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News 28.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the days before the pandemic, when I visited the Museum of Modern Art, I would stop at Mrs. Fields. Mrs. Fields does not have the best cookies, especially in a city teeming with boutique bakeries. But getting a snack there was never about the quality of the food itself. A Mrs. Fields cookie summons up a weekend in the early 1990s when my parents would pack me and my siblings into our Volvo station wagon and drive us half an hour over state lines to the mall in Stamford, Connecticut. There, my mom would peruse high-end stores that didn’t have locations in our hometown, while my dad would take us kids to buy cookies and eat them on the steps that formed the mall’s gathering spot.

You could tell the story of many suburban childhoods through a progression of visits to such anodyne shopping centers. Once I was old enough to go to malls on my own, I met up with friends at the two main ones in White Plains, the New York City suburb where I grew up: the Galleria, where I got my ears pierced at Claire’s, and the Westchester, a shiny new beacon whose upscale nature was reflected in the fact that it had carpeting. By the time I moved away for college, I was over the world I left behind. When people asked where I was from, I’d answer, “a soulless suburb of New York City with no culture but lots of malls.”

I haven’t spent much time in shopping centers since—partly by choice, partly through circumstance. Malls have been struggling in one way or another since the 1990s, thanks to a slew of factors: a glut of such shopping centers, the replacement of department stores with big-box ones, recessions, the rise of the internet, and a new generation of mega-developer owners who are more cutthroat about their bottom lines. Even before the pandemic, which made gathering indoors dangerous, fewer Americans were whiling away their weekends and after-school hours at the mall. Yet for so many of us, the image of a sunlit atrium crossed by steadily gliding escalators, with a Bath & Body Works looming in the background, evokes a deep nostalgia. Like how, the minute I walk by a Mrs. Fields and smell that intoxicating scent of butter, sugar, and chocolate, my defenses drop.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Republic

News 28.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 28.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Jorge Vega Hernández, a mechanical engineer working in northwestern Spain, returned from a business trip and started to feel sick. It was March, 2020—the beginning of the pandemic—and so he called a government help line. He was told that he might have the coronavirus and that he should stay home. But, without leaving the house for a test, Hernández couldn’t get proof of his illness—and, without that proof, he had no excuse for not coming into work. A week after he got sick, he said, his company fired him. (The firm cited “insufficient” job performance as the motive.)

Alone and newly jobless during lockdown, Hernández, who was thirty-two at the time, considered his life. He was an engineer with expertise in the automotive industry, so finding a new position wouldn’t be difficult. But he didn’t want just any new job. He wanted to work for a company that treated workers decently. His girlfriend, who lived in the Basque region of northern Spain, suggested that he consider a position within a group of worker-owned coöperatives there called Mondragon.

The Mondragon Corporation, as it’s known, is a voluntary association of ninety-five autonomous coöperatives that differs radically from a conventional company. Each co-op’s highest-paid executive makes at most six times the salary of its lowest-paid employee. There are no outside shareholders; instead, after a temporary contract, new workers who have proved themselves may become member-owners of their co-ops. A managing director acts as a kind of C.E.O. within each co-op, but the members themselves vote on many vital decisions about strategy, salaries, and policy, and the votes of all members, whether they are senior management or blue-collar, count equally.

When individual coöperatives do well, their members share in the profits. When times are hard, the coöperatives collectively support one another, sharing funds and reallocating workers among themselves to preserve jobs. During the pandemic, workers at many Mondragon co-ops voted to temporarily reduce their own salaries or hours until markets recovered; people who felt sick were trusted and encouraged to stay home. The treatment Hernández said he received when he was fired would be almost impossible within Mondragon, since worker-owners must vote to dismiss one another, and this can occur only in cases of very severe misconduct.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

On 1 February 2021, reporter Ko Zin Lin Htet received a panicked phone call from a source in Yangon, Myanmar’s most populous city. The caller said the military had seized power and was arresting opposition politicians, then hung up. Ko Zin Lin Htet remembered what he did next: “I checked my phone and my internet connection. There was nothing there.”

He got on his motorbike and drove to the parliament, where he saw military personnel, not police, guarding the buildings. At that moment, Ko Zin Lin Htet realised there had been a coup – and that by cutting internet access, the new junta had thrown the country back into the pre-internet era.

For months the military had been questioning the results of the November 2020 election, won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. The coup took place on the day the new parliament was due to be sworn in.

In the early hours of the morning, the junta had sent soldiers to the country’s internet providers to force engineers to shut down connections to the outside world. It was the first stage of a digital coup designed to exert control over communications by slowing and strategically shutting off the internet.

Nathan Maung was another Burmese journalist who recalls the confusion and disbelief on the day of the military takeover. “The internet was out.” He looked for his most recent texts – “The last messages from my friends said, ‘Shit happened’. I have no clue what shit happened.”

