Weekly Link Roundup

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J.Crew’s Survival Plan: Edit Out ‘the Ugly’ (The Business of Fashion): “Singer wants to regain the cultural capital J.Crew possessed before Drexler and … Jenna Lyons, transformed the American-prep mainstay … J.Crew would once again be known for quality, elevated basics … For inspiration, Singer is said to often reference another J.Crew heyday: late-1990s, early-2000s collegiate New England … Some question whether relying on an old formula — especially one that draws so heavily on a mostly white, preppy culture — is really the way to go in the midst of a racial reckoning. Retail analysts, too, have yet to see any positive developments on the sales floor, where the product mix hasn’t changed much since Singer’s arrival … Singer may have as much as two to three years to execute on her vision, given the extraordinary circumstances under which she has had to operate. The company’s $400 million loan is not due until 2027.”

Why Do We Care So Much About Diana’s Dresses? (The New York Times): “… the greatest trend she ever set … was as the original fashion reality TV star: a public figure who used her clothes as a personal weather vane, not to advance the agenda of state but for direct communication to the outside world, even when she was simply smiling and standing by. She wore her emotions not just on, but as, her sleeves. And because we could all see them, we could all relate.”

It’s Time to Hunker Down (The Atlantic): “When community transmission is this high, every kind of exposure is more dangerous … It might also be time for ordinary people to consider using higher-quality masks (N95s and KN95s) … This is especially true for low-wage workers, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color and have to work indoors; older people, and anyone who works with them; and people with preexisting conditions that put them at higher risk. Ideally, we’d have a significant aid package, allowing businesses to remain closed and workers to stay home as much as possible, while also increasing workplace standards through better ventilation and masks. Tragically, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. On the plus side, though, it’s now possible for ordinary people to purchase higher-quality masks, which suggests that the dire shortage of the spring is over. It’s still wise to avoid hoarding; most people don’t need that many, and this surge will put a fresh strain on the supplies. As long as they are put on and taken off carefully (use hand sanitizer before and after), such masks are reusable after being left in a paper bag or breathable container for at least five days, which means as few as five are enough to rotate through a typical work week for people who work with others—especially indoors.”

“Emily in Paris” and the Rise of Ambient TV (The New Yorker): “The purpose of ‘Emily in Paris’ is to provide sympathetic background for staring at your phone, refreshing your own feeds … It’s O.K. to look at your phone all the time, the show seems to say, because Emily does it, too … If you want more drama, you can open Twitter, to augment the experience. Or just leave the show on while cleaning the inevitable domestic messes of quarantine. Eventually, sensing that you’ve played two episodes straight without pausing or skipping, Netflix will ask if you’re still really watching … Like gentle New Age soundscapes, ‘Emily in Paris’ is soothing, slow, and relatively monotonous, the dramatic moments too predetermined to really be dramatic. Nothing bad ever happens to our heroine for long. The earlier era of prestige TV was predicated on shows with meta-narratives to be puzzled out, and which merited deep analyses read the day after watching. Here, there is nothing to figure out; as prestige passes its peak, we’re moving into the ambient era, which succumbs to, rather than competes with, your phone … Ambient television … aims to erase thought entirely, smoothing any disruptive texture or dissonance … It provides glossy, comforting oblivion, or, as Matisse once wrote, of his own paintings, ‘something like a good armchair’ … The passive engagement of ambient television is a boon for streaming services, which just want you to keep binging so that you feel your subscription is justified … Whereas the Internet once promised to provide on-demand access to limitless information and media to anyone willing to make use of a Google search, lately it has encouraged a more passive kind of engagement, a state of slack-jawed consumption only intensified by this past year’s quarantine ennui. Streaming companies once pitched themselves as innovators for offering the possibility to watch anything at any time, but do we really want to choose? The prevalence of ambient media suggests that we don’t. Netflix even recently announced that it is experimenting with its own version of a preprogrammed TV channel, called Direct.”

Ivanka Trump Was My Best Friend. Now She’s MAGA Royalty (Vanity Fair): “I wondered to another friend … what her endgame might be. Ivanka had deigned to dress Middle American housewives when I knew her, but did not pretend to want to hobnob with them. Predictably, as she began moving with the real power brokers of the world, Ivanka became increasingly certain that she and the rest of the capitalist elite had better solutions to the plight of America’s struggling working class than elected officials and the creaky bureaucracies they presided over. But aligning herself with her dad’s banana republic-style administration made no sense to me, until my friend suggested that Ivanka took her kids to the rally to show them that they are American royalty. This explanation seemed most plausible. What is more royal than presiding over subjects that you disdain? … I expect Ivanka will find a soft landing in Palm Beach instead, where casual white supremacy is de rigueur and most misdeeds are forgiven if you have enough money. It’s the perfect spot for her to lie low, shielded from the economic and social consequences of the policies she pursued for the past four years, the backlash against them, and from having to interact with her MAGA following. Surely Ivanka will still market whatever branded products she can sell them, and many whisper that she will harness their loyalty in a future run for president.”

