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News 02.22.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 02.22.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.22.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.22.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The problem with the dispute between the Australian government and the two social media giants Google and Facebook is that it’s a squalid argument between ethically challenged contestants about a really important question – the survival of liberal democracy.

The Australian parliament is in the process of passing a law – called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code – which would force Facebook and Google to pay publishers if they host their content. The law is a response to complaints from Australian news outlets about the role that both have played in the decline of journalism and the destruction of their business model.

The two companies have responded in different ways: Google is making deals with Australian news publishers – including Guardian Australia, part of GNM, also publishers of the Observer; Facebook is cutting them off entirely. It is preventing publishers and Facebook users in Australia sharing or viewing Australian and international news content. In its typically crass style, the company implemented this ban immediately, clumsily and without warning, with the result that many important public and other services (including, for example, the fire service) were caught in the censorship net.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 02.22.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.22.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On December 2nd, Mukul Ganguly, an eighty-three-year-old retired civil engineer in Kolkata, India, went to the Salt Lake Market to buy fish. The pandemic was surging around much of the world, and he wasn’t oblivious of the risks of spending time at a wet market. His wife, a former forensic analyst, protested vehemently. But Mr. Ganguly wouldn’t be deterred. He picked up his fabric shopping bag, tucked a doubled-up handkerchief in his pocket, and stepped out.

Mr. Ganguly lives in a modest, two-story, book-filled house a few blocks from the market. He tied his folded handkerchief into a makeshift mask, and spent about two hours buying groceries, choosing vegetables and sweets, and bargaining with the venders. (Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to haggle with a fishmonger and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.) Two days later, he came down with a fever and a dry, incessant cough; he was barely able to walk to the bathroom. His daughter-in-law, in New Jersey—a cousin of mine—called me in a panic: he had tested positive for covid-19.

We worked up a plan. He was to be isolated in a room with a pulse oximeter. His vitals were monitored twice daily. We arranged for a supplemental oxygen tank to be brought home in case his O2 levels dipped too low. I called my doctor friends in Kolkata and asked them to stand by. For two days, Mr. Ganguly had a fever—100 degrees, 101 degrees—and then it subsided. By Christmas, he was pretty much back to normal. When I spoke to him in late December, he told me, in Bengali, that his experience had been typical. Various friends, all in their seventies and eighties, had contracted covid-19. All had bounced back.

I called a friend in Mumbai, Shashank Joshi, who is a member of his state’s covid-19 task force. “Our I.C.U.s are nearly empty,” he told me. Joshi is a doctor with seemingly infinite reserves of energy: a stethoscope perpetually dangling across his chest, he has spent the past several months carrouselling among slums, hospitals, and government offices, coördinating the state’s response. Early last spring, when the first serious spread of covid-19 was reported in India, Joshi jumped into action. Dharavi, in Mumbai, is Asia’s largest slum: a million residents live in shanties, some packed so closely together that they can hear their neighbors’ snores at night. When I visited it a few years ago, open drains were spilling water onto crowded lanes. (The next monsoon season, three young boys fell into the drains and died.) The tin roofs of the houses overlapped one another like fish scales; a roadside tap dripped a brown fluid that passed for potable water. When a toddler ran out from an open door onto the street, a neighbor caught him and lifted him up. Someone in the family—I counted six people in a single room, including an elderly couple—sent another child to retrieve him. In that episode alone, I later realized, I had witnessed at least nine one-on-one contacts.

After the pandemic was declared, last March, epidemiologists expected carnage in such areas. If the fatality rate from the “New York wave” of the pandemic were extrapolated, between three thousand and five thousand people would be expected to die in Dharavi. With Joshi’s help, Mumbai’s municipal government set up a field hospital with a couple of hundred beds, and doctors steeled themselves to working in shifts. Yet by mid-fall Dharavi had only a few hundred reported deaths—a tenth of what was expected—and the municipal government announced plans to pack up the field hospital there. By late December, reports of new deaths were infrequent.

I was struck by the contrast with my own hospital, in New York, where nurses and doctors were prepping I.C.U.s for a second wave of the pandemic. In Los Angeles, emergency rooms were filled with stretchers, the corridors crammed with patients straining to breathe, while ambulances carrying patients circled outside hospitals.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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Nomadland, Chloé Zhao’s exquisite, empathic Oscar-tipped feature about a sixtysomething woman who takes to itinerant van life after the closure of a mine vanishes her livelihood and Nevada town, doesn’t flinch from the vagaries of the human body.

