In the News 11.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 11.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 11.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 11.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

End Intellectual Property

The grand term ‘intellectual property’ covers a lot of ground: the software that runs our lives, the movies we watch, the songs we listen to. But also the credit-scoring algorithms that determine the contours of our futures, the chemical structure and manufacturing processes for life-saving pharmaceutical drugs, even the golden arches of McDonald’s and terms such as ‘Google’. All are supposedly ‘intellectual property’. We are urged, whether by stern warnings on the packaging of our Blu-ray discs or by sonorous pronouncements from media company CEOs, to cease and desist from making unwanted, illegal or improper uses of such ‘property’, not to be ‘pirates’, to show the proper respect for the rights of those who own these things. But what kind of property is this? And why do we refer to such a menagerie with one inclusive term?

The phrase ‘intellectual property’ was first used in a legal decision in 1845 and acquired formal heft in 1967 with the establishment of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialised agency of the United Nations that represents and protects the commercial interests of holders of copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets. The ubiquitous use of ‘intellectual property’ began in the digital era of production, reproduction and distribution of cultural and technical artifacts. As a new political economy appeared, so did a new commercial and legal rhetoric. ‘Intellectual property’, a central term in that new discourse, is a culturally damaging and easily weaponised notion. Its use should be resisted.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

In the News 11.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Theorists Debate How ‘Neutral’ Evolution Really Is

In the News 11.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Charles Darwin articulated his theory of evolution by natural selection in On the Origin of Species in 1859, he focused on adaptations — the changes that enable organisms to survive in new or changing environments. Selection for favorable adaptations, he suggested, allowed ancient ancestral forms to gradually diversify into countless species.

That concept was so powerful that we might assume evolution is all about adaptation. So it can be surprising to learn that for half a century, a prevailing view in scholarly circles has been that it’s not.

Selection isn’t in doubt, but many scientists have argued that most evolutionary changes appear at the level of the genome and are essentially random and neutral. Adaptive changes groomed by natural selection might indeed sculpt a fin into a primitive foot, they said, but those changes make only a small contribution to the evolutionary process, in which the composition of DNA varies most often without any real consequences.

But now some scientists are pushing back against this idea, known as neutral theory, saying that genomes show much more evidence of evolved adaptation than the theory would dictate. This debate is important because it affects our understanding of the mechanisms that generate biodiversity, our inferences about how the sizes of natural populations have changed over time and our ability to reconstruct the evolutionary history of species (including our own). What lies in the future might be a new era that draws from the best of neutral theory while also recognizing the real, empirically supported influence of selection.

Read the rest of this article at: Quanta

How We Fell Out Of Love With Milk

Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.

That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.

While it’s unclear what Mueller plans to do with Guccifer, his last round of indictments charged 13 Russians tied to the Internet Research Agency troll farm with a conspiracy “for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.” It was Mueller’s first move establishing Russian interference in the election within a criminal context, but it stopped short of directly implicating the Putin regime.

Mueller’s office declined to comment for this story. But the attribution of Guccifer 2.0 as an officer of Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency would cross the Kremlin threshold—and move the investigation closer to Trump himself.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

In the News 11.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Mystery Of The Havana Syndrome

In the News 11.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the winter of 2017, the American Embassy in Havana was in a precarious state. The Embassy, a six-story tower that sits next to the seawall known as the Malecón, was built in 1953, and during the five decades in which diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States were suspended it had suffered from neglect. Salt and humidity from the ocean ate away at the pins holding up the marble façade. Work crews erected a fence around the most vulnerable area, to insure that no one was impaled by shards of marble tumbling from the walls.

Audrey Lee, a career Foreign Service officer in her late forties, worked in a snug office on the ground floor. (The name is a pseudonym, which she requested in order to protect her privacy.) Her life in Havana was fascinating but orderly. She lived with her husband and their twelve-year-old twins in a quiet neighborhood full of diplomats, and drove an S.U.V. to work each morning, arriving habitually by seven-thirty. A veteran of several Foreign Service tours, she felt at ease in Cuba—except for one peculiar incident. Earlier that year, when the family returned to Havana from a vacation, they were struck by a foul stench in their kitchen. The freezer was unplugged. Lee and her husband cleaned out the rotten food, plugged the freezer in, and went back to their routine, thinking little about the fact that someone had been there while they were away.

On the evening of March 17th, Lee came home from the Embassy, made dinner, and ate with the twins in the kitchen nook. Her husband was away on business. Afterward, the kids went upstairs to play Minecraft. At around eight o’clock, Lee washed the dishes. The kitchen lights made it hard to see out the window, but she knew that there was a wooden booth outside where Cuban police kept watch. As Lee was cleaning, she felt a sudden burst of pressure in her head, then a stabbing pain worse than any she had ever experienced. Her breath quickened and she was overcome by panic. Lee had heard rumors around the Embassy of colleagues falling victim to mysterious “sonic attacks,” but no one knew what they were or what had caused them.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

How Podcasts Became A Seductive—And Sometimes Slippery—Mode Of Storytelling

In the News 11.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 1936, Walter Benjamin, the German philosopher and cultural critic, published an essay titled “The Storyteller.” Ostensibly about the Russian writer Nikolai Leskov, Benjamin used the piece to analyze the meaning and function of storytelling. Long ago, Benjamin suggested, stories offered listeners practical or moral counsel, much as fairy tales now did for children. They transmitted common wisdom, framed by the personal experience of the storyteller, which was delivered in such a way that listeners could incorporate it into their lives. This kind of storytelling was falling victim to the forces of modernity, Benjamin argued. Soldiers returning from the battlefields of the Great War, for example, were less likely than earlier combatants to speak of what they’d gone through, finding ordinary language incommensurate with the horrors of mechanical warfare. But the principal cause of storytelling’s decline was a new form of communication: “information,” or verifiable and topical news.

The rise of electronic communication meant that news could be instantly transmitted around the globe. Although Benjamin noted that this mode of communication was not always more accurate than the forms it had overtaken, its authority depended on the appearance, at least, of accuracy. “No event any longer comes to us without already being shot through with explanation,” Benjamin wrote. “By now almost nothing that happens benefits storytelling.”

Eighty-odd years after Benjamin wrote about the decline of storytelling, we are living in a new golden age of it, in the form of the podcast: on-demand audio that a listener can download and play while commuting or exercising or, given the right equipment, showering. A recent study conducted by Edison Research found that nearly a quarter of Americans listen to podcasts at least once a month. The most popular shows, such as “The Daily,” produced by the Times and featuring Michael Barbaro, a former reporter, as a winning, accessible interlocutor of his news-gathering colleagues, or “The Joe Rogan Experience,” in which the bluff comedian interviews public figures about things like masculinity and technology, are downloaded tens of millions of times each month. Some of the most acclaimed podcasts, such as Slate’s “Slow Burn,” which in its second season plumbed the painful history of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, offer a provocative lens not just on the past but also on current events. When the show’s host, Leon Neyfakh, interviews Juanita Broaddrick about her claim that, in the nineteen-seventies, she was sexually assaulted by Clinton, it makes for sobering listening in the era of #MeToo.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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