Startups are already moving data and employees out of Hong Kong over its new security law

Bloomberg Quint / Felix Tam

China’s sweeping national security law has forced technology firms to reconsider their presence in Hong Kong. The nimblest among them — the city’s startups — are already moving data and people out or are devising plans to do so.

Beijing’s polarizing law, which took effect this month, upended Hong Kong’s tech scene just as it seemed on a path to becoming a regional hub. Entrepreneurs now face a wave of concern from overseas clients and suppliers about the implications of running data and internet services under the law’s new regime of vastly expanded online policing powers. Many are making contingency plans and restructuring their operations away from Hong Kong.

Their actions may foreshadow similar decisions from internet giants like Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc., all of which confront the same set of uncertainties. The larger firms are taking time to fully assess the impact of the new law, while sentiment in the city itself is dour with about half of U.S. business people saying they plan to leave, according to a recent survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.

Tech Firms Begin to Abandon Hong Kong Over Security Law

“We are now in a dilemma. If we follow the law in Hong Kong, we may violate other countries’ regulations,” said Ben Cheng, co-founder of software company Oursky. “We worry that people will not trust us someday if we tell them we are a Hong Kong-based company.”

Twelve-year-old Oursky has already had trouble in the short period since the law came into force, with some foreign cloud service providers refusing to work with Hong Kong-based entities and reviewing the practice, Cheng said without elaborating. To circumnavigate these issues, his company will set up offices in the U.K. in about a year and then expand to Japan.

Tech companies that handle data are particularly vulnerable under the new law. Police can ask them to delete or restrict access to content deemed to endanger national security, with non-compliance punishable with a fine of HK$100,000 (around $13,000) and six months in prison for representatives of infringing publishers. Such provisions put technology companies under “tremendous risk and liability,” said Charles Mok, a Hong Kong lawmaker. “It’s a signal to these companies to be very careful. If you want to be safe and you don’t want the uncertainty, then maybe you have to leave Hong Kong.”

In recent years, the global financial center has grown into an attractive destination for fintech entrepreneurs, and its close proximity to Shenzhen and the so-called Greater Bay Area has helped foster research and development ties between startups and Chinese universities. Hong Kong had been expected to reach $1.7 billion in datacenter revenue by 2023, rivaling nearby Singapore whose server market brought in $1.4 billion last year, according to data from Structure Research. All that is now under threat.

More than half of Measurable AI’s clients are U.S.-based. The Hong Kong firm tracks business receipts and provides transactional data to hedge funds and corporations, many of whom have expressed concern about how data trade may be affected by the Beijing law as well as Washington’s retaliatory measure of rescinding Hong Kong’s special trade status. “Right now might be a good time for us to rethink how we can restructure or have the operations outside of Hong Kong,” co-founder Heatherm Huang said, adding that the company’s accelerating plans to migrate parts of its business development and sales to Singapore and New York.

“Doing a startup in Hong Kong is already difficult. It’s a super expensive city,” Scott Salandy-Defour, co-founder of energy-tech startup Liquidstar, told Bloomberg News. Even before the new law, the situation in the city was fraught with U.S.-China tensions over everything from trade to human rights. Investors have become very cautious about people and businesses with ties to China and the new law “is like the last nail in the coffin,” said the entrepreneur, who is now planning to relocate to Singapore.

One founder of an edtech venture, who like several executives interviewed asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said their company had transferred all its data to portable offline storage in case there was a need to leave Hong Kong in the future.

“This would be just a short-term phenomenon. I think after they understand the society is more stable, businesses will come back,” said Terence Chong, an associate professor of economics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Hong Kong is the gateway to China. If they want to have access to China’s market, it is the best place for them.” Supporters of the law see it as a necessary step to restore investor and business confidence by curbing months of sometimes-violent unrest that have rocked the former British colony.

For some, the allure of closer integration with China through the Greater Bay Area is too good a chance to pass up. “I think Hong Kong can still play the role it’s always played, bringing international and Chinese players in technology closer together,” said Tony Verb, co-founder of GreaterBay Ventures.“I don’t see reasons right now to run away.”

German scientists are hosting a pop concert for 4,000 people to study how the coronavirus spreads in large groups and how to combat it

Business Insider / James Pasley

German scientists are throwing a concert — using fog machines, fluorescent hand sanitizer, and contact tracer devices — to work out if it’s possible to hold large indoor events during the pandemic without spreading the coronavirus.

Scientists from the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) are calling for 4,000 people to head to an indoor stadium in Leipzig to see German pop singer Tim Bendzko on August 22, as part of a $1.1 million project called Restart-19.

The singer Tim Bendzko onstage at the tour kickoff of “Night of the Proms” in the Barclaycard Arena. Photo: Georg Wendt/dpa (Photo by Georg Wendt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

MLU head of clinical infectious diseases, Stefan Mortiz, who is coordinating the experiment, told The Guardian: “We are trying to find out if there could be a middle way between the old and the new normal that would allow organizers to fit enough people into a concert venue to not make a loss.”

On MLU’s website, it states banning crowds to lower the risk of the coronavirus spreading has become “an existential threat for many athletes and artists, who depend on their audience for income,” according to Deutsche Welle.

Large crowds at official events have been rare since the pandemic hit.

Earlier this month, New Zealand hosted a rugby match with 20,000 attendees, and last month President Donald Trump held a rally in Tulsa with about 6,200 attendees in June, but large events have mostly been canceled to avoid the coronavirus from spreading, The Guardian reported.