As Fern, a widow who joins the ranks of older American “Recession refugees” roving the country for seasonal work in an increasingly fragmented, tenuous gig economy, Frances McDormand shivers and sneezes in the cold cab of her van. She observes a presentation by a veteran “wheel estate”-er at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, a gathering for these mobile elders in Arizona, on the various buckets available as in-van toilets; it comes in handy when a surprise bout of diarrhea forces her to hustle from bed to bucket seat. She bathes in the majestic (fully nude, in a pristine river; alone in the moonlike terrain of the Badlands) and endures the grossly human (as a temp worker at an RV campground, she cleans restrooms trashed and clogged by travelers who know someone else will be stuck with the mess).

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 02.22.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.22.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

You would think it was a performance of some kind. When she wakes up, if she has slept at all, she tells me about the giants carrying trees and bushes on what she calls zip lines, which I am able to identify as telephone wires. Beneath the busy giants, she explains, there is a marching band playing familiar tunes by John Philip Sousa. She is not especially impressed by either of these things, and the various children playing games in the bedroom annoy her. “Out you go,” she says to them. Then she describes the man with no legs who spent the night lying beside her in bed. He had been mumbling in pain, but nobody would come to help him. She remembers her own pain, too. “I could hardly move,” she says.

And she can hardly move now. Her legs are stiff, her back is cracking as I lift her out of bed. Although still clearly in pain, she gives me a sly look and gestures with her chin toward the flowerpot in the hallway. “The Flowery Man,” she says. “He’s very nice.”

She is fully articulate, in many ways her familiar self. She asks me if I saw the opera. I’m not sure which opera she means; we’ve seen many over the fifty years that we’ve been married. She means the one last night in our back yard. She describes it in detail—the stage set, the costumes, the “really amazing” lighting, the beautiful voices. I ask her what opera was performed. Now I get another look, not a sly one but a suspicious one.

“You don’t believe me, do you?”

I say that it’s not a matter of belief but of perception. I can’t see what she sees. She tells me that this is a great pity. I miss so much of life. I used to have something of an imagination, but I’ve evidently lost it. Maybe she should start spending time with someone else. Also, she knows about my girlfriend. The one in the red jacket. There is no girlfriend, but there is a red jacket hanging over the back of her walker. Suddenly, she forgets the girlfriend and remembers the opera. “Oh,” she says. “It was ‘La Traviata,’ and we went together with Anna Netrebko before she sang.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 02.22.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Filip Goman: Serpil, nobody understands what we’re doing here.

Serpil Unvar: Yeah, not even our people at home understand.

Filip Goman: Why do we come here every day?

Filip Goman points to the pictures on the white wall across the room. The picture of his daughter Mercedes. The picture of Serpil Unvar’s son Ferhat. The pictures of the seven other young people who he didn’t know before Feb. 19, 2020. In this room, they are all next to one another, laminated in plastic and framed by a gray curtain:

The room is 140 square meters (1,500 square feet) of commercial space on Krämerstrasse, a street in the German city of of Hanau in the state of Hesse. It used to be a sex shop, but today, a sign reading #saytheirnames hangs over the display window in illuminated blue lettering.

Everyday, people meet here who previously didn’t know each other, even though most of them had been living in the same neighborhood for decades. They have been brought together by a man they alternately refer to as “Tobias,” “the dog,” or “the bastard.” The reference is to the racist who used to be their neighbor – and who shot and killed their children on the night of Feb. 19, 2020, at six different sites, all within just a few minutes. He then returned to his home, where he shot his mother and then himself.

Because he is dead, there won’t be a trial. But the questions to which a trial may have provided answers exist all the same.

The people who come here are not investigators, they’re not lawyers or judges. They were bus drivers, carpenters and carpet sellers; they are parents, siblings and friends. They are witnesses, neighbors and survivors.

Together, they are looking for answers which – even a year after the biggest right-wing extremist attack in Germany’s postwar history – nobody can provide.

Not the police in southeastern Hesse, not the public prosecutors in Hanau, not the Federal Public Prosecutor General. Not the chancellor or the German president. Not the governor of the state of Hesse and certainly not the state’s interior minister.

Because they feel they have been left in the lurch by the powers that be, they have begun their own trial of sorts in the shop on Krämerstrasse in Hanau. They sit on pink velvet easy chairs, with tea in the samovar, the sound of boiling water having become the background noise of the February 19th Initiative. Inside this shopfront – rented by leftist activists just a few weeks after the attack without really knowing what they would use it for – is where they have been trying to come to terms with a crime in which a right-wing extremist terrorist killed as many people in a single night as the neo-Nazi terror cell National Socialist Underground (NSU) killed in six years.

Read the rest of this article at: Spiegel

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