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News 04.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 04.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Kyiv by @eatme_cafe
News 04.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Kyiv by @kievblog
News 04.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Kyiv by @_alyona.lev

Less than a week into the war, it seems increasingly likely that Vladimir Putin is heading towards a historic defeat. He may win all the battles but still lose the war. Putin’s dream of rebuilding the Russian empire has always rested on the lie that Ukraine isn’t a real nation, that Ukrainians aren’t a real people, and that the inhabitants of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv yearn for Moscow’s rule. That’s a complete lie – Ukraine is a nation with more than a thousand years of history, and Kyiv was already a major metropolis when Moscow was not even a village. But the Russian despot has told his lie so many times that he apparently believes it himself.

When planning his invasion of Ukraine, Putin could count on many known facts. He knew that militarily Russia dwarfs Ukraine. He knew that Nato would not send troops to help Ukraine. He knew that European dependence on Russian oil and gas would make countries like Germany hesitate about imposing stiff sanctions. Based on these known facts, his plan was to hit Ukraine hard and fast, decapitate its government, establish a puppet regime in Kyiv, and ride out the western sanctions.

But there was one big unknown about this plan. As the Americans learned in Iraq and the Soviets learned in Afghanistan, it is much easier to conquer a country than to hold it. Putin knew he had the power to conquer Ukraine. But would the Ukrainian people just accept Moscow’s puppet regime? Putin gambled that they would. After all, as he repeatedly explained to anyone willing to listen, Ukraine isn’t a real nation, and the Ukrainians aren’t a real people. In 2014, people in Crimea hardly resisted the Russian invaders. Why should 2022 be any different?

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 04.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 04.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Lately, I, a maximalist, have been yearning to be a minimalist. I am not alone. “People are stuck in their houses and sick of their stuff,” Randy Sabin, who runs estate and Internet sales, told me over the phone from Morris, Connecticut. “It’s staring them in the face. They have to dust it.” A survey conducted by the storage marketplace Neighbor found that quasi-house arrest has made seventy-eight per cent of respondents realize that they have more possessions than they need. What to do with this First World surplus? Your children don’t want it. The son of a friend, when offered his pick of items from his grandfather’s estate—an antique clock? an Emmy?—took a toilet plunger. In my apartment, it’s got so cluttered that sometimes, when I leave—usually to acquire more stuff—it crosses my mind that I should leave a “Dear Burglar” note, urging the intruder to help herself.

A few months ago, I decided to deaccession an assortment of my things by whatever means feasible: selling, donating, recycling, giving them away, losing them on the subway, or reserving a spot for them on the next Mars Explorer. I gathered my unwanteds and piled them in the living room. A fraction of what was in that jumble: seven antique glass cake stands that belonged to my mother; a dormitory’s worth of new sheet sets and blankets for a bed size that is not mine; a set of Lenox china that my grandmother gave to my mother, who gave it to me, and was never used; clothes galore; a Viking stove grate that arrived cracked, and which I saved because I planned to weld it into a sculpture someday, after I learned how to weld; several rolls of Trump toilet paper that I wrongly thought were amusing a few years ago. I wish I could have added my boyfriend’s too large Le Corbusier lounger. (There are Web sites, such as NeverLikedItAnyway.com, that will buy your ex’s leavings, ranging from engagement rings to “Rick and Morty” socks.)

Some will have you believe that the hardest part of parting with your belongings is choosing which items must go. Not so; saying goodbye is easy. Finding new homes for your stuff is the challenge. In December, a Brooklyn woman offered the entire contents of her closet (more than fifty pieces) to her online neighborhood network, much of it gratis. A month later, lots of her clothes were still available. Turns out people prefer cheap to free.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Alex Santos journeyed to his local Ikea with a singular mission: the procurement of a new Poäng chair.

It was a simple in-and-out task. But 3 hours later, the 37-year-old IT manager found himself in the parking lot, slightly stupefied, with a shopping cart full of hand towels, throw pillows, and martini glasses.

“It’s like Ikea makes it impossible to leave with only the stuff you came here for,” Santos told The Hustle.

He isn’t wrong.

It’s estimated that 60% of Ikea purchases are impulse buys. And Ikea’s own creative director has said that only 20% of the store’s purchases are based on actual logic and needs.
All of this unplanned buying has earned Ikea an enviable position in the struggling retail landscape. As of 2021, it boasts:

~$47.6B USD in annual retail sales
458 stores in 61 markets
775m store visits + 5B web visits per year
225k global employees
On the surface, this success may seem a bit perplexing because Ikea’s way of doing business is extremely unorthodox.

It sells meatballs and lamps under the same roof. It has been described as both “Disneyland for adults” and “a nightmare hellscape.” And the idea of spending an afternoon stuck in a one-way maze — then going home and assembling your own bookcase — isn’t exactly appealing.

But these eccentricities are intentionally engineered to get you to make unplanned purchases, and come back for more.

Read the rest of this article at: The Hustle

News 04.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 04.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

According to the civil-law code of the state of New York, a writ of habeas corpus may be obtained by any “person” who has been illegally detained. In Bronx County, most such claims arrive on behalf of prisoners on Rikers Island. Habeas petitions are not often heard in court, which was only one reason that the case before New York Supreme Court Justice Alison Y. Tuitt—Nonhuman Rights Project v. James Breheny, et al.—was extraordinary. The subject of the petition was Happy, an Asian elephant in the Bronx Zoo. American law treats all animals as “things”—the same category as rocks or roller skates. However, if the Justice granted the habeas petition to move Happy from the zoo to a sanctuary, in the eyes of the law she would be a person. She would have rights.

