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News 17.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 17.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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For most of 2020, I passed the pandemic alone in my studio apartment. I turned 33, then 34, and my body seemed to grow old without bringing my spirit along with it. My right knee was clearly deteriorating — I couldn’t sit cross-legged at my desk the way I used to — and because I wasn’t wearing makeup, I could track each age spot as it bloomed to the surface. When I pulled my hair back in a tight ponytail, I could see a patch of scalp. But in that same period had my life evolved at all? Had I met anyone? Surprised myself? Stemmed the tide of collective crisis? My mother often urged me to dance, just a little, by myself in the kitchen — “It’s good medicine,” she said, “despojo.”

I’ve never known what “despojo” means, precisely, though it’s a word I use with some frequency to express a physical craving for spiritual catharsis: “Necesitamos despojo, quiero despojarme.” Or, watching a friend gain momentum on the dance floor and begin to enter a self-forgetful trance: “Esoooo! Des-po-jo!” My Spanish-English dictionary has only the verb (to despoil, to shed leaves) and the plural noun (the spoils of war, mortal remains, rubble, waste). Google Translate: dispossession.

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

News 17.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 17.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The meeting started with a thank-you. President-elect Donald Trump was planted at a long table on the 25th floor of his Manhattan tower. Trump sat dead center, per custom, and, also per custom, looked deeply satisfied with himself. He was joined by his usual coterie of lackeys and advisers and, for a change, the heads of the largest technology companies in the world.

“These are monster companies,” Trump declared, beaming at a group that included Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and the chief executives of Google, Cisco, Oracle, Intel, and IBM. Then he acknowledged the meeting’s organizer, Peter Thiel.

Thiel sat next to Trump with his arms tucked under the table, as if trying to shrink away from the president-elect. “I want to start by thanking Peter,” Trump began. “He saw something very early—maybe before we saw it.” Trump reached below the table groping for Thiel’s hand, found it, and raised it. “He’s been so terrific, so outstanding, and he got just about the biggest applause at the Republican National Convention,” he said, patting Thiel’s fist affectionately. “I want to thank you, man. You’re a very special guy.”

The moment of bro tenderness may have been awkward for Thiel, but it was kind of an achievement. Until the Trump Tower meeting, in December 2016, he’d been known as a wealthy and eccentric venture capitalist—a key figure in Silicon Valley for sure, but hardly someone with political clout. His support of Trump, starting in May 2016, when fellow Davos-goers were mostly bedded down with other candidates, had changed that. He’d gotten a prime-time slot at the Republican National Convention, and then, days after the leak of the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump bragged about sexual assault, kicked in a donation of $1.25 million. Ignore the sexist language, Thiel advised; voters should take Trump “seriously, not literally.” The argument prevailed, and now Thiel was in an enviable position: a power broker between the unconventional leader-elect of the free world and an industry that was said to hate him.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

Last month, after a nearly two year hiatus, Anna Wintour and her co-hosts once again sent out invitations to the Met Gala, fashion’s equivalent of the Oscars.

The invitations to the annual $35,000-a-ticket event announce a dress code that doubles as a theme based on a corresponding exhibit from the Met’s Costume Institute — usually a cryptic phrase that allows leeway for the A-list and their designers to improvise and riff.

Past events have been given titles like: “Heavenly Bodies, Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” (2018), at which Rihanna wore a John Galliano pope outfit, and “Punk: Chaos to Couture” (2013), where Sienna Miller threw a studded Burberry leather jacket over a gown. This year the theme for the Sept. 13 gala is: “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.”

As counterprogramming to this year’s Met Gala, the Styles section of The New York Times sent out 10 photographers to capture everyday Americans, searching out patterns and links between disparate styles. The editors asked me — a novelist, not a fashion expert — to write an accompanying text on what I see in the images.

My initial inclination was to turn down the assignment. Who am I to opine on the clothing of a few dozen strangers and claim them representative of a country of 330 million? But the photos themselves seduced me. As did the precedent they brought to mind.

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

News 17.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 17.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Five years ago, the textile giant Welspun found itself mired in a scandal that hinged on a single word: “Egyptian”. At the time, Welspun was manufacturing more than 45m metres of cotton sheets every year – enough to tie a ribbon around the Earth and still have fabric left over for a giant bow. It supplied acres of bed linen to the likes of Walmart and Target, and among the most expensive were those advertised as “100% Egyptian cotton”. For decades, cotton from Egypt has claimed a reputation for being the world’s finest, its fibres so long and silky that it can be spun into soft, luxurious cloth. In Welpsun’s label, the word “Egyptian” was a boast and a promise.

