News 20.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 20.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 20.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 20.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Here is an incomplete list of things I need in order to fall asleep at night: a room that sustains 70 degrees without the help of air-conditioning; complete darkness and total voidlike silence save for a shockingly loud white-noise machine placed directly next to my head; five pillows (one under my head, one under my chin, one between my knees, one directly on top of my face, one sitting on top of my chest); a completed to-do list; a clean apartment; a clean conscience; the knowledge that everyone I love is never going to die; assurance from a Russian official with total security clearance that they aren’t going to incite nuclear war; universal health care; and a fan.

In the absence of all of these conditions, I am wide awake roughly half of most nights, which explains both my entire personality and why a recent study in the Journal of Sleep Research stopped me in my extremely slow tracks. The study examines another nightly prerequisite of mine: watching something on my laptop for at least 30 minutes before bed. I’ve found that the best way for me to turn off my overactive brain before sleep is to fill it to the brim with fiction (preferably distressing horror films or TV shows with haunting overtones), after which I certainly don’t sleep well but do eventually reach some recognized form of unconsciousness. I’ve always been vaguely worried that this practice is somehow morally and physiologically “bad” but not worried enough to actually do anything about it except stay awake and panic.

Read the rest of this article at: Vulture

News 20.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 20.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It has long been said that no one knows with any certainty the population of Lagos, Nigeria. When I spent time there a decade ago, the United Nations conservatively put the number at 11.5 million, but other estimates ranged as high as 18 million. The one thing everyone agreed was that Lagos was growing very fast. The population was already 40 times bigger than it had been in 1960, when Nigeria gained independence. One local demographer told me that 5,000 people were migrating to Lagos every day, mostly from the Nigerian countryside. Since then, the city has continued to swell. By 2035, the UN projects that Lagos will be home to 24.5 million people.

What is happening in Lagos is happening across the continent. Today, Africa has 1.4 billion people. By the middle of the century, experts such as Edward Paice, author of Youthquake: Why Africa’s Demography Should Matter to the World, believe that this number will have almost doubled. By the end of this century, the UN projects that Africa, which had less than one-tenth of the world’s population in 1950, will be home to 3.9 billion people, or 40% of humanity.

These are staggering numbers, but they do not tell the full story. We need to zoom in closer. It is in cities where most of this astounding demographic growth will occur. Once we begin to think along these lines, what is at stake becomes even clearer. Much western commentary on Africa’s population growth has been alarmist and somewhat parochial, focusing on what this means for migration to Europe. The question of how African nations manage the fastest urbanisation in human history will certainly affect how many millions of its people seek to stay or leave. A recent continental survey by a South African foundation, for example, found that 73% of young Nigerians expressed an interest in emigrating within the next three years. But given its scale, this is a story with far larger implications than population movements alone, shaping everything from global economic prosperity to the future of the African nation state and the prospects for limiting climate crisis.

There is one place above all that should be seen as the centre of this urban transformation. It is a stretch of coastal west Africa that begins in the west with Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, and extends 600 miles east – passing through the countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin – before finally arriving at Lagos. Recently, this has come to be seen by many experts as the world’s most rapidly urbanising region, a “megalopolis” in the making – that is, a large and densely clustered group of metropolitan centres. When its population surpassed 10 million people in the 1950s, the New York metropolitan area became the anchor of one of the first urban zones to be described this way – a region of almost continuous dense habitation that stretches 400 miles from Washington DC to Boston. Other regions, such as Japan’s Tokyo-Osaka corridor, soon gained the same distinction, and were later joined by other gigantic clusters in India, China and Europe.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

FTX filed for bankruptcy on Friday, leaving reasonable people to wonder how a cryptocurrency platform founded in 2019, which reached a valuation of $32 billion in 2021, could plummet to zero in such a short time. There’s a new piece in the New York Times which gained exclusive access to FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, but if you’re looking for answers, you’re not going to find it there. In fact, the interview with SBF, as he’s often called, is presented with such a gauzy lens that you have to start wondering what the hell is going on with crypto reporting at the Times.

The new article in the New York Times by David Yaffe-Bellany lays out the facts in ways that are clearly beneficial to SBF’s version of the story and leaves many of his highly questionable assertions without proper context or even the most minimal amount of pushback. The result isn’t to illuminate the shadowy world of crypto. It reads like if the Times had conducted an interview with Bernie Madoff after his ponzi scheme collapsed and ultimately suggested he just made some bad investments.

As one example, take a paragraph near the beginning of the article that quotes SBF’s dealings with hedge fund Alameda Research, the sister organization of FTX, run by SBF’s sometime romantic partner Caroline Ellison. The paragraph, one of just a few about Alameda, brushes past all the most important facts that have been reported by outlets like Reuters, Bloomberg News, and the Financial Times.

Read the rest of this article at: Gizmodo

News 20.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 20.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One morning in June, before dawn, cyclists began gathering at an intersection in Emporia, Kansas, to remember the victim of a recent murder. These were professional athletes as well as serious amateurs, on high-end bikes that click-clicked loudly while coming to a stop. The riders hugged; their bike lights blinked. By five-thirty, a few dozen women and men had collected in the dark.

