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News 17.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 17.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 17.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 17.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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The third time Drew Mena’s manager asked him about relocating to Austin, Texas, he and his wife, Amena Sengal, began to seriously consider it. They had deliberated each time before, in 2017 and 2018, but landed on a hard no: Drew and Amena had lived in New York for more than 10 years, and they loved it. They owned a two-unit townhouse in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, and they felt lucky to have it, with its yard and the kind of close-knit neighbors who compete to shovel one another’s sidewalks after a snowfall.

But now it was August 2020, and the pandemic had changed their calculus. When the city shut down, their daughter, Edie, was 7 months old; Drew and Amena co-parented while working full time, one at the kitchen island, the other at the breakfast table. In May, they escaped to Drew’s family’s cottage in New Hampshire, and gradually their tether to the city began to fray. When the relocation offer came in from Drew’s employer, an asset-management company, they started browsing listings online, and it looked as if they could get a lot more space in Austin. They would certainly save money on everything else, like gas and groceries. The world is ending, they said to themselves. Why the hell not?

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

News 17.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 17.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The subject of the most important animal-rights case of the 21st century was born in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Very soon after that, a tousle-haired baby, she became trapped in human history. She was captured, locked in a cage, trucked to the coast, and loaded onto a roaring 747 that soared across the Pacific until it made landfall in the United States. She spent her earliest years in Florida, not far from Disney World, before she was shipped to Texas. In 1977, when she was 5 or 6, more men hauled her onto another truck and shipped her to New York, to a spot about four miles north of Yankee Stadium: the Bronx Zoo. In the wild, barely weaned, she’d have been living with her family—her sisters, her cousins, her aunts, and her mother—touching and nuzzling and rubbing and smelling and calling to each other almost constantly. Instead, after she landed at the zoo and for years after, she gave rides to the schoolchildren of New York and performed tricks, sometimes wearing a blue-and-black polka-dotted dress. Today, in her 50s and retired, she lives alone in a one-acre enclosure in a bleak, bamboo-shrouded Bronx Zoo exhibit called, without irony, “Wild Asia.”

This fall, on a day nearly barren of tourists, I rode through Wild Asia on a mostly empty monorail, the Bengali Express, over the Bronx River. “You’ll have no trouble spotting the next animal on our tour, the largest land mammal,” the tour guide said, dutifully reciting a script. “The lovely lady we’re meeting right here, her name is Miss Happy.” A few yards away, behind a fence of steel posts and cables enclosing a small pond, a stretch of grass, and a patch of compacted dirt—an exhibit originally named the “Khao Yai,” after Thailand’s first national park—Miss Happy stood nearly still and stared, slightly swaying, as she lifted and lowered one foot. Miss Happy has managed “to keep her wonderful figure in shape,” the guide said, as if she were describing a vain, middle-aged woman, and the zoo takes “very, very good care” of her: She receives “weekly pedicures and baths,” she said, as if this were an indulgence, the zoo a spa. The script did not mention that the pedicures are necessary to help prevent crippling and even fatal foot disease, a common consequence of captivity, since, in the wild, these animals, traveling in families, often walk many miles a day.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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In August 2014, a padded FedEx envelope arrived at the Calgary International Airport. It had been shipped from an address in Levittown, Pennsylvania, and on the customs form it had been labelled “Book.” As it was being sorted, a customs agent saw the package move. Inside the envelope was a slim cardboard box with holes along its sides. Inside that box were two small fabric pouches with duct-taped edges. An agent carefully opened the pouches into a plastic mail-carrying bin. Golf ball–size baby turtles emerged, crawling toward corners, scrambling over one another’s shells, and shuffling up the box’s walls. There were eleven turtles in total. There was no food or water. Sheldon Jordan, as director general of wildlife enforcement for Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), oversees all wildlife trafficking cases in the country. Everything about the package, he says, hinted at “just how big of a project” the investigation into where the turtles had come from and who had shipped them would be.

The hatchlings, all less than a year old, were Malaclemys terrapin, more commonly known as diamondback terrapins. They are native not to Canada but to a coastal fringe of territory along the Eastern Seaboard, from Massachusetts to Texas. Terrapins are hard to count, and no accurate population survey has ever been completed. Scientists say it is not possible to quantify the speed and scale of terrapin decline, but anecdotal evidence and small-scale assessments point to decreasing numbers. In 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the species’ status from “near threatened” to a more serious “vulnerable.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Walrus

News 17.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 17.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The future of democracy may well be decided in a drab office building on the outskirts of Vilnius, alongside a highway crammed with impatient drivers heading out of town.

