News 12.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 12.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Every decade or so, the city of Paris drains the Canal Saint-Martin. The nearly three-mile-long waterway, which runs south across a swathe of the Right Bank, was originally constructed to keep Paris clean, supplying fresh water to a city plagued by cholera and dysentery. But for the two centuries of the canal’s existence, it has often served a different – in fact, opposite – function. It is a dumping ground, a big liquid trash can. The periodic draining is therefore also an unveiling. The water recedes, and the stuff kicked or heaved or furtively dropped into the canal over the preceding few thousand nights is revealed.

When the canal was emptied in 2016, crowds gathered on footbridges and along the quais to watch cleaning crews trudge through the mud and clear out the junk. There was lots of it. Mattresses, suitcases, street signs, traffic cones. A washer-dryer, a tailor’s mannequin, tables and chairs, baths, toilets, old radios, personal computers. A number of vehicles, none of them designed to travel on water, were pulled from the mire. There were baby strollers, shopping carts, at least one wheelchair and several mopeds.

Today, the streets abutting the canal in the 10th arrondissement are among the most fashionable in Paris, lined with chic cafes and restaurants. But late at night the area retains some of the dank atmosphere of bygone years, when it was a scruffy quartier populaire and often served as the setting for noir films and detective novels. In those pulp fiction tales, dark secrets emerge from the Canal Saint-Martin murk. The murder mystery in Georges Simenon’s Maigret and the Headless Corpse is set in motion when the police dredge up a dismembered body near the Quai de Valmy. No human remains were discovered during the 2016 cleaning, but workers did find a handgun in one of the northernmost locks. Later, officials announced that a rifle had also been found.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 12.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Almost every social-media platform offers its users an option to privatize their account—a way for people to control who engages with their content, often to avoid the judgment, schadenfreude, bullying, and snark that are ubiquitous online. Many of these options aren’t terribly helpful, though. Facebook seems to constantly adjust its privacy settings, and it can be difficult to tell what information your friends have access to. On TikTok, unless you want a fully private account, you have to select who can see each and every video before you post. And Twitter’s protected-Tweets feature isn’t ideal if you have a large following; the “Retweet” button may be disabled, but your followers can still screenshot and share what you post.

Instagram arguably edges out the competition with its Close Friends feature, which allows people to share Stories with a curated list of followers that is stored in their user settings. Though the app, with its recent attempts to mimic TikTok, has bred frustration and seems to be growing irrelevant among Gen Z, Close Friends is a corner of the platform that many still find useful. The feature’s advantage is that it mitigates the effects of what social scientists call “context collapse—the idea that on social, there’s a flattening of multiple audiences in one space,” Elia Powers, an associate professor in the mass-communication department at Towson University, told me. “It’s akin to being at a wedding and giving a speech to friends, parents, in-laws, and people you don’t know.” Jokes about your college exploits, for instance, won’t necessarily land with your Boomer relatives as they might with your best friends.

Beyond privacy, the feature sometimes has a deeper payoff: It provides an option to be heard and feel validated in a safe yet open space of your own creation. “Even on a group of so-called close friends, something feels more public … like you’re putting views out into the world and taking a stand in a way that feels different than sharing it with a private friend,” Adam Kleinbaum, an associate professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business who studies the relationship between social networks and echo chambers, told me. “A lot of us feel very strongly about things we see on the news and things we see in the world, and the ability to speak out in a way that feels public, but also safe, is maybe a good thing.”

Devra Thomas, a 44-year-old arts administrator in Wake Forest, North Carolina, told me that social media often feels like a performance to her. “We have become a world where unless we share it, it didn’t necessarily happen,” she said. This propensity to share publicly isn’t just about vanity, though. People want to believe that their voices resonate, especially when it comes to sensitive issues around politics or shifting cultural norms or even personal struggles. “How do we, as a culture, talk about things if we’re not willing to share those things?”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

One hundred and sixty years ago, in this magazine, Henry David Thoreau lamented that humankind was losing contact with nature. “Here is this vast, savage, hovering mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard,” he wrote, “and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man.”

The situation is undoubtedly worse today; after all, the percentage of Americans working outdoors fell from 90 percent at the beginning of the 19th century to less than 20 percent at the close of the 20th century. We show the same pattern in our pursuit of leisure: According to the Outdoor Foundation, Americans went on 1 billion fewer outings in nature in 2018 compared with 2008. Today, 85 percent of adults say they spent more time outside when they were kids than children do today.

Perhaps you know intuitively that this is bad news for happiness and health in general. But you might not have connected a lack of contact with nature with stress and anxiety in your own life. If you are falling away from nature, you are almost certainly lowering your well-being and increasing your unhappiness. The remaining weeks of summer are a perfect opportunity to turn things around and get a fresh start in the fresh air.

