News 03.06.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

News 03.06.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
Photo by @martynthompsonstudio for @ralphlaurenhome / via @ad_magazine

If you’ve been enjoying these curated article summaries that dive into cultural, creative, and technological currents, you may find the discussions and analyses on our Substack page worthwhile as well. There, I explore themes and ideas that often intersect with the subjects covered in the articles I come across during my curation process.

While this curation simply aims to surface compelling pieces, our Substack writings delve deeper into topics that have piqued our curiosity over time. From examining the manifestation of language shaping our reality to unpacking philosophical undercurrents in society, our Substack serves as an outlet to unpack our perspectives on the notable trends and undercurrents reflected in these curated readings.

So if any of the articles here have stoked your intellectual interests, I invite you to carry that engagement over to our Substack, where we discuss related matters in more depth. Consider it an extension of the curation – a space to further engage with the fascinating ideas these pieces have surfaced.


The man who stopped Salomea Genin on the street in West Berlin, on that August morning in 1961, smiled as if he knew her. He was a “rather handsome gentleman,” she recalls, though he would have been hard to pick out in a crowd. He brought her greetings from East Berlin, from a woman whom Genin had met on a recent visit there—a secretary in one of the Arab embassies. He wondered if Genin would like to join him for coffee the next day. Genin was quite sure that she had never seen the man before in her life. Given her history, there was a good chance that he was an East German spy. She agreed to the meeting without hesitation.

Genin longed to live in East Berlin. She was born in Berlin in 1932, before the city was divided, but was forced to flee with her family at the age of six. The Genins were Jewish. One night in 1937, a boarder who was living with Salomea and her two sisters and her mother—her parents were divorced—denounced them to the local police. Salomea’s sister Franziska was sleeping with an Aryan, the boarder said, in violation of race ordinances. Franziska left for Australia two weeks later, but the rest of the family had to stay back. Salomea’s father had been imprisoned at Buchenwald as an arbeitsscheuer Jude—an indolent Jew—after being hospitalized with syphilis. When he was finally released, after the Jewish community helped Salomea’s mother pay a hundred marks in bail, he escaped to Shanghai. The rest of the family made their way to Melbourne in May of 1939, four months before the war began.

Salomea was a solitary, rootless child. Her mother had never shown much interest in her—she only got pregnant with Salomea to try to save her marriage, she later admitted—and her mother’s boyfriend showed even less. When Salomea was eleven, she was shipped off to a boarding school for seven months. It wasn’t until the following year, when her sister Renia let her tag along to a Communist-youth-group meeting, that Salomea began to feel at home. The Party was antifascist, pro-union, and radically egalitarian. Its meetings were fired with optimism and a fierce sense of belonging—everything Salomea had been missing at home. Soon, she was handing out leaflets and selling copies of Youth Voice in downtown Melbourne, reading Lenin (“Marx is too complicated,” she was told), and giving speeches on the steps of the Commonwealth Bank.

“Genin is a security risk,” the Australian Security Intelligence Organization concluded in 1951. It was the first entry in what grew to be a voluminous file. Later reports would describe her as an “unscrupulous and a fanatical Communist” and her mother and her as “a couple of mean, contemptible witches.” Genin was working as a secretary at a government-owned aircraft factory, the first report noted, but that could be easily remedied: “Her dismissal should not entail great administrative difficulties.” Three years later, having been sacked from a succession of jobs, Genin came to a dramatic conclusion. She had been to East Berlin a few years earlier, for the World Festival of Youth and Students for Peace, and had been exhilarated by the stirring rhetoric she’d heard. This was where she belonged, she thought: at the forefront of the Communist struggle, fighting to keep her birthplace free from fascism. On April 15, 1954, she boarded the passenger ship Otranto in Melbourne and returned to the country that had nearly killed her.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

On a stifling April afternoon in Ajmer, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, local politician Shakti Singh Rathore sat down in front of a greenscreen to shoot a short video. He looked nervous. It was his first time being cloned.

Wearing a crisp white shirt and a ceremonial saffron scarf bearing a lotus flower—the logo of the BJP, the country’s ruling party—Rathore pressed his palms together and greeted his audience in Hindi. “Namashkar,” he began. “To all my brothers—”

Before he could continue, the director of the shoot walked into the frame. Divyendra Singh Jadoun, a 31-year-old with a bald head and a thick black beard, told Rathore he was moving around too much on camera. Jadoun was trying to capture enough audio and video data to build an AI deepfake of Rathore that would convince 300,000 potential voters around Ajmer that they’d had a personalized conversation with him—but excess movement would break the algorithm. Jadoun told his subject to look straight into the camera and move only his lips. “Start again,” he said.

