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News 21.04.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 21.04.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Shimomura was a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza crime family in Japan. When one of his superiors asked him if he wanted to make a pile of fast money, he naturally said yes. It was May 14, 2016, and Shimomura was living in the city of Nagoya. Thirty-two years old and skinny, with expressive eyes, he took pride in his appearance, often wearing a suit and mirror-shined loafers. But he was a minor figure in the organization: a collector of debts, a performer of odd jobs.

The superior assured him that the scheme was low risk, and instructed him to attend a meeting that evening at a bar in Nagoya. (Shimomura, who has since left the Yamaguchi-gumi, asked to be referred to only by his surname.) When Shimomura showed up, he found three other gangsters, none of whom he knew. Like many yakuza, he is of Korean descent, and two of the others were also Korean-Japanese; for a while, they spoke in Korean. The superior finally arrived, and the five men moved into a private room. Each volunteer was given a plain white credit card. There was no chip on the card, no numbers, no name—just a magnetic strip.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 21.04.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 21.04.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The world is cornered in a Janus-faced energy crisis: one generated by the speed with which it is necessary to replace fossil fuel energy to stop global temperatures rising, and one around oil, on which in three decades’ time, even if carbon neutrality is achieved, the world economy and everyday life will still depend. For all the hope often expressed that the acute problems facing the oil sector are a vindication of the seismic shift in green ambitions over the past couple of years, there is in reality no escape from either side of this predicament.

An oil crisis was first evident in the middle years of the 2000s when stagnant supply and sharply escalating Chinese demand sent oil prices soaring to an eventual peak, in real terms a third higher than their previous apex during the early part of the Iran-Iraq war. Since early in the last decade, the shale oil boom has prevented a repeat price shock. But it will prove a temporary lull on the supply side. A report HSBC published in 2017 suggested that more than 80 per cent of existing conventional liquids production – non-shale and tar sands oil – is in decline. Once Saudi Arabia reacted to shale’s ascent by inducing a price slump in late 2014, oil companies severely cut their investments. In 2019, oil production fell for the first time in a decade, even as consumption rose by almost one million barrels per day. Now, having stood for nearly a decade between the world economy and energy-driven recessions, the shale oil industry is in some trouble, savaged by the pandemic shock to demand, low investment, and high debt costs.

Meanwhile, the climate crisis has escalated. Extreme weather events are increasing in number; last summer floods deluged much of east and south Asia; this winter disruption to the polar vortex left Texas freezing. Politically, climate has moved centre-stage. Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s school strike, a mass climate movement emerged on the world’s streets. In April 2019, Emmanuel Macron established a Citizens’ Climate Convention, made up of 150 randomly chosen civilians and experts, asked to ascertain ways France could cut carbon emissions. Two months later, Britain became the first large state to legislate for a legally binding net zero emissions target. By the end of that year, the EU too had committed to carbon neutrality by 2050 and declared its intention to decouple economic growth from resource use. Last September, Xi Jinping announced to the United Nations that China aimed to achieve net zero by 2060.

Read the rest of this article at: Engelsberg Ideas

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During his closing argument, Steve Schleicher, one of the prosecutors trying the former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, insisted that jurors could convict Chauvin without convicting policing.

“This is not an anti-police prosecution,” Schleicher told the jury. “It’s a pro-police prosecution.”

For his part, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, told the jury that “all of the evidence shows that Mr. Chauvin thought he was following his training. He was, in fact, following his training.”

Both were correct.

In May 2020, four days after the harrowing video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck while he begged for his life was first seen by the public, Chauvin became one of the few police officers ever indicted for killing someone in the line of duty. Yesterday, as my colleague David A. Graham wrote, he became one of the even fewer to be convicted.

The video of Floyd’s murder sparked what may have been the largest civil-rights protests in American history; it was the most consequential entry in a thick catalog of police abuses recorded by cellphone cameras. But whatever verdict the jury rendered, police advocates would have claimed victory. Chauvin’s acquittal would have reinforced the presumption that any use of force by a white police officer against a Black man is reasonable. His conviction, though, was swiftly claimed as affirmation that the current system is capable of dispensing justice. Shortly after the verdict was handed down, Patrick Yoes, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, declared that “our system of justice worked as it should.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 21.04.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

China fined the internet giant Alibaba a record $2.8 billion this month for anticompetitive practices, ordered an overhaul of its sister financial company and warned other technology firms to obey Beijing’s rules.

Now the European Commission plans to unveil far-reaching regulations to limit technologies powered by artificial intelligence.

And in the United States, President Biden has stacked his administration with trustbusters who have taken aim at Amazon, Facebook and Google.

