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News 02.17.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 02.017.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.017.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.017.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Jim Cramer, the normally amped-up host of CNBC’s Mad Money, a stock market show complete with sound effects and wacky props and flashy graphics, looked subdued and serious during his January 14 broadcast. “I want to talk about some very important shortages that are going on in the market that you probably don’t know about,” Cramer said. He looked directly into the camera and explained a short squeeze—a concept everyone in America now seems to understand but that was still fairly obscure just a couple of weeks ago. “I don’t normally discuss these issues. … It’s a nightmare.”

Cramer described his own experience losing money in a short squeeze 30 years ago during the savings and loan crisis. His tone was concerned, quiet. “When you short a stock you are always on the hook to your broker and sometimes that blows up right in your face. And right now, it is blowing up in somebody’s face big time.”

Then Cramer ran over to his giant soundboard covered in large plastic buttons. “Shorting GameStop had been like shooting fish in a barrel!” He banged on one of the buttons. A sound effect of machine gun fire blared while Cramer grinned maniacally. “Right now an astounding 144 percent of GameStop stock shares have been sold short. That’s far more than there is! That’s not right! When you can’t find shares to borrow your broker will close out your short position. Which is how something like GameStop could tack on 27 percent … today?”

Read the rest of this article at: The Ringer

News 02.017.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.017.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2010, Time magazine made Mark Zuckerberg its person of the year. It described Facebook’s mission as being to “tame the howling mob and turn the lonely, antisocial world of random chance into a friendly world”. During the first decade of mass internet use, this was a popular theory: the more that people were able to communicate with others, the more friendly and understanding they would become, the result being a more peaceable and harmonious world.

In 2021, that vision seems painfully naive. Howling online mobs clash day and night, and some of them commit real-world violence. The internet is connecting people, but it isn’t necessarily creating fellow feeling. At its worst, it can resemble a vast machine for the production of mutual antipathy.

Technology is at least partially responsible for a world in which toxic disagreement is ubiquitous; in which offence seems to be constantly given and taken; in which we do ever more talking and ever less listening. The Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Graham has observed that the internet is a medium that engenders disagreement by design. Digital media platforms are inherently interactive and, well, people are disputatious.

As Graham puts it, “agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing”. Readers are more likely to comment on an article or post when they disagree with it, and in disagreement they have more to say (there are only so many ways you can say “I agree”). People also tend to get more animated when they disagree, which usually means getting angry.

But while it is tempting to blame Facebook and Twitter for making us this way, that would be to miss the significance of a wider and more profound shift in human behaviour – one that has been decades, even centuries, in the making. Socially, as well as electronically, there are fewer one-way channels than ever. Everyone is starting to talk back to everyone else. If we are becoming more disagreeable, it’s because the modern world demands we speak our minds.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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All right, babes. Are you ready to tap?” Natalia Benson asks. The millennial women’s empowerment mentor and astrologer—“all things mysticism, motivation & money,” according to her Instagram bio—is beaming into my bedroom via a prerecorded video, encouraging me to embrace my inner wisdom.

Tapping, Benson says from within the glow of a ring light, means drumming my fingertips across different parts of my body to “smooth out” speed bumps in my nervous system and ultimately help me find a “new wavelength” with how I regard myself. While I am very pro-astrology and the ~celestial arts~, I do have to pause for an, Ummm, okay. But I’m here for work and willing to go all the way to investigate the hugely popular New-Age-y idea that positive vibes can bring money into your life. And also, I would love to manifest a down payment for a house.

Read the rest of this article at: Cosmopolitan

News 02.017.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.017.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Every day seems to bring another test of whether our democracy can succeed in managing the problems of a country as big, varied, and individualistic as ours. In Minot, a city of forty-eight thousand people in Ward County, North Dakota, the twice-monthly city-council meeting was into its fourth hour when an alderwoman named Carrie Evans put forward an unexpected motion: she wanted Minot to adopt a mandatory-mask policy. It was Monday, October 19th, two weeks before the Presidential election. In the wood-panelled council chambers of city hall, Evans and the five other alderpersons who, with the mayor, make up the council, sat on a dais, in padded chairs, behind brass nameplates and stemmed microphones. Mayor Shaun Sipma, a baritone-voiced former anchor for the local CBS television station, presided in the middle, while a scattering of people in attendance, including the police chief, followed the proceedings with shifting degrees of attention. The council had worked through nineteen items—including a viaduct improvement and a new Internet contract for the fire department that would save Minot $220.80 per year. Then, under an agenda item labelled “Miscellaneous,” the Mayor had called upon Lisa Clute, the executive director of the First District Health Unit, to give a local update on the coronavirus pandemic.

