News 01.29.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 01.29.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 01.29.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 01.29.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Don’t get me wrong – yes, I’m a professor at Yale University, but I’m no genius. When I first mentioned to our four grown children that I was going to teach a new course on genius, they thought that was the funniest thing they’d ever heard. ‘You, you’re no genius! You’re a plodder.’ And they were right. So how did it come to pass that now, some dozen years later, I continue to teach a successful course on genius at Yale, and have written an Amazon Book of the Year selection, The Hidden Habits of Genius (2020). The answer: I must have, as Nikola Tesla urged, ‘the boldness of ignorance’.

I started my professional life trying to be a concert pianist, back in the days of the Cold War. The United States was then trying to beat the Soviet Union at its own games. In 1958, Van Cliburn, a 23-year-old pianist from Texas, won the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition, something akin to the Olympics of classical music. And then in 1972, Brooklyn’s Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky in chess. Because I had shown an interest in music, and was also tall with enormous hands, I, too, would become the next Cliburn, at least so my mother declared.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

News 01.29.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 01.29.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One afternoon in December 2019, Kathleen Langer, an elderly grandmother who lives by herself in Crossville, Tenn., got a phone call from a person who said he worked in the refund department of her computer manufacturer. The reason for the call, he explained, was to process a refund the company owed Langer for antivirus and anti-hacking protection that had been sold to her and was now being discontinued. Langer, who has a warm and kind voice, couldn’t remember purchasing the plan in question, but at her age, she didn’t quite trust her memory. She had no reason to doubt the caller, who spoke with an Indian accent and said his name was Roger.

He asked her to turn on her computer and led her through a series of steps so that he could access it remotely. When Langer asked why this was necessary, he said he needed to remove his company’s software from her machine. Because the protection was being terminated, he told her, leaving the software on the computer would cause it to crash.

After he gained access to her desktop, using the program TeamViewer, the caller asked Langer to log into her bank to accept the refund, $399, which he was going to transfer into her account. “Because of a technical issue with our system, we won’t be able to refund your money on your credit card or mail you a check,” he said. Langer made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to log in. She didn’t do online banking too often and couldn’t remember her user name.

Frustrated, the caller opened her bank’s internet banking registration form on her computer screen, created a new user name and password for her and asked her to fill out the required details — including her address, Social Security number and birth date. When she typed this last part in, the caller noticed she had turned 80 just weeks earlier and wished her a belated happy birthday. “Thank you!” she replied.

After submitting the form, he tried to log into Langer’s account but failed, because Langer’s bank — like most banks — activates a newly created user ID only after verifying it by speaking to the customer who has requested it. The caller asked Langer if she could go to her bank to resolve the issue. “How far is the bank from your house?” he asked.

A few blocks away, Langer answered. Because it was late afternoon, however, she wasn’t sure if it would be open when she got there. The caller noted that the bank didn’t close until 4:30, which meant she still had 45 minutes. “He was very insistent,” Langer told me recently. On her computer screen, the caller typed out what he wanted her to say at the bank. “Don’t tell them anything about the refund,” he said. She was to say that she needed to log in to check her statements and pay bills.

Langer couldn’t recall, when we spoke, if she drove to the bank or not. But later that afternoon, she rang the number the caller had given her and told him she had been unable to get to the bank in time. He advised her to go back the next morning. By now, Langer was beginning to have doubts about the caller. She told him she wouldn’t answer the phone if he contacted her again.

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


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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pumped body was like “a brown condom full of walnuts”. Damon Hill’s Formula 1 car was “a modern sculpture propelled by burning money”. Television was “the haunted fish tank”, a sense of humour was merely “common sense, dancing” and a luxury liner was nothing but “a bad play surrounded by water”. Sydney’s Opera House looked like “a portable typewriter full of oyster shells”.

You didn’t need to read Clive James’s books or poems to feel the impact he made on the English language. You only had to watch television or read the papers.

No one could launch a ringing phrase with such effortless ease. No one was so sharp, so quotable and so available. There are throwaway lines from his Observer television column, his F1 shows and his Postcard from … travel documentaries that are gleefully repeated on Twitter decades after they were first minted.

A limp BBC classic serial was branded “Wuth­ering Depths”, Dallas’s J.R. Ewing had “a hat-band composed of crushed budgerigars” and the romantic novelist Barbara Cartland’s maquillage became the most famous make-up in town: “Twin miracles of mascara, her eyes looked like the corpses of two small crows that had crashed into a chalk cliff.”