Right now, the world’s largest democracy is going to the polls. Close to a billion Indians are eligible to vote as part of the country’s general election, and deepfakes could play a decisive, and potentially divisive, role. India’s political parties have exploited AI to warp reality through cheap audio fakespropaganda images, and AI parodies. But while the global discourse on deepfakes often focuses on misinformation, disinformation, and other societal harms, many Indian politicians are using the technology for a different purpose: voter outreach.

Across the ideological spectrum, they’re relying on AI to help them navigate the nation’s 22 official languages and thousands of regional dialects, and to deliver personalized messages in farther-flung communities. While the US recently made it illegal to use AI-generated voices for unsolicited calls, in India sanctioned deepfakes have become a $60 million business opportunity. More than 50 million AI-generated voice clone calls were made in the two months leading up to the start of the elections in April—and millions more will be made during voting, one of the country’s largest business messaging operators told WIRED.

Jadoun is the poster boy of this burgeoning industry. His firm, Polymath Synthetic Media Solutions, is one of many deepfake service providers from across India that have emerged to cater to the political class. This election season, Jadoun has delivered five AI campaigns so far, for which his company has been paid a total of $55,000. (He charges significantly less than the big political consultants—125,000 rupees [$1,500] to make a digital avatar, and 60,000 rupees [$720] for an audio clone.) He’s made deepfakes for Prem Singh Tamang, the chief minister of the Himalayan state of Sikkim, and resurrected Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, an iconic politician who died in a helicopter crash in 2009, to endorse his son Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, currently chief minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Jadoun has also created AI-generated propaganda songs for several politicians, including Tamang, a local candidate for parliament, and the chief minister of the western state of Maharashtra. “He is our pride,” ran one song in Hindi about a local politician in Ajmer, with male and female voices set to a peppy tune. “He’s always been impartial.”

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

News 03.06.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

It is April of 2013, and I am in the kitchen with Judith Jones. She is chopping hard-boiled eggs and parsleyOn the counter, there is a jar of cornichons and another of capers. Nearby, a stem of cherry tomatoes, a bunch of arugula, and half a baguette. Judith tells me she is making sauce gribiche; we could have it with some roast beef leftover from earlier in the week, served cold with the day-old bread, sliced and toasted into its second life. Judith, who is 88 years old to my 26, moves with the ease of a practiced cook. She rocks her knife blade cleanly across the scarred wooden cutting board. She trusts her hands.

Judith, who has recently retired as senior editor and vice president of Alfred A. Knopf after 57 years, is best known for rescuing Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl from the so-called “slush pile” of unpublished manuscripts in the early 1950s, and for “discovering” and publishing Julia Child. But she also edited the poetry of Sylvia Plath, as well as that of Langston Hughes and Sharon Olds. She was Anne Tyler’s and John Updike’s longtime editor, too.

In the cookbook world, her list was both dazzling and dizzyingly long: Edna Lewis, M. F. K. Fisher, Irene Kuo, Marion Cunningham, Claudia Roden, Anna Thomas. Madhur Jaffrey. Joan Nathan. James Beard. Some of Judith’s culinary authors are less widely known, but where they are recognized, they—and their books—are revered: Bill Neal. Nina Simonds. Hiroko Shimbo. Ken Hom. She cowrote three cookbooks with her husband, Richard Evan Jones, and one, The L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbookwith Angus Cameron, her first mentor at Knopf. Then, at 85 years old, Judith published her first cookbook that was all her own: The Pleasures of Cooking for One. She is among the most influential literary editors of the 20th century, and she is widely considered the most influential cookbook editor to date.

Read the rest of this article at: Taste

News 03.06.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

The melting ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are climate change’s most dangerous Big Bad, capable of altering the very face of the planet. All the adaptation we could muster can’t hold back the 25 feet or so of sea level rise that Greenland alone could unleash, not to mention the couple hundred more locked up at the planet’s southern extreme. And increasingly, scientists have found that these ice behemoths are teetering on the edge, approaching tipping points that will more or less lock in all or significant parts of their melt within only fractions of a degree from where things stand today.

One would think, then, that the world might show some increased urgency in the face of such imminent calamity. Miami, Shanghai, much of Bangladesh and the Netherlands, and many other places—gone. Trillions of dollars in real estate submerged, not to mention the sheer calamity of many millions of people seeing their homes lapped up by the waves and the geopolitical chaos such an event would undoubtedly spawn.