The story was grim. North Dakota had more new cases and deaths per capita than any other state. Half of its hospitals were facing critical staff shortages. Ward County had the highest rate of new cases of any county there, with a record five hundred and twenty active positive cases, and almost forty per cent of them had been diagnosed in the past two weeks. The volume of positive coronavirus tests had overwhelmed her contact-tracing team. Surging numbers of pandemic victims forced Minot’s Trinity Hospital to expand its covid-19 wing.

When the Mayor opened the floor to discussion, Evans—fifty years old, cardigan-clad, red hair tucked behind each ear—pushed herself upright in her seat and cleared her throat. “This is where we’re headed anyway,” she said. “I would like to put a motion forward.”

That afternoon, the mayor of Fargo, two hundred and sixty miles away, had used his emergency powers to issue a citywide mask mandate. It was a cautious order—there would be no penalty for violating it—but this was the first one in North Dakota, where there was widespread opposition to state mask requirements and other public-health restrictions. Evans spoke clearly and carefully: “I would like to make a motion to ask the Mayor to create a mayoral mask mandate modelled after Fargo’s.”

She looked over at the Mayor for his reaction, ducking as if he might throw something at her. Sipma was speechless. He stared at her for a long moment. “That is a motion,” he said.

“I will second that,” Alderman Stephan Podrygula, a shaggy-white-haired psychologist, called out.

Normally, the Mayor has a good handle on the votes for a proposal. But not this one. Trying to buy time, he called on the chief of police. “Can you give me an overview right now?” he prompted. The “compliance issue,” he said, was “really at the heart of a lot of concern for a mandate without any kind of teeth.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 02.017.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the nightmare, sirens caterwaul as ambulances career down ice-slicked, car-crashed streets whose traffic lights flash all three colors at once (they’ve been hacked by North Korea) during a climate-catastrophic blizzard, bringing pandemic patients to hospitals without water or electricity—pitch-black, all vaccinations and medications spoiled (the power grid has been hacked by Iran)—racing past apartment buildings where people are freezing to death in their beds, families huddled together under quilts, while, outside the darkened, besieged halls of government, men wearing fur hats and Kevlar vests (social media has been hacked by Russia), flashlights strapped to their rifles, chant, “Q is true! Q is true!”

“someone should do something,” reads the T-shirt worn by one of Nicole Perlroth’s sources, a hacker from New Zealand, in “This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race” (Bloomsbury). Someone should. But who? And do what? And about which of the Biblical plagues facing humankind? Perlroth is a longtime cybersecurity reporter for the Times, and her book makes a kind of Hollywood entrance, arriving when the end of the world is nigh, at least in the nightmare that, every night, gains on the day.

Perlroth is interested in one particular plague—governments using hacking as a weapon of war—but her book raises the question of whether that’s the root of a lot of other evils. For seven years, Perlroth investigated the market in “zero-days” (pronounced “oh-days”); her book is the story of that chase, and telling that story, which gets pretty technical, requires a good bit of decoding. “A zero-day is a software or hardware flaw for which there is no existing patch,” she explains. Zero-days “got their name because, as with Patient Zero in an epidemic, when a zero-day flaw is discovered, software and hardware companies have had zero days to come up with a defense.” A flaw can be harmless, but zero-days represent vulnerabilities that can be turned into weapons. And, as Perlroth demonstrates, governments have been buying them and storing them in vaults, like so many vials of the bubonic plague.

It’s tempting to say either I can’t worry about this right now or Didn’t we already know this? For all the sensationalism of “This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends”—not least the title—much here fails to surprise: all code has bugs; it’s virtually impossible and prohibitively expensive to write perfect code; and bad actors can exploit those bugs to break into everything from your iPad to the Hoover Dam. Companies and governments therefore pay hackers to find bugs, so that they can be fixed, or exploited. What other choice do they have? you ask. Perlroth’s reply is It’s a lot worse than you think and If there aren’t other choices, it’s time to invent some.

Perlroth’s storytelling is part John le Carré and more parts Michael Crichton—“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” meets “The Andromeda Strain.” Because she’s writing about a boys’ club, there’s also a lot of “Fight Club” in this book. (“The first rule of the zero-day market was: Nobody talks about the zero-day market. The second rule of the zero-day market was: Nobody talks about the zero-day market.”) And, because she tells the story of the zero-day market through the story of her investigation, it’s got a Frances McDormand “Fargo” quality, too; in one sequence, Perlroth, pregnant, questions Italian hackers in Miami bars. (They tell her that they live by a samurai code of honor. “Bushido, I thought. More like Bullshit,” she writes.) Reading how Perlroth found out about what’s going on is spellbinding, but it can obscure what happened when. Here, as I read it, is that sequence of events, the spell, unbound.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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