The trend away from nature over the past few centuries, and especially the past few decades, has straightforward explanations. To begin with, the world’s population has urbanized, so nature is less at hand. According to U.S. census data, 6.1 percent of the American population resided in urban areas in 1800; in 2000, 79 percent did. Second, no matter where we live, technology is displacing the outdoors in our attention: A 2017 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives noted that screen time is rising rapidly for all age groups—adults averaged 10 hours and 39 minutes a day in 2016—even as hunting, fishing, camping, and children’s outdoor play have declined substantially.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 12.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 12.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The worst place to be in Los Angeles during rush hour is the Sepulveda Pass, where a ten-lane segment of the 405 freeway runs through a mountain range. In 2016, Tesla’s Elon Musk was stuck there one day when he conjured up the idea to “start digging” the 16 or so miles from his Bel Air mansion to the headquarters of his rocket company, SpaceX, in Hawthorne, a small city near LAX. Two years later, hundreds of people voluntarily drove themselves to the Sepulveda Pass on a Thursday evening to watch Musk publicly unveil his plan to burrow a tunnel underneath the freeway that would end, in his words, “soul-destroying traffic.”

The audience gathered at the Leo Baeck Temple that night, many of them young men wearing hoodies branded with Tesla and SpaceX, saw two empty chairs on a small stage. Between them was a silver stool with a plastic pineapple that housed a snail named Gary, after the SpongeBob SquarePants character, an excavation expert who served as the Boring Company’s mascot. Nearly a half-hour after the designated starting time, Musk and the Boring Company’s president, Steve Davis, finally joined Gary onstage. Musk apologized. Traffic, he said to laughter. “The reason we were late is that we were stuck on the 405.”

His pitch deck — first shown during an April 2017 TED talk — depicted a city block where Teslas could pull into parking spaces and be lowered underground on shiny silver lifts that could also, somehow, propel the vehicles along tracks through cavernous subterranean spaces. The animation then zoomed out to reveal hundreds of Teslas, all traveling along the familiar curves of freeways, only underground, and navigating directly to their destination at top speeds, as Musk claimed, of 130 mph.

Musk has never once proposed a mere tunnel. What he has proposed are infinite tunnels, a “3-D network of tunnels to alleviate congestion.” What Musk was officially selling the Sepulveda Pass audience was dozens and dozens of tunnels, stacked in layers below the city like a human habitrail. “Highways are at the outer limit of their capacity,” said Musk, as Gary the snail oozed beside him in agreement. “For tunnels, you can have hundreds of lanes. There’s no real limit.” No one that night asked how, say, building ten lanes of far more expensive tunnels would be any different than building ten lanes of freeway, which is what L.A. had already tried right there on the 405, spending $1.3 billion in 2013 to add one extra lane in each direction. It ended up luring so many more cars that it made rush-hour travel times even longer.

Instead, someone asked, via a preapproved question: When the tunnels were finished, would there be a party? Yes, Musk said. Everyone cheered.

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

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News 12.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When the Taliban walked into the capital of Afghanistan on Aug. 15, 2021, America’s longest war came to an end. The vacuum left by the exit of U.S. troops forced tens of thousands of Afghans to flee. Some were evacuated by Western nations. Others escaped on foot. For many Afghan women, the Taliban takeover spelled the end of the freedoms they had enjoyed for two decades.

One year on, thousands of women are scattered across the world. For this project, a global team of female journalists and photographers spent time with eight individuals who are building new lives, from the beaches of Florida to the suburbs of Dublin.

Starting anew has not been easy. They ache for their homeland and their loved ones, unsure when they will see them again beyond their cell-phone screens. At night, they often return to Afghanistan in their dreams. They are wrestling with new identities, spending their days learning new languages and exchanging their Afghan air force uniforms for restaurant aprons.

In a country where nearly two-thirds of the population is under 25 years old, members of Afghanistan’s young generation particularly flourished during the U.S. and NATO’s war against the Taliban, which had ruled the country in the late 1990s before being ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001. The international community encouraged women to chase their dreams, be emboldened by the end of the repressive rule many of those same women had known as children.

When the final U.S. troops withdrew in a chaotic exit last summer, Afghan women saw their hard-won gains evaporate overnight. Despite promising to honor women’s rights “within Islam,” the Taliban has intensified its crackdowns-—just as Afghan activists had long warned.

The Taliban has banned high school for girls, placed restrictions on women working and traveling abroad, and ordered that women stay at home—and that, if they must go out, they cover their entire body and face except for their eyes. The regime has closed almost all shelters for women fleeing violence, and domestic violence is now sharply on the rise. It disbanded the ministry for women’s affairs and suppressed women’s demonstrations. The number of child marriages is surging, and women are increasingly committing suicide.

The Afghan women who managed to get out are the lucky ones, but they feel betrayed by a world that promised to stand by them. They mourn the loss of freedoms that reverberates across their nation and several generations.

These are women who once were full of optimism about the future of their country. They joined Afghanistan’s security forces, or became educators, artists, and activists. Now they are free and safe. But they are also far from the homes they love, and the futures they deserve.

Read the rest of this article at: Time

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