Wednesday, January 25, 2023

25: Putin

ChatGPT Wrote (Most of) This Letter, but Its Editors Are Human A chatbot comes to its own defense, saying the idea that it is a threat to democracy is “fear-based speculation.” .......... While it is true that ChatGPT can generate text that is often indistinguishable from human writing, it is important to note that this technology is not capable of understanding the nuances and subtleties of political networks and systems. ....... ChatGPT and similar technologies have the potential to be powerful tools for businesses, researchers and educators. They can be used to automate repetitive tasks, improve efficiency and generate new insights

The U.S. Has Made a Coldly Logical Decision in Ukraine. So Has Russia. Kyiv wants as many weapons as the West can send, it wants to reclaim every inch of territory, and it doesn’t want to entertain terms that would concede anything to the invading Russians. ......... shared by many hawkish voices in Europe and America, who continue to plan for Ukraine’s triumph and Vladimir Putin’s overthrow. .......... the White House’s proximate goal is a favorable armistice, not complete Russian defeat. ......... the Russians seem to be not just digging in but also girding for their own renewed offensive. ....... From the assumed Russian perspective, Ukrainian gains in the fall and European resilience in the winter have made military success only more urgent. There’s no point in elaborating peace proposals so long as the Ukrainians are convinced that they can win a total victory, and they’re more convinced of that than ever. ......... escalation is embraced as a coldly logical decision, as the only reasonable course. ....... And out of such rationality, you get closer to the irrationality of fighting for years in a war that neither side can fully hope to win.

Putin Has No Red Lines The Taliban’s return to Kabul in August 2021 — an outcome the West had spent two decades and trillions of dollars preventing — was the brightest of red lines, until, in the face of changing priorities and a different view of costs and benefits, it suddenly wasn’t. ........... preoccupation with red lines invites deception. A state will seek to manipulate an adversary’s desire to restrain itself by enlarging the range of interests it claims are fundamental and actions it considers unacceptable. Fear of escalation thus encourages an escalation of bluff. ........ communicating the certainty of severe consequences should Russia use nuclear weapons. ........ Russia has no red lines: It has only, at each moment, a range of options and perceptions of their relative risks and benefits. ........ a long war threatens his regime — whose preservation seems to be the only thing he values more highly than a subordinated Ukraine — by fatally weakening domestic cohesion or by escalating out of control. ........ To signal unilateral restraint is to make an unforced concession. ....... An orderly withdrawal is unlikely to lead to regime change, let alone the breakup of Russia. ......... if Russia’s elites conclude that it is as dangerous for Russia to leave Ukraine as to stay, they have no incentive to press for an end to the war.

Are We in the West Weaker Than Ukrainians? I worry that we in the West are made of weaker stuff. ........ almost half of Americans want the United States to push Ukraine “to settle for peace as soon as possible,” even if it loses territory .......... We are holding Ukraine’s coat as it is sacrificing lives and infrastructure in ways that benefit us, by degrading Russia’s military threat to NATO and Western Europe — and thus to us. ......... “They’re doing us a favor; they’re fighting our fight” ........ “If Ukraine falls, there will certainly be a wave of nuclear proliferation” ....... If the West falters and allows Putin to win in Ukraine, Xi will feel greater confidence that he can win in Taiwan. ........ Putin has been a destabilizing and brutal bully for many years — from Chechnya to Syria, Georgia to Moldova — partly because the world has been unwilling to stand up to him and partly because he possesses a powerful military force that Ukraine is now dismantling. Aside from energy, Russia’s economy is not substantial. ........... “Russia is a poor country, an oil appendage to the world, a gas station.” ......... bowing to nuclear blackmail and rewarding an invasion would create their own risks for many years to come, and on balance those dangers seem greater than those of maintaining the present course. .......... The world could use a spinal transplant from brave Ukrainians.

I Went to Ukraine, and I Saw a Resolve That We Should Learn From

How ChatGPT Hijacks Democracy It could mimic the work that the Russian Internet Research Agency did in its attempt to influence our 2016 elections, but without the agency’s reported multimillion-dollar budget and hundreds of employees. ......... When we humans do these things, we call it lobbying. Successful agents in this sphere pair precision message writing with smart targeting strategies. Right now, the only thing stopping a ChatGPT-equipped lobbyist from executing something resembling a rhetorical drone warfare campaign is a lack of precision targeting. A.I. could provide techniques for that as well. ......... What makes the threat of A.I.-powered lobbyists greater than the threat already posed by the high-priced lobbying firms on K Street is their potential for acceleration. Human lobbyists rely on decades of experience to find strategic solutions to achieve a policy outcome. That expertise is limited, and therefore expensive. ......... A.I. could, theoretically, do the same thing much more quickly and cheaply. ......... Just as teachers will have to change how they give students exams and essay assignments in light of ChatGPT, governments will have to change how they relate to lobbyists. ........ Not everyone can afford an experienced lobbyist, but a software interface to an A.I. system could be made available to anyone. If we’re lucky, maybe this kind of strategy-generating A.I. could revitalize the democratization of democracy by giving this kind of lobbying power to the powerless.

What Will Russia Without Putin Look Like? Maybe This. Russia’s current condition — militarized, isolated, corrupt, dominated by the security services and hemorrhaging talent as hundreds of thousands flee abroad to escape service in a horrific war — is bleak. ........ To change the country, however, it is not enough for Mr. Putin to die or step down. Russia’s future leaders must dismantle and transform the structures over which he has presided for more than two decades. .......... an “act on peace” that would demobilize the army and end the occupation of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea; create a joint group for the investigation of war crimes; pay reparations for damaged infrastructure and the families of the dead; and reject future “wars of conquest.” ......... The officials responsible for the devastation will need to be rooted out, too — something that never happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union. ........ The congress would bar from working in state and educational institutions those who belonged to “criminal” organizations — such as the Federal Security Services or state television channels — or publicly supported the war ........ The Russian Federation is highly centralized, with a patchwork of over 80 republics and regions that are strongly subordinate to the president, enabling the accumulation of enormous power. .......... dissolve the Russian Federation and replace it with a new parliamentary democracy. .......... “self-determination,” the future Russian state should be “joined on the basis of free choice by the peoples who populate it.” ............ From Vladimir Lenin to Boris Yeltsin, modern Russian leaders have a history of offering decentralization to win support and then reneging once they consolidate power. ........ the disproportionate deployment and death of ethnic minorities from poorer republics like Dagestan and Buryatia in the war in Ukraine. .......... Mr. Khodorkovsky and Aleksei Navalny, the country’s most well-known dissident, who is currently languishing in a penal colony, have also issued calls to turn Russia into a parliamentary democracy with more power devolved to the local and regional levels. .......... history shows that radical developments are often incubated abroad or underground. ....... In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, political émigrés in bickering communities around Europe plotted the downfall of the Russian empire. Among them was Vladimir Lenin, who was living in Poland at the outbreak of World War I. ......... In early 1917, a pessimistic Lenin lamented that he probably wouldn’t live to see the revolution; a few weeks later, the czar was overthrown.

Where is Physics Headed (and How Soon Do We Get There)? she now uses quantum computers to investigate the properties of wormholes......... things have never been more exciting in particle physics, in terms of the opportunities to understand space and time, matter and energy, and the fundamental particles — if they are even particles. .......... I was so excited in 1980 about the idea of grand unification, and that now looks small compared to the possibilities ahead. .......... the basic building blocks of matter are quarks and leptons; the rules that govern them are described by the quantum field theory called the Standard Model. .......... Why two different kinds of building blocks? Why so many “elementary” particles? Why four forces? How do dark matter, dark energy, gravity and space-time fit in? Answering these questions is the work of elementary particle physics. ......... for 20 years I’ve been chasing the supersymmetrical particles. So we’re like deer in the headlights: We didn’t find supersymmetry, we didn’t find dark matter as a particle. ........ Discussing what space and time are and where they came from is now within the realm of particle physics. ......... does the universe have an end? Is there a multiverse? How many spaces and times are there? Does that question even make sense? ........... At high enough energies, the fundamental forces — gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces — seem to become equal. ............ the ultimate law remains a persistent puzzle, and the way we solve it is going to be through new thinking. .......... it looks like the four different forces we see are just different facets of a unified force. ........... the hallmark of great science: You ask a question, and often it turns out to be the wrong question, but you have to ask a question just to find out it’s the wrong one. If it is, you ask a new one. .......... String theory — the vaunted “theory of everything” — describes the basic particles and forces in nature as vibrating strings of energy. ............ Some scientists criticize string theory as being outside science. ....... Mathematics is the language of science, and the more our language is enriched, the more fully we can describe nature. We will have to wait and see what comes from string theory, but I think it will be big. ......... Among the many features of string theory is that the equations seem to have 10⁵⁰⁰ solutions — describing 10⁵⁰⁰ different possible universes or even more. Do we live in a multiverse? .......... the multiverse gives me a headache; not being testable, at least not yet, it isn’t science ......... But it may be the most important idea of our time. ........ the standard model of cosmology doesn’t say what 95 percent of the universe is .......... space can bend and time can warp ........ Particle physics invented big, global science, and national and now global facilities. ........ science has allowed humankind to do big things — Covid vaccines, the Large Hadron Collider, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, the Webb telescope — that extend our vision and our power to shape our future. ....... If we continue to dream big and work together, even more amazing things lie ahead.

