Sunday 5.26.2019 New York Times Digest

1. Why Fiction Trumps Truth

“Large-scale cooperation depends on believing common stories. But these stories need not be true.”

2. A Stolen N.S.A. Tool Wreaks Havoc

“Foreign intelligence agencies and rogue actors have used EternalBlue to spread malware that has paralyzed hospitals, airports, rail and shipping operators, A.T.M.s and factories that produce critical vaccines. Now the tool is hitting the United States where it is most vulnerable, in local governments with aging digital infrastructure and fewer resources to defend themselves.”

3. Finding Conversation, Kinship and Caffeine

“‘This is the only place where I can relax and feel free, even if it’s only for a few hours.’”

4. New York’s Vanishing Diners

“The diner’s heyday was in the 1920s, followed by a surge after World War II that was driven by immigrants, many of them Greek, said Richard J.S. Gutman, the author of four books on diners. In recent years, a number of Latin American, South Asian and Middle Eastern owners have joined their ranks.”

5. It’s Never Been Easier to Be a C.E.O., and the Pay Keeps Rising

“The median boss received compensation of $18.6 million — a raise of $1.1 million, or 6.3 percent, from the year prior.”

6. What Reparations for Slavery Might Look Like in 2019

“For every dollar a typical white household holds, a black one has 10 cents. It is this cumulative effect that justifies the payment of reparations to descendants of slaves long dead, supporters say.”

7. Are Video Games the Best New Social Network?

“Video games are often thought of as lonely pursuits for socially hobbled recluses — ‘playgrounds of the self’ — but many of today’s biggest games are designed first and foremost as social experiences, intended to facilitate connection and community. And while these games are almost always built around some form of virtual violence, they are often designed with better incentives for civil behavior than the social networks they compete with.”

8. Don’t Let Nationalists Speak for the Nation

“Nation-states are people with a common past, half-history, half-myth, who live under the rule of a government in the form of a state. Liberal nation-states are collections of individuals whose rights as citizens are guaranteed by the government.”

9. You Don’t Want a Child Prodigy

“Students who have to specialize earlier in their education — picking a pre-med or law track while still in high school — have higher earnings than their generalist peers at first, according to one economist’s research in several countries. But the later-specializing peers soon caught up. In sowing their wild intellectual oats, they got a better idea of what they could do and what they wanted to do. The early specializers, meanwhile, more often quit their career tracks.”

10. The College Dropout Crisis

“About one in three students who enroll in college never earn a degree. But a promising solution is staring us in the face: Schools with similar students often have very different graduation rates. This suggests that the problem isn’t the students — it’s the schools.”

11. How to Get Every Email Returned

“There are ways … to write persuasively in your everyday life. To break through the clutter, to get attention and even to bring people over to your side.”

12. Free Yourself From the Wisdom of the Crowd

“The 21st-century virtual shopping experience can feel overwhelming and chaotic, but it’s the price we pay for the convenience of shopping at home. That’s why stars are everywhere. Without them, you’re vulnerable to decision paralysis. But with them, you still can’t shake the feeling that there’s a lot of homework to do — hours of life lost, scrolling through reviews, many of which were written by people who have little to nothing in common with you.”

13. The Archive of the Future

“‘At a certain point, I began to think of myself as a camera.’”

14. Capitalism Camp for Kids

“Embedded in these programs is at least one contradiction: They promote entrepreneurship and leadership, but are also training kids to be good employees; to be innovators and disrupters, but also to be model office drones.”

15. Rick Atkinson’s Savage American Revolution

“Although he is less interested in making an argument than telling a story, the story he tells is designed to rescue the American Revolution from the sentimental stereotypes and bring it to life as an ugly, savage, often barbaric war. Unlike in World War II, most of the killing occurred up close. Advancing troops could literally see the whites of the eyes on the other side, as well as hear horses and men dying in agony. ‘A man 5 feet, 8 inches tall,’ Atkinson observes, ‘had an exterior surface of 2,550 square inches, of which a thousand were exposed to gunfire when he was facing an enemy frontally at close range.’ If he was hit in the torso, his chances of dying were more than 50 percent.”

16. By the Book: Eve Ensler

“I can’t throw books away, even paperbacks. They are friends, lovers, touchstones, specific reminders of periods of thinking, particular research in the making of a play and imprints of love affairs. I have too many books. I’m sure I could happily live in a house where the walls were made of them.”

17. Crisis Management

“The time has come for those of us who work in book-length nonfiction to insist that professional fact-checking become as inalienable from publishing as publicity, marketing and jacket design — and at the publisher’s expense rather than as a cost passed on to the author, who, understandably, will often choose to spend her money on health care. In the age of tweets, it cannot be the fate of the book to become ever more tweetlike — maybe factual, maybe whatever. The book must stand apart, must stand above.”

18. This Is What It Sounds Like When Brands Cry

“We know from experience that most people aren’t having that much fun with their friends at a McDonald’s, but we understand why the commercials sell the fiction that they are. By contrast, the scenes depicted in the #FeelYourWay campaign seem to acknowledge the real reason people eat fast food — not always as a celebratory treat or quick bite on the road but sometimes as an immediate consolation for daily miseries and humiliations.”

19. Letter of Recommendation: Car Phones

“What is a car now? A four-wheeled method of warming the Earth until it destroys humanity? Yes. But not just that. It’s a phone that you sit in.”

20. How to Lose a Tail

“The sooner you’re clued in to a follower, the more options you have to evade them.”

21. ‘The Hills’ Made Reality TV What It Is. Now It’s Back.

“Lauren Conrad, the original show’s lead, declined to return, so in a real mind-bendy plot twist, MTV replaced her with Mischa Barton, the star of the 2003 Fox show ‘The O.C.,’ which inspired ‘Laguna Beach,’ which inspired ‘The Hills.’ Except ‘The O.C.’ was a scripted show, in which Mischa, an actress born in London and raised in New York, played a sun-kissed teenager from Orange County. Depositing Mischa into ‘The Hills’ today is like having Julia Roberts join a reality show about call girls. It’s the sort of thing that only makes sense in dreams — and Hollywood.”

22. How ‘The View’ Became the Most Important Political TV Show in America

“Now that reality TV has become comedically scripted, ‘The View’ remains one of the few places on TV where audiences can watch authentic human drama.”

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