News Digest 26th August: White Hot Summer

The dog days of August are drawing to a close and the end of ‘silly season’ is nigh. In spite of the usual slump in news stories at this time of year, there were lots of interesting things happening this week:

A statue of Robert E. Lee

Statutes on Statues 

The fallout from Charlottesville continues,  and particularly the discussion it has sparked around statues, commemoration and memory. Some believe statues of confederate politicians (like Robert E. Lee) should be removed because they celebrate individuals who fought to maintain slavery, others believe the destruction of such statues contributes to a white-washing of history. I firmly believe that the past, no matter how troubling it may be, must be acknowledged and confronted. Surely the best compromise it to put them in a museum?

In a long piece in The Atlantic, Joshua Zeitz looks to the comparison of Nazi Germany, and how successive governments there dealt with the contentious issue of memorializing (or not) the darkest chapter in the nation’s history.

Also in the wake Charlottesville, domain hosts like GoDaddy (i.e. the people that create and ‘host’ website addresses for companies, individuals etc.) removed some white supremacist groups’ from their service. As a result, questions have been raised about whom we might consider the modern-day gatekeepers of free speech. Of course, ‘free speech’ is increasingly ‘spoken’ in online spaces, but rather than governments regulating who can and cannot inhabit such spaces, companies (like Google et al) now have the power to make such decisions – as discussed on this piece from The New Yorker.

ESPN’s Robert Lee

Another interesting discussion in The Atlantic about political correctness:  is it something that is being imposed on the liberal elites, rather than something they are actually sensitive about? This argument is made following the reassignment of a sports commentator from a football game at the University of Virginia by ESPN because of his name – which was Robert Lee.  The decision to reallocate him from the game was deemed by many on the right to be an example of political correctness gone mad, but was actually a decision made by the commentator and his bosses because they didn’t want to turn the occasion into a circus. This article says – “So it’s not another example of PC culture run amok. It’s an example of people who want to see PC culture run amok.”

Tech

Y Combinator’s Demo Day

Leading tech investment group / incubator Y Combinator held a ‘Demo Day’ this week. The list of companies on show makes for fascinating reading, and reveals something about the key trends currently riding the waves in Silivon Valley – biotech & AI.

Three of the biggest companies in the world – Facebook, Google and Apple announced a foray into long-from content creation. It seems, the battle for eyeballs has no limits. Whether or not this will be a good thing for the consumer / audience remains to be seen.

Google Home device

Google is also coming after Amazon’s voice offerings, which allow consumers to order their groceries through their voice-activated home speaker Alexa. Of course, the ability to provide this function was a large motivation behind Amazon’s acquisition of Wholefoods earlier in the summer. Google has announced a partnership between Google Home and Walmart that will presumably serve the same purpose, and possibly give Google the edge as Walmart is more ubiquitous and cheaper.

Europe

The European Court of Justice was in the news a lot this week – Politico created a (somewhat humorous) look at why the Brits hate it so much!

Politico also published a feature on Brigitte Macron, examining why she has captivated the French public to such an extent, and why so many of them don’t want her as ‘première dame’.

The FT published an article titled Where is Boris Johnson?, noting the Foreign Secretary’s notable absence from the public eye, and diplomatic circles/crises, since the election. Is he building up to a leadership campaign in the Autumn?  Well, as if he was listening, the day after the article was published, Johnson turned up with comments on Brexit, Libya and global politics.

Fight Night

It has been hard to get away from the much-hyped show down between McGregor and Mayweather. It is going to be record-breaking from a financial point of view. This article in The New York Times examined the underlying racial dimensions of the event, and indeed of television in 2017 more generally.

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