A New View of the Most Explosive Moon in the Solar System Recent strange activity around Jupiter’s volcanic moon, Io, confused and excited scientists........ Because Io is far from the sun and has a very thin atmosphere, its surface, on average, sits at around minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is coated in a frosty layer of sulfuric compounds. ........ Volcanic eruptions there, which come in many different forms and intensities, can reach temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. When super hot meets super cold, molecules like sulfur dioxide and sodium can be shot into space. ..... Some of the most explosive eruptions come from fissures in the surface and throw fountains of lava half a mile into space. The charged molecules create what is known as a “plasma torus” in Io’s wake: a doughnut-shaped cloud of ionized gas that collects in Jupiter’s magnetic field. ....... “You can think of it like looking at different parts of an elephant”

A Brutal New Phase of Putin’s Terrible War in Ukraine The war in Ukraine has entered a new, more deadly and fateful phase, and the one man who can stop it, Vladimir Putin, has shown no signs that he will do so. ........ After 11 months during which Ukraine has won repeated and decisive victories against Russian forces, clawed back some of its lands and cities and withstood lethal assaults on its infrastructure, the war is at a stalemate. ........ Both sides are now said to be bracing for a fierce new round of offensives in the late winter or spring. Russia has mobilized 300,000 new men to throw into the fray, and some arms factories are working around the clock. ........ the broad, muddy fields of Ukraine will soon again witness full-scale tank-and-trench warfare, this time pitting Western arms against a desperate Russia. This was never supposed to happen again in Europe after the last world war. ......... But as Mr. Putin digs himself ever deeper into pursuing his delusions, it is also critical that the Russian people be aware of what is being done in their name, and how it is destroying their own future. ....... their lives are being mortgaged for generations to come in a state distrusted and disliked in many parts of the world. ......... The Kremlin’s propaganda machinery has been working full time churning out false narratives about a heroic Russian struggle against forces of fascism and debauchery, in which the Western arms are but more proof that Ukraine is a proxy war by the West to strip Russia of its destiny and greatness. Mr. Putin has concocted an elaborate mythology in which Ukraine is an indelible part of a Russkiy mir, a greater Russian world. .......... The start of the war stunned Russians, but Mr. Putin seemed convinced that a West wasted by decadence and decline would squawk but take no action. He and his commanders were apparently unprepared for the extraordinary resistance they met in Ukraine, or for the speed with which the United States and its allies, horrified by the crude violation of the postwar order, came together in Ukraine’s defense. .......... what he insists on calling his “limited military offensive” into an existential struggle between a spiritually ordained Great Russia and a corrupt and debauched West. ........ until Mr. Putin began trying to change Ukraine’s borders by force in 2014, they were finally enjoying what those in other industrialized countries had long considered normal — the opportunity to earn decent salaries, buy consumer goods and enjoy vastly expanded freedoms to travel abroad and speak their mind. ........ Like the last great European war, this one is mostly one man’s madness. .......... Russia faces decades of economic stagnation and regression even if the war ends soon ......... Many Western companies have left, trade with the West has dwindled, and financing the war is draining the budget. Numerous foreign airlines have ceased service to Russia. Add to that the millions of Russia’s best and brightest who have fled, and the future is bleak. ......... Moscow’s casualties were “well over 100,000 Russian soldiers killed and wounded.” About 300,000 men have been pressed into cannon-fodder duty in the army and many more may follow. ........... on Jan. 11, in his first televised meeting with government ministers in the new year, when he tore into Denis Manturov, deputy prime minister, over aircraft production figures Mr. Putin insisted were wrong and Mr. Manturov defended. Mr. Putin finally exploded, “What are you doing, really, playing the fool?” “Yest’,” Mr. Manturov finally said, the Russian equivalent of “Yes, sir.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

24: China

Jacinda Ardern, the Star That Didn’t Quite Deliver For a brief time, Jacinda Ardern put us on the map....... Here was a young prime minister, elected in 2017 at just 37, with an Obama-grade 1,000-watt smile, who symbolized optimism and Kiwi values of fairness and hope. To progressive admirers around the world, she became a symbolic alternative to Donald Trump, proving that progressives could win elections and even have a baby in office. ....... over time, many Kiwis came to feel that, despite her international image, Jacinda’s rhetoric was never quite matched by substance. ........ Lockdown was possible only with the consent of the governed. No one liked it, but most of us agreed with it. We were relieved that thousands were not dying, and her government was re-elected with a colossal mandate in 2020. But those tough Covid policies led to growing division, spurred conspiracy theorists and strained the economy. ........ But New Zealand today feels as unequal as when Ms. Ardern was elected. ........ Her government kept wages paid and businesses going during the pandemic with stimulus checks and low interest rates. But that has caused a massive transfer of wealth to asset owners. .......... Mario Cuomo said that we campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Ms. Ardern gave us the poetry, showing that elections can be won with progressive values and a promise to leave no child behind. But you’ve got to deliver. Rising crime, inflation and stubborn inequality matter more to New Zealand voters than global star power. ......... Ms. Ardern’s star still shines brightly overseas, and her time on the global stage may just be beginning. Since borders reopened to travel as the pandemic eased, her international miles have increased in inverse proportion to her government’s popularity. .

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Leads With 11 Oscar Nominations Most of its revenue comes from the sale of broadcasting rights to the show. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. .

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ leads nominees. .

There’s Been a Revolution in How China Is Governed Yuen Yuen Ang argues that understanding China as an “autocracy with democratic characteristics” is key to making sense of its rise and trajectory. ......... You can’t understand this era in American politics without recognizing that it’s playing out in the context of China. Sometimes it’s direct, as in the way much of American manufacturing moved offshore to China, altering the politics of a lot of the Midwest. Sometimes it’s indirect, as in the way the sense that China still builds things and we don’t, has become a driving political argument, and has largely inspired, I think, the new focus on production and industrial policy in Washington. Things like the CHIPS and Science Act are explicitly framed as keeping our technology lead or increasing our technology lead, vis-à-vis China. ....... China’s size and centrality make it a kind of political hyper-object. It’s near and far and different and familiar and here and there, all at the same time. To cover China is to cover, in a way, America. ........ Yuen Yuen Ang, a China scholar at Johns Hopkins University ....... we are so focused on how China chooses its leaders on the symmetry, or lack thereof, between our political institutions and China’s, that we really miss its governing institutions. We really miss a much more consequential revolution in how China is actually administrated. ....... marked the end of the reform era and the beginning of a personalist dictatorship under Xi Jinping. ........

“the clash of two gilded ages.”

...... the 10-year Cultural Revolution, which was a de facto civil war within China. ........ the dominant political emotion is envy. ...... we envy their manufacturing prowess, that they still make things, that they act. ......... how slow and sclerotic we are ....... from the Chinese point of view, the prevalent perception is the Americans are not only envious of China’s rise, envious of its state capacity, but that America is now on a project to contain China’s rise. So from the Chinese point of view, it’s more than envy. .......... There’s this idea that as they got richer, they would become a liberal democracy. And that didn’t happen. ......... America sometimes forgets what its real strengths are. ........... after 35 years, China did not become a liberal democracy. And it actually became more authoritarian under Xi Jinping’s rule. And so the West freaked out .......... actually, political reforms were a fundamental prerequisite of China’s economic reforms. ....... what happened within the Chinese Communist Party under Deng Xiaoping is that he introduced partial democratic qualities. ........ He also introduced a tremendous amount of competition into the political system. ......... “In the United States, politics are exciting and bureaucracy is boring. In China, the opposite is true.” ............ you have the same Chinese Communist Party in office since 1949. But if you look at the bureaucracy and the governance, it has dramatically transformed up and down over time. ......... In China, you take the existence of the Chinese Communist Party for granted. You know that it’s the only party and it’s not going away. ......... Bureaucracy is a dirty word. It’s an epithet, I think, in America. If I say you’re a bureaucrat, I’m not typically saying something good about you. .......... Historically, bureaucrats, or government officials, have always occupied the highest position in the social hierarchy. And this is true until modern day China ........ until this day, when you look at the annual civil service examinations in China, millions and millions of people line up. It is very attractive to be a civil servant, not only because of the job stability but because of the status it brings. ........ they opened up, they made more flexible, they made more experimental, they made more results oriented their public administration. ......... The autocracies that we are familiar with are autocracies with bad governance — for example, North Korea, Maoist China. But there’s another kind of autocracy, which is autocracy with partial liberalization and effective governance. And that was reform China under Deng Xiaoping. ......... The same economic success brought corruption, inequality, debt risks, environmental pollution — all of the defining problems facing China when Xi Jinping took over. ....... “Public employees took a cut of revenue produced by their organizations. And these changes fueled a results-oriented culture in the bureaucracy. All the results in the Chinese context are measured purely in economic terms.” ......... in China, you have low salaries and a fair amount of profit-sharing, which you could look at as corruption, or you could look at as incentive alignment .......... It occurs at all levels of power. At the highest level, it’s not about salaries. But it is about the very top elites essentially privately splitting up the spoils of capitalism. ........ we get to know, ah, so-and-so, he was in Politburo and goodness, he amassed billions of dollars through his family networks when he was in power ............. everyone gets to share. Whether you are the very top elite in the Politburo, right down to being a rank-and-file bureaucrat in a particular Chinese city, you get to share, in terms of the revenue being made by your agency. ......... in the past, in pre-modern societies, whether it’s in the West or in China, actually most officials and bureaucrats function on like a tax farming commission salesmen basis. .............. They were not actually paid a salary by the state. They took a cut of taxes they collected. ......... we can see all of the consequences play out today in the combination of crazy growth and, at the same time, crazy corruption. ......... And that was actually true in America in its period of really torrid development, too.......... the growth-damaging forms of corruption are like petty bribery, embezzlement, extortion of businesses ......... access money corruption and capitalism has actually gone hand-in-hand ......... “Inflexible procedural rules are a hallmark of the American state. The ubiquity of court challenges, the artificial rigors of notice and comment rule-making, zealous environmental review, pre-enforcement review of agency rules, picayune legal rules, governing hiring and procurement, nationwide court injunctions — the list goes on and on. Collectively, these procedures frustrate the very government action that progressives demand to address the urgent problems that now confront us.” ........... the administrative state is so rule bound in America, it’s become highly nonresponsive and highly nonexperimental. ........... the focus of American and democratic politics is, we’re going to limit the government, but we are going to give society as much freedom as possible. And so oftentimes, what my Chinese colleagues would say is, America is a society where the government is small but society is large. ............. China is a mirror image. In China, the focus of limits and restrictions is not placed on the government, but on society. .............. In America, you see that from society — from civil society, universities, the private sector. Whereas, when you look at China, very often the source of policy adaptability comes from the bureaucracy. It comes from the government itself. That’s not to say that Chinese private sector does not have innovations. It also has many, many innovations. But it’s always taking the lead of the government. ............ “The goal of economic growth was always paired with an indispensable requisite, maintaining political stability. Failing this requirement, for instance, allowing a mass protest to break out, could cause leaders to flunk their entire test in a given year.” ...............

the number one goal of the party is to keep itself in power.

