Black in America, Disinformation Wars, and the French election | #computerhacking | #hacking


Errin Haines of The19thNews points out that the Senate confirmation hearings for SCOTUS Justice-Designate Ketanji Brown Jackson was only the latest battle in a partisan strategy to demonize Black women.

Black women are ascendant in American democracy, as politicians and voters, both powerful and pioneering. It’s a shift they have worked toward and that has met resistance, challenging the status quo of what leadership can look like. Many of the Black women I talk to in my reporting point to what they see as an emerging and potent partisan strategy: the weaponization of Black womanhood as a means to dilute their democratic strength and participation.

Aimee Allison, a progressive organizer and founder of She the People, told me there’s a particular disregard and disrespect shown to Black women nominees.

The goal is to wield “an ugly and effective weapon to blunt the power of Black women, to suggest through word and attitude that she will never be enough, that she will never belong in the halls of power,” Allison explained.

With more Black women awaiting confirmation and up for consideration for future historic and consequential nominations under a Democratic administration, is simply being a Black woman disqualifying for the Republicans who keep rejecting them?

Michael Harriot of The Grio breaks down the lyrics of yet another “same ol’ song” in the wake of the the death by cop of Patrick Lyoya in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The tune has been played since this country created its system of policing as a way to control Black bodies in the most violent way possible. It has been remixed as a theme song for slave catchers; a lullaby for lynchings and a psalm for segregationists. When the band plays the first refrain, everyone stands at attention and places their hands over their hearts. Meanwhile, we kneel, knowing that this is America’s true national anthem.

Instead of examining the protests or joining Patrick Lyoya’s death ritual, we wanted to talk about the song, so we decided to verify the contents of this traditional wypipo spiritual. What could he have done better? We collected the data with specific examples to detail how you, too, can survive a police interaction.

John Stoehr of The Editorial Board thinks that progressive critics of Democrats place too much faith in the (white) voters of swing districts.

Critics of the Democrats fail to think about something the Democrats think about. The voters they need in order to keep the Congress don’t know democracy is in crisis, don’t believe democracy is in crisis or kinda sorta perhaps maybe don’t mind democracy being in crisis.

[…]

For these voters, it’s difficult to accept the fact that the Republicans have gone full fascist. It’s so hard it’s easier not to. And that’s easy, because, well, these people are not far from where the Republicans are. That’s what happens in a society organized by white supremacy.

That’s what the Democrats understand.

White supremacy is on the Republicans’ side.

So: What do you say to people who don’t believe the Republicans are dangerous? What do you say to people who believe democracy is fine now that the former president is out of power? What do you say to people who are already leaning toward the Republicans, because, you know, whiteness, but open to giving the Democrats a fair hearing?

Ibram X. Kendi of The Atlantic points out that the Republican Party is “grooming” white children for white supremacist ideology and at a great cost to those children.

The Republican Party is clearly not the party of parents. The Republican Party is certainly not the party of parents of color. But is the Republican Party even the party of white parents? […]

Every great myth is built on a foundational assumption, a fallacy widely assumed to be true. The foundational assumption of this great myth is that Republican politicians care about white children. But if they did, then they would not be ignoring or downplaying or defending or bolstering the principal racial threat facing white youth today. And I am not talking about critical race theory, which Republican propagandists have quite intentionally redefined, as one admitted, remaking it into a threat, and obscuring the real threat.

What are white children being indoctrinated with? What is making them uncomfortable? What is causing them to hate? White-supremacist ideology: the toxic blend of racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic ideas that is harmful to all minds, especially the naive and defenseless minds of youth. Which group is the prime target of white supremacists? White youth.

I’m following up bilboteach’s great news roundup post on the COVID crisis in Shanghai, China with more reporting on the severe COVID outbreak and lockdown in Shanghai by Ellen Ioanes of Vox.

