News 21.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 21.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 21.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 21.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Billions of people are inseparable from their phones. Their devices are within reach – and earshot – for almost every daily experience, from the most mundane to the most intimate.

Few pause to think that their phones can be transformed into surveillance devices, with someone thousands of miles away silently extracting their messages, photos and location, activating their microphone to record them in real time.

Such are the capabilities of Pegasus, the spyware manufactured by NSO Group, the Israeli purveyor of weapons of mass surveillance.

NSO rejects this label. It insists only carefully vetted government intelligence and law enforcement agencies can use Pegasus, and only to penetrate the phones of “legitimate criminal or terror group targets”.

Yet in the coming days the Guardian will be revealing the identities of many innocent people who have been identified as candidates for possible surveillance by NSO clients in a massive leak of data.

Without forensics on their devices, we cannot know whether governments successfully targeted these people. But the presence of their names on this list indicates the lengths to which governments may go to spy on critics, rivals and opponents.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 21.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 21.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Jake Haendel was a hard-partying chef from a sleepy region of Massachusetts. When he was 28, his heroin addiction resulted in catastrophic brain damage and very nearly killed him. In a matter of months, Jake’s existence became reduced to a voice in his head.

Jake’s parents had divorced when he was young. He grew up between their two homes in a couple of small towns just beyond reach of Boston, little more than strip malls, ailing churches and half-empty sports bars. His mother died of breast cancer when he was 19. By then, he had already been selling marijuana and abusing OxyContin, an opioid, for years. “Like a lot of kids at my school, I fell in love with oxy. If I was out to dinner with my family at a restaurant, I would go to the bathroom just to get a fix,” he said. He started culinary school, where he continued to experiment with opioids and cocaine. He hid his drug use from family and friends behind a sociable, fun-loving front. Inside, he felt anxious and empty. “I numbed myself with partying,” he said.

After culinary school, he took a job as a chef at a local country club. At 25, Jake tried heroin for the first time, with a co-worker (narcotics are notoriously prevalent in American kitchens). By the summer of 2013, Jake was struggling to find prescription opioids. For months, he had been fending off the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, which he likened to “a severe case of the flu with an added feeling of impending doom”. Heroin offered a euphoric high, staving off the intense nausea and shaking chills of withdrawal.

Despite his worsening addiction, Jake married his girlfriend, Ellen, in late 2016. Early in their relationship, Ellen had asked him if he was using heroin. He had lied without hesitation, but she soon found out the truth, and within months, the marriage was falling apart. “I was out of control, selling lots of heroin, using even more, spending a ridiculous amount of money on drugs and alcohol,” he said. In May 2017, Ellen noticed that he was talking funnily, his words slurred and off-pitch. “What’s up with your voice?” she asked him repeatedly.

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

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Near the close of the First World War, Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander, rejected a ceasefire request from the Germans. The two sides were actively negotiating the Armistice; it was clear that the end of the war was imminent. Still, the negotiations continued for several more days, and between Foch’s refusal, on November 8, 1918, and the signing of the Armistice, just after 5 A.M. on November 11th, nearly seven thousand men were killed and thousands more were injured. News that the war would end at 11 A.M. that day was transmitted immediately to both Allied and Central commanders. Still, as Adam Hochschild detailed in a 2018 essay for The New Yorker, the fighting continued: there were more casualties on the final day of the First World War than on D Day, in 1944. The last American killed in combat died at 10:59 A.M.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 21.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 21.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

“The crows have left,” Ishmael Reed said, explaining the chorus of songbirds. It was a clear spring day in Oakland, California, and I had just sat down with Reed, his wife, Carla Blank, and their daughter Tennessee in the family’s back yard. The eighty-three-year-old writer looked every inch “Uncle Ish,” as he’s known on AOL: sunglasses, New Balances, a Nike windbreaker, and an athletic skullcap covering his halo of dandelion-seed white hair. He described his war against the neighborhood crows with mischievous satisfaction, as though it were one of his many skirmishes with the New York literary establishment.

“They had a sentinel on the telephone wire,” he said, and were chasing away the other birds. But Reed learned to signal with a crow whistle—three caws for a predator, four for a friend, he inferred—well enough to manipulate the murder. Before long, he said, “they thought I was a crow.” Now the songbirds were back. The four of us paused to take in their music, a free-verse anthology of avian lyric. When Blank mentioned that a hummingbird frequented the garden, I wondered aloud why the Aztecs had chosen the bird as an emblem of their war god. Reed answered instantly: “They go right for the eyes.”

Ishmael Reed has outwitted more than crows with his formidable powers of imitation. For half a century, he’s been American literature’s most fearless satirist, waging a cultural forever war against the media that spans a dozen novels, nine plays and essay collections, and hundreds of poems, one of which, written in anticipation of his thirty-fifth birthday, is a prayer to stay petty: “35? I ain’t been mean enough . . . Make me Tennessee mean . . . Miles Davis mean . . . Pawnbroker mean,” he writes. “Mean as the town Bessie sings about / ‘Where all the birds sing bass.’ ”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 21.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Behold California, colossus of the West Coast: the most populous American state; the world’s fifth-largest economy; and arguably the most culturally influential, exporting Google searches and Instagram feeds and iPhones and Teslas and Netflix Originals and kimchi quesadillas. This place inspires awe. If I close my eyes I can see silhouettes of Joshua trees against a desert sunrise; seals playing in La Jolla’s craggy coves of sun-spangled, emerald seawater; fog rolling over the rugged Sonoma County coast at sunset into primeval groves of redwoods that John Steinbeck called “ambassadors from another time.”

This landscape is bejeweled with engineering feats: the California Aqueduct; the Golden Gate Bridge; and the ribbon of Pacific Coast Highway that stretches south of Monterey, clings to the cliffs of Big Sur, and descends the kelp-strewn Central Coast, where William Hearst built his Xanadu on a hillside where his zebras still graze. No dreamscape better inspires dreamers. Millions still immigrate to my beloved home to improve both their prospects and ours.

Yet I fear for California’s future. The generations that reaped the benefits of the postwar era in what was the most dynamic place in the world should be striving to ensure that future generations can pursue happiness as they did. Instead, they are poised to take the California Dream to their graves by betraying a promise the state has offered from the start.

The writer Carey McWilliams captured that promise in California: The Great Exception, the definitive celebration of California’s founding myth—the way the Golden State long preferred to understand itself. Published in 1949, just ahead of the state’s centennial, it told the story of California’s rise from a sparsely populated Spanish territory to a world-altering force. McWilliams’s tale begins on the eve of statehood with the discovery of gold on a river near the western slopes of the Sierras. That find sparked the Gold Rush and then a mass migration that transformed the Pacific Rim. Northern and southern whites mingled with free Blacks, runaway slaves, newly naturalized immigrants, and foreign dreamers from the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe. “We have here in our midst a mixed mass of human beings from every part of the wide earth, of different habits, manners, customs, and opinions, all, however, impelled onward by the same feverish desire of fortune-making,” wrote Peter H. Burnett, who soon became the state’s first governor.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.