........... capitalism is allowed to thrive, to the extent that it allows China to become prosperous. .......... he came to power in 2012, in the midst of the greatest scandal facing the Communist Party in a whole generation. ........... he was relatively unknown before 2012 ......... he was seen as a safe choice, that he was a low-profile politician, unlike Bo Xilai, who was too flamboyant and made too much trouble. .......... some people give Xi credit for his ability to lie low and to bide his time. And by appearing to be this extremely low-profile, mild-mannered politician, he got his chance in 2012. And then year after year, he surprised everyone who put him in power. .......... he has correctly identified corruption as a systemic problem. He correctly identified that he could use anti-corruption to get party officials in line with his orders. Because the system was so systemically corrupt, there were likely so many individuals who were vulnerable to investigations and indictments. So he had something to use against all of them. And I think that really helped him to get the obedience and consolidation of power that he finally achieved to perfection in 2022. .......... he is genuinely concerned about systemic corruption across the entire bureaucracy .......... he empowered the disciplinary apparatus and launched them on a massive investigation drive. ......... he didn’t address the root causes of corruption, which is that the party and government has so much power in the economy. And that power was creating a demand for bribes and graft. ......... now to be successful within the political system, the number one thing to do is to demonstrate personal loyalty to Xi. And that may still involve some economic growth, but not always. ......... since 1949, there isn’t just one China, but there has been at least three different Chinas. So China under Mao, under Deng and under Xi are three completely different Chinas. .......... he has drastically changed the economic and political system in China. .......... What Xi Jinping has tried to do is he took this system that he inherited from Deng Xiaoping, which had created tremendous wealth for China, but it also created tremendous problems of capitalism, like corruption, inequality, debt risk, pollution. .............. with him having all of the say, now he doesn’t have to go through anyone. He gets to slam the table and make a decision, like “zero Covid.” .......... former President Hu Jintao. So he was the paramount leader of the Party who selected and brought Xi to power. .......... it was shocking, not only for the rest of the world, but for people in China, to see a former leader be escorted out in such a disrespectful manner. .......... Xi Jinping in 2012 and Xi Jinping in 2022 are actually quite two different men. .......... you can see him initially being very respectful toward his benefactor, Hu Jintao. And by the end of this 10 year process, when he finally emerges at the top with no challenges whatsoever to his power, he finally also shoves his benefactor out of the door, literally. ............ The key significance of these protests that we saw in November is that it is the first time Chinese citizens have come out into the streets in demonstration against a national policy, and have successfully made China’s top leader change his mind. That is something unusual........... they successfully got Xi to listen. And he changed course very suddenly. ......... “Legitimacy is not solely, not even primarily, a product of the procedures that agencies follow. Legitimacy arises more generally from the perception that government is capable, informed, prompt, responsive and fair.” .............. that sense that the Chinese people have had that their government is almost omniscient and keeps making these good decisions and continuing growth and moving the country forward ......... his anti-poverty and anti-corruption policies, you could describe them as populist. They appeal to the poor and the lower classes in China. They appeal to the public resentment against corruption. ........... the party’s desire to exert political control on tech companies that were growing too big and powerful from the party’s point of view. ............ within months, $1 trillion in market valuation was wiped off by the common prosperity campaign. ............ on eradicating poverty, we have plenty of experience. But in managing capitalism, we have much to learn. ........ It doesn’t know how to deal with corruption on this scale, inequality on this scale. ......... And in that speech, he told the local bureaucrats, why don’t you guys go and experiment and figure it out. And so what we now see in 2023 is an even more drastic course correction. ........... they would like to drastically relax regulations, because they want to bring back business confidence. ......... And then comes Joe Biden, and he is tougher on China — not rhetorically, but in substance, than Donald Trump. ..........

China and America are similar, in the sense that they are both extremely self-centered

............. he chose to project ambition as a global power, which alarmed the United States. He also chose to take the country on a more authoritarian path, which alarmed the United States even more. .......... the two countries have extremely different strengths and weaknesses. .......... which of these two countries are going to make use of their political system to solve problems of capitalism. ............ a fascinating story about a mathematical genius who is not accepted for many, many years by society because his genius was so wide that it could not fit in any given disciplinary box.

Elon Musk’s Appetite for Destruction A wave of lawsuits argue that Tesla’s self-driving software is dangerously overhyped. What can its blind spots teach us about the company’s erratic C.E.O.? ........ Tesla was at one point worth more than Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Ford and General Motors combined ........ He’s the sort of man who walks around with a battery of fully formed opinions on life’s most important subjects — computers, software, exercise, money — and a willingness to share them. ....... He was particularly concerned that I understand that Autopilot and F.S.D. were saving lives: “The data shows that their accident rate while on Beta is far less than other cars” ........ “Slowing down the F.S.D. Beta will result in more accidents and loss of life based on hard statistical data.” ........ Key drew an analogy to the coronavirus vaccines, which prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths but also caused rare deaths and injuries from adverse reactions. ........ Key didn’t want to talk about Musk, but the executive’s reputational collapse had become impossible to ignore. He was in the middle of his bizarre, on-again-off-again campaign to take over Twitter, to the dismay of Tesla loyalists. And though he hadn’t yet attacked Anthony Fauci or spread conspiracy theories about Nancy Pelosi’s husband or gone on a journalist-banning spree on the platform, the question was already suggesting itself: How do you explain Elon Musk? .......... Autopilot, he said, was like fancy cruise control: speed, steering, crash avoidance. ...... He was looking at a favorite trail and ignoring the road. “I looked up to the left, and the car went off to the right,” he said. “I was in this false sense of security.” ........ First, he reached out directly to someone who was harmed by one of his products — something it’s hard to imagine the head of G.M. or Ford contemplating, if only for legal reasons. (Indeed, this email was entered into evidence after Riley sued Tesla.) And then Musk rebuffed Riley. No vague “I’ll look into it” or “We’ll see what we can do.” Riley receives a hard no. ........ Tesla is a big car company with thousands of employees. It existed before Elon Musk. It might exist after Elon Musk. ...... the lawsuits, a crashing stock price and an A.I. that still seems all too capable of catastrophic failure — you should look to its mercurial, brilliant, sophomoric chief executive. ....... during a recent deposition, when a lawyer asked him, “Do you have some kind of unique ability to identify narcissistic sociopaths?” and he replied, “You mean by looking in the mirror?” ....... his breakneck pursuit of A.I., which in the long term, he believes, will save countless lives. ........ Day in, day out, we scare and maim and kill ourselves in cars. In the United States last year, there were around 11 million road accidents, nearly five million injuries and more than 40,000 deaths. ........ there is at least one Autopilot-related crash in the United States every day ........ The cars didn’t have sufficient driver monitoring because Musk didn’t want drivers to think that the car needed human supervision. ...... The company would admit to the technology’s limitations in the user manual but publish viral videos of a Tesla driving a complicated route with no human intervention. ......... On days when it was sunny out and there was a lot of glare, the car could be “moody.” And when it was foggy, and it was often foggy in Fresno, “it freaks out.” .......... Once we had come to a complete stop, the Tesla accelerated quickly, cutting off one car turning across us and veering around another. It was not so much inhuman as the behavior of a human who was determined to be a jerk. .......... There was a situation that kept stumping the A.I. until, after enough data had been collected by dedicated drivers like Alford, the neural net figured it out. Repeat this risk-reward conversion X number of times, and maybe Tesla will solve self-driving. Maybe even next year. .......... (He was even more enthusiastic about the version of F.S.D. released in December, which he described as nearly flawless.) .......... Peter Thiel, Musk’s former business partner at PayPal, once said that if he wrote a book, the chapter about Musk would be called “The Man Who Knew Nothing About Risk.” ......... a man who simply embraces astonishing amounts of present-day risk in the rational assumption of future gains. .......... give him credit for creating the now-robust market in electric vehicles in the United States and around the world. ........ Neuralink had the potential to cure paralysis, he believed, which would improve the lives of millions of future humans. ......... He called Twitter a “digital town square” that was responsible for nothing less than preventing a new American civil war. ......... In 2019, in a testy exchange of email with the activist investor and steadfast Tesla critic Aaron Greenspan, Musk bristled at the suggestion that Autopilot was anything other than lifesaving technology. “The data is unequivocal that Autopilot is safer than human driving by a significant margin,” he wrote. “It is unethical and false of you to claim otherwise. In doing so, you are endangering the public.” ................ Musk rarely talks about Autopilot or F.S.D. without mentioning how superior it is to a human driver. At a shareholders’ meeting in August, he said that Tesla was “solving a very important part of A.I., and one that can ultimately save millions of lives and prevent tens of millions of serious injuries by driving just an order of magnitude safer than people.” ........ Teslas with Autopilot engaged were one-tenth as likely to crash as a regular car. ........ even if Autopilot and human drivers were equally deadly, we should prefer the A.I., provided that the next software update, based on data from crash reports and near misses, would make the system even safer. “That’s a little bit like surgeons doing experimental surgery,” he said. “Probably the first few times they do the surgery, they’re going to lose patients, but the argument for that is they will save more patients in the long run.” ............ In the third quarter of 2022, Tesla claimed that there was one crash for every 6.26 million miles driven using Autopilot — indeed, almost 10 times better than the U.S. baseline of one crash for every 652,000 miles. .......... crashes were five times as common on local roads as on turnpikes. When comparing Autopilot numbers to highway numbers, Tesla’s advantage drops significantly. ......... Teslas crashed just as often when Autopilot was on as when it was off. ......... Right now in San Francisco and Austin, Texas, and coming soon to cities all over the world, you can hail a robotaxi operated by Cruise or Waymo. ...... at this point, Tesla’s competitors are closer to achieving full self-driving than any vehicle equipped with F.S.D. ........ “I thought the self-driving problem would be hard,” he said, “but it was harder than I thought. It’s not like I thought it’d be easy. I thought it would be very hard. But it was actually way harder than even that.” ............. The car did a good job of staying in its lane, better than any other traffic-aware cruise control I’ve used. .

Oliver Stone Goes Nuclear at Davos At the World Economic Forum, the provocative filmmaker received a warm reception for his film promoting nuclear power. ....... nuclear has been unfairly maligned by oil companies ........ “Despite our investments in renewables, it’s not improving our carbon emissions because we haven’t tackled the core issue — eliminating fossil fuels,” he told DealBook. “Climate change has forced us to take a new look at nuclear power.” .

