News 23.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 23.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 23.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 23.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The war in Ukraine has reached a turning point. The Russian troops that invaded the country from the north, south, and east are now scarcely moving. They have targeted schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and a theater sheltering children, but they are not yet in control even of the places they occupy. And no wonder: Few Ukrainians are willing to collaborate with the occupiers. The overwhelming majority, more than 90 percent, believe they will defeat them. The Ukrainian army refuses to surrender, even in cities badly damaged by bombardment.

Russian planners expected the entire war, the conquest of Ukraine, to last no more than six weeks. More than half that time has already passed. There must be an endgame, a moment when the conflict stops. The Ukrainians, and the democratic powers that support Ukraine, must work toward a goal. That goal should not be a truce, or a muddle, or a decision to maintain some kind of Ukrainian resistance over the next decade, or a vow to “bleed Russia dry,” or anything else that will prolong the fighting and the instability. That goal should be a Ukrainian victory.

Before you can achieve something, you have to imagine what it will look like. And in this war, victory can be imagined without difficulty. It means that Ukraine remains a sovereign democracy, with the right to choose its own leaders and make its own treaties. There will be no pro-Russian puppet regime in Kyiv, no need for a prolonged Ukrainian resistance, no continued fighting. The Russian army retreats back over the borders. Maybe those borders could change, or maybe Ukraine could pledge neutrality, but that is for the Ukrainians to decide and not for outsiders to dictate. Maybe international peacekeepers are needed. Whatever happens, Ukraine must have strong reasons to believe that Russian troops will not quickly return.


Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 23.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 23.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Over the last three weeks, the Russian economy has been overwhelmed by sanctions. Soon after the Kremlin invaded Ukraine, the West began seizing the assets of the wealthiest individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, prohibited Russian flights in its airspace, and restricted the Russian economy’s access to imported technology. Most dramatically, the United States and its allies froze the reserve assets of Russia’s central bank and cut Russia out of not just the SWIFT financial payments system, but of the basic institutions of international finance, including all foreign banks and the International Monetary Fund. As a result of the West’s actions, the value of the ruble has crashed, shortages have cropped up throughout the Russian economy, and the government appears to be close to defaulting on its foreign currency debt. Public opinion—and the fear of being hit by sanctions—has compelled Western businesses to flee the country en masse. Soon, Russia will be unable to produce necessities either for defense or for consumers because it will lack critical components.

The democratic world’s response to Moscow’s aggression and war crimes is right, both ethically and on national security grounds. This is more important than economic efficiency. But these actions do have negative economic consequences that will go far beyond Russia’s financial collapse, that will persist, and that are not pretty. Over the last 20 years, two trends have already been corroding globalization in the face of its supposedly relentless onward march. First, populists and nationalists have erected barriers to free trade, investment, immigration, and the spread of ideas—especially in the United States. Second, Beijing’s challenge to the rules-based international economic system and to longstanding security arrangements in Asia has encouraged the West to erect barriers to Chinese economic integration. The Russian invasion and resulting sanctions will now make this corrosion even worse.

There are several reasons why. First, China is attempting to navigate a nonconfrontational response to the Russian invasion. Both its financial system and its real economy are observing the sanctions because of the potential economic retaliation if they finance or supply Russia, let alone bail Moscow out. But anything short of fully joining the blockade will feed anti-Chinese policies in the West, reducing the country’s economic integration. Second, countries fear being subject to the whims of Washington’s economic might, now that it is re-enamored with its apparent power. Right now, the United States’ economic actions may be just, and there may be little risk of countries not invading Ukraine ending up on the wrong side of U.S. policies. But the next time, the United States may be more selfish or capricious.

Read the rest of this article at: Foreign Affairs

Fifteen minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, into a tranquil gated community, up a red-brick driveway, past the palm trees that touch the Mojave Desert sky, through the veil that separates the astral plane, and here he is: the man they say gained and lost a $150 million fortune; who owned castles in Europe and the most haunted house in America and the Shah of Iran’s Lamborghini and two albino king cobras and a rare two-headed snake; who had to return his prized dinosaur skull upon learning it was stolen from Mongolia; who went on an epic quest for the actual Holy Grail; and who—when his singular, fantastical life eventually comes to an end—will be laid to eternal rest in a colossal white pyramid tomb in New Orleans.

Nicolas Cage greets me at his door, wearing a kung fu suit.

“This is my Wing Chun kung fu suit,” he explains, waving me in and handing me a mug of coffee. “I studied with my sifu, Jim Lau, when I was 12 years old, because I was a big Bruce Lee fan. And so it’s like my uniform to relax in.”

His voice is a low, contemplative drawl that imbues every word with a sense of philosophical magnitude. To hear Nicolas Cage state an opinion about his preferred loungewear is to hear anyone else reflect on the cosmos.