Willing participants for Restart-19 must be aged between 18 and 50 and test negative for the coronavirus 48 hours before the experiment.

The participants, all wearing masks, will experience three concerts — one without social distancing, one with a slower entry and more focused on hygiene, and a final version where participants will sit far enough away from each other to maintain social distancing.

Information will be provided to scientists in a number of ways, including participants transmitting data every 5 seconds about where they are in the stadium, using an electronic contact tracer.

They will use fluorescent hand sanitizer so that scientists with UV lights will be able to see what surfaces have been touched and “become particularly dangerous,” according to MLU’s website.

A fog machine will be pumping out fog to help visualize how the coronavirus could spread by aerosols.

According to MLU’s website, the risk of getting COVID-19 by attending the concert will be “very low,” but it does not guarantee that it’s completely risk-free.

As of July 21, 878 people had registered for the concert.

If all goes well, the scientists aim to present their findings based on the data in October.

With Tourists Gone, Bali Workers Return to Farms and Fishing

The New York TimesNyimas Laula and 

LALANGLINGGAH VILLAGE, Indonesia — Ni Nyoman Ayu Sutaryani, a mother of three, made a steady living for two decades working as a masseuse and yoga instructor at Bali’s luxury hotels and spas. Now at 37 she finds herself back on the farm of her childhood village here, standing precariously at the top of a tall bamboo ladder, picking cloves.

It is not the life that Ms. Ayu had imagined for herself. But on Bali, which depends heavily on tourism, she is one of thousands of workers who have been forced by the coronavirus pandemic to return to their villages and traditional ways of making a living.

“This is my first time being jobless, and sometimes I want to cry,” Ms. Ayu said. “Everything is returning to the old time. That’s what we have to do rather than starving.”

Like Ms. Ayu, many have returned to their family farms, helping to plant and harvest crops. Others feed their families by digging for clams in shallow Benoa Bay or by casting fishing lines out to sea from one of Bali’s deserted beaches.

In a sign of how far the economy of the Indonesian island has declined, some rural residents have turned to bartering fruit and vegetables so that they can save their limited cash to buy necessities.

Bali, with a population of 4.4 million and eight times the physical size of Singapore, is Indonesia’s tourism engine, boasting spectacular beaches, terraced rice fields, scenic temples and ideal weather. Largely Hindu in a predominantly Muslim nation, Bali carved out its own identity as a tourist destination decades ago and was once widely viewed from abroad as an independent country. Hoping to capitalize on the Bali name, the central government began a campaign last year to create 10 “new Bali” destinations.

A deserted street in Seminyak, Bali, in early July. The area is usually packed with tourists. / Nyimas Laula for The New York Times

More than half of Bali’s economy depends directly on tourism, and a quarter is engaged in tourism-related activities, such as transporting visitors and supplying food to hotels and restaurants. Last year, Bali attracted more than six million tourists from abroad and 10 million from Indonesia.

The number of hotels keeps growing; some international chains operate more than two dozen. President Trump has gotten in on the act, partnering with a politically connected billionaire to build a Trump-branded hotel and golf resort.

The economy has suffered through other disasters: the 2002 Bali bombing, the 2003 SARS epidemic and the 2017 eruption of the Mount Agung volcano. But the coronavirus outbreak has been the most devastating.

In March, Indonesia banned foreign visitors from the worst-hit countries and, weeks later, extended the ban to all foreign tourists. In May, the government banned domestic tourists from traveling to Bali, although officials and business travelers with a negative coronavirus test were allowed.

Nevertheless, Indonesia has surpassed China in the number of cases to become the country hit hardest in East Asia, with more than 88,000 cases and 4,200 deaths as of Monday. On Bali, the number of cases has doubled, to 2,781, and deaths have quadrupled, to 44, in a little more than three weeks.

The travel restrictions have slammed Bali’s tourism industry. During the first half of the year, the island received 1.1 million foreign tourists, almost all of them before the pandemic. That was a drop from nearly 2.9 million during the same period last year. Comparative figures for domestic tourists were not available.

An abandoned tourist hut in Bali, which has seen its tourist-driven economy dwindle. / Nyimas Laula for The New York Times

Impatient to revive the economy, Bali’s governor, I Wayan Koster, began gradually reopening the island this month, including restaurants and popular beaches. He hopes to bring back domestic tourists to Bali starting next week and attract foreign tourists beginning Sept. 11.

For a generation, young people have been drawn from villages in northern Bali to work in the tourist centers, mainly in southern Bali. Many attend tourism vocational schools before taking jobs in hotels, restaurants and tour agencies.

“Tourism has become the dominant work for most people,” said Ricky Putra, chairman of the Bali Hotels Association.

The pandemic has forced hotels and other tourist facilities to lay off some workers and cut the pay and hours of others. Larger hotels have kept skeleton staffs on duty, rotating workers in for a week or two at a time, while allowing them to make a little money and return to their villages.

“Mostly they are going back to their villages,” said Mr. Ricky, who is also general manager of the Santrian Resorts and Villas hotel group. “Some of them can use this very challenging time to help their parents and go back to their village farming or fishing.”

A fish market in Kuta. / Nyimas Laula for The New York Times

One local leader, Dewa Komang Yudi, said he welcomed the return of tourism workers to his community, Tembok Village, in far northern Bali. He said that about 400 unemployed workers — waiters, spa employees, drivers and cook’s helpers — had returned to the village of 7,000 and were growing food on land that had been fallow for lack of workers. He hopes many will stay permanently.

