How Universal Basic Income changes the future – Mashable

Thats what has happened to Scott Santens, the first person in the world to crowdfund a basic income. (He donates everything he gets over $1,000 per month to other basic income advocates.) He hasnt stopped working he was a freelance writer before and a freelance writer after but he is able to pick and choose his projects now. He sees himself in a lifelong process of UBI advocacy, and puts more of his work out there for free on a Creative Commons license. Secure and free of money panic, hes more willing to give.

I think youll see a shift towards a gift economy, Santens said when I asked how a UBI-driven society might play out in the future. We can expect to see a lot more volunteering, a lot more unpaid work. Its more couchsurfing.com, less Airbnb, you know? Just give things to each other.

Santens hadnt been to Burning Man, which is currently the 21st centurys best known example of a gift economy. But as a veteran of the oft-misunderstood desert event, where coffee and ice are the only two things on sale, I could confirm: Once you experience the gift economy, its hard to forget. Tell people to be radically self-reliant in the desert for a week, and they go overboard with generosity to strangers. Gifts take endless forms, such as (to pick a random example from 14 years ago) the camp that brought tanks of liquid nitrogen and freezers full of cream in order to dispense ice cream for all.

This is true wealth, in a world where everyone has enough: Being creatively generous, going out of your way to earn as much delight and respect from as many of your neighbors as possible. This, not a Scrooge McDuck swimming pool of money, is what philanthropist billionaires from Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates have had the luxury to seek all along. This also perhaps explains some of the stranger showboating behavior of billionaires who go to Burning Man, such as Elon Musk. And this, given the solid footing of UBI, will be a game the other 99 percent are able to play too.

Is this 22nd century utopia inevitable? Of course not. Were still human, and humans will find any way to ruin a good thing. Bregman says hes grown disillusioned since writing Utopia for Realists, partly thanks to the number of people he met on a book tour who were convinced, regardless of the data showing UBI experiments work, that it will never work.

The trouble with convictions like that: They create our reality. If were not open to new information, if we dont accept the idea that UBI could work, we will fail to update our concept of what work really means. In other words, well continue to let corporations make a lot of (digital) paper-pushing busywork for us.

We shouldn't underestimate capitalism's extraordinary ability to come up with new bullshit jobs, Bregman says. Bullshit jobs was a term coined by the London School of Economics David Graeber, who wrote a 2013 paper on the topic and received a flood of confessions from people who felt their work was pointless. Two years later, a survey of 849 UK adults found that 37 percent said their work was not a meaningful contribution to the world.

What happens if that number just keeps rising, along with the fear of unemployment that herds us into bullshit jobs just to keep food on the table? What if 75 percent or even 90 percent of us are essentially on corporate workfare? Will we all be sitting in cubicles watching algorithms making decisions on our screens, hoping desperately to catch an error in the code, focusing a lifetimes worth of mental energy on making the boss think were useful?

Maybe at some point in the dystopian future were all pretending to be working, Bregman says, but really were drowning.

Thats what makes the shift to UBI so essential and why the shift in our attitude needs to come with. Bregman, for his part, has written his follow-up Humankind to try to convince us, with yet another mountain of data, that humans are intrinsically good and kind, and therefore should be trusted with free money. But perhaps you will look back and see that our greatest teacher was the coronavirus pandemic itself. Perhaps it will not only lead to a basic income for all; perhaps it will remain in our memories as a reminder that we are, in the final analysis, a society that genuinely cares for everyone. And will go to extraordinary lengths to prove it.

Yours in hopeful quarantine,


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How Universal Basic Income changes the future - Mashable

The New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards Were Presented to the Public for the First Time in History on STARS IN THE HOUSE – Broadway World

Stars in The House continued Wednesday night (8pm) for the 85th Annual New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards with Will Arbery, David Byrne, Adam Feldman, Jeremy O. Harris, Michael R. Jackson, Brian Stokes Mitchell, John Mulaney, Deirdre O'Connell, Heidi Schreck and Michael Shannon.

Presented by Adam Feldman, the show began with his remarks. "It's one night a year when critics and artists can put aside the tensions that sometimes exist between them. The sometimes perceived friction that can sometimes exist and just come together in the spirit of community and celebration to honor some of the best work in the year that has just past. Even this season which has been as we all know, an abbreviated one."

John Mulaney presented the first award of the evening to David Burns for AMERICAN UTOPIA. "The show is especially poignant right now because everything is poignant right now but also because this show is a story. It tells a story...of moving from isolation to community."

Jeremy O. Harris later presented an award to Michael R. Jackson for A STRANGE LOOP. "Michael R. Jackson's A STRANGE LOOP accomplishes the impossible because he gave an usher named Usher his very own musical. He made the invisible visible for all of us...He's working class, he's black, he's gay, he's fat, and he ascribes to the belief espoused by Bell Hooks that Beyonce is a terrorist."

Michael R. Jackson accepted the award with remarks, "I come to this award like pretty gobsmacked. This is the first kind of award like this that I've ever won...I feel like I'm on an episode of QUANTUM LEAP and I keep transporting through all these dimensions and coming back to theater as home where I can really express myself and tell stories and write songs...whenever we get to the other side of whatever this is...it will still be home for me."

The final award of the night was a special citation to the New York theatre community as a whole to its perseverance in the face of loss during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brian Stokes Mitchell accepted the award on behalf of the community. "I am so honored to be here...The collective heart of our entire community I know goes out to everyone who has had a show running or a show about to open...and to everybody, cast, crew, musicians, producers, directors, choreographers, stage/company management, theater owners, everyone involved. A Broadway show is an amazing occasion to celebrate and to have that cut short or not allowed to happen at all is earth-shattering to so many lives on so many levels. This too shall pass. We don't know when or how yet and that's what makes this so hard but please know that this too shall pass."

Click HERE to watch the full episode!

New shows will be produced DAILY at the traditional theater times of 2pm and 8pm ET, featuring performances by stars of stage and screen, in conversation and song with Rudetsky and Wesley.

Current and past episodes can be found on the website starsinthehouse.com, as well as a donate button linking viewers to The Actors Fund.

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The New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards Were Presented to the Public for the First Time in History on STARS IN THE HOUSE - Broadway World

Dear Mr. President, Please Don’t Stop the Daily Coronavirus Briefings We Need Them. – The Jewish Voice

by Adam Weiss

Rumors are swirling that the daily coronavirus briefings with President Donald Trump may be coming to an end, and as a concerned New Yorker, and American, I truly hope that this is not the case.

Monday nearly became the third day in a row without a briefing from the White House, with first a cancellation and then two hours later an announcement that there would be one.

Im glad that they changed the course.

Without the White House briefings and President Trumps uplifting and hopeful reassurances, we are left with the doom and gloom daily press conferences from Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. It is horrible.While Cuomo spends his time whining about federal money and supplies, de Blasio takes the stage daily to discuss his ideas about how to use the pandemic to turn New York City into a socialist utopia and to urge his constituents to snitch on each other for the grave crime of leaving their houses. The same man who essentially turned our city into one giant toilet when he decriminalized public urination in the street.

On Sunday, instead of letting us know when the city will open, the mayor announced that his wife, Chirlane McCray, will lead a coronavirus task force that looks into racial inequality. His social justice task force will be committed to making sure the city rebounds as a better and more just society than the one we left behind.

We do not need a new and improved socialist city. We need to be able to go to work and feed our families. Now.While millions of us worry about our homes, livelihoods, and sanity as we remain isolated from each other, De Blasio asserted that rebuilding will take the next 20 months of his administration and then far beyond that. We do not have time for this nonsense.

The great thing about the White House briefings is that, seemingly unlike our leaders in New York, the president very clearly actually wants the nation reopened. He provides information that is up to date and detached from any bizarre plans to reinvent society before it can happen. It is the leadership and transparency that we truly need in these confusing and troublesome times.

It isnt just local politicians that are a problem; there is also the issue of the media.

With many left-wing media outlets constantly spinning and speculating about every facet of the outbreak and attempting to use the virus as a political weapon, it is important to have a daily update with direct information straight from the man himself. It simply is not the time for hyper-partisan filtering of his messaging.

I am not alone in wanting unfiltered updates. According to a report from the New York Times, the president has been speaking directly to an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news during these briefings.

While the need for information isnt partisan, these updates may also help him in November, judging by the boost that they are giving his approval rating.

The whole nation is waiting with bated breath to find out when life will return to some type of normalcy. If President Trump wasnt on the frontline taking questions, the liberal media would be attacking him for that, too. He can never win with these people. Fortunately, he can win with voters.

Trumps approval boost is primarily coming from independents and even some Democrats, according to a report from the Times. In a close election, there may not be a more important voting demographic than the independents, and the liberal media knows it.

The reality of the situation is that Democrats and the media elites who despise the president are more scared of him being re-elected than they are of this deadly virus. These briefings have boosted confidence in the administration and are providing comfort to the very people who will be voting in the fall.

By getting up there every day and speaking directly to the people, President Trump is showing America that he is fighting for us as hard as he possibly can.I hope it continues.

Adam Weiss is the CEO of AMW PR, a New York political strategy and communications firm. His firm has represented Kimberly Guilfoyle, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Donald Trump Jr, Ed Henry, Corey Lewandowski, David Bossie, Governor Haley Barbour, and more

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Dear Mr. President, Please Don't Stop the Daily Coronavirus Briefings We Need Them. - The Jewish Voice

The more we learn about the new G-League iniative the less sense it makes – kentuckysportsradio.com

USA Basketball

On Tuesday, Daishen Nix, a point guard prospect previously committed to UCLA announced that he would skip college and become part of the new G-League professional path.

He became the third player to choose this option, alongside Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd, and I dont expect him to be the last. More kids and their families will take this option as time goes on, and that number could balloon if the 2020-2021 college basketball season is delayed because of the COVID-19 epidemic (Hmm, think kids would prefer to get paid to train to play basketball? Or take online classes with no games? Ill take the latter)

As it pertains to Nix, I have a lot of thoughts.

But before we get to those thoughts specifically, let me first tell you what this article will not be about.

1) No, this article is not about the death of college basketball. As long as Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State, Michigan, North Carolina, Louisville, Wisconsin, Maryland, UConn, Villanova, Arkansas, Arizona and a bunch of other schools play games, people will still care. As long as the NCAA Tournament gets played, people will still watch. So lets stop it with the death of college basketball stuff.

2) Also, lets be clear on something: Not every kid who is offered the money will take it. Some families really do value the education (crazy, I know!), some understand the branding opportunity of college basketball, and some, frankly are just getting money on the side from the college they choose (Im not accusing anyone of anything, thats just a fact). This year alone weve seen Terrence Clarke, Evan Mobley, Ziaire Williams and Greg Brown turn down the G-League path to play college basketball. Others will in the future as well.

3) As long as there are professional opportunities some elite high school players every year will choose that path over college. Whether it is the G-League, Australia, other overseas options or the eventual removal of the one and done rule, if there are people willing to pay kids to play basketball at 18-years-old, there are plenty that will take the money.

4) Finally this article isnt to paint some glowing picture of college basketball. Its not a utopia. It does have problems. Many of which are hopefully addressed in the coming days, weeks, months and years. Its not terrible, but its not perfect either. Like most enterprises.

So ultimately, whenever discussing college basketball, this new G-League path and everything in between, it really is important to get all of those little side-conversations out of the way right off the top. Because once those topics come up, and once people start to get fired up, the conversation can go in a bunch of different directions. And I dont want this conversation to go in a different direction from the main point of this article.

And the main point of the article is this: As we learn more about this G-League initiative, as more players commit and more details come out, the less sense it makes. Sure, it might make sense for the players (because who doesnt like to get paid to do stuff especially stuff they love?). But from the NBAs perspective, the organization that is underwriting this plan, it just makes no sense at all.

Lets start with the kid who signed up for the program today. Its Daishen Nix. As mentioned above, Nix is, by any tangible measurement, a really good basketball player. He was a player who was ranked No. 15 in 247 Sports current recruiting rankings, a McDonalds All-American and committed to play for UCLA. Again, by any measurement, he is a really good player.

But he is also not what the G-League promised when they first rolled out this revamped, new initiative a few weeks ago. He is not an elite player, a cant miss NBA prospect.

Some will disagree, but both common sense logic and facts back up that opinion.

In terms of the common sense logic well, as the 15th best player in his high school class, that means that he is, by literal definition at least as of right now the 15th best player just from his age group entering the 2021 NBA Draft. That doesnt include upperclassmen and it doesnt include foreign players. We are just talking about in his own age group. Now could he move up a spot or two or three? Of course. But is he really passing a Cade Cunningham, Terrence Clarke or Evan Mobley when these kids eventually get to draft night in 2021? It just seems completely infeasible. In defense of the G-League itd be the same case if Nix played college basketball.

Even more so, lets look at recent history in terms of where he is ranked in the recruiting rankings. Do that, and it sets up a much more realistic picture of the simple fact that again, he is far from a cant miss NBA prospect.

Just for fun, I went back and looked at the last four players who were ranked No. 15 in their respective recruiting classes. In 2019 it was Precious Achiuwa, who appears to be a lottery pick after one year. In 2018 it was Tre Jones, who is a fringe first rounder after two years in college. PJ Washington was the No. 15 player in 2017 he was a lottery pick, but it came after two years in college. And in 2016 it was Wenyen Gabriel, who went undrafted after two years in college.

According to a report from Shams Charania, Nix will make $300,000 to be part of this program. To which I ask, doesnt $300,000 seem like a bit of a steep price to pay for a kid who, history shows us, will probably be a fringe first rounder at best in a year (like Jones, Washington and Gabriel were) and who more likely would need two years to be NBA ready?

It seems that way to me. And no, thatsme hating. That is just straight facts talking.

That finally brings me to what this article is really about: Like ultimately, what is the end game of this program for the NBA and the G-League? What does the NBA hope to accomplish with it? For the players, this makes sense. Get paid money to play basketball, sometimes (in the case of a kid like Daishen Nix or Isaiah Todd) potentially above market value. But for the NBA and G-League Im really having a tough time wrapping my head around how this program makes sense at all. From a literal perspective. And certainly from a fiscal one.

First off, when you break down this G-League program at its most basic level, its very essence makes no actual sense. Essentially what this program is, is the NBA choosing to pay players to train and practice as an alternative to going to college. Which is fine. Except those same players are only going to college because the NBA has a rule in place from preventing them from going to the NBA. So just like, on its very surface it makes no sense at all.

But when you really dig deeper again, it just makes no tangible sense either. And it just comes back to one very simple question: What is the actual end game for the NBA?

As mentioned above, Daishen Nix will make $300,000 to be a part of this program. Jalen Green will make around $500,000 and Isaiah Todd will reportedly make at least $200,000, maybe more. So were already talking about $1 million the NBA will be spending, just in salary. And that doesnt include the cost of renting out a facility for these players to train. It doesnt count paying coaches. It doesnt count paying older players to mentor these players. It doesnt count travel and lodging costs for when these teams go to play their exhibition games. It also doesnt count the fact that the NBA has promised to pay for these kids college education if they one day want to go back to school. That alone could be hundreds of thousands more.

