Weekly Link Roundup

I really wanted to like KFC’s new chicken nuggets, but they are mediocre at best. Sure, there’s more white meat per piece than the old Popcorn Chicken (RIP), but the chicken from my order had a dry, stringy texture, and the soft exterior of the brand’s Original Recipe chicken. Unlike the chicken sandwiches (including the Double Down), there is no requirement that these nuggets be fried to order. While I don’t doubt that a fresh batch will taste better, for their price ($5.39 for 8-pieces in my area), you can find similar nuggets at Chick-fil-A, which are more consistently good.

+ KFC’s New Nuggets Knock Popcorn Chicken off the Menu (The Takeout): “The new nuggets are made of chunks of white meat chicken and are hand-breaded with KFC’s Original Recipe coating … Obviously, my experience was different from the typical fast food order: One of KFC’s corporate chefs prepared my nuggets personally, plus I tasted them fresh from the fryer during the demonstration. I’m not sure how they’d handle after sitting in a warming area for a while, so your results may vary.”

+ Something Odd Is Happening With Handbags (The Atlantic): “Old bags are back. A significant—and growing—number of fashion-conscious people appear to be mining the depths of their closets or scouring secondhand marketplaces for designs released in the past decade or somany of them are carrying precisely the bags that should be at the nadir of popularity: one-off seasonal releases, designs whose trendiness peaked in the 2010s, and other bags that would otherwise scan as outdated to anyone in the know. One of fashion’s most basic rules is that nothing is less cool than the recent past, yet here are trendy people parading around like it’s 2015 … Demand for like-new versions of recent releases has eased in favor of older, used designs, including those with obvious imperfections. Sales of designer bags in ‘fair’ condition, which can have scuffed corners or other highly visible markers of use, nearly doubled in 2022.”

+ Why Does Fast Fashion Fall Apart So Quickly? (Harper’s Bazaar): “Clothing is the single category that has declined in price since 2000 in spite of egregious inflation elsewhere. But ironically, as good-quality clothing becomes hard and harder to find, it’s becoming increasingly important to a growing cohort of consumers … This renewed desire for quality comes from a frustration with the options available, but also out of necessity. Thanks to the cost-of-living crisis, people can no longer afford to shop with abandon like they once did.”

+ Can A.I. Treat Mental Illness? (The New Yorker): “Today, millions of people talk to programs and apps … The worlds of psychiatry, therapy, computer science, and consumer technology are converging: increasingly, we soothe ourselves with our devices, while programmers, psychiatrists, and startup founders design A.I. systems that analyze medical records and therapy sessions in hopes of diagnosing, treating, and even predicting mental illness. In 2021, digital startups that focussed on mental health secured more than five billion dollars in venture capital—more than double that for any other medical issue. The scale of investment reflects the size of the problem. Roughly one in five American adults has a mental illness. An estimated one in twenty has what’s considered a serious mental illness—major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia—that profoundly impairs the ability to live, work, or relate to others. Decades-old drugs such as Prozac and Xanax, once billed as revolutionary antidotes to depression and anxiety, have proved less effective than many had hoped; care remains fragmented, belated, and inadequate; and the over-all burden of mental illness in the U.S., as measured by years lost to disability, seems to have increased.”

Sharing the latest fashion stories, including the long legs of Barbiecore, interesting articles spanning different topics, and my review of the the Kentucky Fried Chicken Nuggets

+ Barbiecore’s Surprisingly Long Legs (The Business of Fashion): “Pink product arrivals across US retailers are up 30 percent in the first quarter of this year from the fourth quarter of 2022, which was already at a peak … The Barbie resurgence may appear to have spontaneously sprung out of TikTokbut Mattel, the toy’s parent company, has been trying to make it happen for a decade. The stick-thin blonde doll’s star faded in the 2000s, as newer, modern-looking dolls with big personalities, like Bratz, flooded the market. In 2014, Barbie sales were at the lowest level in 25 years. Mattel started taking steps to elevate Barbie’s place in the cultural conversation. It unveiled curvier versions of the Barbie doll in 2016 and has teamed up with a slew of fashion labels including Moschino, Vera Wang, Karl Lagerfeld, Kith, Tommy Hilfiger and Balmain, which debuted a 70-piece Barbie Balmain collection last year.”

