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News 22.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 22.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@lenaterlutter
News 22.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@jyoungdesignhouse
News 22.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@jyoungdesignhouse

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, signed off last month on a new initiative code-named Project Amplify.

The effort, which was hatched at an internal meeting in January, had a specific purpose: to use Facebook’s News Feed, the site’s most important digital real estate, to show people positive stories about the social network.

The idea was that pushing pro-Facebook news items — some of them written by the company — would improve its image in the eyes of its users, three people with knowledge of the effort said. But the move was sensitive because Facebook had not previously positioned the News Feed as a place where it burnished its own reputation. Several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal, one attendee said.

Project Amplify punctuated a series of decisions that Facebook has made this year to aggressively reshape its image. Since that January meeting, the company has begun a multipronged effort to change its narrative by distancing Mr. Zuckerberg from scandals, reducing outsiders’ access to internal data, burying a potentially negative report about its content and increasing its own advertising to showcase its brand.

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

News 22.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 22.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Back in spring 2011 — the end of black truffle season, before the climbing roses bloomed — the Couchsurfers gathered at the Palazzo Massarucci, built on a hill north of Rome at the beginning of the Renaissance.

The castle is said to have hosted Lucrezia Borgia, the Vicar of Umbria, Anna Mahler, and Sophia Loren. Now it was the latest collective home of the core team behind Couchsurfing.com, the internet’s biggest hospitality exchange and one of the largest gift-economy experiments ever. Some of the Couchsurfers knew what was coming before they climbed the castle’s steps. “I had to keep it a secret,” says then operations director Jim Stone. “It was not fun not being able to share that.”

Once inside, the Couchsurfers sprawled on couches around medieval-looking wood tables. They’d been on the road together for more than half a decade, an ever-evolving crew, operating as a nonprofit in a series of collectives set in stunning places ranging across five continents, overseen by Casey Fenton, the founder whose magnetism held it together.

“We’d always joke that Couchsurfing was a cult: We put the cult in cultural exchange,” says Casey Shultz, the company’s director of legal and finance at the time. “It totally had a lot of checkmarks: charismatic leader, living together in a group, social norms that from an outside perspective seem really weird. But once you’re in it, you’re like, ‘Drink the Kool-Aid.’” This would be the end of all that.

Fenton stood in front of them, looking confident and calm, despite his roiling emotions. At 34, he was brown-haired and heavily freckled; he looked like what he was, someone who grew up on the border between Maine and New Hampshire, where the line between preppy and shaggy is thin. His enthusiasm and nervous optimism had a profound effect on all of them. “He’s really intense, in good ways and uncomfortable ways,” says then operations manager Colleen Sollars. “He’s one of those people who made me want him to like me.”

Read the rest of this article at: Input

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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A few years ago, on a podcast called “This Is Actually Happening,” a penitent white supremacist recalled a formative childhood experience. One night his mother asked him: “You enjoying your burger?” She went on, “Did you know it’s made out of a cow?”

“Something died?” the boy, then 5, replied.

“Everything living dies,” she said. “You’re going to die.”

Plagued thereafter by terror of death, the boy affected a fear-concealing swagger, which eventually became a fascist swagger.

By chance, I’d just heard this episode when I opened “The Contrarian,” Max Chafkin’s sharp and disturbing biography of the Silicon Valley tech billionaire Peter Thiel, another far-right figure, though unrepentant.

An epiphany from Thiel’s childhood sounded familiar. When he was 3, according to Chafkin, Thiel asked his father about a rug, which his father, Klaus Thiel, explained was cowhide. “Death happens to all animals. All people,” Klaus said. “It will happen to me one day. It will happen to you.”

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

News 22.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 22.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One November morning in 2015, a 37-year-old woman named Sahera Khatun received a notice summoning her to a foreigners’ tribunal. Sahera was living at the time in Sukharjar, a riverine village in the remote Indian state of Assam. She had moved there from Morabhaj, where she was born, after her marriage to a daily wage laborer named Amir. Sahera had given birth to five children in Sukharjar and seen nothing of the world beyond these two villages and the temperamental rivers that regularly inundate huts and farmland there. Yet the summons required her to prove that she was a citizen of India and not an illegal migrant from the neighboring country of Bangladesh. If she failed to make an appearance, the tribunal would declare her a foreigner and arrest her.

On the appointed day, Sahera and her husband made the two-hour journey in a crowded tempo to Foreigners’ Tribunal No.6, in the town of Barpeta. It was the first of many such appearances. Over the years, with the help of lawyers working pro bono, Sahera submitted a series of documents, including land records, copies of electoral lists and a marriage certificate. She was cross-examined by the official, as was the chief of the village she lived in.

In June 2018, the tribunal delivered its verdict. Sahera, on her lawyer’s advice, stayed away, as she was likely to be detained if the verdict went against her. She was unable to state when she was born, at what age she married or how old her parents and grandparents were when they first voted, the tribunal official noted. The documents she submitted were considered inadequate and untrustworthy, as was the testimony of the village chief. The tribunal ordered the police to take her into custody as an “internee” until she could be deported.

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

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News 22.09.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Thomas Mann was just 26 years old when the publication of his first novel, “Buddenbrooks,” placed him in the front rank of German writers. He relished this position, but over the next decade produced little else to justify it. He was nearing 40 before he completed another great work, “Death in Venice,” a novella about an aging writer whose fascination with a beautiful young Polish boy keeps him on vacation even as a cholera epidemic descends. Mann started almost immediately on a second novella that would reproduce “Death in Venice”’s theme — the strange allure of “decadence,” illness and death — in a comic mode. He was working on this companion piece in 1914, when the assassination of the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand set into motion the events that would begin World War I.

Like many educated Europeans of the time, Mann didn’t quite believe that the continent would descend into all-out war, but he greeted the possibility with a certain amount of excitement. When the worst arrived, he set aside the comic novella to perform a “war service, using thought as a weapon.” This took the form of a long essay, “Thoughts in Wartime,” in which he expressed “the need for a European catastrophe”: “Deep in our hearts we felt that the world, our world, could no longer go on as it had.”

By the time Mann published the essay, in November 1914 — alongside a historical study of Frederick the Great and Voltaire that doubled as a defense of German militarism in its contest with French rationality — most observers recognized the war as a moral and human disaster, and the response to this intervention was scathing. Among the harshest critics was Mann’s older brother, the novelist Heinrich Mann, who published a historical study of his own, ostensibly about Émile Zola and the Dreyfus Affair but really a defense of liberal democracy and a declaration of the politically engaged writer’s responsibility within it. Heinrich didn’t mention his brother explicitly, but in a passage on creative maturity he speculated that writers “who make their debut in their early 20s” are “likely to dry out young.”

Mann spent the bulk of the war years stewing over this offense and composing an extended self-justification, “Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man,” which he completed just in time for the armistice. Recently reissued by New York Review Books with an introduction by Mark Lilla, “Reflections” is a strange, frequently off-putting book, a 500-page assault on democracy, enlightenment and reason that is also an act of petty score-settling, written in a frothing tone completely at odds with the stately irony for which Mann is remembered. And yet, at the moment, the book feels not just worthy of our attention but somehow indispensable.

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

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