Naked and Afraid


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Another one on Facebook, hopefully last for this year.

Admit you have a problem. Yes, over and over and over, Facebook executives have copped a plea. But they’ve never acknowledged the real problem is the company’s core DNA. More often than not, the company plays the pre-teen game of admitting a small sin so as to cover a larger one. The latest case in point is this post-modern gem: Elliot Schrage On Definers. The headline alone says all you need to know about Facebook’s latest disaster: Blame the guy who hired the firm, have him fall on a sword, add a bit of Sandbergian mea culpa, and move along. Nope, this time is different, Facebook. It’s time for fundamental change. And that means….

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John Battelle — New Co Shift

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Things only adults notice in A Christmas Story


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Merry Christmas!!

Ralphie’s father, only ever referred to as The Old Man (Darren McGavin) is a typical representation of a Midwestern father figure in the early 20th century. He’s stern but not cruel, caring but not affectionate, and distant but not absent. He’s a man’s man, and he spends most of the film just trying to read his newspaper and enjoy a little bit of turkey while his sons get into trouble around him. If you look close enough, though, there are little hints of eccentricity in The Old Man’s life. He insists on being timed when he changes a tire, for example, and went through the trouble of burying his “major award” in the backyard and supposedly playing “Taps” in tribute to it as he did. He even takes some time in the department store to skip along with the Wizard of Oz characters. Ralphie doesn’t think much about it, but there’s more to his Old Man than newspapers and furnace battles. He has a rich inner life that we only see glimpses of.

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Matthew Jackson — Looper

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FINANCIAL MARKETS WERE NOT DESIGNED TO MANAGE THE PLANET


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Take the case of a farmer who is trying to decide on an investment strategy for the future of his farm: should he be planting new fruit trees, purchasing new equipment, increasing (or decreasing) his livestock, or investing in new buildings? Recall, now, that our hypothetical farmer gets his grain from wholesalers who themselves bought it at prices set on financial markets, and it becomes all too clear that excessive uncertainty surrounding the price of grain will leave him unable or unwilling to experiment with new strategies. The industrialist on whom Hayek based his own reasoning is likely to suffer from a similar paralysis.

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Nicolas Bouleau — Public Books

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Modern Slavery


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Slavery still exists.

India abolished its caste and bonded labor systems decades ago, but social stratification remains pervasive. Families remain enslaved for generations, working in dangerous conditions without the means to pay for their freedom. India’s bonded labor system disproportionately ensnares Dalits, the bottom class of the Hindu caste system, as well as tribal communities and religious minorities. The cycle often begins with a loan request made to a landlord or business owner for expenses incurred burying a family member, treating an illness, procuring employment, or staging a wedding. The loan provider can then strongarm laborers or threaten to take away their family’s shelter to extract more work than the value of the original loan. This can result in a family accruing debt over generations. Brick kilns, rice mills, farms, and embroidery factories are notorious hubs of debt-extorted labor.

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Council on Foreign Relations

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Johnson & Johnson Knew Their Baby Powder Contained Asbestos for Decades


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This is a sad one.

J&J’s effort to protect its iconic Baby Powder franchise by shaping research was led by physician and scientist executives. An early 1970s study of 1,992 Italian talc miners shows how it worked: J&J commissioned and paid for the study, told the researchers the results it wanted, and hired a ghostwriter to redraft the article that presented the findings in a journal.

The effort entailed other attempts to influence research, including a U.S. government study of the health of talc workers in Vermont. J&J’s Windsor Minerals Inc subsidiary, one of several mine operators involved in the study, developed a relationship with the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health researchers to “even influence the conclusions” through suggestions of “subjective interpretations,” according to a 1973 Windsor Minerals memo.

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Lisa Girion — Reuters

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Silent Inflation


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Inflation targeting by the Central Bank might have some unintended consequences.

But reducing uncertainty about prices by keeping the inflation target at 2% or more might actually increase a sense of uncertainty about real things like home values or investments. While it is right to worry about massive deflation, the historical relationship between deflation and recession is not all that strong. In a 2004 paper, the economists Andrew Atkeson and Patrick Kehoe concluded that most of the evidence of a relationship comes from just one case: the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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Robert J. Shiller — Project Syndicate

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Oh, To Follow the Road That Leads Away From Everything


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For the love of driving.

I listened to the Pacific and took a step forward. I was on Earth. I was so lucky to be here. So goddamn lucky I suddenly wanted to scream. Do you know how rare it is to have a planet covered in water? How precious it is to get out of the car, walk a few feet, and touch the ocean? It was the deep blue of my daughter’s eyes. This water is flowing through me, through her, through all of us here, together. Is this enlightenment? I thought to myself. I don’t know enough about Buddhism.

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Rebecca Boyle — The Last Word on Nothing

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