Her Abuse Was a ‘Family Matter,’ Until It Went Live (The New York Times): “More than 900 women have died at the hands of their husbands or partners since China’s law against domestic violence was enacted in 2016, according to Beijing Equality … The domestic violence law promised police investigations and easier access to restraining orders, but enforcement is spotty and punishments are light in a society that stigmatizes divorce and pressures victims of abuse to keep silent. Activists say many police officers are not properly trained to handle domestic violence cases.”

For Fashion Start-Ups, Which Bets Are Worth the Risk? (The Business of Fashion): “Mickey Drexler isn’t used to success taking a lot of time … But he’s also fed up with the discounting culture and quality crisis that has overtaken traditional apparel retail, so he wants to do things differently with Alex Mill. That means not pouring tons of funds into it from the start … Alex Mill can’t grow as quickly as some of its competitors …So the company does things in a compact way. They spend more man-hours on perfecting messaging and testing out new concepts … through partnerships that offer additional upside. They also keep inventory levels as low as possible without sacrificing low-ish prices: this way they’re not left with a ton of stock at the end of the season that needs to be discounted. It means that the brand may not get as much initial attention — or as many sales — as heavily funded labels, but the hope is that the growth is sustainable and long-lasting, rather than outrageous and fleeting.”

The Smartest Ways to Use Online Reviews When Shopping (The Wall Street Journal): “Look for reviews that deviate from what most people are saying … seek out a reality check … Focus on the specifics. Look for specific, objective statements about quality, not just the reviewer’s taste or opinion … Don’t fall for the stories … Reviews that tell a story are more persuasive, but they’re not necessarily the most helpful … Take one-star reviews with a pinch of salt. Sometimes people hate a product for good reason, but other times they’re just blowing off steam … Beware active reviewers … fake reviewers submit 12 times as many reviews as genuine customers … Don’t be seduced by high numbers … people tend to favor products with lots of reviews, even when those reviews are bad.”

The Digital Nomads Did Not Prepare for This (The New York Times): “It turns out there are drawbacks … Tax things. Red-tape things. Wi-Fi rage things. Closed border things. The kinds of things one might gloss over when making an emotional, quarantine-addled decision to pack up an apartment and book a one-way ticket to Panama or Montreal or Kathmandu … the steep risks taken by the Covid Carpe Diem set. The reason this once-a-generation moment exists is the same reason most of us can’t go into the office or take a real vacation or eat inside a restaurant. Traveling risks sickness. Seizing the day risks sickness.”

Why Europeans Don’t Get Huge Medical Bills (The Atlantic): “Several European countries have health insurance just like America does. The difference is that their governments regulate what insurance must cover and what hospitals and doctors are allowed to charge much more aggressively than the United States does … Almost all Germans are covered by a variety of health insurance … which are financed through taxes. Almost all doctors and hospitals accept these plans. About 90 percent of Germans never see a bill for their doctor visits, and the rest are covered by private insurance, which usually reimburses whatever they get charged … In France, there are no provider networks, so no doctor can be ‘out-of-network.’ Doctors’ associations negotiate their fees with the universal public health-insurance program every few years … There are still some downsides to the health-care systems of these countries, but they are generally considered better than that of the United States. And yet, unlike the United Kingdom or Canada, where health care is government-paid, these countries achieved this while relying primarily on health insurers. In doing so, they provide a potential path forward for Americans who would like to see an end to medical-billing horror stories without doing away with the health insurance they’ve come to know and love—or at least know and fear the absence of.”

TikTok Mansions Are Publicly Traded Now (The New York Times): “West of Hudson Group … [which] operates a network of content houses where many prominent young influencers live … was acquired this week by Tongji Healthcare Group, an entity in Las Vegas that was incorporated by a Chinese hospital in 2006 but had no assets at the end of 2019. The deal was a reverse takeover … the combined company, which has applied to be renamed Clubhouse Media Group, is now listed on the so-called pink sheets market … In the first six months of the year, West of Hudson had revenue of nearly $96,000 but a loss of $983,000. Mr. Ben-Yohanan, the company’s chief executive who controls 62 percent of the stock … provided it with a loan of just over $1 million. The company can draw nearly $4 million more from him, according to the filing, which also said Tongji said may need to raise money in the markets to finance operations and grow.”

