News 26.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 26.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 26.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 26.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In March 2020, Boris Johnson, pale and exhausted, self-isolating in his flat on Downing Street, released a video of himself – that he had taken himself – reassuring Britons that they would get through the pandemic, together. “One thing I think the coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there really is such a thing as society,” the prime minister announced, confirming the existence of society while talking to his phone, alone in a room.

All this was very odd. Johnson seemed at once frantic and weak (not long afterwards, he was admitted to hospital and put in the intensive care unit). Had he, in his feverishness, undergone a political conversion? Because, by announcing the existence of society, Johnson appeared to renounce, publicly, something Margaret Thatcher had said in an interview in 1987, in remarks that are often taken as a definition of modern conservatism. “Too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!’” Thatcher said. “They are casting their problems on society, and who is society? There is no such thing!” She, however, had not contracted Covid-19.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 26.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 26.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the mid-sixties, Candace Mossler was one of the most widely known socialites in Houston. She was in her forties, vivacious and full of charm, with wavy blond hair, deep-blue eyes, and a surgically enhanced figure that was often remarked upon in the many newspaper columns written about her. She had an easy smile and a soft, breathy voice.

Her three-story mansion, which was reported to have 28 rooms, was located in River Oaks, the city’s richest neighborhood. There, she threw lavish fundraisers for local charities and arts organizations. Famous musicians such as Chuck Berry would sometimes perform on a stage erected on her back lawn, next to the tennis court and steam-heated swimming pool.

Candace always made grand entrances at her soirees, gliding down the circular staircase after everyone had arrived. She liked to wear high-heeled pumps, diamond jewelry, and elegant designer dresses that stopped just above her knees. “Bless your heart, thank you so much for coming,” she’d say while mingling with her guests. She’d tell stories about her six children and her husband Jacques, a wealthy financier who had controlling interests in banks, loan companies, and insurance firms.

Jacques, a slightly paunchy but distinguished-looking man with slicked-back silvery hair, was 25 years older than Candace. He rarely attended his wife’s parties. As one reporter wrote, Jacques preferred “anonymity in the business world.” He often spent time in Miami, where three of his banks were located.

Read the rest of this article at: Texas Monthly

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News 26.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In early 2020, bushfires raged across Australia. More than 3,000 homes were destroyed, reduced to ash and rubble by the unrelenting onslaught of flames. Tragically, 34 people died in the fires themselves, with an estimated 445 more dying as a result of smoke inhalation. More than 16m hectares of land burned, destroying wildlife and natural habitats. Nearly 3 billion animals were affected. So massive were the fires that the smoke was visible over Chile, 11,000km away. The record-breaking inferno that engulfed Australia was described as a “global catastrophe, and a global spectacle”. As reported in the New Statesman, Australia had come to symbolise “the extreme edge of a future awaiting us all” as a result of the climate crisis. The Australian government’s inquiry into the bushfires unequivocally reported that “it is clear that we should expect fire seasons like 2019–20, or potentially worse, to happen again”.

If we turn the clock back to less than a year earlier, 15 March 2019 marked the day that 1.4 million children turned out at locations around the world, on “strike” from school in support of action against the climate crisis. In Australia, the strikes were especially targeted at the government’s dismal record of inaction, with many politicians being climate-change deniers. The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, was vocal in his criticism of the strikes. He wanted students to stay in school instead of engaging in democratic protest. His public statement said: “I want children growing up in Australia to feel positive about their future, and I think it is important we give them that confidence that they will not only have a wonderful country and pristine environment to live in, that they will also have an economy to live in as well. I don’t want our children to have anxieties about these issues.”

In Australia, coal is a primary export, peaking at A$69.6bn in 2019. Morrison is remembered by many for holding up a piece of coal in parliament in 2017 as a protest against those politicians campaigning for renewable energy. “Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you. It’s coal,” Morrison jibed as his tittering colleagues passed the black lump between them. But as the harsh smell of smoke filtered into houses and offices in Sydney during last year’s fires, no one was laughing. Many wondered what kinds of anxieties the youth of Australia must have been feeling as they watched the blaze’s devastating sweep across the country, leaving destruction and death in its wake.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 26.11.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It’s early on a Tuesday night in October, and Frances Haugen and I are at a bright restaurant in a dark corner of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico—a few blocks from the Castillo de San Cristóbal. No one here recognizes her, even though she’s been on every TV and across the internet for weeks. She’s telling me how, as a product manager at Facebook, she secretly gathered more than 20,000 scanned pages of internal corporate documents over the course of a few months in 2021. “I was shocked I never got caught,” the 37-year-old says. “But no one was looking.”

Haugen’s leaks, first reported in The Wall Street Journal, detailed alarming problems at Facebook (and Instagram, which it owns, along with WhatsApp). The platforms exacerbated body-image issues among teenage girls, and helped enable human trafficking in the United Arab Emirates. Vaccine misinformation and hate speech were rampant, and false narratives helped inflame everything from the January 6 Capitol riots to ethnic violence in Ethiopia. Much had come out in bits and pieces, but the Journal’s reporting showed that Facebook was aware of its problems and had done little to fix them.

Haugen filed whistleblower complaints with the SEC, and testified before the Senate in October, sparking rare bipartisanship that united everyone from Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. With poise and clarity, Haugen explained the algorithmic choices Facebook had made and suggested solutions for reform (forcing changes to that algorithm, not breaking up the company). “She was such a uniquely real and refreshing witness,” says Senator Klobuchar—who has been calling for antitrust regulation for years. “She wasn’t political. She was so firm in her own footing and purpose for being there. You can have all the hearings we’ve had, but what she did was really captivate the moms and dads of this country.”

Haugen then embarked on a tour, speaking to the British Parliament and the European Parliament in Brussels. Facebook had faced toxic news cycles before, but Haugen’s testimony seemed to leave the company reeling. At the end of October it announced a name change—to Meta—like Philip Morris, Monsanto, and Blackwater before it.

Puerto Rico feels like a world apart from all of this, which is the point. Haugen moved here in March, partly for the weather. She surfs and gets her morning exercise snorkeling and watching the turtles go by. “I saw jellyfish for the first time today,” she tells me, excited. It’s a far cry from the airplane-hangar-like atmosphere of Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, where she used to cover her legs with blankets against the arctic-blast air-conditioning. The island was also appealing for its cryptocurrency community, which grew in the wake of Hurricane Maria, when a critical mass of blockchain investors moved here to create what they called “Puertopia,” an alternative to Silicon Valley with no federal income tax or capital gains taxes. Haugen, an early investor in a crypto startup, is expecting a payout this year.

Facebook (which she left in May) was the fifth social network Haugen worked for. Prior to joining in 2019, she’d headed up search for Google+, worked on what would become the dating app Hinge while getting her MBA at Harvard, did a tour of duty at Yelp, and helped Pinterest make its algorithm smarter. When a Facebook recruiter got in touch, Haugen said she was only interested in the company’s “integrity” side (as opposed to its “growth” side)—and specifically wanted to work on civic disinformation, the “fake news” that goes viral on the social network. She said a friend had been radicalized via Facebook, turning toward the alt-right during the Trump era, and so the work was personal. She focused on “narrowcasting”—the knotty problem of what to do about false information that goes viral to a group of, say, 50,000 rather than millions.

Read the rest of this article at: Vogue

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