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News 27.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 27.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Among the many books about punctuation, precious few are devoted to a single mark. There’s “On the Dot,” by the Brothers Humez, which celebrates the period, or full stop; “Semicolon,” a thoughtful treatise by Cecelia Watson; and “Fucking Apostrophes,” a jewel of a book by Simon Griffin. The hyphen, which may not technically qualify as a punctuation mark, because it operates at the level of the word rather than the sentence—it doesn’t make you pause (though it may give you pause)—has inspired not one great book but two: “Meet Mr. Hyphen (And Put Him in His Place),” a classic by Edward N. Teall, published in 1937, and “Hyphen,” by Pardis Mahdavi, which came out in 2021.

Mahdavi, an Iranian-American (hyphen hers), was a dean at Arizona State University when she tackled this project, as part of a series for Bloomsbury Academic called Object Lessons, “about the hidden lives of ordinary things.” The invention of the hyphen has been credited to Dionysius Thrax, a Greek grammarian who worked at the Library of Alexandria in the second century B.C. Mahdavi writes, “The elegant, sublinear bow-shaped U-hyphen . . . was used to fuse words and highlight words that belonged together.” Much later, in fifteenth-century Germany, Johannes Gutenberg used hyphens liberally (in their modern form) to justify the columns of heavy Gothic type in his Bible. Gutenberg was born to Friele Gensfleisch (Gooseflesh), a merchant, in Mainz. J. P. Morgan might not have been so keen to get his hands on an edition of the historic work had it been known as the Gensfleisch Bible.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 27.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 27.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Same-day delivery of millions of products. Answers to your every question by simply calling out, “Alexa.”

Amazon has transformed our expectations for how we buy things and how we interact with technology. It’s now intuitive for many of us to buy almost anything we want with a click — whether from Amazon or some other retailer — and to count on it being delivered within days, if not the same day. As Amazon has built the sprawling logistics and delivery empire that makes this possible, it has also begun to change the working lives of many Americans — in some ways for the better, and in some ways for the worse.

That shift is most clear in its own workforce: More than 1.1 million people now work directly for Amazon in the US, with some in its offices and the majority in its ever-expanding network of more than 800 warehouse facilities in North America alone. At its current hiring rate, Amazon will overtake Walmart as the largest private-sector employer in the US in the next few years — meaning about 1 percent of US workers will be employed directly by the tech giant.

However, its influence extends far beyond its actual employees, reaching a workforce employed by companies partnering and competing with Amazon. Some, such as Amazon delivery drivers in Amazon-branded vans and trucks, work for third-party companies that sign exclusive contracts with Amazon and are managed by Amazon technology and expectations. Others work for Amazon competitors, big and small, who are striving to keep up with the tech giant by expanding their e-commerce offerings and by imitating its business and employment practices. This shift is only in the early stages, but the ripple effects of Amazon’s influence as an employer will spread over time across the retail, e-commerce, and delivery industries.

“Anyone who wants to do business with Amazon has to conform,” said Rebecca Givan, a labor professor at Rutgers University. “And anyone who wants to compete — that’s kind of everyone — [has] to keep up with what they are doing with productivity, which seems to necessitate massive surveillance.”

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

“I am bowling along beneath overhanging peach and mulberry trees,” recalls Thomas Stevens, in the 19th chapter of Around the World on a Bicycle, “following a volunteer horseman to Mohammed Ali Khan’s garden. Before reaching the garden a gang of bare-legged laborers engaged in patching up a mud wall favor me with a fusillade of stones, one of which caresses my ankle, and makes me limp like a Greenwich pensioner when I dismount a minute or two afterward….”

Like many travel writers, Thomas Stevens wrote in the first person. He also wrote in the present tense, so everything he recounts feels immediate, as if his journey is unfolding in real time. Over the course of many hundreds of pages, the reader travels with Stevens, eats with Stevens, weathers rainstorms with Stevens. When Stevens outwits thieves in Persia, we’re right there with him. When he listens to “Hungarian Gypsy music” in Serbia, we hear it, too. When he narrowly evades a herd of stampeding mustangs in the American frontier, we also duck and cover. With every crank of his pedal, we ride alongside, absorbing the same sensations.

But there’s one thing missing from Around the World on a Bicycle, Stevens’ mammoth memoir from 1887: the author himself.

Nowhere, in his two volumes and 41 chapters, does Stevens bother to explain why he decided to ride a penny-farthing across three continents. He never once mentions his parents, his childhood, or a prior career. Even his titular bicycle, which carries him 13,500 miles over mountains and deserts, has no origin story; it simply appears out of the ether. The first chapter opens with a flowery description of his ride away from San Francisco and through the surrounding hills. You might expect some kind of flashback, but no; Stevens has hit the road, and he’ll continue hitting it for two years straight.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

News 27.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 27.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Chen Qiushi was born in China’s remote, frigid north near the country’s border with Russia. An only child, he loved to tell stories and jokes to his family and classmates and dreamed of being an actor or a television journalist. But his mother objected, and Chen got a law degree from a local university and moved to Beijing, where he later took a job at a prestigious legal firm.