Therefore overall were talking about millions of dollars invested with essentially no financial return and for what? Jalen Green would be a Top 3 pick whether he played in this program, at Memphis or overseas. Did the NBA really need to pay him $500,000 (plus much more in ancillary fees) for him to get to the same place he wouldve without them?

And its even wilder when you think about a kid like Nix. Again, history tells us that he is at best a fringe first rounder, and maybe a player who likely wouldve needed two years of college. Even in a best-case scenario where he doesnt fall in the draft (certainly possible) and rises a spot or two (because again, he isnt getting drafted ahead of Cade Cunningham/Terrence Clarke/Evan Mobley/BJ Boston no matter what) was it really worth it for the NBA to invest hundreds of thousands into that development? Especially when colleges are already investing the same hundreds of thousands and it costs the NBA absolutely nothing?

Again, it just makes no sense.

Even if this is all one big long-term play for the NBA, at what cost will it be? First off, if we remove the one-and-done rule in a year or two (or even five) this was basically a big waste of time. Why build this massive infrastructure when the Jalen Greens or Cade Cunninghams or Zion Williamsons or John Walls will be ready to go the NBA right away? Some say this is a way to make the G-League a legitimate, viable league. But even if the end game is to make money here, maybe get a TV deal, how long will that take to get a deal to recoup lost costs? Maybe I have my blinders on, but even then I still just cant envision people choosing to watch G-League basketball. If they love pure basketball, theyll watch the NBA. If they love their school, theyll watch college. But if the G-League is playing on a Tuesday night in December? Who is choosing them as an alternative?

In the end, Im not blaming the kids for taking the money. And Im not trying to say that college basketball is perfect and every kid should choose that path.

What I am trying to say however is that the more that we learn about this program, the less sense it makes.

(To hear more reaction to the G-League initiative and the potential downside for players, listen to the Aaron Torres Podcast below, with the G-League conversation coming at around the 39:00 minute mark)

See more here:

The more we learn about the new G-League iniative the less sense it makes - kentuckysportsradio.com

Covid-19 live updates, May 2: Six new cases; one further death – The Spinoff

For all The Spinoffs latest coverage of Covid-19 seehere. Read Siouxsie Wiless workhere. New Zealand is currently in alert level three read The Spinoffs giant explainer about what that meanshere.For official government advice, seehere.

The Spinoffs coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak is funded by The Spinoff Members. To support this work,join The Spinoff Members here.

There were two new confirmed cases of Covid-19 to report and four new probable cases.

George Hollings, a Rosewood resident who had been transferred to Burwood Hospital, has died. There have now been 20 deaths from Covid-19 in New Zealand.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency approval for the drug remdesivir to treat Covid-19 patients.

Winston Peters, appearing on Newshub Nation, said its possible for New Zealand to have a shared border with Australia in the not-too-distant future.

A $20 million fund was announced by the government to help tertiary students access digital devices and the internet to continue studies disrupted by Covid-19.

Nationals finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith called the governments interest-free loan scheme for small- and medium-sized businesses half-baked.

Transport minister Phil Twyford announced that 56 extra weekly cargo flights are now running as part of the governments International Air Freight Capacity scheme.

Checkpoints run by Taranaki iwi reported that more than 50% of inter-regional travellers stopped were in breach of level three travel restrictions.

A joint statement byG20 trade and investment leaders outlined how those countries will maintain global supply chains, and ensure the flow of goods, services and people between them.

National Geographic reported that New Zealanders commonly refer to prime minister Jacinda Ardern as Jaz.

Auckland artist Cushla Donaldson on work that embraces the social and physical in new ways.

Need an antidote to perfectly lit influencers and lockdown sourdough spam? May we suggest refreshingly real food grammer, Nici Wickes.

Wellington-based musician Matt Mulhollands new album is the culmination of 10 years of memories, YouTube, and jazz school.

Musician and keen adventure, Nick Atkinson searches for Samuel Butlers fictional utopia, Erewhon.

We review the new iPhone SE.

Amberleigh Jack on her mothers final days in lockdown.

The Spinoff is showcasing seven films from the 48Hours film-making competition (this years entries were all done under lockdown). Todays pick, Container, is from none other than former Spinoff writer, Mad Chapman and her director brother Kenneth.

A joint statement by G20 trade and investment leaders from Australia, Canada, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand was announced today that outlines how those countries will maintain global supply chains, and ensure the flow of goods, services and people between them.

Measures will include reducing processing times at customs, adding additional crew and aircrafts to cargo operations, restricting tariffs on essential goods such as food and medical supplies, and ensuring health and safety standards for cross-border essential business travel.

Last week New Zealands minister for trade and export growth, David Parker, co-authored a piece for the NZ Herald with Simon Birmingham, Elizabeth Truss and Chan Chun Sing (the trade ministers for Australia, UK and Singapore, respectively), on the role of international trade in the Covid-19 crisis.

Just as the shared calamity of World War II compelled nations to negotiate the settlement at Bretton Woods, so too should the Covid-19 outbreak once again lead us to deepen our commitment to shared rules for the governance of global trade and investment, it read.

The NZ Herald has published its investigation into the Rosewood cluster the rest home and hospital in Christchurch that has now suffered 11 Covid-19 related deaths.

The story by Kurt Bayer looks at how the virus entered the facility and why there was a two-delay between the first case being confirmed and someone from Christchurch DHB arriving at the site (currently the subject of a review by the Ministry of Health).

Read the full story here at the NZ Herald (no paywall)

The downward trend continues with the Ministry of Health reporting 202 active cases and a total of 1,263 recovered cases an increase of 11 since yesterday. Check out the rest of todays charts, graphics and data visualisations by Chris McDowall here.

At the start of the week a Bloomberg column generated a burst of outrage and distraction by asserting, among other things, that locked down New Zealanders were apprehended by police if out of the house for more than an hour, and had to queue for an hour to get into the supermarket, where gloves and masks were obligatory for all customers (the article has since been corrected).

Its now starting to look as though New Zealanders might just be lying to foreign journalists for fun.

A new article in the National Geographic (not to be confused with our homegrown, unimpeachable New Zealand Geographic) joins the chorus of offshore media praising the response here, with the headline, New Zealand has effectively eliminated coronavirus. Heres what they did right.

The big revelation, however, is this: The sudden austerity could have been a cause for panic. But each day, the 39-year-old Ardern, or Jaz as shes popularly known, made clear, concise statements about the situation to the nation, bolstered by a team of scientists and health professionals.

Its the latest in a tradition of foreign journalists getting, we can only assumed, pranked by locals. Back in 2012, the British Conservative politician and writer Daniel Hannan wrote effusively in the Daily Telegraph of my new Anglosphere hero, none other than John Key. His countrymen, Hannan wrote, admire his modesty, affectionately calling him Low Key.

As others have noted, just wait till the international media hear about the longstandingban on gardening.

The eight Taranaki iwi running checkpoints at the rohes northern and southern borders say they stopped 3,000 passenger vehicles in their first three days of operation.

A media release from the collective says that 55% were motorists travelling from outside of the region, some having travelled from as far away as Northland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and the South Island. Freedom campers, people returning home after long weekends and one couple who wanted to see the mountain and go for a tiki tour were among those in breach of level three travel restrictions.

The majority of motorists travelling inter-regionally are coming from Auckland and Waikato in the north and Wellington and Manawat in the south, places we know have some of the highest rates of Covid-19 cases in the country. There is no mechanism to track these travellers and to check if they have potentially been exposed to Covid-19, and this is a real concern for the iwi of Taranaki and wider community, said North Taranaki iwi spokesperson Liana Poutu.

The checkpoints at Urenui and Ptea are manned by volunteers with the support of NZ Police, with a mobile Police patrol at the eastern entrance to Taranaki along the Forgotten World Highway. They were initiated by iwi leaders in the area to protect vulnerable and remote communities, where community testing rates for Covid-19 so far have been low.

When police commissioner Andrew Coster appeared before the Epidemic Response Committee meeting on Thursday, opposition leader Simon Bridges challenged the legality of the checkpoints, saying: Theres no scenario this is law school 101 in which a Kiwi is acting anything but unlawfully by stopping another Kiwi on a road in New Zealand.

Coster repeatedly told Bridges and other MPs that many checkpoints operating across the country are legal because police are present and operating them.

Today there are two new confirmed cases of Covid-19 to report and four new probable cases. Five of todays cases can be traced to a known source. One case is still being investigated. This is the 14th consecutive day of single-digit increases.

The total of confirmed and probable cases is now 1,485.

Sadly, today we are reporting the death of a Rosewood resident who had been transferred to Burwood Hospital. George Hollings was in his 80s, and his family have asked for his name to be shared.

His family says that George will be remembered as a real Kiwi bloke, a rough diamond, who loved his deer stalking.

They also paid tribute to the hospital staff that cared for George in a statement: We cant speak highly enough of the care Dad received. Youve clearly chosen the best, most compassionate staff to work at Burwood.

George was considered to be a probable case of Covid-19, and he also had underlying health conditions. He passed away early this morning.

There have now been 20 deaths from Covid-19 in New Zealand.

New Zealands total number of confirmed cases is 1,134. This is the number reported to the World Health Organization and in many instances this is the number reported publicly by other countries.

There were 5,691 tests completed yesterday, with a combined total to date of 145,589.

Of the cases, 1,263 are reported as recovered, or 85% of all confirmed and probable cases an increase of 11 on yesterday, which means today there are only 202 active cases of Covid-19.

There are five people in hospital, none in ICU.

There are still 16 significant clusters, no change from yesterday. Three clusters are now considered closed as there is no longer transmission of the virus associated with the cluster. A Covid-19 cluster is considered be closed after a total of 28 consecutive days or two incubation periods for the virus since its most recent report date of a reported case.

The three closed clusters are the Wellington wedding cluster (closed 25 April) and the two clusters linked with group travel to the United States one in Wellington and the other in Auckland closed today.

In the days since New Zealand went into alert level four, the new cases each day have numbered as follows: 78, 85, 83, 63, 76, 58, 61, 89, 71, 82, 89, 67, 54, 50, 29, 44, 29, 18, 19, 17, 20, 15, 8, 13, 9, 9, 5, 6, 3, 5, 5, 9, 5, 3, 2, 3, 3, and today 6.

Salty Auckland restauranteur Leo Molloy is planning a party for 100 of his best friends at his viaduct bar, Headquarters, NZ Herald reports.

The bash is set for May 15, provided the country moves to alert level two on May 11, and Molloy is working with police and the liquor licensing agency to make sure his guests comply with regulations. PDAs are strictly banned: Pashing is for young people with throbbing hormones who are determined to share their DNA. Id like to think the average age on the guest list is 45+ and most of us can moderate our behaviour and wait til we get home, Molloy said.

With that image in mind, according to the NZ Herald heres who will not be allowed to bump uglies on the Headquarters dance floor: Auckland MP Nikki Kaye, former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry and Destiny Churchs Brian and Hannah Tamaki, Nationals deputy leader Paula Bennett, Mori Party co-leader John Tamihere, band members from True Bliss and former MP Hone Harawira.

Read Duncan Greives warts n all profile of Leo Molloy on The Spinoff

Transport Minister Phil Twyford has announced that 56 weekly cargo flights have been added as part of an International Air Freight Capacity scheme, with more to be announced. Twyford says there is a huge demand for air freight, at a time when capacity is limited.

The $330 million scheme is short-term and market-led. Funding is provided to guarantee cargo on key routes under agreements with the carriers. Carriers then offer that capacity directly to freight customers on commercial terms, he says.

The first successful applicants are Air New Zealand, China Airlines, Emirates, Freightways Express, Qantas and Tasman Cargo.

There wont be an All of Government Covid-19media conference today or tomorrow, instead the Ministry of Health will be releasing todays case numbers via media release at 1pm. Well post that update as soon as its available.

Nationals finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith has hit out at the governments interest-free loan scheme for small- and medium-sized businesses designed to provide them with immediate cashflow. Criticised as being half-baked and without costings, Goldsmith said they had been given no estimate of how much it would cost, but in theory, it could run to many billions of dollars.

Nationals view is that rather than offering cheap loans to all sorts of companies, with loose criteria, the government should be getting cash to those businesses that desperately need it, he said. For example, to firms suffering a 60% drop in revenue for two successive months because of the lockdown.

Truly desperate small businesses need cash not more debt, however cheap.

A $20 million fund has been announced by the government to help eligible tertiary students access digital devices and the internet to continue their study disrupted by Covid-19.

The government wants to make sure that students in need can access support for distance learning so they can continue their studies. We moved swiftly to help cover extra costs, by increasing the student loan amount available for course-related costs for full-time students from $1,000 to $2,000, on a temporary basis, said education minister Chris Hipkins.

Now we have set up a fund that tertiary education organisations can access including Wnanga, the NZIST and its subsidiaries, universities, transitional industry training organisations and private training establishments.

Tertiary providers are best placed to work with their learners to identify those who are most in need during this time. Learners should contact their tertiary provider to discuss what kind of support they require, he said.

A recent survey by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) showed at least 11,150 students didnt have the right devices to engage in distance learning and at least 11,350 students didnt have access to broadband internet at home.

Today on Newshub Nation, foreign minister Winston Peters spoke further on the possibility of a trans-Tasman bubble with Australia, which he said could create an economic lifeline and a mutually beneficial tourist market for both countries.

Because we are doing so well against Covid-19, it is possible for us in a mutual sense to have a shared border, he said. When it comes to tourism, 55% of the tourists coming to New Zealand have been Australians, and we are Australias second-biggest tourist numbers going to Australia.

For so many of our businesses, particularly small businesses, Australia is a big market and vice versa for Australia.

While he said he had been looking at the arrangement with his Australian counterparts, borders would need to secure against Covid-19 in each country for any plans to go ahead.

Peters also mentioned the possibility of expanding the bubble to the Cook Islands and Samoa as well as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. He was, however, reluctant to include New Zealands largest trading partner in a possible bubble despite relatively few daily cases in China. Citing the recent fluctuations in cases and China being the origin of the pandemic, he said: I do not think that we are capable at this point in time given our size of contemplating such an arrangement.

With respect to New Zealands trade with China, Peters said previous administrations had made a terrible mistake and had put all their eggs in one basket, and the market needed to be broadened in order to reduce further economic exposure.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency approval for the drug remdesivir to treat Covid-19 patients. Developed by Gilead Sciences, the company announced it would donate 1.5 million vials of the drug, with distribution to hospitals beginning on Monday.

Initially developed as a treatment for Ebola, remdesivir is an antiviral and works by attacking an enzyme that a virus needs in order to replicate inside our cells. Dr Anthony Fauci from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said its trial showed there was a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery, cutting the duration of coronavirus symptoms from 15 to 11 days.