Around the world, governments are moving simultaneously to limit the power of tech companies with an urgency and breadth that no single industry had experienced before. Their motivation varies. In the United States and Europe, it is concern that tech companies are stifling competition, spreading misinformation and eroding privacy; in Russia and elsewhere, it is to silence protest movements and tighten political control; in China, it is some of both.

While nations and tech firms have jockeyed for primacy for years, the latest actions have pushed the industry to a tipping point that could reshape how the global internet works and change the flows of digital data.

Australia passed a law to force Google and Facebook to pay publishers for news. Britain is creating its own tech regulator to police the industry. India adopted new powers over social media. Russia throttled Twitter’s traffic. And Myanmar and Cambodia put broad internet restrictions in place.

China, which had left its tech companies free to compete and consolidate, tightened restrictions on digital finance and sharpened an antimonopoly law late last year. This year, it began compelling internet firms like Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance to publicly promise to follow its rules against monopolies.

“It is unprecedented to see this kind of parallel struggle globally,” said Daniel Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan and an antitrust expert. American trustbusting of steel, oil and railroad companies in the 19th century was more confined, he said, as was the regulatory response to the 2008 financial crisis.

Now, Mr. Crane said, “the same fundamental question is being asked globally: Are we comfortable with companies like Google having this much power?”

Underlying all of the disputes is a common thread: power. The 10 largest tech firms, which have become gatekeepers in commerce, finance, entertainment and communications, now have a combined market capitalization of more than $10 trillion. In gross domestic product terms, that would rank them as the world’s third-largest economy.

Yet while governments agree that tech clout has grown too expansive, there has been little coordination on solutions. Competing policies have led to geopolitical friction. Last month, the Biden administration said it could put tariffs on countries that imposed new taxes on American tech companies.

The result is that the internet as it was originally conceived — a borderless digital space where ideas of all stripes contend freely — may not survive, researchers said. Even in parts of the world that do not censor their digital spaces, they said, a patchwork of rules would give people different access to content, privacy protections and freedoms online depending on where they logged on.

“The idea of an open and interoperable internet is being exposed as incredibly fragile,” said Quinn McKew, executive director of Article 19, a digital rights advocacy group.

Tech companies are fighting back. Amazon and Facebook have created their own entities to adjudicate conflicts over speech and to police their sites. In the United States and in the European Union, the companies have spent heavily on lobbying.

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

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News 21.04.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Seth Rogen’s home sits on several wooded acres in the hills above Los Angeles, under a canopy of live oak and eucalyptus trees strung with outdoor pendants that light up around dusk, when the frogs on the grounds start croaking. I pulled up at the front gate on a recent afternoon, and Rogen’s voice rumbled through the intercom. “Hellooo!” He met me at the bottom of his driveway, which is long and steep enough that he keeps a golf cart up top “for schlepping big things up the driveway that are too heavy to walk,” he said, adding, as if bashful about coming off like the kind of guy who owns a dedicated driveway golf cart, “It doesn’t get a ton of use.”

Rogen wore a beard, chinos, a cardigan from the Japanese brand Needles and Birkenstocks with marled socks — laid-back Canyon chic. He led me to a switchback trail cut into a hillside, which we climbed to a vista point. Below us was Rogen’s office; the house he shares with his wife, Lauren, and their 11-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Zelda; and the converted garage where they make pottery. I was one of the first people, it turns out, to see the place. “I haven’t had many people over,” Rogen said, “because we moved in during the pandemic.”

Coyote paw prints pocked the trail. Water burbled somewhere beneath us. It was an idyllic scene disturbed only by Rogen’s phone, which was vibrating madly with messages. That morning, Houseplant, the cannabis company he co-founded in 2019 in Canada, his native country, officially started selling its own weed strains in California. Within moments of the launch there was an hourlong wait to enter the web store, and before long the whole site crashed under the weight of Rogen-loving hordes clamoring to buy what he described as his personally “hand-smoked” nugs. (The company also sells stoner home goods, like a blocky, Bauhausian table lighter designed to be impossible to lose.) “Crazy day,” he said, tapping at his screen. “I’m literally responding to people on Twitter, telling them we’re working on it — doing my own customer-service strategy, basically!”

Rogen’s overwhelmingly casual demeanor — chucklingly agreeable, continually stoned — has long belied his productivity: He has been working almost constantly since he was 13, when he started doing stand-up comedy around Vancouver. But it’s still easy to mistake him for a less frenetically ambitious person. A few weeks before I visited, we scheduled a 9:30 a.m. video call, during which, right up top, I watched him light a chubby joint. “I smoke weed all day,” he said. “You’ll see that when we’re together.” He punctuated this with a warm burst of laughter familiar to anyone who has spent 10 seconds in conversation with him: a low, gravelly cackle, like Chewbacca doing his best Fran Drescher.

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

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