Humanity seems to be edging toward a radical new accommodation with the animal kingdom. In 2013, the government of India banned the capture and confinement of dolphins and orcas, because cetaceans have been proved to be sensitive and highly intelligent, and “should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ ” with “their own specific rights.” The governments of Hungary, Costa Rica, and Chile, among others, have issued similar restrictions, and Finland went so far as to draft a Declaration of Rights for cetaceans. In Argentina, a judge ruled that an orangutan at the Buenos Aires Eco-Park, named Sandra, was a “nonhuman person” and entitled to freedom—which, in practical terms, meant being sent to a sanctuary in Florida. The chief justice of the Islamabad High Court, in Pakistan, asserted that nonhuman animals have rights when he ordered the release of an elephant named Kaavan, along with other zoo animals, to sanctuaries; he even recommended the teaching of animal welfare in schools, as part of Islamic studies. In October, a U.S. court recognized a herd of hippopotamuses originally brought to Colombia by the drug lord Pablo Escobar as “interested persons” in a lawsuit that would prevent their extermination. The Parliament of the United Kingdom is currently weighing a bill, backed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that would consider the effect of government action on any sentient animal.

Although the immediate question before Justice Tuitt was the future of a solitary elephant, the case raised the broader question of whether animals represent the latest frontier in the expansion of rights in America—a progression marked by the end of slavery and by the adoption of women’s suffrage and gay marriage. These landmarks were the result of bitterly fought campaigns that evolved over many years. According to a Gallup poll in 2015, a third of Americans thought that animals should have the same rights as humans, compared with a quarter in 2008. But protecting animals in this way would have far-reaching consequences—among them, abandoning a centuries-old paradigm of animal-welfare laws.

Arguments in Happy’s case began in earnest on September 23, 2019, in an oaken courtroom populated with reporters, advocates, and attorneys for the zoo. Kenneth Manning, representing the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the Bronx Zoo, made a brief opening argument. He pointed out that the plaintiff—the Nonhuman Rights Project, or NhRP—had already bounced through the New York court system with half a dozen similar petitions on behalf of chimpanzees. All had failed. Manning read aloud from one of those decisions, which ruled that “the asserted cognitive and linguistic capabilities of a chimpanzee do not translate to a chimpanzee’s capacity or ability, like humans, to bear legal duties, or to be held legally accountable for their actions,” and that the animal therefore could not be entitled to habeas corpus. The NhRP countered that “probably ten per cent of the human population of New York State has rights, but cannot bear responsibilities, either because they are infants or they are children or they are insane or they are in comas or whatever.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 04.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Mohammed bin salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, is 36 years old and has led his country for almost five years. His father, the 86-year-old King Salman, has rarely been seen in public since 2019, and even MBS—as he is universally known—has faced the world only a few times since the pandemic began. Once, he was ubiquitous, on a never-ending publicity tour to promote his plan to modernize his father’s kingdom. But soon after the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, MBS curtailed his travel. His last interview with non-Saudi press was more than two years ago. The CIA concluded that he had ordered Khashoggi’s murder, and Saudi Arabia’s own prosecutors found that it had been conducted by some of the crown prince’s closest aides. They are thought to have dismembered Khashoggi and disintegrated his corpse.

MBS had already developed a reputation for ruthlessness. In 2017, he rounded up hundreds of members of his own family and other wealthy Saudis and imprisoned them in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel on informal charges of corruption. The Khashoggi murder fixed a view of the crown prince as brutish, thin-skinned, and psychopathic. Among those who share a dark appraisal of MBS is President Joe Biden, who has so far refused to speak with him. Many in Washington and other Western capitals hope his rise to the throne might still be averted.

But within the kingdom, MBS’s succession is understood as inevitable. “Ask any Saudi, anyone at all, whether MBS will be king,” a senior Saudi diplomat told me. “If there are people in Washington who think he will not be, then I cannot help them. I am not a psychiatrist.”

His father’s eventual death will leave him as the absolute monarch of the birthplace of Islam and the owner of the world’s largest accessible oil reserves. He will also be the leader of one of America’s closest allies and the source of many of its headaches.

I’ve been traveling to Saudi Arabia over the past three years, trying to understand if the crown prince is a killer, a reformer, or both—and if both, whether he can be one without the other.

Even MBS’s critics concede that he has roused the country from an economic and social slumber. In 2016, he unveiled a plan, known as Vision 2030, to convert Saudi Arabia from—allow me to be blunt—one of the world’s weirdest countries into a place that could plausibly be called normal. It is now open to visitors and investment, and lets its citizens partake in ordinary acts of recreation and even certain vices. The crown prince has legalized cinemas and concerts, and invited notably raw hip-hop artists to perform. He has allowed women to drive and to dress as freely as they can in dens of sin like Dubai and Bahrain. He has curtailed the role of reactionary clergy and all but abolished the religious police. He has explored relations with Israel.

He has also created a climate of fear unprecedented in Saudi history. Saudi Arabia has never been a free country. But even the most oppressive of MBS’s predecessors, his uncle King Faisal, never presided over an atmosphere like that of the present day, when it is widely believed that you place yourself in danger if you criticize the ruler or pay even a mild compliment to his enemies. MBS’s critics—not regicidal zealots or al‑Qaeda sympathizers, just ordinary people with independent thoughts about his reforms—have gone into exile. Some fear that if he keeps getting his way, the modernized Saudi Arabia will oppress in ways the old Saudi Arabia never imagined. Khalid al-Jabri, the exiled son of one of MBS’s most prominent critics, warned me that worse was yet to come: “When he’s King Mohammed, Crown Prince MBS is going to be remembered as an angel.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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