However, a trial in China found remdesivir to be ineffective, although the trial was also cut short after it was unable to recruit enough patients due to the steep decline in cases in China.

Aarogya Setu (Hindi for a bridge to health) started as a voluntary contact tracing app in India. Since launching three weeks ago, more than 75 million people had installed the app on their smartphones. Now the government has made the app mandatory for all office workers, both private and public, affecting millions of people in the worlds most populous country.

Like most contact tracing apps, Aarogya Setu uses Bluetooth and location data to keep track of citizens whereabouts, sparking a debate around privacy, especially in a country that doesnt actually have a federal privacy law. There have also been concerning reports that the government had asked smartphone makers to preinstall the app on devices and that Indians may soon need to have the app to board public transport and take flights.

Among Indias 1.3 billion people, there are currently more than 35,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 deaths, although many believe the numbers are far higher than whats being reported. Indias lockdown which began in March and was set to conclude next week has now been extended for another two weeks as cases continue to go up.

The World Health Organisation says it didnt waste time responding to the Covid-19 outbreak. Its director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus defended the organisations approach which declared Covid-19 a public health emergency on January 30. He said doing so gave enough time for the rest of the world to respond, adding that the WHO was already looking into the virus before then which involved a visit to China to learn more about the Covid-19 virus at its origin. At the time, there were less than 100 cases outside China and no deaths.

In April, US president Donald Trump said the WHO really blew its response and accused it of bias towards China. He also accused it of severely mismanaging and covering up the threat and announced he would halt US funding for the WHO, the organisations largest single donor.

There were three new confirmed cases of Covid-19 recorded in New Zealand yesterday, and no further deaths

This brought the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 1,479. 85% of these cases are now recorded as recovered

Finance minister Grant Robertson announced a new interest-free loan scheme of up to $100,000 for small businesses

A leaked internal poll conducted for Labour during level four showed Labour surging at 55% with National languishing under 30%

Victoria University backtracked on its unpopular decision to charge students accommodation fees for rooms they were unable to occupy under lockdown

Several fast food restaurants around the country were forced to close after running out of food, while staff at others raised concerns that safe physical distancing measures were not being observed

Read all the key stories in yesterdays live updates

Donate to The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us continue our work and cover the stories that matter. Get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel when you donate $80 or more over a year.

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Covid-19 live updates, May 2: Six new cases; one further death - The Spinoff

Andrs Barba Crafts a Disquieting Tale of Kids Taking Over in A Luminous Republic – Observer

Andrs Barba begins his new novel, A Luminous Republic, with a frightening sentence that takes a bizarre turn halfwayand maintains that sense of horror and strangeness throughout each subsequent page. He writes: When Im asked about the thirty-two children who lost their lives in San Cristbal, my response varies depending on the age of my interlocutor. The rest of the slim volume gradually unravels the mysteries embedded in that bravura opening: Who are these children? Why are they dead? And, finally, whats going on with this oddly detached narrator?

The people of San Cristbal view these thirty-two children, who seem to have appeared out of nowhere, as major antagonists. The kids provoke chaos and violence in the streets and at a grocery story. Yet theyre all aged between nine and thirteenhardly the demographic for most literary villains (although, to be fair, the book is garnering comparisons to Lord of the Flies, the iconic novel about adolescent cruelty). As he subtly crafts these characters, and the towns response to them, Barba develops his great theme: the tragic pitfalls that can result from fearing outsiders.

SEE ALSO: Fracture Is an Ambitious, Multi-Narrator Account of a Hiroshima Survivors Life

The narrator himself is initially an outsider, who takes a managerial post in San Cristbals Department of Social Affairs after moving from the nearby town of Estep. A few years after he arrives, the trouble with the children begins, and hes partially responsible for wrangling them into good behavior. The unnamed social worker narrates the story retrospectivelyits been 20 years since he moved to San Cristbal. Now, hes an insider with an intimate connection to the bizarre history he relates.

The Department of Social Affairs first discusses the children after they have, allegedly, stolen and harrassed three different characters in San Cristbal. The government decides to take action too late: Its clear they should have intervened when they first saw homeless adolescents, not after the group resorted to crime.

While the deputy blames the narrator for the recent turmoil, the narrator believes this is simply political maneuvering. He calls the deputys allegations a veritable master class in populist dialectics: call attention to an already out-of-control situation, offer an unattainable solution, and accuse the political adversary of being responsible for it all. The children become pawns in a larger political game among adults.

Throughout the novel, the people of San Cristbal project their own desires and anxieties onto the children. Their complaints simply offer insight into their own psychologies, not those of their youthful foes, who ultimately remain mysterious. The reader never hears from the children directly. Even the narrator must piece together their story using news reports and retrospective documentation.

Barba, a lauded Spanish writer who won his countrys Premio Herralde for A Luminous Republic, isnt faulting his characters for fearing the children. Its natural to be afraid of the Other; its one of our most elemental instincts of survivalFear, like pain, protects us; its necessary, he recently told Observer. If we question and analyze this fear, it can dissipate. If we dont, cautioned Barba, we can promote an ethos of hate, and allow political figures to manipulate us.

The children demonstrate two key behaviors that lead the adults to fear them as Other: They speak a language that adults cant understand, and they operate without a leader. This lack of hierarchy disturbs San Cristbals society, which is more comfortable with competition, politicizing and capitalism. To be without a leader is the ultimate divergence from life as we know it, explained Barba. As he attempted to construct a human community completely alien to our own, the writer copied the structure of certain insect communities in which individuals have different functions, but no ranking system. The book frequently describes the children as insect-likemore of a compliment, perhaps, than it initially seems.

Barba believes that capitalism has prejudiced us against the idea of an anarchist utopia, yet he creates significant beauty in the childrens lawless, alternate society (which the reader finally glimpses close-up at the end of the novel). Its ultimately difficult to tell who operates better, the grown-ups or the children. While the narrator focuses on the violence perpetrated by the latter group, he also makes offhand remarks about kidnappings and other crimes that occur in the adults society. Perhaps the children got something right, and thats why the narrator has become so intrigued by their story.

If its ambiguous whether the narrator himself understands his obsession with the children, Barba is clear about his own intentions. He described violence as a static energy that results when a charge builds up in a society and seeks an outlet. A chain reaction can result. In my novel, the violence is sparked by children who tap into a deep-seated discomfort within the rest of society, said Barba.

Connecting his writing to real-world concerns, Barba noted that hes surprised there hasnt been more violence in the wake of the pandemic. Speaking with the eerie, fantastical tone that he perfects throughout A Luminous Republic, he offered a bleak prediction. Perhaps the energy building up now will be let loose in the future; some small event will trigger it. Violence is always there; its the ultimate agent of social destabilization, he said. Thatll depend, of course, on how we treat others around usparticular those who are vulnerable, and different from ourselves.

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Andrs Barba Crafts a Disquieting Tale of Kids Taking Over in A Luminous Republic - Observer

China’s First Mars Lander is Going to be Called "Tianwen" – Universe Today

Friday April 24th was Chinas Space Day, celebrated on the 50 year anniversary of their first satellite launch. This past Friday, China marked the occasion with the announcement of the name for their first Mars Lander: Tianwen.

According to Chinas National Space Administration (CNSA), Tianwen translates to Quest for Heavenly Truth.

China is enjoying the success of their recent Change 4 mission to the Moon, which includes a lander, a rover, and also a communications satellite. Now, theyre launching a mission to Mars, scheduled for this upcoming July. The Tianwen mission will also feature an orbiter, a lander, and a six-wheeled, solar-powered rover.

the Martian probe will conduct scientific investigations about the Martian soil, geological structure, environment, atmosphere as well as water.

The CNSA isnt as open as NASA or other space agencies, so some of the details of the mission are unclear. But it is roughly aligned with other Mars missions, which are investigating the current and past conditions on Mars, and whether they were conducive to habitability. According to the CNSA, the Martian probe will conduct scientific investigations about the Martian soil, geological structure, environment, atmosphere as well as water. In 2016, official Chinese news outlet Xinhua reported that Tianwen will probe the ground with radar, perform chemical analyses on thesoil, and look forbiomoleculesandbiosignatures.

The CNSA also said, The name represents the Chinese peoples relentless pursuit of truth, the countrys cultural inheritance of its understanding of nature and universe, as well as the unending explorations in science and technology. Thats all well and good, but what are some of the details of the mission?

The spacecraft, which will arrive at Mars sometime in February 2021 (if the July launch date is firm) will orbit the planet for some time. China hasnt said exactly when the lander/rover will be deployed to the surface. But when it is, its expected that itll use retrorockets, airbags, and a parachute to manage its descent and landing.

It looks like the Tianwen name applies to the lander, but the rover will get its own name. The rover will be a six-wheeled, solar powered rover, and should have a mission length of at least three months. Itll carry 13 scientific instruments and will weigh more than 200 kg (440 lbs.)

Though important all on its own, the Tianwen mission is also a technology demonstration mission for Chinas next mission to Mars, which is an ambitious sample-return mission slated for the 2030s.

None of this is a slam-dunk, of course. Were getting accustomed to successful landings on Mars, largely thanks to NASA. But many attempts at landing a spacecraft on Mars have failed abysmally. Theres a lot of sophisticated technology that must be deployed effectively to work. And though China has recently had success with their Moon mission, other countries missions to Mars have not gone well.

The first attempt at landing on Mars dates back to 1962, when the Soviet Union tried to get a lander to Mars. That mission failed to leave Low Earth Orbit. In more modern times, March 2016 to be exact, the ESAs Schiaparelli EDM lander crashed when it tried to land on Mars. In fact, only the USA and Russia/Soviet Union have successfully landed craft on Mars, and only NASA has successfully landed rovers.

This wont be Chinas first mission to Mars. They were part of the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission. That spacecraft was meant to visit the Martian moon Phobos and return a sample, but China included their Yinghuo-1 Mars orbiter on that mission. That mission was destroyed when the rocket exploded.

As for landing sites, initially the CNSA was looking at two possibilities. Those were the Chryse Planitia region, and the Elysium Mons region. However, in 2019 China announced that they had identified two preliminary landing ellipses, both in the Utopia Planitia region. Each of the ellipses is about 100 by 40 km (62 x 25 miles.)

The CNSA also unveiled its new logo for their first Mars mission. Its a stylized letter C for China, as well as planets in orbit. The Tianwen mission logo also includes the word Mars.

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China's First Mars Lander is Going to be Called "Tianwen" - Universe Today

Erased from utopia: the hidden history of LA’s black and brown resistance – The Guardian

In August 1965, thousands of young Black people in Watts set fire to the illusion that Los Angeles was a youth paradise.

Since the debut of the TV show 77 Sunset Strip in 1958, followed by the first of the Gidget romance films in 1959 and then the Beach Boys Surfin USA in 1963, teenagers in the rest of the country had become intoxicated with images of the endless summer that supposedly defined adolescence in southern California.

Edited out of utopia was the existence of a rapidly growing population of more than 1 million people of African, Asian, and Mexican ancestry. Their kids were restricted to a handful of beaches; everywhere else, they risked arrest by local cops or beatings by white gangs. As a result, Black surfers were almost as rare in LA as unicorns. Economic opportunity was also rationed.

During the first half of the 60s, hundreds of brand-new college classrooms beckoned to white kids with an offer of free higher education, while factories and construction sites begged for more workers. But failing inner-city high schools with extreme dropout rates reduced the college admissions of Black and brown youth to a small trickle. Despite virtually full employment for whites, Black youth joblessness dramatically increased, as did the index of residential segregation. If these were truly golden years of opportunity for white teenagers, their counterparts in South Central and East LA faced bleak, ultimately unendurable futures.

But LAs streets and campuses in the 60s also provided stages for many other groups to assert demands for free speech, equality, peace and justice. Initially these protests tended to be one-issue campaigns, but the grinding forces of repression above all the Vietnam draft and the LAPD drew them together in formal and informal alliances.

Thus LGBT activists coordinated actions with youth activists in protest of police and sheriffs dragnets on Sunset Strip, in turn making Free Huey one of their demands. When Black and Chicano high school kids blew out their campuses in 196869, several thousand white students walked out in solidarity. A brutal LAPD attack on thousands of middle-class antiwar protesters at the Century Plaza Hotel in 1967 hastened the development of a biracial coalition supporting Tom Bradley, a liberal Black council member, in his crusade to wrest City Hall from rightwing populist Sam Yorty.

In the same period, the antiwar movement joined hands with the Black Panthers to form Californias unique Peace and Freedom Party. There are many other examples. By 1968, as a result, the movement resembled the music of LA free jazz pianist Horace Tapscotts Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: simultaneous solos together with unified crescendos. Historians of 60s protests have rarely studied the reciprocal influences and interactions across such broad spectrum of constituencies, and these linkages are too often neglected in memoirs, but they provide a principal terrain of our analysis.

The 60s in LA have obvious bookends. The year 1960 saw the appearance of social forces that would coalesce into the movements of the era, along with the emergence of a new agenda for social change, especially around what might be called the issue of issues: racial segregation. In LA, those developments overlapped with the beginning of the regime of Sam Yorty, elected mayor in 1961. 1973, on the other hand, marked not only the end of protest in the streets but also the defeat of Yorty and the advent of the efficient, pro-business administration of Tom Bradley.

There were also three important turning points that subdivide the long decade. 1963 was a rollercoaster year that witnessed the first: the rise and fall of the United Civil Rights Committee, the most important attempt to integrate housing, schools and jobs in LA through non-violent protest and negotiation. (Only Detroit produced a larger and more ambitious civil rights united front during what contemporaries called Birmingham Summer.) In California it brought passage of the states first Fair Housing Act repealed by referendum the following year in an outburst of white backlash.

1965, of course, saw the second turning point, the so-called Watts Riots. The third, 1969, began as a year of hope with a strong coalition of white liberals, Blacks and newly minted Chicanos supporting Bradley for mayor. He led the polls until election eve, when Yorty counterattacked with a vicious barrage of racist and red-baiting appeals to white voters. Bradleys defeat foreclosed, at least for the foreseeable future, any concessions to the citys minorities or liberal voters. Moreover, it was immediately followed by sinister campaigns, involving the FBI, the district attorneys office, and both the LAPD and LA county sheriffs, to destroy the Panthers, Brown Berets and other radical groups.

This is the true context underlying the creeping sense of dread and imminent chaos famously evoked by Joan Didion in her 1979 essay collection, The White Album. If helter skelter was unleashed after 1970, the Manson gang were bit players compared to the institutions of law and order. For the past half century, a number of stereotypes have framed our recollections of this age of revolt, but the Los Angeles experience confounds most cliches. In the standard narrative, for instance, college students, organized as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Free Speech Movement (FSM) in Berkeley, were the principal social actors, and the great engine rooms of protest were found at huge public university campuses in places like Berkeley, Madison, Ann Arbor, and Kent. (The exceptions, according to this narrative, were some historical Black colleges and Ivy League Columbia.)

