Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 9th, 2021

A clip from “Yes, Minister”

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I very much like two series with the same characters (and actors): “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister.” Wonderfully literate writing and witty dialogue. (You can stream both on BritBox.) Here’s a clip from “Yes, Minister,” Season 3, Episode 6 in which the Minister has just learned that the UK is selling arms that end up in the hands of Italian terrorists. He’s speaking with Sir Humphrey, his chief of staff (a civil-service position, so it serves various administrations) while his assistant Bernard listens.

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2021 at 12:11 pm

Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg’s Partnership Did Not Survive Trump

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Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang cover technology for the NY Times. They wrote the forthcoming book An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination, from which this long read is adapted. It begins:

Sheryl Sandberg knew she’d be asked about the attacks on the Capitol.

For the past week, the country had been reeling from the violence in Washington, and with each passing day, reporters were uncovering more of the footprint left behind by the rioters on social media.

Speaking to the cameras rolling in her sun-filled Menlo Park, Calif., garden, Ms. Sandberg confronted this question, one she’d prepared for: Could Facebook have acted sooner to help prevent this?

Ms. Sandberg noted that the company had taken down many pages supporting the Proud Boys, a far-right militia, and “Stop the Steal” groups organized around the false claim that President Donald J. Trump had won the 2020 election. Enforcement was never perfect, she added, so some inflammatory posts remained up. But, she added, the blame primarily lay elsewhere.

“I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, don’t have our standards, and don’t have our transparency,” she said.

That comment was picked up by news outlets across the world. Outraged members of Congress and researchers who studied right-wing groups accused Facebook of abdicating responsibility.

Those within Ms. Sandberg’s inner circle told her what she wanted to hear: Her words were being taken out of context, journalists were unfairly piling on, it wasn’t her fault.

But in other parts of the company, executives whispered to each other that Ms. Sandberg had, once again, slipped up. She was deflecting blame cast on her, or Facebook, they said.

Days later, indictments began to roll in for the rioters who had taken part in the attacks.

In one indictment, lawyers revealed how, in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 attacks, Thomas Caldwell and members of his militia group, the Oath Keepers, had openly discussed over Facebook the hotel rooms, airfare and other logistics around their trip to Washington.

On the day itself, people freely celebrated with posts on Facebook and Instagram. Minutes after Mr. Trump ended his speech with a call to his supporters to “Walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” toward the Capitol building, where hundreds of members of Congress sat, people within the crowd used their phones to livestream clashes with police and the storming of the barricades outside the building. Many, including Mr. Caldwell, were getting messages on Facebook Messenger from allies watching their advance from afar.

“All members are in the tunnel under” the Capitol read the message Mr. Caldwell received as he neared the building. Referring to members of Congress, the message added, “Seal them in. Turn on Gas.”

Moments later, Mr. Caldwell posted a quick update on Facebook that read, “Inside.”

The indictments made it clear just how large a part Facebook had played, both in spreading misinformation about election fraud to fuel anger among the Jan. 6 protesters, and in aiding the extremist militia’s communication ahead of the riots. For months, Facebook would be a footnote to a day that challenged the heart of American democracy. And Ms. Sandberg’s words attempting to place the blame elsewhere would continue to haunt her.

In the years since Mr. Trump won the 2016 election, Facebook has struggled with the role it played in his rise and in the growth of populist leaders across the world. The same tools that allowed Facebook’s business to more than double during those years — such as the News Feed that prioritized engagement and the Facebook groups that pushed like-minded people together — had been used to spread misinformation.

To achieve its record-setting growth, the company had continued building on its core technology, making business decisions based on how many hours of the day people spent on Facebook and how many times a day they returned. Facebook’s algorithms didn’t measure if the magnetic force pulling them back to Facebook was the habit of wishing a friend happy birthday, or a rabbit hole of conspiracies and misinformation.

