News 12.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 12.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On May 22, a young woman in Cairo named Aya Khamees uploaded a video to TikTok that would alter the course of her life. The 18-year-old was already a small-time star on the social media platform, where she posted singing and dancing clips under the name Menna Abdel Aziz. In the video, which is no longer available on the app, Khamees appears to have a black eye, and the right side of her face is scratched. Looking into the camera, she recounts how she was beaten and brutally raped at a party, as her attackers filmed the acts. “If the government is watching, I want them to go out and get me my rights,” she says.

The clip quickly went viral. Police later arrested everyone who attended the gathering, including Khamees, The New York Times reported. She was charged with drug use, prostitution, and violating “family values.” On social media, a flood of supporters began using hashtags like #حقمنهعبدالعزيز (It’s Menna Abdel Aziz’s right), sparking a reckoning in Egypt over how the country treats victims of sexual violence. After the case received widespread attention and Khamees completed a rehabilitation program, the charges against her were dropped. But her experience is far from an anomaly.

Read the rest of this article at: rest of the world

News 12.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

ERYN DIXON had enough to manage as it was. At the age of forty-five, with profound disabilities related to multiple sclerosis, Dixon was living in Almonte Country Haven, a long-term care facility on a grassy hill in eastern Ontario. Then, in March, she contracted COVID-19. As she lay unconscious and unresponsive, struggling on oxygen, her father, Rick, was told to say his final goodbyes. Against the odds, Dixon pulled through, but more than a third of her facility’s residents weren’t so lucky.

Hers is just one of so many stories that we have been reading and watching and hearing for months—a catalogue of media reports every day, documenting COVID-19’s progression through our communities and the various ways it takes its toll.

On May 4, Karam Singh Punian, age fifty-nine, did die of COVID-19. He was one of an estimated twenty Toronto airport taxi drivers who contracted the virus that month alone. Most of the 1,500 people who make their living driving passengers to and from Toronto Pearson International Airport are self-employed men who are newcomers to Canada. They work long hours in sedentary jobs and eat on the go, without access to health benefits or paid sick days.

In early August, Patrice Bernadel, a much-loved Montreal pastry chef, suffered from COVID-19 in a different way. Like so many people in the restaurant industry, Bernadel had seen his business devastated by the pandemic. And, like so many self-employed Canadians, he had no guaranteed access to mental health services outside his doctor’s office or the emergency department. “The economic, social and psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have destabilized his life to the point of diving him into a deep depression, preventing him from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” his brother wrote in a Facebook post soon after Bernadel died by suicide.

As COVID-19 took hold around the world in the spring, Canada prepared for one very specific kind of tragedy: the kind we saw unfold in Italy and in New York, one where hospitals were overwhelmed and ventilators in short supply. Thanks to good timing, hard work, and an economic shutdown that will have ripple effects for years, we have so far avoided that particular calamity. But, as Dixon’s, Punian’s, and Bernadel’s stories reveal, there are many kinds of tragedies: as a country, we were too slow to realize that there were—and are—other pandemic disasters happening all around us. The stories of COVID-19-affected Canadians are also stories about Canada and our health care systems—about which kinds of tragedies we go to great lengths to avoid and which we allow to persist.

Read the rest of this article at: The Walrus

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Pornhub prides itself on being the cheery, winking face of naughty, the website that buys a billboard in Times Square and provides snow plows to clear Boston streets. It donates to organizations fighting for racial equality and offers steamy content free to get people through Covid-19 shutdowns.

That supposedly “wholesome Pornhub” attracts 3.5 billion visits a month, more than Netflix, Yahoo or Amazon. Pornhub rakes in money from almost three billion ad impressions a day. One ranking lists Pornhub as the 10th-most-visited website in the world.

Yet there’s another side of the company: Its site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. A search for “girls under18” (no space) or “14yo” leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos. Most aren’t of children being assaulted, but too many are.

After a 15-year-old girl went missing in Florida, her mother found her on Pornhub — in 58 sex videos. Sexual assaults on a 14-year-old California girl were posted on Pornhub and were reported to the authorities not by the company but by a classmate who saw the videos. In each case, offenders were arrested for the assaults, but Pornhub escaped responsibility for sharing the videos and profiting from them.

