News 01.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 01.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 01.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 01.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

No matter how President Trump’s impeachment trial plays out in the Senate, one thing is certain: Despite the incontrovertible facts at the center of the story, the process will change very few minds.

Regardless of how clear a case Democrats make, it seems likely that a majority of voters will remain confused and unsure about the details of Trump’s transgressions. No single version of the truth will be accepted.

This is a serious problem for our democratic culture. No amount of evidence, on virtually any topic, is likely to move public opinion one way or the other. We can attribute some of this to rank partisanship — some people simply refuse to acknowledge inconvenient facts about their own side.

But there’s another, equally vexing problem. We live in a media ecosystem that overwhelms people with information. Some of that information is accurate, some of it is bogus, and much of it is intentionally misleading. The result is a polity that has increasingly given up on finding out the truth. As Sabrina Tavernise and Aidan Gardiner put it in a New York Times piece, “people are numb and disoriented, struggling to discern what is real in a sea of slant, fake, and fact.” This is partly why an earth-shattering historical event like a president’s impeachment has done very little to move public opinion.

The core challenge we’re facing today is information saturation and a hackable media system. If you follow politics at all, you know how exhausting the environment is. The sheer volume of content, the dizzying number of narratives and counternarratives, and the pace of the news cycle are too much for anyone to process.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

News 01.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 01.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

ONE EVENING a few months ago, I lit a joint of Granddaddy Purple. I had arrived home late—again—from work, anxiety knotting in my chest. There was still so much to do, and I couldn’t seem to start on any of it. I needed to hustle, but first, I needed to relax. Introduced in 2003, Granddaddy Purple is now one of the most popular cannabis strains, largely for its ability to quickly calm users. Mine came prerolled, in recycled packaging printed with soy-based ink, from a Canadian company called 48North; according to the company’s website, the strain is “best loved for evenings spent dreaming (without being asleep, that is).” Each strain 48North produces has a suggested situational pairing: tackling your to-do list, giggling with your best friend, enjoying your favourite meal. I just wanted something to make me feel better.

And it did. As I settled into the high, the tension melted away. I had what 48North might describe as the ideal cannabis experience: overwhelmed and overstressed, I used my weed as a supercharged piece of self-care. Like many modern cannabis brands, 48North appears to care less about getting customers stoned and more about aligning itself with the massively lucrative wellness industry. Valued at $4.2 trillion (US) by the Global Wellness Institute, the market encompasses everything from clean-eating methods and meditation classes to natural skin creams and immunity-boosting teas. It has also dialled into a very specific consumer: health-conscious women with disposable income and an affinity for aesthetically pleasing, eco-friendly products. Maybe you’ve seen this woman on social media. She wears a sports bra made from recycled bottles, pops vitamin gummies for her glossy hair, and eats from smoothie bowls lovingly arranged on marble countertops. She works out regularly, takes languorous scented baths, enjoys giant glasses of neon celery juice. She’s more social-media spectre than flesh and blood: she is a #Mood. She’s the consumer virtually every wellness brand wants—and the one they want the rest of us to become.

48North’s Alison Gordon, one of the cannabis industry’s few female CEOs, wants her too. Pot has long been associated with men: women, she believes, are a woefully underserved (and lucrative) demographic. 48North isn’t alone in thinking so. Throughout nearly a year of reporting, I found dozens of cannabis companies in Canada and the US overhauling the stoner aesthetic into a high-end lifestyle that seems cribbed straight from mainstream women’s brands like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. 48North’s identity, for example, is built on being good: good for you and good for the world. The company grows its organic cannabis outdoors, under the sun, on 40.5 hectares appropriately called the Good Farm. Then there’s Blissco, which bills itself as “the Canadian wellness brand” and whose website features a recipe for a cannabis-infused turmeric “golden canna latte” from a holistic nutritionist. Van der Pop, another brand, promises to help women explore weed “in a way that is nuanced and respects stigma free living.” Its strains have names like Cloudburst and Eclipse. Alberta-based Sundial, meanwhile, reminds customers that weed is “a way for women to take wellness into their own hands, and shake some of the obstacles that can hold them back from living their best lives.” Sundial divides its cannabis into therapeutic categories, such as “flow,” “ease,” “calm,” and “lift.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Walrus

Years back, on a summer night in Oregon’s high desert, I was riding in a car with three other people. There were two women asleep in the backseat, leaning in opposite directions. I was in the front on the passenger’s side, and a man was driving. Somebody had put Rod Stewart’s Storyteller: The Complete Anthology, blaring and loud, on the car’s sound system, and though I wouldn’t have considered myself a fan, the heartfelt crooning was as seemingly endless and beautiful as the desert around us. We were wrapped in a velvet night, under a star-filled sky, headlights cutting through the dark. We were writers, carpooling back from a rare weekend retreat. A cool wind found its way in through a narrow slice of open window and whipped the driver’s shaggy hair into a minor frenzy. Over the sound of Rod Stewart’s mandolin, this driver scratched mosquito bites and told me about a woman writer he’d once known. “She was so talented,” he said, in admiration.