In off-hours, Chen continued to pursue his passion for performing. He dabbled in standup comedy at local bars and did voice acting. He became a contestant on “I Am a Speaker,” a talent show for orators modelled on “The Voice.” In his final performance, he expounded on the importance of free speech. “A country can only grow stronger when it is accompanied by critics,” Chen said. “Only freedom of expression and the freedom of press can protect a country from descending into a place where the weak are preyed upon by the strong.”

Chen won second place and used his newfound fame to build a large social-media following. In 2018, he uploaded more than four hundred short videos that provided basic tutorials on Chinese law on Douyin, a platform similar to TikTok, but only available for users in China. He gained more than 1.5 million followers, making him the most popular legal personality on the entire platform.

In the next year, Chen began providing independent journalism to his followers on social-media. In the summer of 2019, he travelled to Hong Kong to report firsthand on the pro-democracy street protests that had erupted in the city. “Why am I in Hong Kong?” Chen asked, in a video posted on August 17th. “Because a lot is happening in Hong Kong right now.”

Chen interviewed protesters and spoke with those who supported the police. He waded into simmering controversies, such as the use of violence by some demonstrators. He acknowledged that journalism was a hobby of sorts, but said that he still had an obligation “to be present” when and where news unfolded. He also pledged to be objective. “I won’t express my opinion carelessly,” Chen promised. “I won’t say whom I support or whom I disagree with. Everyone has their own subjective prejudice. I wish to leave behind my own prejudice and treat everything with neutrality as much as I can . . . because I am not satisfied with public opinion and the media environment in China, I decided to come to Hong Kong and become the media myself.”

Alarmed by the reach of Chen’s social-media posts, Chinese officials pressured Chen’s law firm to get him to leave Hong Kong. The firm told Chen that, if he did not return to Beijing immediately, he would be in grave danger. Four days after he posted his first video from Hong Kong, Chen flew home to Beijing. All of his public Chinese social-media accounts, including Weibo, WeChat, and Douyin, no longer worked. When he tried to open a new Douyin account a few weeks later, the account was deleted as soon as his face appeared in a video. He posted messages on his YouTube and Twitter, which are banned in China. After Chinese police interrogated Chen and demanded to know what he thought of the Hong Kong protests, he expressed frustration. “No one cares about the truth—all they care about is my stance,” Chen complained in a YouTube video. “This is the problem we face right now. It seems that truth does not matter at all.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 27.04.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

COOK ISLAND, Florida — The reef was dark. Hanna Koch, a marine biologist, hovered inches above bumpy mounds of mountainous star coral. She had already spent hours underwater that night, breathing air from scuba tanks.

Then it happened: Hundreds of tiny pink spheres burst from the coral. Koch screamed, forcing bubbles out of her regulator, which rose above her blonde hair. Around her, other clumps of mountainous star coral began erupting, too, until the reef looked like a snow globe.

It was around 11 pm on a warm night in August 2020, and the coral was spawning. This is how many corals breed: Each sphere contains a mix of sperm and eggs, and if all goes to plan, the sperm from one individual will fertilize the eggs of another.

Koch, a scientist at Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, was giddy with excitement. She started dancing underwater with another researcher, stirring up bioluminescent critters that emitted bright flashes of blue light. “We created our own fireworks,” Koch told me when I visited her lab in Summerland Key, Florida, a year and a half later.

It’s rare to see corals reproduce in the wild, and it was a first for Koch — spawning typically happens just once a year. But that night was also special for another reason: Many of the spawning corals were individuals that Mote researchers had planted on the reef five years earlier. Those corals survived Hurricane Irma, extreme heat, and a disease outbreak, and still grew large enough to reproduce, all in record time. It was a rare sign of hope for an ecosystem under siege.

Coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the world’s oceans but are home to more than a quarter of all marine life, including the clownfish, seahorses, and other creatures that make these ecosystems special. But coral reefs are slipping away. Warming seas, diseases, and other threats have already wiped out more than half of the world’s corals, and more than 90 percent of those in Florida. “I don’t think people realize how bad it is,” said Koch, who has seen centuries-old corals disintegrate in front of her eyes.

Now, a growing number of organizations are racing to plant corals in damaged reefs, just as conservation groups plant trees in degraded forests. And so far, it seems to be working. They’ve restored hundreds of thousands of corals in places like Florida and Indonesia, and groundbreaking scientific research is helping to fortify these creatures against rising temperatures and other threats.

But the clock is ticking. The scale of coral planting is still small, and just 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, relative to the preindustrial era, could destroy up to 90 percent of the world’s tropical coral reefs. We’re likely to hit that threshold in a matter of years.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

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