Week One

Navalny’s Long-Running Battle with Putin Enters a New Phase

The jailed opposition leader is creating a model of guerrilla political warfare for the digital age.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/navalnys-long-running-battle-with-putin-enters-a-new-phase
The story line has a both cinematic and ghoulish arc: the charismatic protest leader poisoned by the secret police manages to miraculously survive. As he recuperates abroad, he investigates the details of his own attempted assasination, luring one of the ham-fisted would-be killers into admitting his guilt. And then, resurrected from the dead, he returns home, where his immediate arrest at passport control is live-streamed.

Trump Wants Back on Facebook. This Star-Studded Jury Might Let Him.

A new kind of corporate supercourt is looking for legitimacy.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/24/business/media/trump-facebook-oversight-board.html
“The media played a role of this sort at a certain point in history, as a kind of trusted intermediary, but there are good reasons for it not to play that role anymore,” Professor Green said. “There’s got to be something in between private commercial incentives and government.”

Have We Already Been Visited by Aliens?

An eminent astrophysicist argues that signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life have appeared in our skies. What’s the evidence for his extraordinary claim?

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/25/have-we-already-been-visited-by-aliens
nasa’s ultimate goal for the telescope was to work out a figure known as eta-Earth, or η⊕. This is the average number of rocky, roughly Earth-size planets that can be found orbiting an average sunlike star at a distance that might, conceivably, render them habitable. After spending two years analyzing the data from Kepler, researchers recently concluded that η⊕ has a value somewhere between .37 and .6. Since there are at least four billion sunlike stars in the Milky Way, this means that somewhere between 1.5 billion and 2.4 billion planets in our galaxy could, in theory, harbor life. No one knows what fraction of potentially habitable planets are, in fact, inhabited, but, even if the proportion is trivial, we’re still talking about millions—perhaps tens of millions—of planets in the galaxy that might be teeming with living things. At a public event a few years ago, Ellen Stofan, who at the time was nasa’s chief scientist and is now the director of the National Air and Space Museum, said that she believed “definitive evidence” of “life beyond earth” would be found sometime in the next two decades.

Everything Is Broken

And how to fix it

Link: /sections/news/articles/everything-is-broken
David and I looked at each other, simultaneously realizing that the after-school special we thought we were in was actually a horror movie. If the medical industry was comprehensively broken, as Norman said, and the media was irrevocably broken, as we knew it was ... Was everything in America broken? Was education broken? Housing? Farming? Cities? Was religion broken?

Trump's useful thugs: how the Republican party offered a home to the Proud Boys

The long read: Early in Trump’s presidency, emboldened neo-Nazi and fascist groups came out into the open but were met with widespread revulsion. So the tactics of the far right changed, becoming more insidious – and much more successful

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2021/jan/21/donald-trump-useful-thugs-proud-boys-far-right-republican-party
Outside, antifascist and antiracist demonstrators gathered to protest against McInnes’s appearance. As guests began to leave, a score of Proud Boys hung back and prepared for the coming brawl. Scuffles and beatings followed, as they seemed to wherever the Proud Boys went. A dozen members of the protofascist gang stomped demonstrators who had been caught in the open. “Do you feel brave now, faggot?” one yelled, according to the documentary film-maker Sandi Bachom and the photojournalist Shay Horse, who witnessed the attack. Bachom’s footage shows one assailant screaming “Faggot!” as he kicks someone curled up on the ground. Other footage includes a Proud Boy bragging, “Dude, I had one of their fucking heads, and I was just fucking smashing it in the pavement!” “That son of a bitch!” he continues. “He was a fucking foreigner.” One of his friends yells the Proud Boys slogan: “Fuck around, find out!”

A Site Published Every Face From Parler's Capitol Riot Videos

Faces of the Riot used open source software to detect, extract, and deduplicate every face from the 827 videos taken from the insurrection on January 6.

