News 15.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 15.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 15.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 15.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When the British supermarket chain Tesco PLC first started ­collecting plastic bags and wrappers from customers to be recycled in March 2021, Caroline Ragueneau was thrilled. She was working as a retail assistant at a Tesco store in southwest England when the first white deposit boxes appeared, promising to turn what’s typically discarded back into something useful. Plastic is a notorious source of pollution: unsightly on land, deadly to marine wildlife. Ragueneau, 56, an enthusiastic environmentalist, proudly told friends about the initiative.

In August, Tesco announced it was expanding the pilot to all its biggest outlets. Shoppers from Cornwall to Cumbria were invited to return snack packets, shopping bags, and vegetable packaging. Soon after, the company rolled out a national advertising campaign, featuring an image of a young father with a baby in his arms and the words: “Recycling soft plastics shouldn’t be hard.”

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

News 15.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A minute before midnight on 21 July 2021, as passengers staggered sleepily through Manchester airport, I stood wringing my hands in the glow of a vending machine that was seven feet tall, conspicuously branded with the name of its owner – BRODERICK – and positioned like a clever trap between arrivals and the taxi rank. Standard agonies. Sweet or savoury? Liquid or something to munch? I opted for Doritos, keying in a three-digit code and touching my card to the reader so that the packet moved jerkily forwards, propelled by a churning plastic spiral and tipped into the well of the machine. My Doritos landed with a thwap, a sound that always brings relief to the vending enthusiast, because there hasn’t been a mechanical miscue. Judged by the clock, which now read 12am, it was the UK’s first vending-machine sale of the day.

Nine hours later, I was sitting in a spruce office in the Manchester suburb of Wythenshawe, drinking coffee with John “Johnny Brod” Broderick, the man who owned and operated that handsome airport machine. I’d had an idea to try to capture 24 hours in the life of vending machines. These weird, conspicuous objects! With their backs against the wall of everyday existence, they tempt out such a peculiar range of emotions, from relief to frustration, condescension to childish glee. For decades I’d been a steady and unquestioning patron. I figured that by spending some time in the closer company of the machines and their keepers, by immersing myself in their history, by looking to their future, I might get to the bottom of their enduring appeal. What made entrepreneurs from the Victorian age onwards want to hawk their goods in this way? What made generations of us buy? Johnny Brod seemed a good first person to ask.

Freckle-tanned, portly and quick to laugh, Broderick has a playful exterior that conceals the fiery heart of a vending fundamentalist. He is a man so invested in the roboticised transmission of snacks that, come Halloween, Johnny Brod has been known to park a machine full of sweets in his driveway, letting any costumed local kids issue their demand for treats via prodded forefinger. With his brother Peter and his father, John Sr, he runs the vending empire Broderick’s Ltd, its 2,800 machines occupying some of the most sought-after corridors and crannies of the UK. The Broderick family sugar and sustain office workers, factory workers, students, gym goers, shoppers and schoolchildren. They pep up breaktimes in a nuclear power station. If you’ve ever wolfed a postpartum Snickers in the maternity ward at Chesterfield or Leeds General, or turned thirsty while waiting to fly out of Stansted or Birmingham airports, then you’ve almost certainly shopped, at one mechanical remove, with Johnny Brod. He thanks you.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

Konstantin Borodin is an ear nerd. He’s been looking into them, literally and professionally, for more than a decade. Even in social situations, he’ll find his attention drifting lobeward. “Sometimes I get weird looks,” he says.

I met Borodin when he measured my ears and their outer canals for custom-fit buds that can pick up my brain waves. To create a mold, you usually have to fill the ear with a warm waxy substance, but Borodin uses a device called the eFit Scanner that measures its precise dimensions with a laser. The size of an Oculus Quest, the scanner has twin eyepieces and a metal camera nozzle that looks like a long stinger.

I swab my ears with rubbing alcohol—to make them less shiny, he says—and he positions me on a stool. At his urging, I wedge my head into a brace. “It helps to stabilize things,” says Borodin, who is now swooping toward me, gripping the gadget with both hands. He tilts my head and zeroes in on my left ear. “Hold that position,” he says.

“How many of these have you done?” I ask him.

