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News 08.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 08.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 08.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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I must have been about four when we drove to buy a dog. The day is now only a haze of Sunday afternoon impressions of rain and green, of the muddy track somewhere in the Stirlingshire countryside, a room, a log fire, and the two chosen puppies who would be the confidants of my growing up. The black dog died when I was in my early teens, and the brown one, the last dog I knew well, shortly before I left school. Our buying them must have been part of the growing tendency for post-second world war pet-keeping, which had been increasing since Victorian times, and was about to expand into the vast pet trade of today.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 08.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

At the end of May, as protests against the police killing of George Floyd got under way, reports started to circulate that the shadowy hacker group Anonymous was back.

The rumors began with a video depicting a black-clad figure in the group’s signature Guy Fawkes mask. “Greetings, citizens of the United States,” the figure said in a creepy, distorted voice. “This is a message from Anonymous to the Minneapolis Police Department.” The masked announcer addressed Floyd’s killing and the larger pattern of police misconduct, concluding, “We will be exposing your many crimes to the world. We are legion. Expect us.”

The clip generated a wave of renewed enthusiasm for Anonymous, particularly among young people. Twitter accounts associated with the group saw a surge of new followers, a couple of them by the millions.

At the height of its popularity, in 2012, Anonymous had been a network of thousands of activists, a minority of them hackers, devoted to leftist-libertarian ideals of personal freedom and opposed to the consolidation of corporate and government power. But after a spate of arrests, it had largely faded from view.

Now a new generation was eager to join. “How does one apply to be a part of Anonymous? I just wanna help out, I’ll even make the hackers coffee or suttin” an activist in the United Kingdom joked on Twitter, garnering hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets.

Anonymous “stan” (super fan) accounts remixed the video on TikTok to give the shadowy figure glamorous nails and jewelry. Others used the chat service Discord to create virtual spaces where thousands of new devotees could celebrate the hackers with memes and fan fiction. One of the largest Anonymous accounts on Twitter begged people to “stop sending us nudes.”

A series of hacks followed the release of the video. News outlets speculated that it was Anonymous who had hijacked Chicago police scanners on May 30 and 31 to play N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police” and Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain,” a 2007 song that served as an unofficial anthem for the group. Likewise, when the Minneapolis Police Department website went offline from an apparent DDoS attack—a hack that overwhelms a target site with traffic—social media credited Anonymous.

Three weeks later, on Juneteenth, a person identifying as Anonymous leaked hundreds of gigabytes of internal police files from more than 200 agencies across the U.S. The hack, labeled #BlueLeaks, contained little information about police misconduct. However, it did reveal that local and federal law-enforcement groups spread poorly researched and exaggerated misinformation to Minnesota police officers during the unrest in May and June, and made efforts to monitor protesters’ social-media activity.

I had recently published a book that detailed the tangled origins of Anonymous, and until last month, I’d thought the group had faded away. I was surprised by its reemergence, and wanted to understand how and why it seemed to be coming back, starting with who had made the new video. It didn’t take me long to find out.

The video was watermarked, which is uncharacteristic for Anonymous. The mark is blurred out in copies, but appears in the original post in white font: “anonews.co.” That URL led me to a news-aggregation site, which brought me to the site’s Facebook page, where the first iteration of the video had been posted on May 28. A British company called Midialab Ltd. controlled the page. I wrote to the email listed on the page, and the company’s owner replied the same day. This person requested anonymity but was willing to put me in touch with the creator of the video.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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Burna Boy — the Nigerian songwriter, singer and rapper who was born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu — once thought he’d be content writing the sleek, self-assured party tunes that first drew fans to his mixtapes in the early 2010s. But as his popularity spread worldwide, the spirits who guide his songwriting had other plans for him. Soon, he was taking up broader, more consequential ideas.

“Music is a spiritual thing,” he said in an interview via video call from his studio in Lagos. Wearing a white Uber jersey and puffing a hand-rolled smoke, with jeweled rings glittering on his fingers, Burna Boy spoke about his fifth album, “Twice as Tall,” which was still getting some finishing touches ahead of its Aug. 13 release date.

“I’ve never picked up a pen and paper and written down a song in my life,” he said. “It all just comes, like someone is standing there and telling me what to say. It’s all according to the spirits. Some of us are put on this earth to do what we do.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 08.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 08.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Afew days before my return to classroom teaching at Sichuan University, I was biking across a deserted stretch of campus when I encountered a robot. The blocky machine stood about chest-high, on four wheels, not quite as long as a golf cart. In front was a T-shaped device that appeared to be some kind of sensor. The robot rolled past me, its electric motor humming. I turned around and tailed the thing at a distance of fifteen feet.