Link: https://www.wired.com/story/faces-of-the-riot-capitol-insurrection-facial-recognition/
Late last week, a website called Faces of the Riot appeared online, showing nothing but a vast grid of more than 6,000 images of faces, each one tagged only with a string of characters associated with the Parler video in which it appeared. The site's creator tells WIRED that he used simple open source machine learning and facial recognition software to detect, extract, and deduplicate every face from the 827 videos that were posted to Parler from inside and outside the Capitol building on January 6, the day when radicalized Trump supporters stormed the building in a riot that resulted in five people's deaths. The creator of Faces of the Riot says his goal is to allow anyone to easily sort through the faces pulled from those videos to identify someone they may know or recognize who took part in the mob, or even to reference the collected faces against FBI wanted posters and send a tip to law enforcement if they spot someone.

What You Should Know Before Leaking a Zoom Meeting

At least one leaker has already been exposed. Here’s how to protect yourself or your sources.

Link: https://theintercept.com/2021/01/18/leak-zoom-meeting/
In contrast, the audio watermarks are not readily perceptible to casual listeners, though they are what in watermarking parlance is known as “overt.” That means the fact that they are embedded is easily discerned by meeting participants: When a Zoom meeting has the audio watermark, or what Zoom also calls the “audio signature,” feature enabled, the meeting will have a green circular icon with a sound wave and a padlock at the top left of the frame next to the encryption icon.

Fox Settled a Lawsuit Over Its Lies. But It Insisted on One Unusual Condition.

Why did the network insist an agreement with the family of a murdered young man remain undisclosed until after the election?

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/17/business/media/fox-news-seth-rich-settlement.html
Fox’s decision to settle with the Rich family came just before its marquee hosts, Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity, were set to be questioned under oath in the case, a potentially embarrassing moment. And Fox paid so much that the network didn’t have to apologize for the May 2017 story on FoxNews.com.

She Killed an American in 2012. Why Was She Freed in the Taliban Deal?

The internal debate in Washington over the fate of an Iranian prisoner in Afghanistan illustrates one of the difficult decisions the end of a war brings.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/15/world/asia/afghanistan-prisoner-exchange-taliban.html
As peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban continue in Qatar, the internal debate in Washington over Ms. Hasan’s fate illustrates one of the difficult decisions that efforts to end a war can bring. To some officials, particularly those inside the F.B.I. and other national security organizations, her release by the Afghan government, under pressure from the Trump administration, was an affront to justice.

Trolling the Great Outdoors

As the wilderness gets overrun, the most hated man in the Rockies finds an audience of emulators and antagonists.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/18/trolling-the-great-outdoors
“The more hate I got, the more people got behind me, from all over the world,” Lesh said. “These people couldn’t give two fucks about me walking on a log in Hanging Lake. It was an opportunity to reach a whole new group of people—while really solidifying the customer base we already had.”

‘The Internet Is a Crime Scene’

Misinformation and online radicalization led to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, says Joan Donovan—and understanding exactly how that happened is the first step to seeing where we’re headed.

Link: https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/01/14/us-capitol-disinformation-online-qanon-trump-insurrection-459505
“The internet is a crime scene,” says Joan Donovan, research director at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. “We’re collectively witnessing the aftermath of probably one of the biggest lies ever told in terms of the amount of people it reached and the effects that it had.”

Among the Insurrectionists

The Capitol was breached by Trump supporters who had been declaring, at rally after rally, that they would go to violent lengths to keep the President in power. A chronicle of an attack foretold.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/01/25/among-the-insurrectionists
During Trump’s speech on January 6th, he said, “The media is the biggest problem we have.” He went on, “It’s become the enemy of the people. . . . We gotta get them straightened out.” Several journalists were attacked during the siege. Men assaulted a Times photographer inside the Capitol, near the rotunda, as she screamed for help. After National Guard soldiers and federal agents finally arrived and expelled the Trump supporters, some members of the mob shifted their attention to television crews in a park on the east side of the building. Earlier, a man had accosted an Israeli journalist in the middle of a live broadcast, calling him a “lying Israeli” and telling him, “You are cattle today.” Now the Trump supporters surrounded teams from the Associated Press and other outlets, chasing off the reporters and smashing their equipment with bats and sticks.