The Sanctions on Russia Are Working Slowly but Surely, They Are Weakening Putin ........ Russia accumulated substantial financial reserves. Since 2014, Russia has increased trade to Asia, which has allowed it to weather a reduction of commerce with the West. Most important, Putin aggressively strengthened his repressive machine to deter mass protests against deteriorating living standards. ........ 10 percent of the Russian workforce is without work. This is comparable with the worst levels in the 1990s, during the second half of which 10 to 13 percent of Russians were unemployed. ....... The so-called strong ruble is propped up by draconian currency controls and a plunge in imports. This policy has badly hurt industries like the steelmaking sector: finished steel output contracted by over seven percent in 2022. ........ The output of the Russian automotive industry, which directly or indirectly provides jobs to 3.5 million people, plummeted by two-thirds in 2022. ........ Russians’ living standards are sharply deteriorating. ........ October 2022, 68 percent of Russians had noticed a reduction in the supply of goods offered in stores over the past three months. ........... 35 percent of Russians were forced to cut their spending on food in 2022 ......... only 23 percent of Russians considered their personal financial situation to be “good.” ........ Asian countries such as China and India are mostly interested in buying cheap Russian raw materials such as oil, gas, coal, and roundwood at a significant discount. Leaders in those countries are not interested in helping Russia develop its own competitive manufacturing sectors. ......... Capital flight from Russia in 2022 is projected to equal $251 billion .......... Putin destroyed the organized political opposition after he imprisoned the leading dissident, Alexei Navalny, and sent most of Russia’s other most prominent opposition figures to jail or into exile. He has successfully intimidated the Russian population by introducing tough prison terms for those protesting his leadership: Russians face up to 15 years in jail for “political extremism” or “discrediting Russia’s armed forces.” ............

But public opinion is trending against Putin. As the dissolution of the Soviet Union demonstrates, once long-suppressed public discontent breaks out into the open, change can happen fast.


'They Dug Their Own Graves': Elon Musk on Housing Bubble .

Is It Bad to Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach? Your gut is adaptable, experts say, but there are a few facts you should keep in mind.......... For many people, enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee first thing in the morning is a nonnegotiable way to start the day. ........ Fortunately, the stomach can withstand all kinds of irritants, including coffee. ....... Irritants like alcohol, cigarette smoke and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) — are well known to alter our stomach’s natural defense mechanisms and injure its lining .......... Outside of the gut, the caffeine from coffee is well known to increase heart rate and blood pressure. And if you drink it too close to bedtime, it can disrupt your sleep. .......... Drinking coffee on an empty stomach is unlikely to cause any damage to your stomach, but it could theoretically provoke heartburn ........ Adding a splash of milk or cream or a small bite of food with your morning cup can also help. ...... coffee drinking has many health benefits, including links to longevity, a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and protection against many cancers, including liver, prostate, breast and colorectal cancer. ....... “There’s far more evidence for coffee’s benefits than harms” .

This Is How Red States Silence Blue Cities. And Democracy. a blue city that serves as the capital of a red state had better brace itself when the legislature arrives in town ....... Republicans in the Tennessee House and Senate introduced legislation that would cut our Metro Council in half. (The bills ostensibly apply to all city governments with a legislative body larger than 20 members, but that’s just Nashville.) ........ state lawmakers are once again interfering in the self-governance of the blue city that drives the economic engine of the entire red state. And they’re doing it for absolutely no reason but spite. .......... Joe Biden won Nashville with almost 65 percent of the vote. ........ Occurring as it does among so many other political injustices in a nation moving rapidly toward minority rule, even the utter disenfranchisement of an entire American city is hard to get very worked up about. ......... In dismembering Nashville to create three Republican voting districts, in other words, the Tennessee General Assembly managed only to nationalize its own brand of chaos. And maybe that was the whole point. ........ Last fall Mr. Green flew to Brazil to do the same thing in that much more fragile democracy. In a trip paid for by the American Conservative Union, he met with Brazilian lawmakers pushing to change election laws. The meeting’s agenda was to discuss “voting integrity policies.” We know what happened next: Thanks in part to one of Nashville’s representatives in Congress, antidemocracy riots are now an American export. ........ Meanwhile, here at home, Mr. Green has just been named chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. .

Sunday, January 15, 2023

15: Harry

Why Republican Politicians Still Hate Medicare The Republicans who now control the House will soon try to slash Social Security and Medicare. ............ George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security in 2005 surely played a role in the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006; Donald Trump’s attempt to kill Obamacare helped Nancy Pelosi regain the speakership in 2018. ......... Even now many, perhaps most Republicans in Congress aren’t culture-war zealots. Instead, they’re careerists who depend, both for campaign contributions and for post-Congress career prospects, on the same billionaires who have supported right-wing economic ideology for decades. They won’t stand up to the crazies and conspiracy theorists, but their own agenda is still tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor and middle class. ......... .

Big Banks Set Aside Billions as They Brace for a Downturn The country’s largest lenders increased their reserves to protect against deteriorating economic conditions this year, after reporting resilient profits for the end of last year. ......... The bank anticipates a drop in demand for auto loans, home equity lines and other consumer credit because “people are reading the same headlines we’re all reading, about a recession is coming and they should be careful” .

The Trouble With Paradise Within hours, midwinter gloom had been transformed, as if by magic, into tropical sunshine. I was paying two dollars a night for a cottage of my own with a golden beach 45 seconds away, down a fragrant, palm-shaded lane. ........ In Sri Lanka I’d realized that the island has so often been taken to be Arcadia — Arabs saw it as “contiguous with the Garden of Eden,” and an Italian papal legate announced that the waters of paradise could be there — that the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and millions of us tourists have all scrambled to grab a piece of it. ......... In Jerusalem, like every other visitor, I’d been vividly reminded that the city of faith has always been a city of conflict. .......... In Kashmir, I’d sat on a houseboat in the sun — nothing to be heard but the sound of kingfishers’ wings above a lotus pond — as locals in little boats paddled past, offering aromatic spices and exquisitely carved small boxes. I was truly in Heaven — so long as I forgot that, minutes across the water, army roadblocks and encampments spoke for the more than half a million soldiers trying to maintain peace in a bitterly contested territory claimed for more than 70 years now by both India and Pakistan. ........... In Ladakh, the kind of pristine Himalayan region that might have inspired the notion of Shangri-La, I discovered more peace and beauty than I dared to dream of — along with local kids who reminded me that the real paradise was that place called California. ........... Besides, if I really did come upon a calm and self-contained Eden, what would it have to gain from me? I, like any visitor, could only be the serpent in the garden. .......... Naked ascetics, smeared in ash, were expressing their contempt for simple notions of right and wrong by living in graveyards and drinking from skulls. The holy waters the faithful were gratefully imbibing contained hundreds of times the maximum level of coliform bacteria the World Health Organization has deemed safe for drinking. .

Don’t Ban ChatGPT in Schools. Teach With It. OpenAI’s new chatbot is raising fears of cheating on homework, but its potential as an educational tool outweighs its risks....... ChatGPT, the buzzy chatbot developed by OpenAI that is capable of writing cogent essays, solving science and math problems and producing working computer code. ........ Students are using it to write their assignments, passing off A.I.-generated essays and problem sets as their own. .......... One high school teacher told me that he used ChatGPT to evaluate a few of his students’ papers, and that the app had provided more detailed and useful feedback on them than he would have, in a tiny fraction of the time. ......... “Am I even necessary now?” he asked me, only half joking. .......... (Tim Robinson, a spokesman for Seattle Public Schools, told me that ChatGPT was blocked on school devices in December, “along with five other cheating tools.”) .......... ChatGPT is a freakishly capable tool that landed in their midst with no warning, and it performs reasonably well across a wide variety of tasks and academic subjects. ........

banning ChatGPT from the classroom is the wrong move.

......... schools should thoughtfully embrace ChatGPT as a teaching aid — one that could unlock student creativity, offer personalized tutoring, and better prepare students to work alongside A.I. systems as adults. ........ Right now, ChatGPT is the only free, easy-to-use chatbot of its caliber. ........... while they found the idea of ChatGPT-assisted cheating annoying, policing it sounded even worse. ......... schools should treat ChatGPT the way they treat calculators — allowing it for some assignments, but not others, and assuming that unless students are being supervised in person with their devices stashed away, they’re probably using one. ........ with the right approach, it can be an effective teaching tool. ......... It could serve as an after-hours tutor (“explain the Doppler effect, using language an eighth grader could understand”) or a debate sparring partner (“convince me that animal testing should be banned”). ......... ChatGPT wasn’t a threat to student learning as long as teachers paired it with substantive, in-class discussions. .......... today’s students will graduate into a world full of generative A.I. programs.

How Western Goods Reach Russia: A Long Line of Trucks Through Georgia With Western sanctions barring many imports, a lot of what Russia needs now travels a slow, crowded truck route through the Caucasus Mountains from Georgia. ........ The trucks wait for days with their cargo — car parts, industrial materials, chemicals, even the paper for tea bags — to cross the frontier on a journey that usually starts in Turkey and ends in Russian towns and cities where Western goods are in high demand. ........ While growth prospects remain dim, the outright collapse that some economists had predicted in the face of Western sanctions did not come about. ......... The lines sometimes stretch all the way to Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, about 100 miles from the border, with special parking lots along its bypass road where truckers can rest, and sleep, while they wait. ........ “Georgia is performing a balancing act between its official pro-Western orientation and its economic dependence on Russia” .......... Since May, Russia has received more than $20 billion worth of goods, through the so-called parallel imports process — when something is brought to a country without the consent of the company that owns the trademark ........ Overall, by the end of 2022, Russia had almost restored its prewar level of imports, according to the country’s Central Bank — while also adding to a major source of income: the customs duties it collects on goods entering the country. ........... the boost to Georgia’s economy could just be too much for businesses and the government to resist. .

She Witnessed Mao’s Worst Excesses. Now She Has a Warning for the World. At 93, the memoirist Yuan-tsung Chen hopes that her recollections of China’s tumultuous past will help the country confront its historical wrongs — and avoid repeating them. .......... the story of the man so hungry that he ate himself. ......... “When you do things in the spirit of Mao, that scares me,” she says, referring to China’s top leader, Xi Jinping. ...... Under Mr. Xi, China enforced a sweeping crackdown on Hong Kong that included an all-encompassing national security law put in place in 2020. Since then, the city has fallen under a cloak of silence that Ms. Chen says she recognizes. “My current situation looks uncannily like the one I found myself in more than 60 years ago.” .

African and Invisible: The Other New York Migrant Crisis Like many who have crossed the border from Latin America, they arrived in New York after a desperate journey. But these men have few options in the city, often relying on one man in the Bronx. ......... there is a Little Senegal in Harlem, and more recent immigrants from Gambia have established themselves in the Bronx. ........ About two million African immigrants arrived in the United States in 2019, up from 600,000 in 2000....... Imam Omar comes from a long line of imams in Senegal — his father, grandfather, uncles and now his 21-year-old son are imams — and manages the migrants like one gigantic congregation. .

