News 18.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 18.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 18.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 18.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

José Robbe was leaving her place of work in Rotterdam when she saw a man and a woman walking towards her. It was a Tuesday afternoon, 20 March 2012. “Are you Mrs Robbe?” She nodded. The woman, who was wearing jeans and a black windcheater, explained that she was with the police. “I’d like to talk to you for a minute. It’s about your son, Edwin. We’re arresting him.” José stared, frozen. The woman asked if she would accompany them. Warily, José agreed.

At the police car, the officer told her they intended to surprise her son at the family home in Barendrecht, just south of Rotterdam, and arrest him on the spot. She asked if José wanted to be there for her son’s arrest. “No,” she replied grimly. It felt as if she had just betrayed her son. To stand by and watch would make it even worse. The police asked José for her house keys and dropped her off at a plaza by the local supermarket a few blocks from her house. She felt terrible as the officers drove away to arrest her eldest child, just a troubled 17-year-old. A little while later, three officers emerged from the house, escorting Edwin between them. He offered no resistance.

Edwin was taken to a detention centre in Houten, near Utrecht. Once he was gone, José finally re-entered her house. She sat on the living-room sofa, watching as officers rummaged through cabinets, filed up and down the stairs and bagged up flash drives, CD-Roms and telephones.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 18.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 18.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Tribune Tower rises above the streets of downtown Chicago in a majestic snarl of Gothic spires and flying buttresses that were designed to exude power and prestige. When plans for the building were announced in 1922, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime owner of the Chicago Tribune, said he wanted to erect “the world’s most beautiful office building” for his beloved newspaper. The best architects of the era were invited to submit designs; lofty quotes about the Fourth Estate were selected to adorn the lobby. Prior to the building’s completion, McCormick directed his foreign correspondents to collect “fragments” of various historical sites—a brick from the Great Wall of China, an emblem from St. Peter’s Basilica—and send them back to be embedded in the tower’s facade. The final product, completed in 1925, was an architectural spectacle unlike anything the city had seen before—“romance in stone and steel,” as one writer described it. A century later, the Tribune Tower has retained its grandeur. It has not, however, retained the Chicago Tribune.

To find the paper’s current headquarters one afternoon in late June, I took a cab across town to an industrial block west of the river. After a long walk down a windowless hallway lined with cinder-block walls, I got in an elevator, which deposited me near a modest bank of desks near the printing press. The scene was somehow even grimmer than I’d imagined. Here was one of America’s most storied newspapers—a publication that had endorsed Abraham Lincoln and scooped the Treaty of Versailles, that had toppled political bosses and tangled with crooked mayors and collected dozens of Pulitzer Prizes—reduced to a newsroom the size of a Chipotle.

Spend some time around the shell-shocked journalists at the Tribune these days, and you’ll hear the same question over and over: How did it come to this? On the surface, the answer might seem obvious. Craigslist killed the Classified section, Google and Facebook swallowed up the ad market, and a procession of hapless newspaper owners failed to adapt to the digital-media age, making obsolescence inevitable. This is the story we’ve been telling for decades about the dying local-news industry, and it’s not without truth. But what’s happening in Chicago is different.

In May, the Tribune was acquired by Alden Global Capital, a secretive hedge fund that has quickly, and with remarkable ease, become one of the largest newspaper operators in the country. The new owners did not fly to Chicago to address the staff, nor did they bother with paeans to the vital civic role of journalism. Instead, they gutted the place.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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If eyes are the window to the soul, then it is especially convenient that Travis McHenry’s eyes are the cool blue of crushed glaciers, of wind-whittled ice reflecting the polar sun. Because even though McHenry is by every account a warm person—a true quick-witted, playful Gemini, apt to change and change again—it is somehow fitting that his eyes mirror a piece of frozen, barren land he’s laid claim to for more than half his life, never mind that he’s actually never been there: 620,000 square miles of Antarctica he’s dubbed Westarctica, a micronation he’s “ruled” as His Royal Highness Travis I, Grand Duke, since 2001. It is land that he is irrevocably connected to. Perhaps it is part of his soul.

Read the rest of this article at: Afar

News 18.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 18.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On August 24, 2020, as I attempted the first pee of the morning, I felt a tightness on the underside of my penis. A tiny hair had formed a tourniquet around a skin bridge on the genital. I was not in immediate pain, but I knew that something irrevocable had happened, as if time itself had caught up to me with an abacus in hand, demanding a full accounting.

