News 22.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 22.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 22.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 22.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Google’s aesthetic has always been rooted in a clean appearance—a homepage free of advertising and pop-up clutter, adorned only with a signature “doodle” decorating its name. Part of why many users love Google is its sleek designs and ability to return remarkably accurate results. Yet the simplicity of Google’s homepage is deceptively static. Over time, the way that the corporation returns information has shifted ever so slightly. These incremental changes go largely unnoticed by the millions of users who rely on the search engine daily, but it has fundamentally changed the information seeking processes—and not necessarily for the better.

When Google first launched, queries returned a simple list of hyperlinked websites. Slowly, that format changed. First Google launched AdWords, allowing businesses to buy space at the top and tailoring returns to maximize product placement. By the early 2000s it was correcting spelling, providing summaries of the news under the headlines, and anticipating our queries with autocomplete. In 2007 it started Universal Search, bringing together relevant information across formats (news, images, video). And in 2012 it introduced Knowledge Graph, providing a snapshot that sits separate from the returns, a source of knowledge that many of us have come to rely on exclusively when it comes to quick searches.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 22.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 22.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Here in Aspen, the air is thin, the snow is perfect, and money is everywhere. This is a singular American town in many respects. Among them is this: Aspen had, until very recently, two legitimate daily newspapers, The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News. At a moment when local newspapers face manifold threats to their existence and more and more American cities become news deserts, Aspen was the opposite: a news geyser. The town’s corps of reporters covers small-town tropes like high-school musicals and the Fourth of July parade. But Aspen’s journalists are also the watchdogs and chroniclers of one of the richest towns in America and a site of extreme economic inequality, the exemplar of the phenomenon that academics call “super-gentrification,” where—as the locals often say—“the billionaires are forcing out the millionaires.”

I joined The Aspen Times as an editor in 2014, after a seven-year tenure at the Aspen Daily News. The Times has published since 1881, when Aspen was a silver-mining boomtown, through its postwar rebirth as a ski resort, and now as the home of ideas festivals, wine festivals, $50 entrees, and an awe-inspiring collection of private jets, many owned by billionaires deeply concerned about climate change. The paper, which was based for much of its history in a purple-painted building between a drugstore and the Hotel Jerome, developed a reputation for shoe-leather reporting and accountability journalism.

On Thanksgiving 2021, the start of ski season, the Times editorial team numbered 13, including four reporters who had been covering our town since at least the 1990s. We were treated well by our parent company, Swift Communications. Our paper was profitable, owing largely to real-estate advertising. We seemed to be a safe harbor for small-town journalists.

We were wrong.

My story is populated by blue bloods and thin-skinned billionaires, including the owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a litigious Soviet-born developer, and the wealthy cousin of a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Its drama unfolds in a superficially idyllic mountain community where a 1969 mayoral candidate’s slogan, “Sell Aspen or Save It,” still sums up its core conflict. (The following year, Hunter S. Thompson mounted his “Freak Power” campaign for sheriff; upon losing, he gave a concession speech at the Hotel Jerome in a Founding Father–style wig. “I proved what I set out to prove,” he said, “that the American Dream really is fucked.”)

Aspen is strange, but this is a story that could actually take place anywhere. It’s about what happens to the public interest when billionaires collide, and when newsrooms are bullied into suppressing coverage by people with great mountains of money and battalions of lawyers. And it speaks to a deepening crisis for the free press, which has been comprehensively betrayed in Aspen.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

In October 2021, Facebook announced a massive pivot, changing its name to Meta and going all in on augmented and virtual reality through a futuristic vision of the internet called the metaverse. In fact, the strategy had been taking shape gradually for years, with help from a seemingly frivolous product feature on Instagram. Face filters that add puppy ears to your hairline or make your lips appear bigger sit on a sophisticated technical infrastructure for AR and VR that the company, which owns Instagram as well as WhatsApp, has built to support such effects. Thousands of creators have contributed filters free of charge, and the millions of people around the world who use the feature each day have provided Meta with troves of data.