These cyclists had travelled to Emporia to compete in races the following day, in which most of them would ride for two hundred miles, on rolling unpaved roads, for at least nine and a half hours. The event is the biggest in the new niche sport of gravel-bike racing—a form of slog that presents itself as both a solo endurance test and a party in the mud. “Gravel” became a cycling term only about a decade ago, to describe machines that are a compromise, in weight and handling, between road bikes and mountain bikes. Gravel bikes, and gravel racing, have since proliferated—at a time when American participation in racing of the Lance Armstrong kind (skinnier tires, lighter frames) has been in decline. Indeed, the Kansas event, Unbound Gravel, can now fairly describe itself as the most important in all of American competitive cycling—even if many of the hundreds who pay to ride in it each year have little competitive ambition beyond not giving up. Like a big-city marathon, a typical gravel race is both an élite contest and, at the rear, something less pressing. Gravel evangelists sometimes like to compare this mix to a mullet haircut: “Business at the front, party at the back.” Emporia, a low-rise college town, had been filling with video crews and podcasters. Banners printed with the muddy faces of past winners hung from street lamps. The manufacturers of rival anti-chafing creams had set up stands.

The early-morning cyclists were about to begin a memorial ride for Moriah Wilson, one of the sport’s leading athletes. She had died three weeks earlier, in what Amy Charity, who was riding that morning, described to me as “the most tragic and shocking thing that’s ever happened in this small community.” Wilson grew up in Vermont, the skiing daughter of a champion skier; she graduated from Dartmouth in 2019, then moved to California. This spring—a year after her first gravel race—she seemed poised to dominate the women’s field. In California in April, she won a major competition by twenty-five minutes. She was predicted to prevail at Unbound. In May, VeloNews described Wilson as “the winningest woman in the American off-road scene.”

Hours after that article appeared online, Wilson was fatally shot, in an apartment in Austin, Texas. The crime was soon understood to be connected to her friendship with Colin Strickland, the biggest star that gravel racing has yet produced. Strickland, a thirty-six-year-old Texan, won in Emporia in 2019. He’s lean and good-looking, and has the deliberate enunciation of someone who’s a little more stoned than he’d planned to be. Another racer has observed that his cool, earnest self-assurance evokes both the cowboy and the hippie. Strickland has strongly appealed to fans and to commercial sponsors; these include Red Bull, which spends hundreds of millions each year associating itself with sports that have an air of risk. Gravel racing, as an upstart discipline, has endeavored to be taken seriously; so has Strickland. Great weight has been given to his pronouncements about what is called, with varying degrees of irony, “the spirit of gravel.” Last year, he wrote an article warning newcomers not to spoil the sport’s “authentic and relatable” reputation by introducing the sneaky team tactics of road racing—a sport that he defined as “non-inclusive.” Gravel racing was at its best, he wrote, when it fostered narratives of heroic solo achievement. (He was referring to achievements like his own.) A cyclist friend, posting on Instagram last year, teasingly called Strickland “Gravel Jesus.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 20.11.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

To the list of moments when automotive GPS has given very bad directional advice, we can now add the case of Constable Brett Schmidt of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

On the morning of Monday, November 15, 2021, Schmidt was on an off-duty visit with his girlfriend in Kamloops, a city in the arid plateau region known to British Columbians as the Interior. From there, he planned to make the long drive to his home in a suburb of Vancouver, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

In between Kamloops and Vancouver are the Coast Mountains, which roughly divide southern BC into wet and dry country. Slopes and valleys westward of the peaks catch precipitation blowing in from the sea and are famously soggy, while the Interior to the east lies in their rain shadow and, in places, resembles a desert.

Unfortunately for Schmidt, heavy rains on the wet side of the mountains had triggered floods and mudslides there, blocking three of the four highways he might have used to get home. Schmidt was unfazed. Road closures in southern BC come as no surprise in any season but summer.

He was left with Highway 99, a less-traveled road that would, on a day with better weather, be described as the scenic route. A couple of hours into the journey in his black GMC pickup, driving through rain even in parts of the drylands, he learned that Highway 99 had closed somewhere in the Coast Mountains ahead of him—another mudslide, or what geologists call a “debris flow.”

Vancouver, which is Canada’s third largest city and most important seaport, had now been completely cut off by road and rail from the rest of the country.

By a rainstorm.

There was nothing Schmidt could do but turn around. He had been on the road since about 8:30 a.m. It was now around eleven o’clock. He drove back to the ruins of Lytton, an Interior town that had made international news earlier that year when it hit the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada—49.6 °C (121 °F)—and one day later burned down to its metals and concrete in a wildfire.

From Lytton he turned north to follow the Thompson River. He soon reached the hamlet of Spences Bridge, which had also been evacuated during the wildfire season. There, his GPS recommended a right-hand turn onto Highway 8, a quiet connector between two more major highways. From Spences Bridge, Highway 8 follows the Nicola River upriver to the town of Merritt, retracing a route he had already driven that day.

Schmidt quickly noticed a difference. Earlier, the Nicola had looked swollen. Now it had an air of menace. The water barreling through the near-desert landscape seemed unreal.

“The river beside the road was three times as high. It was flowing really quick,” Schmidt would later recall. “Like you could go white-water rafting on it.”

He carried on. The valley is normally a lovely one, the narrow river swaying between steep walls of rock or clay interspersed with terraces of sagebrush and bunchgrass. This year, though, wildfire had reduced whole mountainsides to black sticks jutting out of bare earth. The flames had not, at least, razed the scattered homes, or the roadside fruit and vegetable stands.

Schmidt was on a stretch of road running low along the river when he felt the ground shake under the wheels of his truck. Glancing into his rear-view mirror, he saw that the asphalt he had just passed over had caved in and fallen into the churning water.

“Holy shit,” he said under his breath.

There seemed to be no better option than to keep going and hope for the best. After another few kilometers, he could see a hill in the distance where the road climbed up and away from the hungry river. If he made it there, he’d be out of harm’s way.

The hill was looming up in front of him when, as he crested a rise in the highway, he had to jam on the brakes. The road was gone. It simply ended, a jagged break. In its place was the raging Nicola River.

Read the rest of this article at: Hakai

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