+ Covid Worsened a Maternal Mortality Crisis in the U.S. (The New York Times): “The National Center for Health Statistics reported on Thursday that 1,205 pregnant women died in 2021, representing a 40 percent increase in maternal deaths compared with 2020, when there were 861 deaths, and a 60 percent increase compared with 2019, when there were 754 … Even before the pandemic, the United States had the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized nation. The coronavirus worsened an already dire situation, pushing the rate to 32.9 per 100,000 births in 2021 from 20.1 per 100,000 live births in 2019 … Pregnancy leaves women uniquely vulnerable to infectious diseases like Covid. The heart, lungs and kidneys are all working harder during pregnancy. The immune system, while not exactly depressed, is retuned to accommodate the fetus.”

+ The Uncanny Failures of A.I.-Generated Hands (The New Yorker): “Newly accessible tools such as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and DALL-E are able to render a photorealistic landscape, copy a celebrity’s face, remix an image in any artist’s style, and seamlessly replace image backgrounds … But when confronted with a request to draw hands the tools have spat out a range of nightmarish appendages: hands with a dozen fingers, hands with two thumbs, hands with more hands sprouting from them like some botanical mutant. The fingers have either too many joints or none at all. They look like diagrams in a medical textbook from an alien world. The machines’ ineptitude at this particular task has become a running joke about the shortcomings of A.I. As one person put it on Twitter, ‘Never ask a woman her age or an AI model why they’re hiding their hands’ … the hand problem has to do, in part, with the generators’ ability to extrapolate information from the vast data sets of images they have been trained on. When a user types a text prompt into a generator, it draws on countless related images and replicates the patterns it has learned. But, like an archaeologist trying to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs from the Rosetta Stone, the machine can deduce only from its given material, and there are gaps in its knowledge, particularly when it comes to understanding complex organic shapes holistically. Flawed or incomplete data sets produce flawed outputs … A generator can compute that hands have fingers, but it’s harder to train it to know that there should be only five, or that the digits have more or less set lengths in relation to one another. After all, hands look very different from different angles.”

+ Everything, including sale styles, is 20% off at H&M; discount reflects in cart. My order: Puff-sleeved Textured Jersey Dress, Printed Hooded Jacket, Cable-Knit Skirt, and Sleeveless Dress.

+ The Gambler Who Beat Roulette (Bloomberg): “It wasn’t the amount of money at stake that made the Ritz security team anxious It was the way these three were winning: consistently, over hundreds of rounds … Roulette computers did work, as long as certain conditions were present. Those conditions are, in effect, imperfections of one sort or another. On a perfect wheel, the ball would always fall in a random way. But over time, wheels develop flaws, which turn into patterns. A wheel that’s even marginally tilted could develop … a ‘drop zone.’ When the tilt forces the ball to climb a slope, the ball decelerates and falls from the outer rim at the same spot on almost every spin. A similar thing can happen on equipment worn from repeated use, or if a croupier’s hand lotion has left residue, or for a dizzying number of other reasons. A drop zone is the Achilles’ heel of roulette. That morsel of predictability is enough for software to overcome the random skidding and bouncing that happens after the drop … there’s a new generation of online roulette sharps who no longer need human-operated switches to time the ball and wheel. Instead, they deploy software that scans the video feed and does it for them, all from a home computer with no security guards in sight. Gambling firms are fighting back with innovations like random rotor speed, or RRS, technology, using software to algorithmically slow the wheel differently on each spin. There’s one surefire way casinos could stop prediction: calling ‘no more bets’ before the ball is in motion. But they won’t. That would cut into profits by limiting the amount of play and deterring casual gamblers. Instead, the industry seems willing to pay a toll to a select few who know the secret, while trying to design out the flaws that make the game vulnerable. Walk into a casino anywhere in the world today. Look at the depth of the pockets, the height of the wheelhead, the curvature of the bowl, and you can see how Tosa and his counterparts have reshaped roulette.”