I met Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya there this spring, in a room that held a conference table, a whiteboard, and not much else. Her team—more than a dozen young journalists, bloggers, vloggers, and activists—was in the process of changing offices. But that wasn’t the only reason the space felt stale and perfunctory. None of them, especially not Tsikhanouskaya, really wanted to be in this ugly building, or in the Lithuanian capital at all. She is there because she probably won the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, and because the Belarusian dictator she probably defeated, Alexander Lukashenko, forced her out of the country immediately afterward. Lithuania offered her asylum. Her husband, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, remains imprisoned in Belarus.

Here is the first thing she said to me: “My story is a little bit different from other people.” This is what she tells everyone—that hers was not the typical life of a dissident or budding politician. Before the spring of 2020, she didn’t have much time for television or newspapers. She has two children, one of whom was born deaf. On an ordinary day, she would take them to kindergarten, to the doctor, to the park.

Then her husband bought a house and ran into the concrete wall of Belarusian bureaucracy and corruption. Exasperated, he started making videos about his experiences, and those of others. These videos yielded a YouTube channel; the channel attracted thousands of followers. He went around the country, recording the frustrations of his fellow citizens, driving a car with the phrase “Real News” plastered on the side. Siarhei Tsikhanouski held up a mirror to his society. People saw themselves in that mirror and responded with the kind of enthusiasm that opposition politicians had found hard to create in Belarus.

“At the beginning it was really difficult because people were afraid,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told me. “But step-by-step, slowly, they realized that Siarhei isn’t afraid.” He wasn’t afraid to speak the truth as he saw it; his absence of fear inspired others. He decided to run for president. The regime, recognizing the power of Siarhei’s mirror, would not allow him to register his candidacy, just as it had not allowed him to register the ownership of his house. It ended his campaign and arrested him.

Tsikhanouskaya ran in his place, with no motive other than “to show my love for him.” The police and bureaucrats let her. Because what harm could she do, this simple housewife, this woman with no political experience? And so, in July 2020, she registered as a candidate. Unlike her husband, she was afraid. She woke up “so scared” every morning, she told me, and sometimes she stayed scared all day long. But she kept going. Which was, though she doesn’t say so, incredibly brave. “You feel this responsibility, you wake up with this pain for those people who are in jail, you go to bed with the same feeling.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 17.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Moore spent the rest of the weekend double-checking her work, uncomfortably aware that she was the only person, other than the killer, who knew who had committed the crime. When the case went to trial, she was able to observe the verdict. Talbott stood, a hoary behemoth of a man. (Scharf told me that he couldn’t get cuffs around his wrists, because they were so thick.) “When they said he was convicted, he collapsed,” Moore recalled. “His female attorney grabbed him, and he said, ‘I didn’t do it.’ I saw it, and I thought, Oh, my God, can I be wrong? Then I thought, No, no, no. His semen was on her pants. Talbott’s DNA was on the zip ties. There is no other explanation.” Tanya Van Cuylenborg’s parents had by then passed away, but her brother was at the trial. Moore said, “It looked, physically, like a burden was lifted off of his shoulders.”

Moore began using GEDmatch to work through a lineup of horrific cold cases. On May 5th, she identified the killer of Terri Lynn Hollis, an eleven-year-old who was murdered in California in 1972. The officers investigating her death had conducted two thousand interviews, over half a century, to no avail. On May 15th, she identified the killer of a teacher who was raped and murdered at her home in Pennsylvania in 1992. On May 30th, she identified the murderer of a twelve-year-old in Washington whose body was dumped in a gulch in 1986. Three days later, she identified a man who had kidnapped, raped, and killed an eight-year-old girl in Indiana in 1988.

She continued this way in the weeks ahead—as if she had discovered a master key to investigative cryptographs made up of imperfect memories, bad evidence, and evasive wrongdoing. Some of the men she had identified were deceased. Some were aging and free; they had apparently been one-time offenders—contrary to the conventional belief that a successful rapist-murderer will likely become a serial rapist-murderer. Paul Holes, who worked the Golden State Killer case, told me that genetic genealogy was revealing a new criminal profile: the rapist or murderer who never “escalates.”

Moore was gaining momentum, but so was a fractious debate, prompted by the Golden State Killer’s arrest. Even in the best of circumstances, the nature of DNA made the question of consent particularly thorny. As one commenter on a genealogy blog pointed out, “When YOU give consent, you are also giving consent for fifty percent of your mother’s and fifty percent of your father’s DNA, too.”

Judy Russell, a blogger known as the Legal Genealogist, noted that, in addition to the problems of consent, police searches were being conducted without judicial oversight. “I think of the DNA results—the links that allow us to reconnect our families—as delicate and priceless vases on glass shelves,” she wrote. “Right now, there’s a bull loose in that china shop.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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