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News 08.03.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 08.03.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.03.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.03.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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Some 700 years ago, the Tuscan town of Siena was a burgeoning banking and proto-industrial powerhouse with over 50,000 inhabitants — a population surpassed only by medieval “mega-cities” like Paris, London and Milan.

But then, in 1348, just when the thriving city was in the prime of its golden age, Siena’s prosperity was brought to a sudden halt by the Black Death. In just a few years, the city lost 60 percent of its population and entered into a steep decline, falling into obscurity. It took until the 20th century for it to recover its pre-pandemic size.

COVID-19 isn’t nearly as deadly as the medieval bubonic plague, but the social and economic upheaval it’s caused is already leaving physical marks on modern cities in Europe: Once-busy business districts have emptied out as people opt to work from home. Shops and restaurants have closed. Public transport has slowed down.

There’s also reason to believe this pandemic could have an even more lasting impact than its predecessors. For the first time since the earliest cities emerged in the Fertile Crescent some 6,000 years ago, concentrated urban centers no longer have a monopoly on the economic and cultural connections that make civilizations tick forward.

Read the rest of this article at: Politico

News 08.03.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.03.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Mr. Lewis, the civil rights leader who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death, to be published upon the day of his funeral.

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

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

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The ancient city of Alexandria lies on a narrow strip of Mediterranean coast to the west of the Nile delta. To the south is Lake Mariout, which once hemmed in the city rather closely, but has been reduced over the past century as land has been reclaimed for agriculture and for Alexandria International Airport. In 1921, during the period of British rule, a new masterplan was put in place for the city. It was prepared by William H McLean, a Scot who had an urban planning career across the colonial Middle East: he was town engineer in Khartoum, and also prepared a masterplan for Jerusalem. In his vision for Alexandria, McLean plotted its expansion to east and west, convinced that any land reclaimed from Lake Mariout would be needed for farming rather than housing. The fact that the city now straggles along the coast rather than sprawling inland is partly a result of this plan.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

News 08.03.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 11.26.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Between the ocean’s bright blue surface and its blackest depths — 660 to 3,300 feet below — is a mysterious, dark span of water. Welcome to the twilight zone.

Recent evidence suggests there are more animals here by weight than in all of the world’s fisheries combined. But who lives here, and in what quantities?

Since August, a group of scientists has been using new technology to better understand the twilight zone’s strange inhabitants. They hope their findings will lead to a more sustainable approach before the fishing industry tries to harvest some of its abundant life as fisheries closer to the surface are diminished.

“The time is right to get this knowledge before it’s too late,” said Heidi Sosik, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who is leading The Ocean Twilight Zone project. “This twilight zone region of the ocean is really, very barely explored, but the more we learn, the more interesting and more important it seems to be in playing a role in the whole ecosystem.”

Each animal in the ocean has its own auditory signature that ships usually detect by sending out sound waves that bounce or scatter off their bodies. It’s how whale watching cruises often find humpbacks for you to view.

But the acoustic fingerprints of twilight zone animals are still mysterious because shipboard sonar don’t have the bandwidth to distinguish the many organisms living far below the surface in what’s called the deep scattering layer. It’s an area so dense with life that people once thought it was the seafloor.

Around 250 different species of myctophids, or lantern fish, like the specimens above, make up much of this dense layer. Though abundant enough to trick sonar, individually they are no bigger than your index finger.

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

News 08.03.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

By the time Grace¹ arrived at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in November 2019, she had forgotten the date and the day of the week—the longer she spent protesting, the more time seemed to fray around the edges. She was battle hardened and exhausted. Hong Kong’s police were employing increasingly authoritarian tactics against pro-democracy protesters like her. She had become accustomed to the smell of tear gas and the sound of canisters squealing as they arced overhead. She knew the feel of protective gear on her face and the heft of flame-resistant gloves on her hands. Compared with those things, the date didn’t matter.

Grace is in her early twenties, a political-science student. She first joined the protests, hopeful and bold, in June 2019, during the annual candlelight vigil that takes place in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. She was intoxicated by the idea of the movement, the feeling of bodies united together in a cause. A swelling in the chest, a sense of hope and desperation—she had never experienced anything like it.

Months of sustained protest followed, and Hong Kong was haunted by scenes of violence in the streets, at the airport, and on the MTR (the city’s metro). Protesters initially had set out to derail an extradition bill that would allow the government to transport accused criminals to mainland China, but as law enforcement cracked down and videos of brutality spread, the movement’s focus shifted to ending police violence and demanding that all Hong Kongers be able to vote for the city’s highest-ranking officials. Despite those progressive goals, there was an end-of-days feeling to the protests. A disquieting thought hung in the back of Grace’s mind: Hong Kong was dying, and she was helping it make one last stand.

Huge marches were followed by smaller actions. Protesters broke up into leaderless pods. Years of arrests and kidnappings had made putting anyone in charge too risky. Protesters developed a strategy, embodied in the slogan “be water”—assemble for an instant, then drain through the surrounding streets—allowing them to clash with police and avoid arrest. It was inevitable, in retrospect, that the strategy would sometimes fail. That the water would pool and become trapped.

Read the rest of this article at: the Atavist Magazine

News 08.03.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I found a dead common swift once, a husk of a bird under a bridge over the River Thames, where sunlight from the water cast bright scribbles on the arches above. I picked it up, held it in my palm, saw the dust in its feathers, its wings crossed like dull blades, its eyes tightly closed, and realized that I didn’t know what to do. This was a surprise. Encouraged by books, I’d always been the type of Gothic amateur naturalist who preserved interesting bits of the dead. I cleaned and polished fox skulls; disarticulated, dried and kept the wings of roadkill birds. But I knew, looking at the swift, that I could not do anything like that to it. The bird was suffused with a kind of seriousness very akin to holiness. I didn’t want to leave it there, so I took it home, swaddled it in a towel and tucked it in the freezer. It was in early May the next year, as soon as I saw the first returning swifts flowing down from the clouds, that I knew what I had to do. I went to the freezer, took out the swift and buried it in the garden one hand’s-width deep in earth newly warmed by the sun.

Swifts are magical in the manner of all things that exist just a little beyond understanding. Once they were called the “Devil’s bird,” perhaps because those screaming flocks of black crosses around churches seemed pulled from darkness, not light. But to me, they are creatures of the upper air, and of their nature unintelligible, which makes them more akin to angels. Unlike all other birds I knew as a child, they never descended to the ground.

When I was young, I was frustrated that there was no way for me to know them better. They were so fast that it was impossible to focus on their facial expressions or watch them preen through binoculars. They were only ever flickering silhouettes at 30, 40, 50 miles an hour, a shoal of birds, a pouring sheaf of identical black grains against bright clouds. There was no way to tell one bird from another, nor to watch them do anything other than move from place to place, although sometimes, if the swifts were flying low over rooftops, I’d see one open its mouth, and that was truly uncanny, because the gape was huge, turning the bird into something uncomfortably like a miniature basking shark. Even so, watching them with the naked eye was rewarding in how it revealed the dynamism of what before was merely blankness. Swifts weigh about 1½ ounces, and their surfing and tacking against the pressures of oncoming air make visible the movings of the atmosphere.

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

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