News 08.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 08.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 08.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In October 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at a VIP-laden press event in Toronto to announce plans for a new neighborhood in the city to be built “from the internet up.” The big reveal was the builder: Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. The mood was festive, optimistic. Schoolchildren were on hand with Lego models of future cityscapes, which Trudeau, flanked by Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s then–executive chairman, and John Tory, the Toronto mayor, explored in a flawlessly staged photo op.
The prime minister spoke in earnest tones. Quayside, as the 12-acre waterfront project had been christened, would be “a testbed for new technologies,” he said, “that will help us build smarter, greener, more inclusive cities.” Not one to shy away from wholesome platitudes, he added, “The future, just like this community, will be interconnected.”
Then Schmidt rose to the lectern and said that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had long opined about “all of these things that we could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge.” Chuckles reverberated through the crowd.

Read the rest of this article at: OneZero

News 08.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

WEIRD THINGS HAPPEN in and around New York City nearly every day, so the appearance of a suspicious package at George Soros’ residence in Westchester County didn’t initially raise many eyebrows at the FBI’s hulking New York field office.

Late on the evening of Monday, October 22, 2018, the office received an alert known as a “nine-liner”—a brief update on an unfolding situation that, in the classic muddle of government communications, is actually 11 lines long. As a routine precautionary response, a team of bomb techs headed to Katonah, New York, to examine the yellow padded envelope. Given the rarity of mail bombs—the US Postal Service encounters about 16 a year, amid plenty of hoaxes—the technicians had good reason to expect it was a false alarm.

But they quickly sent an update when they arrived on the scene: “Boss, we found some energetic material,” an agent on the ground reported by phone to William Sweeney, the FBI assistant director in charge of the New York office. “We have a viable device.”

Sweeney, a 20-year veteran of the bureau, had spent the bulk of his career in the tri-state area and now oversaw the agency’s largest, most powerful, and most politically fraught office, comprising more than 2,000 agents, analysts, surveillance specialists, and other personnel, who handled everything from Italian mobsters to Russian spies at the UN. His friendly neighborhood-dad persona belied his role as one of the FBI’s most important feudal lords, and he was no stranger to terrorism cases. A year earlier, when a would-be suicide bomber had targeted the Port Authority bus terminal in 2017, the suspect’s body was still smoking from his incompletely detonated pipe bomb when Sweeney arrived on the scene. Now, Sweeney knew that the follow-up call from the agents in Katonah would change the night’s rhythm dramatically. An actual working bomb? “That starts the machine,” Sweeney says.

Multiple FBI teams were dispatched, including the office’s terrorism unit. One investigator’s initial theory was that this was an inside job: The package had appeared in a mailbox at the Soros residence that was surveilled by a faulty security camera, which meant there was no record of how it got there. How would anyone but Soros’ house staff know that the camera guarding the mailbox was inoperative?

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

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Jared kushner, the second-most-powerful man in the White House, is quite a bit smarter than the most powerful man, his father-in-law, the president. Donald Trump possesses a genius for the jugular, but he evinces few other signs of intelligence. He certainly displays no capacity, or predisposition, to learn. His son-in-law, by contrast, appears to have sufficient analytic acumen to comprehend that the country has been brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic. Kushner might not be the brightest public servant in American history—he is a Harvard graduate who is also a leading symbol of college-admissions corruption, and a businessman with a substantial record of failure—but he has shown flashes of effectiveness in his time at the White House. Because he projects a facsimile of capability and because he shows, at irregular intervals, a seemingly genuine interest in governing, he is also an exasperating mystery.

Like many Americans, I’ve been watching Kushner for four years now, and I’ve asked myself this question: Why does he enable his father-in-law’s worst impulses? The answer, I believe, is embedded in the core of his biography. I’ve spent months studying Kushner’s personal history. This story is built on more than two dozen interviews, with current and former White House officials who have worked intimately with Kushner, as well as outside advisers whose wisdom he has sought, business associates, and old family friends. (Kushner himself declined to comment.)

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 08.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Marily So, a woman in her early fifties with graying hair, runs a sari-sari store out of her one-room home in a concrete building beside a railway track in Manila. In the steamy heat of a summer afternoon, shirtless children appear at her window clutching coins. With a kind smile, she serves them warm bottles of water and Royal Tru, one of a few sodas she displays alongside tiny shampoo sachets and single cigarettes. There’s one brand she refuses to sell. If someone asks for a Pepsi, her expression sours. For more than 28 years she’s nurtured bitter resentment against the company. “I didn’t have a job back then,” she says, starting in on her Pepsi story.

It was 6 p.m. on May 25, 1992, and So was among the 70% of Filipinos watching the Channel 2 evening news. Then 23, she was living in a wooden shack beside the tracks with four children under 5. Pepsi was about to announce the winning number in a promotion that had gripped the Philippines’ 65 million people. Her husband, a house painter, had spent their last centavos on special “Number Fever” bottles of Pepsi, hoping one of the three-digit numbers printed on the underside of the caps would match one of the winning numbers locked inside a vault.