Microsoft Bets Big on the Creator of ChatGPT in Race to Dominate A.I. As a new chatbot wows the world with its conversational talents, a resurgent tech giant is poised to reap the benefits while doubling down on a relationship with the start-up OpenAI. ........ But at Microsoft, it was a cause for celebration. For several years, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, had been putting the pieces in place for this moment. ....... In 2019, Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI, the tiny San Francisco company that designed ChatGPT. And in the years since, it has quietly invested another $2 billion .......... The $3 billion paid for the huge amounts of computing power that OpenAI needed to build the chatbot. And it meant that Microsoft could rapidly build and deploy new products based on the technology. ......... Microsoft is now poised to challenge Big Tech competitors like Google, Amazon and Apple with a technological advantage the company has not possessed for more than two decades. Microsoft is in talks to invest another $10 billion in OpenAI as it seeks to push its technology even further ......... The potential $10 billion deal — which would mainly provide OpenAI with even larger amounts of computing power .........

what has become the hottest technology in the tech industry.

......... ChatGPT answers questions, writes poetry and riffs on almost any topic tossed its way. ...... generative artificial intelligence, the term for a system that can generate text, images, sounds and other media in response to short prompts. ....... The new generative A.I. technologies could reinvent everything from online search engines like Google to digital assistants like Alexa and Siri. ........... OpenAI is working on an even more powerful system called GPT-4 ........ OpenAI is led by Sam Altman, who became well known in Silicon Valley as the head the start-up builder Y Combinator. Mr. Altman, 37, and his co-founders created OpenAI in 2015 as a nonprofit. But he soon remade the venture as a for-profit company that could more aggressively pursue financing. ......... With backing from Microsoft, OpenAI went on to build a milestone technology called GPT-3. Known as a “large language model,” it could generate text on its own, including tweets, blog posts, news articles and even computer code. ......... GitHub, a popular online service for programmers owned by Microsoft, began offering a programming tool called Copilot. As programmers built smartphone apps and other software, Copilot suggested the next line of code as they typed, much the way autocomplete tools suggest the next word as you type texts or emails. ......... Google, Meta and other companies have spent years building models similar to ChatGPT. The A.I. systems develop their skills by analyzing enormous amounts of digital text, including books, Wikipedia articles, computer programs and chat logs. ............. most of Microsoft’s $1 billion investment came in the form of the computing power OpenAI needs — and that Microsoft would eventually become the lab’s sole source of computing power. ............ as much as 10 percent of all data could be A.I.-generated in just three years, which could lead to as much as $7 billion in revenue for Azure

Prince Harry’s Memoir Has Record Breaking Sales The steady drumbeat of revelations that preceded the book’s release helped push early orders and initial sales, making “Spare,” on its first day, one of the best-selling hardcover books in recent memory........ Prince Harry’s memoir, “Spare,” has become a record-breaking success, with first-day sales that exceed some of publishing’s biggest hits, including blockbusters by Barack and Michelle Obama. ........ the largest first-day sales for any nonfiction book ever published by Penguin Random House, the world’s largest publisher. ....... the velocity of sales throughout the day was gigantic.” ......... In Britain, “Spare” set a record for first-day sales of a nonfiction book, selling 400,000 copies ........ “The only books that have sold faster in a day have been about the other Harry, Harry Potter” ....... and the last section of his tell-all degenerates into a tiresome back-and-forth about who’s leaking what and why ........ “if Harry is going to set fire to his family, he has at least done it with some style.” ........ The Guardian ran an article that detailed a physical confrontation between Prince William and Prince Harry; as Harry describes it in the book, William knocked him to the floor. That same week, copies of “Spare” accidentally went on sale early in Spain and were snatched up by news outlets. Dozens of stories followed from around the world: Prince Harry said in the book that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan. Prince Harry wrote that his brother encouraged him to dress as a Nazi for a costume party. Prince Harry lost his virginity to an older woman in a field behind a bar. .......... the news media frenzy that followed each new release appeared to help the book sell. .......... pre-orders jumped after the article in The Guardian detailing the scuffle between the brothers ....... Barnes & Noble expects the book to be one of the biggest releases of 2023. .........

the “expertise and talent” of the book’s ghostwriter, J.R. Moehringer

......... “Spare” was sold for a rumored sum of $20 million as part of a multi-book deal .......... His answer was that by publishing a memoir, he was trying to put many of the rumors to rest by speaking up.

When the Writing Demands Talent and Discretion, Call the Ghostwriter Ghostwriters write books in someone else’s voice — without leaving fingerprints. Doing it well requires great technical skill and a flexible ego........ Perhaps the most exalted practitioner of a little-understood craft, Moehringer aims, ultimately, to disappear. ......... Doing it well requires a tremendous amount of technical skill ......... “The lion’s share of my job is about getting out of the way, vanishing so the voice of my client can come through as clearly as possible.” ....... they provide the raw materials to build a house and she puts it together, brick by brick. “You own the bricks,” she said she tells them. “But you — and there should be no shame in this — don’t have the skill set to actually erect the building.” ........ Fees can range from about $50,000 to many times that, into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. ......... “Authors run the gamut from someone who is a complete control freak and has to approve every semicolon to those who barely phone it in,” said Madeleine Morel, an agent who specializes in matchmaking book projects with ghostwriters. “And when you start working with someone, you don’t know where they’re going to fall on that curve.” ........... Often, a writer will meet the subject only a few times, then follow up with phone calls, emails and texts. Others say that in order to get enough of a sense of the person to capture on the page, they need at least a few dozen hours in the presence of a client, sitting together in a room or shadowing the daily routines of the subject’s public and private lives. ......... To write Andre Agassi’s memoir, “Open,” Moehringer moved to Las Vegas, where Agassi lived. Agassi said he bought a house a mile away from his own, and Moehringer occupied it for two years while he worked on the book. All the writer requested was a long table where he could lay out the scenes he’d piece together “like a necklace,” Agassi recalled. They’d meet in the morning, fueled by breakfast burritos from Whole Foods. .......... “I’d spend a couple of hours with him over breakfast and a tape recorder,” Agassi said. ......... A former newspaper reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, Moehringer has a reputation for intense work habits — he rarely sleeps when finishing a book ......... Prince Harry’s book is his third ghostwriting project. Maybe. ........ by pushing their subjects, ghostwriters can make books more authentic than if they were written by the public figures themselves ........ “He’s half psychiatrist,” Phil Knight, a founder of Nike, said of Moehringer, who was the collaborator on his memoir, “Shoe Dog.” “He gets you to say things you really didn’t think you would.” ....... She doesn’t interview them, she said, but tries to have normal conversations. She broaches delicate subjects in phone calls late at night ............. some of his books are more merchandise than literature, meant to capitalize on someone’s 15 minutes of fame. ....... most people don’t have the time, or the ability, to write a good book .......... “Writing is a technical skill” ........ in the old days, nobody would ever admit to internet dating, and now everybody talks about it .

Lisa Marie Presley, a Life in Pictures The daughter of Elvis was famous from the moment she was born. .

Could Black Flight Change a Model of Integration? American suburbs have long faced the issue of white families leaving as more residents of color move in. But in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Black families, upset about changes in the schools, are trickling to nearby suburbs........ American suburbs have long faced the issue of white flight, where white families pack up in large numbers as demographics shift and more residents of color move in. But in Shaker Heights, it’s Black families who are leaving. Many of them point to initiatives rolled out over the past decade meant to combat systemic racism in the classroom — good intentions that they feel have done more harm than good when it comes to their children’s academic achievement. ......... Home values and school rankings exist as two sides of the same real estate coin. About 90 percent of American children attend public school, and higher school spending produces higher property values. Stronger school rankings, in turn, are often offered as justification for higher property taxes. And Shaker Heights, which is governed by the motto “A community is known by the schools it keeps,” has one of the highest tax rates in Ohio. ........... Siobhan Aaron, 42, who in 2020 switched her 16-year-old son Kareem to private school and then moved out of the district to Twinsburg, a community 15 miles south of Shaker Heights, where the property taxes are significantly lower. ............ Kareem was often stereotyped by administrators, who presumed that because he was Black, he needed extra help ....... “Curriculum and instruction that works for gifted students is usually good for all students.” ........ Shaker Heights appears integrated, but within its schools, where gifted and honors classes have long skewed overwhelmingly white, it is anything but. ......... In the 1950s, a handful of Black and white couples formed the Ludlow Community Association — a group that encouraged Black families to move in while also imploring white families to stay. The result was the first successfully integrated community in Cleveland, and one of the first in the nation. And for many years, it was considered something of a utopia. .......... Like Black students in districts across the country, they also receive a disproportionate share of discipline, which ricochets into higher suspensions and lower grades ........ Parents I interviewed said they are not elitist or classist; they just want the best for their children. .

15: Nepal

Are Protein Bars Actually Good for You? Or are they just glorified candy bars? The global market for protein bars is growing quickly and expected to swell to more than $2 billion by the end of 2026 ........ “We’ve just gone completely off the rails with protein in recent years” ........ Despite the advertising, though, nutrition experts say that protein bars aren’t all that healthy. ........ “We value protein so much that it’s the central thing on our plate” ...........

You’d be hard-pressed to find an American who actually needs more protein, though

........ Most meat eaters get far more than the recommended daily dose of protein (which is about 0.4 grams per pound of body weight). And those who don’t eat meat can get enough protein from plant sources like tofu, nuts and legumes. ......... many protein bars are also full of sugar. ....... A Gatorade protein bar in the flavor chocolate chip contains 28 grams of added sugars, twice the amount in a Dunkin’ Donuts chocolate frosted doughnut with sprinkles. .......... “By and large, they’re highly processed, high in sugar and salt — kind of a ‘Frankenfood’” ........ grapes, a banana, an apple or yogurt with berries ....... a handful of nuts ....... tuna or hard-boiled eggs, which are high in protein but not processed.