In Los Angeles, however, it was junior and senior high schools that were the principal battlefields, and the majority of protesters were Black and brown. Indeed, as many as 20,000 inner-city teenagers and their white Westside allies participated in walkouts and demonstrations between 1967 and 1970. Members of college radical groups as well as the Black Panther party played significant roles as advisers to these protests, but the indigenous teenage leadership was most important. These struggles recruited hundreds of kids to groups like the Panthers and Brown Berets and gave birth to a unique high school New Left formation, the Red Tide.

The terrain of college protest in Los Angeles also differed from that of the mainstream. Of the two flagship local universities, the University of Southern California was a citadel of campus Republicanism, birthplace of Nixons so-called USC Mafia (and, as it turned out, the alma mater of several Watergate conspirators). UCLA, for its part, saw only episodic mass protests, most notably during Nixons invasion of Cambodia in spring 1970. The real homes of sustained student activism were the three inner-city community colleges (LA City College, Southwest College and East LA College), along with Cal State LA and Valley State (later Cal State, Northridge).

The latter was the site of a 196970 uprising by the Black Student Union and SDS that was quelled by police batons, mass arrests, and a staggering 1,730 felony charges against Black students: repression on a scale that rivaled or exceeded the more famous battles at San Francisco State.

Historians and political scientists have generally conceded that the one hundred or so ghetto insurrections of the 1960s should be regarded as genuine protests, but they have usually described them as leading to mere chaos and demoralization. Conventionally, rioters have been portrayed as the opposites of organizers and builders. This does not describe events in Los Angeles.

The 1965 explosion unified and energized a generation of young Black people, ended gang conflict for a number of years, and catalyzed the extraordinary Watts Renaissance, the citys most important arts and literary movement of the decade. Black Power became an aspiration shared by thousands, and in 1967 this grassroots unity found expression in the emergence of LAs Black Congress the more radical successor to the United Civil Rights Committee. It included SNCC, the Black Student Alliance, the Che-Lumumba Club of the Communist Party, the Black Panthers, and the powerful Us organization (or Organization Us) led by Ron Karenga. (The congress would later be destroyed by a violent conflict between Us and the Panthers, instigated and fueled by the FBIs secret Cointelpro program.)

Contests over public space were also extraordinarily important in Los Angeles. In part this was the legacy of earlier decades when the LAPDs notorious Red Squad had been the enforcer of the anti-union open shop doctrine, and when city hall supplied draconian anti-picketing and antifree speech ordinances. The 60s saw a renewal of this unsavory tradition.

The LAPD, aided by the LA county sheriffs, conducted an unending siege of bohemian Venice, tried to drive teenyboppers and hippies off Sunset Strip, regularly broke up peaceful love-ins and rallies in Griffith and Elysian Parks, suppressed lowriders on Whittier Boulevard, harassed kids selling the underground LA Free Press, raided coffeehouses and folk clubs, and invoked obscenity as an excuse to crack down on artists, poets and theater groups. No other major city outside of the deep south was subjected to such a fanatic and all-encompassing campaign to police space and control the night. Along with minorities, many young whites were also routinely victimized, leading hatred of the LAPD to grow into a common culture of resistance.

The cops, however, had a formidable opponent in the ACLU of Southern California, the national organizations most hard-charging and activist affiliate. When national ACLU director Roger Baldwin and a majority of the national leadership publicly embraced anti-communism in the late 1940s, AL Wirin, ACLU SoCals legendary chief counsel, pointedly challenged the ban on representing Communist party members in trial proceedings, taking on several cases in private practice.

Moreover, in 1952, the local branch chose as its new director Eason Monroe, a state college professor from San Francisco who had been fired for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. A decade later, Monroe charted a novel course for the affiliate by not only defending the local civil rights coalition in court but also joining in its leadership. Significantly, it was an ACLU team, led by UCLA professor John Caughey and his wife LaRee, that launched the legendary 1963 lawsuit to force integration of LAs de facto Jim Crow school system an effort that would reverberate for three decades. No other ACLU branch claimed such a large role in the decades protest movements.

Understanding Los Angeles in the 60s also requires rewriting the histories of gay liberation and the womens movement. Indeed, New York City was not the origin and center of everything. Los Angeles had the first gay street protest in America over police raids on the Black Cat Bar in Silver Lake, two years before the Stonewall uprising; it had the first gay church the Metropolitan community church, now the largest gay institution in the world; and it had the first officially recognized gay pride parade on Hollywood Boulevard in 1970. LA also witnessed the nations first police raid on a womens health clinic, following which the organizers were tried for practicing medicine without a license.

Finally, the course of events in Los Angeles challenged the myth that the Old Left was irrelevant in the 60s and that the New Left had invented itself ex nihilo. The Communist party, for its part, never appears in the standard narrative except as an unattractive corpse. But in Los Angeles its most unruly and dissident branch remained very much alive under the charismatic and eventually heretical leadership of Dorothy Healey.

Despite the partys devastating losses following Soviet secretary Nikita Khrushchevs 1956 Crimes of Stalin speech, Healey was determined to resurrect what she could of the 1940s Popular Front and to reach out to the new radicals on campus, in the ghettos and in the barrios. Still under the threat of a prison sentence, she found a niche at KPFK, the new 75,000-watt Pacifica Radio FM station, in 1959, where her Communist Commentary impressed even hostile listeners with its intelligence and wit although it almost cost the station its license. In 1966 she ran in the primary for county tax assessor and received a staggering 85,000 votes. By then the local Communist party had confidentially rebuilt many of its links with progressives in the Democratic party and had assumed an important role in the Peace Action Council. Its youth members, relatively unconstrained by a party line or adult control, played innovative roles in the early 60s, including participation in Southern Freedom Rides, and later, more influentially, as the Che-Lumumba Club which would become the political base of Angela Davis. For two generations Healey defined radicalism in the public eye.

This is a movement history of Los Angeles that looks at the city from the vantage points of its flatland neighborhoods and bohemian beaches where the young heroes of this story lived. We have tried to give human faces to social forces, to understand rebellion as a constant debate about goals and tactics, and to recall the passions of struggle, especially the power of love. It was also important to describe in some detail the machinery of racial oppression that kept good schools, well-paid jobs and suburban homes out of the reach of people living inside the citys ghettos and barrios.

At epic moments in the long decade the United Civil Rights campaign in 1963, the Watts uprising in 1965, and the wave of high school revolts from 1966 to 1969 the movement tried mightily to break through to the other side, only to face the batons and drawn guns of the LAPD. By 1973, repression had dug nearly 100 graves and put more than 10,000 protesters in jail or prison. An enormous effort has been made to trivialize the 60s and to bury its dreams in a paupers grave. But its unruly ghost, like that of the 1930s, still shakes its chains in the nightmares of elites.

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Erased from utopia: the hidden history of LA's black and brown resistance - The Guardian

Nervous Recs: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Shows That the 90s Weren’t ‘Simpler Times’ – VICE

It's not every day that a new series unites two of my favorite actresses: Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. It's been almost two decades since my introduction to Washington as she portrayed Chenille, a single teen mother in Save the Last Dance, and Witherspoon as Annette, the bad girl posing as a goody-two-shoes in Cruel Intentions. I could have spent quarantine diving into the hysteria of Tiger King, but I was craving a show something that had nothing to do with Joe Exotic.

Little did I know, Little Fires Everywhere, a new Hulu drama series, would bring elements of those characters to the series' Ohio suburb. Little Fires Everywhere is what happens when underlying tensions within race and class coalesce. It dismantles the whitewashed, homogenous 90s utopia that Friends embraced, revealing a less sunny version of the decade highlighting its subtle but still pervasive racism. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

The series, based on the novel by Celeste Ng, chronicles two families in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Mia Warren (played by Washington) and her daughter Pearl have never lived anywhere for more than a few months, and the Midwestern suburb is their newprobably temporaryhome. Elena Richardson (played by Witherspoon) is a journalist for the local paper, striving to be the quintessential supermom to four teenagers. Mia and Elena couldn't be more different; Mia smokes weed while working on her artwork, while Elena can't even say "vagina" at her book club about The Vagina Monologues. When Elena becomes Mia's landlord, we see life has dealt each mother different hands, and their respective social stigmas show that they've each made poor choicesjust different ones based on their places in this world.

Little Fires Everywhere doesn't only contextualize race in black and white terms; it also analyzes how race factors into motherhood and whom society considers a fit parent. When the neighborhood learns that the baby Elena's friend Linda plans to adopt is the child of Mia's coworker, a Chinese immigrant named Bebe, all hell breaks loose. This is Shaker Heights, after all, a community so concerned with appearances that you'll be fined if the grass on your lawn is over six inches. Worried that the biological mother might want to reclaim her maternal rights, Linda launches into a nasty rant about how Bebe is an "illegal alien" who doesn't deserve her baby. By episode six, we see Elena's journey with motherhood has been overwhelming for her, tooeven as a married woman with two homes and blinding white privilege. But Elena and Linda never consider why Bebe, an undocumented immigrant with few resources, might choose to leave her newborn child at a fire station.

At a glance, Little Fires Everywhere seems like your typical dose of middle-aged neighborhood drama, but it's so much more than that. The set design and soundtrack are spot-on (Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping" at the school dance is peak 1997), but the real beauty is in the details of how the mothers interact with each other. Elena, afraid to be perceived as racist, asks Mia to be her "house manager," though she really means her maid. Elena's daughter Lexie uses a racist experience Pearl had at school for her Yale admission essay, turning it into a bogus story about sexism and third-wave feminismand somehow, it isn't even the worst thing she does to Pearl. The Richardsons are rigid in how they cling to calling Black people "African Americans," despite discussing the term as antiquated over dinner. It's a clever window into how the family dismisses race, even though their lives are consumed by it.

"You made this about race the day you stood on the street and begged me to be your maid," Mia tells Elena. "White women always be friends with their maid. I was not your maid, Elena. And I was never your friend."

Mia's outburst to Elena stands to be the crux of the entire series. There is a constant need to reboot the sitcoms of the 90s, holding on to the idea that somehow they were simpler times. But for some, they weren't. The microaggressions were always there, and they still are. Racism is not always outfitted in a Southern drawl. Sometimes, it looks like the white picket fences, otherwise known as the American dream.

Little Fires Everywhere is available to stream on Hulu.

Kristin Corry is a staff writer for VICE.

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Nervous Recs: 'Little Fires Everywhere' Shows That the 90s Weren't 'Simpler Times' - VICE

Animal Crossing Has Some Crazy HousesHere Are the Best – HouseBeautiful.com

It's been more than a month since much of America began social distancing in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we're all turning to different indoor activities. While some have embraced binge-watching TV shows like Tiger King to pass the time, others have picked up a bit of a video game habitnamely, by obsessively playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Launched on March 20, the life simulation video game is the fifth in Nintendo's Animal Crossing series, which debuted in 2001, and is the first developed specifically for the Nintendo Switch console. It begins at the airport. You, a cute little cartoon character, are whisked away to a private island, where you and some new anthropomorphic animal neighbors are going build your own utopia with the help of a company called Nook Inc. Sound idyllic? It is! And a little creepy? You betcha!

But truthfully, the game is more adorable than ominous. You spend your days fishing, collecting seashells, and catching butterflies as you explore your scenic island, plus and building everything your new society might need, like a shop and a museum. You're not stuck on your island forever, eitherif you pay for an online subscription (the payment is IRL, mind you), you can actually visit your friends' islands. It's more or less the ultimate form of escapism in the age of social distancing.

Of particular interest to us at House Beautiful, however, is the fact that you can customize your home, la The Sims. While you start out by camping in a very basic tent, you can take out an interest-free loan to upgrade to a house, which is highly customizable. Players have created mansions with some pretty gorgeous roomsand some really unusual ones. Check out a few standouts we've seen across social media below.

We'll start nice and straightforward. How lovely is this study-like basement, complete with a library corner, a fireplace, and a model train table?

2. Chill Onsen

We *wish* we had a Spirited Awaythemed onsen like this in our house during quarantine.

3. Flower Power

A touch Van Gogh with the sunflowers, a touch Scandi-chic with the wood furniture. We like.

4. Zen Garden

Sure, this is a little trippy, but what's a video game if not the perfect escape from our daily lives?

5. Plant/Garden/Spa Room

What exactly is the purpose of this Japanese-style room? Not sure, but we love it all the same!

6. Witchy Room

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you can get a little alternative with your decor. As a commenter tweeted, "[L]ooks like a place I could get a tarot card reading and a cheap tattoo."

7. Bunny Day Room

Yes, this is an Easter themed room. There are special events throughout the game tied to real-world occurrences like Easter and cherry blossom season, in which you can craft special decorations for your house.

8. Star Room

Sign us up for one ticket to the moon, please!

9. Golden Room

We might be a *touch* concerned that we'll be sacrificed in this room, but props for the cool Indiana Jones vibes.

10. Turnip Room

Sometimes you can buy turnips for really low prices during gameplay. Sometimes players might hoard them they like would toilet paper during a real-life pandemic, which leads them to create turnip storage rooms. We're not here to judge. (Okay, we are judging you about the toilet paper...)

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Animal Crossing Has Some Crazy HousesHere Are the Best - HouseBeautiful.com

What Were the Origins of the Holocaust? – The New York Times

Still, Aly has a masterly command of the facts of the Nazi catastrophe, its bricks and mortar amassed in all their mountainous detail. And the details he captures are all the more crucial because they are generally inaccessible in secondary sources elsewhere.

Curiously, Aly sees his new book as something more than a historical narrative: It is, he suggests, a guide for how to prevent similar horrors from happening in the future. Thus, it begins (this a jarring turn for a study of the backdrop to Nazi genocide) with Zionisms progenitor, Theodor Herzl. In Alys version, Herzl sought to guide the construction in the Middle East of a European-inspired, Jewishly homogeneous nation-state, with its predictable outcome: the dismissal of the lands indigenous population, a tragedy that festers to the present day.

Herzl is portrayed, at the same time, as a prescient prophet of doom, who sees more starkly than most the dangerous development in Europe of a view of Jews as disruptive immigrants, subversive radicals and intolerable economic competitors. Herzls solution, as Aly sums it up, is Jewish settlement on the empty spaces on earth so that Jews can create a homogeneous nation at peace with itself.

This he culls from Herzls diaries. But the problem once again is with Alys inclination to flatten his details. Herzl does indeed say all that Aly attributes to him, but as the Harvard historian Derek Penslar has observed, Herzls diaries are not a readily transparent source for his politics since theyre often punctuated by fevered speculations on matters contradicted by Herzl elsewhere. This is especially true with regard to his late-life novel Old-New Land, the work probably dearest to Herzls heart, where Palestine is depicted as a social utopia with Arabs and Jews living peacefully side by side. There the villain is a heinous Jewish ethnocentric.

