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News 17.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 17.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 17.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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The precise location of Freya the Walrus’s birth is not known, but it is thought that she was born somewhere in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, which is about halfway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole. It’s a cold and unforgiving environment, around 60 per cent of which is covered in glaciers, while the islands feature numerous mountains and fjords. The place is home to only 3,000 people but around 2,000 walruses.

The effects of climate change have been particularly noticeable in Svalbard. Between 1970 and 2020, the average temperature there rose by four degrees Celsius, and by seven degrees in the winter months. This has caused ice to melt and, for walruses like Freya, an increase in competition for food. It is believed that this is what first prompted Freya to leave Svalbard and journey south in search of her fishy fortunes.

Freya was first sighted by humans back in 2019 – distinguishable by a lovely pink spot on her nose, unusually small tusks, and an old injury, likely the result of a scrap with a fellow walrus. However, she gained her name after flopping onto a Dutch (coincidentally named) Walrus-class submarine. There, basking in the sun, she was dubbed Freya, after Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and beauty. A more apt name she couldn’t have received.

In the years that followed, Freya was spotted in several locations; off the coasts of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, where she was the first walrus to visit the country in over 23 years. Freya even came to the UK: first Northumberland, and just a month later, the island of Vementry in Shetland. As she travelled, she developed a fandom, igniting headlines wherever she went. But it wasn’t until this summer that her popularity really reached its zenith.

Read the rest of this article at: Dazed

News 17.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 17.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A new memoir on the unfinished sexual revolution explores the difficulty of enacting one’s political beliefs in intimate spaces.

When the activist and writer Ellen Willis published “Toward a Feminist Sexual Revolution” in 1982, the preposition in her title underscored an uncomfortable truth: The sexual revolution had come and (mostly) gone and left women largely unsatisfied. On the one hand, the ’60s and ’70s had ushered in real, tangible gains. Contraception and abortion had been legalized; the stigmas surrounding casual and extramarital sex had lessened. For women, there weren’t as many punishments for daring to have sex as there had been before. Still, the rewards hadn’t entirely materialized, either. Willis is chiefly remembered today for defining the concept of pro-sex feminism, refusing to condemn pornography—as many feminists did—and espousing the radical idea that “sexual love in its most passionate sense is as basic to happiness as food is to life.” But the new “liberated” sexuality, Willis noted in the early ’80s, was “often depressingly shallow, exploitative, and joyless.” True sexual liberation, she argued, would involve “not only the abolition of restrictions, but the positive presence of social and psychological conditions that foster satisfying sexual relations. And from that standpoint, this culture is still deeply repressive.”

Willis published that essay almost exactly 40 years ago, and it’s hard to argue that either the sex or the culture is functioning much better than it was then. Sex has certainly been destigmatized, even wholly atomized into the mass culture around us. (Pornhub gets billions of visits a month; Netflix has a whole slate of sex-themed programming, including the sweetly raunchy teen comedy Sex Education and the attention-seeking home-renovation series How to Build a Sex Room.) The overturning of Roe v. Wade, though, has imposed unforgiving consequences for many people who become pregnant, and well-intentioned sex positivity seems, on its own, inadequate in addressing a modern epidemic of shallow, exploitative, and joyless sex. In her 2021 book, The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century, the Oxford philosopher Amia Srinivasan observes how her students, reared in a world of ubiquitous online gangbangs and sexualized violence, are innately drawn to the anti-porn ideologies of the 1970s radical feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon instead of the ideas championed by Willis and her sex-positive peers.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

The capital of South Korea makes a good first impression, not least with its infrastructure. This May, Seoul’s ever-expanding subway system opened another addition, an extension of the Shinbundang Line that connects four existing stations. The northernmost, Sinsa, lies in an area popularly associated with South Korea’s world-renowned cosmetic-surgery industry. (In search of coffee there one morning, I passed up the three or four closest cafés, intimidated by their location inside the clinics themselves.) The southernmost, Gangnam, needs no introduction. On one platform wall, a large and somewhat amateurish mural pays homage to the pop star Park Jae-sang, better known as Psy, whose viral hit “Gangnam Style” introduced the eponymous section of Seoul to the world ten years ago.

Psy was not an obvious pop-cultural ambassador. At the time of the release of “Gangnam Style,” he was a thirty-four-year-old Berklee College of Music dropout unknown outside Korea and censured more than once in Korea for both his musical content and personal conduct. The singer-rapper-jokester seemed to exist in a reality apart from K-pop, with its impeccably turned-out young performers, organized into boy bands and girl groups precision-engineered for international appeal. Yet it was he—not 2NE1, not SHINee, not Wonder Girls, not Big Bang—who finally cracked the West. (The global phenomenon that is BTS wouldn’t officially début until the following year.) Even more surprisingly, Psy did it with what amounted to a Korean inside joke: his big hit lampoons the garish and culturally incongruous pretensions of Seoul’s nouveau riche, a class in evidence nowhere more so than Gangnam.

Psy once likened Gangnam to “the Beverly Hills of Korea,” which conveys the area’s associations with wealth and fame but downplays its size. In the most literal sense, Gangnam constitutes half of Seoul: the word means “south of the river”—that is, the Han River that runs through the city in the manner of the Seine or the Thames. Below the Han is a ward of the city, called Gangnam, which is nearly three times the size of Beverly Hills. Korean television dramas make near-perpetual use of its high-society signifiers: skyscrapers, luxury boutiques, night clubs, streets full of imported cars. But, as recently as the early nineteen-seventies, the place was nothing but farmland. Gangnam’s urbanization rushed down lines laid out by South Korea’s military government in the late nineteen-sixties, a process that enriched the owners of the former agricultural expanse. “Gangnam Style” shows a keen awareness of the chonsereoum (a rustic dowdiness, literally “village likeness”) beneath the quasi-cosmopolitan flash.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 17.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 17.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In January, 2000, during the run-up to the New Hampshire primaries, Presidential candidates in the Granite State were confronted by a young man—a recent Dartmouth graduate—wearing a red cape, orange long johns, and yellow-painted galoshes. He called himself Captain Climate, and asked any candidate within shouting distance, “What’s your plan?” All the candidates ignored him, except one.

