Tuesday, September 19th, 2023


Splitting Headache

President Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky are giving key addresses at the annual UN General Assembly in NYC. While the UN is trying to establish unity among likeminded nations, the reality is that the latest gathering is happening in a highly divided era. One way to see how dramatic that split has become is by looking at how corporations are changing they way (and with whom) they do business. "One word has been popping up increasingly on earnings calls and in corporate filings of some of the world's biggest companies ... 500 chief executives and their lieutenants have used the word 'geopolitics' almost 12,000 times in 2023, or almost three times as much as they did just two years ago. It's not just talk. Hard evidence is now emerging that all the discussions of strained international relations and more than a decade of warnings over the end of an era of globalization are finally spurring corporations to pick sides with their capital ... The accelerants for the shift are obvious. Pandemic-scarred governments are pressing companies to keep national interests in mind and providing subsidies and other incentives as a carrot to bring production home. Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a building US-China rivalry have hastened the end of a fragile post-Cold War model that saw trade and globalization boom." Bloomberg: The Global Economy Enters an Era of Upheaval. Listen to the politics, but follow the money.


Chewing Tobacco

On the surface, our addiction to highly processed foods seems quite similar to way we got addicted to cigarettes. Well, it turns out that the similarities are no coincidence. The same companies were behind both efforts. (That's a hell of a lot of health destruction from a handful of corporations.) WaPo (Gift Article): Many of today's unhealthy foods were brought to you by Big Tobacco. "Many of the ultra-processed foods that we eat today were engineered by an industry that wrote the playbook on products that are highly-palatable, addictive and appealing to children."


The Weaponized Mob

"When I worked at Twitter, I led the team that placed a fact-checking label on one of Donald Trump's tweets for the first time. Following the violence of Jan. 6, I helped make the call to ban his account from Twitter altogether. Nothing prepared me for what would happen next." Yoel Roth explains how his terrible experiences at Twitter are connected to the steady degradation on limits placed on hate speech across platforms. It's all about people at the highest levels weaponizing the angry mob against people who are simply doing their jobs. We see this in the abuse of election workers falsely accused of election rigging by the person actually trying to rig an election. And we see this when it comes to efforts to control lies, conspiracy theories, and calls for violence online. NYT (Gift Article): Trump Attacked Me. Then Musk Did. It Wasn't an Accident. "I've lived with armed guards outside my home and have had to upend my family, go into hiding for months and repeatedly move. This isn't a story I relish revisiting. But I've learned that what happened to me wasn't an accident ... It was a strategy — one that affects not just targeted individuals like me, but all of us, as it is rapidly changing what we see online."

+ Musk replied that he was 'against attacking any group, doesn't matter who it is,' and that his vision for humanity becoming a space-faring species is undermined by 'infighting and hatred and negativity.'" Benjamin Netanyahu asks Elon Musk to ‘roll back' antisemitism on X. Meanwhile, "on Sunday evening, just as Rosh Hashanah was coming to a close, Trump posted a meme on his social-media platform, Truth Social, excoriating 'liberal Jews' who had 'voted to destroy America' ... 'Let's hope you learned from your mistake and make better choices going forward!" (There's a name for the kind of antisemitism we're seeing on a regular basis from Trump and Musk: Antisemitism.)


Four the Win

One of the issues at the core of the UAW strike is at the core of many labor debates these days. Is five days a week too much work? And can employees be equally productive in four days? Quartz: US auto workers are joining the push for a four-day work week. And from CNN: Contract negotiations: UAW strike puts the four-day workweek back in focus. "Proposals to shorten the workweek have gained traction in recent years, with the flexibility of pandemic-era remote work fueling many of these calls. The accelerating use of artificial intelligence in the workplace has also pushed some workers to question the necessity of a 40-hour week."


Extra, Extra

Cafe Society: Japan is the world's oldest country. "About 30 percent of the Japanese population of about 125.7 million is over 65." And where we find aging populations, we find a need to address dementia. WaPo (Gift Article): At Japan's dementia cafes, forgotten orders are all part of the service.

+ The House Doesn't Always Win: "Did prominent casino chain MGM Resorts gamble with its customers' data? That's a question a lot of those customers are probably asking themselves now, a week into a cyberattack that took down many of MGM's systems. And it may have all started with a phone call, if reports citing the hackers themselves are to be believed." The chaotic and cinematic MGM casino hack, explained.

+ Sikh Truth: BBC: "India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat on Tuesday and accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs, ramping up a confrontation between the two countries over accusations that the Indian government may have been involved in the killing of a Sikh activist." Here's the latest on a growing feud between India and Canada.

+ Where the Sidewalk Never Ends: "Inspired by books like Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities and the British report Traffic in Towns, Fernandez Lores believed he had a solution: Get rid of the cars that were clogging Pontevedra's streets. And so he did." This Spanish city has been restricting cars for 24 years. Here's what we can learn from it.

+ For F's Sake: "A debris field has been identified as the remains of an F-35 fighter jet that went missing Sunday north of Charleston, SC."

+ Who is the Brain of this Outfit? "Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that staff for the chamber's Sergeant-at-Arms — the Senate's official clothes police — will no longer enforce a dress code on the Senate floor. The change comes after Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman has been unapologetically wearing shorts as he goes about his duties, voting from doorways so he doesn't get in trouble for his more casual attire." Senate ditches dress code as Fetterman and others choose casual clothes.


Bottom of the News

An Alabama high school band director who wouldn't stop playing at football game is tased, arrested by police. (I wonder if the band was playing I Gave My Love a Cherry?)

+ "When someone mentions the year 1990, you might think of the last days of Margaret Thatcher, The Satanic Verses, poll tax, recession and the IRA. Or, you just might think of a man in the north-east of England getting arrested for masturbating a dolphin."