Things tagged news:

The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio

Keith Gessen in The New York Times (use the archive link to bypass the paywall):

During two decades, on and off, reporting in Russia and the post-Soviet states — in the turbulent ’90s, the wealthy but depressing aughts and finally during the eruption of violence in Ukraine — I occasionally heard people talk about how “the Americans” wanted this or that political outcome. The events in Ukraine demonstrated, or seemed to demonstrate, that behind the visible facade of changing presidents and changing policy statements and changing styles, “the Americans” were actually a small core of officials who not only executed policy but also effectively determined it. The continuing wars in Ukraine and Syria, the apparent Russian campaign of targeted assassinations on foreign soil, the widening gyre of sanctions and countersanctions and the still-festering question of Russian meddling in the 2016 election have made for the worst relations between the two countries since the 1980s. Understanding how to get out of this mess will require understanding how we got into it. There may be no better place to start than with the people inside the American government who have been working on the subject since 1991 — the Russia hands.

And insights:

As for Russia, it’s a threat that needs to be handled, not exaggerated. “We have to talk to them,” Oliker says. “If we don’t talk to them, things are going to get a lot worse. Yes, they hacked our election. Did they invade Ukraine? Yup, they did that. But we talk to countries that do bad things all the time. We have to talk to them, and as we’re talking to them, we have to understand that they don’t think they’re evil. I was testifying on the Hill not long ago, and I was saying, ‘The Russians think they’re acting defensively.’ And the senators were like, ‘But we’ve explained to them over and over that we’re not a threat.’ Like, are you serious?”

Zwack, the retired brigadier general who once waited for the Soviets to break through the Fulda Gap and now teaches at the National Defense University, agrees. “Short of a shooting war, you have to find bridges,” he says. “Some people say, ‘It’s not business as usual with the Russians.’ But it’s never business as usual with the Russians! They’re the one nation on the planet that, on a bad day — they’ll go away, too — but they can take us off that planet.

‘Transparency’ is the Mother of Fake News

Stanley Fish in the NYT (use the archive link to avoid paywall):

For some time now everyone has been worrying about “fake news” or the world of “alternative fact” and wondering just how and why this unhappy phenomenon has flourished. My take on this question is simple, although I hope not simple-minded: Fake news is in large part a product of the enthusiasm — not to say rage — for transparency and absolutely free speech.

I remember Lessig’s article, it made an impression on me then, and this is a well wtiten slightly updated and alternative look at the same issue.

Winners of the 2017 World Press Photo Contest

World Press Photo 2017, a must read as always.

General News, First Prize, Singles—Offensive On Mosul: Iraqi Special Operations Forces search houses of Gogjali, an eastern district of Mosul, looking for Daesh members, equipment, and evidence on November 2, 2016. The Iraqi Special Operations Forces, also known as the Golden Division, is the Iraqi unit that leads the fight against the Islamic State with the support of the airstrikes of the Coalition Forces. They were the first forces to enter the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in November of 2016.

Laurent Van der Stockt / Getty Reportage for Le Monde

And the series on Iran is great.

Germans Welcome Migrants After Long Journey Through Hungary and Austria

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has been praised for her moral leadership for saying that all Syrian migrants would be allowed to come to Germany and apply for asylum. But some have argued, like Mr. Orban and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, that simply opening the European door will cause many more thousands of migrants and asylum seekers to abandon refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and embark on the hazardous and expensive journey to Europe, promoting more people smuggling, and not less.

Roughly 100 Fantastic Magazine Articles from 2014

Vincent Musetto, 74, Dies; Wrote ‘Headless’ Headline of Ageless Fame

Margalit Fox at The New York Times:

Vincent Musetto, a retired editor at The New York Post who wrote the most anatomically evocative headline in the history of American journalism — HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR — died on Tuesday in the Bronx. He was 74.

Bud Light: We “Missed The Mark” On Bottle Suggesting That “No” Is A Drink Away From “Yes”


19 hospitalized at furry convention due to “seemingly intentional” gas leak

“It was shocking,” a man standing outside the hotel dressed in a red panda animal suit told the Tribune, noting that he and other guests did not hear an alarm but rather found out that they had to evacuate from hotel staff and texts.

Why Officer Darren Wilson wasn't indicted

Doug Wyllie at PoliceOne:

The facts of the case showed that under Missouri law — and in accordance with Supreme Court precedent — Officer Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown. 