“Deurbanization suddenly occurred because of the pandemic,” he said. “There are more people now in north Bali than in south Bali because many of them returned to their villages. This is what we have been dreaming about.”

Mr. Yudi, 33, who himself attended a tourism academy and used to work as a hotel butler, said Bali should devote more resources to farming, a more sustainable enterprise. Instead, it has become overly reliant on tourism.

“People are depending on it like opium,” he said. “Tourism is fragile, and we have gone too far. We have been abandoning the fundamental things that mobilize the economy.”

Across the island, some communities give food aid to the unemployed, such as rice, instant noodles, cooking oil and sugar. But recipients say it is not enough to live on. Many also have debts, like installment payments for motorbikes, a common mode of transportation on the island.

Produce including bananas, cloves, coconuts and papayas on the back of a truck in Mundeh. / Nyimas Laula for The New York Times

At Benoa Bay, on the southern end of the island, low tide attracts dozens of people from villages nearby to dig for clams, using rakes made of scrap wood, nails or even their bare hands and feet. On a good day, one can collect more than a pound of clams.

Some also hunt for small crabs using a wooden stick with two iron hooks that are bent like fingers. If their families are lucky enough to have traditional boats, known as a jukung, they go out to sea and catch shrimp.

Kadek Merta, 34, who was digging for clams recently, said he had been a hotel steward but had not worked since March. “I feel hollow,” he said. “There is no job. I can only survive by depending on the sea.”

Agung Yoga, 39, a junior chef, said he used to fish as a hobby along Bali’s southern beaches, sometimes wading out into the surf. But now, unemployed for the first time, he is fishing as a matter of survival for himself and his family.

“If this situation continues until next year, I am hopeless,” he said. “Maybe we won’t be able to eat.”

Ms. Ayu — whose sister, brother, uncles, nephews and cousins all work in tourism — preferred working as a masseuse, because she earned a decent income and it was easier. Harvesting cloves in Lalanglinggah Village from the tops of trees that grow more than 60 feet tall can be hazardous. But living in the village, on the southwestern coast of Bali, a few miles from the sea, has its advantages, too.

Ni Nyoman Ayu Sutaryani harvesting cloves in Lalanglinggah Village last month. / Nyimas Laula for The New York Times

From the top of a homemade ladder, Ms. Ayu could see the beach and the forest, and feel a gentle breeze flowing in from the Bali Strait. “I feel serene,” she said during a break in picking. “In the city, it is crowded. Having this activity calms my mind.”

More important, the return to traditional village life has reunited relatives who usually see one another only on important holidays.

“I earn more working in tourism,” Ms. Ayu said. “But on the positive side, God has given us this situation so we can be with our families.”

Hong Kong Autonomy Act: US tariffs, sanctions, export bans ‘all on the table’ after Donald Trump signs law

DW / Elliot Douglas

US President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act at the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Bloomberg

After US President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and an executive order that will remove the city’s preferential trade status, legal experts have warned that “all is on the table” with regard to possible punitive actions against Hong Kong.

The act contains a clear path to sanctioning individuals and the financial  institutions where they bank, though extended review periods mean these  may not come into force until December 2021, at the latest.

It comes after the United States already revoked Hong Kong’s preferential access to export controls exemption licenses, cutting the city off from sensitive technology shipments from the US in response to China’s controversial national security law for the city.

“The Hong Kong Autonomy Act is a big blow to Hong Kong and China, and is the latest example of the free-fall style of US-China relations,” said Shi Yinhong, an adviser to China’s State Council and professor at Renmin University. “Now China is in a difficult position – its domestic economy needs to be improved and the international situation is hostile towards China.”

Trump’s executive order does not mention tariffs nor Hong Kong’s ongoing access to the US dollars payments system, but by stripping the city of its special trading status, it has opened the door to duties on the small volume of goods shipped to America, experts said.

“My view, and this has played out with the [US Department of] Commerce’s export controls announcement a couple of weeks ago, is that the State  Department declining to certify Hong Kong’s continued justification for its  special status is all that’s required [to move forward with tariffs],” said William  Marshall, trade partner at law firm Tiang & Partners in Hong Kong.

A Congressional Research Service report published in June said that “absent this separate treatment, Hong Kong may be subject to the same tariffs and other trade determinations that apply to China”.

“However, there may be questions about whether all such treatment can be extended immediately if the president revokes Hong Kong’s special status. Some of the uncertainty arises from whether the United States still intends to acknowledge Hong Kong as a member of the [World Trade Organisation] separate from China,” the report read.

Hong Kong is a World Trade Organisation (WTO) member in its own right, and both local and officials in mainland China have said US actions could violate international trading rules.

“If the United States ignores the basic principles of international relations and takes one-sided measures based on its internal law, then the country will violate the rules of the WTO and go against its own interests,” said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Gao Feng at a press conference in June, sentiment that has been repeated by Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po.

But the Trump administration’s previous disregard for WTO protocols in levying hundreds of billions of dollars worth of unilateral trade tariffs on China – also a member of the international trade body – since July 2018, led analysts to suggest the argument is “a red herring”.

Trump told a press conference at the White House on Tuesday that “Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China, no special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies”, before adding that “as you know, we’re placing massive tariffs and have placed very large tariffs on China”.

Should the US decide to not recognise Hong Kong’s status at the WTO, it would require backing from a two-thirds majority of the organisation member states, meaning it could be blocked by China and other members politically aligned with Beijing.

