News 30.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 30.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 30.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 04.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On a scorching day in downtown Phoenix, when the temperature soars to 115°F or higher, heat becomes a lethal force. Sunshine assaults you, forcing you to seek cover. The air feels solid, a hazy, ozone-soaked curtain of heat. You feel it radiating up from the parking lot through your shoes. Metal bus stops become convection ovens. Flights may be delayed at Sky Harbor International Airport because the planes can’t get enough lift in the thin, hot air. At City Hall, where the entrance to the building is emblazoned with a giant metallic emblem of the sun, workers eat lunch in the lobby rather than trek through the heat to nearby restaurants. On the outskirts of the city, power lines sag and buzz, overloaded with electrons as the demand for air conditioning soars and the entire grid is pushed to the limit. In an Arizona heat wave, electricity is not a convenience, it is a tool for survival.

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

News 30.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 30.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

For Ramon Abbas, the Instagram influencer popularly known as Ray Hushpuppi, @hushpuppi, Hush, or the Billionaire Gucci Master, birthdays were always a time for reflection. Reflection and extravagance—but then, extravagance was Hushpuppi’s brand, a 365-days-a-year affair, a way of being. On Oct. 11, 2019, the day he turned 37, he was living in a penthouse apartment at the Palazzo Versace Dubai, with a private pool and hot tub on his lanai. A typical @hushpuppi post on Instagram, where he had more than 2 million followers, featured Abbas smiling in front of one of his Ferraris or Rolls-Royces, kicking back in his seat on a private jet, or exiting a designer store with a passel of rope-handled bags—#Hermes, #Fendi, #LouisVuitton. His look was always flawless: never the same outfit twice, #Gucci more often than not. You don’t become the Billionaire Gucci Master any other way.

Even back in 2019, there were questions about how much money Abbas really had and how exactly he’d acquired it. In Nigeria, where he was born, his Instagram presence had turned him into a celebrity adjacent to the biggest names in pop culture. He’d appeared on social media with pop idols Davido and WizKid and soccer players on English clubs like Chelsea and Man City. But Abbas’s wealth was the constant subject of rumors. In the flourishing ecosystem of Nigerian gossip blogs he was “a Nigerian big boy,” shorthand for an online fraudster, or “Yahoo Boy,” who’d struck it rich and showed it off. Abbas dismissed the talk as the jealousy of so many haters, disappointed with their own lives and determined to bring down a self-made man who’d left them all behind.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

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Tavi Gevinson spent the pandemic year in ways that might feel familiar. She moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn, adopted a dog, worked on her book, panicked at least once on a video call, and appeared on a few podcasts.

She also spent it in some more unusual ways. She filmed her role in the Gossip Girl reboot, out this month, and published two essays, her first significant pieces of writing since shutting down Rookie, the online magazine for teen girls that placed her in the media vanguard, in 2018. Multihyphenates are a dime a dozen in this economy. But Gevinson, now more than a decade removed from the clever middle schooler sitting front row at fashion shows, manages to stand solidly on each subsequent hyphen she adds.

“I was once at a party when I was still doing Rookie and someone asked me what I do. I said, ‘Oh, I’m a writer and actor, and I also edit this publication that I founded,’ ” she told me. “And David Geffen, who I had not met, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and went, ‘One day, you’re probably going to have to choose.’ And then, just like that, he disappeared.”

You get the sense that Gevinson has a million of these kinds of stories—stories that imply she’s observing and being observed while square in the center of things. She has spent her short life on every side of the image. She’s created her own persona and published it herself and played characters made for her. She has been regularly profiled in major magazines since she was a child, her selfhood sketched out and presented by others at every major stage of her life. She’s interviewed interesting characters and written profiles herself too, as she did with Taylor Swift, a person she calls a friend. Many of her other friends are working actors, but many of them are working writers.

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

News 30.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 30.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A brief provision accompanying the 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act, which was signed last December, called on the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the heads of various pertinent agencies, to produce an “intelligence assessment of the threat posed by UAP and the progress the UAPTF has made to understand this threat.” U.A.P., or “unidentified aerial phenomena,” is the revamped acronym for the perennial enigmas previously known as “U.F.O.s”; the U.A.P.T.F. is a task force that was established to investigate them. The formal announcement of the task force, last August, marked an inflection point in the arc of renewed official interest in the topic. An initial phase of government attention—running from 2007, when Harry Reid was persuaded to set aside twenty-two million dollars of “black money” appropriations for the study of U.F.O.s, through the end of 2017, when reporters for the Times revealed the existence of the secretive program—could be conceivably written off as the self-indulgent work of a small cadre of U.F.O. hobbyists who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The task force’s report, however, would have the imprimatur of the intelligence community, and its very existence was hard to square with charges of hobbyism. The report was expected in the afternoon on Friday, seventy-four years, almost to the day, since a mysterious sighting near Mt. Rainier inaugurated the modern U.F.O. era. As the afternoon progressed without an announcement, U.F.O. enthusiasts speculated that the findings were subject to deliberate delay, lest they rattle the markets. The Director of National Intelligence’s office finally released the unclassified portion of the report just after the close of the business day. Its Web site did not seem to be designed to handle the kind of traffic that U.F.O. news generates, and repeated attempts to download the file met only error messages.

