Please, Can We Stop With the Vape Panic?

We’re in the midst of an all-out panic over vaping, spurred by real concerns after hundreds of people have fallen ill after vaping and several people have died. While the exact causes are unknown, it’s become fairly clear that the main culprit, if not the only one, is the addition of Vitamin E oil to black market vaping liquids and cartridges, especially those that contain THC. But we’re reaching the point in our collective panic where reasonable and valid worries over people’s health are tipping over into the embrace of draconian measures that do nothing to address the real issue. As a vaper who loves her Juul, I beg of all of us—can we not???

Last week, Walmart announced it would stop selling e-cigarettes (yet will continue to sell cigarettes, not to mention rifles and shotguns). The retailer joined Rite Aid, Dollar General, and Costco in taking vaping products off their shelves. Local governments have also followed suit. In June, the city of San Francisco banned the sale of all e-cigarettes. Earlier this month, Michigan became the first state to take action, when Governor Gretchen Whitmer temporarily banned the sale of all flavored vapes, with the exception of tobacco, for six months. Michigan was joined quickly by New York, whose Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order prohibiting the sale of all e-cigarettes with the exception of tobacco- and menthol-flavored vapes for 90 days. And on Tuesday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced the state is banning the sale of all vaping products for four months, the strictest ban so far announced; on the same day, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a recommendation that people stop vaping immediately. Most ominously of all, the Trump administration wants to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, citing a rise in teenage vaping as the main driver of the potential ban.

All of this is, to put it mildly, a wild overreaction and one that does little to address the actual reason people have been falling sick—black market THC products bought off of the street that have recently been contaminated. I have been Juuling for years, ever since a friend of mine bought me a starter pack in an effort to help me quit smoking. People have been vaping for even longer. Common sense would dictate that if vaping were so dangerous that we all need to stop vaping immediately, that people would have fallen sick before this summer. Banning legal products that have helped me and my fellow vapers quit cigarettes or cut down on our smoking will likely lead to two outcomes—more people picking up smoking again and more people turning to black market options to vape, which are the exact outcomes that everyone (except, I would think, tobacco companies) do not want.

Fucking idiots!

Source: Please, Can We Stop With the Vape Panic?

Opinion | Don’t Blame Silicon Valley for Theranos – The New York Times

THREE years ago, Walgreens (b. 1901) arrived in Silicon Valley for the same reason many old economy companies do: to hurry and join the digital vanguard before it was left behind. Walgreens quickly made a deal with Theranos (b. 2004), the medical diagnostics company and media darling that promised a revolutionary approach to blood tests.

That hopeful beginning seems so long ago. Last fall, a series of investigative articles in The Wall Street Journal cast suspicion on Theranos’s methods, a devastating federal report found serious deficiencies in the company’s quality control, and Theranos is now under investigation by federal prosecutors and by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It is tempting to see Theranos as another example of Silicon Valley hype — a company based on a wisp of an unproven idea becomes a multibillion-dollar phenomenon with the backing of pump-and-dump venture capitalists.

In fact, however, Silicon Valley’s most experienced investors in start-ups saw red flags at Theranos before anyone else. The Theranos saga shows just how well Silicon Valley does its homework, especially when considering medical technology, in which the risks of doing real harm to people are higher than those posed by the next photo-sharing app.

Walgreens made a rookie mistake when it looked at Theranos’s GPS coordinates. Silicon Valley actually consists of two very separate places. The first is the start-up ecosystem built around the 15 or 20 venture capital firms in the tech sector and a similar number in life sciences that account for almost all of the successful companies.

Image
Elizabeth Holmes, founder of TheranosCreditJeff Chiu/Associated Press

The second place is the surrounding fringe, occupied by small companies in perpetual search of well-connected investors, and investors in perpetual search of novel start-ups. Their desperation for partners resembles that of bar patrons who are unattached at last call.

Both groups of Silicon Valley players are similar in appearance, but they couldn’t be more different in status or access to critical networks and knowledge. Historically, the top 10 percent of venture-capital firms produce returns almost 10 times greater than the average of the remaining 90 percent.

Theranos did make presentations to many, if not most, of the top life sciences firms. Part of the company’s appeal was the familiar origin myth of Theranos’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes, who, like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg before her, dropped out of college in order to found her company.

That might impress some social media investors, but in life sciences, everyone puts in years of formal study just to earn a seat at the table. For example, at MPM Capital, a venture firm that invests in life sciences, almost every one of its 20 investing directors and partners has either a Ph.D. or M.D., and one has both. Even the general counsel has a Ph.D. in cell, molecular and developmental biology.

GV, formerly Google Ventures, has a five-person investment team for Life Science & Health that includes two members with Ph.D.s in bioengineering; another with both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in biophysics; and a partner who, unlike Ms. Holmes, finished at Stanford, then went on to earn an M.D. and M.B.A. at Harvard.

Theranos approached GV twice and was turned down twice because of what one partner called “so much hand-waving.” People I have talked to at other investment firms said they turned down Theranos for similar reasons, unsatisfied with Theranos’s attempt to substitute its intangible “coolness” in place of technical details needed to validate its diagnostic technology.

Another tipoff? Theranos wouldn’t publish in peer-reviewed journals. Guy Cavet, chief technology officer for the biotech firm Atreca, said: “Every smart prospective partner of a life sciences start-up looks for strong peer-reviewed publications. It’s a way of getting expert due diligence at zero cost.”

Experience in health care is critical for a company like Theranos, which has to comply with government regulations. Instead, even the board of directors was weighted during most of the company’s life with older political figures like George P. Shultz and Henry A. Kissinger.

