New Age Espionage | Sick and Under Surveillance | US Exclusion Act
June 24, 2020
“Data is the pollution problem of the information age, and protecting privacy is the environmental challenge.” ― Bruce Schneier
“Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free.” ― Edward Snowden
Sorry America, You Can’t Sit With Us
The EU is preparing to reopen its borders July 1, and inviting tourists to come visit — just not American tourists. Officials are still deciding who will be allowed entry into the bloc, based on how their countries of origin are handling new coronavirus cases. Currently the US is on the naughty list.
Excluding American visitors — and including them on a list with Russians and Brazilians — is not only a clear repudiation of President Trump’s handling of the pandemic, but a stunning blow to US prestige globally. America leads the world, just not in a good way, with 23 million plus COVID-19 cases and over 120,000 virus-related deaths.
European nations are still haggling over two potential lists of acceptable visitors. Besides the US, Russia, and Brazil, both lists prohibit China and developing nations like Uganda, Cuba, and Vietnam. The excluded countries are all viewed as too risky to allow in due to potential spread of the virus.
It’s a bit of “what goes around comes around.” In mid-March, when the pandemic was raging in Europe, Trump banned most European countries’ citizens from traveling to the US. At the time, America had just 1,100 coronavirus cases and 38 deaths; the president justified the move as necessary to protect the US. Today, Europe has largely curbed the outbreak, even as the numbers of new coronavirus infections surge in the US.
Keeping American travelers from entering the EU will undoubtedly have significant economic, cultural and geopolitical ramifications. Regardless, officials say the criteria for creating the list of acceptable countries was deliberately kept as scientific and nonpolitical as possible. America remains excluded, but the list will be revised every two weeks, based on updated infection rates.
Shake the Nation
(Maneul Velasquez via Getty Images)
- Mid-morning Tuesday, a powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit southern Mexico’s Pacific coast. It was centered near the resort of Huatulco, in the state of Oaxaca. Buildings shook in Mexico City, some 300 miles away, and tremors could be felt in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
- Acapulco and Salina Cruz had waves over two feet high. Damage estimates suggest fewer than 100 likely casualties and around $100 million in damage. Mexico is one of the world’s most seismically active regions and has a long history of devastating earthquakes. The country is located on top of three large tectonic plates and their movement causes regular quakes and occasional volcanic eruptions.
- In 2017, two very powerful quakes hit the country within two weeks of each other, causing extensive damage and killing hundreds of people. Mexico City is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because its very soft, wet ground amplifies shaking and can allow the dirt to liquefy, transforming it into a dense liquid. (CNN)
- Why the Oaxaca earthquake made buildings sway hundreds of miles away (National Geographic)
Eyes in the Skynet
- In 2011 during Libya’s civil war, British journalist and blogger Eliot Higgins used satellite images to identify a newly captured town as a way to prove his point with an online adversary. It was the beginning of something much bigger, coinciding with an explosion of innovation in the digital world — smartphones with cameras, social media, Facebook, Google Earth, Google street view, YouTube — all open source information anyone could access.
- Higgins had shown how, by cross-checking video footage with existing photos and Google maps, it was possible to investigate what was going on in a faraway war zone. That innovative approach led Higgins to found an investigative website called Bellingcat in 2014. The idea was to consolidate pioneering online research techniques and to connect with a wider pool of international volunteers.
- Its first major investigation was the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane over Ukraine, with almost 300 casualties. Bellingcat was able to show a Russian missile launcher had blown the plane out of the sky. When Sergei Skripal, a former officer with Russia’s GRU military spy agency, was poisoned in Salisbury England in 2018, Bellingcat was all over the case. British police announced the identities of the two suspects, but Higgins investigators were able to show those were aliases by uncovering the suspects’ real names.