“Since Hong Kong’s trade status has been withdrawn under US law, the US should ‘logically’ align the way it treats Hong Kong with China. All – or some – tariffs that the US imposed on Chinese exports over the past two years will be extended to Hong Kong. That will probably be done gradually to ensure political impact while economic and business consequences are marginal,” said Julien Chaisse, a professor in trade law at City University of Hong Kong.

There is historical precedent for the US suing for suspension of its obligations towards another member of the global trading system. In 1951, both the former Czechoslovakia and the US sued to suspend their mutual obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) – a precursor to the WTO – after a trade dispute, a move which was backed by GATT members.

“If the US decides they now do not recognise Hong Kong’s membership, it would be for Hong Kong to file a claim [at the WTO],” said Bryan Mercurio, a trade professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who added that there would be few “practical implications for customs and Hong Kong industry, with the exception of the exportation of sensitive products from the US”, given the low level of direct trade with the US.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs vowed in a statement on Wednesday morning to retaliate in kind.

“To protect its legitimate interests, China will take necessary action to impose sanctions against related US institutions and individuals,” read the statement.

China has already announced details of its promised retaliation against the US for its sanctions over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, with US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback, US Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, US Representative Chris Smith as well as the Congressional-Executive Commission on China all set to be sanctioned.

The announcement came after the US government last week placed sanctions on several Chinese senior officials in charge of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

“I think Beijing has made some kind of preparation when they drafted the national security law to mitigate the possible impact, though I am not sure to what extent they can deal with the latest US moves,” said Liu Weidong, a Sino-US affairs specialist from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Liu added that the trend of US-China decoupling is “certain” and that both sides will end up getting hurt, with political wisdom now more urgent than ever to diffuse the tension.

“This makes me deeply worried. Like many Chinese scholars have said, China is now facing an extremely difficult situation. Let’s wait and see how the Chinese government will respond and react,” he said.


World needs seven planets to eat like a G20 nation, food report finds

DW / Elliot Douglas

Among all the globe’s 20 most industrialized nations, only India and Indonesia maintain a diet low enough in carbon emissions to meet the Paris climate target, according to a report published Thursday. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Germany and the United States were among the countries that grossly exceeded sustainable levels of food-related carbon emissions, largely due to their high consumption of red meat and dairy products.

“This report clearly shows that food consumption in G20 countries is unsustainable and would require up to 7.4 Earths if adopted globally,” said Joao Campari of the World Wildlife Fund.

Rich countries are consuming more red meat and dairy than is laid out in their countries’ nutritional guidelines and much more than experts say is sustainable for the planet.

The Diets for a Better Future report, published by Norway-based non-profit organization EAT, focused on the national dietary guidelines and consumption rates of Group of 20 (G20) countries. The group is made up of 19 of the world’s most powerful and largest countries plus the European Union.

“This report shows the food system has a long way to go in delivering diets that achieve health and wellbeing within planetary boundaries. Yet the good news is that there is a lot of governments, businesses and citizens can do now to make this happen, building on existing action to bring win-wins to all,” said Professor Corinna Hawkes, director of the University of London’s Centre for Food Policy.

Sustainable food production could prevent pandemics

The Paris climate agreement aims to reduce increases in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The “food-print” emissions produced by G20 countries, which account for around 64% of the world’s population, currently create 75% of the total global food-related emissions.

The problem of wasted food is particularly important among the world’s wealthiest nations, said the report’s lead author, Brent Loken, who added that rich countries currently waste too much food.

“The current pandemic has shown just how broken our food system is,” he added.

“The food that we eat and how we produce it are also key drivers in the emergence of deadly viruses such as COVID-19. A shift toward healthy and sustainable diets would reduce the risk of future pandemics,” Loken said.

“The pandemic is a manifestation of our broken relationship with nature and how we produce and consume food is at the heart of this,” Campari added.

Red meat and dairy to blame

About 40% of carbon emissions from global food production come from livestock farming and food waste, with the rest generated mainly by rice production, fertilizer use, land conversion and deforestation to accommodate commercial crops.

As such, red meat and dairy products are some of the least sustainable and most over-consumed foods in G20 countries.

The report also identified that many countries even have national dietary guidelines of red meat and dairy that exceed Planetary Health Diet guidelines. Germany, for example, recommends 50 grams of red meat a day; actual average consumption is almost 110 grams. Global guidelines recommend a maximum of 28 grams.

Argentina and the United States are among the least sustainable food consumers in the G20.

Meanwhile, almost all countries fall short on food consumption of nuts and legumes.

“National dietary guidelines are a lever countries can use to drive the urgently needed transformation to healthier, sustainable diets and, ultimately, a more resilient food system,” Loken said.

The guidelines in most G20 countries also determine food production and regulation, making them vital to curbing emissions.

Opinion: The Floyd Protests Show That Twitter Is Real Life

New York Times /

Protesters recorded a man singing during a march in Washington on June 3. Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In February, I declared, somewhat winkingly, that Twitter is real life. My argument was not that what happens on that social media website is broadly representative of popular opinion but that what happens on Twitter is a good barometer of enthusiasm around movement-building and fandoms. And that elites tend to undervalue or dismiss what happens on the platform, suggesting that those loud voices making them uncomfortable aren’t accurate indicators of lived experiences.