+ Homeless Shelters Aren’t Equipped to Deal With New Mexico’s Most Troubled Foster Kids. Police See It for Themselves. (ProPublica): “More than 1,100 times from January 2019 through June 2022, someone at a shelter housing foster kids in New Mexico called emergency dispatchers for help with runaways, violent outbursts, disorderly conduct or mental health crises. Many of the kids placed in these shelters by CYFD have severe mental health or behavioral problems, including PTSD and depression, but shelters don’t provide psychiatric services. Kids break down, get into fights, destroy property, threaten staff or run away. Sometimes they say they want to kill themselves or try to … Kids like this are not supposed to be in shelters. Three years ago, the state promised to stop housing kids in shelters, offices and other places that don’t provide the mental health care that they need — except in ‘extraordinary circumstances’ when needed to protect the child. CYFD has delivered on just a portion of those promises. In the meantime, the referrals keep coming … some 50 foster youth are cycling in and out of shelters in New Mexico. That’s a small fraction of all children in custody of CYFD’s protective services office.”

+ The Abortion Ban Backlash Is Starting to Freak Out Republicans (The New York Times): “… having made the criminalization of abortion a central axis of their political project for decades, Republicans have no obvious way out of their electoral predicament. A decisive majority of Americans — 64 percent … believe that abortion should be legal in most cases. A decisive majority of Republicans — 63 percentbelieve that it should not. When abortion bans were merely theoretical, anti-abortion passion was often a boon to Republicans, powering the grass-roots organizing of the religious right. Now that the end of Roe has awakened a previously complacent pro-choice majority, anti-abortion passion has become a liability, but the Republican Party can’t jettison it without tearing itself apart.”

+ Sick All the Time (The Atlantic): “After years of careful hygiene and social measures taken to fend off COVID-19, people are now experiencing life more or less as usual again—which has meant that the typical wintertime viruses we evaded for so long have come roaring back. People fell ill with COVID but also with flu and RSV, leading some public-health researchers to warn of a ‘tripledemic’ with the strength to sicken millions. Also common, and equally burdensome, at least among families with small children: strep, pink eye, croup, stomach bugs, and one unidentifiable head cold after another, leaving empty bottles of liquid Tylenol and trash cans full of used tissues behind. All over the country, local health resources advised people that if it seemed as though everyone they knew was sick, they weren’t imagining things—just living through a time of pestilence.”

+ How Rural America Steals Girls’ Futures (The Atlantic): “Arkansas had, and continues to have, one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the United States. Girls became pregnant in our middle and high schools, at least one a year. They dropped out or graduated as mothers and sometimes as wives, bearing a new name on their diploma … The girls who got pregnant were stigmatized—until their babies were born. Then they were revered as mothers. Our school was full of young moms who were still students, and those newly graduated would come back for ball games and other events, babies on their hips. It was an endless churn, baby after baby, raised in families that spanned five or six generations because so few years separated grandmothers and mothers and daughters—and because the girls couldn’t take care of their newborns without help.”

+ It’s Time to Address the Emily in the Room (The New York Times): “Emily was one of the top five names for girls born in the United States in the 1990s … From 1996 to 2007, when some 48 million people were born in the United States … Emily held the No. 1 spot. In 2006, American Girl released a doll named Emily Bennett.”

+ Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire (ProPublica): “For more than two decades, Thomas has accepted luxury trips virtually every year from [real estate magnate and Republican megadonor Harlan Crow] … without disclosing them … A public servant who has a salary of $285,000, he has vacationed on Crow’s superyacht around the globe. He flies on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet. He has gone with Crow to … exclusive California all-male retreat, and to Crow’s sprawling ranch in East Texas. And Thomas typically spends about a week every summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks. The extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court. These trips appeared nowhere on Thomas’ financial disclosures. His failure to report the flights appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts … Federal judges sit in a unique position of public trust. They have lifetime tenure, a privilege intended to insulate them from the pressures and potential corruption of politics. A code of conduct for federal judges below the Supreme Court requires them to avoid even the ‘appearance of impropriety’ … The Supreme Court is left almost entirely to police itself … Crow had given half a million dollars to a Tea Party group founded by Ginni Thomas, which also paid her a $120,000 salary. But the full scale of Crow’s benefactions has never been revealed.”

+ Recently purchased: The Drop Women’s Orla Boxy Straw Crossbody, FP Movement Prima Tiered Shortsie Romper, Nike Icon Classic Platform Sandal, J.Crew Squareneck Mini Sweater-Dress, AMUR Kersten Pleated Top, J.Crew Odette Sweater Lady Jacket in Cotton-Blend Bouclé, The Drop Kimi Ruffled-Shoulder Smocked Midi Dress, and OluKai Mii Mule.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone!

Hi, I am Elle!

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