Luke Evnin, a co-founder at MPM Capital, said he had never met with Theranos or Ms. Holmes, but he found the makeup of the board puzzling: “It is pretty weird that if you look at her board, there’s not a single person who knows what they’re doing in the business.”

The first million dollars that the company received was from Tim Draper, a venture capitalist who became a venture capitalist through a very un-Silicon Valley-like route: His father was one (as was his grandfather). Mr. Draper had known Ms. Holmes as a childhood neighbor and playmate. The investors that followed Mr. Draper are a motley group, at least the ones visible in S.E.C. filings: a tiny firm named ATA Ventures; Continental Properties, a real estate company; and Donald L. Lucas, whose claim to fame was having invested in Oracle Corporation early.

But while Silicon Valley Proper wasn’t interested, the media was. Ms. Holmes was on the covers of Fortune, Forbes, Inc., and T: The New York Times Style Magazine. “The Next Steve Jobs” promised the cover of Inc. Richard Kovacevich, then a board member and a former Wells Fargo C.E.O., crowed, “We didn’t need advertising.”

No, they needed results. Theranos might still prove viable. But if Walgreens ends up with swampland, it’s not Silicon Valley’s fault.

Randall Stross is the author of two books on venture capital and is working on a book about Stanford University.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A 23 of the New York edition with the headline: Theranos Isn’t Silicon Valley’s Fault. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

 

 

Source: Opinion | Don’t Blame Silicon Valley for Theranos – The New York Times

I am tired of being a Jewish man’s rebellion – The Washington Post

At my very first job in New York, a colleague jokingly informed me: “You came in a WASP, but you’re leaving a Jew.”

That statement was in reference to the demographics of the office’s staff. Almost everyone who worked there was Jewish, and I, a recent college graduate who had spent my adolescence in a largely Christian community in the South, was not. At the time, I had no idea she would end up being so right.

As a teenager, I attended exactly one bat mitzvah, but moving to New York provided endless opportunities to learn about the Jewish faith. Friends invited me to join their families for Passover seders and Hanukkah celebrations. However, it was through my various romantic relationships where I learned the most about Judaism — a religious faith and culture I have grown to love and respect, but that has also contributed to two of my biggest heartbreaks.

Over almost seven years and two serious relationships with Jewish men who at first said religion didn’t matter — and then backtracked and decided it did — I’ve optimistically begun interfaith relationships with an open mind twice, only to become the last woman these men dated before settling down with a nice Jewish girl.

I can now say with certainty that I am tired of being a Jewish man’s rebellion.

At first glance, I fulfill the stereotypes of a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP). I’m blond, often wear pearls and can mix an excellent, and very strong, martini. Manners and etiquette are important to me, and when I’m stressed, I often cope by cleaning. I do describe myself as Christian, but loosely and in the most liberal sense possible. I don’t discuss my faith the first time I meet someone or on first dates. But if I find myself falling for someone who does not share my spiritual views, I bring up the subject. If it’s going to be a problem, I want to know.

That’s exactly what I did in my previous long-term relationships, both of which were with Jewish men. And both men said it wasn’t a problem that I was Christian, as they considered themselves culturally, but not spiritually, Jewish. At the very least, they were the most lackadaisical Jews I’d ever met. They never fasted on Yom Kippur or observed Jewish holidays on their own. And when they traveled to celebrate holidays with their families, they made it clear it was an obligation rather than a choice. On more than one occasion in conversation, we laughed about the fact that I knew more about the Jewish faith than they did.

I knew having an interfaith relationship could be complicated, and if we stayed together there would be some difficulties. But I thought it could work. Neither of us were looking to convert the other; we respected each other’s faith and culture. And as long as we were able to talk about it, I thought we’d be able to work through any issues that came up.

An interfaith marriage is nothing new or shocking. In the 1950s, only 20 percent of marriages in the United States consisted of partners of different religions. But by the first decade of the 21st century, the total was 45 percent — a total that includes marriages of one person affiliated with a religion and one who is not, of mainline Protestants to evangelical Christians and Catholic-Protestant marriages.

Of all the faiths polled by Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of “Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America,” Jews are more likely to intermarry than other religions. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013 reported that almost half — 44 percent — of married Jews in the United States have a spouse who isn’t Jewish. The tradition seems to be passed from generation to generation: Eighty-three percent of married Jews who have just one Jewish parent are married to someone who is not Jewish. A small group of leaders in the Conservative Jewish movement are even working to promote acceptance of interfaith marriages.

For the first few of the years I was dating these men, the fact that I was not Jewish rarely came up. My boyfriends helped decorate my Christmas trees, attended parties hosted by my friends from church, and their parents seemed to like me. I loved learning more about Judaism and sometimes even reminded them when certain holidays were approaching. When a spam email showed up in my account advertising a service to help me “Find Sincere Jewish Singles In Your Area!” I laughed and forwarded it to my boyfriend at the time, saying: “I think I’ve got that covered.”

Riley reported that less than half of the interfaith couples she surveyed did not discuss, before marriage, how they might raise their children someday. Before I was in a serious relationship, I had considered the religious upbringing of any possible children. Regardless of the faith of my theoretical partner, I would encourage religious education or exploration of any kind. I want my family to have an educated and respectful view of the world, including of different religions, regardless of my partner’s faith. As we see more clearly every day in America, tolerance and respect for different cultures is vital to peaceful coexistence. And according to Riley’s research, partners in interfaith marriages are more likely to have a positive opinion of their spouse’s faith.