But the label couldn’t always be trusted, it turned out. In 2016, Target carried out an internal investigation that led to a startling discovery: roughly 750,000 of its Welspun “Egyptian cotton” sheets and pillowcases were made with an inferior kind of cotton that didn’t come from Egypt at all. After Target offered its customers refunds and ended its relationship with Welspun, the effects rippled through the industry. Other retailers, checking their bed linen, also found Welspun sheets falsely claiming to be Egyptian cotton. Walmart, which was sued by shoppers who had bought Welspun’s “Egyptian cotton” products, refused to stock Welspun sheets any more. A week after Target made its discoveries public, Welspun had lost more than $700m from its market value. It was cataclysmic for the company.

Blindsided, Welspun struggled to understand what had gone wrong, but working that out wasn’t easy. The cotton business is labyrinthine, and the supply chains of products – running from the source farm to the shop shelf – have grown increasingly complex. A T-shirt sold in New Delhi might be made of cotton grown in India, blended with other cotton from Australia, spun into yarn in Vietnam, woven into cloth in Turkey, sown and cut in Portugal, bought by a Norwegian company and shipped back to India – and that’s a relatively simple supply chain. For years, Welspun had been buying raw cotton, yarn and whole cloth, all claiming to be of Egyptian origin, from dozens of vendors. The source of the fiasco might have been a mistake – a mislabelled shipment of cotton yarn, perhaps – or it might have been deliberate fraud by some remote supplier. Either way, it was lost in the maze.

In the thick of its crisis, Welspun sought out a company named Oritain. Founded in 2008, in the town of Dunedin in New Zealand, Oritain is a kind of forensic detective agency – a supply-chain CSI. Its work, which takes us into the heart of modern commerce, depends upon a basic truth about our planet. The Earth is so geologically diverse that, in a location’s soil or water, the precise concentrations of elements often turns out to be unique to that region. That singular mix of elements works its way into the crops from the region as well, so that cotton grown in the south of the US has a different combination of elements compared to cotton from Egypt – each combination distinct, like a signature.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 17.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Once or twice a generation, Americans rediscover Appalachia. Sometimes, they come to it through caricature – the cartoon strip Li’l Abner or the child beauty pageant star Honey Boo Boo or, more recently, Buckwild, a reality show about West Virginia teenagers, which MTV broadcast with subtitles. Occasionally, the encounter is more compassionate. In 1962, the social critic Michael Harrington published The Other America, which called attention to what he described as a “vicious circle of poverty” that “twists and deforms the spirit”.

Around the turn of this century, hedge funds in New York and its environs took a growing interest in coalmines. Coal never had huge appeal to Wall Street investors – mines were dirty, old-fashioned and bound up by union contracts that made them difficult to buy and sell. But in the late 1990s, the growing economies of Asia began to consume more and more energy, which investors predicted would drive up demand halfway around the world, in Appalachia. In 1997, the Hobet mine, a 25-year-old operation in rural West Virginia, was acquired for the first time by a public company, Arch Coal. It embarked on a major expansion, dynamiting mountaintops and dumping the debris into rivers and streams. As the Hobet mine grew, it consumed the ridges and communities around it. Seen from the air, the mine came to resemble a giant grey amoeba – 22 miles from end to end – eating its way across the mountains.

Up close, the effects were far more intimate. When Wall Street came to coal country, it triggered a cascade of repercussions that were largely invisible to the outside world but of existential importance to people nearby.

Down a hillside from the Hobet mine, the Caudill family had lived and hunted and farmed for a century. Their homeplace, as they called it, was 30 hectares (75 acres) of woods and water. The Caudills were hardly critics of mining; many were miners themselves. John Caudill was an explosives expert until one day, in the 30s, a blast went off early and left him blind. His mining days were over, but his land was abundant, and John and his wife went on to have 10 children. They grew potatoes, corn, lettuce, tomatoes, beets and beans; they hunted game in the forests and foraged for berries and ginseng. Behind the house, a hill was dense with hemlocks, ferns and peach trees.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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