The little research that exists about digital beauty culture has found that visual platforms like Instagram, which rely on AI recommendation algorithms, are narrowing beauty standards at a stunningly rapid pace. Through filters, they’re also helping users achieve those ideals—though only in the digital world. There is evidence that excessive use of these filters online has harmful effects on mental health, especially for young girls. “Instagram face” is a recognized aesthetic template: ethnically ambiguous and featuring the flawless skin, big eyes, full lips, small nose, and perfectly contoured curves made accessible in large part by filters.

But behind every filter is a person dragging lines and shifting shapes on a computer screen to achieve the desired look. Beauty may be subjective, and yet society continues to promote stringent, unattainable ideals that—for women and girls—are disproportionately white, slender, and feminine.

Read the rest of this article at: MIT Technology Review


News 22.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It was nighttime in Atlantic City. A man with a tight Afro and a broken ankle hobbled on crutches toward the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. On the covered driveway, bathed in neon light, sat a Cadillac Allanté convertible—the grand prize in Trump’s 1987 Drive-In Dreamstakes. The contest had been designed by Charles (Chuck) Seidman, a gregarious, boundlessly enthusiastic pitchman who called his business C.B.S.—short for C. B. Seidman Marketing Group—in the hope that the television station would sue him, giving him free publicity.

By the late eighties, America was in the grip of a sweepstakes mania. The industry had grown to an estimated value of a billion dollars, and every company, from Toys R Us to Wonder Bread, seemed to be running giveaways and promotions. Even Harvard University’s alumni magazine was offering ten thousand dollars in Sony electronics. C.B.S. had a unique business proposition: it would come up with the promotion, print the entry forms, and even deliver the prizes. Brands hoping to capitalize on America’s obsession would pay C.B.S. one fee for a turnkey operation.

One of those brands was Donald Trump. To entice larger crowds to his flagship casino, he had built a thirty-million-dollar parking garage. But not enough people were using it. Seidman suggested printing half a million promotional parking tickets. If visitors collected enough validation stickers, in the right combination, they could win prizes, including Walkmans, cash, an “Eternity of Vacations,” or even a Cadillac.

The Allanté cost fifty-five thousand dollars, about as much as a family home in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, where James Parker, the man on crutches, lived. Parker was a hypnotist and a magician, and he spoke with a stutter. He greeted the parking attendant and handed over his ticket. “Look, why don’t you play?” the attendant said. “You only need one more sticker. Who knows. You might win!”

The attendant applied the final sticker, scratched off the gold coating, and offered his commiserations. Then he did a double take—Parker had won. He was ushered into a promotional booth, and, over the next twenty-four hours, Trump’s P.R. machine began to whir. The attendant reappeared wearing a tuxedo. A photographer from the Trump Today newspaper popped a flashbulb. Parker held up the key and tried not to overdo his excitement. Those were his orders.

Parker was no lucky winner. He was part of a staggering scam that involved some of the biggest brands of the eighties: Ford, Holiday Inn, Nabisco, Royal Desserts. If you entered a sweepstakes competition in those years, it was likely run by C.B.S. You had no chance of winning—Seidman had built a sprawling network of “paper winners,” including a kung-fu master and a pet psychic, who helped him steal millions of dollars in cash and prizes, pulling off the biggest sweepstakes fraud the country had ever seen.

Chuck Seidman got into sweepstakes because they were the family business. During the sixties, as a teen-ager, he went to work at his father’s promotions company, in Philadelphia. Jack Seidman had been a communications expert with the Army’s Signal Corps during the Second World War, and had pioneered the rub-off game card, using gold leaf to conceal a prize message. His company, Spot-O-Gold, created early lottery games for 7-Eleven and Kellogg’s, and swiftly dominated the sweepstakes market. He hoped to hand down his business to his son.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 22.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A great upheaval is coming. Climate-driven movement of people is adding to a massive migration already under way to the world’s cities. The number of migrants has doubled globally over the past decade, and the issue of what to do about rapidly increasing populations of displaced people will only become greater and more urgent. To survive climate breakdown will require a planned and deliberate migration of a kind humanity has never before undertaken.