Sure, there were some tense moments in these relationships. One of their mothers was extremely overbearing, somehow getting my cellphone number and calling me, asking where her son was. I didn’t know where he was, and her calling me made me incredibly uncomfortable. I asked my boyfriend how she got my number — he swore he didn’t give it to her — and told him I didn’t want this kind of involvement to be part of our relationship. When he talked to her about it, she exploded, yelling, “If she were Jewish, she’d understand!” I wasn’t invited to the seders that his family held, despite my saying I had loved attending them with my friends. There were times at church that I saw couples worshiping together and felt pangs of jealousy. But I told myself every relationship had its problems and these were relatively minor.

These issues weren’t there at first, but they started to appear after some time had passed and we were already in love. After years of dating, religion was suddenly a problem when it never had been before. I didn’t understand where it was coming from, and they weren’t able to explain it.

Not being Jewish was not the official reason either of these relationships ended. There were other problems — money, careers and plans for the future — problems I wanted to at least try to work through. But when I tried to talk about them, somehow the fact that I wasn’t Jewish came up — even in conversations that had nothing to do with family or children. When I asked, “What does that have to do with this?” they didn’t — or couldn’t — answer and kept talking about Judaism.

After we broke up, both men went on to find serious partners who were, in fact, Jewish. And while I try not to look back after a relationship ends, to go full-on Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was not just a coincidence but a pattern I should pay attention to. I didn’t doubt the love we’d had for each other, and I knew religion was one of the top reasons couples break up. But why did they say it didn’t matter and then decide it did — and find partners who fit the description they said they weren’t actually looking for?

I guess dating me had been their last act of defiance against cultural or familial expectations before finding someone who warranted their parents’ approval — perhaps the equivalent of a woman dating a motorcycle-driving, leather-jacket wearing “bad boy” before settling down with a banker with a 9-5 job. I now half-jokingly consider myself a Jewish man’s rebellion and guard myself against again landing in that role.

But, living in New York and working in theater, I frequently meet Jewish men. At almost every event I go to, they approach me. As flattered as I am, I don’t welcome the complications and potential heartbreak I’ve experienced back into my life.

 

In the meantime, I’ll continue dating and meeting my friends — Jewish and not — to swap Tinder horror stories over drinks, hopefully while sipping the cocktail I’m determined to create, named “A Jewish Man’s Rebellion.” I’d like it to feature a bourbon base and be garnished with a slice of bacon.

Source: I am tired of being a Jewish man’s rebellion – The Washington Post

Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead

Chinese employees eat dinner during a midnight work break at a tech company in Beijing. In China it is quite usual for managers to have working dinners followed by two or three meetings © Reuters

The declaration by Didi, the Chinese ride-hailing company, that delivery business Meituan’s decision to launch a rival service would spark “the war of the century”, throws the intensive competition between the country’s technology companies into stark relief.

The call to arms will certainly act as a spur for Didi employees, although it is difficult to see how they can work even harder. But what it does reveal is the striking contrast between working life in China’s technology companies and their counterparts in the west.

In California, the blogosphere has been full of chatter about the inequity of life. Some of this, especially for women, is true and for certain individuals their day of reckoning has been long overdue. But many of the soul-sapping discussions seem like unwarranted distractions. In recent months, there have been complaints about the political sensibilities of speakers invited to address a corporate audience; debates over the appropriate length of paternity leave or work-life balances; and grumbling about the need for a space for musical jam sessions. These seem like the concerns of a society that is becoming unhinged.

These topics are absent in China’s technology companies, where the pace of work is furious. Here, top managers show up for work at about 8am and frequently don’t leave until 10pm. Most of them will do this six days a week — and there are plenty of examples of people who do this for seven. Engineers have slightly different habits: they will appear about 10am and leave at midnight. Beyond the week-long breaks for Chinese new year and the October national holiday, most will just steal an additional handful of vacation days. Some technology companies also provide a rental subsidy to employees who choose to live close to corporate HQ.

In California, this sort of pace might be common for the first couple of years of a company, but then it will slow. In China, by contrast, it is quite usual for the management of 10 and 15-year-old companies to have working dinners followed by two or three meetings. If a Chinese company schedules tasks for the weekend, nobody complains about missing a Little League game or skipping a basketball outing with friends. Little wonder it is a common sight at a Chinese company to see many people with their heads resting on their desks taking a nap in the early afternoon.

An engineer uses the sleeping quarters at BaishanCloud’s offices in Beijing after finishing work at midnight, a common time for such employees to finally end their working day © Reuters

While male chauvinism is still common in the home, women have an easier time gaining recognition and respect in China’s technology workplaces — although they are still seriously under-represented in the senior ranks. Many of these high-flyers only see their children — who are often raised by a grandmother or nanny — for a few minutes a day. There are even examples of husbands, eager to spend time with their wives, who travel with them on business trips as a way to maintain contact.

There is also a deep-rooted sense of frugality. You don’t see $700 office chairs or large flat panel computer screens at most of the leading technology companies. Instead, the furniture tends to be spartan and everyone works on laptops. It is common for facility managers to allocate 80-100 square feet to each employee, compared with two to three times that amount in California.

On long-haul business flights most employees will fly economy and many share hotel rooms to save costs. It is also striking to the western eye how frequently a tea bag is reused or how, in winter, employees dress in coats and scarves at their desks to ward off the bone-chilling temperature.

There are plenty of workplaces in China insulated from these sorts of sensibilities — particularly within the large, state-controlled companies. The pace is also slower outside Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangdong. There is also no doubt that the roots of this work ethic spring from memories of privation and the desire to improve personal circumstances. Some of it is also due to the disregard paid to physical fitness — a pursuit that can chew up eight to 10 hours a week in Silicon Valley.

