutting had largely superseded the sustainable logging practices of the past. Loggers were replacing diverse forests with homogeneous plantations, evenly spaced in upturned soil stripped of most underbrush. Without any competitors, the thinking went, the newly planted trees would thrive. Instead, they were frequently more vulnerable to disease and climatic stress than trees in old-growth forests. In particular, Simard noticed that up to 10 percent of newly planted Douglas fir were likely to get sick and die whenever nearby aspen, paper birch and cottonwood were removed. The reasons were unclear. The planted saplings had plenty of space, and they received more light and water than trees in old, dense forests. So why were they so frail?

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

News 12.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

IN THE EARLY 21st century — a decade into the experiment of the public internet, which was introduced in 1991, and with Facebook and Twitter not yet glimmers of data on the horizon — a new phrase slipped into Chinese slang: renrou sousuo, literally translated as “human flesh search.” The wording was meant to be whimsical, suggesting the human-powered equivalent of what were then fairly novel computer search engines. (In English, the nuances are lost; no zombie inflection was intended.) A request would go out for wangmin (web citizens), or in this case the more intimate wangyou (web friends, internet users sharing a common passion or cause), to come together as a kind of ad hoc detective agency in order to ferret out information about objects and figures of interest. It was just an outlet for fandom. But soon attention turned toward supposed wrongdoers, those thought to exhibit moral deficiency, from a low-level government official spotted flashing a designer watch far above his pay grade, hinting at corruption, to, more horrifically, a woman in a “crush video” — a fringe genre of erotica that traffics in animal cruelty — wielding stilettos to stomp a kitten to death. Once these offenders were identified and their personal details exposed online, they were hounded, verbally flogged and effectively expelled from the community.

To a Western observer, this was human flesh indeed: a pound of it, exacted. Media coverage in the West framed renrou sousuo as an exotic phenomenon, almost unheard-of outside China. It couldn’t happen here. When The New York Times ran a feature on it in 2010, one commenter wrote, “I am surprised by the intensity of the searches and I think this is an Eastern trait. Most people in the West can’t be bothered, we are too individualistic and well served by existing mechanisms” — even though English already had its own word, “doxxing,” for such online revelations, with roots in 1990s computer hacker discussion boards. Weiwei Shen, a founding editor of the Tsinghua China Law Review, made a similar, if more subtle, argument in a 2016 essay, noting that the human flesh search was a “grass-roots” effort and thus far more likely to arise in “collectivist” China, as opposed to go-it-alone America.

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

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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In August, shortly after Tony Hsieh, the legendary entrepreneur behind Zappos, moved to Park City, Utah, he eagerly awaited a visitor: the singer Jewel. The longtime friends originally met the way fellow rock stars should, on Richard Branson’s Necker Island, and Hsieh, who had been buying up properties around the mountain town, was planning to spend the next week showing her around.

Soon after arriving, Jewel played a private acoustic set for around 50 residents of the community Hsieh was building there—a reprise of sorts of the city-within-a-city of artists and entrepreneurs that Hsieh had famously created in downtown Las Vegas. It should have been a magical moment, according to a person who was there, with the Grammy nominee seated in front of a fireplace and views of the Wasatch Mountains framing the performance.

But within a day, Jewel abruptly left. Shortly after, the singer sent Hsieh a letter via FedEx, since he had forsworn email and texts as part of a digital cleanse.

“I am going to be blunt,” she wrote in the letter, the content of which was shared with Forbes. “I need to tell you that I don’t think you are well and in your right mind. I think you are taking too many drugs that cause you to disassociate.”

She continued: “The people you are surrounding yourself with are either ignorant or willing to be complicit in you killing yourself.”

Exactly one week ago, in the early morning hours of the day after Thanksgiving, Hsieh died from his exposure to a shocking house fire in Connecticut, where he had been staying. He was just 46.

Read the rest of this article at: Forbes

News 12.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In a New Jersey suburb seven miles west of Midtown Manhattan, the American Dream is on shaky ground.