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

News 12.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Even before the new mine became the main topic of village conversation, João Cassote, a 44-year-old livestock farmer, was thinking about making a change. Living off the land in his mountainous part of northern Portugal was a grind. Of his close childhood friends, he was the only one who hadn’t gone overseas in search of work. So, in 2017, when he heard of a British company prospecting for lithium in the region of Trás-os-Montes, Cassote called his bank and asked for a €200,000 loan. He bought a John Deere tractor, an earthmover and a portable water-storage tank.

The exploration team of the UK-based mining company Savannah Resources had spent months poring over geological maps and surveys of the hills that ripple out from Cassote’s farm. Initial calculations indicated that they could contain more than 280,000 tonnes of lithium, a silver-white alkali metal – enough for 10 years’ production. Cassote got in touch with Savannah’s local office, and the mining firm duly contracted him to supply water to their test drilling site. The return on his investment was swift. After less than 12 months on the company’s books, Cassote had made what he would usually earn in five or six years on the farm.

Savannah is just one of several mining companies with an eye on the rich lithium deposits of central and northern Portugal. The sudden excitement surrounding petróleo branco (“white oil”) derives from an invention rarely seen in these parts: the electric car. Lithium is a key active material in the rechargeable batteries that run electric cars. It is found in rock and clay deposits as a solid mineral, as well as dissolved in brine. It is popular with battery manufacturers because, as the least dense metal, it stores a lot of energy for its weight.

Electrifying transport has become a top priority in the move to a lower-carbon future. In Europe, car travel accounts for around 12% of all the continent’s carbon emissions. To keep in line with the Paris agreement, emissions from cars and vans will need to drop by more than a third (37.5%) by 2030. The EU has set an ambitious goal of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by the same date. To that end, Brussels and individual member states are pouring millions of euros into incentivising car owners to switch to electric. Some countries are going even further, proposing to ban sales of diesel and petrol vehicles in the near future (as early as 2025 in the case of Norway). If all goes to plan, European electric vehicle ownership could jump from around 2m today to 40m by 2030.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 12.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Miriam was only 21 when she met Nick. She was a photographer, fresh out of college, waiting tables. He was 16 years her senior and a local business owner who had worked in finance. He was charming and charismatic; he took her out on fancy dates and paid for everything. She quickly fell into his orbit.

It began with one credit card. At the time, it was the only one she had. Nick would max it out with $5,000 worth of business purchases and promptly pay it off the next day. Miriam, who asked me not to use their real names for fear of interfering with their ongoing divorce proceedings, discovered that this was boosting her credit score. Having grown up with a single dad in a low-income household, she trusted Nick’s know-how over her own. He readily encouraged the dynamic, telling her she didn’t understand finance. She opened up more credit cards for him under her name.

The trouble started three years in. Nick asked her to quit her job to help out with his business. She did. He told her to go to grad school and not worry about compounding her existing student debt. She did. He promised to take care of everything, and she believed him. Soon after, he stopped settling her credit card balances. Her score began to crater.

Still, Miriam stayed with him. They got married. They had three kids. Then one day, the FBI came to their house and arrested him. In federal court, the judge convicted him on nearly $250,000 of wire fraud. Miriam discovered the full extent of the tens of thousands of dollars in debt he’d racked up in her name. “The day that he went to prison, I had $250 cash, a house in foreclosure, a car up for repossession, three kids,” she says. “I went within a month from having a nanny and living in a nice house and everything to just really abject poverty.”

Miriam is a survivor of what’s known as “coerced debt,” a form of abuse usually perpetrated by an intimate partner or family member. While economic abuse is a long-standing problem, digital banking has made it easier to open accounts and take out loans in a victim’s name, says Carla Sanchez-Adams, an attorney at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. In the era of automated credit-scoring algorithms, the repercussions can also be far more devastating.

Credit scores have been used for decades to assess consumer creditworthiness, but their scope is far greater now that they are powered by algorithms: not only do they consider vastly more data, in both volume and type, but they increasingly affect whether you can buy a car, rent an apartment, or get a full-time job. Their comprehensive influence means that if your score is ruined, it can be nearly impossible to recover. Worse, the algorithms are owned by private companies that don’t divulge how they come to their decisions. Victims can be sent in a downward spiral that sometimes ends in homelessness or a return to their abuser.

Credit-scoring algorithms are not the only ones that affect people’s economic well-being and access to basic services. Algorithms now decide which children enter foster care, which patients receive medical care, which families get access to stable housing. Those of us with means can pass our lives unaware of any of this. But for low-income individuals, the rapid growth and adoption of automated decision-making systems has created a hidden web of interlocking traps.

Read the rest of this article at: MIT Technoledgy Review

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