Shanghai’s local government enjoys a degree of relative autonomy in the context of President Xi Jinping’s China; it’s technically directly under the control of the central government, as a province-level city, but enjoys special status as the country’s financial hub and a showpiece for the rest of the world. Until March, the local government had handled the pandemic well, with no major outbreaks. But the rapid onset of the Omicron variant and the corresponding draconian government measures are pushing some citizens to the brink.

“I have no more money … What am I to do? I don’t care anymore,” one man shouts to his whole building in a viral video on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter. “Just let the Communist Party take me.” […]

“Many Shanghai people blame the local government officials for mishandling the crisis, the coordination problems, lack of contingency planning, these issues. Which might be true,” Huang said. “But it is interesting how, within a month, Shanghai degenerated from a poster child of the pandemic control to a pariah of the Covid response.”

Sitara Noor of Al Jazeera looks at the domestic and foreign policy hot messes that Pakistan’s new prime minister Shehbaz Sharif has inherited.

Sharif’s government will have limited manoeuvring space on the foreign policy front. Since taking office, he has outlined some sound and ambitious foreign policy objectives. But during his one-year term as prime minister, he will likely focus on balancing existing ties rather than scoring any breakthroughs.

The personal rapport Sharif developed with China during his tenure as chief minister of Punjab will allow him to boost the ties between Beijing and Islamabad. However, the growing rivalry between the United States and China will also pressure him to strike a difficult balance between the two global powers.

Historically, foreign policy issues did not have a significant influence over domestic politics in Pakistan. But at the moment, the PTI is building an entire campaign against the new government and for the next election based on allegations of foreign interference in Pakistani politics and an alleged US conspiracy to overthrow the Khan government. The PTI will present to the public any move Sharif may make in the next year to improve relations with Washington, or New Delhi, as corroborating evidence for its foreign interference allegations. Therefore, during Sharif’s short term, foreign policy will have an outsized influence over domestic politics.

I know that Anne Applebaum and Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for The Atlantic was linked in the comment section of last Thursday’s APR; it really does need to be in the body of an APR.

It was late in the evening when we met Zelensky at his compound. The surrounding streets were barricaded and empty, the building itself almost entirely blacked out. Soldiers with flashlights led us through a maze of sandbagged corridors to a harshly lit, windowless room adorned only with Ukrainian flags. There was no formal protocol, no long wait, and we were not told to sit at the far end of an elongated table. Zelensky, the comedian who has become a global icon of freedom and bravery, entered the room without fanfare.

“Hi!” he said, brightly, and then proceeded to complain about his back. (“I have a back, and that’s why I have some problems, but it’s okay!”) He thanked us for not filming the interview: Even though he’s been a professional television performer for all of his adult life, it’s a relief to occasionally go unfilmed.

On or off camera, Zelensky conducts himself with a deliberate lack of pretense. In a part of the world where leadership usually implies stiff posture and a pompous manner—and where signaling military authority requires, at a minimum, highly visible epaulets—he instead evokes sympathy and feelings of trust precisely because he sounds, in the words of a Ukrainian acquaintance, “like one of us.” He is a kind of anti-Putin: Rather than telegraphing a cold-eyed, murderous superiority, he wants people to understand him as an Everyman, a middle-aged dad with a bad back.

Karen DeYoung and Michael Birnbaum of The Washington Post report that the U.S. and its allies are preparing for a long-term isolation of Russia.

At NATO and the European Union, and at the State Department, the Pentagon and allied ministries, blueprints are being drawn up to enshrine new policies across virtually every aspect of the West’s posture toward Moscow, from defense and finance to trade and international diplomacy.

Outrage is most immediately directed at Putin himself, who President Biden said last month “can’t remain in power.” While “we don’t say regime change,” said a senior E.U. diplomat, “it is difficult to imagine a stable scenario with Putin acting the way he is.”