Believers and skeptics hoped for a climactic resolution, one way or the other, to the country’s extended love-hate relationship with flying saucers. But prevailing expectations were low. Assessments of this kind have come and gone before—the British government compiled its own version two decades ago—and the situation has remained perplexing. This particular report was not, by all accounts, being assembled under the most auspicious circumstances: two people, reportedly working part time, had been given only a hundred and eighty days to determine what, exactly, the federal government did and did not know about U.F.O.s.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 30.06.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Despite some growing pains, the U.S. economy is clearly on a vaccine-and-stimulus-fueled tear, with just about every measure indicating rapid recovery from the pandemic slump.

Yes, supply bottlenecks have caused some inflation, although recent data seems to validate the view that this inflation is transitory: Lumber prices have fallen sharply, industrial metals have also come down, and used car prices seem to have peaked. Yes, some employers seem to be having trouble hiring enough workers to keep up with surging demand, but this will almost surely be a temporary problem.

Overall, we’re clearly in a much better place economically than we were just a few months ago.

Yet according to the long-running University of Michigan survey of consumers, on average self-identified Republicans assess the economic situation much less positively now than they did before the 2020 elections.

You may be tempted to say that this was only to be expected. After all, almost two-thirds of Republicans believe, completely falsely, that the presidential election was stolen, and around a quarter agree that the world is run by Satan-worshiping pedophiles. Why be surprised to see the post-truth state of mind extend to the economy, too?

But claims about election fraud and the QAnon cult are conspiracy theories, assertions about secret actions by cabals. The state of the economy, by contrast, is right out there in the open. People, you might think, can judge it by their own experience or that of their friends and families.

And just to be clear, the Michigan number I’m referring to is the current economic conditions index rather than the index of consumer expectations. That is, it’s supposed to be about how things are now, not about what people think will happen. So this isn’t a matter of Republicans believing that Bidenomics will destroy prosperity in the future; it’s about them believing, in the teeth of lived experience, that it already has.

But hasn’t partisanship always colored perceptions of the economy? And doesn’t it happen on both sides? Well, yes — but not to this degree.

If you look back at Michigan surveys from a dozen years ago, you don’t see anything like today’s partisan polarization. In June 2009, Democrats and Republicans had similar views about current conditions, although Republicans were more pessimistic about the future.

Nor do the parties behave symmetrically. Democrats did mark down their economic views after the 2016 presidential election, but not that much. The real question about the 2016 election aftermath is why Republican assessments became so much more favorable, even though not much had changed. Indeed, there was no significant break in the economy’s performance, certainly nothing comparable to the current postpandemic boom.

One possibility is that Republicans’ views about the economy are driven by the belief that things are terrible for other people even when they themselves are doing OK. That is, it may be like the right-wing narrative on urban violence. Tucker Carlson and his ilk have been peddling the vision of a nation all “boarded up,” its citizens cowering in fear of riots and crime. People have to know that their own neighborhoods aren’t like that but may imagine that it’s happening somewhere else.

Whatever the explanation, post-truth politics has expanded its domain to the point that it overrides everyday experience. On the right, at any rate, the economy that voters perceive no longer bears much relationship to reality.

What does this say about the politics of economic policy?

A large body of research in political science says that the economy drives elections. Specifically, what seems to have mattered in the past was the rate of income growth in the six months or so before the election.

This was always a troubling result, partly because presidents usually don’t have much influence over short-run economic developments, partly because it suggests that there are no political rewards for good long-term performance. In fact, if you believe standard election models, the optimal political strategy for a president seeking two terms would be to start with a deep recession, so as to make room for rapid growth in the run-up to the next election. (This is more or less what actually happened during Ronald Reagan’s first term, although it wasn’t deliberate.)

Still, things could be worse — and they seem to have gotten worse. We appear to have become a country in which a large chunk of the electorate won’t even judge a president by short-run performance, because those voters’ perceptions of the economy are driven by partisanship unrelated to reality.

OK, maybe I’m being too pessimistic here. Elections are decided at the margins, so good policy may still be rewarded even if, say, a third of America’s voters refuse to believe good news if a Democrat sits in the White House. But I still miss the days when truth mattered.

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

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