Read the rest of this article at: Quadrant Online

News 01.29.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 01.29.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One year ago, Delaware’s second-largest school district was in trouble. A failed referendum in 2019, on the heels of state funding cuts two years prior, had left it staring down a $10 million deficit that raised the specter of teacher layoffs, the end of sports and extracurriculars, and the demise of a promising magnet-school program. For a district already pummeled by an exodus of well-off families to private and charter schools — whose 14,000 students are roughly 75% nonwhite, 40% low-income, and more than 20% with special needs — it felt like the type of blow that could echo for generations.

Leaders and parent advocates in the district, the Christina School District in Newark, Del., had been banking on the referendum to pass. They knew that convincing residents to raise their own property taxes, often on behalf of kids other than their own, was never easy. But they had made what they thought was a compelling case through informational websites, word of mouth, and outreach to local media, the same strategy that had helped them pass a similar measure three years prior.

They never expected the campaign would also hinge, in part, on their ability to counter misinformation on Nextdoor, a platform best known for helping neighbors find a good plumber or a lost cat.

At its core, Nextdoor is an evolution of the neighborhood listserv for the social media age, a place to trade composting tips, offer babysitting services, or complain about the guy down the street who doesn’t clean up his dog’s poop. Like many neighborhood listservs, it also has increasingly well-documented issues with racial profilingstereotyping of the homeless, and political ranting of various stripes, including QAnon.

But Nextdoor has gradually evolved into something bigger and more consequential than just a digital bulletin board: In many communities, the platform has begun to step into roles once filled by America’s local newspapers. “Anecdotally, Nextdoor has gone from being kind of sub-Facebook to actually being the main platform you hear people discussing as a vector for local news and events and discussions,” says Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

Read the rest of this article at: OneZero

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News 01.29.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Maasai warrior Kamunu Saitoti had been hunting for the better part of a day when at last he came across lion tracks in the dusty soil. It was 2007 in the Maasai-owned territory of Eselenkei in southern Kenya, the light was growing dim, and Kamunu’s two younger fellow warriors said perhaps they should turn back for their village because it is dangerous to be near lions at night. But Kamunu was eager to find the lion that had eaten his father’s cow.

A severe drought gripped the region. Wildebeest and zebra were dying by the thousands, so the lions—starved of their natural prey—had turned to attacking Maasai cattle in greater numbers. Cattle are the Maasai’s livelihood, and warriors like Kamunu were responsible for protecting them.

Gripping tall spears and wearing the Maasai’s traditional brightly colored cloth sheets, bracelets, and earrings stretching their earlobes, the three warriors stalked across the savannah in sandaled feet, until Kamunu spotted three lions under a tree. One—a female—had a bloated belly, which led Kamunu to suspect she was the culprit.

A seasoned lion killer, he led the warriors stealthily through the chaparral and waited behind a tree until the lions fell asleep. With adrenaline surging, they leaped from the cover of the bush, sprinted for the lions, and attacked them with their spears. The startled lions fought back, snarling, lunging, and roaring at the warriors. But as they roared, Kamunu’s hunting party knew to stab the animals in their open mouths, puncturing their organs and causing them to bleed internally. The lions hissed, choked, and coughed up blood, until finally collapsing.

Kamunu waited to be certain the beasts were dead—because a wounded lion is a terrifying thing—before unsheathing his steel knife and slicing open the belly of the lioness. He was expecting to find his father’s cow inside, but much to his surprise, he discovered her stomach was empty. His bad luck continued when he was arrested by Kenya Wildlife Service rangers for the killing. He served 10 days in jail, and his father had to sell three cows to pay his bail.

Lion hunting was an ancient tradition among the Maasai, the semi-nomadic tribe that ply their existence herding livestock in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. Throughout the tribe’s 2,000-year history, its warriors hunted lions both to defend their livestock and as part of a “coming of age” ritual. Lion hunts increased as the area’s human population grew, with villages and pastures carving deeper into wildlife habitat, bringing Maasai livestock in closer contact to lions. Between 2001 and 2011, Maasai warriors killed more than 200 lions in southern Kenya, the equivalent of 40 percent of the population each year. These hunts, combined with habitat loss, poaching, and disease, caused the lion population across Africa to plummet from half a million in 1950 to fewer than 30,000 in 2013. A decade ago, scientists worried the lion could be extinct in Kenya by 2020.

Instead, in the Maasai-owned lands of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania known as Maasailand, the lion population has rebounded. “We’re now having conversations around what to do with so many lions,” said Egyptian American conservationist Dr. Leela Hazzah.

She’s the c0-founder of Lion Guardians, a nonprofit that gives Maasai warriors who once killed lions the responsibility for protecting them. Building on their traditional tracking skills, the warriors learn to fit lions with tracking collars, then use radio telemetry antennas and GPS receivers to follow their movements and warn villagers and herders if a lion is in the vicinity to thwart any conflict.

Read the rest of this article at: The Daily Beast

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