Weekly Link Roundup

Should Masks Be a Fashion Statement? (The New York Times): “Masks are now encouraged for all — teetering between medical necessity and fashion statement, whether conscious or not. Designers, entrepreneurs and influencers sense opportunity. But if we all have to wear them, we should start thinking about what they say … Experts are increasingly suggesting that masks may need to be worn for at least a year, until a vaccine is developed. And trend forecasters are predicting that, as a result, they may become a fact of daily life, donned by all of us with the same unthinking passivity as a coat and sunglasses when we leave the house.”

24 Hours at the Epicenter of the Coronavirus Pandemic (The New Yorker): “In Central Park, the runners … formed a single file of dread-in-motion, appropriately watchful and spaced. Early on in the pandemic, they had moved with an almost infuriating disregard for the new reality, running, most of them maskless, in that eternal clockwork way of city runners, seeming to believe that, once started, they were on an unbreakable internal drive, like so many windup mechanical bunnies, unable to slow down, much less stop. Some small effort at social distancing had gone on, but, when a runner ahead had been going too slowly, the others, rather than adjust their pace to maintain the spacing, still tended to come zooming along, as though their legs were self-governing. This, runners will tell you, is essential to sustaining the aerobic benefits, and, generally, to being a runner. Over time, the pace slowed. They began self-organizing, finding an entirely new way to run. The runners still wore their usual garb—the tight-fitting lower half and the loose-fitting upper half, the ugly, expensive sneakers—but masks and bandannas appeared. Now, from a distance, they looked less like racers and more like a frieze, a procession moving in a stately way across the beautiful screen of the West Side towers beyond. They were moping more than moving, just like the rest of us.”

From Running and Fiction to Baking and Videogames: Social Networking Goes Niche (The Wall Street Journal): “Even before the outbreak sent the use of social media, video-calling, streaming and gaming platforms to new records, a new trend had begun to emerge online. Rather than spend all their time on broad, and often noisy, platforms like Facebook or Twitter, people have looked for respite in narrowly defined communities … There were more than 70,000 social apps available for mobile devices at the end of 2019, up 50% from five years earlier … That doesn’t include websites or apps not categorized as social networks but where users communicate anyway, such as the multiplayer game ‘Fortnite’ and the messaging service Signal … Last year, U.S. adults spent 57 billion hours using social networking and messaging apps just on Android devices, up 10% from 2018.”

My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore? (The New York Times): “… the very first time you cut a payroll check, you understand quite bluntly that, poetic notions aside, you are running a business. And that crew of knuckleheads you adore are counting on you for their livelihood … The conversation about how restaurants will continue to operate, given the rising costs of running them has been ramping up for years now; the coronavirus did not suddenly shine light on an unknown fragility. We’ve all known, and for a rather long time. The past five or six years have been alarming. For restaurants, coronavirus-mandated closures are like the oral surgery or appendectomy you suddenly face while you are uninsured. These closures will take out the weakest and the most vulnerable. But exactly who among us are the weakest and most vulnerable is not obvious.”

The Race to Design a Rain Jacket That Won’t Kill the Planet (Wired): “… PFASs have a big problem. The highly fluorinated chemicals find their way into the ecosystem through manufacturing waste. Studies have linked exposure to PFASs in manufacturing runoff to liver and immune system damage, neurological damage, and some cancers, among other ailments … The value of waterproof coatings made with fluorinated chemicals was hard to dispute. Until recently, jackets made with other coatings were stiff, brittle, and not waterproof … Only repellents made with PFASs would prevent soaking, which makes the wearer becoming cold and wet to a degree that’s life-threatening in extreme conditions.”

The Chain Letter Is Back, and Just as Annoying as Before (The New York Times): “Isolation at home has brought a return of something many people haven’t seen since junior high: the chain letter. They are being spread on email and social media across the generations, although many are targeted at women. While some participants find them a source of amusement, others call them an annoyance we don’t need ever, especially during a pandemic.”

I Shouldn’t Have To Explain Why ‘Chink Virus’ Is So Hurtful, But I Will Anyway (HuffPost): “We can’t necessarily control how other people will act, but we certainly can decide how we individually want to conduct ourselves, what to stand up for and whom we choose to support and protect.”

Everyone Is Giving Away Cash on Instagram (The New York Times): “… though they are frequently framed as charity, the giveaways are part of a growth scheme that has become pervasive on Instagram … With many brand deals and sponsored trips on hold because of the virus, giveaways have provided big influencers with a way to make quick money from home.”