“I’m still decorating, so excuse me,” he says, as we stroll through his home. An imposing mahogany cuckoo clock chimes on the half-hour. Mighty bronze dragons guard the hall. Lacquered arms holding torches sprout from eggplant purple walls, lighting the way. Look down and you have a Persian rug ripped out of a Lisa Frank coloring book. Look up, you have a crystal chandelier and an original Creature From the Black Lagoon poster. Straight ahead: a prince! Specifically, a huge photograph of Prince roller-skating in hot pants and a Batman tank top. At the heart of the house is a charcoal drawing of his late father, August Floyd Coppola, who looms over the fireplace, and everything else.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

News 23.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 23.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I can’t explain exactly how I ended up on crypto Twitter (or CT, as it’s known in the cryptosphere) and in the crypto-focused Telegram and Discord groups I started lurking in late last summer. As a writer I don’t really have a regular beat. I’ve occasionally written about fiction and film. I’ve written on the overlaps between the health and criminal legal systems. Crypto would not be an obvious story for me to tackle. But there was a bull run going on – market confidence was high, investors were buying and prices were going up – and whenever cryptocurrency values skyrocket, the corporate press turns up like a kettle of raptors spewing headlines about improbable fortunes. “This mom quit her job to focus on crypto full time and build ‘generational wealth.’ Now she makes around $80,000 per month.” “This 33-year-old ‘dogecoin millionaire’ is now being paid in the meme-inspired cryptocurrency — and continues to buy the dips.” The subject was impossible to avoid, and my longstanding if until now private, nerdy interest in the machinery of our enigmatic financial markets propelled me toward it.

At first I felt a little dirty, a little shameful. Everyone is in these spaces for one reason: to make money. It’s a subject that remains uncouth to speak about in my wider professional and social milieu. Soon, though, my shame started to interest me. I stayed a little longer, thumbing through channels on the subway or in bed late at night. It’s a kind of rubbernecking only the internet allows, providing near-full access to a subculture to which you don’t belong.

In time I grew familiar with the way the crypto obsessives express themselves, the phrases and acronyms they use: gm (good morning), wagmi (we’re all gonna make it), ngmi (not gonna make it), and its corollary hfsp (have fun staying poor). I learned to distinguish the swing traders and scalpers from the hodlers (hold on for dear life) and degens (degenerates, or speculation addicts) by the way they talk and post. I perceived the subcultures within their subculture  –  the Bitcoin maxis (Bitcoin is the one and only crypto) v the Ethereum maxis (Bitcoin is for boomers) v the Eth-killer maxis (Ethereum is ngmi)  – and how they signal their allegiances through their avatars (Bitcoin maxis often have lasers shooting from their eyes) and, for a smaller subset, their self-care habits (some Bitcoin maxis only eat meat; others won’t use seed oils, wear sunscreen, ice their injuries, or touch receipts). Across the forums, I could not discern any unified politics other than a shared certainty that the government and wealthy elites are keeping the little guy down.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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News 23.03.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In a few minutes, electronic music will start pulsing, stuffed animals will be flung through the air, women will emerge spinning Technicolor hula hoops, and a mechanical bull will rev into action, bucking off one delighted rider after another. It’s the closing party of ETHDenver, a weeklong cryptocurrency conference dedicated to the blockchain Ethereum. Lines have stretched around the block for days. Now, on this Sunday night in February, the giddy energy is peaking.

But as the crowd pushes inside, a wiry man with elfin features is sprinting out of the venue, past astonished selfie takers and venture capitalists. Some call out, imploring him to stay; others even chase him down the street, on foot and on scooters. Yet the man outruns them all, disappearing into the privacy of his hotel lobby, alone.

Vitalik Buterin, the most influential person in crypto, didn’t come to Denver to party. He doesn’t drink or particularly enjoy crowds. Not that there isn’t plenty for the 28-year-old creator of Ethereum to celebrate. Nine years ago, Buterin dreamed up Ethereum as a way to leverage the blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin for all sorts of uses beyond currency. Since then, it has emerged as the bedrock layer of what advocates say will be a new, open-source, decentralized internet. Ether, the platform’s native currency, has become the second biggest cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin, powering a trillion-dollar ecosystem that rivals Visa in terms of the money it moves. Ethereum has brought thousands of unbanked people around the world into financial systems, allowed capital to flow unencumbered across borders, and provided the infrastructure for entrepreneurs to build all sorts of new products, from payment systems to prediction markets, digital swap meets to medical-research hubs.

But even as crypto has soared in value and volume, Buterin has watched the world he created evolve with a mixture of pride and dread. Ethereum has made a handful of white men unfathomably rich, pumped pollutants into the air, and emerged as a vehicle for tax evasion, money laundering, and mind-boggling scams. “Crypto itself has a lot of dystopian potential if implemented wrong,” the Russian-born Canadian explains the morning after the party in an 80-minute interview in his hotel room.

Buterin worries about the dangers to overeager investors, the soaring transaction fees, and the shameless displays of wealth that have come to dominate public perception of crypto. “The peril is you have these $3 million monkeys and it becomes a different kind of gambling,” he says, referring to the Bored Ape Yacht Club, an überpopular NFT collection of garish primate cartoons that has become a digital-age status symbol for millionaires including Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton, and which have traded for more than $1 million a pop. “There definitely are lots of people that are just buying yachts and Lambos.”

Read the rest of this article at: Time

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