Across the Philippines’ 7,641 islands, ads had promised people “You could be a millionaire.” A million pesos, about $68,000 in today’s dollars, was the largest prize available, 611 times the country’s average monthly salary at the time. The published odds of winning that amount were 28.8 million to 1, but Pepsi had already minted 18 millionaires. They appeared in its ads, real as day. One, a bus driver named Nema Balmes, became known as Mrs. Pepsi after joking that drinking cola put her husband “in the mood.”

Number Fever was the brainchild of an executive named Pedro Vergara, a Chilean who worked for the promotions department in New York. After a successful U.S. rollout, Pepsi-Cola International Chief Executive Officer Christopher Sinclair made it part of his strategy to fight Coca-Cola abroad. Since becoming the global arm’s youngest CEO at 38, Sinclair had developed a reputation as a “battlefield commander.” Visiting 77 countries in six months, he was dismayed to find the world’s grocery aisles “awash with Coca-Cola red,” as Fortune put it.

Pepsi hired a Mexican company, DG Consultores, to bring Number Fever to Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, and the Philippines, where it truly caught fire. Monthly sales there quickly jumped from $10 million to $14 million and its market share from 19.4% to 24.9%. Bottling plants roared 20 hours a day, doubling their usual production. An aggressive ad campaign dominated the media, with 29 radio stations and four newspapers circulating the winning numbers. The promotion, initially scheduled to end on May 8, was extended five weeks. By then, Number Fever was verging on Number Hysteria. Cops jailed a maid accused of stealing her employer’s winning crown, as the bottle caps were known. Two Pepsi salespeople were murdered following a dispute over another crown.

The night of May 25, So murmured a prayer as the blue of the television shone in her children’s eyes. When Pepsi announced the winning number, her husband, Isagani, rifled through their crowns and found the one: 349. A million pesos. Her prayer had been answered. The couple danced and laughed until the TV started to rattle and a passing freight train drowned out their shrieks of joy.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

News 08.14.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

As global protests broke out in response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Michael Thompson was feeling the way many Americans did: He wanted to gather with others to demand respect for Black personhood, pay tribute to a man’s too-short life, and condemn the unjust conditions that ended it. But as an inmate at the Muskegon Correctional Facility in Michigan, it wouldn’t be easy for Thompson to do that. At correctional facilities across the U.S., staff concerned about violence had cut prisoners’ access to media. His own facility already prohibits gatherings in order to curb gang activity. “We can’t even congregate,” he told The Counter.

Editor’s note: Michael Thompson’s fears about becoming sick have been realized. Since this story was filed, the outbreak of Covid-19 at Muskegon Correctional Facility has worsened, with more than 100 cases confirmed inside the prison to date. In late July, Thompson was hospitalized with symptoms of the virus, and subsequently tested positive. Robert Cannon, Jr., a second source for this story, has also contracted the virus.

Thompson says he’s feeling weak, but promises to beat the virus because “I am a fighter.” It doesn’t help that the food at the prison hospital is inedible, Thompson reports. This week, he told the prison reform activist Deedee Kirkwood that he is “completely without energy” and the facility feels like “a crazy house.”

Thompson sat down with his friend and fellow inmate, Robert Cannon, Jr., and the pair mulled their options. The two men often speak about politics and social justice issues, including the problems they see firsthand in America’s criminal justice system. Thompson is already something of a cause célèbre for activists lobbying against long sentences for non-violent offenders: He is 25 years into a 40- to 60-year sentence for selling marijuana in Michigan, a state where cannabis is now legal. Calls for his release recently came from the state’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, who this week sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, expressing support for the commutation of Thompson’s sentence. When two men in the facility tested positive for Covid-19, Thompson felt seriously concerned—he is 69 years old and suffers from diabetes, factors that make him especially susceptible to grave illness or even death if he is exposed.

As the unrest continued outside, Thompson came up with a way to mark Floyd’s death inside: a special meal that he’d share with the inmates in a “celebration” honoring Floyd’s life. Because the state facility is a Level II, medium-security prison, the inmates have free movement throughout the housing unit, with the exception of mandatory counts four times a day. They also have access to a microwave—not an ideal kitchen tool for preparing a large-scale meal, but it would have to do.

“The meal is our special way of honoring him,” Cannon, Jr. said. He has been in prison for 36 years, the result of a fist fight that ended in a man’s death when Cannon was 25. Now 61 years old, he is serving a 50- to 75-year sentence.

As the two men spread word of their event through the facility, it became clear that interest was nearly universal. But feeding everyone would not be possible.

“The finance was not there in order for us to cater to the whole unit … it was indicated within the feed-back we all received, that all within unit-2 would have participated if given the opportunity, however, we done our very best to accomodate all those we could,” Thompson said via JPay, the prison messaging site.

Though Thompson wanted to include his entire unit, the event had to be capped at 50 men. Because resources were limited, he tried to stick to inmates who lacked financial support from the outside, for whom a meal of more than the standard prison fare would be extra special. Most men in the facility make about $18 a month through labor they perform on behalf of the prison, Thompson said. When inmates do spend their scant earnings in the prison commissary, they have to prioritize medicine and hygiene products, not food or soda—which cost $1.75—from the vending machine.

Read the rest of this article at: Counter

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