Sunday 4.17.2016 New York Times Digest


1. A New Map for America

“America is increasingly divided not between red states and blue states, but between connected hubs and disconnected backwaters.”

2. 272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants?

“At Georgetown, slavery and scholarship were inextricably linked. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to help finance its operations, university officials say. (Slaves were often donated by prosperous parishioners.) And the 1838 sale — worth about $3.3 million in today’s dollars — was organized by two of Georgetown’s early presidents, both Jesuit priests.”

3. Stephen Curry’s 3-Point Record in Context: Off the Charts

“The record is an outlier that defies most comparisons, but here is one: It is the equivalent of hitting 103 home runs in a Major League Baseball season.”

4. Keurig’s New K-Cup Coffee Is Recyclable, but Hardly Green

“Making coffee wasn’t something that needed to be reinvented.”

5. The Other Side of Merle Haggard

“By ’69 the deceptively sophisticated chord structures of Haggard songs like ‘I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,’ ‘Mama Tried’ and ‘Silver Wings’ were not lost on me. To my ear they had more in common with the work of John Lennon and Paul McCartney (you can imagine the early Beatles playing ‘Mama Tried’) or Paul Simon than anything else I heard on the country radio stations.”

6. A Conversation With Whales

“Fabrice Schnöller, a French engineer with a degree in biology, was leading the dive. For the past six years, he has traveled the world’s oceans seeking out these face-to-face encounters. His goal is to record close-up audio and video data of sperm whales passing one another coda clicks, which he believes contain coded information, possibly a language.”

7. Plenty of Passengers, but Where Are the Pilots?

“A dearth of qualified pilots is disrupting, reducing and even eliminating flights.”

8. Sorry, You Can’t Speed Read

“It’s extremely unlikely you can greatly improve your reading speed without missing out on a lot of meaning.”

9. Is That Even a Thing?

“Calling something ‘a thing’ is, in this sense, itself a thing.”

10. An Artist at 100, Thinking Big but Starting Small

“When you don’t have much, anything will do.”

11. Mary Beard and Her ‘Battle Cry’ Against Internet Trolling

“When she began making more-regular TV appearances, on popular documentaries on ancient themes and talking-head political programs, she encountered the response that awaits many women with the temerity to venture into the public arena: ‘trolling’ or online abuse. As she did with Mr. Gill’s review, she responded, battling back her antagonists and becoming something of a folk hero in the process.”

12. The Right to Privacy for Children Online

“There is still something disconcerting about seeing celebrities enlist their children in service of their brands”

13. At the Existentialist Café, by Sarah Bakewell

“Around the early 1930s, the story divides, like a novel by George Eliot or Tolstoy, between the characters who, despite missteps and delusions, eventually, like Beauvoir, come out more or less right, and the ones who come out wrong, like Heidegger and his followers. What divides these two sets of characters are their attitudes toward power and toward other people. Those who got things right were the ones who cared most about equal relations among people and cultures and about everyone’s personal uniqueness, and who had little or no appetite for power.”

14. Ghetto, by Mitchell Duneier

“Origin stories are revealing. This one makes clear that ghettos are physical places that are perpetuated by vicious cycles of inequality and are justified by ideologies of cultural or racial pathology. No reference to ‘ghetto,’ as place or modifier, can escape this history.”

15. How ‘Empowerment’ Became Something for Women to Buy

“Enter the highly marketable ‘women’s empowerment,’ neither practice nor praxis, nor really theory, but a glossy, dizzying product instead. Women’s empowerment borrows the virtuous window-dressing of the social worker’s doctrine and kicks its substance to the side. It’s about pleasure, not power; it’s individualistic and subjective, tailored to insecurity and desire. The new empowerment doesn’t increase potential so much as it assures you that your potential is just fine. Even when the thing being described as ‘empowering’ is personal and mildly defiant (not shaving, not breast-feeding, not listening to men, et cetera), what’s being mar­keted is a certain identity. And no matter what, the intent of this new empowerment is always to sell.”

16. Bernienomics Might Not Be Feasible — But It’s Useful

“Sanders believes that raising the minimum wage, spending a trillion dollars on infrastructure and offering free college will fundamentally shift the structure of our economy toward the poor and middle class. It will inspire such enthusiasm and determination that more people will work harder and invest more, and the country will easily generate the tax income to pay for it. Hence, Sanders’s plans won’t cost money; they’ll raise money.”

17. Donald Trump, American Preacher

“Politicians have long borrowed from religion the passion and the righteousness, but no other major modern figure has channeled the tension that makes Scripture endure, the desire, the wanting that gives rise to the closest analogue to Trumpism: the prosperity gospel, the American religion of winning.”

18. The Minecraft Generation

“The game encourages kids to regard logic and if-then statements as fun things to mess around with. It teaches them what computer coders know and wrestle with every day, which is that programs rarely function at first: The work isn’t so much in writing a piece of software but in debugging it, figuring out what you did wrong and coming up with a fix.”

19. The Looming Threat of Avian Flu

“Among the poultry farmers who endured the flu, and others watching elsewhere in the country, there is a pervasive uneasiness, because after a year of scrutiny, federal and academic scientists still cannot say for sure how their properties became infected. Despite their own efforts to harden their defenses, and new federal plans to help them, it is possible that poultry farmers are not equipped for the flu to return among the United States’ billions of chickens; and that ranchers and pork producers might be equally unprepared if an unfamiliar disease detonated among the country’s 92 million beef and dairy cattle or 68 million pigs. Planning for epidemics, animal or human, is to a large extent based on what a disease did the last time. It is much more difficult to predict what a disease will do next.”

20. Is Staying In the New Going Out?

“Why risk a restaurant when you can order Seamless or sauté premade gnocchi from Blue Apron? Why go to a bar when you can swipe right? Why go to a reading when you can download a podcast? Why pay $15 to see a boneheaded Marvel rehash in theaters when the world of premium streaming content is at your fingertips? Food, entertainment, romance: The traditional weekend staples are now available entirely on demand. The centripetal force of our homes has never been stronger.”

21. Behind the Scenes at the Met

“At first glance, these areas are functional: places to stack boxes of Met shopping bags, store unused shipping crates and transfer vats of chicken salad between the public and staff cafeterias. But it is also the domain of heroes who are largely unseen and unsung: custodians and ‘maintainers’; security officers and kitchen workers; art handlers, wall painters and climate-control technicians — a small town’s worth of every trade and task.”

22. Google and Apple: the High-Tech Hippies of Silicon Valley

“They, like the companies they will house, point to the future — the future, that is, as it looked in the 1960s.”

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