‘We’re not a dump’ – poor Alabama towns struggle under the stench of toxic landfills


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“The odor was unbearable, as were the flies and stink bugs,” said Brasfield, who sports a greying handlebar moustache and describes himself as a conservative Republican. “The flies were so bad that you couldn’t walk outside without being inundated by them. You’d be covered in all sorts of insects. People started getting headaches, they couldn’t breathe. You wouldn’t even go outside to put meat on the barbecue.”

The landfill, called Big Sky Environmental, sits on the fringes of West Jefferson and is permitted to accept waste from 48 US states. It used a nearby rail spur to import sewage from New York and New Jersey. This epic fecal odyssey was completed by trucks which took on the waste and rumbled through West Jefferson – sometimes spilling dark liquid on sharp turns – to the landfill.

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Oliver Milman — The Guardian

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The rise of the pointless job


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It is like digging the trenches and filling them back. Maybe even worse.

The defining feature is this: one so completely pointless that even the person who has to perform it every day cannot convince themselves there’s a good reason for them to be doing it. They may not be able to admit this to their co-workers – often, there are very good reasons not to do so – but they are convinced the job is pointless nonetheless.

Bullshit jobs are not just jobs that are useless; typically, there has to be some degree of pretence and fraud involved as well. The employee must feel obliged to pretend that there is, in fact, a good reason their job exists, even if, privately, they find such claims ridiculous.

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David Graeber — The Guardian

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How do 11 people go to jail for one murder?


“How did a stabbing by one young man lead to 11 convictions? The answer is one of the most controversial principles in English law.”

But concerns about the dual injustice of joint enterprise – both in overcharging individuals for their roles in crimes, and in the racially disproportionate way the law is applied – have dogged joint enterprise for years, as reports by the House of Commons justice select committee noted in 2012 and 2014. Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, believes that these fears have been proven right once again in the case of Hafidah’s murder.

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Harry Stopes — The Guardian

What I learned when naked pictures of me were leaked online


The sad thing about these privacy breaches is that your pictures and other private information linger on the web forever.

It is hard to describe my feelings in the moment I found out that boys were showing my pictures around my old school. I felt exposed and – a feeling I’ll never forget – disgusted with myself. In the days that followed, I remember feeling so helpless that I could not function. My older sister had to take care of me, reminding me to eat and holding me when I randomly burst into panicked tears. It felt like a break-up, but instead of a broken heart, there was only shattered self-worth.

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Sophia Ankel — The Guardian

Why Silicon Valley billionaires are prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand


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Would the billionaires have the same exalted status without common people? Interesting to see what people do when they are right at the peak of the pyramid.

Because this is the role that New Zealand now plays in our unfurling cultural fever dream: an island haven amid a rising tide of apocalyptic unease. According to the country’s Department of Internal Affairs, in the two days following the 2016 election the number of Americans who visited its website to enquire about the process of gaining New Zealand citizenship increased by a factor of 14 compared to the same days in the previous month. In particular, New Zealand has come to be seen as a bolthole of choice for Silicon Valley’s tech elite.

In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election, the theme of American plutocrats preparing for the apocalypse was impossible to avoid. The week after the inauguration, the New Yorker ran another piece about the super-rich who were making preparations for a grand civilisational crackup; speaking of New Zealand as a “favored refuge in the event of a cataclysm”, billionaire LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, a former colleague of Thiel’s at PayPal, claimed that “saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is kind of a wink, wink, say no more”.

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Mark O’Connell – The Guardian

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The Age of Em review – the horrific future when robots rule the Earth


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A book review for today.

But there is plausibly a show-stopping problem here. If someone announces they will upload my consciousness into a robot and then destroy my existing body, I will take this as a threat of murder. The robot running an exact copy of my consciousness won’t actually be “me”. (Such issues are richly analysed in the philosophical literature stemming from Derek Parfit’s thought experiments about teleportation and the like in the 1980s.) So ems – the first of whom are, by definition, going to have minds identical to those of humans – may very well exhibit the same kind of reaction, in which case a lot of Hanson’s more thrillingly bizarre social developments will not happen. But then, the rather underwhelming upshot of this project is that fast-living and super-clever ems will probably crack the problem of proper AI – actual intelligent machines – within a year or so of ordinary human time. And then the age of em will be over and the Singularity will be upon us, and what comes next is anyone’s guess.

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Steven Poole — The Guardian

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The therapy of reading


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Reading can be therapeutic. Needull has always believed in finding good reads and sharing them with you. So, now you have one more reason to visit needull.

Sometimes it is not the content of the stories themselves but just knowing you have control by choosing to read or listen that provides the calming effect. All stories offer a safe, contained world with a beginning, middle and end. We have the power of when to start or stop and choose how long we stay in this story’s world.

Time spent listening to authors talk about their work and their own understanding of the power of literature also allows us, as readers, to reflect on stories that have shaped us.

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Germaine Leece — The Guardian

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Recommended by Abhishek