The Chinese approach may seem unhealthy and unappealing to westerners — and, as China’s gross domestic product rises the collective thirst for improvement may start to wane — but for now it’s a fact of life. Western investors may complain that there are some companies from which they are excluded but, for the most part, investment opportunities in the best companies are available and, in many respects, doing business in China is easier than doing business in California.

As the Chinese technology companies push ever harder outside the mainland, the habits of western companies will start to seem antique.

The writer is a partner of Sequoia Capital. These views are his own. Sequoia employees may hold interests in companies mentioned

Copyright
The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

Please use the sharing tools found via the email icon at the top of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found here

https://www.ft.com/content/42daca9e-facc-11e7-9bfc-052cbba03425

The declaration by Didi, the Chinese ride-hailing company, that delivery business Meituan’s decision to launch a rival service would spark “the war of the century”, throws the intensive competition between the country’s technology companies into stark relief. The call to arms will certainly act as a spur for Didi employees, although it is difficult to see how they can work even harder. But what it does reveal is the striking contrast between working life in China’s technology companies and their counterparts in the west. In California, the blogosphere has been full of chatter about the inequity of life. Some of this, especially for women, is true and for certain individuals their day of reckoning has been long overdue. But many of the soul-sapping discussions seem like unwarranted distractions. In recent months, there have been complaints about the political sensibilities of speakers invited to address a corporate audience; debates over the appropriate length of paternity leave or work-life balances; and grumbling about the need for a space for musical jam sessions. These seem like the concerns of a society that is becoming unhinged. These topics are absent in China’s technology companies, where the pace of work is furious. Here, top managers show up for work at about 8am and frequently don’t leave until 10pm. Most of them will do this six days a week — and there are plenty of examples of people who do this for seven. Engineers have slightly different habits: they will appear about 10am and leave at midnight. Beyond the week-long breaks for Chinese new year and the October national holiday, most will just steal an additional handful of vacation days. Some technology companies also provide a rental subsidy to employees who choose to live close to corporate HQ. In California, this sort of pace might be common for the first couple of years of a company, but then it will slow. In China, by contrast, it is quite usual for the management of 10 and 15-year-old companies to have working dinners followed by two or three meetings. If a Chinese company schedules tasks for the weekend, nobody complains about missing a Little League game or skipping a basketball outing with friends. Little wonder it is a common sight at a Chinese company to see many people with their heads resting on their desks taking a nap in the early afternoon. An engineer uses the sleeping quarters at BaishanCloud’s offices in Beijing after finishing work at midnight, a common time for such employees to finally end their working day © Reuters While male chauvinism is still common in the home, women have an easier time gaining recognition and respect in China’s technology workplaces — although they are still seriously under-represented in the senior ranks. Many of these high-flyers only see their children — who are often raised by a grandmother or nanny — for a few minutes a day. There are even examples of husbands, eager to spend time with their wives, who travel with them on business trips as a way to maintain contact. There is also a deep-rooted sense of frugality. You don’t see $700 office chairs or large flat panel computer screens at most of the leading technology companies. Instead, the furniture tends to be spartan and everyone works on laptops. It is common for facility managers to allocate 80-100 square feet to each employee, compared with two to three times that amount in California. On long-haul business flights most employees will fly economy and many share hotel rooms to save costs. It is also striking to the western eye how frequently a tea bag is reused or how, in winter, employees dress in coats and scarves at their desks to ward off the bone-chilling temperature. There are plenty of workplaces in China insulated from these sorts of sensibilities — particularly within the large, state-controlled companies. The pace is also slower outside Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangdong. There is also no doubt that the roots of this work ethic spring from memories of privation and the desire to improve personal circumstances. Some of it is also due to the disregard paid to physical fitness — a pursuit that can chew up eight to 10 hours a week in Silicon Valley. The Chinese approach may seem unhealthy and unappealing to westerners — and, as China’s gross domestic product rises the collective thirst for improvement may start to wane — but for now it’s a fact of life. Western investors may complain that there are some companies from which they are excluded but, for the most part, investment opportunities in the best companies are available and, in many respects, doing business in China is easier than doing business in California. As the Chinese technology companies push ever harder outside the mainland, the habits of western companies will start to seem antique. The writer is a partner of Sequoia Capital. These views are his own. Sequoia employees may hold interests in companies mentioned

Source: Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead

This Time, ProPublica, We Disagree | Facebook Newsroom

 

In the last year ProPublica has uncovered a number of different flaws in our advertising systems. Several of them were serious failures on our part. It’s why we apologized and took immediate action to prevent them in the future.

Today ProPublica has raised new concerns about companies, including our own marketing team, using Facebook to show recruitment ads to specific age groups. We have carefully reviewed their concerns — and this time we disagree.

First, our own advertisements. Facebook tailors our employment ads by audience. For example, we may use pictures of women or older people depending on the context. These individual ads are part of broader-based recruitment efforts designed to reach all ages and all backgrounds. We completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory.

Second, targeting employment ads by age generally. US law forbids discrimination in employment based on age, race, gender and other legally protected characteristics. That said, simply showing certain job ads to different age groups on services like Facebook or Google may not in itself be discriminatory — just as it can be OK to run employment ads in magazines and on TV shows targeted at younger or older people. What matters is that marketing is broadly based and inclusive, not simply focused on a particular age group. In addition, certain employers want to attract retirees, or recruit for jobs with specific age restrictions like the military or airline pilots.

