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MinnPost Picks: on the internet’s reliability, canine witnesses and cottage-core

Our weekly roundup of great stories from around the web, as recommended by MinnPost’s staff and contributing journalists.

Independent contractors, like freelance graphic designers, and gig economy workers should qualify.
Photo by Josefa nDiaz on Unsplash

The System That Actually Worked, The Atlantic

As we deal with the disruption of the economy caused by the breakdown of everything from the movement of steel shipping containers to seemingly every business not having enough workers, it’s interesting to revisit this May 2020 article about a system that basically did not fail during the pandemic, despite intense pressure on it: the internet. That’s because the internet has all kinds of redundancy and extra capacity built into its design (it was, after all, based on a network that was designed to survive a nuclear attack). Contrast that with most of the rest of the economy that for decades has been obsessed with efficiency at the cost of all else — something that goes okay when everything is working as planned but, as we’re seeing, quickly breaks if any part of the supply chain slows down.
—Tom Nehil, news editor

The sniff test, Science

Andrew PutzLike most dog owners, I am totally convinced my dogs are special. But as Peter Andrey Smith reports in this fascinating story, that doesn’t mean their olfactory talents should be used to convict someone of murder. Yet that’s increasingly what’s happening. As Andrey Smith explains: “In what are known as scent lineups, agencies use trained canines to match evidence collected at a crime scene to the scent of a suspect or body.” The problem: the tactic is “profoundly lacking in scientific validation. Dog-sniff evidence has led to wrongful convictions, and studies show human biases skew animal behavior.”
—Andy Putz, editor

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Amazon Warehouse Workers in New York City to File For Union Election, Vice

Workers at Amazon warehouses in Staten Island have formed a union, and intend to petition the National Labor Relations Board for an election this week. This Vice article covers some of what their organizing has been like and how Amazon has responded.
—Jonathan Stegall, user experience engineer

The Enduring Appeal of Laura Ashley, New York Times

If you’ve ventured through the women’s clothing section at Target lately, you might have noticed frocks that look like they were made to be a Laura Ingalls Wilder Halloween costume. They weren’t. The lacy, floral prairie look is back, and this time it’s called “cottage-core.” In the New York Times’ Style Magazine, Amanda Fortini dives into the work and the enduring legacy of Laura Ashley, the Welsh designer who brought this look back the last time it came back, in the 1970s.
—Greta Kaul, data reporter