Why, for example, did the Egyptian president wait 24 hours to say anything about the protests storming the U.S. embassy?
The damaged U.S. consulate building in Benghazi, Libya (Reuters)
1. The Obama administration now says it suspects the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi may have been pre-planned and not directly linked to the film protests. Intelligence reports suggest it's even possible the attackers "generated the protests as a cover for their attack," according to the New York Times. Did they engineer the protests or simply exploit them?
2. Who actually pulled off the Libya attack, anyway? The "chief suspect" is an obscure extremist Islamist group called "the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades," according to CNN, citing U.S. intelligence. The Libyan group, which has surfaced only this year, appears to support al-Qaeda, but it's not clear if there are any direct operational links. Earlier reports cited Ansar al-Sharia, a loose network of Libyan extremists. The Libyan ambassador to the U.S. blamed former fighters for Muammar Qaddafi's staunchly anti-Islamist regime.
3. Who is "Sam Bacile," the possibly fake name used by the director-producer of Innocence of Muslims, the outrageously offensive film that started it all?
4. Why did "Bacile" tell the Wall Street Journal that he is Israeli-American (which, it turns out, may be false) and had funded the film with donations from "about 100 Jewish donors"? Why does a consultant who worked with "Bacile" seem to think that he is connected to Evangelical and Coptic Christians?
5. Maybe the most curious of all: Why did it take Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi until 7 p.m. this evening Cairo time, about 24 hours after Egyptians stormed the U.S. embassy compound in Cairo and pulled down the American flag, to issue any public statement? Why put it out on Facebook? Why, when his Libyan counterparts had so quickly and categorically condemned the (admittedly much more severe) attack in their own country, did Morsi follow so much more slowly and using such tepid language? Why, for that matter, did Reuters report at about 11 p.m. Tuesday night east coast U.S. time, many hours before Morsi's Facebook statement, that Egyptian state media was saying Morsi had asked his embassy in Washington to "take legal action" against the American filmmakers?
OK, that last one is actually several questions, but you get the point. Of all of the things we still don't know about yesterday's violence and its aftermath, the machinations of the young new Egyptian government may be the most confusing.
The revolutionary ideals of Black Panther’s profound and complex villain have been twisted into a desire for hegemony.
The following article contains major spoilers.
Black Panther is a love letter to people of African descent all over the world. Its actors, its costume design, its music, and countless other facets of the film are drawn from all over the continent and its diaspora, in a science-fiction celebration of the imaginary country of Wakanda, a high-tech utopia that is a fictive manifestation of African potential unfettered by slavery and colonialism.
But it is first and foremost an African American love letter, and as such it is consumed with The Void, the psychic and cultural wound caused by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the loss of life, culture, language, and history that could never be restored. It is the attempt to penetrate The Void that brought us Alex Haley’s Roots, that draws thousands of African Americans across the ocean to visit West Africa every year, that left me crumpled on the rocks outside the Door of No Return at Gorée Island’s slave house as I stared out over a horizon that my ancestors might have traversed once and forever. Because all they have was lost to The Void, I can never know who they were, and neither can anyone else.
Is a lack of meaning really worse than a lack of freedom?
A man named François is a professor in Paris. He is a scholar of Joris-Karl Huysmans, an obscure 19th-century author who, in his later years, converted to Catholicism in an epiphany. François is the hero, or rather anti-hero, of French novelist Michel Houellebecq’s Submission. François is listless—even his attitude toward sex is uninspired, as if it’s an activity like any other, perhaps like playing tennis on a Sunday, but probably with less excitement. There is too much freedom and too many choices, and sometimes he’d rather just die.
The world around him, though, is changing. It is 2022. After a charismatic Islamist wins the second round of the French presidential elections against the right-wing Marine Le Pen (after gaining the support of the Socialists), a Muslim professor, himself a convert, attempts to persuade François to make the declaration of faith. “It’s submission,” the professor tells him. “The shocking and simple idea, which had never been so forcefully expressed, that the summit of human happiness resides in the most absolute submission.”
In Cyprus, Estonia, the United Arab Emirates, and elsewhere, passports can now be bought and sold.
“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means,” the British prime minister, Theresa May, declared in October 2016. Not long after, at his first post-election rally, Donald Trump asserted, “There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag.” And in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has increased his national-conservative party’s popularity with statements like “all the terrorists are basically migrants” and “the best migrant is the migrant who does not come.”