Millions of People Face Stimulus Check Delays for a Strange Reason: They Are Poor (ProPublica): “The tax prep business is built on a complex infrastructure designed to extract fees that many customers cannot afford. When the government tried to navigate that system to speedily get cash to its citizens, it ran into big problems … for a large portion of the 80 million people the IRS tried to reach last week, ‘direct deposit’ is a bit of a misnomer. Each year, the tax refunds of more than 20 million Americans … take a detour. These customers don’t pay their tax preparation fees upfront, instead opting to have the fee taken out of their refund. Because regulations prohibit tax prep companies from receiving refunds directly, a special, temporary account is created at a bank that plays the middleman. The bank takes out whatever fees are owed and then passes the remainder on to the customer … Consumer advocates argue transfers are predatory because they are essentially loans with effective annual interest rates over 200%: $40 to $60 in finance charges just for deferring the tax prep cost by the few weeks it takes for a refund to arrive.”

♥ The Kindle edition of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is currently on sale for $1.99. Another sci-fi classic, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (perhaps my favorite sci-fi series) is also on sale ($2.99 for the Kindle edition; book two, Speaker for the Dead, is on sale for $3).

Needing At-Home Workers, Call Centers Turn to People With Disabilities (The New York Times): “Call centers have had to adapt swiftly because the pandemic has dealt them a double blow. They are fielding more calls from customers … But many of the people who would normally answer those calls either can’t get to work or are not equipped to work from home. The transition has been messy; industry executives say they are struggling to ship computers, headsets and other equipment to employees. Many customer service representatives, who earned a median income of $34,710 last year, also don’t have internet connections fast enough to take calls and log in to corporate computer systems. In addition, companies said, they have had to shut down offices in countries like the Philippines because of strict stay-at-home orders.”

Spending on Clothes Plummets 50%. Here’s What It Means for Fashion’s Future (Fast Company): “… the Census Bureau released consumer spending data for the month of March … Sales plummeted by 8.7%, the largest-ever decrease on record, nearly triple the previous worst month on record in 2008. And clothing and accessory brands took the biggest hit, dropping by an astronomical 50.5% … In the short term, analysts believe that consumer spending on fashion is going to decline even further, if lockdown orders continue … and unemployment figures keep rising.”

Detroit Students Have a Constitutional Right to Literacy, Court Rules (The New York Times): “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled … that the state of Michigan had been so negligent toward the educational needs of Detroit students that children had been ‘deprived of access to literacy’ … in violation of the 14th Amendment … the Detroit lawsuit … challenge a 47-year-old Supreme Court ruling that equality in education is not constitutionally guaranteed … the Detroit ruling did not wade into a major debate within the education world about which methods are most effective in teaching children to read … The ruling was issued by a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit, with one judge … dissenting. It could still be taken up and reversed by the entire Sixth Circuit, if the court’s other judges find the dissent compelling.”

‘Welcome to Your Flight, Nathan.’ Traveling During a Pandemic Means Having the Plane to Yourself. (The Wall Street Journal): “Air passenger numbers are down a whopping 95%, according to U.S. government data … Terms for federal aid also require [airlines] to maintain a certain level of service, even on routes with little or no demand, turning some commercial planes into the equivalent of private jets. Captains personally welcome passengers aboard. Extra snacks are doled out. Everyone marvels at the strangeness of it all.”

Will a Pandemic Shatter the Perception of American Exceptionalism? (The New York Times): “The crisis has intensified the conversation about inequality, especially as data has emerged in some states showing that African-Americans and Hispanics account for a disproportionate share of deaths … Infectious disease, and the kind of collective response required to combat it, can run up hard against the American myth of rugged individualism. It’s also a subject that has tended to get little attention in our historical narratives.”

How Are Sports Brands Marketing Without Sports? (The Business of Fashion): “Global sports brands rely on athletes to help sell their sneakers and leggings to everyday people. Their ability to sign stars to exclusive contracts is one of the most important ways they separate themselves from the crowd of online fitness brands and athleisure start-ups … Brands are giving fitness videos and inspirational social media posts a try nonetheless. The hope is that marketing centred around health and wellness, rather than performance and competition, will keep homebound consumers loyal to their favourite brands … A recent NPD report of US wholesale sales showed that performance athletic shoes were down more than 80 percent year-over-year in the first week of April. Athleisure like yoga pants and tracksuits are getting a boost in quarantine, however, as quarantined consumers seek comfortable and versatile apparel.”

Coronavirus Antibody Tests: Can You Trust the Results? (The New York Times): “For the past few weeks, more than 50 scientists have been working diligently to do something that the Food and Drug Administration mostly has not: Verifying that 14 coronavirus antibody tests now on the market actually deliver accurate results. These tests are crucial to reopening the economy, but public health experts have raised urgent concerns about their quality. The new research … confirmed some of those fears: Of the 14 tests, only three delivered consistently reliable results … Even these three tests detected antibodies in infected people only 90 percent of the time, at best.”

♥ Recently purchased: Ann Taylor Draped Cami, Self Portrait Lace Trim Blazer Romper, Topshop Aida Stitch Detail Wide Leg Trousers, Goodthreads Fleece Sweatshirt Dress, and Daily Ritual Terry Wide-Leg Jumpsuit.

Enjoy the rest of your week, everyone!

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