Since, I’ve received a steady stream of gloating emails about how wrong I was. After all, I cited Senator Bernie Sanders’s online movement for the Democratic presidential nomination, powered in large part by Twitter, as a primary example of this insurgent force and referred to the candidate as “arguably now the Democratic front-runner.” Not two weeks later, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar dropped out of the race and endorsed Joe Biden, effectively cementing him as the Democratic Party’s nominee. If Twitter was actually real life, surely it would be Mr. Sanders doing virtual town halls from his basement campaign headquarters, not Mr. Biden.

The power of online movements has been at the front of my mind the past two weeks as Americans have gathered by the tens of thousands to protest police and state violence against black people. Millions, too, have followed along on their screens, amplifying protest messages, sharing donation links and expressing solidarity. Online platforms, especially Twitter, “have become like security camera grids, each with images of a dystopia,” my Times colleague Jenna Wortham wrote last week of the images of police violence against peaceful protesters.

Those images appear, at last, to be having a sweeping effect on our public consciousness of racial inequality and injustice, especially in regard to police violence. “The most urgent filmmaking anybody’s doing in this country right now is by black people with camera phones,” Wesley Morris, a Times critic at large, wrote last week.

For black activists and their allies, the only thing new about this experience is its widespread public recognition. This movement’s rallying cry — Black Lives Matter — was coined as a hashtag in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder, and scholars have been studying the internet’s central role in amplifying protest movements and racial inequality since before that.

“Social media participation becomes a key site from which to contest mainstream media silences and the long history of state-sanctioned violence against racialized populations,” Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa wrote in 2015 in a hashtag ethnography of the Ferguson protests.

They cite early hashtag movements like #HandsUpDontShoot and #IfTheyGunnedMeDown as “entry points into larger and more complex worlds” that helped illustrate that “‘#Ferguson is everywhere’ — not only in the sense of a broad public sphere but also in the sense of the underlying social and political relationships that haunt the nation as a whole.”

But as the activism dominated social media, it did not necessarily have large-scale public support. A 2017 Harvard-Harris poll suggested 57 percent of registered voters had an unfavorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement. And yet, these conversations didn’t disappear off the internet when they left front pages. They were there all along, in plain view for those who sought them out. They continued, despite portrayals to discredit the movement as a violent fringe and specious claims that “systemic racism is a myth” perpetuated by the media and so-called social justice warriors.

But what begins online and is castigated as an unrepresentative view gradually builds consensus, in this case, tracking to our current moment. When, at last, it reaches critical mass it is treated as conventional wisdom by those who once dismissed it. According to a new Times analysis, “in the last two weeks, American voters’ support for the Black Lives Matter movement increased almost as much as it had in the preceding two years.” As my Opinion colleague Aisha Harris wrote on Tuesday, “all of a sudden, everybody seems to care about black lives.”

The undergirding movement and struggle has been there the whole time. It was an articulation of a better future, even when it fell on unlistening ears. It was real life.

There’s a similar argument to be made for the insurgent-left politics of Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Throughout the primaries, centrist Democrats argued that the senator’s ideas were overindexed on places like Twitter but considered on the fringe and unpalatable to most Americans. But since Senator Sanders dropped out of the race in April, his policies have resonated beyond his base. Now staring down a pandemic, mass unemployment and a potential depression, centrists have mused publicly about a health care system like Medicare for All that doesn’t tie insurance to employers.

Similarly, the Sanders campaign’s racial justice reforms and intersectional economic programs now appear more acceptable to a political establishment that dismissed the proposals as unrealistic and radical. Twitter’s left-leaning politics weren’t (slightly) ahead of the times — they were merely disregarded as implausible or not representative. Or as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor at The New Yorker declared just before he left the race, “Reality Has Endorsed Bernie Sanders.”

They didn’t randomly *sound* extreme to voters who knew long before COVID that the country was in crisis.

His ideas were *sold* as extreme by the pundit class & corporate Dems— something they should take responsibility for now.

— Briahna Joy Gray (@briebriejoy) June 8, 2020

This cycle is beginning to play out again during the George Floyd protests, where protesters have adopted a new rallying cry: Defund the Police. The demand has been met with scorn by the president and conservatives, and anxiety by centrist and establishment Democrats. The Biden campaign has rejected it as a bridge too far. Journalists and news outlets have qualified it — suggesting it’s merely an aggressive statement of support for reprioritizing police funding.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser says that when people say they want to defund the police, she believes most mean they want reform and good policing.

— CNN (@CNN) June 9, 2020

Of course, for tens of thousands marching in the streets waving #DefundThePolice signs, the phrase is not a dog whistle; it’s a bullhorn. It is, like Medicare for All, a call for a complete reimagining of what they see as a corrupt, broken system. The argument is, quite literally, to defund the police and build a healthier public safety system from scratch while investing that money in other adjacent community-support resources.

The slogan — just like Black Lives Matter — is blunt. Its intentions are clear: Imagine a world without the police state. But do a Twitter search for the words “defund the police Twitter real life” and you’ll see the dismissal in real time, suggesting that an overhaul of militarized policing is a fantasy held by a small number of extremely online leftists.

on the whole, the media will prefer “experts” and “organizers” who say “when we say abolish or defund we don’t ACTUALLY mean that haha calm down” because it a) gradual reform reflects the politics of most media ppl and b) they don’t actually believe change is possible.

