News 08.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 08.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Paywalls are justified, even though they are annoying. It costs money to produce good writing, to run a website, to license photographs. A lot of money, if you want quality. Asking people for a fee to access content is therefore very reasonable. You don’t expect to get a print subscription  to the newspaper gratis, why would a website be different? I try not to grumble about having to pay for online content, because I run a magazine and I know how difficult it is to pay writers what they deserve.

But let us also notice something: the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free! You want “Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The Streets,” “The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other COVID Restrictions,” or an article suggesting the National Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus—they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness—well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run straight into the paywall. This doesn’t mean the paywall shouldn’t be there. But it does mean that it costs time and money to access a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit is completely free.

Read the rest of this article at: Current Affairs

News 08.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

He fled Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He exposed Australia’s offshore detention camps — from the inside. He survived, stateless, for seven years. What’s next?

Behrouz Boochani’s book, “No Friend but the Mountains,” won the prestigious Victorian Prize for Literature in 2019 while he was still detained on Manus Island.Credit…Birgit Krippner for The New York Times

It was hard, in the end, to figure out what to take and what to leave. Spread over the linoleum floor of Behrouz Boochani’s motel room were drifts of clothing, books in Persian and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette stubs. It was a November morning last year in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea; outside, roosters screamed under a stinging equatorial sun. Boochani’s room was cramped; the door propped open by a wastebasket stuffed with the remains of chicken dinners. Everything he owned, all the objects and talismans gathered during six and a half years of imprisonment, were crammed into this small room. Boochani had been an Iranian dissident and a boat person; a detainee and a refugee. In the morning he would strike out again, hoping to reach yet another new life. It didn’t matter, really, what stuff he carried along. “I don’t care about these books,” he said suddenly, though many of them contained Boochani’s own work.

The motel loomed around him, a sealed, somber spot in the bustle of the port town. Everyone staying in Lodge 10 — every guest, although that’s the wrong word — was a refugee awaiting resettlement. These men were brought into the country against their will for the noncrime of seeking political asylum in Australia. They were among hundreds of migrants locked up in an old naval base on Manus Island, which lies off the northeast coast of mainland Papua New Guinea. Now they had been moved to this motel with its shared toilets and atmosphere of stultified trauma. Some of the refugees hardly stirred from bed; medical contractors dosed them with sleeping pills and psychiatric drugs. They had survived Manus only to find themselves floundering like castaways in Port Moresby, one of the world’s most dangerous cities, notorious for armed robberies, gang violence and rape. Days, weeks, months slipped away while they waited for news of resettlement. Meanwhile, they were stuck. Or, to be precise, everyone but Boochani was stuck.

All the men had started out together in the shared misery of detention, but then Boochani did something extraordinary: Letter by letter, pecked out on contraband telephones while locked up on Manus, he wrote his first book. “No Friend but the Mountains” was published in 2018, electrifying readers with its harrowing and deeply humanistic rendering of life in the secretive and little-understood camp. The book was an award-winning best seller; its beleaguered author became a cause célèbre. Now Boochani was armed with priceless paperwork: an invitation from a literary organization in New Zealand, a one-month visa to cross the border and a ticket on a morning flight.

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

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

Shop the Tuscany Tote in Midnight
at Belgrave Crescent &

We were two or three weeks into building a cabin when the first two-by-four became the target of a sudden, white-hot flash of anger. It was the summer of 2018, in the middle of Washington’s emerald-soaked Cascade Range, and I was on the phone with my father, seeking advice about some framing conundrum, while my longtime friend Patrick (who goes by Pat) was wrestling a 16-foot board toward a miter saw. When the whir of the blade stopped, it became immediately clear that he had cut it wrong. The sawdust still airborne, Pat reached down, grabbed a two-by-four with the conviction of a Baptist preacher, and sent it flying into the forest with a short, crisp, “Fuck.”

