News 08.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 08.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Facebook’s civic-integrity team was always different from all the other teams that the social media company employed to combat misinformation and hate speech. For starters, every team member subscribed to an informal oath, vowing to “serve the people’s interest first, not Facebook’s.”

The “civic oath,” according to five former employees, charged team members to understand Facebook’s impact on the world, keep people safe and defuse angry polarization. Samidh Chakrabarti, the team’s leader, regularly referred to this oath—which has not been previously reported—as a set of guiding principles behind the team’s work, according to the sources.

Chakrabarti’s team was effective in fixing some of the problems endemic to the platform, former employees and Facebook itself have said.

But, just a month after the 2020 U.S. election, Facebook dissolved the civic-integrity team, and Chakrabarti took a leave of absence. Facebook said employees were assigned to other teams to help share the group’s experience across the company. But for many of the Facebook employees who had worked on the team, including a veteran product manager from Iowa named Frances Haugen, the message was clear: Facebook no longer wanted to concentrate power in a team whose priority was to put people ahead of profits.

Read the rest of this article at: Time

News 08.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Is it just me, or does it feel like America is running out of everything?

I visited CVS last week to pick up some at-home COVID-19 tests. They’d been sold out for a week, an employee told me. So I asked about paper towels. “We’re out of those too,” he said. “Try Walgreens.” I drove to a Walgreens that had paper towels. But when I asked a pharmacist to fill some very common prescriptions, he told me the store had run out. “Try the Target up the road,” he suggested. Target’s pharmacy had the meds, but its front area was alarmingly barren, like the canned-food section of a grocery store one hour before a hurricane makes landfall.

This is the economy now. One-hour errands are now multi-hour odysseys. Next-day deliveries are becoming day-after-next deliveries. That car part you need? It’ll take an extra week, sorry. The book you were looking for? Come back in November. The baby crib you bought? Make it December. Eyeing a new home-improvement job that requires several construction workers? Haha, pray for 2022.

The U.S. economy isn’t yet experiencing a downturn akin to the 1970s period of stagflation. This is something different, and quite strange. Americans are settling into a new phase of the pandemic economy, in which GDP is growing but we’re also suffering from a dearth of a shocking array of things—test kits, car parts, semiconductors, ships, shipping containers, workers. This is the Everything Shortage.

The Everything Shortage is not the result of one big bottleneck in, say, Vietnamese factories or the American trucking industry. We are running low on supplies of all kinds due to a veritable hydra of bottlenecks.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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Some years ago, Curt Smith, the singer and songwriter best known as one half of Tears for Fears, found himself in Vancouver. He was filming one of several guest spots he made on the US TV detective series Psych, and after work that day he joined the rest of the cast at a local karaoke bar.

There, before the stage, Smith was struck by the idea to get up and sing one of his band’s most famous hits, 1985’s UK platinum-selling Everybody Wants to Rule the World. How hilarious it would be, he thought, when people clocked that he was the actual singer of the song. “And no one paid a blind bit of attention,” he says now. “No one! They didn’t realise it was me.”

Meanwhile, back in England, Smith’s bandmate Roland Orzabal had received an invitation to audition for the reality TV show Popstar to Operastar. Orzabal, who had sung opera in the past, felt the stars were aligning. “I’m thinking: ‘This was meant for me.’” he says. He took the audition seriously, practised diligently, sought out an opera coach near his home in the West Country. “I went in there and I fucking nailed it,” he recalls of his performance of Giordani’s Caro Mio Ben in a suite at the Savoy hotel that winter. “And they didn’t ask me. Midge Ure got it.”

The life of the “semi-retired” musician is a strange one, Smith reflects. “You still write music, but you do other things. I was very much the stay-at-home dad, because my wife [the marketing executive Frances Pennington] has a career and is very busy.” With little in his Los Angeles home to suggest a successful career in music – no gold discs on the walls, or awards on the mantelpiece – Smith realised that, while he might not need such reminders to know who he was, his identity was mysterious to his children. One day at preschool, his eldest daughter was asked what her parents did. “Her answer was: ‘Mama goes to the office and Papa goes to the gym.’”