It was May 27th, and it had been more than three months since my last visit to the university’s Jiang’an campus, which is on the outskirts of Chengdu, in southwestern China. In late February, when the spring semester was about to begin, I had hurried to campus to retrieve some materials from my office. We were nearly a month into a nationwide lockdown in response to the coronavirus, which had started in Wuhan, a city about seven hundred miles east of Chengdu. The university had informed the faculty that, at least at the beginning of the term, all courses would be online.

In those days, it still seemed possible to escape the disease by leaving China, and a number of foreign teachers at the university had departed. At the U.S. Embassy and consulates, nonessential staff had been evacuated, along with the spouses and children of the diplomats who remained. Throughout February, I answered e-mails from worried friends and relatives in the U.S. I reassured them that my family was fine, and told them that we had decided to stay in Chengdu, despite numbers that, at least at that particular moment, seemed frightening. On February 20th, when I visited campus, China’s official death toll reached 2,236.

Since then, the semester had crawled along, as everybody’s perspective on the disease changed. During the third week of classes, the epidemic officially became a pandemic; by week six, the U.S. death toll had exceeded that of China. That week, China’s borders were closed to foreigners, and the evacuations reversed direction—Chinese nationals in America and Europe, many of them students, were desperately trying to return home. China was the first to experience the pandemic, and it was also among the earliest countries to control the spread and enter what would now be considered normal life. In week eleven, my nine-year-old twin daughters resumed classes; in week thirteen, I boarded a plane for the first time in the post-coronavirus era. And now, on May 27th—week fourteen—I was finally back on campus.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 08.12.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Never in our lives have we experienced such a global phenomenon. For the first time in the history of the world, all of humanity, informed by the unprecedented reach of digital technology, has come together, focused on the same existential threat, consumed by the same fears and uncertainties, eagerly anticipating the same, as yet unrealized, promises of medical science.

In a single season, civilization has been brought low by a microscopic parasite 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt. COVID-19 attacks our physical bodies, but also the cultural foundations of our lives, the toolbox of community and connectivity that is for the human what claws and teeth represent to the tiger.

Our interventions to date have largely focused on mitigating the rate of spread, flattening the curve of morbidity. There is no treatment at hand, and no certainty of a vaccine on the near horizon. The fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps. It took four years. COVID-19 killed 100,000 Americans in four months. There is some evidence that natural infection may not imply immunity, leaving some to question how effective a vaccine will be, even assuming one can be found. And it must be safe. If the global population is to be immunized, lethal complications in just one person in a thousand would imply the death of millions.

Pandemics and plagues have a way of shifting the course of history, and not always in a manner immediately evident to the survivors. In the 14th Century, the Black Death killed close to half of Europe’s population. A scarcity of labor led to increased wages. Rising expectations culminated in the Peasants Revolt of 1381, an inflection point that marked the beginning of the end of the feudal order that had dominated medieval Europe for a thousand years.

The COVID pandemic will be remembered as such a moment in history, a seminal event whose significance will unfold only in the wake of the crisis. It will mark this era much as the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the stock market crash of 1929, and the 1933 ascent of Adolf Hitler became fundamental benchmarks of the last century, all harbingers of greater and more consequential outcomes.

COVID’s historic significance lies not in what it implies for our daily lives. Change, after all, is the one constant when it comes to culture. All peoples in all places at all times are always dancing with new possibilities for life. As companies eliminate or downsize central offices, employees work from home, restaurants close, shopping malls shutter, streaming brings entertainment and sporting events into the home, and airline travel becomes ever more problematic and miserable, people will adapt, as we’ve always done. Fluidity of memory and a capacity to forget is perhaps the most haunting trait of our species. As history confirms, it allows us to come to terms with any degree of social, moral, or environmental degradation.

To be sure, financial uncertainty will cast a long shadow. Hovering over the global economy for some time will be the sober realization that all the money in the hands of all the nations on Earth will never be enough to offset the losses sustained when an entire world ceases to function, with workers and businesses everywhere facing a choice between economic and biological survival.

Unsettling as these transitions and circumstances will be, short of a complete economic collapse, none stands out as a turning point in history. But what surely does is the absolutely devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the reputation and international standing of the United States of America.

In a dark season of pestilence, COVID has reduced to tatters the illusion of American exceptionalism. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world.

For the first time, the international community felt compelled to send disaster relief to Washington. For more than two centuries, reported the Irish Times, “the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now: pity.” As American doctors and nurses eagerly awaited emergency airlifts of basic supplies from China, the hinge of history opened to the Asian century.

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

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