Sunday 8.16.2015 New York Times Digest

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1. Looking for a Breakthrough? Study Says to Make Time for Tedium

“Innovation isn’t all about eureka moments. In fact, the road to creative breakthroughs is paved with mundane, workaday tasks.”

2. AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet on a Vast Scale

“The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.”

3. Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

“A woman who had thyroid cancer was given a low performance rating after she returned from treatment. She says her manager explained that while she was out, her peers were accomplishing a great deal. Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. ‘I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,’ she said her boss told her. ‘From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.’ A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a ‘performance improvement plan’ — Amazon code for ‘you’re in danger of being fired’ — because ‘difficulties’ in her ‘personal life’ had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover. A former human resources executive said she was required to put a woman who had recently returned after undergoing serious surgery, and another who had just had a stillborn child, on performance improvement plans, accounts that were corroborated by a co-worker still at Amazon. ‘What kind of company do we want to be?’ the executive recalled asking her bosses. The mother of the stillborn child soon left Amazon. ‘I had just experienced the most devastating event in my life,’ the woman recalled via email, only to be told her performance would be monitored ‘to make sure my focus stayed on my job.’”

4. Key & Peele’ Ends While Nation Could Still Use a Laugh

“In its absence, there may be no alternative that so frankly addresses these enduring prejudices and disparities, especially at a moment when America’s racial divide has taken center stage in the national discourse.”

5. Nick Symmonds, a Sidelined Track Star, Continues to Break From the Pack

“Symmonds has long gone his own way. He is an avid hunter and fisherman who has campaigned for animal rights and gun control. He has been an advocate for gay rights and, most visibly, a forceful activist for enhancing the voice and earning power of professional track and field athletes.”

6. When You’re in Charge, Your Whisper May Feel Like a Shout

“The powerful are often oblivious to their impact. Holding power, as my research shows, reduces one’s capacity to appreciate how one’s words and gestures may affect others. As I studied power and reflected on my own experiences, I realized that three types of communications become amplified by power: direct communication, silence and ambiguity.”

7. How California Is Winning the Drought

“By almost every measure except precipitation, California is doing fine. Not just fine: California is doing fabulously.”

8. The Closing of the Canadian Mind

“The Harper years have seen a subtle darkening of Canadian life.”

9. Screwball With a Whiff of Menace

“In a recent sit-down at the Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo, the couple ticked off a list of the films that resonated most for them in making Mistress America and discussed them with glee, frequently finishing each other’s thoughts. ‘The best thing is talking about other people’s movies,’ Mr. Baumbach said. Ms. Gerwig added, ‘It’s so much easier than talking about your own.’”

10. Sam Elliott, a Leading Man Again at 71, No Cowboy Hat Required

“Mr. Elliott is definitely having a moment.”

11. Sound Baths Move From Metaphysical to Mainstream

“Once found only at New Age retreats or the white-domed Integratron in the Mojave Desert, sound baths are now offered all over Southern California. Celebrities such as Robert Downey Jr., Charlize Theron, Laurence Fishburne and Robert Trujillo of Metallica have participated. Sound healers, sometimes called ‘sounders,’ say the vibrations can relax brain-wave patterns, lower heart rate, reduce stress and pain, relieve anxiety and sometimes help with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.”

12. Ta-Nehisi Coates: By the Book

“I don’t really understand how anyone could be a writer and ‘avoid’ any genre. It seems contrary to the very idea of writing, to discovery, to understanding. I read whatever I can, whenever I can.”

13. How ‘Rock Star’ Became a Business Buzzword

“Pretty much anyone can be a ‘rock star’ these days — except actual rock stars, who are encouraged to think of themselves as brands.”

14. Personal (Search) History

“We obsess over our self-presentation on social media, while constantly leaving traces of our true selves elsewhere, often without even realizing it. Call it ‘dark data’: the trail of information collected by companies like Amazon, Seamless and Uber about what we really do in our free time, about our splurges and snack preferences — all those unsharable details that we rarely boast about on our feeds.”

15. Rescuing Wildlife Is Futile, and Necessary

“Tending animals until they are fit to be returned to the wild feels like an act of resistance, redress, even redemption.”

16. The Bail Trap

“Of the 2.2 million people currently locked up in this country, fewer than one in 10 is being held in a federal prison. Far more are serving time in state prisons, and nearly three-quarters of a million aren’t in prison at all but in local city and county jails. Of those in jails, 60 percent haven’t been convicted of anything. They’re innocent in the eyes of the law, awaiting resolution in their cases. Some of these inmates are being held because they’re considered dangerous or unlikely to return to court for their hearings. But many of them simply cannot afford to pay the bail that has been set.”

17. Welcome to Liberland, the World’s Newest Country (Maybe)

“An avowed small-government libertarian and euroskeptic, he searched for two years for suitable territory on which to establish Liberland. The man he intermittently calls minister of information technology eventually discovered the plot via consultation of the ‘terra nullius’ entry on Wikipedia. According to the homestead principle, as well as the rules stipulated by the Montevideo Convention of 1933, Jedlicka felt the land was technically his after the flag-planting rite, carried out by Jedlicka, his girlfriend and a college friend. Though he claims he did not seek political office himself, and he in fact recused himself from the initial round of voting, Jedlicka was immediately elected the nation’s first president by a vote of two to zero.”

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