A lot more lumber would end up in the woods. We screwed up countless times from morning to evening, wasting precious daylight hours. Constructing a cabin was a task that one might say we were “not entirely prepared for.” Sometimes, during those months of toil, our anger burned so intensely that we thought the boards we threw into the woods might never land. They’d just keep flying, the wood breaking down over time and separating into smaller and smaller pieces until they vanished, as our brains exploded from frustration and worry.

Read the rest of this article at: Outside

News 08.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet’s most powerful nation. America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors are difficult, in the moment, to truly fathom.

In the first half of 2020, SARS‑CoV‑2—the new coronavirus behind the disease COVID‑19—infected 10 million people around the world and killed about half a million. But few countries have been as severely hit as the United States, which has just 4 percent of the world’s population but a quarter of its confirmed COVID‑19 cases and deaths. These numbers are estimates. The actual toll, though undoubtedly higher, is unknown, because the richest country in the world still lacks sufficient testing to accurately count its sick citizens.

Despite ample warning, the U.S. squandered every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus. And despite its considerable advantages—immense resources, biomedical might, scientific expertise—it floundered. While countries as different as South Korea, Thailand, Iceland, Slovakia, and Australia acted decisively to bend the curve of infections downward, the U.S. achieved merely a plateau in the spring, which changed to an appalling upward slope in the summer. “The U.S. fundamentally failed in ways that were worse than I ever could have imagined,” Julia Marcus, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, told me.

Since the pandemic began, I have spoken with more than 100 experts in a variety of fields. I’ve learned that almost everything that went wrong with America’s response to the pandemic was predictable and preventable. A sluggish response by a government denuded of expertise allowed the coronavirus to gain a foothold. Chronic underfunding of public health neutered the nation’s ability to prevent the pathogen’s spread. A bloated, inefficient health-care system left hospitals ill-prepared for the ensuing wave of sickness. Racist policies that have endured since the days of colonization and slavery left Indigenous and Black Americans especially vulnerable to COVID‑19. The decades-long process of shredding the nation’s social safety net forced millions of essential workers in low-paying jobs to risk their life for their livelihood. The same social-media platforms that sowed partisanship and misinformation during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa and the 2016 U.S. election became vectors for conspiracy theories during the 2020 pandemic.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 08.05.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In a nondescript building in Seattle, a man sits strapped to a chair with his right hand resting on a touchpad. Pressed against his skull is a large magnetic coil that can induce an electrical current in the brain, a technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation. The coil is positioned in such a way that a pulse will result in a hand movement. A mile away in another building, another man looks at a screen while 64 electrodes in a shower cap record his brain activity using electro-encephalography. Rough activation patterns are fed back to the computer so that he, by concentrating, can move a dot a small distance on the screen. As he focuses, a simple signal derived from the brain activity is transmitted to the first building, where another computer tells the magnetic coil to deliver its pulse. The first man’s hand jolts upward, then falls down on the touchpad, where the input is registered as a move in a video game. Then a cannon is fired and a city is saved – by two bodies acting as one.

As gameplay goes, the result might seem modest, but it has far-reaching implications for human interaction – at least if we believe the team of scientists at the University of Washington led by the computer scientist Rajesh Rao who ran this experiment. This is one of the first prototypes of brain-to-brain interfaces in humans. From the sender’s motionless concentration to the receiver’s involuntary twitch, they form a single distributed system, connected by wires instead of words. ‘Can information that is available in the brain be transferred directly in the form of the neural code, bypassing language altogether?’ the scientists wondered in writing up the results. A Barcelona team reached a similar result with people as far apart as India and France. With a gush of anticipation, they exclaim: ‘There is now the possibility of a new era in which brains will dialogue in a more direct way.’

The popular media has been quick to jump on the bandwagon as the prototypes make global headlines. Big Think declared brain-to-brain interfaces ‘the next great leap in human communication’. The tech entrepreneur Elon Musk speculated about how a neural prosthetic to be made by one of his own companies might ‘solve the data rate issue’ of human communication. The idea is that, given high bandwidth physical connectivity, language will simply become obsolete. Will we finally be able to escape the tyranny of words and enjoy the instant sharing of ideas?

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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

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