Citizenship and its varying legal definition has become one of the key battlegrounds of the 21st century, as nations attempt to stake out their power in a G-Zero, globalized world, one increasingly defined by transnational, borderless trade and liquid, virtual finance. In a climate of pervasive nationalism, jingoism, xenophobia, and ever-building resentment toward those who move, it’s tempting to think that doing so would become more difficult. But alongside the rise of populist, identitarian movements across the globe, identity itself is being virtualized, too. It no longer needs to be tied to place or nation to function in the global marketplace.
On Tuesday, Alex Van Der Zwaan, a lawyer who helped produce a report at Manafort’s behest, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Alex Van Der Zwaan, a former attorney at an international law firm, pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about the last time he communicated with Paul Manafort’s longtime business partner, Rick Gates. Van Der Zwaan is the latest figure swept up in Robert Mueller’s expansive probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to admit to the charges against him.
Mueller’s interest in Van Der Zwaan, who helped produce a report about a contentious trial in Ukraine at Manafort’s behest, may be a signal that the special counsel is ramping up pressure on Manafort—whose connections to Russia and high-level role on the Trump campaign could prove invaluable to Mueller’s probe.
Gates is reportedly nearing his own plea deal with Mueller, according to the Los Angeles Times, but Manafort has continued to fight the charges he faces. His uphill battle to prove his innocence, however, will get steeper with Van Der Zwaan’s guilty plea.
Three ways of thinking (scientifically) about the East Coast’s ridiculous heat
Many things are happening all around the world, but on the East Coast of the United States, it’s currently very warm. Very warm. Half-the-continent-is-asking-whether-you-can-wear-shorts-to-work-in-February warm.
Here’s some context. On Tuesday, temperatures sat well at or above 70 degrees Fahrenheit from Massachusetts to Miami. Boston broke its record for the warmest night ever recorded in the month of February, at a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit. More than 1,100 miles South, in Tampa, Florida, daytime temperatures rose to 89 degrees Fahrenheit, the warmest temperature ever-recorded there in the month of February. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh also set all-time February records.
[250 pm Tue 2/20] The temp at Boston has climbed to 69 degrees, and at Worcester the temp has reached 66. The breaks the record high for today's date at both locations. #MAwx
But what foods are actually associated with weight gain in kids?
To find out, a group of researchers from Duke–National University of Singapore looked to the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which consists of 15,444 children born in 1991 and 1992 around Bristol, a city in southwest England. For their analysis, they included the 4,646 children who filled out a three-day food diary and had their height, weight, and physical activity measured at ages 7, 10, and 13. They tracked the changes in their BMI and measured how much chubbier or thinner they were than the average kid their age.
New evidence challenges one of the most celebrated ideas in network science.
A paper posted online last month has reignited a debate about one of the oldest, most startling claims in the modern era of network science: the proposition that most complex networks in the real world—from the World Wide Web to interacting proteins in a cell—are “scale-free.” Roughly speaking, that means that a few of their nodes should have many more connections than others, following a mathematical formula called a power law, so that there’s no one scale that characterizes the network.
Purely random networks do not obey power laws, so when the early proponents of the scale-free paradigm started seeing power laws in real-world networks in the late 1990s, they viewed them as evidence of a universal organizing principle underlying the formation of these diverse networks. The architecture of scale-freeness, researchers argued, could provide insight into fundamental questions such as how likely a virus is to cause an epidemic, or how easily hackers can disable a network.
Whatever their reasons, both Obama and Trump have argued against overemphasizing the effects of election interference—and they might both have a point.
At the start of the weekend, President Trump was buoyant, exulting that Robert Mueller’s latest round of indictments had not shown any evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. (Never mind that the troll-farm attacks are just one of several spheres Mueller is investigating, and that far more evidence to suggest collusion has turned up in others.)
But by the mid-weekend, the president’s mood had soured, as it became clear to him that the prevailed narrative from the indictment was the “incontrovertible” proof—to use National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s word—of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Nothing sets Trump off quite as consistently as any suggestion of anything that might undermine the legitimacy of his victory.
Tech analysts are prone to predicting utopia or dystopia. They’re worse at imagining the side effects of a firm's success.
The U.S economy is in the midst of a wrenching technological transformation that is fundamentally changing the way people sleep, work, eat, shop, love, read, and interact.
At least, that’s one interpretation.
A second story of this age of technological transformation says that it’s mostly a facade—that the last 30 years have been a productivity bust and little has changed in everyday life, aside from the way everyone reads and watches videos. People wanted flying cars and got Netflix binges instead.
Let’s call these the Disrupt Story and the Dud Story of technology. When a new company, app, or platform emerges, it’s common for analysts to divide into camps—Disrupt vs. Dud—with some yelping that the new thing will change everything and others yawning with the expectation that traditionalism will win out.