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 08.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the nineteen-forties, when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was considering adopting a new economics textbook, the school’s president received warnings about the book’s author: “It is perfectly obvious that the young man is socially-minded if not strictly communistic,” one correspondent wrote. The young man in question was the American economist Paul Samuelson, a future Nobel laureate. Samuelson’s textbook “Economics,” published in 1948, would dominate the market for nearly half a century; it introduced a Keynesian vision—in which government would take a more active role in managing the economy and promoting full employment—to generations of students and sold millions of copies.

The writer who accused Samuelson of communism worked as an executive at the Bell Telephone Company. Another concerned letter came from an M.I.T. graduate who was now part of the management at the chemical company DuPont. He wanted any text adopted by M.I.T. to be “thoroughly objective and mature,” and worried that Samuelson was neither of these things. The objectivity sought by the businessmen seemed to require a commitment to small government and minimally regulated capitalism. After the Second World War and the Great Depression, however, a Keynesian outlook was ascendant.

The opposition to Samuelson’s book didn’t prevent its adoption at M.I.T. or other universities. But, by the early nineteen-fifties, a companion volume of readings had joined the syllabus at M.I.T., alongside Samuelson’s text. These readings, which were meant partly to respond to the notion that Samuelson harbored “un-American tendencies,” stressed the value of unrestrained free enterprise. In a sense, the critics of Samuelson’s textbook were right: an introductory economics curriculum has high political stakes. Samuelson was hardly a communist, but it was certainly true that he wanted to influence American politics. “I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws—or crafts its advanced treaties—if I can write its economics textbooks,” he wrote, in 1990. “The first lick is the privileged one, impinging on the beginner’s tabula rasa at its most impressionable state.”

Economics is a social science, driven by data and equations. But it is also deeply informed by politics, and economists, who have diverse political views, wrangle over ethical values and also numerical ones. In the same way that Samuelson helped to redefine economics education after the devastation of the Great Depression, an international team of collaborators is now seeking to change how the discipline is taught and to shape the world view of future economists. Led by Samuel Bowles and Wendy Carlin, the group aims to prepare students for a world transformed by the 2008 financial crisis, accelerating wealth inequality, climate change, and global pandemics. They say that their initiative—called CORE, for Curriculum Open-Access Resources in Economics, and anchored by a free online introductory textbook titled “The Economy”—will “teach economics as if the last thirty years had happened.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 08.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Consider the dressing room. The concept began its mass-market life as an amenity in Gilded Age department stores, a commercial sanctuary of pedestals and upholstered furniture on which to swoon over the splendid future of your wardrobe. Now, unless you’re rich enough to sip gratis champagne in the apartment-size private shopping suites of European luxury brands, the dressing room you know bears little resemblance to its luxe progenitors.

Over the course of several decades and just as many rounds of corporate budget cuts, dressing rooms have filled with wonky mirrors and fluorescent lights and piles of discarded clothes. At one point in your life or another, as you wriggled your clammy body into a new bathing suit—underpants still on, for sanitary purposes—you have probably experienced the split-second terror of some space cadet trying to yank the door open (if you’re lucky enough to have a door). Maybe you have heard your own panicked voice croak, “Someone’s in here!”

Through the 1990s and into the 2000s, even as stores became dingy and understaffed, the dressing room try-on remained a crucial step in the act of clothing yourself. But as online shopping became ever more frictionless—and the conditions in the fitting room ever less desirable—Americans realized that it might just be better to order a few sizes on a retailer’s website and sort it out at home. Estimates vary, but in the past year, one-third to one-half of all clothing bought in the United States came from the internet. More shopping of almost every type shifts online each year, a trend only accelerated by months of pandemic restrictions and shortages.

This explosive growth in online sales has also magnified one of e-commerce’s biggest problems: returns. When people can’t touch things before buying them—and when they don’t have to stand in front of another human and insist that a pair of high heels they clearly wore actually never left their living room—they send a lot of stuff back. The average brick-and-mortar store has a return rate in the single digits, but online, the average rate is somewhere between 15 and 30 percent. For clothing, it can be even higher, thanks in part to bracketing—the common practice of ordering a size up and a size down from the size you think you need. Some retailers actively encourage the practice in order to help customers feel confident in their purchases. At the very least, many retailers now offer free shipping, free returns, and frequent discount codes, all of which promote more buying—and more returns. Last year, U.S. retailers took back more than $100 billion in merchandise sold online.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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