Facebook’s problems were features, not bugs, and were the natural outgrowth of a 13-year partnership between Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive and one of its founders, and his erudite business partner, Ms. Sandberg, its chief operating officer. He was the technology visionary and she understood how to generate revenue from the attention of Facebook’s now 2.8 billion users. They worked in concert to create the world’s biggest exchange of ideas and communication.

This account, adapted from a forthcoming book on Facebook, is drawn from more than 400 interviews, including those with former and current employees of all levels of the company. The interviews paint a portrait of the Trump presidency as a trying period for the company and for its top leaders. The Trump era tested a central relationship at Facebook — between Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg — and she became increasingly isolated. Her role as the C.E.O.’s second-in-command was less certain with his elevation of several other executives, and with her diminishing influence in Washington.

The view from inside the upper echelons of the company was clear: It felt as though Facebook was no longer led by a No. 1 and No. 2, but a No. 1 and many.

The pair continued their twice-weekly meetings, but Mr. Zuckerberg took over more of the areas once under her purview. He made the final call on issues surrounding Mr. Trump’s spread of hate speech and dangerous misinformation, decisions Ms. Sandberg often lobbied against or told allies she felt uncomfortable with. Mr. Zuckerberg oversaw efforts in Washington to fend off regulations and had forged a friendly relationship with Mr. Trump. Ms. Sandberg surrounded herself with a “kitchen cabinet” of outside political advisers and a team of public relations officials who were often at odds with others in the company.

A spokeswoman for Facebook dismissed this characterization.

“The fault lines that the authors depict between Mark and Sheryl and the people who work with them do not exist,” said Dani Lever, the spokeswoman. “All of Mark’s direct reports work closely with Sheryl and hers with Mark. Sheryl’s role at the company has not changed.”

It is true that the core of the partnership hasn’t formally changed. Mr. Zuckerberg controls the direction of the company and Ms. Sandberg the ad business, which continues to soar unabated.

Both executives declined to comment for this story, perhaps letting the company’s performance speak for itself.

Facebook’s market valuation is now over $1 trillion.

A Christmas party is not an ideal place to avoid small talk, but Mr. Zuckerberg had arrived at the holiday gathering determined to try. It was December 2007, and Facebook was still a private company with just several hundred employees. Despite his aversion to party chat, he allowed himself to be introduced to Sheryl Sandberg.

From the moment they met, both have said, they sensed the potential to transform the company into the global power it is today.

As guests milled around them, he described his goal of turning every person in the country with an internet connection into a Facebook user. It might have sounded like a fantasy to others, but Ms. Sandberg was intrigued and threw out ideas about what it would take to build a business to keep up with that kind of growth. “It was actually smart. It was substantive,” Mr. Zuckerberg later recalled. Ms. Sandberg would go on to tell Dan Rose, a former vice president at Facebook, that she felt she had been “put on this planet to scale organizations.”

After the Christmas party, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg continued their conversations over late dinners at Ms. Sandberg’s favorite neighborhood restaurant, Flea Street, and her pristine Atherton home. (Mr. Zuckerberg still lived in a Palo Alto apartment with only a futon on the floor.) Ms. Sandberg walked Mr. Zuckerberg through how she had helped expand Google’s ad business, turning search queries into data that gave advertisers rich insights about users, contributing to the company’s spectacular cash flow.

In some ways, they were opposites. Ms. Sandberg was a master manager and delegator. Her calendar at Google was scheduled to the minute. Meetings rarely ran long and typically culminated in action items. At 38, she was 15 years older than Mr. Zuckerberg, was in bed by 9:30 p.m. and up every morning by 6 for a hard cardio workout. He was a night owl, coding way past midnight and up in time to straggle into the office late in the morning. Mr. Rose recalled being pulled into meetings at 11 p.m., the middle of Mr. Zuckerberg’s workday.

