News 14.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 14.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 14.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 14.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 13, Sandra Lindsay, the head of critical-care nursing at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, stopped by work to check on the conversion of part of the children’s unit into an overflow area for critically ill Covid-19 patients. The second wave of the coronavirus had just hit New York, and the need for beds was surging. Lindsay’s day took an unexpected turn when the hospital’s chief nursing officer, Margaret Murphy, pulled her aside: The Food and Drug Administration had just approved emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. The first doses would be arriving at Long Island Jewish as early as the following morning. Was she interested in being inoculated?

Since the pandemic struck, no city in America had experienced more death or economic devastation than New York. It felt like a tragedy that would never end, and the disparity in the suffering between white New Yorkers and Black and Latino New Yorkers had revealed another, more intractable crisis: the ever-growing inequalities in wealth, well-being and opportunity that had come to define every aspect of life in the city.

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

News 14.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Years ago, when I was in college, I visited the dorm room of a fellow student I was dating. On the wall above his desk he had posted a handwritten sign. “Just do it,” it read, in blocky letters. Nike’s slogan was intended to capture an attitude toward athletic endeavors, but this undergrad was applying it to mental exertions. I pictured him sitting at his desk, working hour after hour on his German verb conjugations or econ problem sets. At some point he would become restless, lose focus — then look up at his sign, set his jaw and turn back to his studies, determined to crush them like a 100-meter dash.

My classmate back then was doing exactly what our culture commands when we are faced with challenging cognitive tasks: Buckle down, apply more effort, work the brain ever harder. This, we’re told, is how we get good at thinking. The message comes at us from multiple directions. Psychology promotes a tireless kind of grit as the quality essential to optimal performance; the growth mind-set advises us to imagine the brain as a muscle and to believe that exercising it vigorously will make it stronger. Popular science accounts of the brain extol its power and plasticity, calling it astonishing, extraordinary, unfathomably complex. This impressive organ, we’re led to understand, can more than meet any demands we might make of it.

In the 25 years since I graduated from college, such demands have relentlessly ratcheted up. The quantity and complexity of the mental work expected of successful students and professionals have mounted; we’ve responded by pushing ever harder on that lump of gray matter in our heads. This tendency became more pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic, when many of us had to take on new duties or adjust to new procedures. Without even a commute or a coffee-station chat to provide a break in our cognitive labors, we’ve been forcing our brains to toil continuously from morning till night.

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

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Philosophy seems to be on a hiding to nothing. It has a 2,500-year history in the West and an extensive back-catalogue – of problems. There are questions about what exists, and what we know about it, such as: Do we have free will? Is there an external world? Does God exist? and so on. There are also questions of analysis and definition such as: What makes a sentence true? What makes an act just? What is causation? What is a person? This is a tiny sample. For almost any abstract notion, some philosopher has wondered what it really is.

Yet, despite this wealth of questions and the centuries spent tackling them, philosophers haven’t successfully provided any answers. They’ve tried long and hard but nothing they’ve said towards answering those questions has quite made the grade. Other philosophers haven’t been slow to pick holes in their attempted answers and expose flaws or dubious assumptions in them. The punctures in the attempted answers then get patched up and put up for discussion again. But what happens is that new punctures appear, or the patches fail and the old punctures are revealed again. Philosophy emerges as a series of arguments without end, and its questions settle into seemingly intractable problems.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

News 14.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 14.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One day in late September 2020, the Kludsky family – Yvonne, a slim, blond woman in her 60s, her husband, George, who is over 80 but still fit and strong, and their son Martyn – led their elephant up a ramp into the 10-metre trailer that constituted her second home. Dumba went willingly, as always; it was her owners who dragged their feet. The family had spent much of their lives on the road, but this time they did not know how long they would be gone, or if they would ever return.

The Kludskys’ home is on the outskirts of Caldes de Montbui, a spa town north of Barcelona. Set amid farmland and hills, the property forms part of a secluded residential development. Until recently, they had spent at least half of the year, travelling across Europe with Dumba, performing in circuses and zoos or hiring her out for media work – including a TV ad in which she lumbered gracefully across a mattress to demonstrate the product’s durability (“A Pikolin can take anything”). Yvonne, whose professional name is Yvonne Kruse, is a fourth-generation circus performer, while George is sixth-generation circus, and they have worked with Dumba for 41 years, since she was brought to Europe from Asia at the age of two. “She is our daughter and we are her herd,” Kruse likes to say.

When the family was at home, their “daughter” lived in an outdoor pen of about 500 sq metres – the size of two tennis courts – surrounded by an electric fence. To give Dumba exercise they would lead her into an adjacent patch of oak forest where she could forage and wander. Visiting the Kludskys in June 2018, the journalist Albert San Andrés found that the neighbours were delighted to have an elephant next door – their local “diva”, as one put it – and children would come out from the nearby town to see her. But the Kludskys told Andrés that animal rights activists were making the family’s life hell.

In the early 2010s, a Spanish animal rights organisation, Faada, had begun petitioning the Spanish authorities to take Dumba away from the Kludskys, on the basis that it was cruel to keep her in such a small enclosure with no other elephants for company. In 2014, the authorities duly inspected the property and recommended some improvements. The Kludskys, they said, should provide Dumba with shelter and a pond to bathe in, as well as more “environmental enrichment” – or psychological stimulation. Faada staff and volunteers continued to photograph and film Dumba from the Kludskys’ perimeter fence. There were further inspections culminating in a visit in July 2018, again commissioned by the authorities, of a team of experts in elephant welfare. They reported that, although Dumba now had a tent, her outdoor enclosure was too small, her shade was inadequate and she still had no bathing pool.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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A few years ago, while on a work trip in Los Angeles, I hailed an Uber for a crosstown ride during rush hour. I knew it would be a long trip, and I steeled myself to fork over $60 or $70.

Instead, the app spit out a price that made my jaw drop: $16.

Experiences like these were common during the golden era of the Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy, which is what I like to call the period from roughly 2012 through early 2020, when many of the daily activities of big-city 20- and 30-somethings were being quietly underwritten by Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

For years, these subsidies allowed us to live Balenciaga lifestyles on Banana Republic budgets. Collectively, we took millions of cheap Uber and Lyft rides, shuttling ourselves around like bourgeois royalty while splitting the bill with those companies’ investors. We plunged MoviePass into bankruptcy by taking advantage of its $9.95-a-month, all-you-can-watch movie ticket deal, and took so many subsidized spin classes that ClassPass was forced to cancel its $99-a-month unlimited plan. We filled graveyards with the carcasses of food delivery start-ups — Maple, Sprig, SpoonRocket, Munchery — just by accepting their offers of underpriced gourmet meals.

These companies’ investors didn’t set out to bankroll our decadence. They were just trying to get traction for their start-ups, all of which needed to attract customers quickly to establish a dominant market position, elbow out competitors and justify their soaring valuations. So they flooded these companies with cash, which often got passed on to users in the form of artificially low prices and generous incentives.

Now, users are noticing that for the first time — whether because of disappearing subsidies or merely an end-of-pandemic demand surge — their luxury habits actually carry luxury price tags.

“Today my Uber ride from Midtown to JFK cost me as much as my flight from JFK to SFO,” Sunny Madra, a vice president at Ford’s venture incubator, recently tweeted, along with a screenshot of a receipt that showed he had spent nearly $250 on a ride to the airport.

“Airbnb got too much dip on they chip,” another Twitter user complained. “No one is gonna continue to pay $500 to stay in an apartment for two days when they can pay $300 for a hotel stay that has a pool, room service, free breakfast & cleaning everyday. Like get real lol.”

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

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