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News 05.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 05.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 05.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 05.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Yesterday, the world got a look inside Elon Musk’s phone. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO is currently in litigation with Twitter and trying to back out of his deal to buy the platform and take it private. As part of the discovery process related to this lawsuit, Delaware’s Court of Chancery released hundreds of text messages and emails sent to and from Musk. The 151-page redacted document is a remarkable, voyeuristic record of a few months in the life of the world’s richest (and most overexposed) man and a rare unvarnished glimpse into the overlapping worlds of Silicon Valley, media, and politics. The texts are juicy, but not because they are lurid, particularly offensive, or offer up some scandalous Muskian master plan—quite the opposite. What is so illuminating about the Musk messages is just how unimpressive, unimaginative, and sycophantic the powerful men in Musk’s contacts appear to be. Whoever said there are no bad ideas in brainstorming never had access to Elon Musk’s phone.

In no time, the texts were the central subject of discussion among tech workers and watchers. “The dominant reaction from all the threads I’m in is Everyone looks fucking dumb,” one former social-media executive, whom I’ve granted anonymity because they have relationships with many of the people in Musk’s texts, told me. “It’s been a general Is this really how business is done? There’s no real strategic thought or analysis. It’s just emotional and done without any real care for consequence.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 05.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 05.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One of chess’s best-known grandmasters is considering a theory so outlandish that, until three weeks ago, it lurked only in the murkiest corners of the internet. “Vibrating anal beads?” says Simon Williams, a popular commentator known as Ginger GM. He pauses to consider the claims, amplified by Elon Musk, that a remote-controlled sex toy could help a player cheat. And then he delivers a withering dismissal. “It’s completely surreal,” he replies. “Laughable. Monty Pythonesque. It’s an interesting idea. But it’s not going to work.”

Tell that to the world’s media, who have reported every juicy twist and sordid allegation of chess’s cheating scandal ever since the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, quit the prestigious $500,000 (£447,000) Sinquefield Cup last month after losing to an American teenager, Hans Niemann.

Seemingly overnight, chess has become part soap opera, part whodunnit. Niemann, 19, insists he is willing to play naked to prove he is now “clean”, after admitting to cheating online when he was 12 and 16. However, Carlsen doesn’t believe him, and resigned after just one move when they faced each other again in a recent online tournament.

But as the story rumbles on, it tells something else too. Chess has radically changed. The fusty stereotype of a game played by socially awkward men and boys in draughty church halls and in pub rooms cloistered away from regular punters is no longer the norm. Instead we have entered a new era of chess: younger, hipper – even a little rock’n’roll.

Online, a new breed of glamorous chess “streamers” has sprung up, some of whom earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. Millions more are now playing and watching. Meanwhile, at the top level, stories abound of cheating, excessive drinking, groupies, even death threats – if not yet at the same time.

Much of this is down to Carlsen. The world’s best player for more than a decade, he is young (31), witty and whip-smart – and he has a hinterland outside the game. Carlsen used to model for G-Star Raw, came 10th out of 7.5 million players in the 2019 Fantasy Premier League competition, and is also a decent poker player. His company, Play Magnus Group, was recently sold for about $82m.

But another notable development in chess’s growth came at the end of 2017, when the biggest chess website, Chess.com, pivoted towards making the game an esport by partnering with the streaming platform Twitch. Then came the multiplier effects of the Covid lockdown and the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit, which sent chess’s popularity into the stratosphere. In August 2022 the popular and free website Lichess hosted more than 92m games – compared with 37m in August 2019 and 6m in August 2016.

“During the pandemic Chess.com was also incredibly smart in recruiting esports stars to play in a series of amateur tournaments called PogChamps,” says the grandmaster Daniel King, who also runs the YouTube channel Power Play Chess. “They became absolutely massive, and chess really crossed over.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m staring at a picture of a tanned woman in a swimsuit that doesn’t quite cover her nipples. This is an unexpected twist in my quest to track down and understand the daily challenges faced by the people who moderate spam on Twitter. But I’m not focusing on the picture. Instead my eye is drawn to the comment below. Here, another user has written, “Follow for follow.”