Kellyanne Conway: The Cases for and Against Trump Shrugging off Mr. Trump’s 2024 candidacy or writing his political obituary is a fool’s errand — he endures persecution and eludes prosecution like no other public figure. That could change, of course, though that cat has nine lives. ........ It’s tough to be new twice. ........ A popular sentiment these days is, “I want the Trump policies without the Trump personality.” ......... it was a combination of his personality and policies that forced Mexico to help secure our border; structured new trade agreements and renewed manufacturing, mining and energy economies; pushed to get Covid vaccines at warp speed; engaged Kim Jong-un; played hardball with China; routed ISIS and removed Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander; forced NATO countries to increase their defense spending and stared down Mr. Putin before he felt free to invade Ukraine. ......... When it comes to Donald J. Trump, people see what they wish to see. ........ what some perceive as an abrasive, scornful man bent on despotism, others see as a candid, resolute leader unflinchingly committed to America’s interests. ...... until one faces the klieg lights, and is subjected to raw, relentless, often excessive scrutiny, and unfair and inaccurate claims, there is no way to suss out who possesses the requisite metal and mettle. ........ Trump boasts that his general election win-loss record was 233-20 and that he hosted some 30 rallies in 17 states and more than 50 fund-raisers for candidates up for re-election, and participated in 60 telerallies and raised nearly $350 million in the 2022 cycle for Republican candidates and committees. .......... For seven years Mr. Trump hasn’t stopped campaigning .

Republicans Are Getting It Wrong About DeSantis and Florida After his commanding performance in the midterm elections, I informally polled my conservative family members in Miami, who all said they had dumped Mr. Trump and were on team DeSantis for ’24. One colorfully called the former president she had voted for twice a “whiny crybaby” who could only talk about losing the last election. .......... Florida now has the fastest-growing population in the country ........ “People vote with their feet,” he said. “We are proud to be a model for the nation, and an island of sanity in a sea of madness.” ........ Florida is not a model for the nation, unless the nation wants to become unaffordable for everyone except rich snowbirds. .......... Florida is underwater demographically. Most of those flocking there are aging boomers with deep pockets, adding to the demographic imbalance for what is already one of the grayest populations in the nation ....... All of the new arrivals have contributed to a growing unaffordability crisis in Florida. You can see it everywhere ......... Eighty-year-old wooden bungalows nearby now go for almost $2 million, and glitzy new projects have moved into historically Black neighborhoods like Little Haiti, pushing out local people. ......... While Mr. DeSantis has been busy limiting what can be taught in schools, flying immigrants to Northern states and punishing “woke” Disney, working-class Floridians are being priced out of many Florida cities. Miami now surpasses Los Angeles and New York City as the least-affordable city for housing in the United States, and joining it in the top five is the once working-class South Florida Cuban-American bastion of Hialeah. Miami is also second in income inequality, with levels roughly comparable with Colombia’s and Panama’s. .........

Florida is having many of the same problems as its liberal archnemesis California

......... More than 76 percent of Floridians live on the coasts

Date Like a Monk ‘We’re not here to impress each other. We’re here to connect.’ ........ The Sanskrit word for monk, brahmacharyi, means “the right use of energy.” ......... my practice teaches that we all have a limited amount of energy, which can be directed in multiple directions or one. When energy is scattered, it’s difficult to create momentum or impact. ......... If you haven’t developed a deep understanding of your motivations and obstacles, it’s harder to move through life with patience and compassion. ......... During college in London, I had devoted so much time to a long-distance girlfriend that I missed most of my classes. Celibacy allowed me to use that time and space to understand myself and develop the ability to still my mind. .......... When I left the ashram for good, I hadn’t watched TV, seen a movie, or listened to music in three years. I didn’t know who had won the World Cup or who the Prime Minister of England was. ....... The night was going to cost me nearly a week’s income, and I wanted it to be perfect. ........ She smiled politely, but she wasn’t eating much. ....... Monks never try to impress anyone. As a monk, you strive to master your ego and your mind. We think love is its own puzzle ........ when you explore the dark lanes of your own mind, as monks are trained to do, you develop patience, understanding and compassion toward yourself, which you can then bring to all your relationships. Going through the process of learning to love yourself, as monks are also trained to do, teaches you how to love someone else. ........ what she actually said: “I’d be perfectly happy to go to a grocery store and buy some bread.” ......... My monk teachers never tried to impress me and never wanted me to impress them. ........ you’re never better or worse than anyone else ........ Her grandmother worried I would leave her and return to the ashram. Her friends assumed I was against watching TV or going to movies and imagined that all we could do together was sit and meditate. ......... monk training is mind training ......... I haven’t gone back to eating meat or drinking alcohol ....... it opened my mind to understanding and acceptance. .......... I respected that everyone was moving at their own pace, in their own time. My way wasn’t right or wrong; they weren’t too slow or too fast. I learned to see the essence of a monk in everyone I met. Everyone has a part of themselves that is compassionate, loving and beautiful. .......... She was more of a monk than I would ever be, and we didn’t need a fancy restaurant to connect. For our next date, I took her to an outdoor ropes course, where we helped each other swing from trees, climb walls and walk narrow balance beams. We were bowing to each other, in our way. ........ The monks, who say nothing about romantic love, had taught me everything I needed to know about romantic love.

Electric Vehicles Keep Defying Almost Everyone’s Predictions Around the world, E.V. sales were projected to have grown 60 percent in 2022 ........ There are now almost 30 million electric vehicles on the road in total, up from just 10 million at the end of 2020. E.V. market share has also tripled since 2020. ........ what looked not that long ago like a climate pipe dream is now undeniably underway: a genuine transition away from fossil-fueled transportation. ........ a net zero transportation sector by 2050 ....... In Norway, electric vehicles now represent four out of every five new cars sold; the figure was just one in five as recently as 2016. In Germany, more than 55 percent of new cars registered in December were electric or hybrid. In China, where more electric vehicles are sold than everywhere else in the world combined, the rise is perhaps even more dramatic: from 3.5 percent of the market at the beginning of 2020 to 20.3 percent at the beginning of 2022. .......... Its largest single manufacturer, BYD, has surpassed Tesla for global market share ..........

market share of E.V.s will approach 40 percent by the end of the decade

.......... In the United States, investments in battery manufacturing reached a record $73 billion last year — three times as much as the previous record, set the year before. Globally, battery manufacturing capacity grew almost 40 percent last year, and is projected to grow fivefold by just 2025. By that year, lithium mining is expected to be triple what it was in 2021. .......... many other areas of the green transition experiencing similarly shocking exponential or quasi-exponential growth: renewable energy investments in the United States quadrupling in a decade, global investments in clean tech growing more than 30-fold over the same period, a solar supply chain already big enough to facilitate a total transition ........... the world hasn’t undertaken a breakneck allover revolution like this ever before in its history. .......... like carbon itself, which hangs in the air for centuries at least — dirty cars stay on the road for a very long time, emitting all the while............ demand already outstrips supply ........ China produces about 75 percent of all E.V. battery cells, manufactures roughly the same share of those cell components and does more refining of many of the biggest raw inputs than the rest of the world combined. ........ At what point do gas stations become unprofitable, and what happens then? ........... But there, at least for now, the electric vehicle revolution is taking a very different shape — often with two or three wheels rather than four. Globally, there are 10 times as many electric scooters, mopeds and motorcycles on the road as true electric cars, accounting already for almost half of all sales of those vehicles and responsible already for eliminating more carbon emissions than all the world’s four-wheel E.V.s. ......... In 2020, Americans bought twice as many e-bikes as they did E.V.s.

The Dystopia We Fear Is Keeping Us From the Utopia We Deserve usable nuclear fusion remains, optimistically, decades away. ....... humanity courts calamity if we don’t respect our limits and discard fantasies of endless growth. ....... the third possible goal:

a world of energy abundance

. ........ His titular flying car stands in for all that we were promised in the mid-20th century but don’t yet have: flying cars, of course, but also lunar bases, nuclear rockets, atomic batteries, nanotechnology, undersea cities, affordable supersonic air travel and so on. Hall harvests these predictions and many more from midcentury sci-fi writers and prognosticators and sorts them according to their cost in energy. What he finds is that the marvels we did manage — the internet, smartphones, teleconferencing, Wikipedia, flat-screen televisions, streaming video and audio content, mRNA vaccines, rapidly advancing artificial intelligence, to name just a few — largely required relatively little energy and the marvels we missed would require masses of it. .............. The water crises of the future could be solved by mass desalination. Supersonic air travel is a solved technological problem. Lunar bases lie well within the boundaries of possibility. ........ an “ergophobic” society, which he defines as a society gripped by “the almost inexplicable belief that there is something wrong with using energy.” .......... The true conflict, he says, is not between the haves and the have-nots but between the doers and the do-nots. “The do-nots favor stagnation and are happy turning our civilization into a collective couch potato,” he writes. And in his view, the do-nots are winning. ............ the villainy of lawyers and regulators and hippies. .......... He predicts that if solar and wind “prove actually usable on a large scale,” environmentalists would turn on them. “Their objections really have nothing to do with pollution, or radiation, or risk, or global warming,” he writes. “They are about keeping abundant, cheap energy out of the hands of ordinary people.” ........... the Deploy Solar and Wind Everywhere and Invest in Every Energy Technology We Can Think of Act. ............. Too often, the right sees only the imagined glories of the past, and the left sees only the injustices of the present. ........ We’ve lost sight of the world that abundant, clean energy could make possible. ........... “Take any variable of human well-being — longevity, nutrition, income, mortality, overall population — and draw a graph of its value over time,” Charles Mann writes in “The Wizard and the Prophet.” “In almost every case it skitters along at a low level for thousands of years, then rises abruptly in the 18th and 19th centuries, as humans learn to wield the trapped solar power in coal, oil and natural gas.” .............. visitors to the Palace of Versailles in February 1695 marveled at the furs worn to dinners with the king and the ice that collected on the glassware. It was freezing in Versailles, and no amount of wealth could fix it. .............. A hundred years later, Thomas Jefferson had a vast wine collection and library in Monticello and the forced labor of hundreds of slaves, but his ink still froze in his inkwells come winter. ......... Today, heating is a solved problem for many. But not for all. There are few inequalities more fundamental than energy inequality. ............ 2010 ....... roughly two billion people had little or no access to electricity and still cooked food and heated water by fire. About three billion had access to enough electricity to power electric lights. An additional billion or so had the energy and wealth for labor-saving appliances like washing machines. It’s only the richest billion people who could afford to fly, and they — we — used around half of global energy. .............. “You load the laundry, and what do you get out of the machine? You get books.” There is no global aid strategy we could pursue that would do nearly as much as making energy radically cheaper, more reliable and more available. ......... “Flights that take 15 hours on a 747 could happen in an hour on a point-to-point rocket” .......... Vertical greenhouses could feed far more people, and desalination, which even now is a major contributor to water supplies in Singapore and Israel, would become affordable for poorer, populous nations that need new water sources most. Directly removing carbon dioxide from the air would become more plausible ......... definition of superabundance ............... but the combination of fixed-price for infinite compute and the new trend of inefficient but modular technology has created an inventor out of almost everybody. ........... longevity drugs, which can only be synthesized in pristine zero-G conditions. Then you scoot off to a last-minute meet-up with friends in Tokyo. .......... dinner (made from ingredients grown in the same building and picked five minutes before cooking) ......... You bask in yet another serendipitous, in-person interaction, grateful for your cross-continental relationships. ........... it is not just fusion. The advance of wind and solar and battery technology remains a near miracle. The possibilities of advanced geothermal and hydrogen are thrilling. Smaller, modular nuclear reactors could make new miracles possible, like cars and planes that don’t need to be refueled or recharged. This is a world progressives, in particular, should want to hasten into existence. Clean, abundant energy is the foundation on which a more equal, just and humane world can be built. .............. “Folks will look back and be blown away by how we used energy today. They’ll say, ‘Wait, you just burned it?’”