The whole country had been plunged into an information black hole.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 28.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 28.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

At one in the morning, several hours before fishing boats launch, François Habiyambere, a wholesale fish dealer in Rubavu, in northwest Rwanda, sets out to harvest ice. In the whole country, there is just one machine that makes the kind of light, snowy flakes of ice needed to cool the tilapia that, at this hour, are still swimming through the dreams of the fish farmers who supply Habiyambere’s business. Flake ice, with its soft edges and fluffy texture, swaddles seafood like a blanket, hugging, without crushing, its delicate flesh. The flake-ice machine was bought secondhand a few years ago from a Nile-perch processing plant in Uganda. A towering, rusted contraption, it sits behind a gas station on the main road into the southeastern market town of Rusizi, on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its daily output would almost fill a typical restaurant dumpster, which is considerably less than the amount required by the five fishmongers who use it.

“The first one who comes gets enough,” Habiyambere told me when I accompanied him one day in May. “The rest do not.” He said this in a tone of quiet resignation. The machine is five and a half hours’ drive south of where he lives, which is why his workday begins in the middle of the night. He rides in one of the country’s few refrigerated trucks, driven by a solid, handsome twenty-eight-year-old named Jean de Dieu Umugenga, and laden with spring onions and carrots bound for market. The route is twisty and Umugenga swings around the hairpin bends with panache, shifting in his seat with each gear change, while twangy inanga music plays on the radio.

Sometime after 3 a.m., cyclists start to appear. All over rural Rwanda, sinewy young men set out from their homes on heavy steel single-speed bikes that are almost invisible beneath comically oversized loads: bunches of green bananas strapped together onto cargo racks; sacks of tomatoes piled two or three high; dozens of live chickens stacked in pyramids of beaks and feathers; bundles of cassava leaves so massive that, in the predawn light, it looks as though shrubbery is rolling along the side of the road. Over the next four or five hours, as the heat of the day sets in, gradually wilting the cassava leaves and softening the tomatoes, these men will cover hundreds of miles, carrying food from the countryside to sell in markets in the capital, Kigali.

Rwanda is known as Le Pays des Mille Collines, “land of a thousand hills,” but there must be at least ten thousand, their lush, green terraced slopes rising steeply out of a sea of early-morning mist that fills the valleys below. The cyclists coast down each hill and then dismount to push their bikes up the next. When they reach a paved road, some of them may manage to catch a ride hanging on to the back of Umugenga’s truck.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 28.08.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In April of last year, America’s largest beer company, Molson Coors, acquired a minority stake in a Wilmington, North Carolina, brewery called TRU Colors. The brewery, which was started in 2017, had yet to produce any commercially available beer. But it is what people in the corporate world call mission-driven: its stated aim is to reduce gang violence by employing members of rival gangs. The C.E.O. of Molson Coors, Gavin Hattersley, suggested that the company’s investment was connected to soul-searching prompted by the nationwide protests for racial justice in 2020. “This partnership represents an opportunity to not only invest in what we believe will be a successful business, but also in a brand with a strong social justice presence that will have an immeasurable positive impact on hundreds of lives,” he said.

The founder of TRU Colors is a white entrepreneur named George William Bagby Taylor, Jr. His business model is based, at least in part, on views shared by many experts: that the rise of Black street gangs is related to the disappearance of working-class jobs in American cities, and that the refusal of employers to hire people with criminal records has perpetuated joblessness in heavily policed neighborhoods. Companies elsewhere have put former gang members to work packaging tuna and making vintage-inspired collegiate wear; most notably, Homeboy Industries, which was founded by a Jesuit priest named Greg Boyle, in Los Angeles, has employed hundreds of former gang members at a bakery, a grocery, and other businesses.

Boyle began by creating a job-training program, and four years passed before his organization launched its first retail venture. Homeboy Industries remains a nonprofit, and requires that anyone seeking employment leave gang life behind. Taylor took a different approach. He recruited purported gang leaders in Wilmington, and said that he wanted them to remain active in their gangs, in order to maintain their influence. TRU Colors is a private, for-profit enterprise. “Our first goal is to sell beer,” Taylor told a reporter, in 2018. He has said that he aims to sell the company, as he has sold other startups.

Three months after Molson’s investment, on an early morning in July, Taylor got a phone call: there had been a shooting at his son’s house. George William Bagby Taylor III, who is in his early thirties, was the C.O.O. of TRU Colors. He lives in a large, white-columned home in a gated community called Providence. When his father got to the house that morning, Taylor III was in his underwear, in handcuffs, in the back of a squad car. The police had discovered him barricaded in a bathroom with a pair of guns, one of which, according to a search warrant, he’d found in a bedroom where “multiple gang members had been living.” Two people were dead: Koredreese Tyson, who was twenty-nine, and Bri-yanna Williams, who was twenty-one. Both were Black. Tyson was employed by TRU Colors and was a member of the Gangster Disciples.

The sheriff’s office quickly came to believe that the murders were gang-related, and that Taylor III was not directly involved. (The sheriff declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.) Still, Williams’s family was convinced that the Taylors bore some responsibility for her death. “You take a lot of young kids from different areas of town, different gangs, different sets, knowing they don’t like each other, and put them in one building, and you’re paying them, and you want them to stay in the gang while working,” her brother, Malquan Dixon, said, incredulous, in an interview with local TV news. “You can’t live two lives like that. One has to go.” Williams’s mother, Adrian Dixon, addressed the elder Taylor directly. “You’re doing nothing but harming my community, somewhere that you don’t live,” she said.a

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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