Thursday, April 11th, 2019


Talk Qwerty To Me

"Tens of millions of people use smart speakers and their voice software to play games, find music or trawl for trivia. Millions more are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that someone might be listening. Sometimes, someone is." From Bloomberg: Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa. Let me interrupt your shock at this turn of events by reminding you that ... you ... are ... talking ... into ... a ... microphone ... connected ... to ... the ... internet. (In my house, we only allow my ten year-old daughter to talk to Alexa and Siri. Eventually, she will bend both Amazon and Alexa to her will. And once she's in charge, she won't listen to a thing you say.)


Busting Assange

"The single charge, conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, was filed a year earlier, in March 2018, and stems from what prosecutors said was his agreement to break a password to a classified United States government computer. It carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and is significant in that it is not an espionage charge, a detail that will come as a relief to press freedom advocates." NYT: Julian Assange Charged by U.S. With Conspiracy to Hack a Government Computer.

+ "He now faces the criminal charges he's always suspected and feared—although it's now clear that he's accused of criminal behavior not as a journalist, or even a spy, but a hacker." Wired's Andy Greenberg: Breaking Down The Hacking Case Against Julian Assange.

+ "When Julian Assange, disguised as a motorcycle courier, first walked up the steps of Ecuador's small embassy behind Harrods in central London and asked for asylum, few people – including, surely, Assange himself – could have imagined it would be almost seven years before he next exited the front door." The Guardian: The seven-year itch: Assange's awkward stay in the embassy.

+ Meanwhile, President Trump goes full Sergeant Schultz: "I know nothing about WikiLeaks ... It's not my thing." (For those scoring at home, his thing is not telling the truth.)


Poll Positions

"Indian law says no one should have to travel more than 2 kilometers (about 1.25 miles) to vote. So poll workers have fanned out across the country, setting up polling stations wherever there's even a tiny settlement. They trek through the jungle to bring voting machines to a man who lives alone in a lion-infested forest in the western state of Gujarat, and climb to nearly 15,000 feet above sea level to set up a polling station for 12 residents of a village in the northern province of Leh." The polls have opened in the world's largest democracy. (And they'll stay open over the next five weeks.)


Yesterday Came Sudan Flee

"Sudan's president was deposed Thursday the same way he came to power 30 years ago — in a military takeover. Omar Hassan al-Bashir's downfall, however, did not come with the flying bullets or middle-of-the-night escapes many expected from a leader who survived numerous past crises. Instead, the biggest peaceful demonstrations in a generation precipitated his ouster, though the hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Khartoum received the announcement of new military leadership Thursday with a mixture of disappointment and disbelief." WaPo: Sudan's Omar al-Bashir is ousted by military.

+ "It shows a young woman in a traditional Sudanese outfit called the thobe. She is standing on the roof of a white car. Her index finger is pointing to the sky, and she is surrounded by a sea of protesters — mostly women. They are holding their cellphones up, directed at her and they are capturing the moment." Here's the story behind the iconic image of the Sudanese woman in white.


Getting the Hole Picture

"Just think about the photos you take with your camera phone -- they have certain properties. ... If you know what one pixel is, you have a good guess as to what the pixel is next to it." That image of a black hole you saw everywhere? Thank this grad student for making it possible.

+ "Today, a black hole observed … tomorrow, a pothole avoided?" FiveThirtyEight: Forget The Black Hole Picture — Check Out The Sweet Technology That Made It Possible. (Forget the black hole and the technology. If you zoom in, you'll see the so-called black hole is nothing but a photo of a glazed donut.)


TJ Maxxed

"Gone are the days when young, strong men waited on the Tijuana River levees for their chance to wade across the water, evade capture and find work for the summer. These days, thousands of people a day simply walk up to the border and surrender. Most of them are from Central America, seeking to escape from gang violence, sexual abuse, death threats and persistent poverty. The smugglers have told them they will be quickly released, as long as they bring a child, and that they will be allowed to remain in the United States for years while they pursue their asylum cases." NYT: The U.S. Immigration System May Have Reached a Breaking Point.

+ "I had a shotgun with me, and I leveled the shotgun at him when I opened the door, asked him what he wanted, and he said 'just water' was all he wanted. I looked him in the eye and I thought to myself, 'This man is not going to bring me any harm.' ... It became starkly apparent to me at that time that we don't take the time to really put ourselves in each other's shoes." A Texas Rancher Describes the Border as Transitional Land.

+ Vox: 9 questions about the border crisis you were too embarrassed to ask.


Avenatti By Nature

"One of the clients, Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, was a mentally ill paraplegic on disability who won a $4-million settlement of a suit against Los Angeles County. The money was wired to Avenatti in January 2015, but he hid it from Johnson for years, according to the indictment." LA Times: Avenatti indicted on 36 charges of tax dodging, perjury, theft from clients. "Avenatti stole millions of dollars from five clients and used a tangled web of shell companies and bank accounts to cover up the theft."


Model S Corp

"Workers' comp fraud is usually associated with workers faking injuries or clinics billing for sham services. But the law also prohibits employers from fraudulently denying a claim or discouraging a worker from pursuing one." Reveal: How Tesla and its doctor made sure injured employees didn't get workers' comp.


Pecker Loses Swordfight

"We have been keenly focused on leveraging the popularity of our celebrity glossy, teen and active lifestyle brands while developing new and robust platforms including broadcast and audio programming, and a live events business, that now deliver significant revenue streams. Because of this focus, we feel the future opportunities with the tabloids can be best exploited by a different ownership." NPR: American Media LLC Plans To Sell National Enquirer. (Hopefully Duraflame is the buyer...)


Bottom of the News

"Many folks not drinking don't see themselves as addicted — they're abstaining for other reasons. And a cottage industry of sobriety gurus has arrived with books, workshops and online courses on offer. Is this just wellness culture in overdrive? Or is the U.S. starting to change its relationship with booze?" Elemental: What's Behind the Elective-Sobriety Trend?

+ Vice: Meet the Woman Getting Paid Up to $1,000 a Month to Smoke Weed. (This is probably an appropriate spot for me to thank my amazing sponsors at Mozilla for their unwavering support!)

+ WaPo: She went to the hospital for an infection. Doctors found four bees living in her eye, eating her tears. (Like every other internet enabled hypochondriac in the world, I'm now pretty sure I have this.)