News 11.04.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 11.04.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 11.04.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Notes from the Weekend & a Few Lovely Links 04.11.19

The letter was written on thin, pale blue paper. The handwriting was neat and rounded. My brand-new German pen friend, Hanna, introduced herself in excellent English. Our schools had decided that Hanna and I would be a good fit as pen pals because we were both, not to put too fine a point on it, swots. In a matter of months, I’d be going to stay with her Stuttgart-based family for a week, and shortly after that, she’d come and stay on the Welsh border, with me. I was 13. The whole thing was thrilling.

Her house was warm, spotless and deliciously different. I remember ornamental candles, and rugs on a tiled floor, the furniture sleek and well-designed, and a shining upright piano in the corner, which Hanna, of course, played very well. On arrival, Hanna’s mother asked me what I wanted for breakfast, and when I didn’t immediately answer, she began listing all the foodstuffs she had available. Around about item six or seven, I recognised the German for cake, so I said, “Cake, please.”

Hanna’s mother was a magnificent cook. I particularly remember the clear soup with dumplings and the sausage with lentils, and every morning of my visit, presumably because she thought that’s what I was used to, she gave me cake for breakfast. It was glorious.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 11.04.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 11.04.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The call came about 10 minutes before we were set to check into the Airbnb. I was sitting at a brewery just around the corner from the rental on North Wood Street in Chicago when the man on the other end of the line said that our planned visit wouldn’t be possible. A previous guest had flushed something down the toilet, which had left the unit flooded with water, he explained. Apologetic, he promised to let us stay in another property he managed until he could call a plumber.

I had flown with two friends to the city in hopes of a relaxing end-of-summer getaway. We had purchased tickets to attend the September music festival Riot Fest, where Blink-182 and Taking Back Sunday were scheduled to perform. The trip had gotten off to a rough start even before the call. Around a month before, a first Airbnb host had already canceled, leaving us with little time to figure out alternative housing. While scrambling to find something else, I stumbled upon a local Airbnb rental listed by a couple, Becky and Andrew. Sure, the house looked a little basic in the photos online, but it was nice enough, especially considering the time crunch—light-filled, spacious, and close to the Blue Line.

Now, we were facing our second potential disaster in 30 days, and I couldn’t help but feel slightly suspicious of the man on the phone, who had called me from a number with a Los Angeles area code. Hoping to talk in person, I asked him if he was in the area. He said that he was at work and didn’t really have time to chat. Then he added that I needed to decide immediately if I was willing to change my reservation.

As if he could hear me calculating in my head how much of a hassle it would be to find a hotel instead, he then added something else to his pitch.

“It’s about three times bigger,” the man said. “That’s the good news.”

The bad news, which went unstated, was that I had unknowingly stumbled into a nationwide web of deception that appeared to span eight cities and nearly 100 property listings—an undetected scam created by some person or organization that had figured out just how easy it is to exploit Airbnb’s poorly written rules in order to collect thousands of dollars through phony listings, fake reviews, and, when necessary, intimidation. Considering Airbnb’s lax enforcement of its own policies, who could blame the scammers for taking advantage of the new world of short-term rental platforms? They had every reason to believe they could do so with impunity.

Read the rest of this article at: Vice

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

Shop the Tuscany Tote in Midnight
at Belgrave Crescent &

One of Northern Europe’s arguably most distinctive exports is “slow TV”: real-time recordings of train journeys, ferry crossings or the migration of reindeer, which regularly draw record audiences.

Among perhaps the most successful — and least exciting — examples of that genre is the live stream of a McDonald’s cheeseburger with fries. At its peak, it drew 2 million viewers a month. The only element on the screen that moves, however, is the time display.

The burger looks the same way, hour after hour.

As of this week, it has looked like that for 10 years.

Purchased hours before the corporation pulled out of the country in 2009, in the wake of Iceland’s devastating financial crisis, the last surviving McDonald’s burger has become much more than a burger. To some, it stands for the greed and excessive capitalism that “created an economic collapse that was so bad that even McDonald’s had to close down,” said Hjörtur Smárason, 43, who purchased the fateful burger in 2009. To others, the eerily fresh look of the 10-year-old meal has served as a warning against the excessive consumption of fast food.

Read the rest of this article at: The Washington Post

News 11.04.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 11.04.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Adam Neumann stood on the 57th floor of the Woolworth Building, the neo-Gothic skyscraper that was once the tallest in the world. It was late on a Friday night in 2013, and the WeWork founder and chief executive had just made a move to add the top 30 floors to his rapidly expanding real estate dealings.