— kang👎 (@jaycaspiankang) June 8, 2020

An argument about Twitter — or any part of the internet — as “real life” is frequently an argument about what voices “matter” in our national conversation. Not just which arguments are in the bounds of acceptable public discourse, but also which ideas are considered as legitimate for mass adoption. It is a conversation about the politics of the possible. That conversation has many gatekeepers — politicians, the press, institutions of all kinds. And frequently they lack creativity.

“Many times our politics and our political imagination is limited by our politicians. … I think people who could do more to try to imagine a different political world often times are obsessed with the filibuster,” the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates said last week on a podcast about reimagining the police state. “I’m not saying the filibuster isn’t important. … But I’m saying that there’s one group of people who have to be concerned about that but there’s another group of people who also should think long term. What do we want? What are the guiding lights?”

Right now, in the midst of a series of cascading, intersecting crises (racial and economic inequality, climate change, mass unemployment, a pandemic), what’s possible feels like more of an open question than in recent memory. But that possibility, while life-affirming for many, is deeply threatening to some: the rich, and the white and powerful, to name a few. And those who feel threatened will try to demean the ideas. They’ll be met with eye rolls as the out-of-step activism of the hyperpolitical Twitter fringes or the ramblings of the woke, coddled campus kids. Implicit here is that Twitter and the campus are siloed spaces away from reality.

Which is what makes the events of the past two weeks of mass protests so powerful. The marching in the streets, the waving of signs and defiant chanting as well as the choking tear gas and the grotesque shows of police force — they are positively, indisputably, physically real. And it is further proof that the online spaces that helped to galvanize these movements have always been rooted in reality. It’s just one that many refused to open their eyes to.

How to Trick Your Brain to Remember Almost Anything

an mri scan of normal brain

MANY PEOPLE COMPLAIN about having a terrible memory. Shopping lists, friends’ birthdays, statistics for an exam—they just don’t seem to stick in the brain. But memory isn’t as set in stone as you might imagine. With the right technique, you may well be able to remember almost anything at all.

Nelson Dellis is a four-time USA Memory Champion and Grandmaster of Memory. Some of his feats of recollection include memorizing 10,000 digits of pi, the order of more than nine shuffled decks of cards, and lists of hundreds of names after only hearing them once.

But with a little dedication, Dellis says, anyone can improve their memory. Here are five steps to follow that will get you filling your head with information.

1. Start With Strong Images

Let’s start with a fairly simple memorization task: the seven wonders of the world. To memorize these, Dellis recommends starting by turning each one of those items into an easily-remembered image. Some will be more obvious. For the Great Wall of China, for example, you might just want to imagine a wall. For Petra, you might instead go for an image of your own pet.

“Using juicy mental images like these is extremely effective. What you want to do is create big, multisensory memories,” explains Julia Shaw, a psychological scientist at University College London and the author of The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory. You want to aim for mental images that you can almost feel, smell, and see, to make them as real as possible.

There’s science behind all of this. “Images that are weird, and maybe gross or emotional are sticky,” says Shaw. “When looking at the brain, researchers found that the amygdala—a part of the brain that is important for processing emotion—encourages other parts of the brain to store memories.” That’s why strong emotions make it more likely that memories will stick.

2. Put Those Images in a Location

The next step is to locate those strong mental images in a setting you’re very familiar with. In Dellis’ example, he places each one of the seven wonders on a route through his house, starting with a wall in his entryway, then Christ—representing Christ the Redeemer— lounging around on his sofa. “The weirder the better,” Dellis says. In the kitchen, you might imagine a llama cooking up a meal.

This technique of linking images with places is called the memory palace, and it’s particularly useful for remembering the order of certain elements, says Shaw. “A memory palace capitalizes on your existing memory of a real place. It is a place that you know—usually your home or another location that you know really well.”

If it’s a list with just seven items, that space can be relatively small. But when it came to memorizing 10,000 digits of pi, Dellis had to widen out his memory palace to the entirety of his hometown, Miami. He divided the 10,000 digits into 2,000 chunks of five digits each, and placed them all across 10 different neighborhoods.

“Neuroimaging research has shown that people show increased activity in the [occipito-parietal area] of the brain when learning memories using a memory palace,” says Shaw. “This means that the technique helps to bring in more parts of the brain that are usually dedicated to other senses—the parietal lobe is responsible for navigation, and the occipital lobe is related to seeing images.”

3. Pay Attention

Remembering seven weird images for the wonders of the world shouldn’t be too hard, but when you’re memorizing 10,000 digits of pi, you might need a little more motivation. “I would tell myself this mantra: ‘I want to memorize this, I want to memorize this,’” Dellis says. “It’s a simple mantra, but it would align my attention and focus on the task at hand and help me remember it better.”

4. Break Things Up

With very large numbers like pi or a long sequence of cards, it also helps to break things up. Dellis turned each five digit chunk of pi into an image that he could easily remember. “Words are easy; you see a word and it typically evokes some kind of imagery in your mind. But things like numbers or cards or even names are a little trickier,” he says. “And those have systems that we’ve developed and learned so that whenever we see a name or a number or a card, we already have an image preset for it.


TikTok teens target Trump campaign in ‘revenge’ for threat to ban Chinese app

US President Donald Trump said his administration is considering banning TikTok as one way to retaliate against China over its handling of the coronavirus. Photo: Bloomberg

The TikTok-tivists are at it again.

Thousands of users of the popular video app flocked to the Apple App Store in the last few days to flood US President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign app with negative reviews. On Wednesday alone 700 negative reviews were left on the Official Trump 2020 app and 26 positive ones, according to tracking firm Sensor Tower.