- The exposure of the two agents had a massive impact on Russia’s international espionage network: following an unconvincing interview attempting to clear the spies’ names, many countries expelled Russian diplomats, including roughly 150 spies based in embassies around the world. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Johnson and May ignored claims Russia had ‘likely hold’ over Trump, ex-spy alleges (Guardian)
- Brazil judge orders Bolsonaro to wear a mask due to COVID-19 (Reuters)
- Shell faces UK supreme court case over Niger delta pollution (Guardian)
- Kim Jong-un de-escalating a conflict? Looks like North Korea has a new “good cop” in town: North Korea: Kim Jong-un ‘suspends military action’ against South (BBC)
- After Night of Violence Targeting Police, Germany Seeks ‘Roots of Anger’ (NYT, $)
- Massive Saharan Dust Cloud to Move Across Southeast U.S. This Week (NYT, $) & The other plague: Locusts are devastating East Africa (Rescue). The Bible references just keep writing themselves this year, but at least the dust cloud might force more people to wear their masks as states reopen.
- Coronavirus has brought US ‘to its knees’, says CDC director (Guardian)
- New study calculates “years of potential life lost” from coronavirus (Vox)
- Washington state makes face masks mandatory as some states see new coronavirus surge (Reuters)
- 6,000-plus: California shatters its single-day record for most new coronavirus cases (SF Chronicle)
- Explainer: What is a second wave of a pandemic, and has it arrived in the U.S.? (Reuters)
- Sweden debates its coronavirus public health experiment (LA Times, $)
- A Covid side effect: Slower politics (Politico)
- 9 Hand Sanitizers May Be Toxic, FDA Warns (NYT, $)
- ‘Virtually no demand’ for coins in Covid-19 era as Australia’s shift from cash to digital hastens (Guardian)
- Coronavirus: How coming-of-age rituals were interrupted – and reinvented (BBC)
- By this point, you’re probably getting tired of staring at the same four walls all day. Finding a change of scenery, but moving is a complicated process. That’s where Landing comes in.
- Landing provides a flexible and comfortable way to live. Enjoy a beautifully furnished apartment — in some of America’s most interesting cities — and transfer within the Landing network or just move out any time with 30 days’ notice.
- Every apartment is beautifully designed with high-end furnishings and all the essentials you’ll need, plus you’ll have access to personalized support from our team of Landing hosts. Just think: You could spend 6 months living in Austin. Then the winter in Miami. Or … Boston? Or … Denver?
- Landing has no long-term leases and no deposits, so you can work from anywhere you want for as long as you want.
Republicans are Ridin’ with Biden
(Alex Wong via Getty Images)
- A group consisting of dozens of Republican former national security officials plans to endorse Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in November’s election, further proof that President Trump is alienating members of his own party.
- The group, which also plans to campaign for the former vice president, includes at least two dozen officials who served under Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush; dozens more individuals are in talks to join. The participants will argue that another four years of a Trump presidency would endanger US national security, and that Republican voters should view Biden as the better choice despite policy differences.
- Other groups of anti-Trump Republicans also opposing his re-election include the Lincoln Project, co-founded by George Conway, the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. The Lincoln Project is running anti-Trump ads in key battleground states. (Reuters)
- Joe Biden and Barack Obama raise $11m in first 2020 fundraiser together (Guardian)
There’s (Not) an App for That
- In early April, tech giants Apple and Google announced plans to partner on a COVID-19 tracing platform, signalling the importance of technology in the US’s disease management. President Trump even touted Google and their early-stage triage website as an integral aspect of the national response. As the spread of the virus begins to outpace human contact tracers, promises of GPS-tracking smartphone applications provide hope for health officials who are being overwhelmed by the pandemic.
- But where are the apps? While developed nations such as China and Germany have unveiled nationalized smartphone applications, state governments across the US are re-opening the country without any federally approved tracking tech. At least five states have opted into the Apple-Google platform, but other governors are taking alternative routes — calling on anyone from wealthy friends to Indian software companies — to develop their own tracking apps.