Facebook helps educate advertisers about the legal requirements they face so that they understand their responsibilities. We’ve also begun requiring businesses that show employment ads on Facebook to certify that they comply with the law before we show their ads. And our “why am I seeing this ad?” button has set the industry standard for ads transparency: it’s why ProPublica was able to identify these ads in the first place.

We take abuse of our systems incredibly seriously. We proactively look for bad ads, and investigate concerns when they are raised. We know we have more work to do — as previous investigations by ProPublica have shown. And we’re investing heavily in more people and better technology so that we constantly improve over time.

But in this case we disagree with ProPublica. Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work.

Source: This Time, ProPublica, We Disagree | Facebook Newsroom

Another fitness-band company shuts down. But why?

This week, according to the Information, Jawbone shut down.

That’s the company, valued at $3 billion, that brought us the Up fitness bands.

So here’s the thing: Microsoft discontinued its fitness band in 2016. Nike discontinued its Fuel band in 2015.

Meanwhile, Fitbit, the biggest remaining seller of fitness bands, is having a tough time. Its first-quarter sales were down 39 percent over the same period last year.

What’s going on? Why are we abandoning fitness bands en masse?

The products themselves — the Fitbit Alta HR and Charge 2 especially—are fantastic. Superbly designed, very accurate, truly helpful in keeping you excited about moving more and sleeping better.

So why do the statistics show that half of Fitbit owners aren’t actually wearing their bands?

Two things are going on. First, lots of people give and get fitness bands as gifts. The number of bands sold is therefore much higher than the number of bands in use; not everyone who gets a Fitbit as a corporate, birthday, or holiday gift is interested in confronting or improving his or her terrible fitness habits.

Second, smartwatches may not be hot sellers, but little by little, their sales numbers are improving, at the expense of Fitbit-type bands. That’s a good argument for Fitbit, Inc. to start thinking about more watchlike bands — which is exactly what the company is doing.

David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes nontoxic comments in the comments section below. On the web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s [email protected] You can read all his articles here, or you can sign up to get his columns by email

Source: Another fitness-band company shuts down. But why?

Instagram photos of ethnic food are perpetuating racist stereotypes — Quartz

Hold up before you snap a photo of that pho: Your latest food-inspired Instagram post might be a little bit racist.

That’s according to Celeste Noche, a professional food photographer in Portland, Oregon, featured on an episode of The Racist Sandwich podcast, which explores food through the lens of race, gender, and class. She’s identified a troubling pattern in both foodie’s Instagram posts and gourmet magazine spreads: When people don’t take the time to educate themselves about the cultures associated with a given food, they wind up perpetuating cultural stereotypes and misrepresentations.

“We’ve never quite escaped the idea that Western is the status quo, so anything other is viewed as, well, ‘other,’” Noche says. “This leads people to exotify and overcompensate in styling dishes that aren’t normal to them, because they don’t understand or haven’t experienced how these dishes can exist on their own.”

The most common pitfalls, she says, often occur when photographers or food stylists use props without doing any research beforehand.

“Andrew Zimmern has a recipe for Filipino short ribs on his website styled next to chopsticks,” she says. “At first glance this seems okay, except Filipinos traditionally eat with spoons and forks, or just their hands, so it feels like he’s incorrectly generalizing all Asians.”

Chopsticks photographed sticking out of a bowl or plunged vertically into a bowl of rice are another common error, Noche says, since this “can be seen as rude and symbolic of death in different Asian cultures.”

Big-name publications also make these mistakes. Noche points to the backlash the magazine Bon Appétit faced after publishing a story originally posted under the headline: “PSA: This is how you should be eating pho.”

The magazine’s editor in chief wound up issuing an apology for the story, which featured a white chef from Philadelphia offering an authoritative explanation on how to eat pho, which was described as a “food trend.” Amid the backlash, a Vietnamese chef wrote for NPR that Bon Appétit was treating pho as “merely a fashionable food,” ignoring its long history in Vietnamese culture.

“The artists who write, style, and photograph recipes often underestimate the authority they grant themselves in portraying food that isn’t theirs,” Noche says. In another high-profile example, the magazine Saveur last year had two white men write and photograph a piece on Filipino chef Dale Talde.

“I was immediately skeptical upon seeing two dishes styled on a mahjong table (to me, this is the equivalent of styling food on a Monopoly board),” she says. “The mahjong table was later explained [after the backlash] to be an homage to Talde’s father at his restaurant, but without context it looks like two white dudes are styling Filipino food on top of a Chinese game.”

Perhaps the most obvious problem is the way that non-Western foods are accessorized, Noche says. Aside from her mahjong example, amateur Instagram photos are rife with posts of Asian cuisine often accompanied by cultural accoutrements. Very often dishes paired with utensils that aren’t even used in that particular culture (people in Thailand use forks, not chopsticks). Little peppers and bowls of spices orbiting the main dish look pretty, but reinforce fetishized ideas about how people in other cultures eat. (Most dinner tables aren’t strewn with random vegetables and little bowls of turmeric.)

A simple Google search sheds some light on just how widespread some of these photographic practices are, especially with Asian cuisine. Check out this simple Google search for images of pho, most of them accompanied by chopsticks as decoration:

A Google Image search for pho.
A Google Image search for pho. (Google)

Meanwhile, a search for spaghetti shows the dish typically stands on its own, with no need to roll out a stereotypical red-and-white checked table cloth, an Italian flag, or other frills:

Google Image search for spaghetti.
Google Image search for spaghetti. (Google)

The takeaway is that food photography—like all photography—conveys more than what’s simply in the photo. It offers insight into how people interpret the world, what they understand (or misunderstand) about it, and their place within it. Eating Thai food might be an afternoon dalliance for one person, but for another it’s a direct link to their cultural heritage—which is all the more reason to be curious and thoughtful about the food we eat.