“Over 30,000,” he replies. Even after all those ears, Borodin marvels at them–that no two are the same, that the nose and ears are the only organs that grow as one ages. But what has brought us together for this fitting is another useful property of ears: They are in the perfect spot to eavesdrop on the brain.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 15.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 15.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In little more than a month, Russian President Vladimir Putin has changed the course of this young and already troubled century. He has resurrected the threat of territorial conquest and nuclear war. He has jolted Western Europe awake from its long postwar torpor, raising the prospect of rapid German rearmament. He has put the capstone on two decades of U.S. misdirection by defying American power and influence.

Above all, with his invasion of Ukraine, Putin is trying to complete work on a vast project of destruction implicitly supported by several other world leaders, especially Chinese President Xi Jinping. Together, these leaders want to break what they see as U.S. hegemony over the international system and undermine the notion that the world is bound by a common set of values embodied in international law and upheld by institutions such as the United Nations.

The new world order they are aiming to install is dominated by competing—and increasingly autocratic—civilizations, each controlling its own geopolitical space. Putin plainly intends that a greater Russia encompassing at least part of Ukraine will be one of these, giving brutal resonance to his 2020 declaration that “Russia is not just a country. It’s really a separate civilization.”

“This struggle should be viewed in civilizational, not just geopolitical, terms,” said Charles Kupchan, a former senior U.S. official and now scholar at Georgetown University. “It is at once and the same time sui generis, particular to Putin and Russia, but also is part of a broader increase in ethnonationalism and its role in global politics, as well as the backlash to globalization.”

Can Putin still succeed—despite the bloody shambles he has made of his would-be conquest so far? The outcome remains up in the air and, with it, the shape of a post-World War II world that many experts believed was, prior to Putin’s invasion, still functioning in spite of the many failures of globalization and democracy in the last two decades.

It could be many months or even years before an outcome is reached. After two decades of retreat into apathy, nationalism, and autarky since 2001, the international system is reasserting itself in the face of Putin’s aggression. The major Western nations, along with U.S. allies such as Japan, have imposed unprecedented sanctions and sought to strangle Moscow economically. Thanks in part to mutual decisions to cut off several Russian banks from international payments, economists surveyed by Russia’s own central bank have forecast inflation to accelerate to 20 percent and say its economy could drop by as much as 8 percent this year.

Read the rest of this article at: Foreign Policy

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News 15.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It is often said, rather casually, that truth is dissolving, that we live in the ‘post-truth era’. But truth is one of our central concepts – perhaps our most central concept – and I don’t think we can do without it. To believe that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to take it to be true that they do. To assert it is to claim that it is true. Truth is, plausibly, central to thought and communication in every case. And, of course, it’s often at stake in practical political debates and policy decisions, with regard to climate change or vaccines, for example, or who really won the election, or whom we should listen to about what.

One might have hoped to turn to philosophy for a clarification of the nature of truth, and maybe even a celebration of it. But philosophy of pragmatist, analytic and continental varieties lurched into the post-truth era a century ago. If truth is a problem now for everyone, if the idea seems empty or useless in ‘the era of social media’, ‘science denialism’, ‘conspiracy theories’ and suchlike, maybe that just means that ‘everyone’ has caught up to where philosophy was in 1922.

Before the 20th century, reflection on truth in Western intellectual and spiritual traditions usually exalted it. ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,’ declares John Keats, very Grecianly, or at least Platonically, Plato having anointed truth as the goal of philosophy, the goal of human life. ‘Assuredly we must be bold to speak what is true, above all when our discourse is upon truth [aletheia],’ Socrates says in the Phaedrus. ‘It is there that true being dwells, without colour or shape, that cannot be touched; reason alone, the soul’s pilot, can behold it, and all true knowledge is knowledge thereof.’ Plato’s truth is identical not only with the beautiful, but with the good and the just. It is the highest thing. Jesus agrees, proclaiming himself at John 14:6 to be the way, the truth and the life.

Philosophical reflection has not always treated truth as a god, but it was certainly a central concept, commitment and question for some 2,500 years. Characteristically, Aristotle is more grounded than his teacher, Plato, when he gave the classic formulation of the correspondence theory: ‘To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.’ That’s fairly crisp if somewhat bewildering, but this definition, like many characterisations of truth, appears oddly redundant, notably uninformative. On the other hand, every formulation seems beset by redundancy, and the terrifying question looms: is that definition of ‘truth’ itself true?

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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