The comment has been sent to me by John, not his real name, who works on Twitter’s secretive “spam project.” According to him, if I were part of that team, my job would be to look at comments like this one and decide whether this account genuinely wants the woman in the swimsuit to follow them back, or whether they are trying to manipulate Twitter’s system and should be labeled as spam.

In the legal battle between Elon Musk and Twitter, the term “spam bots” has become key. Yet how Twitter finds spam and how it differentiates bots from humans remains vague. Musk has claimed that even Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal couldn’t explain the criteria used to define a bot. And the billionaire himself resorted to using a controversial free tool to detect and estimate the number of fake accounts on the platform. But legal documents allude to a mysterious group of moderators who are making calls on what is and isn’t spam on Twitter on a daily basis. To better understand the platform’s spam problem, I’ve made it my mission to track that team down.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 05.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 05.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Recently, after a week in which 2,789 Americans died of COVID-19, President Joe Biden proclaimed that “the pandemic is over.” Anthony Fauci described the controversy around the proclamation as a matter of “semantics,” but the facts we are living with can speak for themselves. COVID still kills roughly as many Americans every week as died on 9/11. It is on track to kill at least 100,000 a year—triple the typical toll of the flu. Despite gross undercounting, more than 50,000 infections are being recorded every day. The CDC estimates that 19 million adults have long COVID. Things have undoubtedly improved since the peak of the crisis, but calling the pandemic “over” is like calling a fight “finished” because your opponent is punching you in the ribs instead of the face.

American leaders and pundits have been trying to call an end to the pandemic since its beginning, only to be faced with new surges or variants. This mindset not only compromises the nation’s ability to manage COVID, but also leaves it vulnerable to other outbreaks. Future pandemics aren’t hypothetical; they’re inevitable and imminent. New infectious diseases have regularly emerged throughout recent decades, and climate change is quickening the pace of such events. As rising temperatures force animals to relocate, species that have never coexisted will meet, allowing the viruses within them to find new hosts—humans included. Dealing with all of this again is a matter of when, not if.

In 2018, I wrote an article in The Atlantic warning that the U.S. was not prepared for a pandemic. That diagnosis remains unchanged; if anything, I was too optimistic. America was ranked as the world’s most prepared country in 2019—and, bafflingly, again in 2021—but accounts for 16 percent of global COVID deaths despite having just 4 percent of the global population. It spends more on medical care than any other wealthy country, but its hospitals were nonetheless overwhelmed. It helped create vaccines in record time, but is 67th in the world in full vaccinations. (This trend cannot solely be attributed to political division; even the most heavily vaccinated blue state—Rhode Island—still lags behind 21 nations.) America experienced the largest life-expectancy decline of any wealthy country in 2020 and, unlike its peers, continued declining in 2021. If it had fared as well as just the average peer nation, 1.1 million people who died last year—a third of all American deaths—would still be alive.

America’s superlatively poor performance cannot solely be blamed on either the Trump or Biden administrations, although both have made egregious errors. Rather, the new coronavirus exploited the country’s many failing systems: its overstuffed prisons and understaffed nursing homes; its chronically underfunded public-health system; its reliance on convoluted supply chains and a just-in-time economy; its for-profit health-care system, whose workers were already burned out; its decades-long project of unweaving social safety nets; and its legacy of racism and segregation that had already left Black and Indigenous communities and other communities of color disproportionately burdened with health problems. Even in the pre-COVID years, the U.S. was still losing about 626,000 people more than expected for a nation of its size and resources. COVID simply toppled an edifice whose foundations were already rotten

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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News 05.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the heaving seas of the Southern Ocean, a small, red-hulled sailboat tossed and rolled, at the mercy of the tail end of a tempest. The boat’s mast was sheared away, its yellow sails sunk deep in the sea. Amid the wreckage of the cabin, Susie Goodall sloshed through water seeping in from the deck, which had cracked when a great wave somersaulted the boat end over end. She was freezing, having been lashed by ocean, rain, and wind. Her hands were raw and bloody. Except for the boat, her companion and home for the 15,000 miles she’d sailed over the past five months, Goodall was alone.

The 29-year-old British woman had spent three years readying for this voyage. It demanded more from her than she could have imagined. She loved the planning of it, rigging her boat for a journey that might mean not stepping on land for nearly a year. But she was unprepared for the attention it drew—for the fact that everyone wanted a piece of her story.

