One of these sculptures, carved in 1826-1827 by the Italian artist Enrico Causici, is a gruesome scene showing the explorer Daniel Boone stabbing a Native American warrior. Another warrior lies dead beneath their feet, filling the entire bottom of the rectangular panel. Soon after the work was installed, then-Rep. Tristam Burges, sarcastically commented that it “very truly represented our dealing with the Indians, for we had not left them even a place to die upon.”

The Boone panel is one of the first four sculptures made for the Capitol after it was rebuilt following its burning by the British in the War of 1812. The other sculptures show a Native American man offering corn to Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, Pocahontas saving John Smith, and William Penn shaking hands with a Native American to close a deal to exchange land for gifts. In 1842, then-Rep. Henry Wise claimed that Native Americans visiting the Capitol had observed how well these sculptures showed the history of relations between them and settlers: “We give you corn, you cheat us of our lands; we save your life, you take ours.” 

While trying to reason with a relative this past Christmas, I realized the microchip conspiracy theory — that COVID vaccines contain “the mark of the beast” signaling alliance to Satan — also met powerful psychological needs. One wants to be in control, chosen and special, “awake” during End Times while others “sleep.” Many of my relatives and their friends are Korean immigrants with limited English, had difficult childhoods, unhappy family lives or face financial hardships. Sensational spiritual beliefs make them feel secure in ways life has not.

I’m fed up with anti-vaxxers. But I see that cults and conspiracy theories get something right about our needs. We all need something or someone to tell us that we are in control or, at the very least, that we’re OK. And for some people, that means embracing disinformation and false theories because they appear to offer answers or explain things we don’t understand.

Because celebrity marketing is so powerful, the FTC has come up with a series of regulations around influencer endorsements on social media platforms. The onus is on the poster to disclose that they received something as a promotional consideration or that they are getting paid to advertise a product. Any financial, personal, employment, or family relationship must be disclosed under these guidelines.

So I emailed the FTC to ask what that might mean for airdrops. While FTC spokesperson Juliana Gruenwald said the agency can’t comment on any specific celebrity or scenario, there’s a general principle at play: if consumers might be unaware of a connection between a marketer and a celebrity, that should be disclosed. “So the relevant questions include whether the celebrity is actually endorsing a product or service on behalf of a marketer, whether any connection is expected by the endorser’s followers, and would knowing about the connection affect what the followers think about the endorsement,” she wrote in an emailed statement.

  • You may have heard of “white passing,” but have you heard of “black passing“? One Tiktoker, @theyareuswearethem, shares a family story (and I suggest reading the comments as they are filled with people saying the same thing happened in their family):

Confederate addresses sell for 3% less on average than homes of similar size and age on nearby streets that aren’t named for secessionists. That works out to a mean Confederate home-sale discount of about $7,000 on a $240,000 home. Houses on Confederate streets also take longer to sell than otherwise comparable homes, according to a review of home sales data across 35 states.

YouTube Poster

While in Paris, James Hemings was trained in the art of French cooking. He studied first with the caterer and restaurateur, Monsieur Combeaux, apprenticed with pastry chefs and then with a cook in the household of the Prince de Condé. After three years of study he became the head chef at the Hôtel de Langeac, Jefferson’s residence that functioned also as the American embassy. Here his dishes were served to international guests, statesmen, authors, scientists, and European aristocrats. His wages of twenty-four livres a month were a regular income (and more than the occasional gratuity he received in the United States, but that salary was half of what Jefferson paid his previous chef cuisinier.

Private equity is now the dominant form of financial backing among the 35 largest owners of multifamily buildings, the analysis showed. In 2011, about a third of the apartment units held by the top owners were backed by private equity. A decade later, half of them were.

Private equity-backed firms in the top 35 cumulatively held roughly a million apartments last year, the analysis showed. That is likely an undercount, because private equity giants like Blackstone, Lone Star Funds and others don’t participate in the National Multifamily Housing Council’s annual survey.

Private equity firms often act like a corporate version of a house flipper: They seek deals on apartment buildings, slash costs or hike rents to boost income, then unload the buildings at a higher price.

The influx of private equity comes during a national affordable housing crisis and has dire consequences, tenants and their advocates say. Such firms use economies of scale to more aggressively squeeze profits from their buildings than traditional landlords usually do, tenant advocates say. The firms’ tactics can include sharply increasing rent or fees and neglecting upkeep. Sometimes landlords force out existing tenants and replace them with those who can pay more.

  • Nova‘s “Secrets in the Scat” episode tells us all we wanted to know (and some we don’t) about the scat of four animals (whale, wombat, rhinoceros, and cassowary). Highly recommended.

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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This week, Title IX celebrates 50 years, the trouble with pronouns, a writer’s hilarious response to plagiarism allegations, and much more.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.