Wednesday, January 18th, 2023


Make America Integrate Again

In the early 70s, in one of America's most racially divided cities, kids from different races found themselves going to school together. A Boston program called Sidetrack brought students from Roxbury and Lincoln together—both in school and in each other's communities. Fifty years later, one of those kids, Peter Thomson, tracked down his fellow students to see how it shaped them (which it did, in big ways) — and to reflect on whether something like it could work today. This was an interesting era in an endlessly interesting town. There's an added urgency to this reflection as America is moving backwards on integration and race relations in general. The radical, forgotten experiment in educational integration that changed my life. "For the kids in my class, the teachers were the key ... But no one I've been in touch with remembers either of them leading any formal conversations about race. In our class anyway, the adults rarely put their fingers on the scale or set bounds on what the kids could or couldn't say to one another. They generally let us work things out among ourselves. And we generally did." That, it turns out, is a revolutionary idea.



K-Cups are so bad for the environment that their inventor has expressed regret that he ever came up with the idea for the Keurig coffee pod system. But are the pods really so bad? It depends what they're being compared to. "In some cases, brewing a cup of joe in an old-school filter coffee maker can generate roughly 1½ times more emissions than using a pod machine ... assuming packaging does the most harm to the environment is often misguided. Instead, experts say, it's important to look at a product's entire life span — from the time it's made to when it hits the landfill — to figure out which changes might have the biggest effect on improving sustainability." WaPo (Gift Article): Single-use coffee pods have surprising environmental benefits over other brewing methods.

+ More than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by biggest provider are worthless, analysis shows. (I just spit out my coffee.)


Garbage In Garbage Out

"ChatGPT's predecessor, GPT-3, had already shown an impressive ability to string sentences together. But it was a difficult sell, as the app was also prone to blurting out violent, sexist and racist remarks." This shouldn't come as much of a surprise since ChatGTP is trained by what we humans put on the internet. So how did the company behind the AI fix the problem? Machine learning? Artificial intelligence? A breakthrough algorithm? Nope. They did the old fashioned way which always seems to be in fashion when it comes to tech companies. They paid workers in another country two bucks an hour to clean up the mess. Time: OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less Than $2 Per Hour to Make ChatGPT Less Toxic.



What have we learned in the first five months since the introduction of the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline? There's a lot of demand. It also seems to be pretty effective. NPR: 988 Lifeline sees boost in use and funding in first months.


Extra, Extra

Windows Shade: These days, the hottest thing in tech is layoffs. And the trend is showing no signs of letting up. Microsoft slashes 10,000 jobs, the latest in a wave of layoffs.

+ Carbon Not Neutral: "The videos also show how repurposed surveillance technology is making it harder than ever for the meat industry to hide the details of its animal slaughter from the public: Direct Action Everywhere's activists used tiny spy cameras smaller than a coin to capture the footage." Wired: Spy Cams Reveal the Grim Reality of Slaughterhouse Gas Chambers. Good news for transparency. Bad news for your nightmares.

+ From Bad to Worse to Haiti: "The country has had no president since its last one, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated in 2021. Its Senate is supposed to have 30 members, and its lower legislative chamber should have 119; all of those seats are unfilled ... And last week, its 10 remaining senators departed office after their terms ended, leaving behind a nation's worth of elected offices that now sit empty after years of canceled elections." As its only remaining elected officials depart, Haiti reaches a breaking point.

+ Kyiv Crash: Fourteen people, including the three main figures in Ukraine's interior ministry, were killed in a helicopter crash.

+ Fish Sticks and Stones: Freshwater fish aren't as fresh as you think. "The levels of forever chemicals found in fish harvested from river streams and lakes across the United States, including the Great Lakes, are much higher than in commercially raised fish.

+ Pill Box: "Some sites selling abortion pills use technology that shares information with third parties like Google. Law enforcement can potentially use this data to prosecute people who end their pregnancies with medication." ProPublica: Websites Selling Abortion Pills Are Sharing Sensitive Data With Google.

+ Soccer Palms: "Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor Zapana told jurors in an opening statement that the alleged bribes — totaling millions of dollars — fueled a system of secret, no-bid, below-market contracts and 'allowed disloyal soccer executives to live a life of luxury, to buy Chanel, to buy Hermes.'" Ex-Fox execs go on trial in soccer TV rights bribery case. Corruption related to FIFA? No way.

+ Local Dispatch: "In isolated, poor regions of South Carolina, coming from an élite family offered a feeling of impunity. Did this license lead Alex Murdaugh to commit fraud after fraud—and then kill his wife." (Or why some people in certain places assume they can get away with murder.) James Lasdun in The New Yorker: The Corrupt World Behind the Murdaugh Murders.


Bottom of the News

"Participants build the outhouses out of wood and are required to have toilet, a loo roll, and a competitor inside equipped with a helmet." It's that time of year. So let's head to Conconully, Washington for the outhouse races.

+ On this day in 1975, Barry Manilow's scored his first number one single with Mandy. And she came and she gave without taking. Very shortly thereafter, I joined the BMIFC. (The Barry Manilow International Fan Club for those not in the know.)

+ The Most Ridiculous and Weird Tech Gadgets From the Last 25 Years.