TikTok fans are retaliating for Trump’s threats of banning the app, which is owned by China’s Bytedance and is hugely popular in the US, especially among teens. The thought of taking away a key social and entertainment hub in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to outrage.

“For Gen Z and millennials, TikTok is our clubhouse and Trump threatened it,” said Yori Blacc, a 19-year-old TikTok user in California who joined in the app protest. “If you’re going to mess with us, we will mess with you.”

Blacc said the movement gained steam on Wednesday when a popular TikTok user, DeJuan Booker, called on his 750,000 followers to seek revenge. He posted a step-by-step primer on how to degrade the app’s rating, notching 5.6 million views. “Gen Z don’t go down without a fight,” said Booker, who goes by @unusualbeing on TikTok. “Let’s go to war.”

The efforts to push the app low enough so that Apple will remove it from the app store may be misguided. Apple does not delete apps based on their popularity. The App Store may review those that violate its guidelines or are outdated, but not if their ratings sink.

A similar tactic was tried in April to protest Google Classroom by kids frustrated with quarantine home-schooling.

TikTok users, K-pop fans credited with helping to sabotage Trump rally

Last month, many young people organised through TikTok to sign up to attend Trump’s first post-shutdown campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but then did not show up. The Trump campaign denied the online organising effort contributed to lower-than-expected attendance.

The Trump campaign and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. TikTok was experiencing connectivity issues on Thursday, according to Downdector, which measures web traffic.

Trump’s re-election smartphone app is a big part of the president’s unrivalled digital operation and was meant to circumvent tech companies like Facebook and Twitter and give the campaign a direct line to supporters.

The app has helped the campaign engage Trump’s diehard supporters, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, by feeding them his latest tweets and promoting virtual events. Supporters can donate to the president’s campaign or earn rewards for recruiting friends like VIP seats to rallies or photos with the president.

The Official Trump 2020 app has been downloaded more than 500,000 times on Google’s Android store as of June 15. Apple does not publish information on downloads.

Reviews with titles such as “Terrible App” or “Do Not Download!” have been flooding the App Store since late June. Official Trump 2020 now has more than 103,000 one-star reviews for an overall rating of 1.2.

But the uptick of activity has also caused the app to rise in rankings. Users have to download the app to review it, vaulting it to second place on the Apple store from No 486 on Tuesday, according to Sensor Tower.

“Do I think that this is going to fundamentally change the election? No,” said Tim Lim, a veteran Democratic digital strategist. “But it goes to show that they are just as susceptible to these mass actions as anyone else. Trump is starting to see what it feels like to have a massive online army committed to defeating him.”

Trump earlier this week said his administration is considering banning TikTok as one way to retaliate against China over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s comments came after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told Americans not to download the app unless they want to see their private information fall into “the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”.

Bytedance is also facing a US national security review for its acquisition of start-up It has denied allegations that it poses a threat to US national security.

Trump did not offer specifics about a potential decision and Pompeo seemed to walk back the idea of a ban in a later statement, saying that the US efforts to protect American consumers’ data do not relate to any one particular company.

Many TikTok users say they care less about potential Chinese snooping and more about Trump taking away their digital hang-out. In the US, TikTok has been downloaded more than 165 million times, according to Sensor Tower.

“I don’t believe Trump is trying to take TikTok away because of national security, but more to retaliate against activism on the app and all the videos about him that drag him through the mud,” said Darius Jackson, an 18-year-old TikTok user in Champagne, Illinois, who asked his followers Wednesday to give Trump’s app a one-star rating.

“This is the first year I’ll be able to vote and I think activism on TikTok is going to make a big difference,” Jackson said.

 Source:South China Morning Post

Men’s Makeup Goes Mainstream With CVS Rollout

Men’s makeup is going mainstream in America.

CVS, the country’s largest drugstore chain, is making the biggest bet on the category in the U.S. yet, by adding a cosmetics line from Stryx, a brand launched last year, to 2,000 stores (about a quarter of its total). The retailer is giving more legitimacy to a small, but growing, group of products that had mainly been sold through high-end stores.

With this move, CVS likely has potential customers such as Max Belovol in mind. The 23-year-old grew up wearing dazzling eyeshadows and foundation for figure-skating competitions, but didn’t become truly comfortable with wearing makeup during work until the coronavirus lockdown.

“It’s a Zoom effect,” said Belovol, a law student based in Atlanta, who prefers concealer and its subtle look. “People don’t have to worry about how they look at work. You can paint your nails, and nobody on the Zoom call is going to know.”

Belovol is part of a growing shift—about one third of U.S. men under 45 said they would consider trying makeup, according to a survey by Morning Consult in September. Chalk it up to quarantine boldness, like Belovol, and the continued evolution of traditional masculinity that has already created a $9.3 billion U.S. men’s grooming and skincare market.

“It’s simple for cosmetics—men are a growth industry,” said Ben Parr, co-founder of marketing firm Octane AI, who points to the millennial generation’s embrace of men wearing makeup as a major catalyst. “You’re seeing that impact starting now.”

Getting into a nationwide chain marks a quick ascent for Manhattan-based Stryx. Just three years ago, 25-year-old Devir Kahan woke up on his wedding day with a pimple and couldn’t find a quick fix. The episode convinced him that he’d discovered an underserved market—guys looking for a product to make their skin look better, especially during a breakout.