To that end, Noche recommends that amateur photographers take steps to educate themselves about the dishes they sample. “If something’s unfamiliar to you, talk to a person from that culture to learn more about it,” she says. “Don’t call something gross or weird because it’s unusual to you. Don’t treat other cultures as if they exist for you to explore (i.e. when you’re traveling, ask for permission before you take photos of that adorable grandma making noodles by hand).”

The point isn’t that we should eschew photos of the food we enjoy—only that we should think before we pick up our cameras. “Use this medium to help share other people’s stories,” Noche says, “instead of forcing them to fit your own.”

Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at [email protected].

 

Source: Instagram photos of ethnic food are perpetuating racist stereotypes — Quartz

Trump press conference reveals long game. Media still scrambling | TheHill

Strategic. Planned. Effective. 

That’s my headline in response to President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDems ask for hearings on Russian attempts to attack election infrastructure Face the Nation host: Media ruined its own reputation without Trump Trump press conference reveals long game. Media still scrambling MORE‘s unexpected press conference held on Thursday at the White House. 

The President himself joked that the headlines would instead read “Donald Trump Rants And Raves At The Press.” 

While that may be true, he certainly did a lot more than that. And whatever headline you’ve read since that press conference finished, it doesn’t matter. What much of the press still fails to realize, even after a humbling repudiation of their coverage and predictions on election night, is that President Trump accomplished something on Thursday that is more than what any headline could summarize – he seized control of the narrative, reinvigorated his message, and energized his base, all with an eye on 2020.

 

We know that President Trump doesn’t feel the media does a good job of keeping his message intact. Instead, he believes the media is hateful, unfair, takes him out of context, and misinterprets his jokes. And in many instances, he’s right.

There seems to be a constant drumbeat against him rather than unbiased coverage of him. There is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) condescension and judgement that lays just beneath the surface of so many of the headlines and analysis surrounding the President. And because of this, President Trump’s eagerness to bypass the media and speak freely and directly to his supporters makes complete sense, so he announced a rally in Florida this Saturday. (This is also why he still uses, and will never stop using, Twitter.) 

It is the Trump rally that epitomizes his understanding of the American public. But President Trump must have felt that waiting until Saturday was simply too long of a wait, with a sudden and last minute change to his schedule on Thursday, replacing a Sean Spicer press briefing with a President Trump press conference. 

 The President’s anxiousness and eagerness to speak directly to the people makes sense. A federal appeals court ruled to maintain the stay on his temporary travel ban. General Michael Flynn’s unexpected resignation is sparking a GOP led inquiry into the administration’s connection to Russia. Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” and “bowling green massacre” mishaps. Staff leaks. The GOP’s refusal to confirm his Labor Secretary nominee. These are not the stories one wants to wake up to after less than a month in the White House.

Of course, the President could have just sent Sean Spicer out again on Thursday for his usual press briefing. But the President’s very real reasons to feel anxiety over recent events gave him the instinct to know that only he could go out there and begin to fix this mess. So he did. 

 In Thursday’s presser he was, at times, bombastic, dynamic, angry, irreverent, funny, disorganized, temperamental, attacking, thoughtful, and committed. What about that is different from the man we’ve seen since he entered the race in June of 2015? Nothing. 

Yet when it was over, it left the media scrambling, confused and desperate to find the right headline amidst the hundreds of possible takeaways. All while America left with a reminder of the man who took the country by storm to claim victory in 2016. 

And yet, the media still hasn’t figured it out. The reaction and fallout from Thursday’s press conference amongst the press simply affirms the president’s basic and underlying message to the American people: “the media hates me and doesn’t understand you.” Until the media steps down from and out of their ivory tower, they will continue to create an environment for this message to resonate and ring true with Americans.

On Thursday, the President took back hold of the reins, re-centered his message and took a small step towards victory in 2020.   

Ronica Cleary is a Political Reporter for Fox 5 News in Washington, D.C. and Co-Host of Fox 5 News On The Hill. Follow her on Twitter @RonicaCleary.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

 

Trump press conference reveals long game. Media still scrambling | TheHill.

President Trump Has Done Almost Nothing – POLITICO Magazine

Just weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, you would think that everything had changed. The uproar over the president’s tweets grows louder by the day, as does concern over the erratic, haphazard and aggressive stance of the White House toward critics and those with different policy views. On Sunday, White House aide Stephen Miller bragged, “We have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.”

But Miller was dead wrong about this. There is a wide gap, a chasm even, between what the administration has said and what it has done. There have been 45 executive orders or presidential memoranda signed, which may seem like a lot but lags President Barack Obama’s pace. More crucially, with the notable exception of the travel ban, almost none of these orders have mandated much action or clear change of current regulations. So far, Trump has behaved exactly like he has throughout his previous career: He has generated intense attention and sold himself as a man of action while doing little other than promote an image of himself as someone who gets things done.

Story Continued Below

It is the illusion of a presidency, not the real thing.

The key problem here is understanding Trump’s executive orders and presidential memoranda. Trump very quickly seized on the signing of these as media opportunities, and each new order and memo has been staged and announced as dramatic steps to alter the course of the country. Not accustomed to presidents whose words mean little when it comes to actual policy, opponents have seized on these as proof that Trump represents a malign force, while supporters have pointed to these as proof that Trump is actually fulfilling his campaign promises.