Can You Get Fired For What You Do Outside Work? (The Wall Street Journal): “In almost all cases, an employer can legally fire an employee for inappropriate behavior during personal time. The First Amendment doesn’t apply to work and employers have wide latitude to terminate people for things they say and do … generally speaking, you can’t be arrested for saying abhorrent things, but you can be fired … Every U.S. state except Montana has ‘at will’ employment laws.”

Charles Koch Offers Partial Regrets For His Partisan Ways (The Economist): “His writing … seems to argue that philanthropists and well-meaning activists will do most to tackle … social ills. That won’t change sceptics’ minds about him, but it is rare to hear a prominent figure express such blunt regrets for past actions. He now argues that partnership … achieves more than party confrontation. He has also started sending smaller sums to Democratic candidates. Mr Koch has not changed his spots entirely, though. AFP poured millions into this year’s elections. These include help given recently to David Perdue, a Republican senatorial candidate in a run-off in Georgia. Meanwhile the AFP’s website brags of how it lobbied to get Amy Coney Barrett installed quickly on the Supreme Court last month … just as it pushed for Brett Kavanaugh two years ago. A road once taken can be hard to leave again.”

How Steve Bannon and a Chinese Billionaire Created a Right-Wing Coronavirus Media Sensation (The New York Times): “Mr. Bannon and Mr. Guo have been on a mission for years to, as they put it, bring down the Chinese Communist Party … Mr. Guo’s deep pockets and Mr. Bannon’s extensive network have given them an influential platform. The two men set up a $100 million fund to investigate corruption in China. They spread conspiracy theories … By late January, they were both acutely focused on the outbreak in China.”

The Last Children of Down Syndrome (The Atlantic): “… in 2004, Denmark became one of the first countries in the world to offer prenatal Down syndrome screening to every pregnant woman … Nearly all expecting mothers choose to take the test; of those who get a Down syndrome diagnosis, more than 95 percent choose to abort … Since universal screening was introduced, the number of children born with Down syndrome has fallen sharply. In 2019, only 18 were born in the entire country. (About 6,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the U.S. each year.) … Down syndrome is frequently called the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for selective reproduction. It was one of the first genetic conditions to be routinely screened for in utero, and it remains the most morally troubling because it is among the least severe. It is very much compatible with life … In the United States—which has no national health-care system, no government mandate to offer prenatal screening—the best estimate for the termination rate after a diagnosis of Down syndrome is 67 percent. But that number conceals stark differences within the country. One study found higher rates of termination in the West and Northeast and among mothers who are highly educated.”

How to Make Your Pods-Giving as Safe as Possible (Vogue): “… Podsgiving: a Thanksgiving celebration for just your quarantine pod. Similar to a friendsgiving, what sets Podsgiving apart is that it is driven by public health necessity and it only includes members of your tightened COVID circle … There is no foolproof way to safely celebrate Thanksgiving with people who live outside your home. Any gathering—no matter the size, no matter if it’s outside or inside—involves some risk and exposure. And this year, it’s simply not a good idea to travel and gather indoors with relatives or other people you don’t live with.”

I Traced My Covid-19 Bubble and It’s Enormous (The New York Times): “I thought my bubble was pretty small, but it turned out to be far larger than I’d guessed. My only close contacts each week are my wife and kids. My kids, on the other hand, are in a learning pod with seven other children and my daughter attends a weekly gymnastics class. I emailed the parents of my kids’ friends and classmates, as well as their teachers, and asked how large each family’s bubble was. Already, my network was up to almost 40 people. Turns out a few of the families in our learning pod have children in day care or preschool. And one classmate’s mother is a doctor who comes into contact with about 10 patients each week. Once I had counted everyone, I realized that visiting my parents for Thanksgiving would be like asking them to sit down to dinner with more than 100 people.”

Recently purchased: Sézane Ana Dress, Ann Taylor Jeweled Button Cable Cardigan, Banana Republic Oversized Reversible Shirt Jacket, Madewell Pointelle Cable Cardigan Sweater, and Villeroy & Boch Iconic La Boule Porcelain Dinner Set.

Have a safe week, everyone!

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