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News 12.18.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 12.18.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@oldsilvershed
News 12.18.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@modedamour
News 12.18.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@jameslloydcole

Arriving at the chess board is like entering an eagerly anticipated party. All my old friends are there: the royal couple, their associates, the reassuringly straight lines of noble infantry. I adjust them, ensuring that they are optimally located in the centre of their starting squares, an anxious fidgeting and tactile caress. I know these pieces, and care about them. They are my responsibility. And I’m grateful to my opponent for obliging me to treat them well on pain of death.

In many ways, I owe chess everything. Since the age of five, the game has been a source of friendship, refuge and growth, and I have been a grandmaster for 20 years. The lifelong title is the highest awarded to chess players, and it is based on achieving three qualifying norms in international events that are often peak performances, combined with an international rating reflecting a consistently high level of play – all validated by FIDE, the world chess federation. There are about 1,500 grandmasters in the world. At my peak, I was just outside the world top 100, and I feel some gentle regret at not climbing even higher, but I knew there were limits. Even in the absence of a plan A for my life, chess always felt like plan B, mostly because I couldn’t imagine surrendering myself to competitive ambition. I have not trained or played with serious professional intent for more than a decade, and while my mind remains charmed by the game, my soul feels free of it.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

News 12.18.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.18.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Jake Haendel was a hard-partying chef from a sleepy region of Massachusetts. When he was 28, his heroin addiction resulted in catastrophic brain damage and very nearly killed him. In a matter of months, Jake’s existence became reduced to a voice in his head.

Jake’s parents had divorced when he was young. He grew up between their two homes in a couple of small towns just beyond reach of Boston, little more than strip malls, ailing churches and half-empty sports bars. His mother died of breast cancer when he was 19. By then, he had already been selling marijuana and abusing OxyContin, an opioid, for years. “Like a lot of kids at my school, I fell in love with oxy. If I was out to dinner with my family at a restaurant, I would go to the bathroom just to get a fix,” he said. He started culinary school, where he continued to experiment with opioids and cocaine. He hid his drug use from family and friends behind a sociable, fun-loving front. Inside, he felt anxious and empty. “I numbed myself with partying,” he said.

After culinary school, he took a job as a chef at a local country club. At 25, Jake tried heroin for the first time, with a co-worker (narcotics are notoriously prevalent in American kitchens). By the summer of 2013, Jake was struggling to find prescription opioids. For months, he had been fending off the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, which he likened to “a severe case of the flu with an added feeling of impending doom”. Heroin offered a euphoric high, staving off the intense nausea and shaking chills of withdrawal.

Despite his worsening addiction, Jake married his girlfriend, Ellen, in late 2016. Early in their relationship, Ellen had asked him if he was using heroin. He had lied w

The plane had begun its descent into Boston. Inside the cockpit, the captain was slumped in his seat. Sitting beside him, copilot Eric Tellmann was starting to pass out.

Tellmann managed to strap on his oxygen mask, then grabbed the captain’s arm and forced him to follow suit. Reviving slowly, the captain looked at Tellmann through his mask, and his eyes grew wide with fear.

A strange smell had permeated the plane that day. Passengers and flight attendants were coughing and wiping teary eyes. The pilots briefly lifted their masks and could still smell the odor as the runway drew nearer.

Tellmann and the captain parked the Airbus A319 at the gate. But they had no memory of landing or taxiing Spirit Airlines Flight 708. Tellmann went to the hospital for treatment and spent the next week at home in bed, vomiting and shaking and feeling “like a freight train had run over us,” he said in a letter to his union about the July 2015 event.

A mysterious smell. Strange symptoms. A trip to the emergency room.

The signs were all there: Something had gone seriously wrong with the plane’s air supply.

The air you breathe on airplanes comes directly from the jet engines. Known as bleed air, it is safe, unless there is a mechanical issue — a faulty seal, for instance. When that happens, heated jet engine oil can leak into the air supply, potentially releasing toxic gases into the plane.

For decades, the airline industry and its regulators have known about these incidents — called fume events — and have maintained that they are rare and that the toxic chemical levels are too low to pose serious health risks.

But a Times investigation found that vapors from oil and other fluids seep into planes with alarming frequency across all airlines, at times creating chaos and confusion: Flight attendants vomit and pass out. Passengers struggle to breathe. Children get rushed to hospitals. Pilots reach for oxygen masks or gasp for air from opened cockpit windows.

Such events are documented in airport paramedic records, NASA safety reports, federal aviation records and other filings reviewed by The Times.

Without hesitation, but she soon found out the truth, and within months, the marriage was falling apart. “I was out of control, selling lots of heroin, using even more, spending a ridiculous amount of money on drugs and alcohol,” he said. In May 2017, Ellen noticed that he was talking funnily, his words slurred and off-pitch. “What’s up with your voice?” she asked him repeatedly.

Read the rest of this article at: Los Angeles Times

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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The proposition is about as outlandish as it sounds: Everything we know about modern economics is wrong.

And the man who says he can prove it doesn’t have a degree in economics.

But Ole Peters is no ordinary crank. A physicist by training, his theory draws on research done in close collaboration with the late Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann, father of the quark. He’s also won over two noted thinkers in the world of finance — Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Michael Mauboussin — not to mention a groundswell of enthusiastic supporters in the Twittersphere.