Mr. Neumann and three employees had already enjoyed a few drinks when he decided to bring them to tour his latest coup. In the gutted-out space, they tossed beer bottles into empty elevator shafts, listening to them clink on the way down. Then, Mr. Neumann told them all to follow him out to the ledge. No guardrails. No enclosures. Just four inebriated start-up executives teetering on the edge of death.

“I was up there with him on the top of the world, and he said, ‘Everything is going to be amazing,’” recalled Harrison Weber, WeWork’s editorial director at the time.

Then, Mr. Neumann picked up an old beer bottle — a remnant, apparently, from some previous bender. He asked the employees to drink the rank liquid. Everyone took a swig, except Mr. Weber. “It felt like a loyalty thing,” he said. “In that moment, I felt what a deeply persuasive person he is.”

The last 80 days have seen an implosion unlike any other in the history of start-ups. WeWork filed for an initial public offering with a prospectus that was quickly ridiculed for its incoherence; investors learned of several red-flag financial arrangements by Mr. Neumann; the company’s valuation plummeted; Mr. Neumann was forced to resign; and the I.P.O. was withdrawn. Once estimated to be worth $47 billion, WeWork was reduced to $7 billion, after a rescue by the Japanese giant SoftBank.

But WeWork’s astonishing downfall came with an even more astonishing exit package for Mr. Neumann: The 40-year-old could receive more than $1 billion after selling his shares to SoftBank and collecting a $185 million consulting fee. As the scope of the disaster comes into focus, the question on everyone’s mind — from his co-working customers to Wall Streeters to soon-to-be-laid-off WeWork employees — is how Mr. Neumann managed to fail up so spectacularly.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 11.04.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In September, an obscure Twitter account promoting a fringe belief about an anti-Trump cabal within the government tweeted out a hashtag: #FakeWhistleblower.

It was typical for the anonymous account, which traffics in far-right content and a conspiracy theory known as QAnon, some of whose adherents think that satanic pedophiles control the “deep state.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently labeled QAnon a potential domestic terror threat.

Still, that did not stop others, including a Republican congressional candidate, from quickly picking up the hashtag and tweeting it. Within a week, hundreds of QAnon believers and “MAGA” activists had joined in, posting memes and bogus reports to undermine the complaint by a government whistle-blower that President Trump had pressed Ukraine’s leader for dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.

Then Mr. Trump tweeted the hashtag himself.

At its peak, just after the president tweeted, the hashtag was used more than 1,200 times per hour.

@realDonaldTrump tweets using the hashtag.

Such is the frenetic life cycle of conspiracy-driven propaganda, fakery and hate in the age of the first Twitter presidency. Mr. Trump, whose own tweets have warned of deep-state plots against him, accused the House speaker of treason and labeled Republican critics “human scum,” has helped spread a culture of suspicion and distrust of facts into the political mainstream.

The president is also awash in an often toxic torrent that sluices into his Twitter account — roughly 1,000 tweets per minute, many intended for his eyes. Tweets that tag his handle, @realDonaldTrump, can be found with hashtags like #HitlerDidNothingWrong, #IslamIsSatanism and #WhiteGenocide. While filters can block offensive material, the president clearly sees some of it, because he dips into the frothing currents and serves up noxious bits to the rest of the world.

By retweeting suspect accounts, seemingly without regard for their identity or motives, he has lent credibility to white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots and obscure QAnon adherents like VB Nationalist, an anonymous account that has promoted a hoax about top Democrats worshiping the Devil and engaging in child sex trafficking.

“I’ve been retweeted by the President of the United States, President Trump!” replied VB Nationalist, who gained thousands of followers after the high-level boost and took it as a sign of encouragement, adding, “Tell me again, how he doesn’t care about us.”

To assess this unprecedented moment, The New York Times examined Mr. Trump’s interactions with Twitter since he took office, reviewing each of his more than 11,000 tweets and the hundreds of accounts he has retweeted, tracking the ways he is exposed to information and replicating what he is likely to see on the platform. The result, including new data analysis and previously unreported details, offers the most comprehensive view yet of a virtual world in which the president spends significant time mingling with extremists, impostors and spies.

Fake accounts tied to intelligence services in China, Iran and Russia had directed thousands of tweets at Mr. Trump, according to a Times analysis of propaganda accounts suspended by Twitter. Iranian operatives tweeted anti-Semitic tropes, saying that Mr. Trump was “being controlled” by global Zionists, and that pulling out of the Iran nuclear treaty would benefit North Korea. Russian accounts tagged the president more than 30,000 times, including in supportive tweets about the Mexican border wall and his hectoring of black football players. Mr. Trump even retweeted a phony Russian account that said, “We love you, Mr. President!”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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

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