Mr. Zuckerberg recognized that Ms. Sandberg excelled at, even enjoyed, all the parts of running a company that he found unfulfilling. And she would bring to Facebook an asset that her new boss knew he needed: experience in Washington, D.C. Mr. Zuckerberg wasn’t interested in politics and didn’t keep up with the news. The year before, while Mr. Zuckerberg was visiting Donald Graham, then the chairman of The Washington Post, a reporter handed the young C.E.O. a book on politics that the reporter had written. Mr. Zuckerberg said to Mr. Graham, “I’m never going to have time to read this.”

“I teased him because there were very few things where you’ll find unanimity about, and one of those things is that reading books is a good way to learn. There is no dissent on that point,” Mr. Graham said. “Mark eventually came to agree with me on that, and like everything he did, he picked it up very quickly and became a tremendous reader.”

In the lead-up to his talks with Ms. Sandberg, Mr. Zuckerberg experienced a brush with controversy that stoked concerns about potential regulations. Government officials were beginning to question if free platforms like Facebook were harming users with the data they collected. In December 2007, the Federal Trade Commission issued self-regulatory principles for behavioral advertising to protect data privacy. Mr. Zuckerberg needed help navigating Washington.

“Mark understood that some of the biggest challenges Facebook was going to face in the future were going to revolve around issues of privacy and regulatory concerns,” Mr. Rose said. Ms. Sandberg, he noted, “obviously had deep experience there, and this was very important to Mark.”

To Ms. Sandberg, the move to Facebook, a company led by an awkward 23-year-old college dropout, wasn’t as counterintuitive as it might have appeared. She was a vice president at Google, but she had hit a ceiling: There were several vice presidents at her level, and they were all competing for promotions. Eric Schmidt, then the chief executive, wasn’t looking for a No. 2. Men who weren’t performing as well as she was were getting recognized and receiving higher titles, former Google colleagues maintained.

“Despite leading a bigger, more profitable, faster-growing business than the men who were her peers, she was not given the title president, but they were,” recalled Kim Scott, a leader in the ad sales division. Ms. Sandberg was looking for something new. She said yes to Facebook.

Mr. Zuckerberg brought in Ms. Sandberg to deal with growing unease about the company in Washington. She professionalized the ragtag office there, which had been . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more — indeed, a book more.

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2021 at 12:01 pm

Neighborhood flowers

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Click any image to get a slide show, and right-click on any slide to open image in a new tab; click it there to enlarge it.

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2021 at 10:53 am

Posted in Daily life

Broccoli to Counter the Effects of Air Pollution

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Note that broccoli sprouts are particularly powerful. Not all stores carry those, however. I mostly eat broccoli i its usual form.

And more on broccoli and how to cook it so its healthful qualities are preserved. (This doesn’t apply to broccoli sprouts, which are eaten raw.) I eat a fair amount of broccoli — steam it, refrigerate it, and eat it in salads — and I chop it before I steam it and let it sit for 45 minutes after being chopped before I steam it. Now I think I’ll use the mustard trick (or add diced fresh daikon radish) for the reasons discussed in the video. Good trick to know for frozen kale, too. Watch:

UPDATE

I would bet that “hack and hold” (or “whack and wait”) is important for all cruciferous vegetables. For cauliflower, for example:

How to Get the Greatest Benefit

To assure that the enzyme sulforaphane is created, eat cauliflower raw or utilize the “whack and wait” technique: chop the cauliflower and wait 40 minutes—enough time to produce the enzyme—which will then be heat stable. If there is no time, all is not lost! Just sprinkle your frozen or cooked cauliflower with a little dry mustard powder which also encourages the formation of sulforaphane. Steaming of cauliflower significantly improves the bile acid binding. 

The whack-and-wait method is also important for garlic, though in that case you need wait only 15 minutes after chopping it before using it in cooking.

 

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2021 at 9:15 am

As Catholic Church balked at paying residential school settlement, Quebec nuns sold nearly $25M in real estate

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The Catholic Church has long had enormous power, and unfortunately it does seem to be the case that power corrupts. Simon Nakonechny reports for CBC News:

Three Quebec-based religious orders that staffed residential schools in the rest of Canada have earned millions of dollars from property sales in recent years, even as the Catholic Church said it couldn’t raise enough money to pay its share of a settlement meant for survivors.