Alys book appears, of course, at a moment when anti-Semitism seems ascendant, yet also when the chasm between proponent and foe is more confounding than ever. Israels Benjamin Netanyahu is now the most articulate, respectable proponent of much the same far-right nationalist populism that has historically nurtured anti-Jewish hatred. And in the United States the White House continues to stoke anti-Semitisms embers, branding others as purveyors of hate while itself remaining the bearer of insidious messages that cut deep into public life.

Alys reminder of the usefulness of taking a close look at the quiet horrors of Europes interwar years thus, despite the shortcomings of his new book, feels all the more valuable today. And his acknowledgment that comparisons between now and then once the province of the ill-informed deserve more serious attention from historians and others is just one of many reminders as to how far weve stumbled into an age of troubled sleep.

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What Were the Origins of the Holocaust? - The New York Times

Surveillance Capitalism: Bigger Brother | by Tim Wu – The New York Review of Books

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power

by Shoshana Zuboff

PublicAffairs, 691 pp., $38.00

In the 1970s, when Shoshana Zuboff was a graduate student in Harvards psychology department, she met the behavioral psychologist B.F.Skinner. Skinner, who had perhaps the largest forehead youll ever see on an adult, is best remembered for putting pigeons in boxes (so-called Skinner boxes) and inducing them to peck at buttons for rewards. Less well remembered is the fact that he constructed a larger box, with a glass window, for his infant daughter, though this was revealing of his broader ambitions.

Zuboff writes in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism that her conversations with Skinner left me with an indelible sense of fascination with a way of construing human life that wasand isfundamentally different from my own. Skinner believed that humans could be conditioned like any other animal, and that behavioral psychology could and should be used to build a technological utopia where citizens were trained from birth to be altruistic and community-oriented. He published a novel, Walden Two (1948), that depicted what just such a society would look likea kind of Brave New World played straight.

It would risk grave understatement to say that Zuboff does not share Skinners enthusiasm for the mass engineering of behavior. Zuboff, a professor at Harvard Business School since 1981, has made a career of criticizing the lofty ambitions of technoprophets, making her something of a cousin to the mass media critic Neil Postman, author of Technopoly (1992). Her intimate understanding of Skinner gives her an advantage that other technoskeptics lack. For as she posits in her latest book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, we seem to have wandered into a dystopian version of Skinners future, thanks mainly to Google, Facebook, and their peers in the attention economy. Silicon Valley has invented, if not yet perfected, the technology that completes Skinners vision, and so, she believes, the behavioral engineering of humanity is now within reach.

In case youve been living in blissful ignorance, it works like this. As you go through life, phone in hand, Google, Facebook, and other apps on your device are constantly collecting as much information as possible about you, so as to build a profile of who you are and what you like. Google, for its part, keeps a record of all your searches; it reads your e-mail (if you use Gmail) and follows where you go with Maps and Android. Facebook has an unparalleled network of trackers installed around the Web that are constantly figuring out what you are looking at online. Nor is this the end of it: any appliance labeled smart would more truthfully be labeled surveillance-enhanced, like our smart TVs, which detect what we are watching and report back to the mothership. An alien might someday ask how the entire population was bugged.

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Surveillance Capitalism: Bigger Brother | by Tim Wu - The New York Review of Books

Abigail Thernstrom, conservative voice on voting rights and education, dies at 83 – Thehour.com

Political scientist Abigail Thernstrom and her husband, historian Stephan Thernstrom, in 1997.

Political scientist Abigail Thernstrom and her husband, historian Stephan Thernstrom, in 1997.

Photo: Photo By Michele McDonald For The Washington Post

Political scientist Abigail Thernstrom and her husband, historian Stephan Thernstrom, in 1997.

Political scientist Abigail Thernstrom and her husband, historian Stephan Thernstrom, in 1997.

Abigail Thernstrom, conservative voice on voting rights and education, dies at 83

Abigail Thernstrom, a political scientist who was steeped in left-wing politics from childhood but became an influential conservative voice on racial equality, voting rights and education, died April 10 at a hospital in Arlington, Virginia. She was 83.

Her death was confirmed by her daughter, author and journalist Melanie Thernstrom, who said that Dr. Thernstrom went into a coma about a week earlier. She had tested negative for the novel coronavirus, and it was unclear what had caused her decline, her daughter said.

Thernstrom was launched to national prominence with the publication of "America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible" (1997), an optimistic and polarizing survey of race relations in America written with her husband, Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom. Across 700 pages thick with charts, graphs and academic citations, they argued that African-Americans had made extraordinary gains over the past five decades, while lamenting that not enough progress had been made.

In television appearances and essays for publications including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the Thernstroms went on to champion a "colorblind" society while opposing the use of racial preferences, which they deemed divisive, inessential and largely ineffective. Their work made them two of America's leading conservative opponents of affirmative action - and stunned former allies on the left, who knew the Thernstroms from their earlier activism on behalf of liberal causes.

Thernstrom, who was raised on a left-wing commune outside New York City, had sung alongside Pete Seeger at the progressive Little Red Schoolhouse in Greenwich Village, picketed a Woolworth's department store to protest segregation and campaigned for presidential nominee George S. McGovern, voting for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in 1988.

A year earlier, she challenged the creation of "majority-minority" electoral districts in her book "Whose Votes Count?," arguing that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 successfully opened polling booths to Southern blacks but should never have been used to create "safe" seats for minority politicians.

The book was later described by the American Prospect as "a virtual bible among conservative jurists, including Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas." But it was far from a right-wing treatise, winning the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (given to works focused on racism and diversity), and marked what Thernstrom described as a continuation of her longtime views.

"I'd say we've stuck to our principles over the years: Don't judge people on the basis of the color of their skin," she told The Washington Post in 1997. It was a shame, she said, that "the classic civil rights message is now called conservatism."

Thernstrom ultimately identified with the neoconservative movement, her husband said, and developed affiliations with a host of libertarian and conservative organizations, including the Center for Equal Opportunity, the Institute for Justice, the American Enterprise Institute and the Manhattan Institute, where she was a senior fellow.

She also served on the Massachusetts Board of Education for more than a decade, championing charter schools and overhauls to state testing, and was vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights during the George W. Bush administration. In an email, her daughter recalled that Thernstrom "infuriated her fellow Republicans (whom she disliked and referred to as 'political hacks') by voting with the Democrats more than with them."

Thernstrom remained best known for "America in Black and White," which she and her husband described as a spiritual sequel to "An American Dilemma," Gunnar Myrdal's classic 1944 study on race relations. Progress had been made since then, they argued, but "black crime," black nationalism and race-conscious programs such as affirmative action had stalled the march toward racial equality.

"I really believe it is the biggest book on race in a long time," Clint Bolick, then litigation director of the Institute for Justice, told The Post after its release. "I think that it is testimony to the deep substance of the book. They are out to prove their case, not simply throw rhetoric."

Some scholars, including economist Glenn Loury, argued with the Thernstroms' interpretation of crime and education data. Liberal critics said that the authors' opposition to preferences for African Americans ignored the enduring effects of slavery and racial discrimination; others accused them of striking a condescending tone.

"Here are two white people who are essentially lecturing black Americans," political scientist Andrew Hacker told the Times, "saying: 'What are you complaining about? Stop your griping. Here are the data. You're better off than ever before.' "

Thernstrom, who said she had hoped to elevate the national dialogue surrounding race, was invited to a confrontational town hall meeting on race by President Bill Clinton, who sparred with her over abolishing the Army's affirmative-action program and later invited the Thernstroms to the Oval Office for further discussion.

"This is simply an effort to draw a series of maps, to supply data, to teach how to weigh evidence," Thernstrom told The Post in 1997, responding to some of the criticism of her book. "Other people are going to be critics of our analysis. That's great. The data are there for them to analyze."

Abigail Mann was born in New York City on Sept. 14, 1936, and grew up in nearby Croton-on-Hudson. Her mother was a Jewish emigre from Germany, and her father owned a collective farm, home to left-wing intellectuals as well as Holocaust refugees.

"Unfortunately neither he nor any of the other people involved knew anything about farming," Thernstrom's daughter said in a phone interview. "They were all highly educated radicals, with the idea of living on the land and creating this utopia. . . . Animals were always dying, and nothing ever worked out."

Both parents sympathized with the Soviet Union, turning toward secular communism as a replacement for the Orthodox Judaism in which they were raised, and Thernstrom recalled early years "in a very racially integrated scene." She graduated from Elisabeth Irwin High in Manhattan and studied modern European history at Barnard College.

After receiving a bachelor's degree in 1958, she entered Harvard as a graduate student. She soon met Stephan Thernstrom, then a PhD student in American history, and switched from Middle Eastern studies to the government department, with a focus on constitutional law. "We just seemed to magically fit," her husband said in a phone interview, recalling their initial attraction.

They were married in 1959, a few months after they started dating.

While Stephan launched his academic career at the University of California at Los Angeles, Abigail delayed her doctoral research to focus on raising their two children: Melanie, of Palo Alto, California; and Samuel, of Arlington, Virginia. They survive her, in addition to her husband, of McLean, Virginia; and four grandchildren.

Thernstrom received her master's in 1961 and doctorate in 1975. She began teaching in Harvard's social studies program that same year and also reviewed books for the New Republic (then owned by a friend from Harvard, Marty Peretz), wrote for the Economist magazine and published some of her first voting rights articles in the Public Interest, a neoconservative journal.

With her husband, she edited the essay collection "Beyond the Color Line" (2001) and wrote "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning" (2003). She later published the solo volume "Voting Rights - and Wrongs: The Elusive Quest for Racially Fair Elections" (2009).

Thernstrom could be mischievous, telling the American Prospect that she and her husband had hung a framed photograph of Thomas, the Supreme Court justice and conservative icon, above their office fireplace "to make reporters faint."

"I've got a problem with being stuffed into boxes," she told the magazine. "Put me in a room of conservatives and I start running to the left; put me in a group of liberals and I start running to the right. I mean, I just have problems with ideologically coercive environments - I get claustrophobic."

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Abigail Thernstrom, conservative voice on voting rights and education, dies at 83 - Thehour.com

Brought to you by nature: Death, destruction, and pandemics – Grist

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The natural world can be wonderful, but its often terrible. It tortures the creatures within it, kills infants, and, oh yeah, produces pandemic viruses. This isnt incidental; its central, the very engine of evolution. Yet, when people see the word natural in the grocery store aisle, it conjures up sunshine, happy chickens, and warm hugs. You forget all the nasty bits.

Theres no chance that supermarket shoppers will mistake all natural for a warning instead of an endorsement, writes Alan Levinovitz in his new book. Natural: How Faith in Natures Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science. It scrutinizes the way people use the idea of natural goodness to justify their position whether its free-market boosterism, opposition to birth control, or supporting farm-to-table restaurants. This naturalness, he writes, is a mercenary ethic that anyone can hire to fight for their cause.

Levinovitz teaches religion at James Madison University, and to him, the way we embrace the idea of natural goodness looks exactly like religion. So when the coronavirus began to spread earlier this year, Levinovitz waited for people to react as if it were an act of a vengeful God, retribution for humans sinning against nature. He didnt have to wait long. Youve probably seen the memes suggesting that We are the virus.

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We asked Levinovitz what he means when he says allegiance to nature has the hallmarks of religion, why nature has such a strong grip on our collective unconscious, and how we might think differently if we stopped believing in a God-like nature.

Q. Lets start with the coronavirus. Why are people drawn to this idea of nature taking retribution on destructive humans?

A. When confronted with unexpected suffering we want to take universalizable lessons from it. It feels like we should have an existential solution to what feels like an existential problem. So with coronavirus, the real solutions arent universal truths. They are very local, specific fixes: Figure out how to better regulate our interactions with wild species; figure out how to slow the spread of viruses quickly; figure out the infrastructure to deal with sick people. But those kinds of solutions dont address the existential angst, so people turn to things like, This is our punishment for living wrong, or the meme that humans are the virus, which is taken from the movie The Matrix.

Q. So people are looking for a more meaningful way to explain the pandemic?

A. There are more sophisticated versions of the humans are the virus messages, but in the end they all boil down to: There is a harmony in nature, and humans disrupt it in a variety of ways whether its through burning forests, or industrial agriculture, or eating the wrong kind of animal. At the end of the day its this search for universal laws that we have violated. If you can explain the pandemic as the consequence of violating natures laws that is reassuring because it means you know what went wrong, you know how to fix it, and you know how to fix the future. Thats extremely important, especially in times of crisis. If you are not going to locate those universal laws in God, you have to locate them in some other harmonious entity.

Its no coincidence that the same narrative comes up all the time with religion: Why was there a hurricane? Because people were having unnatural sex. This idea that living unnaturally results in a punishment, has been around for a very long time. So Im not surprised to see the same kinds of things coming up. The important thing to note is that this time they look secular, even when they are actually religious.

Q. Some people might be thinking, Wait, I say things like, its only natural, all the time! Is that a sign of stealth religious faith?

A. The idea that natural is good is so baked into our language, our consciousness, and even the subconscious myths that guide us through the world, that it can sometimes be difficult to get out of those myths and see them for what they are. One way to make it visible is to point to its inverse, the futurists myth. So the futurist looks to a utopia in which nature has disappeared and things are harmonious because humans have complete control. And to most people, myself included, that way of thinking makes no sense. We would never say, The computer works because it is unnatural. We would never say, Eyeglasses are beneficial because they are artificial. That is a bizarre way to think about things! Yet we attribute the same kind of causal goodness to nature all the time: This food is good for kids because it is natural. And we invert it too: Screens are bad for our children because they are unnatural. What I want people to understand is that that makes no more or less sense than saying things are good because they are artificial.

Q. Why does this way of thinking have so much power over us?

A. The word natural itself has to do with origins and birth. It really is an organizing force from beyond and before humans. Nature really did give birth to our solar system, to life, to humans, plants, and animals. So theres something tremendously compelling about that force. And theres an intuition that we ought to be grateful for it, right? Its a respect for a cosmic force, like the respect one might have for their parents. Surely its a good force, surely its a force we should not violate. So thats a big part of why we have this reflexive respect for nature and naturalness.

Q. I wrote a book, All Natural, on the same subject, and one of the conclusions I came to was that this nostalgia for a pre-industrial Eden was really a nostalgia for childhood. What do you think about that?

A. Nostalgia takes you back to a simpler time. But that simplicity comes from the fact that you are ignorant of the complexity. The childlike vision of the world is one where you dont understand how things work: The dishes just magically get washed, and the food magically appears, and theres something wonderful about that. People who dont study the pre-industrial past have that same childlike vision of what life was like because they dont know all of the bad things about it. Nostalgia is a selective forgetting.