His beef is that all too often, economic models assume something called “ergodicity.” That is, the average of all possible outcomes of a given situation informs how any one person might experience it. But that’s often not the case, which Peters says renders much of the field’s predictions irrelevant in real life. In those instances, his solution is to borrow math commonly used in thermodynamics to model outcomes using the correct average.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

News 12.18.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.18.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Delia did everything right. She went to college, she got a teaching degree, she found a reliable job, and she got married. She and her husband had two kids. “We followed the traditional path to middle class and economic security,” she told me. “Or so I thought.”

As a teacher in New Jersey, Delia, age 41, makes around $115,000 a year; her husband, who works as a carpenter, makes $45,000. Their $160,000 combined family salary places them firmly in the American middle class, the boundaries of which are considered to be two-thirds of the US median household income on the lowest end and double that same median on the highest, and adjusted for location. (According to the Pew Middle Class Calculator, Delia’s household income places her family in the “middle tier” along with 49 percent of households in the greater tri-state area.)

To most people, $160,000 sounds like a lot of money. “Middle tier” sounds pretty solid. So why does Delia feel so desperate? She’s able to put $150 a month into a retirement account, but the family’s emergency savings account hovers at just $400. Going on vacation has meant juggling costs on several credit cards. “I don’t feel like I’ll ever have a day that I won’t be worried about money,” she said. “I’m resentful of my partner for not making more money, but more resentful of his crappy employer for not paying him more.”

Delia is part of an expanding group of people whose income technically places them within the middle class of American earners but whose expenses — whether for housing, medical costs, debt payments, child care, elder care, or the dozens of other expectations that attend supposed middle-class living — leave them living month to month, with little savings for emergencies or retirement.

Pre-pandemic, middle-class Americans modeled the belief that everything was fine. Unemployment was low; consumer confidence was high; the housing market had “recovered.” In 2019, 95 percent of people in households making over $100,000 a year reported they were “doing okay” financially, a 13 percent increase from 2013. But those positive economic indicators obscured a larger reality.

Forty years ago, the term “middle class” referred to Americans who had successfully obtained a version of the American dream: a steady income from one or two earners, a home, and security for the future. It meant the ability to save and acquire assets. Now, it mostly means the ability to put your bills on autopay and service debt. The stability that once characterized the middle class, that made it such a coveted and aspirational echelon of American existence, has been hollowed out.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

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News 12.18.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

To meet with the prophet during a plague, certain protocols must be followed. It’s a gray spring morning in Salt Lake City, and downtown Temple Square is deserted, giving the place an eerie, postapocalyptic quality. The doors of the silver-domed tabernacle are locked; the towering neo-Gothic temple is dark. To enter the Church Administration Building, I meet a handler who escorts me through an underground parking garage; past a security checkpoint, where my temperature is taken; up a restricted elevator; and then, finally, into a large, mahogany-walled conference room. After a few minutes, a side door opens and a trim 95-year-old man in a suit greets me with a hygienic elbow bump.

“We always start our meetings with a word of prayer,” says Russell M. Nelson, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “So, if we may?”

The official occasion for our interview is the Mormon bicentennial: Two centuries ago, a purported opening of the heavens in upstate New York launched one of the most peculiar and enduring religious movements in American history, and Nelson designated 2020 as a year of commemoration. My notebook is full of reporterly questions to ask about the Church’s future, the painful tensions within the faith over race and LGBTQ issues, and the unprecedented series of changes Nelson has implemented in his brief time as prophet. But as we bow our heads, I realize that I’m also here for something else.

For the past two months, I’ve been cooped up in quarantine, watching the world melt down in biblical fashion. All the death and pestilence and doomscrolling on Twitter has left me unmoored—and from somewhere deep in my spiritual subconscious, a Mormon children’s song I grew up singing has resurfaced: Follow the prophet, don’t go astray … Follow the prophet, he knows the way.

As president of the Church, Nelson is considered by Mormons to be God’s messenger on Earth, a modern heir to Moses and Abraham. Sitting across from him now, some part of me expects a grand and ancient gesture in keeping with this calamitous moment—a raised staff, an end-times prophecy, a summoning of heavenly powers. Instead, he smiles and asks me about my kids.

Over the next hour, Nelson preaches a gospel of silver linings. When I ask him about the lockdowns that have forced churches to close, he muses that homes can be “sanctuaries of faith.” When I mention the physical ravages of the virus, he marvels at the human body’s miraculous “defense mechanisms.” Reciting a passage from the Book of Mormon—“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy”—he offers a reminder that feels like a call to repentance: “There can be joy in the saddest of times.”

There is something classically Mormon about this aversion to wallowing. When adversity strikes, my people tend to respond with can-do aphorisms and rolled-up sleeves; with an unrelenting helpfulness that can border on caricature. (Early in the pandemic, when Nelson ordered the Church to suspend all worship services worldwide and start donating its stockpiles of food and medical equipment, he chalked it up to a desire to be “good citizens and good neighbors.”) This onslaught of earnest optimism can be grating to some. “There’s always a Mormon around when you don’t want one,” David Foster Wallace once wrote, “trying your patience with unsolicited kindness.” But it has served the faith well.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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