Neither is correct. The official documents have all the patina of “big deals” but when parsed and examined turn out to be far, far less than they appear. Take the order authorizing the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. The relevant section of the January 25 order read: “It is the policy of the executive branch to … secure the southern border of the United States through the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.” That sounds indeed like an order to fulfill a controversial campaign promise. The problem? Congress initially passed a Secure Fence Act in 2006 that required the construction of nearly 700 miles of fortified border. By 2011, under the Obama administration, most of that was completed, with a mix of pedestrian fencing and vehicle fortifications. Since then, there has only been minimal funding for further fortifications.

The result is that Trump issued an executive order mandating something that has in many respects already been done—with no congressional funding yet to redo the current fortified border with a larger, more expensive structure. The president does not have the budgetary discretion to build such a wall, and it remains to be seen whether Congress will authorize what promises to be a controversial and redundant project. This executive order, therefore, changes nothing, and only mandates something that has already been mandated, already been constructed and that the president lacks the spending authority to upgrade.

Then take things like the Keystone pipeline permits, the promise to deregulate and the most recently signed orders about crime. The January 24 order on infrastructure begins with a sentiment almost anyone could agree with: “Infrastructure investment strengthens our economic platform, makes America more competitive, creates millions of jobs, increases wages for American workers, and reduces the costs of goods and services for American families and consumers. Too often, infrastructure projects in the United States have been routinely and excessively delayed by agency processes and procedures.” It then declares that the policy of the Executive Branch is to expedite the permitting of such projects. That was followed by two memoranda on the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines that had been denied permits during Obama’s tenure, which urges the companies to re-submit their permit applications for review.

That might seem like an order to have the pipelines built. But Keystone remains almost entirely an idea, and oil shipments and infrastructure from Canada have long since been routed elsewhere given the years and years of delay in ever authorizing it. The Dakota Access Pipeline is largely complete, with a major dispute over its passage through tribal lands, and here too, it is unlikely that a presidential memorandum has any legal bearing on how that issue is resolved given that it lies within the purview of the Army Corps of Engineers and cannot simply be countermanded by the White House.

Or take the orders of deregulation. Those were widely hailed as a rollback of Dodd-Frank, especially given that the morning that the order was issued, February 3, Trump met with bank CEOs and expressed his dislike for many of the legislation’s provisions. The actual order, however, delivers much less than it promises, merely directing the secretary of the Treasury to review existing regulations and report back on which ones might be refined to achieve better outcomes.

Or the crime orders signed on February 9, which were widely hailed as cracking down on “transnational criminal organizations” and “preventing violence against … law enforcement officers.” Nothing in the text of these orders is either objectionable or in any respect a departure from current law and policy. One order states plainly that it shall be the policy of the administration to “enforce all Federal laws in order to enhance the protection and safety of Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, and thereby all Americans.” The other says that the administration will seek to use existing laws to crack down on trafficking. You would have known none of that from the headlines both supporting and denouncing the efforts. Breitbart claimed “Trump Signs Three Executive Orders to Restore Safety in America” while many took these orders as a sign that police will have new, expanded powers and protections. In truth, the orders changed the status quo not one whit.

On it goes: The recent crackdown on undocumented immigrants that followed Trump’s January 25 order on enforcement priorities may depart from Barack Obama’s post-2102 policies to de-emphasize deportation of undocumented immigrants who do not have criminal records, but it appears fully consistent with deportation actions during both Obama’s first term and during significant portions of George W. Bush’s administration. The orders on health care, on defeating ISIS, on rebuilding the armed forces—all were essentially statements of intent with no legal force and requiring no action except a mandate to relevant departments and agencies to study issues and report back.

The travel ban, of course, is different. It was an actual policy order that dramatically changed immigration and visa policies for seven Muslim-majority countries. It was swiftly rejected by the courts, however, which meant that the signature policy of the Trump administration is now not a policy at all—at least, unless and until the White House finds a different approach.

Yes, what the president says matters. Trump’s casual relationship with the truth and his carefree use of tweets set the public agenda and help determine how foreign countries relate to our government. Intent also matters, and clearly, the Trump administration is determined to do a variety of things—from border security to health care to trade to immigration—that many, many Americans find objectionable, wrong and against the best interests of the country.

And yet, words are not the same as actions. Trump can issue as many documents called executive orders and presidential memoranda as he wants. As the fate of the travel ban shows, however, that doesn’t mean that even the more meaningful ones are actionable, and the preponderance of the orders to date would in any other administration have been news releases stating broad policy goals that may or may not ever become actual policy.

But too many of us take these words as action. That confirms both the worst fears of what the Trump administration is and the greatest hopes of what Trump wants it to be: a White House that shoots first and asks question later, a White House of action and change that shakes the status quo to the core and charts a new path for America and Americans. To date, this White House has broken every convention and rule of tone and attitude, toward Washington and toward the truth. But in reality, it has done far less than most people think.

In the time ahead, as Congress turns to actual legislation and the White House presumably does normal things like propose a budget and specify its legislative ideas, there will be real actions for us to probe and debate. Distinguishing between words and action is essential: When senators say silly things about legislation, we know to separate those public statements from votes takes and laws passed. When leaders of other countries speak aggressively, we do not immediately act as if war is imminent; if that were the case, we’d have invaded Iran and North Korea years ago. Words should be taken as possible indicators of future action, but not as absolutes and not always.