My penis was shaped by the Cold War and God’s covenant with Abraham. My father, born in a small village outside Leningrad in 1938, had been circumcised. By the time of my birth, in 1972, Jewish children were generally not circumcised in the Soviet Union, part of a long-standing campaign against religion. Seven years later, soon after our arrival in the United States, my father fell under the influence of some “Chabadniks,” Hasidic followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who were going door to door telling Soviet Jews in Brooklyn and Queens that they had to circumcise their boys. The surgery was performed under general anesthesia at Coney Island Hospital, the Chabadniks singing and praying joyfully in an adjoining room, and resulted in an immediate infection as well as painful urination that lasted until I was nine.

Most poorly performed circumcisions stem from two misjudgments on the part of the circumciser: either too much or too little foreskin is removed. In my case, it was too little (and, one might add, given that I was seven years old instead of the eight days prescribed by the Torah, too late). After the infection had subsided, the shaft of my penis was crowded by a skyline of redundant foreskin that included, on the underside, a thick attachment of skin stretching from the head to the shaft of the genital, a result of improper healing that is called a skin bridge. A small gap could be seen between this skin bridge and the penis proper. In texture and appearance, the bridge reminded me of the Polly-O mozzarella string cheese that got packed in the lunchboxes of my generation. It produced no pain on its own after the infection had died down and the two years of difficult urination were over, but the strangeness of my penile appearance—and the manner in which it was brought about—became lodged in my consciousness. In my novel “Absurdistan,” which was written in the mid-two-thousands, when I was in my early thirties, the hero, Misha Vainberg, is also circumcised under Hasidic auspices and under pressure from his religion-obsessed father. “Eighteen is too old for cutting the dick,” Misha begs the Chabadniks who have driven him to a Brooklyn hospital, but he is told by one of them that “Abraham was ninety-nine when he performed the bris with his own hands!”

I had long used humor to articulate the trauma of non-neonatal circumcision, the forcible removal of a part of me that had been intended by nature as a nexus of pleasure. But, looking down at the hair that had wrapped itself around my penile skin bridge in the shape of a gift bow on the morning of August 24, 2020, I knew that my luck had run out and that the forty-year interregnum between the brute pain of the initial procedure and whatever would happen next was over.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 18.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The extravagant lurches of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan—from a $1 trillion surge to total withdrawal, culminating in the reestablishment of a Taliban government 20 years after the 9/11 attacks—must rank among the most surreal and disturbing episodes in modern foreign policy. At the heart of the tragedy was an obsession with universal plans and extensive resources, which stymied the modest but meaningful progress that could have been achieved with far fewer troops and at a lower cost. Yet this failure to chart a middle path between ruinous overinvestment and complete neglect says less about what was possible in Afghanistan than it does about the fantasies of those who intervened there.

The age of intervention began in Bosnia in 1995 and accelerated with the missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Over this period, the United States and its allies developed a vision of themselves as turnaround CEOs: they had the strategy and resources to fix things, collect their bonuses, and get out as soon as possible. The symbol of the age was the American general up at 4 am to run eight miles before mending the failed state.

Had the same U.S. and European officials been seeking to improve the lives of people in a poor ex-coal town in eastern Kentucky or to work with Native American tribes in South Dakota, they might have been more skeptical of universal blueprints for societal transformation, paid more attention to the history and trauma of local communities, and been more modest about their own status as outsiders. They might have understood that messiness was inevitable, failure possible, and patience essential. They might even have grasped why humility was better than a heavy footprint and why listening was better than lecturing.

Yet in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq—places far more traumatized, impoverished, and damaged than anywhere at home—U.S. and European officials insisted that there could be a formula for success, a “clearly defined mission,” and an “exit strategy.” Any setback, they reasoned, could be blamed only on a lack of international planning or resources.

These ideas were damaging in Bosnia and Kosovo. But in the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq—unstable hybrids of humanitarianism and counterterrorism that soon became even more unstable hybrids of state building and counterinsurgency—they proved fatal. From the very beginning, the international plans were surreally detached from the local reality. The first draft of the development strategy for Afghanistan, written by international consultants in 2002, described the Afghans as committed to “an accountable, broad-based, multi-ethnic, representative government” based on “respect for human rights.” That same year, then U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice claimed that terrorism from Afghanistan posed “an existential threat to our security.”

Read the rest of this article at: Foreign Affairs

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