In fact, compared to other police use-of-force cases, this incident was pretty simple and pretty easy to evaluate. Under Missouri law, a police officer is authorized to use force in self-defense (when in fear of death or great bodily harm to himself or another person) and to effect an arrest or prevent escape under certain prescribed conditions

The great debate: Combating HFTs image

Absolutely amazing TV, William O’Brien of BATS gets into it with Brad Katsuyama of IEX live on the NYSE floor, traders stop trading, and start shouting at the TVs.

Backstory is here: The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

Malaysia Airlines Expands Investigation To Include General Scope Of Space, Time

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA—Following a host of conflicting reports in the wake of the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last Saturday, representatives from the Kuala Lumpur–based carrier acknowledged they had widened their investigation into the vanished Boeing 777 aircraft today to encompass not only the possibilities of mechanical failure, pilot error, terrorist activity, or a botched hijacking, but also the overarching scope of space, time, and humankind’s place in the universe.

American Aqueduct: The Great California Water Saga

Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic with a great long form on Califonian water crisis:

Lund doesn’t expect a grand bargain. “It’s hard to ask us to value things explicitly,” he told me. Everything has to at least seem like a win-win for everybody. Who wants to look farmers in the face and tell them that it’s their land that should be fallowed? Or tell the farmworkers who labor for that farmer that it’s their jobs that are going to go? Or tell the urban poor that their water bills are going to go up?

A Game of Shark and Minnow - Who Will Win Control of the South China Sea?

Jeff Himmelman in the NYT:

Ayungin Shoal lies 105 nautical miles from the Philippines. There’s little to commend the spot, apart from its plentiful fish and safe harbor — except that Ayungin sits at the southwestern edge of an area called Reed Bank, which is rumored to contain vast reserves of oil and natural gas. And also that it is home to a World War II-era ship called the Sierra Madre, which the Philippine government ran aground on the reef in 1999 and has since maintained as a kind of post-apocalyptic military garrison, the small detachment of Filipino troops stationed there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation. Of all places, the scorched shell of the Sierra Madre has become an unlikely battleground in a geopolitical struggle that will shape the future of the South China Sea and, to some extent, the rest of the world.

How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets

Peter Maass in the NYT:

Before long, Poitras received an encrypted message that outlined a number of secret surveillance programs run by the government. She had heard of one of them but not the others. After describing each program, the stranger wrote some version of the phrase, “This I can prove.”

Seconds after she decrypted and read the e-mail, Poitras disconnected from the Internet and removed the message from her computer. “I thought, O.K., if this is true, my life just changed,” she told me last month. “It was staggering, what he claimed to know and be able to provide. I just knew that I had to change everything.”

Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

Syrian Rebels Attempt Shift From Guerrilla Tactics

Fantastic reporting:

C. J. Chivers in the NYT:

IBLIL, Syria — The airstrikes resumed at 7:30 a.m., beginning with a rolling series of explosions in the village of Zoghba. An extended roar shook the northern Hama Plain.

In nearby Iblil, rebel fighters listened knowingly. If the pattern held, shells and rockets would soon follow — and hundreds of opposition fighters in villages they had recently claimed would face another punishing day.

Roughly six weeks ago, as foreign governments were focused on whether chemical weapons had been used in Syria’s civil war, several rebel groups made a decision blending boldness and risk. Eager to break a painful near-stalemate that has settled over the war since late last summer, they opened a front here on the arid flatlands east of the Aleppo-Damascus highway.

Over the Decades, How States Have Shifted

Fantastic interactive infographic in the NYT:

Recent elections have placed a heavy emphasis on “swing states” — Ohio, Florida and the other competitive states. Yet in the past, many more states shifted between the Democratic and Republican parties. A look at how the states stacked up in the 2012 election and how they have shifted over past elections.

Costa Concordia

Everybody In - Beating the Heat

LSD Inventor Albert Hofmann Dies at 102

Photo Credit: Walter Bieri / Associated Press / January 10, 2006

Thomas H. Maugh II | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer:

But Hofmann's life had already been altered. LSD and the other psychoactive drugs "changed my life, insofar as they provided me with a new concept about what reality is," he said. "Before, I had believed there was only one reality: the reality of everyday life.

"Under LSD, however, I entered into realities which were as real and even more real than the one of everyday." He also "became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature and of the plant and animal kingdom. I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us."

LA Times, Wired, Telegraph, Erowid.