In a class-action settlement with Indigenous survivors of the schools reached in 2006, Catholic entities involved in residential schools pledged, among other things, to use their “best efforts” to raise an additional $25 million to help fund healing and reconciliation programs.

Nine years later, after raising less than $4 million, the church entities said they had done all they could and a court absolved them of having to pay the rest.

But with evidence emerging of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, Indigenous leaders are calling on the church to fulfil its original commitment.

“Acts of genocide occurred at the hands of Catholic Church clergy men and women,” the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said in a statement last weekend.

“Our children that never made it home are now speaking to us; they’re crying ‘they found us’ and we will not stop until they receive the justice they have been waiting decades for.”

Some key figures involved in the 2006 settlement have questioned whether the entities devoted sufficient energy to the fundraising effort, and have pointed out the church has significant financial resources at its disposal.

The real estate deals

In Quebec, three religious orders that staffed residential schools raised at least $25 million between 2011 and 2021 by selling off real estate holdings, according to an analysis by CBC News.

The Grey Nuns of Montreal sold a sprawling island property to the city of Chateauguay, on Montreal’s South Shore, for $5 million in 2011.

The same year, they sold two properties in the city of Nicolet, Que., near Trois-Rivières, for $1.8 million.

The Grey Nuns worked at several residential schools in Western Canada, including the Holy Angels Indian Residential School in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., where at least 89 children died, according to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg.

The nuns were among several religious orders that signed the settlement agreement in 2006, which included the promise to help raise $25 million across the country.

The order did not respond to a CBC email asking how much it raised as part of that effort, but said it did give $2.5 million to the initial $29 million payment the Catholic entities were required to contribute in the class-action settlement.

The Grey Nuns say the money raised from the sale of its properties are in its accounts.

Quebec nuns worked at Sask. residential school

The Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Hyacinthe, who also signed the settlement agreement, sold their mother house in Saint-Hyacinthe, about 60 kilometres from Montreal, for $4.2 million in 2014.

The religious order sold another property in the same city to a real estate company for $1.5 million earlier this year.

Nuns from the St. Hyacinthe, Que., order worked at the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, where preliminary findings have uncovered 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the institution, which is now on the territory of the Cowessess First Nation.

In a statement to CBC News, the Sisters of St. Joseph expressed “immense sadness” at the discovery of the graves.

“The Congregation hopes with all its heart that the truth emerges about these events so that paths open toward reconciliation based on reciprocal respect and trust, in the context of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,” Sister Pauline Vertefeuille said in the statement.

She did not respond to a follow-up question from CBC asking how much her order had raised as part of the 2006 settlement agreement, but did say the nuns had contributed an undisclosed amount to the subsequent fundraising campaign.

The Montreal-headquartered Sisters of Providence, founded in 1843 by Émilie Gamelin, also made millions from at least two recent real estate transactions: one in 2016 to the City of Montreal for $4.7 million, and another to a non-profit that manages seniors’ and social housing for $7.5 million. . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more, including links to the discoveries of mass graves of children killed at residential schools and secretly buried on school grounds. At a certain point, this sort of thing is not so much an anomaly but rather the result of standard operating procedures. We seem well past that point.

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2021 at 8:45 am

l’Occitane Cade and the Merkur Progress

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The lather problems I once experienced in using l’Occitane Cade shaving soap seem to have been completely solved by using a synthetic shaving brush, in this case the second generation of Mühle’s synthetic knot. I got quite a good lather, and with the Merkur Progress — which IMO is still the best modern adjustable I’ve used — I got a splendid shave. (Full disclosure: I’ve not tried a couple of very high-priced adjustables.)

A splash of Cade EDT and here we are at the end of the week already.

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2021 at 8:34 am

Posted in Shaving

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