Q. How did your own belief system change as you investigated this?

A. I went into this book thinking it was going to be a straight debunking of naturalness. Thats not where I ended up. I ended up thinking it makes sense to value things simply because they are natural: Yellowstone National Park is valuable because it is more natural than other places. Its fine to value naturalness in the same way that we might value freedom or beauty. The problem is that its not the only value which is where you get when you confuse nature with God. That means there are going to be tradeoffs sometimes. Sometimes whats natural is not going to be good for our health. Sometimes whats natural take Yellowstone is not going to be good for something else we value, like accessibility. You have to have a road through Yellowstone Park or people cant get to it, so you make it slightly less natural. I came out of this project thinking we need to be able to love and value nature without worshipping it. That is to say, without assuming that any departure from nature is corrupt or bad.

Q. But where does that leave you? Practically, in your daily life.

A. My editors asked the same thing. Whats the alternative? We run into these questions all the time. How do I parent my kid? What do I eat? How should I choose to give birth? When you take away that simple and existentially satisfying rule of thumb that natural is good, you need to put something in its place.

My answer to that is that we need to be comfortable with uncertainty. Sometimes the natural approach will be better. Sometimes the natural approach will be worse. Its unfortunate because thats not a satisfying theological answer.

Q. It can be an exciting answer though. Embracing uncertainty means embracing dynamism and wonder.

A. I love the word wonder because wonder is an optimists synonym for doubt or uncertainty. To wonder is to not know. But its to not know in a way that makes for awe and joy rather than anxiety and ignorance.

One thing thats really helped me, especially during this uncertain time, is that I dont see uncertainty as something that needs to be overcome, but celebrated instead. As I was talking to the experts I interviewed for this book, I noticed that the most knowledgeable people are more attuned to complexity: The more you learn, the more your expectations are overturned, and that experience of uncertainty becomes normal.

This is really important at this time of the pandemic. Its OK imperative even to change our minds. When a scientific body or a government shifts its position on something because new data has come in, that does not represent weakness or a violation of a law that we used to think was universal. It just means that they are being responsible rather than dogmatic. Reframing uncertainty as wonder, and certainty as dogmatism, can do a lot for feeling more secure in our uncertainty.

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Brought to you by nature: Death, destruction, and pandemics - Grist

Has Coronavirus Made the Internet Better? – The New York Times

For a time, futurists dreamed, optimistically, that cyberspace might exist as a place where humankind could hit reset on society. The idea was that the arrival of networked computers would create an imaginary space where bodily markers of difference would be masked by a Utopian fog. In 1996, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, John Perry Barlow issued a manifesto titled A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which stated, We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force or station of birth. Barlow continued that the civilization he and others hoped to create would be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

By now we know that those dreams were a fantasy, informed by the same imperialistic and colonial urges that underpinned the creation of the internet itself. No dream internet Utopia ever emerged. Instead, societal woes have been compounded by the rise of technology. The internet has been oriented around an axis of maximizing profits, almost since its inception. In The Know-It-Alls, the journalist (and my former colleague) Noam Cohen documents the emergence of Stanford University (nicknamed Get Rich U.) as the birthplace of Silicon Valley, a place where a hackers arrogance and an entrepreneurs greed has turned a collective enterprise like the web into something proprietary, where our online profiles, our online relationships, our online posts and web pages and photographs are routinely exploited for business reasons. Today, it feels almost impossible to imagine another way of thinking about the internet.

And yet, in the aftermath of the arrival of the novel coronavirus, one has emerged that feels, at least for the moment, closer to John Perry Barlows embarrassingly earnest speech. Its worth noting that he also said that cyberspace was an act of nature, and it grows itself through our collective actions.

Historically speaking, new infrastructures tend to emerge as a response to disasters and the negligence of governments in their wake. In the 1970s, for example, an activist group called the Young Lords seized an X-ray truck that was administering tuberculosis tests in East Harlem, where the disease was prevalent, and extended the operating hours to make it more readily available to working residents. In the days since the crisis began, Ive been turning to Adrienne Maree Browns 2017 book, Emergent Strategy, which offers strategies for reimagining ways to organize powerful movements for social justice and mutual aid with a humanist, collective, anticapitalist framework. She describes the concept as how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for. Her book asks us not to resist change. That would be as futile as resisting the deeply embedded influence technology has on our lives. Its the same as resisting ourselves. But rather, it asks that we adapt, in real time, taking what we know and understand and applying it toward the future that we want. The internet will never exist without complications already, many of the tools that are helping acclimate to this new cyberreality have been called out for surveillance but perhaps people are learning how to work the tools to their advantage now.

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Has Coronavirus Made the Internet Better? - The New York Times

Review: Sideshow Theatre’s The Happiest Place on Earth Now Available to Stream – thirdcoastreview.com

Phillip Dawkins. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Playwright Phillip Dawkins 2016 solo show, The Happiest Place on Earth, uses Disneyland as a means to investigate his family history. The park, which opened in 1955, became a crucial institution for his mother, her sisters, and his grandmother after they visited it for the first time in the 1960s, shortly after Dawkins grandfather, a popular sportscaster in Albuquerque, New Mexico, died after suffering an aneurism live on-air. Presented as a monologue on a set that resembles a classroom, the original production from Sideshow Theatre Company and Greenhouse Theater Center is now available to stream from Sideshows website.

Shifting in and out of impressions of his grandmother, his mother and his aunts, Dawkins tells their tale concurrent to the opening of the park itself, and much of the narration places their tragic reality in stark contrast to the Technicolor magic of Disneys parks and films. Cinderella, Snow White, Dumbothese are creation stories for us all, Dawkins argues, a sort of unified American religion that delivers the promise of happiness, even when life takes its toll.

The false utopia of our American entertainment has certainly been interrogated before, but Dawkins remains firmly in the personal here, allowing the playwright to sidestep cynicism in favor of poignancy. The reverence he has for his familys origins gives the show an engaging through-line, and when Dawkins plainly asks the audience Have you ever been happy? it registers as a genuine attempt at connection. Never does he seem to deem the pursuit of happiness as a futile endeavor.

Though most of the piece does have a straightforward approach to storytelling, director Jonathan L. Green develops several moments of welcome theatrical invention: the sequence of his aunts trip through the Alice in Wonderland ride shortly after she lost her father delivers one of the shows most thrilling moments, as Dawkins switches between lines of dialogue from the film and an imagined, combative conversation between the little girl and her mother, all under shifting lights and sounds.

This is an obvious choice for streaming the action of the piece is limited to Dawkins using an overhead projector to show pictures of his family and of maps of the park (the quality of the video does make it difficult to make out some slides, but luckily Dawkins always explains what were looking at). And Dawkins voice, which evokes the pitch of an antique newscaster, conveys the story with easy charm.

And, as everything seems to these days, the work has a fascinating connection with the presentthe park only saw two unscheduled closures in its operating history, the first being the Kennedy assassination, and the next being 9/11. Of course with the current COVID-19 crisis, the park, and its sister in Orlando, will remain closed until further notice, according to the companys website. The world was noticeably shifting politically in 2016, and The Happiest Place on Earth, with Dawkins hesitant but warm optimism, celebrated the heroics of an ordinary life. Its good medicine today, for our new, isolated reality.

You can request a streaming link for The Happiest Place on Earth from Sideshow Theatre Companys website. The link is pay-what-you-can with a prompt to donate to help support the company. Running time is 90 minutes.


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Review: Sideshow Theatre's The Happiest Place on Earth Now Available to Stream - thirdcoastreview.com

Life After Capitalism and the New ‘al Shatir-Copernicus’ Revolution – Manifesto of Hope-II – Kashmir Times

