Sunday 5.19.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Facial Recognition: Dawn of Dystopia, or Just the New Fingerprint?

“There are no national guidelines for how facial recognition should be used.”

2. Facebook’s A.I. Whiz Now Faces the Task of Cleaning It Up

“The task is made more difficult because ‘bad activity’ is often in the eye of the beholder and humans, let alone machines, cannot agree on what that is.”

3. The Suburbs Are Coming to a City Near You

“In some ways, living in a dense urban area has become much more pleasant for certain types of people — namely the affluent and those who prize proximity to the action above all else. You can now live within easy walking distance of your favorite restaurants, go see a play and shop at Target nearby. But what does it mean when urban living becomes a luxury good and a lifestyle brand?”

4. You’re Not Alone When You’re on Google

“Why do I — why do many of us — consistently act in ways that are directly at loggerheads with the privacy values we profess to hold dear?”

5. Spring Can Be a Sad Season

“For those who are trapped in despair, spring can feel like an affront, the gulf between outer and inner worlds too wide to cross.”

6. Power Is a Story Told by Women

“Telling stories really is a kind of power, and not an insignificant one. Stories give shape to experience, sometimes by accommodating traditional literary forms, sometimes by turning them upside down, sometimes by reorganizing them. Stories draw readers into their web, and engage them by putting them to work, body and soul, so that they can transform the black thread of writing into people, ideas, feelings, actions, cities, worlds, humanity, life. Storytelling, in other words, gives us the power to bring order to the chaos of the real under our own sign, and in this it isn’t very far from political power.”

7. How High School Ruined Leisure

“As the sports and activities kids once did ‘just for fun’ sometimes led to prestigious academic opportunities, the grown-ups caught on and took over, and everything from baseball to math modeling was commercialized and turned into a means to an end.”

8. Museums Must Reject Tainted Money

“Are museums, opera houses, food pantries and other nonprofits to be held responsible for how their donors have made their money? It is a question being asked more and more as a century-old taboo shatters.”

9. Religious Men Can Be Devoted Dads, Too

“It turns out that the happiest of all wives in America are religious conservatives.”

10. How Hollywood Stopped Fearing Lesbian Teens

“Hollywood filmmakers have not been especially comfortable depicting desire that is either female or queer, and the teen comedy has long been a kingdom ruled by hormone-riddled straight boys. That’s why the space given to these lesbian teen protagonists feels like a breath of fresh air.”

11. 1994 Was a Prison of My Own Making + Stuff Your ‘Rules’ + It Smelled Like Gen X Spirit + This Gen X Mess

“25 years ago was yesterday and a million years ago.”

12. How Was Polynesia Populated? Two New Books Explore the Pacific’s Mysteries

“Their customs, their clothing, their languages — and the design of their long-distance sailing canoes — turned out to be common to scores of South Pacific places. They had settled themselves on islands as distant from each other as Maui and Tokelau, Samoa and Mangareva, the Cooks and Kermadec, Easter Island and Norfolk Island. Exactly how they had done so was central to solving the enigma.”

13. Dismantling the Myth of ‘The Heartland’

“Far from an ‘insulated core,’ the Midwest — particularly during the period between the Civil War and World War I — was a place where borderlands converged, a region dependent upon the flow of cattle across the borders of Canada and Mexico and imported British hogs that had been crossbred with Chinese stock.”

14. How to Do the Splits

“Start by stretching every day after you get out of the shower (heat increases muscle and ligament flexibility).”

15. How Much Alcohol Can You Drink Safely?

“Sorting through the latest research on how to optimize your well-being is a constant and confounding feature of modern life. A scientific study becomes a press release becomes a news alert, shedding context at each stage. Often, it’s a steady stream of resulting headlines that seem to contradict one another, which makes it easy to justify ignoring them.”

16. Can CBD Really Do All That?

“It seems to interact with multiple systems: increasing the quantity of native cannabinoids in the human body; binding with serotonin receptors, part of the ‘feel good’ molecular machinery targeted by conventional S.S.R.I.s; and stimulating GABA receptors, responsible for calming the nervous system. With more than 65 cellular targets, CBD may provide a kind of full-body massage at the molecular level.”

17. Was It an Invisible Attack on U.S. Diplomats, or Something Stranger?

“Dozens of leading neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists, meanwhile, have offered an alternative narrative: that the diplomats’ symptoms are primarily psychogenic — or ‘functional’ — in nature. If true, it would mean that the symptoms were caused not by a secret high-tech weapon but by the same confluence of psychological and neurological processes — entirely subconscious yet remarkably powerful — underlying hypnosis and the placebo effect. They are disorders, in other words, not of the brain’s hardware but of its software; not of objective injuries to the brain’s structure but of chronic alterations to how the brain functions, typically following exposure to an illness, a physical injury or stress. And the fact that the State Department and doctors the government selected to treat the diplomats have dismissed this explanation out of hand does not surprise these experts. After all, they say, functional neurological disorders are among the most misunderstood, debilitating and denigrated ailments known to medicine.”

18. Can Monkeys Help Unlock the Secrets of Trauma?

“What does something like Hurricane Maria actually do to a community, beyond the initial, obvious physical effects? As it turns out, one of the best places to begin looking for answers may be a small, strange island full of monkeys.”

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