The thing was, her story was a fantastic one. Goodall was the youngest of the 18 skippers resurrecting the Golden Globe Race, a so-called “voyage for madmen,” and the only woman. Last run 50 years prior, the race entailed sailing solo and nonstop around the world in a small boat without modern technology. The media were hungry for it, and people were drawn to Goodall in particular: Here was a blue-eyed, blond, petite woman among the romantic mariners and weathered adventurers. All of them were chasing the limits of what humans are capable of physically and mentally, but much of the coverage singled out Goodall, who wanted no part of the sensationalism. She had been a painfully shy child and was a private and introverted adult. The fervor surrounding her participation in the Golden Globe made her feel like a caricature, an unwilling icon. All she wanted was to sail, to search out the connection sailors had with the sea before satellite phones and GPS.

When the race began, she was almost able to leave the attention behind. There were quiet days gliding south in the calm Atlantic; ecstatic mornings surfing swell in the Southern Ocean; the sudden appearance of a magnificent sunset through persistent clouds. But the spotlight tailed Goodall like a subsurface current. Now, after two days of brutal storm, she knew the world was watching to see whether she would survive.

I.

In 1966, an English bookstore owner named Francis Chichester riveted the world when he set out alone in a boat to circumnavigate the globe. He wasn’t the first to do so; Canadian-American Joshua Slocum completed the first known solo circumnavigation in 1898, and the feat may have been achieved long before but gone unrecorded. Yet the 65-year-old Chichester chose a dangerous route—one that no one, according to sailing lore, had ever attempted alone: From England he would sail south in the Atlantic, along the coast of Africa to the bottom of the world. There he would pass under the Cape of Good Hope, Australia’s southern coast, and South America’s treacherous Cape Horn before sailing north across the Atlantic again. The remote lower reaches of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic where Chichester would spend much of his voyage are known collectively as the Southern Ocean. The region is a vast field of sea unobstructed by land in any direction, with enormous waves, riotous gales, and dramatic skies. Stories abound about ships meeting their end in the Southern Ocean and heroes enduring impossible circumstances.

Chichester stopped only once on his journey, at the halfway mark in Australia, to perform major repairs to his 53-foot boat, which had been battered by three and a half months on the open sea. When he stepped ashore in England nine months after he’d left, he was greeted like a rock star. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him nearly on the spot. Meanwhile, fellow seafarers understood that, after Chichester’s feat, one great ocean challenge remained: sailing solo around the world without stopping. No one knew if a boat could stand up to 30,000 uninterrupted miles at sea, or what might happen to a human mind so long without company. Nine different men decided to find out.

They ranged from a former British submarine commander to storied French and Italian sailors to thrill seekers with little seagoing experience. GPS hadn’t been invented, satellite communications and solar panels were scarcely commonplace, and computing had yet to transform weather forecasting. So the men would sail with the accessible technology of the era: a radio, a windup chronometer, and a barometer. They would catch rain for fresh water and navigate with a sextant and the stars.

The Sunday Times decided to brand the men’s individual attempts a formal race, announcing the Golden Globe in March 1968. The event had virtually no requirements or regulations, as the competitors were already planning their voyages, each with its own launch date. But in offering a trophy for the first man to complete the challenge—to incentivize urgency—and a cash prize for the fastest time—to incentivize competition—The Times instantly created one of the greatest adventure stories in history.

Only one man finished the race. Twenty-nine-year-old Brit Robin Knox-Johnston’s heavy, 32-foot boat Suhaili had been considered a long shot. During the voyage, Suhaili’s water tanks polluted, her sails tore, and the self-steering—a primitive autopilot system consisting of a wind vane that attached to the boat’s rudder—fell apart. The radio malfunctioned two and a half months in; Knox-Johnston had no way of calling for help should trouble have arisen. He jumped overboard multiple times to perform underwater repairs, once shooting a circling shark before diving in. While rigging near impossible fixes to his equipment, he splashed battery acid in his eye and stitched his mustache to a sail while repairing it. When against all odds he reappeared in the harbor of Falmouth on April 22, 1969, after nearly a year at sea, Knox-Johnston sailed into legend.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atavist Magazine

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