By Aditya Nigam. Dated: 4/16/2020 12:29:34 AM

In the previous instalment of this article in Parapolitics, I had discussed the situation arising out of the Covid 19 pandemic in terms of the possible implications of the global lockdown and 'quarantine of consumption', for post-capitalist futures. In this part, I will discuss (a) the conditions that make such futures not just imaginable but possible and (b) indicate certain directions that such futures are already taking - for the paths that we tread now are the ones that lead to the future.Theory/ Concept/ DiscourseSince all talk of post-capitalist futures only sounds outlandishly utopian and out of sync with what we see around us with the 'naked eye' as it were, it is necessary to first clear our field of vision a little. And, let us be very clear here that this 'clearing of the field of vision' is not, in the first instance, about practices on the ground but about the field of knowledge - and theory in general. And before any hard-boiled hysterical-materialist tries to tell us that all this is idealism and that the 'real' stuff is materiality and things only happen in practice, I want to make three general points here. First, for the more theologically oriented: it was Lenin who said repeatedly that 'without revolutionary theory, there cannot be any revolutionary movement.' (What is to be Done?) Not only that, he also insisted (after Kautsky) that left to its own, the working class movement could only produce 'trade union consciousness' and that 'socialist theory' had to be imported from outside (basically bourgeois intellectuals) into the working class movement. This understanding was to lead to all kinds of problems including vanguardism but we will let that be for now.Second, (and here matters get a bit more compicated) look at any 'movement' anywhere in the world and it will be clear that the relationship between theory/ discourse and practice reveals the same pattern. What Lenin said is, in a different way, not just true of Marxism/ socialism but also feminism, environmentalism, queer politics and so on. Indeed, it is equally true of the great religious movements of yore - every one of them had to first pronounce the idea that distinguished it from previously dominant ones. It is no less true of the nationalist and fascist movements of our times. In fact, this is also true of 'modernity', which too, we often forget, was the outcome of a set of movements in different domains. The discourse of modernity did not simply describe a set of phenomena, practices and institutions - but actually produced them as normatively desirable and instituted them. Its discourse laid out the contours of what the modern State and Law were all about and how states should act.The 'theory' or the concept does not have to be true (think of Hindutva, for example), but as Deleuze and Guattari would say 'it produces resonances' and orders the field in a particular way. (Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?) What the enunciation of a concept does is either to make visible (and intelligible) certain practices that might already have been there or, make possible the articulation of a certain set of experiences in a way that they immediately start making sense to a large number of people. So, we can legitimately say, in retrospect, that 'queer' sexual practices perhaps have existed through all ages but they are only brought into our field of vision once theory itself has been 'queered' in a manner of speaking. Not only does it allow us to see the existence of such practices in the past but as a precondition, first makes visible the 'heterosexual matrix' (Judith Butler) that has so long invisibilized all but the male and the female. Its enunciation immediately makes it possible to see how much of effort, time and investment goes into maintaining this binary sexual division and how so often 'abnormal', in-between cases, are subjected to medical intervention.Something of that sort happens with the 'economy' as J.K. Gibson-Graham showed very convincingly in their book The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy (1996). Essentially what Gibson-Graham did was to 'queer' capitalism by showing that the economy did not simply consist of Capital and Labour (a capitalocentric notion analogous to the phallocentric one with regard to gender); rather, it comprised a series of different economic and social forms and transactions that had been made invisible by our theoretical frames. Their (Gibson-Graham was the single authorial persona adopted by Julie Graham and Katherine Gibson) intervention was made from their own locations in the United States of America and Australia but it made it possible for us to see a whole range of forms in societies like India's that constituted such 'non-normative economies'. These include the different forms of informal economies, peasant production, cooperatives, small credit and self-help groups run by women (called 'committee' dalna in northern India), hawking, rickshaw pulling, vending and so on, not as remnants of a past that had to be 'eradicated' and subsumed into the formal (read: corporate) economy, but as forms that should be strengthened. I will return to these forms in greater detail later but for the present it should be underlined that already, more than two and a half decades before Gibson-Graham, the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Employment Mission to Kenya found something astonishing: what had been called the 'traditional' sector till then had actually expanded rather than diminishing as per expectations. Just a few years before that economic anthropologist Keith Hart reached exactly the same conclusions from his work in Ghana and proposed the concept of 'informal sector' in place of 'traditional sector'. The idea was to recognize it as contemporaneous rather than see it as a remnant of the past to be eliminated. The ILO adopted Hart's terminology and it acknowledges that the 'conceptual discovery' of the idea of informality had changed the terrain.Another intervention by scholars like Timothy Mitchell (Rule of Experts) and Michel Callon took a decisive step in this regard: instead of saying that the 'economy' is an imagined construct, they (especially Mitchell) showed that the 'economy' was in fact, actually put in place by the emerging discipline of economics/ macroeconomics, more particularly in the early decades of the twentieth century. Its materiality is nowhere denied but the fact that it is put in place via a series of conceptual interventions and apparatuses is underlined.Third, the question of technology as we have inherited it from the vulgar Marxist tradition: This way of seeing it understands it as a 'secular development of the productive forces'; as an objective process that supposedly constitutes the 'material basis' of all that happens in the domain of ideas (even the relations of production are determined by such developing productive forces). While many Marxists have given up on the notion that 'ideas' arise on the economic base in some crude fashion, most of them still hold that this is an objective process which is therefore irreversible. Now, a moment's reflection is enough to show that any - even the smallest - development in technology is a result of some development in the area of scientific knowledge - it simply does not happen of its own accord. A scientific development or breakthrough (as in the case of Artificial Intelligence [AI]) is a consequence of theoretical development in the field of knowledge. However, which technology is adopted and becomes dominant is determined by specific decisions that are tied to decisions of corporations based on matters like estimations of future profits, scale of investments, pushing through by government policy. No technology develops 'on its own', and since it is put in place through specific decisions of profit (e.g. labour saving) and surveillance etc, they can also be reversed.Yes, we cannot go back to the 20th century and reverse decisions regarding technology taken then but the effects of many such decisions can be reversed or re-envisioned in a new way. Such things keep happening anyway, especially when it suits the needs of capital. Thus for example, the large factories and plants of the early twentieth century Fordist production era, were simply abandoned and dismantled once capital moved to 'flexible accumulation' of late-twentieth century. The landscape of abandoned factories still exists in many parts of the world including Europe and the USA - some of them having already been repurposed into parks or museums, even shopping malls. Decommissioning of large dams too is not a process unknown to humanity. China, the current industrial hub of the world (and at the centre of the COVID 19 controversy) has not just abandoned factories but abandoned ghost cities across different provinces.In short, neither is technology (or development for that matter) a demiurge, an objective power before whose will the world must bow, nor does the irreversibility argument have legs to stand on.The New 'Copernican' RevolutionI borrow this term 'Copernican Revolution' from the work of US environment analyst Lester R. Brown who talked about it two decades ago. Where Brown talked of the need for a new Copernican revolution, I argue that it has actually been underway for quite sometime. Parenthetically, we should perhaps call it the 'Al-Shatir-Copernicus Revolution', considering that today we know that Copernicus actually worked with the great Syrian astronomer, Ibn al-Shatir's model - a fact that the Polish Copernicus in the 16th century never hid but which was erased from subsequent history. If the Al-Shatir-Copernicus revolution completely blasted the idea that the earth was the centre of the universe and the sun revolved around it, we are confronted with a similar earth-shaking revolution today. Its elements have been with us for sometime now and they have increasingly led to the realization that there is something fundamentally wrong in the belief that has been our lodestar from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries on - that nature was something to be exploited and dominated/ tamed for serving the needs of the new sovereign - Man. 'Nature' was seen as merely a provider of 'resources' and 'raw materials' for what later came to be known as 'the Economy'. The 'Economy' was the larger set; 'nature' was its subset. The roots of this idea actually go back to the Cartesian moment and to what Bruno Latour has called the 'Great Divide' - that point in the emergence of the modern world when 'Society' became separated from 'Nature', 'Humans' separated from 'Non-humans'. Humans became the centre of the universe and 'the Economy' - in the specific sense of an entity with its own laws - the centre of human existence. This new entity would actualize the creation of more and more wealth as a marker of Progress. We can call this the point of emergence and dominance of the Western episteme.The contours of the new revolution have still to be spelt out and it has to be named, but in a sense it is already telling us that just as the Earth was not the centre of the Universe (in natural sciences), so are its inhabitants not the Universe's centre (in the social sciences and philosophical sense). The new revolution is simply telling us that it is a vain and puerile idea for humans to start believing in the fiction of their sovereignty, and to think that they and their 'economy' over-rides that larger entity - call it Nature, call it Ecology or whatever else you want to. As a matter of fact, we are now facing a situation of widespread disenchantment with the all-powerful, world-conquering Western episteme. As more and more cultures across the world face the destruction of their cultures, their environment, their ways of living and being, they have begun to articulate different kinds of relational ontologies drawing on traditional ideas of living - Ubuntu (the Zulu idea that a person is a person through others), Buen Vivir or Sumak Kawsay in its Quechuan indigenous version, Suma Qamana in the language of the Aymara people of Bolivia, idea of happiness in our neighbouring Bhutan - all of which articulate a notion that is directly opposed to, (1) the idea of the 'homo economicus' - the self-maximizing 'rational' individual given to us by the ruling Western episteme. (2) the idea that 'Man' is sovereign, meant to rule over nature. They see humans as themselves belonging to a larger cosmos where they are but partners like other species. These ideas are no longer related to some marginal practices attributed to indigenous communities that we had, under the spell of the Western episteme, assumed to be 'past forms' destined to go extinct. These ideas have been enshrined in the Ecuadorian and Bolivian constitutions. There is of course strong political reaction from powerful corporate capitalist interests and the struggle to establish these ideas will certainly go through ups and downs but the fact that these constitutional provisions were publicly debated and accepted - in the Ecuadorian case through a referendum - shows that these are gaining massive acceptance within larger publics. The mainstream itself is changing.And it is not just among indigenous people that the turn towards such 'relational ontologies' is being articulated; we can see serious efforts to reconnect with such ideas within say the Chinese or Indian, especially Buddhist thought. It is a different matter that the Chinese and Indian elites still live in the fantasy world of neoliberal capitalism but there is little doubt that slowly but surely the spell is breaking outside the charmed circle of political elites. In the first instalment of this essay, I had referred to people from the corporate world moving into different lifestyles - outside the frenetic speed of the city life - into slower but more meaningful activities dedicated to anything from teaching poorer children to organic farming to the arts. They do not intend to go back to the caves as most unrepentant modernists still seem to believe; they seek more meaningful lives outside the world of state and capital. In the last section of this essay, I want to now briefly sketch a picture of the possible new directions in which our future thinking will have to move - and these are based entirely on what is actually happening in the world today.Post-Capitalist Futures: A Guide MapIt is obviously impossible for anyone to lay out a guide map - leave alone a blue-print for the future. And since my own proclivities are decidedly against apriori programmes and blueprints, I will only map out what is already there but which we might hopefully now be better able to see.At one level, many of the things I will identify below have been in existence for a very long time but we could either not see them or saw them as 'remnants of past forms' destined to go extinct.Let us begin then by asserting (once we have figured out that all entrepreneurship, trade and commerce are not capitalist) that post capitalist futures are likely to be composed of a rainbow of economic and social forms. It will mean the co-existence of a range of different forms of ownership of property ranging from the commons to cooperatives, private artisanal/ craft to peasant, from simple usufruct rights to urban or forest lands to direct state/ public ownership. Matters like public health and education will most likely be in the hands of the state, as is being increasingly recognized now.One of the difficulties in our being able to imagine a world without capital has to do with that biggest fiction of economics - that for creation of employment, we need capital. We (read: governments) therefore, need to woo capital, to let it come on whatever terms it demands - tax holidays, freedom from adherence to labour laws, subsidized electricity, decent 'investment climate' and so on. The first thing to remember is that unemployment is a creation of capitalism; it cannot therefore be its solution. In the first world ('advanced capitalist countries'), where it has destroyed all other forms of property (commons etc) and has over the years moved from 'jobless growth' to what has been called 'jobloss growth', there now hangs the spectre of AI that will in the near future eat up almost forty percent of the jobs in the USA. In countries like India too it can have disastrous consequences.It is in fact, against the backdrop of the endemic unemployment and insecurity of ordinary lives that the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has come up in Europe. At one level, the roots of the idea have been traced to the 16th century, to Thomas More's Utopia but it has been taken up more seriously as a possibility from sometime in the 1970s. Andre Gorz in fact argued in favour of this idea in the 1980s and it has lately acquired an even more serious dimension as it has found its way into policy debates. It has been acknowledged, as for example in James Ferguson's Give a Man a Fish, that large parts of the population have become redundant in contemporary capitalism and they are not really ever going to get jobs. Demanding employment is chasing a chimera. Hence the demand for UBI. In the West, it has been a longstanding demand of intellectuals on the Left but it is only recently that it has entered the arena of policy debates indicating a much bigger shift. The reality also is that in most of the West, all forms of small property and the commons have been so thoroughly privatized/ destroyed that UBI looks like the only possible option.I had briefly discussed how the situation created by the Covid 19 pandemic has led to a serious discussion on at least a temporary UBI even in the UK and the USA. The Spanish government has now states that it is seriously consdering rolling out a permanent UBI plan to cope with the situation. It is also worth remembering that in India, Sikkim already has started implementing some form of UBI and in the run-up to the last general election, Rahul Gandhi as Congress President had proposed his NYAY program (Nyunatam Aay Yojana) - a version of the UBI. That the UBI demand was a left wing demand that is now being seriously discussed is because there is urgent need (even before the Covid-19 outbreak) to put some purchasing power in the hands of ordinary people. This is already an acknowledgement that the global capitalist economy has to be put on ventilator - it has been in a permanent crisis of sorts ever since the financial crisis of 2008 and that is now only going to aggravate further.It may be useful at this point to return briefly to the question of the informal economies that we discussed earlier since, for most of the non-West that is an issue of central importance. More than 60 percent of the world's employed are today employed in the informal economies. As a matter of fact, is now no longer a matter of the non-Wesern 'developing economies' alone. According to Martha Chen, by the 1980s, informalization and the debate around it was expanding even in the first world, though for entirely negative reasons, namely the move to post-Fordist 'flexible accumulation'.'By the 1980s, the terms of the informal sector debate expanded to include changes that were occurring in advanced capitalist economies. Increasingly, in both North America and Europe, production was being reorganized into small-scale, decentralized, and more flexible economic units. Mass production was giving way to "flexible specialization" or, in some contexts, reverting to sweatshop production (Piore and Sabel 1984). These changes were (and are still) associated with the informalization of employment relations. Standard jobs were being turned into non-standard or atypical jobs with hourly wages but few benefits, or into piece-rate jobs with no benefits; production of goods and services was being subcontracted to small-scale informal units and industrial outworkers. In the process, the informal economy had become a permanent, but subordinate and dependent, feature of capitalist development (Portes, Castells and Benton 1989).'Elsewhere, I have discussed how the financial crisis of 2008 led to a large-scale debate among economists and policy-makers regarding the informal economy. In most of the third world, it seemed to be the place that provided employment to people who had lost jobs in the formal economy. The reappraisal is important because it had so long been seen as comprising enterprises that evaded taxes and generally remained 'unaccountable' but is now increasingly acknowledged as a segment of the economy that functions on a logic that is very different from that of what Kalyan Sanyal has called the 'accumulation economy'. Sanyal in fact explicitly calls this informal economy a 'need economy' and characterizes it as the domain of 'non-capital'. The point to be underscored here is that the often sub-optimal and subsistence level functioning of many of the units in the informal economies is often a consequence of the fact that it often has to function against great odds. Contrast those odds with the massive support and protection that big corporate enterprises get from governments and it will become clear that if these units were to get similar policy support they could function at an altogether different level.What happens to the big corporations in the scenario of post-capitalism we are envisaging? Certainly, they too will continue to exist alongside all the other forms but with one important difference. If decisions taken in corporate board rooms affect the lives of the community around either by polluting air or water, or are destructive of nature in any other way, then they must be subjected to severe periodic social auditing. Decisions like technological choices will also have to be included in such auditing.Over and above these, there are important initiatives that have very consciously tried to build alternatives - the idea of the solidarity economy for instance or the idea of commoning. Rather than explain what these are, let us hear from their proponents themselves - and bear in mind that these are now very significant initiatives involving reasonably large numbers of people. So here is Emily Kawano on the idea of the solidarity economy:'The solidarity economy is a global movement to build a just and sustainable economy. It is not a blueprint theorized by academics in ivory towers. Rather, it is an ecosystem of practices that already exist-some old, some new, some still emergent-that are aligned with solidarity economy values. There is already a huge foundation upon which to build. The solidarity economy seeks to make visible and connect these siloed practices in order to build an alternative economic system, broadly defined, for people and the planet''Over the past thirty-five years, solidarity economy practices have surged in response to the long-term crises of neo-liberalism, globalization, and technological change. These trends have generated punishing levels of political and economic inequality and created long-term un- and under-employment, acute economic insecurity, and reductions in government social programs and protections. The wealthy elite are able to use their wealth and influence to skew political priorities toward corporate profits and away from social and environmental welfare' 'In this context, many people and communities have become tired of making demands on a deaf or under-funded government. Moved by a combination of desperation, need, practicality, and vision, people have turned their energy to building their own collective solutions to create jobs, food, housing, healthcare, services, loans, and money. These practices operate both inside and outside of the formal and paid economy.'Such practices include a range of activities from workers' cooperatives to community initiatives, credit unions, self-help economy, alternative local currencies and so on. 'Commoning', on the other hand, draws its inspiration from the old idea of the commons but insists on the practice of making things common. Here is David Bollier explaining the idea of commons and commoning:'I believe the commons-at once a paradigm, a discourse, an ethic, and a set of social practices-holds great promise in transcending this conundrum. More than a political philosophy or policy agenda, the commons is an active, living process. It is less a noun than a verb because it is primarily about the social practices of commoning-acts of mutual support, conflict, negotiation, communication and experimentation that are needed to create systems to manage shared resources. This process blends production (self provisioning), governance, culture, and personal interests into one integrated system''Commoners are focused on reclaiming their "common wealth," in both the material and political sense. They want to roll back the pervasive privatization and marketization of their shared resources-from land and water to knowledge and urban spaces-and reassert greater participatory control over those resources and community life. They wish to make certain resources inalienable-protected from sale on the market and conserved for future generations. This project-to reverse market enclosures and reinvent the commons-seeks to achieve what state regulation has generally failed to achieve: effective social control of abusive, unsustainable market behavior''But rather than focus on conventional political venues, which tend to be structurally rigged against systemic change, commoners are more focused on creating their own alternative systems outside of the market and state. It is not as if they have abandoned conventional politics and regulation as vehicles for self-defense, or progressive change; it's just that they recognize the inherent limits of electoral politics and policy-driven solutions, at a time when these channels are so corrupted.'Every single one of the practices indicated here - including those like the social auditing of corporations - are indicative of the pathways to a future that is diverse and plural as well as more oriented to equity and fairness. Many of the activities that today exist outside the domains of the state and corporate controlled-market and may seem quite marginal can emerge as very significant players in that future, if the fate of the informal economies over the decades is any indication. The fact is that is where a large majority of people made redundant by the coming technological changes, especially AI, will find their place - earning and living-in-common with others. This imagination of the future is fundamentally liberated from the 'unemployment' framework. It proceeds by making capital increasingly redundant.-- (Courtesy: Kafila)--To be concluded

Read more here:

Life After Capitalism and the New 'al Shatir-Copernicus' Revolution - Manifesto of Hope-II - Kashmir Times

The future will not follow any of the already imagined Hollywood movie scripts – Spectator.co.uk

We often hear that what we are going throughis a real life case of what we used to see in Hollywood dystopias. So what kind of movie are we nowwatching?

When I got the message from many US friends that gun stores sold out their stock even faster than pharmacies, I tried to imagine the reasoning of the buyers: they probably imagined themselves as a group of people safely isolated in their well-stocked house and defending it with guns against a hungry infected mob, like the movies about the attack of the living dead. (One can also imagine a less chaotic version of this scenario: elites will survive in their secluded areas, as in Roland Emmerichs 2012where a couple of thousand selected survive with the admission price of $1billionper person.)

Another scenario along the same catastrophic lines came to my mind when I read the following news headline: 'Death penalty states urged to release stockpiled drugs for Covid-19 patients. Top health experts sign letter saying badly needed medications used in lethal injections "could save the lives of hundreds".' I immediately understood that the point is to ease the pain of the patients, not to kill them; but for a split of a second, I recall the dystopian Soylent Green (1973),which takes place in a post-apocalyptic overpopulated earth, where old citizens, disgusted with life in such a degraded world, are given the choice to 'return to the home of God': in a government clinic, they take a comfortable seat and, while watching scenes from pristine nature, they are gradually and painlessly put to sleep. When some US conservatives proposed that the lives of those over-70 should be sacrificed in order to get the economy running and save the American way of life, would the option staged in the film not be a 'human' way to do it?

But we are not yet there. When coronavirus began to spread, the predominant idea was that it is a brief nightmare which will pass with the weather getting warmer in the spring the movie rerun here was that of a short attack (earthquake, tornado etc.) whose function is to make us appreciate in what a nice society we live. (A subspecies of this version is the story of scientists saving humanity at the last minute by inventing the successful cure orvaccine against a contagion the secret hope of most of us today.)

Now that we are forced to admit the epidemics will stay with us for some time, and will profoundly change our entire life, another movie scenario is emerging: a utopia masked as dystopia. Recall Kevin Costners The Postman,a post-apocalyptic mega-flop from 1997, set in 2013, 15 years after an unspecified apocalyptic event left a huge impact on human civilisation and erased most technology. It follows the story of an unnamed nomadic drifter who stumbles across the uniform of an old United States postal service mail carrier and starts to distribute post between scattered villages, pretending to act on behalf of the 'Restored United States of America'; others begin to imitate him and, gradually, through this game, the basic institutional network of the United States emerges again.The utopia that arises after the zero-point of apocalyptic destruction is the same United States we have now, just purified of its postmodern excesses a modest society in which the basic values of our life are fully reasserted.

