February 15th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Bad Guys with Tech, Can Junk Bond?

The beautiful thing about technology is that it empowers individuals or small teams to create amazing products and services (we often get excited about this). The ugly thing about technology is that it bestows the same powers on the bad guys (we often ignore this, as we’re largely doing when it comes to the celebration of AI). The ugly part explains how a small group of folks in Israel, known as Team Jorgé, have been able to play a covert role in more than 30 elections across the world. Journalists from several outlets ran a longterm covert operation of their own to uncover the truth about a group determined to destroy it. The Guardian: Revealed: the hacking and disinformation team meddling in elections. “In more than six hours of secretly recorded meetings, Hanan and his team spoke of how they could gather intelligence on rivals, including by using hacking techniques to access Gmail and Telegram accounts. They boasted of planting material in legitimate news outlets … Much of their strategy appeared to revolve around disrupting or sabotaging rival campaigns: the team even claimed to have sent a sex toy delivered via Amazon to the home of a politician, with the aim of giving his wife the false impression he was having an affair.”

+ “Journalists from The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, Le Monde, the international organization of investigative journalists OCCRP, Radio France, Haaretz, TheMarker and other media outlets worked in France, Kenya, Israel, the United States, Indonesia, Germany, Tanzania and Spain to examine the veracity of Jorge’s claims about his worldwide deeds. Shockingly, many of the allegations were corroborated. The proprietors of this toxic international chaos machine, as uncovered in the course of the investigation, are two Israeli brothers, Tal and Zohar Hanan, who live and work in the Israeli commuter city of Modi’in.” Haaretz with a very detailed look at the investigation of The people who kill the truth.


You Can’t Handle the Truth

Like so many of the stories you encounter in NextDraft, you’d never know about today’s lead without the relentless efforts of investigative journalists who often risk life and limb to uncover the truth. But, like all journalists, they’ve been under a relentless barrage of attacks, and those attacks work. Half of Americans in a recent survey indicated they believe national news organizations intend to mislead. These are dream poll results for would-be authoritarians.


Can Junk Bond?

“One reason Biden officials are interested in pursuing the Junk Fee Prevention Act is that its rules would be less likely to face a lawsuit. But they also think there could be bipartisan appetite in Congress for the proposal, which would ban ‘excessive’ cable and wireless early cancellation fees, bar airlines from charging parents more to sit with their young children, curb fees on event tickets, and make hotels include resort fees in their upfront price.” Why the White House is going to war on junk fees. (If we can’t get bipartisan support of this, we can’t get bipartisan support of anything.)

+ Vox: Joe Biden is mad about hidden fees and you should be, too.


Machine Machinations

“Users have been reporting all sorts of ‘unhinged’ behavior from Microsoft’s AI chatbot. In one conversation with The Verge, Bing even claimed it spied on Microsoft’s employees through webcams on their laptops and manipulated them.” Microsoft’s Bing is an emotionally manipulative liar, and people love it. (ChatGPT’s not going to replace Google. It’s gonna run for office.)


Extra, Extra

ION The Prize: From electric cars to the device you’re using right now, our Lithium needs are growing. WaPo has a cool interactive piece that explains how Lithium gets from the earth to your batteries.

+ BiBi King: “If the Israeli legal system that has gradually and collaboratively evolved over the past 75 years was so awful — so in need of emergency radical surgery overnight, without any national debate — how did it help produce and guard the Israeli economic miracle of the past 20 years that Netanyahu always, and justifiably, takes credit for and has made Israel’s middle class amazingly prosperous? Nothing is more dangerous to Israel’s continued prosperity than Netanyahu’s inability today to give a credible answer to that simple question.” Tom Friedman in the NYT: Netanyahu’s Judicial Coup Could Destroy His Start-Up Nation. (Netanyahu cares about something more than his nation. Himself.)

+ Unachievable Wellness: “No matter how much I optimize, how much I exercise, regardless of the foods I eat or the supplements I take, I can’t escape this diagnosis. What does being healthy mean when you know you can’t improve?” Andrew Zaleski in GQ: What Does Wellness Mean When You’re Living With an Incurable Disease?

+ Coming of Age in America: “One Michigan State student attended school near Sandy Hook during the horrific 2012 mass shooting. Others survived the Oxford High School massacre just 14½ months ago.” From Oxford High to MSU, students cope with horror of repeated school shootings.

+ The City Sitting Pretty: “Residents and officials say Erzin, Turkey suffered no deaths and saw no buildings collapse, and they credit a long-standing policy not to allow construction that violated the country’s codes.” The city that didn’t collapse.

+ Crime Wave: “More than 4,800 individuals may have been victims of child sex abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church and 512 alleged victims have already come forward with their stories, an expert panel looking into historic abuse in the church said Monday. Senior Portuguese church officials had previously claimed that only a handful of cases had occurred.”

+ Cave Survivor Dies: Duangpetch Promthep, one of the 12 boys who was rescued from a Thai cave in 2018, has died in the UK. (Terribly sad ending to one of modern humanity’s greatest stories.)

+ Care Jordan: Michael Jordan donates $10M to Make-A-Wish for 60th birthday. “It is the largest donation ever received from an individual in the organization’s 43-year history.” (Jordan even wins at philanthropy.)


Bottom of the News

“If some people doze off to the sound of rain, I fall asleep to broadcasters announcing the rain that is to come.” NYT (Gift Article): A Secret for Falling Asleep So Good It’s a British National Treasure. “Tune into serenity with the BBC Shipping Forecast, a weather report from deep in the analog era.” (I’ve had this playing in the background for a while now…)

+ Geoff Greer with a gasoline car review (if e-cars had come first). “The dependence on gas stations gives me a lot of anxiety. What if I’m in the middle of nowhere and can’t reach a station before I run out of fuel? What if the station runs out of gas? With a normal car, I can plug in anywhere there is electricity.”

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