I envisioned a passive, classical sculpture of a beautiful woman being physically hoisted onto a pedestal.

“She was an awesome writer. Really, amazing.” Wistfully he added, “She got married. I’ve never seen her writing again.”

End of story.


These are points on a line: the rise of potential, then the particularly feminized fall embedded in gentle, hetero domesticity. It’s a wistful blend of longing, regret and admiration. For the story to work the way it always works, the woman has to be better than average. She has to shine. Then she conforms. Then she disappears, fading into the ambient noise of a dishwasher and the washing machine, the TV, lawnmower, barking dog, and family phones. She comes to mark a spot in memory, on a real writer’s path. It’s one of those story structures that’s so pervasive, people harbor and project it onto the arc of a faint career well in advance. There might even be a sort of satisfaction taken in the comfort of assuming this path is inevitable for other people, those women writers who once foolishly set out to have it all.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

News 01.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 01.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On the morning of June 22, 2007, when officers from the Victoria Police arrived at Faruk Orman’s suburban Melbourne home to arrest him for murder, he promptly asked to speak to his attorney. Orman was no stranger to legal trouble, and he happened to have a lawyer’s cell number handy. Not just any lawyer, but one of the preeminent defense attorneys in the city, a swashbuckling criminal barrister named Nicola Gobbo. She was, as one newspaper described her, “almost as big a celebrity as the gangland toughs she represented,” a figure alternately cherished and loathed for her ability to argue her clients out of seemingly dead-end charges.

The veteran investigator handling Orman’s arrest, Boris Buick, saw no reason to dissuade Orman from placing the call. “It was his request, not my decision or instigation,” Buick testified at a 2019 public hearing. Buick acknowledged that with the benefit of hindsight, he could see that he’d held “a naïve view” of the call’s implications.

The call went to voicemail. Orman then phoned a solicitor who sometimes worked with Gobbo. (Under the Australian justice system, solicitors are generally the attorneys who handle client relations; barristers like Gobbo are those who make arguments in court.) The 25-year-old Orman had never faced an accusation as serious as murder. His past scrapes with the law included a punch-up at a bar, a shooting in which no one was hurt and he was acquitted, and a conviction for heroin possession. He’d never spent time in prison, partly due to the efforts of Nicola Gobbo. But for years, he’d associated with some of the most feared underworld figures in Melbourne. Many of them had also been represented by Gobbo.

The murder Orman was charged with occurred on the night of May 1, 2002. According to police, at around 9:10 p.m., a notorious Australian criminal named Victor Peirce was sitting in a parked car outside a mobile-phone shop in Port Melbourne, along the city’s southern waterfront. (Peirce and his family’s life would later inspire the film and TV series Animal Kingdom.) A stolen blue-gray Holden Commodore pulled up beside him. A hit man named Benji Veniamin jumped out, approached the car, and shot Peirce three times through the driver’s side window. At the wheel of the Commodore, the police alleged, was Faruk Orman.

By the time they’d gathered the evidence to make arrests, five years had passed and Veniamin himself had been killed. The weight of the prosecution would land on Orman.

But first, the police tried to use the murder charge to convince him to talk. For years, Orman had been associated with an underworld figure named Domenic “Mick” Gatto, a former heavyweight boxer who ran illegal gambling rackets, a mediation business, and — police believed, but could never prove — more-sinister operations. The prosecutors offered Orman a deal if he was willing to roll on his boss, implicating him in a crime. Orman declined; Gatto, as it happened, was raising money for Orman’s defense. The state’s corrections department proceeded to place Orman in solitary confinement while he awaited trial. He would remain there for three years, spiraling into depression as the case dragged on.