But the nascent new strategy goes far beyond the Kremlin leader, as planners are continuing to revise seminal documents that are to be presented in the coming months. Biden’s first National Security Strategy, legally required last year but still uncompleted, is likely to be significantly altered from initial expectations it would concentrate almost exclusively on China and domestic renewal. The Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy, sent last month in classified form to Congress, prioritizes what a brief Pentagon summary called “the Russia challenge in Europe,” as well as the China threat.

While Markos and Mark Sumner have the military battles and strategies of the Russia-Ukraine war covered better than anything that I have read anywhere else, there’s also interesting and even bizarre news on the disinformation/intelligence fronts of the war.

Aleksandar Brezar of Euronews reports on the efforts of a group called The Elves to combat Russian disinformation.

Since the war began, the Lithuanian Elves actively took part in denial-of-service or DDOS attacks on Russian and Belarusian state institutions, propaganda outlets and infrastructure sites.

These attacks, which also saw participation by Anonymous, a notorious activist hacking group, knocked out access to websites ranging from private banks to RT and Sputnik and the Russian Ministry of Defence for days on end.

According to The Hawk, the fight taking place online is a way “to support our brothers in Ukraine”.

“This is additional motivation — to spread information about what is really going on, and to somehow reach Russia, to inform the Russian people that this is a real war, not a bloody ‘special operation’,” he said.

But the task is not simple, and it is an everyday struggle in Lithuania as well as the other 11 countries where The Elves now have a presence.

Matt Burgess of Wired writes about the massive amounts of data about the Russian state that has been “doxed” and then published by Ukrainian authorities, hacktivists, and their allies.

Since Russian troops crossed Ukraine’s borders at the end of February, colossal amounts of information about the Russian state and its activities have been made public. The data offers unparalleled glimpses into closed-off private institutions, and it may be a gold mine for investigators, from journalists to those tasked with investigating war crimes. Broadly, the data comes in two flavors: information published proactively by Ukranian authorities or their allies, and information obtained by hacktivists. Hundreds of gigabytes of files and millions of emails have been made public.

“Both sides in this conflict are very good at information operations,” says Philip Ingram, a former colonel in British military intelligence. “The Russians are quite blatant about the lies that they’ll tell,” he adds. Since the war started, Russian disinformation has been consistently debunked. Ingram says Ukraine has to be more tactical with the information it publishes. “They have to make sure that what they’re putting out is credible and they’re not caught out telling lies in a way that would embarrass them or embarrass their international partners.” […]

Regardless, it appears to be one of the first times a government has doxed thousands of military personnel in one fell swoop. Jack McDonald, a senior lecturer in war studies at King’s College London who has researched privacy in war, says that, throughout history, nations have kept lists of their opponents or tried to create them. But these have often been linked to counterinsurgency efforts and were typically not made public. “Openly publishing such lists of your opponent, particularly at the scale that digital operations appear to allow, that seems very new,” McDonald says.

Aiganysh Aidarbekova of the Netherlands-based investigative group Bellingcat tells the bizarre story of a “niche” Russian QAnon channel on Telegram that was against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been shut down by Russian authorities.

QAnon Russia, one of the most popular channels in this network with close to 90,000 followers, posted a call for “peace and love” a day after the invasion began. It also urged Russian soldiers not to bomb and shoot Ukrainians. A short time later, an emotional anti-war poem featured on the same channel.

Another channel urged their followers to fact check and practice good “mental hygiene” when consuming information they read online.

Many QAnon channels around the world have regularly praised Russia’s war since it began. They see the invasion as an effort to take down the international “Cabal” around which QAnon’s conspiracy theories are centred. They posit different ideas on the war’s goals, whether it’s to destroy US “biolabs” in Ukraine they claim are inventing a new Covid-like disease, or that it is about preventing the ‘Great Reset” which supposedly seeks to use the pandemic to destroy capitalism and install a one world government.

All of this supposedly makes Russia an ally in this fight and the invasion a war against all evil, for all good.