All these scenarios miss the really strange thing about the coronavirus epidemic, its non-apocalyptic character. It is neither an apocalypse in the usual sense of the utter destruction of our world, and even less an apocalypse in the original sense of the revelation of some hitherto concealed truth. Yes, our world is falling apart, but this process of falling-apart just drags on with no ending in sight. When the numbers of infected and dead rise, our media speculate how far from the peak are we are we already there, will it be in one or two weeks? We all eagerly attend the peak of the epidemic, as if this peak will be followed by a gradual return to normality, but the crisis just drags on. Maybe, we should gather the courage and accept that we will remain in a viral world threatened by epidemics and environmental disturbances. Maybe, even if the vaccine against the virus will be discovered, we will continue to live under the threat of another epidemic or ecological catastrophe. We are now awakening from the dream that the epidemic will evaporate in the summer heat. There is no clear long-term exit plan. The only debate is how to gradually weaken the lockdown measures. When eventually the epidemic recedes, we will be too exhausted to take pleasure in it. What scenario does this imply? The following lines appeared at the beginning of April in a major British daily, outlining a possible story:

'Radical reforms reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.'

Is this a rehash of the British Labour manifesto? No, its a passage from an editorial in theFinancial Times. Along the same lines, Bill Gates calls for a 'global approach' to fighting the disease and warns that, if the virus is left to spread through developing nations unhindered, it will rebound and hit richer nations in subsequent waves:

'Even if wealthy nations succeed in slowing the disease over the next few months, Covid-19 could return if the pandemic remains severe enough elsewhere.It is likely only a matter of time before one part of the planet re-infects another. [...] Im a big believer in capitalism but some markets simply dont function properly in a pandemic, and the market for life-saving supplies is an obvious example.'

Welcome as they are, these predictions and proposals are all too modest: much more will be demanded. At a certain basic level, we should simply bypass the logic of profitability and begin to think in terms of the ability of a society to mobilize its resources in order to continue to function. We have enough resources, the task is to allocate them directly, outside the market logic. Healthcare, global ecology, food production and distribution, water and electricity supply, the smooth functioning of theinternet and phone this should remain, all other things are secondary.

What this implies is also the duty and the right of a state to mobilize individuals. They have a problem now (not only) in France. Its the time of harvesting spring vegetables and fruits, and usually thousands of seasonal workers come from Spain and other countries to do the job. But since now borders are closed, who will do it? France is already looking for volunteers to replace foreign workers, but what if there aren't enough? Food is needed, so what if direct mobilization will be the only way?

As Alenka Zupancic put it in a simple and clear way, if reacting to the pandemic in full solidarity can cause greater damage than the pandemic itself, is this not an indication that there is something terribly wrong with a society and economy which cannot sustain such solidarity? Why should there be a choice between solidarity and economy? Should our answer to this alternative not be the same as: 'Coffee or tea? Yes, please!' It doesnt matter how well call the new order we need, communism or co-immunism, as Peter Sloterdijk does (a collectively organised immunity from viral attacks), the point is the same.

This reality will not follow any of the already imagined movie scripts, but we desperately need new scripts, new stories that will provide a kind of cognitive mapping, a realistic and at the same time non-catastrophic sense of where we should be going. We need a horizon of hope; we need a new, post-pandemic Hollywood.


The future will not follow any of the already imagined Hollywood movie scripts - Spectator.co.uk

Minecraft RTX beta launches this week, and it looks incredible – TrustedReviews

Microsoft and Nvidia have partnered up to announce the Minecraft RTX beta will becomeavailable to the public on 16th April.

The new beta marks the first time the public will be able to play the blocky sandbox title with ray tracing activated. This realistic light-rendering technology gives Minecraft a significant visual upgrade, with water and metallic objects becoming reflective, objects now casting realistic shadows and sunlight suddenly visible.

The update comes with several other new features, including new properties for physically based materials, support for DLSS 2.0 and six free pre-built RTX worlds to explore that offer guidance and inspiration for your own creations.

If youve got the Windows 10 edition of Minecraft and the required ray tracing capable hardware, youll be able to jump into the beta within a matter of days. For now though, read on for more details and keep an eye on Trusted Reviews for our upcoming hands-on review of Minecraft RTX.

Explained: What is ray tracing?

The Minecraft RTX beta opens to the public on 16th April 2020. Anyone with compatible hardware and a copy of the Windows 10 Minecraft edition will be able to play in the beta.

An official launch is expected before the end of 2020. The official release will apparently allow those without an Nvidia RTX graphics card to visit worlds created within Minecraft RTX, although the advanced lighting effects will of course not be visible to those without the necessary hardware.

Related: Nvidia Ampere

Minecraft RTX will be a free update for anyone who owns the Windows 10 edition of the sandbox game. The Windows 10 edition of Minecraft currently costs 22.49.

There are a couple of requirements to play Minecraft RTX: firstly, youll need a Windows 10 edition of Minecraft, along with an Nvidia Geforce RTX graphics card (from the RTX 2060 up to RTX 2080 Ti).

Unfortunately, those with an AMD or less powerful Nvidia GPU wont be able to access the beta, nor will they be able to visit any worlds that have been created via the RTX update, at least for the duration of the beta.

Related: Best Graphics Cards 2020

Minecraft RTX is the new enhanced version of the Windows 10 edition of Minecraft, featuring ray tracing technology for a stunning visual boost of lighting and shadow effects.

As Minecraft utilises a more advanced version of ray tracing (called path tracing) compared to the technology found in other games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield 5, the visual effects are substantially more noticeable and put a greater strain on the GPU, despite Minecrafts simplistic textures.

To combat this, Nvidia has ensured this will become one of the very first games to support DLSS 2.0, which uses artificial intelligence to boost the pixel count in real-time, allowing you to view games at high resolutions without being a significant drain on the graphics card.

Microsoft is also introducing a slew of new physical elements for objects. Previously, blocks only differed in terms of colour and opacity. Now, physically based materials also feature properties such as Metallic, Normal, Roughness and Emissive, allowing certain blocks (such as lava) to radiate light while metallic objects will appear shiny.

On left: RTX turned off. On right: RTX turned on

If all these new features sound overwhelming, theres no need to worry as Nvidia is offering various tools and guides to help you adjust, including a physically based materials guide, Razzleberries RTX Texture Showcase and some HD resource packs. A Minecraft Java to Bedrock Conversion Guide will also help you transport any Minecraft worlds created in the Java edition to the Minecraft RTX beta.

Need some inspiration to get started? Microsoft has enlisted the help of several famous Minecraft creators to produce six pre-built RTX worlds that youre free to explore. These worlds include puzzles and stunning set pieces that take advantage of the new ray tracing upgrade, ranging from an underwater utopia to a neon-lit city.

If youre excited by the beta launch of Minecraft RTX and have questions regarding the new update, let us know by messaging us via the @TrustedReviews Twitter account.

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Formerly the Staff Writer at Stuff Magazine, Ryan's been writing about tech since he graduated from Cardiff University. At Trusted Reviews he is focussed on everything computer-related, giving him a v

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WATCH: An episode of John Dalli and his new Club of Weird – The Shift News

Christmas brings thoughts of jolly old Santa and his cabin in Lapland to mind. Easter, on the other hand, doesnt quite have the same analogy. But former European Commissioner John Dalli changed all that when he joined the Free Republic of Liberland for its fifth anniversary celebrations on Easter Saturday to tell them his story and The Shift joined the conversation.

First, we had a round of awkward questions on where the hell is Liberland? Only to find out the place does not actually exist. It is a figment of the imagination. The second question, what on earth is John Dalli doing there?, then slowly fell into place.

Of late, Dalli appears to have re-invented himself as a blockchain guru helping people navigate the dodgy crypto Wild West even if he cant navigate a virtual conference. He was even organising Malta blockchain-themed tours as recently as December.

Dallis presentation for the Liberland conference was titled Learning from the Mistakes of other Governments. It was a lesson in audacity, delivered by a former politician deemed disgraced by not only the European Parliament and the European Commission, but also by the Council of Europe. But Dalli evidently wasnt letting that get in the way.

In 2015, a somewhat loopy Czech politician planted a flag in a marshy uninhabited area on the western side of the river Danube and proclaimed that this place was now the Free Republic of Liberland.

Unsurprisingly, given there was just him, his girlfriend and a college friend by the flag on that day, the politician Vt Jedlika was also elected as the countrys first president by a whopping majority of two to zero (he correctly abstained on the vote).

The tiny mosquito-infested parcel of land sits right on the uncomfortable border between Croatia and Serbia.

Historically, the two countries had a natural border that followed the winding course of the Danube. Engineering feats to ease navigation in 1947 by altering the rivers flow changed this.

The result, seen as unfair by Croatia since it lost 10 times as much land as Serbia, left the two countries locked in a longstanding dispute over who owns what.

The area, the size of Gibraltar, that Jedlika chose on the Croatian side of the river was previously part of Serbia. Croatia let it go when borders were redrawn, not to be seen as giving up its claim over much larger tracts of land on the Serbian side.

Although initially treated as a joke, Jedlikas then highly-publicised stunt risked jeopardising Croatias position on the border. The end result was that Jedlika was briefly arrested and banned from ever going back to that piece of land.

In an effort to discourage repeat episodes, Croatia even cordoned off the area and demolished the only property on the land, an abandoned old barn.

Liberland has, to date, only been recognised by three other equally unrecognised and self-declared microstates, the Kingdom of North Sudan (a place claimed by an American that promised his daughter shed be a real princess), the Kingdom of Enclavia (an enterprising neighbour) and the Principality of Sealand (a rusty offshore platform near Suffolk).

Undeterred by derision, being prohibited from setting foot on the land and the lack of any international recognition, Jedlika markets Liberland as a place where his libertarian beliefs can take root with little to no government and laws.

Liberland sells its citizenship, embraces crypto-currencies and all things blockchain since few banks would open a bank account for a citizen of the equivalent of La La Land. And, naturally, the country plans to charge its so-called citizens zero taxes.

Essentially, its a wet dream for uber capitalists wanting an exclusive club with minimal government interference.

If Malta was briefly gunning for the misguided moniker of Blockchain Island, Liberland wants to be the Blockchain Neverland.

Unsurprisingly, Liberland is frequently either described as a madmans project or a money laundering scheme, each of which tends to attract a host of interesting characters for different reasons. The conference laid this bare.

After online registration, we were sent a Zoom link to join the virtual celebrations.

The Zoom video stream started at 2.15pm CET upon which we were presented with a 10-minute countdown with a quaint hill-side chalet in the background, probably meant to evoke images of the Liberland barn.

At the two minute mark, the camera cut to Jedlika on the porch who gleefully announced, with his girlfriend awkwardly dancing in the background: Ladies and gentlemen, we are starting in two minutes. Then the camera cut back to the side of the chalet next to a desiccated vineyard.

At the end of the countdown, the camera zoomed into Jedlika who welcomed what we suspect to be little more than a handful of viewers (and us) to a conference that brought together the most famous and greatest scholars in the liberty world.

Some people are impatient. They think that starting a country is a summer holiday job, but these things take time. And right now we have the best experts, the founder of Liberland said introducing the conference.

The first presenter excitedly asked Jedlika how Liberland managed to get a connection with Dalli a question Jedlika dodged. Instead, he said Dallis experience as a European Commissioner could help us a lot.

We were keen to see where this would go despite the experience being surreal.

First up was a four-way video conference with members of the Liberland Aid Foundation describing how they were raising crypto-donations to assist them with their diplomatic efforts to get recognition of Liberland.

This talk was followed by, among others, a 20-minute networking session that consisted of watching a pixelated pair of floating digital hands roam around the digital landscape of what looked suspiciously like Second Life. We were, however, assured that this digital utopia was a fully blockchain-powered, crypto-currency based economy existing in a video game, whatever that means.

Liberland has recently opened its first embassy there, we were told, planted between a badly drawn tree and a river that digital avatars of online users kept accidentally tumbling into.

After what felt like an age, a bow-tied presenter with a heavy Eastern accent anxiously announced that Dalli was next up. Evidently uncomfortable with live speaking as he read off a script while someone filmed him, Dalli sent a pre-recorded video.

A random persons face popped up on the screen only to be quickly taken down, then the video started playing. There was Dalli in what looked like his dining room with a scribbled name label reading Dalli John, in case viewers werent quite sure who he was.

Dalli extolled the power of democracy at the start of his speech. All people should be equal before the law, said the man accused of evading justice in his home country.

Unsurprisingly, his strained speech was all about himself. He nurtured his relations in the Club of Weird by ranting against the evil bureaucracy in Brussels those he called megalomaniacs while occupying 10 minutes of peoples time spreading wild accusations of a web of conspiracy that couldnt have been put together to bring down a person who actually mattered.

He was the victim of attacks, defamation and hate-mongering, he told the few people bothering to follow his views on a dystopian dream of a country that does not exist and could only meet virtually, COVID-19 or not.

He kept repeating that the top honchos in Brussels, Giovanni Kessler the OLAF prosecutor who had the misfortune of believing bribery to be a prosecutable offence in Malta as well as both political parties in Malta, came together to launch a campaign that sought to quell the support of the Maltese people for his work.

It was the bureaucracy and corruption in institutions that levelled him in their ambition to grab power. He kept referring to evidence that proved all this was fraudulent a strategy created by lobbyists only different to the ones he blasts for not agreeing with his version of events.

His cause was noble, Dalli kept insisting to the handful of people watching an episode from the Land of Narnia. The mythical people supported his cause and this led to envy and hate and the animals from the brothers in the bureaucracy spoke ill of him to serve another agenda.

Dalli ended his rambling monologue by praising Liberland, although he conceded that investing in a piece of contested land claiming to be a country was perhaps a somewhat nebulous concept.

After a slip of the tongue in which he referred to the future citizens of Liberland as my citizens, which he corrected, Dalli ended his videotaped rant with a direct message to Liberlanders everywhere: Yours is a long, uphill climb good luck.

Dalli finally dialled in for the Q&A session after yet another series of talks, including:

Given that the few people actually watching him must have taken the opportunity to put the kettle on while he rambled on about Kessler and former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, there were no questions for Dalli.

Like a true sport, Dalli stayed on fumbling with his camera turned on but with a muted microphone throughout the pained 15-minute Q&A to answer two planted questions.

Next up, there was yet another session of networking in Second Life that they swore wasnt Second Life. We stayed on if only out of pure masochism at this point, but it didnt last long.

Before the digital nightmare ended, we watched an over-excited guest speaker describe how a crypto operator can offer quasi-banking services without being actually licensed as a bank. Another speaker claimed, in between rather suspect charts, that global warming is just a hoax and that, in any case, a warmer planet would be good for biodiversity.

It was enough to finally switch off the freakshow.

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WATCH: An episode of John Dalli and his new Club of Weird - The Shift News