Nicola Gobbo joined Orman’s defense team, largely working in the background on legal strategy. She appeared several times for him in court, at hearings in which she tried unsuccessfully to subpoena information and documents about police witnesses. Nonetheless, Orman had a strong defense. There was no evidence placing him at the murder scene. All that linked him to the stolen Commodore was a ping from his cellphone, within a few hours after the murder, to a tower near where police found the burned getaway vehicle.

When the case finally went to trial, in 2009, the prosecution hinged almost entirely on a single witness: a drug trafficker and convicted triple murderer already in prison. The witness, a friend of Veniamin’s who sometimes took him along to drug deals as an enforcer, told police that Veniamin and Orman had confessed to him. On its face, the witness’s testimony appeared surmountable. He had minimal contact with Orman, and his statements seemed to diverge from the forensics of the crime scene. There was little evidence to corroborate his account, which had shifted over time in multiple statements to police. What’s more, in exchange for his testimony, prosecutors had agreed to request that the witness be sentenced on just one of his three murder convictions.

After Orman’s seven-week trial, however, the jury found the witness credible. A judge sentenced Orman to 20 years in the state’s maximum-security prison, 14 of them without the possibility of parole.

Read the rest of this article at: The California Sunday Magazine

News 01.17.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In England, the birthplace of the modern jury, the need for unanimous verdicts was established in 1367, when a court refused to accept an 11-to-1 guilty vote, after one juror said he’d rather die in prison than consent to convict. The practice spread to the American colonies along with many other elements of British common law. The Constitution provided for the right to trial by jury in the Sixth Amendment. The text uses the word “impartial,” not “unanimous,” but judges of the founding era commonly issued instructions saying that unanimity was part of the jury right, and commentators agreed. “It is the unanimity of the jury that preserves the rights of mankind,” John Adams, the future president, wrote in 1786. In a line of cases from 1898 to 1948, the Supreme Court said that the Sixth Amendment required unanimous verdicts.

In many countries, judges, not juries, decide a defendant’s guilt. Others — France, Italy and Japan, for example — rely on a mixed group of laypeople and judges to deliver a verdict, without requiring consensus. But these are countries in which prosecutors play a more neutral fact-finding role. In the United States and Canada, the unanimous jury, like the high bar of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, remains a bulwark against state power and the risk of convicting the innocent. It also helps ensure that the jury represents a cross-section of the community: If every vote counts, then the majority can’t ignore the minority.

Louisiana and Oregon are the only states (along with Puerto Rico) that have deviated from unanimous jury convictions. In Louisiana, black people began to serve on juries during Reconstruction, when they won the right to vote. The first introduction of split verdicts in the state was in 1880, after Reconstruction ended, as part of a movement of white Southerners to re-establish their supremacy. A trial of a black person with ‘‘Negro jurors would be a farce,” a Louisiana newspaper called The Weekly Messenger editorialized in 1893. “Must we permit our women and even female children to live in constant peril of outrage?”

In 1898, Louisiana held a state constitutional convention. The delegates asked for a racial breakdown of the voting rolls and learned that about 15 percent of eligible voters, and thus jurors, were black. The delegates then voted to allow convictions in 12-juror trials even if three jurors dissented — permitting the majority to override the opinion of a likely number of black jurors at any trial. (In 1973, at another state constitutional convention, Louisiana increased, from nine to 10, the number of jurors required for conviction for crimes that carry a penalty of hard labor and imprisonment.)

In Oregon, nonunanimous juries stemmed from another prejudice: anti-Semitism, along with xenophobia. In 1933, a Jewish hotel owner was charged with the murder of two white Protestants in a gangland-style execution. In a sensationalized trial, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter rather than second-degree murder. The Morning Oregonian published editorials calling for nonunanimous juries in order to cope with “vast immigration into America from Southern and Eastern Europe” — the latter region was where many Jewish newcomers originated — “of people untrained in the jury system.” In a special election in May 1934, on a state constitutional amendment, voters approved a 10-out-of-12 rule for jury convictions for all crimes except first-degree murder.

In keeping with their origins, laws permitting nonunanimous juries tend to disadvantage minority jurors and defendants most. Prosecutors strike black people from juries at more than twice the rate that they strike white people, according to a 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by The Advocate, Louisiana’s largest newspaper. In one of its reports, the newspaper reviewed 46 cases, and it found that when black jurors were seated, they were nearly three times as likely to vote not guilty as white jurors if the verdict was not unanimous. And in a set of nearly 1,000 cases, a greater share of black defendants (more than four out of 10) were convicted by split juries than white defendants (more than three out of 10).

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

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

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