The Dream in question isn’t the mythological notion that upward social mobility is within reach for all hardworking Americans. It’s a $5 billion, 3 million-square-foot shopping and entertainment complex in East Rutherford featuring an indoor ski slope, an ice-skating rink, and a Nickelodeon-branded amusement park. The complex finally opened last fall, but it’s now facing huge new challenges.

The development’s complicated 17-year history, marked by ownership changes, false starts, and broken promises, had already put American Dream in a precarious situation. The Covid-19 pandemic hitting in March made things much worse. Whether the mall makes it in the long term will hinge in part on how it deals with the collapse of three of the marquee department stores that were to anchor the complex and draw foot traffic — Barneys New York, Lord & Taylor, and Century 21 — which all have gone bankrupt and closed, or are planning to close all their stores in the US.

Around 100 storefronts in American Dream opened their doors to customers in October and November, but the complex’s future is not guaranteed. Its owners, Triple Five Group, missed several mortgage payments this summer, and it’s not clear who might fill the enormous holes left by the three fallen department store chains, or which other retail tenants will opt out of their leases now that the development is missing three of its anchors.

While the story of American Dream is unique in many ways, its struggles are emblematic of the bleak future facing many US malls and department stores — whose destinies have long been intertwined. The downfall of these onetime crown jewels of retail will have meaningful impacts on the Americans who work for them and the communities they’ve long called home.

Across the US, department stores are shrinking or shuttering altogether. In 2011, US department stores employed 1.2 million employees across 8,600 stores, according to estimates from the research firm IBISWorld. But in 2020, there are now fewer than 700,000 employees in the sector, working across just over 6,000 locations.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

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News 12.07.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2008, Jeremy Neuner and Ryan Coonerty, two city-hall employees in Santa Cruz, California, decided to open a co-working space. They leased a cavernous building a few steps from a surf shop and a sex-toy boutique, and equipped it with desks, power strips, fast Wi-Fi, and a deluxe coffee-maker. Neuner and Coonerty named their company NextSpace Coworking.

Neuner, who had attended Harvard’s Kennedy School after serving in the Navy, was looking to be part of a movement. “We really believed that this would be a totally new way of working,” he told me. NextSpace provided a refuge for local freelancers desperate for office camaraderie, and within six months the company was turning a small profit. Soon, NextSpace opened locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose. Neuner and Coonerty also started looking for venture capital. They had raised some money from family and friends, but, as Neuner put it to me, “V.C. funding is the stamp of approval.” He noted, “In every startup story, the V.C.s supercharge everything. They’re the fairy godmothers of success.”

In 2012, Neuner went to a co-working-industry conference, in Austin, Texas, to appear on a panel and try to meet investors. One of the conference’s other speakers was Adam Neumann, a six-foot-five Israeli with flowing black hair, who wore designer jeans and a dark blazer—fancy dress amid the crowd’s T-shirts. Neumann told the audience that he ran a company in New York, named WeWork, that was “the world’s first physical social network.” His self-assuredness was mesmerizing. “We’re planning to be all over the country very, very soon,” he said. Although WeWork was just two years old, and Neumann was only thirty-two, the company already controlled more than three hundred thousand square feet of office space; he declared that WeWork would soon have ten thousand clients. “Our company is about we and about collaboration,” Neumann proclaimed. “Together, we can build a community that can change the world.”

When Jeremy Neuner began having meetings with venture capitalists, he said, “their first question was ‘How do you compete with WeWork? Why should we invest with you instead of them?’ ” WeWork was reportedly losing millions of dollars each month, but it was expanding to new locations at a feverish pace. Neumann’s promises to V.C.s were so wildly optimistic, bordering on ridiculous, that Neuner was convinced WeWork had to be a scam. “They were saying they would become the biggest office-space provider in the world,” Neuner recalled. “What do I say to compete with that? Do I tell V.C.s, ‘You know, WeWork must be lying, so you should accept my smaller returns instead’? No one wanted to hear that. All the V.C.s couldn’t wait to drink the Kool-Aid.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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