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News 08.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 08.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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The day before the massacre at the Yakh Chal outpost, CNN aired an interview with General Sadat. “Helmand is beautiful—if it’s peaceful, tourism can come,” he said. His soldiers had high morale, he explained, and were confident of defeating the Taliban. The anchor appeared relieved. “You seem very optimistic,” she said. “That’s reassuring to hear.”

I showed the interview to Mohammed Wali, a pushcart vender in a village near Lashkar Gah. A few days after the Yakh Chal massacre, government militias in his area surrendered to the Taliban. General Sadat’s Blackhawks began attacking houses, seemingly at random. They fired on Wali’s house, and his daughter was struck in the head by shrapnel and died. His brother rushed into the yard, holding the girl’s limp body up at the helicopters, shouting, “We’re civilians!” The choppers killed him and Wali’s son. His wife lost her leg, and another daughter is in a coma. As Wali watched the CNN clip, he sobbed. “Why are they doing this?” he asked. “Are they mocking us?”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 08.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Last September, Ann Castillo saw an email from Amazon that made no sense. Her husband had worked for the company for five years, most recently at the supersize warehouse on Staten Island that served as the retailer’s critical pipeline to New York City. Now it wanted him back on the night shift.

“We notified your manager and H.R. about your return to work on Oct. 1, 2020,” the message said.

Ms. Castillo was incredulous. While working mandatory overtime in the spring, her 42-year-old husband, Alberto, had been among the first wave of employees at the site to test positive for the coronavirus. Ravaged by fevers and infections, he suffered extensive brain damage. On tests of responsiveness, Ms. Castillo said, “his score was almost nothing.”

For months, Ms. Castillo, a polite, get-it-done physical therapist, had been alerting the company that her husband, who had been proud to work for the retail giant, was severely ill. The responses were disjointed and confusing. Emails and calls to Amazon’s automated systems often dead-ended. The company’s benefits were generous, but she had been left panicking as disability payments mysteriously halted. She managed to speak to several human resources workers, one of whom reinstated the payments, but after that, the dialogue mostly reverted to phone trees, auto-replies and voice mail messages on her husband’s phone asking if he was coming back.

The return-to-work summons deepened her suspicion that Amazon didn’t fully register his situation. “Haven’t they kept track of what happened to him?” she said. She wanted to ask the company: “Are your workers disposable? Can you just replace them?”

Mr. Castillo’s workplace, the only Amazon fulfillment center in America’s largest city, was achieving the impossible during the pandemic. With New York’s classic industries suffering mass collapse, the warehouse, called JFK8, absorbed hotel workers, actors, bartenders and dancers, paying nearly $18 an hour. Driven by a new sense of mission to serve customers afraid to shop in person, JFK8 helped Amazon smash shipping records, reach stratospheric sales and book the equivalent of the previous three years’ profits rolled into one.

That success, speed and agility were possible because Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, had pioneered new ways of mass-managing people through technology, relying on a maze of systems that minimized human contact to grow unconstrained.

But the company was faltering in ways outsiders could not see, according to a New York Times examination of JFK8 over the last year.

In contrast to its precise, sophisticated processing of packages, Amazon’s model for managing people — heavily reliant on metrics, apps and chatbots — was uneven and strained even before the coronavirus arrived, with employees often having to act as their own caseworkers, interviews and records show. Amid the pandemic, Amazon’s system burned through workers, resulted in inadvertent firings and stalled benefits, and impeded communication, casting a shadow over a business success story for the ages.

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

Cryptocurrencies have emerged as one of the most captivating, yet head-scratching, investments in the world. They soar in value. They crash. They’ll change the world, their fans claim, by displacing traditional currencies like the dollar, rupee or ruble. They’re named after dog memes.

And in the process of simply existing, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, one of the most popular, use astonishing amounts of electricity.

We’ll explain how that works in a minute. But first, consider this: The process of creating Bitcoin to spend or trade consumes around 91 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, more than is used by Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million.

Source: EIACambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index·Country usage numbers are from 2019. Electricity cost for miners is assumed to average $0.05 per kilowatt-hour. Upper, lower and best guess trends are estimated using the research methodology behind the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index.

That usage, which is close to half-a-percent of all the electricity consumed in the world, has increased about tenfold in just the past five years.

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

News 08.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On the evening of 7 December 2010, in a hushed San Francisco auditorium, former Google engineer Patri Friedman sketched out the future of humanity. The event was hosted by the Thiel Foundation, established four years earlier by the arch-libertarian PayPal founder Peter Thiel to “defend and promote freedom in all its dimensions”. From behind a large lectern, Friedman – grandson of Milton Friedman, one of the most influential free-market economists of the last century – laid out his plan. He wanted to transform how and where we live, to abandon life on land and all our decrepit assumptions about the nature of society. He wanted, quite simply, to start a new city in the middle of the ocean.

Friedman called it seasteading: “Homesteading the high seas,” a phrase borrowed from Wayne Gramlich, a software engineer with whom he’d founded the Seasteading Institute in 2008, helped by a $500,000 donation from Thiel. In a four-minute vision-dump, Friedman explained his rationale. Why, he asked, in one of the most advanced countries in the world, were they still using systems of government from 1787? (“If you drove a car from 1787, it would be a horse,” he pointed out.) Government, he believed, needed an upgrade, like a software update for a phone. “Let’s think of government as an industry, where countries are firms and citizens are customers!” he declared.

The difficulty in starting a new form of government, said Friedman, was simply a lack of space. All the land on Earth was taken. What they needed was a new frontier, and that frontier was the ocean. “Let a thousand nations bloom on the high seas,” he proclaimed, with Maoish zeal. He wanted seasteading experiments to start as soon as possible. Within three to six years, he imagined ships being repurposed as floating medical clinics. Within 10 years, he predicted, small communities would be permanently based on platforms out at sea. In a few decades, he hoped there would be floating cities “with millions of people pioneering different ways of living together”.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guaedian

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News 08.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A long time ago, I got some prime email real estate: [email protected] No middle initial, no extra numbers at the end. Clean, simple, easy to remember. I was truly blessed.

Today, Gmail is the most popular email service in the world, which has created a seemingly limitless number of what I collectively refer to as the Other Sara Morrisons: people who share my name and who, for whatever reason, enter my Gmail address when they mean to use their own. Their frequent invasions of my inbox have made me realize how much trust many of us put in a system that wasn’t designed to do some of the things we’ve come to use it for.

Email isn’t just a communication tool; it’s also an identifier and a security measure. Companies use it to create profiles of you when you start accounts with them and it often doubles as your username. Your email can also serve as your account recovery tool when you forget your username or password. All of this from something that doesn’t require you to verify your ID and that most people get to use for free, provided by a giant corporation that wants to harvest our data. In premium email provider Hey’s words, email is the “skeleton key to your digital life.” Well, I have a skeleton key to a lot of other people’s digital lives, too.

Emails sent to me that were meant for Other Sara Morrisons have given me a good deal of insight into — and a disturbing amount of access to — the lives of the many people who share my name. I know when and where their medical appointments are. I know when they give birth and am kept apprised about what their child ate and how often she pooped at daycare. I know when and where they’re going on vacation, what car they’re renting, and I get tickets to the theme parks they’ll visit when they get there.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

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