Kahan co-founded Stryx in 2017 and has raised about $1 million from investors, including venture firm XRC Labs. Now its concealer tool ($19.99) and a new gel cleanser ($11.99) will be in CVS locations alongside shaving cream and razors. It’s the “ultimate validation,” said Kahan, also chief executive officer of Stryx, and will help normalize a stigmatized practice that’s flown under the radar for years.

“It’s not about a full face of makeup or color,” Kahan said. “We’re talking about improving blemishes, fixing up under-eye bags, a zit—all these sorts of things.”

For decades, men’s grooming in the U.S. equated to having a tight shave free of cuts and razor bumps, a practice that revolved around just two products: shaving cream and after-shave from giant brands, like Gillette and Old Spice. That Mad Men-era mentality began fading at the turn of the century when more men embraced fashion and skincare. The term metrosexual went mainstream.

In response, brands introduced a broader array of products, spanning wrinkle creams, moisturizers and hair serum. The market has grown about 13% over the past five years. However, revenue is projected to decline by 1% in 2020 due to softer razor sales as beards remain popular, according to Euromonitor International.

In the U.S., where male ruggedness is part of the country’s DNA, online search data shows a surging interest around men’s cosmetics. Queries for “male makeup looks” jumping almost 80% in April compared to about about a year ago, according to data from market analytics firm Moz. Other top requests include “covering redness,” “hiding acne” and “hiding bags under eyes.” America appears to be catching up to other countries, like Japan, where there are fewer taboos around men wearing makeup.

Makeup is a “natural extension” of men enhancing their beauty regimens over the past two decades, according to Parr, the marketing executive. It’s also bound to gain popularity, as society continues moving away from gender norms, he said.

“Men’s grooming has seen incredible growth during this stay-at-home period,” CVS said in a statement. Adding Stryx is part of a strategy to go after that market by bringing in more emerging brands that focus on guys. “Men are a top customer focus at CVS Beauty.”

Even though Stryx is pitching a product traditionally made for women, its presentation is stereotypical male. The packaging is black, grey and dark blue. The concealer tool is pitched as sleek and discreet and could be easily be mistaken for a black pen, clip included. A photo on Stryx’s website rests the makeup on a wooden desk, next to a leather-bound notebook and rocks glass half-filled with booze. A slogan reads: “Handsome made easy.”

“We didn’t just take a women’s product and slap a ‘For Men’ label on it,” Stryx says on its website. “Our products are meticulously formulated for male skin.”

Formen, a men’s cosmetics company founded in 2010, uses an antlered deer head—like you’d find stuffed on a wall—as its logo. A fluid foundation comes in a black vile shaped like a skull. The brand, found mostly in Canada, also promises discreteness, and touts the sturdiness of its concealer’s heavy weight aluminum container.

Axel Getz, a 24-year-old environmental consultant, became a makeup convert last year after a beauty-store clerk convinced him to try a tinted moisturizer from a women’s line. His skin turned “angelic,” the New York resident said, and a day later friends complimented his appearance without a single mention of the makeup.

“A lot of guys just never give themselves the chance, and that goes for men of all sexualities,” said Getz, who had that same hesitancy until he tried that tinted moisturizer.

“From that point on, I was like: ‘Oh damn, I’m sold on this.’”




J.K. Rowling Writes New Response To Fans Doubling-Down On Anti-Trans Views

J.K. Rowling is under fire again after she doubles down on her anti-transgender views. Rowling is most known for her Harry Potter series, which of course was turned into the popular film series starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson. While her Harry Potter characters are beloved by fans around the world, Rowling has received a lot of hate these past few years due to changing Harry Potter canon and for her views on the LGBTQA+ community.

Rowling has been called out for being a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) and for her Anti-Trans comments in the past, but the most recent drama started at the beginning of June. After sharing the article “Opinion: Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate”, Rowling commented, “People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”. Despite receiving backlash on the internet, Rowling defended her tweet by reiterating that she supports the trans community but has also been contacted by women she said are, “justifiably terrified by the trans activists.” Now Rowling is in hot water again for similar reasons.

In her latest response on Twitter, Rowling clarified why she liked a tweet comparing hormone prescriptions to anti-depressants. One Twitter user called out Rowling for supporting the claim that anti-depressants and hormone prescriptions were, “Pure laziness for those who would rather medicate than put in the time and effort to heal people’s minds.” Rowling reiterated her support of trans-women while also explaining again that she has taken medication for her mental health. Her long Twitter thread,explains why she believes hormones and surgery may not be the best option for people struggling with mental health. 

Throughout her thread, Rowling sites a handful of articles and studies to claim that using hormones for gender transition can lead to serious side-effects, which she believes many trans-activists ignore. Rowling also explains in her thread that she believes hormone therapy is “a new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people,” reiterating her stance that hormones can cause problems with “fertility and/or full sexual function.” This most recent development, along with her previous comments saying, “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction” has caused many Harry Potter fans to turn against the once-beloved writer. 

Many Harry Potter stars have apologized and condemned Rowling’s comments, with Radcliffe, Watson, Grint, and Fantastic Beasts star Eddie Redmayne all standing with the trans community. The more Rowling speaks out on this subject, the more it seems to tarnish her reputation as more fans and organizations turn against her. Warner Bros. has issued a statement in the past on Rowling’s views, but with her most recent comments, the fate of Fantastic Beasts 3 is unclear, especially since Redmayne has condemned her beliefs and because the first two films have already received their fair share of controversy.

Source:Screen Rant