Rivers We Destroy: A Reading List

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

Rivers are forces of nature, but over time, humans have learned to harness their power and change their course — often for the worse. Here are four stories on how humans have changed local and regional river systems, and the disastrous and sometimes deadly consequences.

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Low oil prices are lasting a lot longer than petro-rulers thought they would

Originally posted on Quartz:

A nightmare scenario may be unfolding for Russia and some OPEC members: Low oil prices, rather than being a fast way to hobble upstart US shale oil, seem likely to linger for quite a while longer, perhaps well into next year and beyond.

If prices do stay in their current range of $45 to $55 per barrel—and a lot of analysts believe they will, if not fall even further—some of the world’s petro-rulers have tough decisions ahead to stave off serious political instability. In early Asia trading today, internationally traded Brent benchmark futures were as low as $53.01 a barrel.

As you see in the chart below, oil began its plummet some 13 months ago, when Brent futures peaked June 24, 2014, with a close at $112.60 a barrel. The slide picked up pace around the start of 2015 and reaching a new low Jan. 13,  closing at $47.82 a…

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A startup from Israel has accidentally created “WhatsApp for the deaf”

Originally posted on Quartz:

When Jonathan Caras and his co-founders created Glide in 2013, he expected it would appeal to families and friends that wanted to communicate via video, but didn’t want to bother with syncing schedules for Skype calls.

“I wanted to create a way to quickly send a short video,” Caras tells Quartz. “It seemed like me and the rest of the world were just not interested in getting on a call.”

Caras and his co-founders envisioned Glide to be like WhatsApp but for video messages, where users send short clips of themselves. But once Glide hit the app stores, and accumulated 10 million users worldwide, the team realized they had accidentally created something quite different—a hit among America’s hearing impaired.

The Jerusalem-based team first realized their app was popular among the deaf in August 2014, when it was about a year old. Their most-requested new feature was unusually mundane—subtitles for their marketing materials. After probing…

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Angry Romans are sharing pictures of New York trash on Facebook

Originally posted on Quartz:

Rome is rotting.

This should come as no news to Romans, who have dealt all sorts of decay and inefficiency for decades (link in Italian). The city has witnessed regional scandals—public money was allegedly spent by politicians to organize decadent toga parties (link in Italian)—and been hit by a huge mafia collusion scandal in 2014 that left few untouched. The consequences of the corrupt system, dubbed Mafia Capitale (capital mafia), has been a mismanagement of the city, including the handling of garbage disposal (link in Italian).

On July 22, the New York Times published a story illustrating the city’s woes, chiefly represented by the featured image: Two men and a child walk past piles of garbage in the central neighborhood of Trastevere.

The piece, and the international attention it generated, has intensified the debate about the conditions of the city. The Twitter handle @romafaschifo (Roma is disgusting) and of #romafaschifo reveal Romans’…

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Apple Music’s Strategy Is No-Paywall Premieres, Not Exclusives

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

The idea of Apple Music struck fear in the hearts of listeners like me. The company had enough money to buy exclusives that could fracture and balkanize the world’s music catalog. The problem with exclusives on services like Tidal or Spotify is that only the tiny percentage of people who pay for their subscriptions can hear these songs when they want. It could have been the same with Apple.

But it turns out that through Connect and Beats 1 Radio, Apple Music has built a strategy that attracts debuts from the biggest artists in the world and makes them available to everyone for free.

This in turn attracts users to Apple Music’s free trial. Plus it’s a lot more friendly to listeners.

Music blog Hits Magazine yesterday reported in its “Rumor Mill”  that sources at the major labels say Apple Music has hit 10 million sign-ups, though those are all still free…

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A Private Prison System for Immigrants

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

“You build a prison, and then you’ve got to find someone to put in them,” said Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, who has seen five of the 13 Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons built in his state. “So they widen the net and find additional undocumented folks to fill them up.”

Most of the roughly 23,000 immigrants held each night in CAR prisons have committed immigration infractions — crimes that a decade ago would have resulted in little more than a bus trip back home. And now, some of the very same officials who oversaw agencies that created and fueled the system have gone on to work for the private prison companies that benefited most.

The low-security facilities are often squalid, rife with abuse, and use solitary confinement excessively, according to advocates.

—from “Shadow Prisons” by Cristina Costantini and Jorge Rivas, published in February on Fusion. The criminalization…

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