famously unfinished film These evocative, well-composed and tonally immaculate images were generated in seconds with the magic of artificial intelligence. ....... The project ended once Alejandro presented his massive compendium of artwork to the Hollywood studios. They turned it down out of fear or shortsightedness or simply because they could not comprehend what he was trying to do. ........ threatening that his “Dune” would be as long as 20 hours. .......... It will forever be the greatest film never made, because it exists solely in our imaginations. ......... This unfilmed film’s influence on our culture is nothing short of astounding. Specific ideas and images from the “Dune” art bible have escaped into the world. They can be experienced in movies such as “Blade Runner,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Prometheus,” “The Terminator” and even the original “Star Wars.” His “Dune” does not exist, yet it’s all around us. ........... It took Alejandro and his team two years of pure analog struggle to create his “Dune” — pencil on paper, paint on canvas, inventing the practical effects required to deliver his onscreen spectacle. ......... It’s different with A.I. No struggle was involved in creating these images of “Jodorowsky’s Tron.” It didn’t require any special skills .......... I want to say that influence is not the same thing as algorithm. But looking at these images, how can I be sure? .......... The technology is jaw-dropping. And it concerns me greatly. ............ Is the training of this A.I. model the greatest art heist in history? How much of art-making is theft, anyway? ....... If A.I.s were eligible for the Academy Awards, I’d vote for “Jodorowsky’s Tron” for best A.I. costume design just for dreaming up such outrageous retro sci-fi hats and helmets. ......... He needed to state his prompt cleanly and clearly. But the creativity bubbled out of the machine. ........ What will it mean when directors, concept artists and film students can see with their imaginations, when they can paint using all the digitally archived visual material of human civilization?

Thursday, January 12, 2023

12: Russia

How India's ruling party is tightening its grip on Kashmir The BJP hopes the addition of up to a million mostly Hindu voters to the electoral roll, new electoral boundaries, seven more seats in the regional assembly and the reservation of nine for groups likely to back the BJP will give it a fighting chance of becoming the biggest party in the 90-seat legislature. ......... The 72-year-old, who is set to run for a third term in 2024, has combined promises of prosperity and social mobility with a robust Hindu-first agenda to dominate Indian politics. ........ "We have taken a pledge to cross 50-plus seats to form the next government with a thumping majority," the BJP's president for Jammu and Kashmir, Ravinder Raina, told Reuters. "The next chief minister will be from our party." ........ Jammu has about 5.3 million inhabitants, 62% of whom are Hindu while Kashmir Valley has 6.7 million, 97% of them Muslim ......... in 2019 when the BJP-led parliament in New Delhi revoked this status, which had denied rights to many Hindu communities not considered indigenous to the region........ "No one will ever understand how it feels when an educated child is told they should sweep the streets," she said......... "The BJP is not working to dilute the power of the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, but it is our duty to empower every citizen of India. In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, they just happen to be Hindus." ........... The party also launched a door-to-door campaign in 2020 involving hundreds of officials to identify those who would benefit from domicile certificates - and potentially vote for the BJP. ......... Marginalised groups such as Asha's "sweepers" and the West Pakistan Refugees group of Hindus who settled in Jammu and Kashmir after partition, are among those who will gain full citizenship for the first time. ...... The refugee community alone numbers more than 650,000. .

India, U.S. establish new trade group to bolster supply chains "Waiting for all-or-nothing comprehensive agreements will only slow our shared goal of achieving a $500 billion trade relationship," the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's U.S.-India Business Council, Atul Keshap, said in a statement......... Goyal also said the two countries are looking at larger bilateral footprints for trade and investments than mini deals, with a focus on greater market access and ease of doing business. ........ U.S. companies are also looking to invest more in India, he added. .

Russia posts a $47 billion budget deficit for 2022, its second highest in the post-Soviet era. The budget gap reached 3.3 trillion rubles, or 2.3 percent of the size of the Russian economy, according to the country’s finance minister. ........ “Despite the geopolitical situation, the restrictions and sanctions, we have fulfilled all our planned goals.” ....... the posted deficit for 2022 is second only in Russia’s post-Soviet history to the one reported for 2020, the year the coronavirus pandemic unfolded. ......... the Russian economy performed above expectations, buoyed by high commodity prices. ......... The government has financed the deficit by issuing bonds and using money from its rainy-day fund. .

With the battle for Soledar, the founder of a mercenary army seeks a bigger role in Russia’s power structure. . the head of Russia’s largest mercenary group, who had long denied ties to the military, has become in some ways the public face of Moscow’s war effort. ........... In recent months, Mr. Prigozhin has tried to position himself as the Kremlin’s indispensable military leader, even as he has stepped up his criticism of the Russian Defense Ministry. He has bolstered Russia’s decimated fighting ranks with tens of thousands of convicts recruited to his mercenary force, awarded medals, visited military cemeteries and, according to his frequent videos, appeared unexpectedly at the toughest sections of the front line. ........ This week, Mr. Prigozhin portrayed himself as the mastermind of what he presented as Russia’s biggest military success in months: a breakthrough in the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar. ........ Mr. Prigozhin claimed that the city was fully under his control and took full credit for the apparent success. ........ “No other forces apart from PMC Wagner fighters have participated in the assault on Soledar,” Mr. Prigozhin said in an audio message published on the Telegram messaging app ............. Notably, Mr. Prigozhin’s claims were also contradicted by the Kremlin and the Russian military. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that its regular units were “fighting in the city,” and Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said that the capture of Soledar would be an important, but costly, tactical success, rather than a turning point. .......... there is a struggle for President Vladimir V. Putin’s favor as the military outlook in Ukraine darkens. .......... In late December, Wagner fighters released a profanity-laden video addressed to the military high command, in which they accused it of withholding ammunition and causing the deaths of their comrades. Mr. Prigozhin responded to the video by saying, “When you’re sitting in a warm office, the frontline problems are hard to hear,” in apparent reference to the generals. ............. And last week, a prominent Telegram news channel affiliated with Mr. Prigozhin, called Grey Zone, discredited the Defense Ministry’s claim that it had killed 600 Ukrainian servicemen in an aerial strike, by publishing photos of an intact building that was supposedly destroyed. ........... Mr. Prigozhin was seeking to replace Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, a longtime confidant of Mr. Putin’s, whom many Russian ultranationalists blame for Ukraine military disasters. ......... “I used to think of appointing Prigozhin as minister as craziness, but lately so much is happening in our country, that you can’t rule out anything.”

New York Has a YIMBY Governor Kathy Hochul’s modest housing plan practically counts as radical for America’s most exclusionary suburbs. .......... housing—“everyone’s largest expense.” ........ New York has created only a third as many homes as jobs over the past decade, Hochul said, can be blamed on “local land-use policies that are the most restrictive in the nation.” .......... New York has done virtually nothing to address its housing shortage over the past decade, even as California, Oregon, Washington, and Massachusetts—four other high-cost states—experiment with various ideas to override onerous local rules that restrict the supply of new homes. Not coincidentally, New York’s population has gone into decline. “People want to live here,” Hochul continued, “but local decisions to limit growth mean they cannot. Local governments can and should make different choices.” ........... “Her goal is to turn Brookhaven into the Bronx,” wrote State Assemblyman-elect Edward Flood, from Long Island, on Twitter. “Hard pass!” .........

when it comes to building places for people to live, New York City’s suburbs are the worst in the nation.

....... New York suburbs build less housing per capita than their peers around Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.—and it’s not particularly close. Nassau County, the Long Island proto-suburb where Levittown is located, is one of the slowest-growing suburbs in the country. ........ between 2010 and 2017, New York’s housing stock grew at a lower rate than Detroit’s. ....... The first big idea is to require all jurisdictions in the New York metro area to grow their housing stock by 3 percent every three years. It’s a goal so modest that Westchester and New York City are close to meeting it already, though it would prompt a more significant shift in the toniest small towns, as well as on Long Island. ............ The second obliges communities with Metropolitan Transportation Authority train stations to rezone for greater density within a half-mile of the stop. ........... The transit-oriented development rule targets the state’s underutilized commuter rail infrastructure, which has been the main focus of a decade of transit investments in New York City, at the expense of the subway. Nassau County has 53 commuter rail stations; Westchester 43. ......... His bill would ban minimum lot sizes over 1,200 square feet, abolish parking requirements, legalize fourplexes, and legalize six-unit buildings within a quarter-mile of a commuter rail or subway station. .......... if upzoning your own town is rarely a winning ticket, upzoning your neighbors might be a more attractive proposition.

AI’s Best Trick Yet Is Showering Us With Attention Face filters and selfie apps are so compelling because they simulate limitless interest in what we look like. ....... Digital tools can function like fun-house mirrors, feeding a wholly private fascination with ourselves. ....... but there was no denying a certain amount of freakish accuracy. I couldn’t stop looking. ....... One thing about inhabiting a face is that we can never quite see it the way others do. Mirrors give us a reversed image. Photographs freeze us in time at odd angles and, sometimes, in pitiless detail. Staring into a phone camera, preening to check our makeup or undereye circles, gives us a hyperreal mirror, but this, too, is distorted and reversed. Even video doesn’t quite capture us for ourselves, for the simple reason that we cannot watch ourselves objectively. ......... before photography, the only simple way to see a static image of yourself was through the brush or the pen or the chisel, necessarily filtered through another person’s creative intelligence. .......... Cameras have gradually made it unexceptional to see images of ourselves, but there is still something magical about having another person pay this kind of sustained creative attention to you. .......... the way the internet fuels self-obsession by pushing us to perform for others: On Facebook, people announce banal life developments and political opinions; on Instagram, we interrupt our fun to show others how much fun we’re having; on Twitter, we mine our personal lives for laughs. .........