The world already sees twice as many days where temperatures exceed 50C than 30 years ago – this level of heat is deadly for humans, and also hugely problematic for buildings, roads and power stations. It makes an area unliveable. This explosive planetary drama demands a dynamic human response. We need to help people to move from danger and poverty to safety and comfort – to build a more resilient global society for everyone’s benefit.

Large populations will need to migrate, and not simply to the nearest city, but also across continents. Those living in regions with more tolerable conditions, especially nations in northern latitudes, will need to accommodate millions of migrants while themselves adapting to the demands of the climate crisis. We will need to create entirely new cities near the planet’s cooler poles, in land that is rapidly becoming ice-free. Parts of Siberia, for example, are already experiencing temperatures of 30C for months at a time.

Arctic areas are burning, with mega-blazes devouring Siberia, Greenland and Alaska. Even in January, peat fires were burning in the Siberian cryosphere, despite temperatures below –50C. These zombie fires smoulder year round in the peat below ground, in and around the Arctic Circle, only to burst into huge blazes that rage across the boreal forests of Siberia, Alaska and Canada.

In 2019, colossal fires destroyed more than 4m hectares of Siberian taiga forest, blazing for more than three months, and producing a cloud of soot and ash as large as the countries that make up the entire European Union. Models predict that fires in the boreal forests and Arctic tundra will increase by up to four times by 2100.

Wherever you live now, migration will affect you and the lives of your children. It is predictable that Bangladesh, a country where one-third of the population lives along a sinking, low-lying coast, is becoming uninhabitable. (More than 13 million Bangladeshis – nearly 10% of the population – are expected to have left the country by 2050.) But in the coming decades wealthy nations will be severely affected, too.

This upheaval occurs not only at a time of unprecedented climate change but also of human demographic change. Global population will continue to rise in the coming decades, peaking at perhaps 10 billion in the 2060s. Most of this increase will be in the tropical regions that are worst hit by climate catastrophe, causing people there to flee northwards. The global north faces the opposite problem – a “top-heavy” demographic crisis, in which a large elderly population is supported by a too-small workforce. North America and Europe have 300 million people above the traditional retirement age (65+), and by 2050, the economic old-age dependency ratio there is projected to be at 43 elderly persons per 100 working persons aged 20–64. Cities from Munich to Buffalo will begin competing with each other to attract migrants.

The coming migration will involve the world’s poorest fleeing deadly heatwaves and failed crops. It will also include the educated, the middle class, people who can no longer live where they planned because it’s impossible to get a mortgage or property insurance; because employment has moved elsewhere. The climate crisis has already uprooted millions in the US – in 2018, 1.2 million were displaced by extreme conditions, fire, storms and flooding; by 2020, the annual toll had risen to 1.7 million people. The US now averages a $1bn disaster every 18 days.

More than half of the western US is facing extreme drought conditions, and farmers in Oregon’s Klamath Basin talk about illegally using force to open dam gates for irrigation. At the other extreme, fatal floods have stranded thousands of people from Death Valley to Kentucky. By 2050, half a million existing US homes will be on land that floods at least once a year, according to data from Climate Central, a partnership of scientists and journalists. Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles has already been allocated $48m of federal tax dollars to move the entire community due to coastal erosion and rising sea levels; in Britain, the Welsh villagers of Fairbourne have been told their homes should be abandoned to the encroaching sea as the entire village is to be “decommissioned” in 2045. Larger coastal cities are at risk, too. Consider that the Welsh capital, Cardiff, is projected to be two-thirds underwater by 2050.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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