An eight-reporter team for Der Spiegel reports on the increasingly acute global food shortage caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Already, every second person living in sub-Saharan Africa has trouble securing sufficient food each day. According to a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, it wouldn’t take much for the situation to turn into a full-blown catastrophe.

Thus far, though, the calls for help have largely gone unheeded. There are no shocking images making the rounds and no bodies lying in the streets – as there are in Ukraine. And there are no African heads of state regularly appealing to parliaments in the West as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been doing. Hunger is not a war crime, and it doesn’t arrive as suddenly as a shell bursting in one of Lissitsa’s grain silos.

Rather, it kills more slowly. But it has arrived.

It can be seen when a Lebanese school has to suspend meals for its students because no more wheat is arriving in the country. Or when Egypt announces fixed prices for non-subsidized bread in order to slow inflation.

Moving on to the upcoming second round of the presidential election in France, France 24 interviewed Ipsos account executive Mathieu Gallard about the overwhelming support that President Emmanuel Macron has among voters aged 60 and over.

FRANCE 24: Why was Macron so much more popular among voters aged 60 and over – and especially 70 and over – than his two biggest first-round rivals Le Pen and Mélenchon?

GALLARD: It’s not a great surprise because the surveys we did for the second round in 2017 showed that Macron got 78 percent of the vote among people aged 70 – so even then it was an enormous majority.

Towards the start of his mandate some of his measures didn’t go down brilliantly with pensioners. But then the various crises Macron has had to deal with – and we’ve had a lot of crises, from the Yellow Vests to Covid-19 to the war in Ukraine – all of them reinforced Macron’s stature in the eyes of this section of the electorate. And traditionally these age groups have demonstrated a tendency to back the incumbent president.

So from a historical perspective it’s not surprising to see this play out – and in Macron’s case it seems very much linked to the crises he faced. Older voters generally judge him to have managed quite well, they’re much more inclined to think this than the median voter.

It’s a section of the electorate that doesn’t want to take risks and ergo they’re thinking: Macron’s managed things fairly well so let’s keep him for another five years.

Lara Marlowe of The Irish Times reports that far left party leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his voters will be a “kingmaker” in the April 24 contest between President Emmanuel Macron and the far-right’s Marine Le Pen.

If Fabien Roussel, the Communist, had heeded Mr Mélenchon’s appeals to abandon his candidacy, Mr Roussel’s 2.28 per cent would have gone to Mr Mélenchon and he – not extreme right-wing leader Marine Le Pen – would have faced President Emmanuel Macron in the April 24th run-off.

Mr Mélenchon had lost for the fourth time, by 421,420 votes. The left was yet again the victim of its own fragmentation. The 70-year-old had said he would not stand again. The dream was over.

But in the hours that followed, a different narrative took hold. Defeat started to look like a kind of victory. Mr Mélenchon had moved from fourth place in 2017 to third place. He had increased his vote by more than 2 per cent.

Now Mr Mélenchon, the third man, is relishing the role of arbiter and kingmaker. Neither Mr Macron nor Ms Le Pen can win without some of his 7.7 million votes.

Finally today, I can’t get enough of this April 5 story in The Washington Post by Jessica Contrera about the hyperpolyglot carpet cleaner, Vaughn Smith.

In a city where diplomats and embassies abound, where interpreters can command six-figure salaries at the State Department or the International Monetary Fund, where language proficiency is résumé rocket fuel, Vaughn was a savant with a secret.

“A real, live polyglot,” Kelly said.

I’d never heard of that word — meaning, a person who can speak several languages — before meeting Vaughn. But Kelly, who dabbles in Cantonese, Mandarin and “beer in most languages,” had seen polyglots on YouTube, promising that anyone can become multilingual if they try.

Far more unusual are the world’s “hyperpolyglots,” people who, by one expert’s definition, can speak 11 languages or more. The higher the number, the rarer the person. But there have been many documented cases of such linguistic legends, each one raising questions about the limits of human potential — the same questions I had about Vaughn.

Everyone have a great day!





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