And yet. And yet emissions rose again in 2023. And yet demand for oil and gas will rise in 2024. And yet the supposedly landmark result of COP28, the United Nations climate talks held in December in Dubai, included in its agreement to transition away from fossil fuels massive loopholes and the traditional lack of teeth that plagues global agreements. The collective shrug at this Ice Sheet of Damocles can be chalked up to a strange quirk of this particular brand of apocalypse:

The ice sheets are melting too slowly for us to stop them.

Even if we pass those tipping points, Miami and Shanghai will not disappear tomorrow. They won’t disappear next year, or next decade, or depending on which specific city we’re talking about, maybe not even within a couple of centuries. Even once melt is locked in, it will take a few hundred years or so for the ice sheets to disappear. That sort of time scale is not one that human brains and societies are particularly well equipped to deal with.

“When we talk about a few millimeters or less of global sea level rise per year, this is just not tangible for the average person—it doesn’t convey the urgency,” said Nils Bochow, a doctoral research fellow at the Arctic University of Norway, where he studies tipping points in Earth systems including in Greenland. “If I heard this number, I would respond: ‘And so?’”

The ice sheets represent the most glaring example of a fundamental issue behind human stagnation when it comes to climate change: time. The failure to address the world’s most existential risk is at root a temporal problem. Virtually none of the timelines—of emissions, of impacts, of solutions—line up in ways that society can effectively manage. Things take too long or deliver delayed impacts. The cause-and-effect of it all is stretched thin, too thin for a species so locked into our daily existence.

The more glass-half-full climate advocates often point to previous environmental victories as evidence that we can win on climate, too—but acid rain was falling on everyone right then, and cutting sulfur dioxide emissions would more or less stop the problem tomorrow. The same was largely true for polluted rivers catching on fire, or even the hole in the ozone layer. Unfortunately for us, climate change simply doesn’t work that way.

Read the rest of this article at: Atmos

News 03.06.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

In Insulin: A Hundred-Year History, the medical historian Stuart Bradwel compares insulin to a key that “[prompts] our bodies to consume what they need to function.” Insulin shifts glucose, a sugar that serves as your body’s main source of energy, from the bloodstream into cells that will use or store it. It is a hormone—one of those chemical messengers of the endocrine system that collectively orchestrate metabolism, growth, development, reproduction, and other essential bodily processes. It is vital to each and every human being, whether it’s produced within the beta cells of the pancreas or, for the millions of people with insulin-dependent diabetes around the world, in a lab.

A body’s failure to produce enough insulin, known as type 1 diabetes, or to respond to it properly, known as type 2 diabetes, leads to elevated blood sugar levels that can bring about heart attacks, strokes, organ failure, coma, and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), where the body cannibalizes its fat and muscle for energy. Living with un- or inadequately treated diabetes is excruciating, but for many with the disease, it first takes going into DKA to be diagnosed and receive adequate care. Unless you have experienced it yourself, it’s hard to understand just how distressing chronic hyperglycemia, or high blood glucose, can feel. Along with rapid weight loss, weakness, fatigue, mood swings, and brain fog, the body experiences an insatiable hunger, breaking into muscle and fat stores in a desperate attempt to remain functional. Similarly, in an effort to flush the excess sugar out of the bloodstream, the body also cues an unquenchable thirst which can cause anxiety, incontinence, and discomfort.

As recently as the early twentieth century, all types of diabetes were often a death sentence; type 1 diabetes was always fatal. In his 1916 article, “The Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus,” early prominent diabetes specialist Elliott P. Joslin noted that most children with diabetes would enter a fatal DKA coma shortly after diagnosis and die within a few years. At the time, treatment wasn’t particularly promising either, with one widespread prescription being “starvation diets”—permanent and severe calorie restriction to avoid high blood sugar levels—that left patients with stunted growth, reduced resistance to infection, and emaciation. In another article decades later, Joslin reflected: “We literally starved the child and adult with the faint hope that something new in treatment would appear. . . . It was no fun to starve a child to let him live.”

The discovery and extraction of insulin between 1921 and 1922 by Canadian surgeon Frederick Banting and his team at the University of Toronto—then-medical student Charles Best, and biochemists James Collip and John Mcleod—changed everything. One of the earliest success stories of insulin treatment was Elizabeth Hughes, daughter of U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. In 1919, after a diabetes diagnosis at the age of eleven, a specialist put Elizabeth on a starvation diet that brought her weight down from sixty-five to fifty-two pounds. When her urine was determined to no longer contain glucose, her diet was relaxed and her weight rose slightly. But when her condition suddenly deteriorated in 1922—and her weight dropped to forty-five pounds—she was brought to Banting and his team to be included in an insulin treatment trial. Hughes not only regained her weight, she went on to live a long life, dying of pneumonia in 1981 at the age of seventy-three.

Read the rest of this article at: The Baffler