The app tricks me into feeling seen, but really it is just me, trying once again to see myself.



Mom Horrified by What Her Kids Are Seeing in Roblox This is seriously messed up. ........ Roblox has established itself as one of the biggest gaming outfits in the world — nevermind arguably the most successful metaverse out there — with well over 200 million estimated monthly users. In particular, it's become the de facto place to hang out online for a staggering number of children. ........ the popular app is allowing young children to enter some seriously questionable environments that should have parents concerned. ......... "I just spent six hours playing the games meant for five-year-olds and it was freaking awful," she wrote in an alarming Twitter thread, which has since gone viral. "Something is very wrong with Roblox Corp." ......... The massive online platform allows children of practically any age to play games that it lists as being suitable for "All Ages." The list of games under this age restriction used to be manually curated by the company, but Velociraptor suspects that situation "changed in the last few months," with Roblox seemingly opening the flood gates. ......... Some of the newly listed games listed as suitable for "All Ages," she said, include bizarre roleplaying games that involves a public bathroom simulator. ........ Worst of all, the Roblox users' avatars become partially undressed while doing their business inside a virtual bathroom stall, while other players watch. ......... A mere minute into playing the game, Velociraptor found that her avatar got stuck in a reclined position outside of the stall, resulting in an unsettling scene with other Roblox players repeatedly maneuvering as to suggesting a nonconsensual sexual act. ........ While Velociraptor said she expected "NSFW stuff" to occur when playing "any game with multiplayer," she was shocked that "these games are MANUALLY chosen by Roblox to earn the 'All Ages' tag." ....... Velociraptor also came across several games allowing users to stab popular children's TV show characters to death. ....... Futurism was able to easily confirm the existence of some of the games mentioned by Velociraptor , in addition to other equally horrifying games listed under "All Ages," including one called "Murder in the Public Bathroom Simulator." ......... "You can also literally cook/eat someone’s feet in one game," Velociraptor noted in a follow-up tweet. "I didn’t even get into all the other crazy stuff I found." ........ "A multiplayer platform of user-generated content marketed to young kids is a nightmare," Velociraptor noted. "There is literally no way to make it safe." ....... Previous reporting has uncovered similarly questionable activity on the platform. Last year, an investigation by the BBC found the company's metaverse was teeming with sex games dubbed "condos," allowing users' naked avatars to gather in large numbers. ......... it's a massive game of cat and mouse, except that the victims are impressionable children, not adults, who may know better. ......... "I deleted my kids’ Roblox accounts, and recommend you guys do, too." .

Experts Alarmed by Sex, Nazism in Children's Game Roblox

How Much Netflix Can the World Absorb? Bela Bajaria, who oversees the streaming giant’s hyper-aggressive approach to TV-making, says success is about “recognizing that people like having more.” .......... “Next time, I’ll get to stay for a week, so I won’t have to eat twenty-four tacos in twenty-four hours, like last time,” she said to the room of assembled staff members. ......... Bajaria told me that the ideal Netflix show is what one of her V.P.s, Jinny Howe, calls a “gourmet cheeseburger,” offering something “premium and commercial at the same time.” She praised the Latin American group for its recent track record of making slick telenovelas that draw large audiences outside Spanish-speaking regions. .......... A onetime winner of the Miss India Universe beauty pageant, Bajaria has glossy black hair that she often pulls into a high ponytail. Her voice, which she joked is classic “L.A. Valley Girl,” contributes to the impression that she’s younger than her fifty-two years. Although she is ceaselessly on the road for work, she says that she never experiences jet lag, a claim corroborated by her invariably peppy demeanor. “Is there anything you still think we need to do in terms of making a bigger bet, or a fresh swing?” she asked. .......... “We are taking the next step, because our competitors are going to be where we were five years ago.” ........ in Colombia, where Netflix was filming a big-budget miniseries adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” they were working to secure permission to transplant a rare chestnut tree onto the set. Another executive described “La Flor Más Bella,” a comedy that would feature a spirited morena girl navigating a high school full of “Whitexicans.” ......... Under her leadership, Netflix acts like a universal power converter, plugging in and adapting successful show formats to different parts of the world. Bajaria asked the Latin American staffers whether they were “working with the Middle East” to remake some of their more popular shows. .......... “It’s not a science. It’s a big creative endeavor. But it’s about recognizing that people like having more.” .........

When Netflix was founded, in 1997, its ambition, almost quaint in retrospect, was to overhaul the movie-rental business.

.......... Netflix began looking into making original programming in 2010, after HBO declined to enter a licensing deal. .......... the company’s goal was “to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” ......... Bajaria’s team more readily embraced the company’s new objective, the executive said: not only to compete with cable but to “replace all television.” .......... Netflix made the startling disclosure that it had lost subscribers for the first time in a decade; the day after the announcement, the company’s valuation plummeted by more than fifty billion dollars. .......... At a media conference in June, Bajaria said, “It’s a good place, to be the underdog.” ......... Its projected content budget for 2023 is the same as last year’s—seventeen billion dollars, a colossal sum, but, by the warped standards that the company set for itself, anything that isn’t rapid expansion looks like stagnation. .......... a head start in the large swaths of the globe that are still dominated by traditional “linear TV.” .......... in 2015. Two years later, Hastings acknowledged that “the big growth” for the company lay abroad. Netflix today offers streaming services in more than a hundred and ninety countries. ......... in the third quarter of 2022 alone it released more than a thousand episodes of original streaming television globally—at least five times the number of any other streaming service. Almost seventy per cent of Netflix’s two hundred and twenty-three million subscriptions now come from outside the U.S. and Canada. ......... she is the “most global television executive.” The London-born daughter of Indian parents from East Africa, Bajaria can juggle the relatively parochial workings of Hollywood and the more ambassadorial demands of representing Netflix abroad. ........ she impressed him, during a business trip to Delhi early in her tenure, by insisting that they leave the grounds of the five-star Imperial Hotel to eat at a “hole-in-the-wall that had epic food.” ........... “We truly believe that great storytelling can come from anywhere and be loved everywhere.” .......... In 2017, Shonda Rhimes left ABC, where she’d made runaway hits such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” and signed a contract with Netflix for a reported hundred million dollars. ........ relationship management is “half my job, if not more” .......... “There was a simpatico idea that things could be really good and commercial” ......... Bajaria’s parents, Rekha and Ramesh, met and married in Kenya but moved to the U.K. for her birth, in 1970, so that she would have what they considered a more desirable passport. ........ “Even later, when I was on the cover of Fortune, one of my Indian aunties was, like, ‘We’re proud of you, Bela, but it’s so surprising,’ ” Bajaria said. ........ (A print in her office, by the artist Maria Qamar, shows a bindi-adorned woman asking, “Has anyone seen my sharam?!”—the Hindi word for shame.) .......... After her victory, a Bollywood studio offered her an acting contract. She instead bought a copy of the Hollywood Creative Directory and sent a slew of cover letters to studios inquiring about entry-level jobs. She got two interviews. .......... “It was so rare to work for a woman, let alone a woman of color,” Bajaria said of Yee, who was born in Hong Kong. .......... Bajaria found her first major success, in 1999, with a Joan of Arc miniseries starring Leelee Sobieski, which was made on a tight schedule, over one winter, and was nominated for thirteen Emmys. ............. Many people who have worked with Bajaria described her uncommon decisiveness. Creative decision-making can be agonizing, especially when many millions of dollars are on the line. Bajaria does not overthink. .......... “The thing is, she’s not an intellectual. She’s smart. There’s a difference. She’s bold, and that’s what it takes. I don’t have that gene, and that’s why my career only went so far. You need to be able to say yes and keep forging ahead.” ......... “I knew she was immensely capable of volume. She also had this ingratiating way about her, where people were drawn to her.” ......... but Sarandos and Holland beat the studio out by buying two seasons up front, without a pilot—an extraordinary commitment at the time—for an astronomical hundred million dollars. ........... Pioneering the “binge” model, Netflix put out all eight episodes at once. ........... “I came up from a family of car washes, and Universal was my car wash, you know? I hired everybody there, I created the culture.” .......... Netflix is oriented around “saying yes in a town that’s built to say no.” In licensing, Bajaria occasionally followed this edict by saying yes to content that others within Netflix had already rejected. ......... “Insatiable” marked a “Walmart-ization” of Netflix as the platform increasingly prioritized voracious acquisition over curatorial discernment. .......... The series made the Top Ten list in ninety-two countries. In November, Netflix announced two additional seasons centered upon other serial killers. ........... What is quality? What is good versus not? That’s all subjective. I just want to super-serve the audience.” ........ The series was shot outside Berlin on a revolving virtual production stage that can generate photorealistic 3-D backdrops of locations anywhere. ........ four core demographic “quadrants”—male and female, under and over twenty-five. .......... the success of “Squid Game” across the world came as a complete surprise. ......... Most of the local-language originals that the platform produces are smaller programs that one analyst described as a “retention tool,” to keep viewers on Netflix after they’ve watched (or not watched) the latest splashy global show. In Japan, subscribers may be served “Narcos” but also dozens of anime series; in Scandinavia, “Ozark” but also plenty of Nordic noir. In India, there are original programs not only in Hindi and English but in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Kannada, and Bengali. ........ Outside of Europe and North America, the arpu—average revenue per user—tends to be lower. A subscription in India costs as little as a hundred and forty-nine rupees, or a dollar eighty-one. But it is relatively cheap to make shows abroad ........... Some of the most beloved TV shows were slow to catch on with audiences. “Seinfeld” was considered a failure in its first season. “The Wire” lagged in Season 2 before yielding twelve of the finest episodes of television ever made, in Season 3. ....... The Netflix algorithm insures that content “is served right up to you in front of your face, so it’s not like you can’t find it,” she told me. “At some point it’s, like, Is the budget better spent on a next new thing?” .......... “None of these individual shows are the product they are selling. They are just selling more Netflix.” .......... “As human beings we likely cry at the exact same things, but we all laugh at something totally different” .......... “There is no long tail without the big head.” ......... “People love to click on stories about us,” she said. “Netflix has great S.E.O.” ......... Rekha, her mother, cooks dinner for a couple of hundred people at a Hindu temple each week.