Trump poses a challenge to decades of tradition and precedent. He is masterful as conflating words and actions in a way that enrages and alarms his opponents and exhilarates and excites his supporters. It’s more important than ever to distinguish what is from what isn’t. Understanding the difference between what this president says and what he does is one of the only things that will keep our public debate from plunging ever deeper into the hall of mirrors.

President Trump Has Done Almost Nothing – POLITICO Magazine.

Thugs Indulge Their Weimar Dreams and Become the Totalitarians They Claim to Hate – Reason.com

It’s tough being a heroic anti-Nazi street fighter when you’re the closest thing to a Nazi around.

Well, that’s how they imagine it in their fever dreams, anyway. In reality, the Nazis didn’t show up and the protesters themselves were the only totalitarians in sight. The Black Bloc thugs—”about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest,” says UC-Berkeley—seem to imagine themselves as stars of a Weimar Germany reenactment. In their minds, they march through the streets as the phalanx of the center-left Eiserne Front (or, more likely, the communist Rotfrontkämpferbund), battling their deadly enemies in the Nazi SA between sessions at the beer hall.

But the anti-fascists couldn’t find any Nazis at Berkeley. So instead “[t]hey shattered the glass of our Amazon Pickup Center, one of the few places Berkeley students can receive packages without fear of them getting stolen. They created a bonfire of trash in the center of the chaos, picked up barricades to drive through the building’s glass walls, set off fireworks, and left a trail of rage-filled destruction in their wake as they stormed the very streets we call home,” in the words of a student who saw a peaceful anti-Trump protest hijacked by visitors from 1930.

Oh, and they sold a whole lot of books for Milo, who is less a Nazi than a professional troll and self-promoter who has tied his personal brand to that of Donald Trump.

Brownshirts also missed the date at Gavin McInnes’s speech at New York University. Anti-fascist crusaders had to settle for pepper-spraying McInnes himself before he’d even opened his mouth, and cursing out cops for not beating up McInnes and his supporters. And they got themselves arrested for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and criminal mischief.

McInnes, by the way isn’t a Nazi either. The co-founder of Vice and serial hipster’s major “offense” seems to be that he’s a Trump supporter; he’s also a self-described “Western chauvinist,” seemingly a male chauvinist, and no fan of Islam.

Arguably, a Nazi did show up for the very first act of anti-Nazi direct action of the Trump era, when avowed racist Richard Spencer was violently attacked the day after the new president took office. Ironically, he was giving a TV interview at the time, during which he denied being a neo-Nazi—he’s just awful in so many other ways. But that’s close enough for the incident to have sparked a Nazi-punching craze, with allegedly serious articles in major publications pondering the ethics of committing battery against people for their political views.

For examples as of yet of an actual violent opponent for American anti-fascists to fight, there is the pro-Trump shooter who wounded a man during a violent anti-Milo protest at the University of Washington. But he claimed self-defense and has yet to be charged with a crime. After that, you’ll have to look long and hard for an SA stand-in.

Curiously, each major target of violent anti-fascist ire has actually been further and further from an actual Nazi, from Spencer, to Yiannopoulos, to McInnes. This suggests that the threshold allegedly justifying physical assault is movable, making anybody at the outer edge of the shifting acceptable realm for speech eligible for a punch. If it’s Nazis all the way down, ultimately, only two black-clad douchebags will be left standing in a basement somewhere, fists clenched, glaring at each other with each wondering about the other’s anti-Nazi bona fides.

Which is a big part of why it’s not OK to punch Nazis. And look, we’ve demonstrated the point in just a month.

There’s also a big problem in insisting on Nazi-hunting when the world is so short of real and dangerous examples of the creature. That is, when hunting snipe you’re very likely to overlook real game. Perils are already abundant in the form of powerful government officeholders who are not by any means Nazis but still manage to pose threats to personal freedom. There are threats to be found in a president who is thin-skinned and narcissistic with nary a swastika in sight. And there are serious threats inherent in alleged anti-fascist crusaders who throw Molotov cocktails and bricks at people they don’t like, demonstrating a Nazi-like intolerance for opposing opinions.

Real dangers tend to come in more complicated form than good guys and bad guys slugging it out in the street.

President Trump, for example gave a horrible response to the Berkeley violence. Leave aside for the moment debates over whether government should be allowed the financial power over universities that comes with funding them, his tweet that “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view—NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” is just bizarre. Unlike some college administrations, UC-Berkeley administration supported Yiannopoulos’s right to speak—the attack came from outside.

Trump is also incredibly thin-skinned with little taste for criticism and in recent days has blasted journalists, judges, and foreign leaders who get under his skin. He is the uber troll, armed with the power of the presidency.

But Trump has also named as his Supreme Court choice Neil Gorsuch, one of the more likely jurists to push back against executive overreach on a variety of issues. Gorsuch’s record “suggests he has considerably more respect for the First Amendment than Donald Trump does,” Jacob Sullum wrote last week.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, wants to reduce government control over what is taught and how that knowledge is delivered. That should probably be taken as a good sign by college students concerned about the president’s unpredictable personality and authoritarian tendencies.

In short, the political cause of the age isn’t an anti-fascist holy war against Nazis; it’s a more complicated wariness toward an unpredictable and preening chief executive who inherited excessive power amassed by his already disturbing, but more polished, predecessors.

But that more difficult task is likely to get overshadowed by loons indulging their fantasies about the righteousness of launching punches, bricks, and pepper spray at foes who look less like Weimar-era brownshirts and more like anybody who disagrees with them.

Thugs Indulge Their Weimar Dreams and Become the Totalitarians They Claim to Hate – Reason.com.