- With 50 states forging 50 different paths, the issue of data privacy is one that binds together each experiment in smartphone-based contact tracing. Beta versions of such apps utilize either GPS or bluetooth technology, which allows health officials to trace a patient’s location and proximity to others during the virus’ incubation period.
- The Trump 2020 app is a voter surveillance tool of extraordinary power (Technology Review)
- Anonymous Stole and Leaked a Megatrove of Police Documents: The so-called BlueLeaks collection includes internal memos, financial records, and more from over 200 state, local, and federal agencies. (Wired, $)
- Andrew Yang is pushing Big Tech to pay users for data (Verge)
Additional US News
- Trump Looks Like a Loser (Atlantic) & Donald Trump’s Undone Tie: What Does It Mean? (NYT, $)
- Trump’s sway over Lindsey Graham — and all Republicans — is weakening (WaPo, $)
- Bubba Wallace: ‘No crime committed’ as FBI ends noose investigation (BBC)
- Trump sees an opening in the statue wars (Politico)
- What’s Facebook’s Deal With Donald Trump?: Mark Zuckerberg has forged an uneasy alliance with the Trump administration. He may have gotten too close. (NYT, $)
- George Floyd: Ben & Jerry’s joins Facebook ad boycott (BBC)
- The Second Great Depression (Atlantic, $)
- What Fiona Hill Learned in the White House (New Yorker, $)
- Top Pentagon nominee pushed conspiracy theories that former CIA director tried to overthrow Trump and even have him assassinated (CNN)
- ‘None Of Us Have Ever Been Told To Slow Down On Testing,’ Fauci Testifies To House (NPR)
- Political Donors Linked to China Won Access to Trump, GOP (WSJ, $)
- President Trump Just Suspended the Tech Industry’s Favorite Visa (Wired, $)
Black Lives Matter
- US police reform bills unlikely to pass amid partisan divide despite calls for change (Guardian)
- My Family Saw a Police Car Hit a Kid on Halloween. Then I Learned How NYPD Impunity Works. (ProPublica)
- The Hidden Constitutional Costs of the Carceral System (Atlantic, $)
- Where Bail Funds Go From Here (New Yorker, $)
On The Segway Out
- When Segway’s two-wheeled personal transportation vehicle was launched nearly 20 years ago, the company’s CEO said it “will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy.” Segway spent some $100 million developing the product.
- Unfortunately, its expensive price point (a minimum of $3,000 up to $7,000 for some models) and confusing classification as a road vehicle (requiring licensing in some countries, but prohibited on roads in others) meant the product never really took off. At one time, the Segway was a common sight at malls and airports, used by law enforcement or security guards.
- But the company always struggled to find customers. Between 2001 and 2007, when the market became saturated with electric-powered two wheelers of many varieties, Segway sold only 30,000 units of its self-balancing scooter. The company was sold off to investors twice, once in 2009 — the same year Time Magazine declared it one of the ten biggest tech failures of the decade — and again in 2013.
- On Tuesday, Segway’s president announced that manufacturing of Segway’s signature personal transport scooter at its Bedford New Hampshire factory would be ending July 15, and its 21 employees would be laid off. (Time, Verge)
- Belly fat in older women is linked to a 39% higher risk of dementia (CNN)
- ‘My Little Pony’ Fans Confront Their Nazi Problem (Atlantic, $)
- The Promise and the Peril of Virtual Health Care (New Yorker, $)
- The volcano that caused famines in ancient Rome? It was in Alaska (Ars Technica)
- I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: the story of the search for the Golden State Killer (Guardian) Zodiac is a solid-interesting movie about another Golden State killer and we recently watched it for the first time on Netflix and recommend it.
- Hamilton Official Trailer (Disney) We have not seen the play but we have listened to the soundtrack many times over and are looking forward to watching this on Disney+. For those who haven’t watched The Mandalorian, it is another show we really recommend and season two is supposed to be released in October 2020.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU