News 20.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 20.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 20.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 20.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

We turn to the Internet for answers. We want to connect, or understand, or simply appreciate something—even if it’s only Joe Rogan. It’s a fraught pursuit. As the Web keeps expanding faster and faster, it’s become saturated with lies and errors and loathsome ideas. It’s a Pacific Ocean that washes up skeevy wonders from its Great Garbage Patch. We long for a respite, a cove where simple rules are inscribed in the sand.

You may have seen one advertised online, among the “weird tricks” to erase your tummy fat and your student loans. It’s MasterClass, a site that promises to disclose the secrets of everything from photography to comedy to wilderness survival. The company’s recent ad, “Lessons on Greatness. Gretzky,” encapsulates the pitch: a class taught by the greatest hockey player ever, full of insights not just for aspiring players but for anyone eager to achieve extraordinary things. In the seminar, Wayne Gretzky tells us that as a kid he’d watch games and diagram the puck’s movements on a sketch of a rink, which taught him to “skate to where the puck is gonna be.” Likewise, Martin Scorsese says in his class that he used to storyboard scenes from movies he admired, such as the chariot race in “Ben-Hur.” The idea that mastery can be achieved by attentive emulation of the masters is the site’s foundational promise. James Cameron, in his class, suggests that the path to glory consists of only one small step. “There’s a moment when you’re just a fan, and there’s a moment when you’re a filmmaker,” he assures us. “All you have to do is pick up a camera and start shooting.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 20.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 20.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

SAN FRANCISCO — When Instagram reached one billion users in 2018, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, called it “an amazing success.” The photo-sharing app, which Facebook owns, was widely hailed as a hit with young people and celebrated as a growth engine for the social network.

But even as Mr. Zuckerberg praised Instagram, the app was privately lamenting the loss of teenage users to other social media platforms as an “existential threat,” according to a 2018 marketing presentation.

By last year, the issue had become more urgent, according to internal Instagram documents obtained by The New York Times. “If we lose the teen foothold in the U.S. we lose the pipeline,” read a strategy memo, from last October, that laid out a marketing plan for this year.

In the face of that threat, Instagram left little to chance. Starting in 2018, it earmarked almost its entire global annual marketing budget — slated at $390 million this year — to targeting teenagers, largely through digital ads, according to planning documents and people directly involved in the process. Focusing so singularly on a narrow age group is highly unusual, marketers said, though the final spending went beyond teenagers and encompassed their parents and young adults.

The Instagram documents, which have not previously been reported, reveal the company’s angst and dread as it has wrestled behind the scenes with retaining, engaging and attracting young users. Even as Instagram was heralded as one of Facebook’s crown jewels, it turned to extraordinary spending measures to get the attention of teenagers. It particularly emphasized a category called “early high school,” which it classified as 13- to 15-year-olds.

Any slip by Instagram could have larger consequences for Facebook. The social network hoped that Instagram would entice more young people to all of its apps, replenishing Facebook’s aging user base, according to the documents. But the documents also show that Facebook has since abandoned aspirations of becoming a teen destination, just as Instagram has increasingly debated how to hang on to youthful audiences.

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

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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Jani, a 4-foot plush giraffe, arrived on my doorstep in mid-July, her neck bent backwards so that she could fit in the FedEx box, her brown eyes glassy, as if still finding her bearings after a long journey at sea.

What a journey it had been. Viahart, the company that sells Jani on Amazon, had ordered a container’s worth of plush toys including her in August of last year. This was around the time that U.S. consumers, cooped up at home, started spending again after an initial dip in the beginning of the pandemic. And as the demand for toys and TVs and couches rose, the ships and trains and trucks carrying them got overwhelmed and added hefty congestion surcharges. That made it much more expensive to get Jani to my doorstep.

“Good Day, No rail schedule yet. Rail delays due to chassis shortage & port congestion. Please continue to monitor,” reads an email from COSCO Shipping NA, the company responsible for getting the container from China to Viahart’s Texas warehouse, about why the container was sitting in the port of LA for weeks and weeks. Viahart now pays around $21,000 to send a 40-foot container from China to Texas, up from $4,700 before the pandemic.

Read the rest of this article at: Time

News 20.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Even if you have never set foot in China, Hikvision’s cameras have likely seen you. By 2017, Hikvision had captured 12 percent of the North American market. Its cameras watched over apartment buildings in New York City, public recreation centers in Philadelphia, and hotels in Los Angeles. Police departments used them to monitor streets in Memphis, Tennessee, and in Lawrence, Massachusetts. London and more than half of Britain’s 20 next-largest cities have deployed them.

Hikvision’s reach requires a map to fully appreciate it. A recent search for the company’s cameras, using Shodan, a tool that locates internet-connected devices, yielded nearly 5 million results, including more than 750,000 devices in the United States. The results map, which uses red dots to represent devices, looked like a coronavirus-pandemic tracker, with clusters of activity in major cities.

Offering huge discounts to American redistributors, Hikvision has supplied cameras to Peterson Air Force Base, in Colorado, as well as the U.S. embassies in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Kabul, Afghanistan. More than 90 companies relabeled the cameras with their own brands, according to IPVM, a surveillance-industry-research group. Citing national-security concerns, Congress ordered federal agencies to remove Hikvision cameras by August 2019. The U.S. government struggled to find them all.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 20.10.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

For one week this summer, Fox News beamed the face of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary into the homes of Tucker Carlson’s 3.2 million viewers. In a two-tiered library adorned with dark wood and the Hungarian flag, Carlson sat across from the prime minister in Budapest with an expression of intense concentration, though he evinced little familiarity with the internal affairs of Hungary. The trip was hastily arranged after Orban agreed to the interview: Carlson dined at the prime minister’s office the evening before the broadcast, and earlier in the week, he was taken in a military helicopter to a tightly controlled area along the country’s southern border, generally off limits to journalists, in the presence of a Hungarian minister. There, Hungary became the idealized backdrop for Carlson’s habitual preoccupations: Thanks to a barbed-wire fence, Hungary’s border area was “perfectly clean and orderly,” free of the “trash” and “chaos” that mark other borders of the world. Consequently, “There weren’t scenes of human suffering.” He did not bring up the fact that civic groups have repeatedly taken the Hungarian government to court for denying food to families held in immigration detention centers.

Carlson’s trip to Hungary was prompted, in part, by a text message from Rod Dreher, a conservative writer. Dreher, who spent the spring and summer there on a fellowship and helped Carlson secure the interview with Orban, understands, as the activist Christopher F. Rufo recently observed, that Carlson doesn’t report the news for American conservatives; he creates it. Bringing Carlson to Budapest was meant to persuade Americans to pay attention to Orban’s Hungary. The effort appeared to be successful: The following week, several Republican senators told Insider, an online news publication, that Carlson’s broadcasts from Budapest had given them a favorable opinion of Orban. In September, Jeff Sessions, the former U.S. attorney general, went to Budapest for a panel discussion on immigration, and Mike Pence traveled there to address a meeting on family and demographic decline, with Orban in the audience. Next year, the Conservative Political Action Conference, an influential annual gathering of conservatives in America, will be held in Budapest.

Dreher doesn’t speak in Carlson’s terms, and has sought to distance himself from Carlson’s vigorous endorsement of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which holds that Democrats are replacing white Americans with nonwhite immigrants in order to increase their vote tallies. But Dreher believes, as do many in his circle of right-wing intellectuals, that high levels of immigration threaten the “stability and cultural continuity of the nation.” He frequently points to the French, to the anger and isolation in their immigrant-populated banlieues, and argues that immigrants have a responsibility to adopt their new country’s culture and often decline to do so. He has even suggested that Orban’s restrictions on immigration have kept the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Hungary to a minimum. (While the number of reported incidents is indeed low, Dreher’s analysis belies Orban’s tendency to play to both sides; he has forged a close relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu while demonizing the Jewish liberal benefactor George Soros with anti-Semitic dog whistles at home.) Dreher believes Orban was right to refuse to take in Syrian refugees in 2015. “If you could wind back the clock 50 years, and show the French, the Belgian and the German people what mass immigration from the Muslim world would do to their countries by 2021, they never, ever would have accepted it,” Dreher wrote in his influential blog for The American Conservative. “The Hungarians are learning from their example.”

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

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