That candidate was John McCain, then the senior United States senator from Arizona. McCain went on to win New Hampshire’s Republican primary and then to lose the nomination to George W. Bush. He had been troubled enough by the shouted question that he returned to Washington that spring and held a series of hearings on climate change. At the first hearing, he apologized for not having a plan to deal with the problem, but said that everyone—especially policymakers—should be “concerned about mounting evidence.” “I had a genuine sense that he wanted to know the best information,” Kevin Trenberth, a scientist from the National Center for Atmospheric Research who testified at one of the hearings, later recalled.

McCain then did come up with a plan. With Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, he introduced a bill to impose an economy-wide limit on carbon-dioxide emissions. The Climate Stewardship Act, as it became known, was modelled on legislation that had been approved a decade earlier, under President George H. W. Bush, which had used a so-called cap-and-trade program to curb the emissions that cause acid rain. In 2003, McCain managed to force a floor vote on the bill, over the objections of Senate leaders. It failed, even though McCain and five other Republicans voted for it. Ten Democrats voted against it. (Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was a “yea.”) McCain said, “We’ve lost a big battle today, but we’ll win over time, because climate change is real.”

Last week, the Senate finally approved a bill that aims to limit carbon emissions—the Inflation Reduction Act. It has been called “the most important climate action in U.S. history,” which is certainly true; the act provides more than three hundred and fifty billion dollars—mostly in the form of tax credits—to promote clean energy. This time, the vote was strictly along party lines: all fifty Democrats voted for it, all fifty Republicans against it. (Vice-President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote.) On Friday, the House passed the bill, also with no Republican votes. These days, it seems practically every vote in Congress is along party lines, so the votes on the I.R.A. weren’t considered surprising. But they should have been.

As a problem, climate change is as bipartisan as it gets: it will have equally devastating effects in red states as in blue. Last week, even as Kentucky’s two Republican senators—Rand Paul and the Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell—were voting against the I.R.A., rescuers in their state were searching for the victims of catastrophic floods caused by climate-change-supercharged rain. Meanwhile, most of Texas, whose two G.O.P. senators—Ted Cruz and John Cornyn—also voted against the bill, was suffering under “extreme” or “exceptional” drought.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 17.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Romans enslaved people, enforced a rigid patriarchy, and delighted in the spectacle of prisoners being tortured at the Colosseum. Top minds of the ancient Western world—luminaries such as Aristotle, whose works are still taught in undergraduate lectures today—defended slavery as an entirely natural and proper practice. Indeed, from the dawn of the agricultural era to the 19th century, slavery was ubiquitous across the world. It’s hard to understand how our predecessors could have been so horrifically wrong.

We have made real progress since then. Though still very far from perfect, society is in many respects considerably more humane and just than it once was. But why should anyone think this journey of moral progress is close to complete? Given humanity’s track record, we almost certainly are, like our forebears, committing grave moral mistakes at this very moment. When future generations look back on us, they might see us like we see the Romans. Contemplating our potential moral wrongdoing is a challenging exercise: It requires us to perceive and scrutinize everything that humanity does.

Some of our sins are obvious with even a small amount of reflection. Take, for example, how we treat incarcerated people. Unlike the Romans, we mostly no longer stage the suffering of prisoners as public spectacle. Still, we subject them to conditions—such as extended solitary confinement—that enlightened future generations will likely regard with horror. The massive harm we inflict on incarcerated people (and their innocent families) is often greater than the harm inflicted by beating and caning—practices we’ve rightly left behind.

Or consider how we treat animals. Every year, humanity slaughters 80 billion land animals to satisfy our culinary preferences. Most of these are chickens, and their lives are miserable: Male chicks of layer hens are gassed, ground up, or thrown into the garbage, where they either die of thirst or suffocate to death; female chicks have their sensitive beaks cut off, and most are confined to cages that are smaller than a letter-size piece of paper. On average, a regular meal containing chicken or eggs costs at least 10 torturous hours of a chicken’s life—and more chickens will be killed within the next two years than the number of all humans who have ever lived. Similarly, pigs are castrated and have their tails amputated, and farmed cattle are castrated, dehorned, and branded with a hot iron—all without anesthetic. If animals matter at all, our treatment of them is a crime of epic proportions.

These ethical failures share a pattern. Disenfranchised and marginalized groups—such as the global poor, incarcerated people, migrants wrested from their families by our immigration system, and even humble farm animals—are out of sight and out of mind. Future generations will observe how we hid these groups from society’s gaze, allowing ourselves to ignore their basic interests. This is not a new point. But there’s another dimension that’s less discussed. When future people look back on us, they are bound to notice our disregard for another disenfranchised group: them.

Future generations can’t vote in our elections, or speak across time and urge us to act differently. They are voiceless. It’s easy to imagine that in the year 2300, our descendants will look back on us and deplore our failure to take their interests into account. And the stakes of this potential failure are incredibly high. Because of the sheer number of future people, and because their well-being is so utterly neglected, I’ve come to believe that protecting future generations should be a key moral priority of our time. When we consider which groups we’re neglecting, it’s all too easy to forget about most people who will likely ever live.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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