News 19.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 19.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 19.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 19.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On Tuesday night, while eating at a restaurant in Harlem with a friend—my first social dinner in months—I received a text: “Just holding you close in my heart tonight.” It was from a Taiwanese-American friend and New York State Assembly member, Yuh-Line Niou. The last time we texted was in the spring, to organize a virtual town hall addressing the repercussions of racism during the pandemic. When I received Yuh-Line’s message, I thought she was referring to an alarming uptick in anti-Asian crimes in recent days, and I wanted to tell her how strange I’d felt, hours earlier, when I’d requested that my friend drive from the southern tip of Manhattan, where he lived, all the way up to Harlem to meet me for dinner, rather than meeting each other midway. I’d texted him apologetically, explaining that I no longer felt safe travelling alone after dark. “The anti-Asian hate is real,” I wrote. My friend was gracious and accommodating, but in texting those words I’d felt anxious, and anxious about my anxiety: Was I surrendering to an ill-founded paranoia? I knew Yuh-Line would understand how I was feeling. What I would not know for hours was that her loving text was a response to the deadliest crime against Asians in the United States in recent memory: a killing spree in Atlanta that took the lives of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 19.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 19.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The long-running German satirical show Extra 3 recently featured a sketch with the following voiceover: “From the people who brought you The Crown – the epic saga of the Queen – now comes the ridiculous story of this guy, a notorious buffoon at the head of a country … The Clown.”

The word “clown” has often been used in a flippant or dismissive way with regard to Boris Johnson. But the underlying paradox is that it is only as a clown – a fool in the oldest and deepest sense of the word – that his character can truly be understood. What happens when you make the clown king is what we in the UK have been witnessing in real time. With the success of the vaccine, though, a new question emerges: can one archetype transform into the other? Can Johnson creep away from his clownish past altogether?

Clowns, of course, are very serious and important people. At their simplest, they remind us of the silliness of things: that the world we have created is ridiculous. They reassure us in this observation by appealing to our innate understanding of the absurd. They relieve the endless tension and trauma of reality.

At a deeper level, the clown is the mirror image of the priest. Both represent two ancient sides of our nature. Both elucidate what it means to be human. The priest summons, celebrates and interrogates the sacred; the clown does the same with the profane. The one is concerned with the eschatological, the other with the scatological. The priest propounds abstinence and fasting; the clown gluttony and indulgence. The one solemnifies sex, the other carnalises. As David Bridel, founder of the Clown School in Los Angeles, says, clowns are often roundly welcomed because they “remind us that we are as practised in falling over, shitting and humping, as we are in prayer and purification”.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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As a black teenager in Compton, California, in the 1970s, Hiram Johnson began to wonder about his father’s fine curly hair, and the light-brown skin that strangers sometimes thought was white.

Hiram knew only a few things about his father’s childhood. Fred Johnson was raised in Jackson, Mississippi, by his mother, Bernice. Fred said that Bernice was a “beautiful black woman,” but he never said a word about his father. All Hiram knew was that his grandfather probably wasn’t black.

He often pestered his dad for more details. Do we have a mixed heritage? Who was this man? What did your mom ever say about it? But Fred wouldn’t budge.

Over the next three decades, Hiram got married, had two daughters, and went into law enforcement, climbing the ranks at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. On a visit to Fred’s house one day in 2008, Hiram asked the usual questions about their roots. This time, the 79-year-old finally opened up.

Read the rest of this article at: BuzzFeed

News 19.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 19.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When the crow whisperer appeared at the side gate to Adam Florin and Dani Fisher’s house, in Oakland, California, she was dressed head to toe in black, wearing a hoodie, gloves, and a mask. This was a few weeks into the coronavirus lockdown, so Adam initially took her garb to be a sign of precautionary vigilance. In fact, it was a disguise. “It’s so the crows don’t recognize me and—no offense—start associating me with you.”

Adam found this odd, but he and his wife were out of options. Things had gotten bad. Two days earlier, the couple had just woken up their four-month-old, Lina, from a nap when they heard a concerning ruckus behind the house. At the far end of the yard, Dani—who is one of my oldest friends—spotted a menacing cloud of crows, cawing and encircling their dog, Mona. It looked as though they might carry her away or, worse, kill her on the spot. (“Do you know what a group of crows is called?” Dani later asked me, stricken. “A murder.”) She shouted, raced toward Mona, and dispersed the crows just long enough to get her dog inside.

From then on, each time Adam or Dani walked onto their back deck, a crow would call out and the murder would reappear as if summoned, squawking so loudly that it was impossible to carry on a conversation. Sometimes the crows would dive-bomb them or attack Mona when she went out to pee. When Adam took the dog for a walk, the crows swooped low and followed them. He tried walking Mona in other neighborhoods, but the crows terrorized him there too. Adam and Dani felt under siege. They worried for Lina’s safety. “The crows are like the Mafia,” Dani told me a few weeks into their ordeal. They’d stopped going outside, she said, unless it was absolutely necessary. And because of the pandemic, they couldn’t really go anywhere else.

The day Dani rescued Mona from the crows, a neighbor thought he’d spotted a fledgling in Mona’s mouth before the murder first descended. Dani and Adam weren’t so sure—they had never seen Mona attack a bird before. But it nevertheless occurred to them that they might be on some kind of crow hit list. Through online research, Adam learned that crows have an uncanny ability to recognize humans, assign them moral qualities, and pass this information on to other crows, even to future generations. Desperate, Adam took to Reddit. If you’re at war with the crows, post after post advised, your best option is to move.

Read the rest of this article at: Harpers

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News 19.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In May 2019, an agent at the Department of Homeland Security received a trove of unsettling images. Found by Yahoo in a Syrian user’s account, the photos seemed to document the sexual abuse of a young girl. One showed a man with his head reclined on a pillow, gazing directly at the camera. The man appeared to be white, with brown hair and a goatee, but it was hard to really make him out; the photo was grainy, the angle a bit oblique. The agent sent the man’s face to child-crime investigators around the country in the hope that someone might recognize him.

When an investigator in New York saw the request, she ran the face through an unusual new facial-recognition app she had just started using, called Clearview AI. The team behind it had scraped the public web — social media, employment sites, YouTube, Venmo — to create a database with three billion images of people, along with links to the webpages from which the photos had come. This dwarfed the databases of other such products for law enforcement, which drew only on official photography like mug shots, driver’s licenses and passport pictures; with Clearview, it was effortless to go from a face to a Facebook account.

The app turned up an odd hit: an Instagram photo of a heavily muscled Asian man and a female fitness model, posing on a red carpet at a bodybuilding expo in Las Vegas. The suspect was neither Asian nor a woman. But upon closer inspection, you could see a white man in the background, at the edge of the photo’s frame, standing behind the counter of a booth for a workout-supplements company. That was the match. On Instagram, his face would appear about half as big as your fingernail. The federal agent was astounded.

The agent contacted the supplements company and obtained the booth worker’s name: Andres Rafael Viola, who turned out to be an Argentine citizen living in Las Vegas. Another investigator found Viola’s Facebook account. His profile was public; browsing it, the investigator found photos of a room that matched one from the images, as well as pictures of the victim, a 7-year-old. Law-enforcement officers arrested Viola in June 2019. He later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a child and producing images of the abuse and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. (Viola’s lawyer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

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

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