Aaron Swartz was 26 years old when he took his own life. He did so under the shadow of legal prosecution, pursued by government lawyers intent on maximal punishment. If found guilty, he potentially faced up to 50 years in prison and a $1 million dollar fine. Swartz’s crime was not only legal, but political. He had accessed a private computer network and gained possession of highly valuable information with the goal of sharing it. His actions threatened some of the most powerful, connected, and politically protected groups in the country. Their friends in the government were intent on sending a message.
It’s the kind of story you would expect about some far-off political dissident. But Swartz took his life in Brooklyn on a winter day in 2013 and his prosecutor was the U.S. federal government. When Swartz died, he was under indictment for 13 felony charges related to his use of an MIT computer to download too many scientific articles from the academic database JSTOR, ostensibly for the purpose of making them freely available to the public. Ultimately, Swartz potentially faced more jail time for downloading academic papers than he would have if he had helped Al Qaeda build a nuclear weapon. Even the Criminal Code of the USSR stipulated that those who stored and distributed anti-Soviet literature only faced five to seven years in prison. While prosecutors later pointed toward a potential deal for less time, Aaron would still have been labeled a felon for his actions—and to boot, JSTOR itself had reached a civil settlement and didn’t even pursue its own lawsuit.
But Aaron’s cause lived on. This September marks the ten-year anniversary of Sci-Hub, the online “shadow library” that provides access to millions of research papers otherwise hidden behind prohibitive paywalls. Founded by the Kazakhstani computer scientist Alexandra Elbakyan—popularly known as science’s “pirate queen”—Sci-Hub has grown to become a repository of over 85 million academic papers.
The site is popular globally, used by millions of people—many of whom would otherwise not be able to finish their degrees, advise their patients, or use text mining algorithms to make new scientific discoveries. Sci-Hub has become the unacknowledged foundation that helps the whole enterprise of academia to function.
Even when they do not need to use Sci-Hub, the superior user experience it offers means that many people prefer to use the illegal site rather than access papers through their own institutional libraries. It is difficult to say how many ideas, grants, publications, and companies have been made possible by Sci-Hub, but it seems undeniable that Elbakyan’s ten-year-old website has become a crucial component of contemporary scholarship.
— Read on palladiummag.com/2021/09/24/a-world-without-sci-hub/
A Chinese-backed consortium building infrastructure for a massive iron ore mine in Guinea started blasting a railway tunnel in a habitat for a critically endangered chimpanzee species with no plan in place to manage the impact on the animals, company and government statements and satellite imagery show.
— Read on www.reuters.com/world/africa/exclusive-guinea-rail-builders-blast-chimp-habitat-no-plan-protect-apes-2021-08-17/
Corporations and industry groups are filling the coffers of political committees tied to the so-called Sedition Caucus — creating one of the biggest obstacles to holding these members accountable for their actions. It’s time to call them out.
— Read on www.citizensforethics.org/reports-investigations/crew-reports/this-sedition-is-brought-to-you-by/
“The ocean is not Japan’s trash can,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.
— Read on www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/04/14/china-japan-fukushima-water-drink/
Article by Bates Gill and Michael E. O’Hanlon, The National Interest (Summer 1999)
— Read on www.brookings.edu/articles/chinas-hollow-military/
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s government decided Tuesday to start releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years — an option fiercely opposed by human beings who care about the future, rather than saving a dollar.
— Read on apnews.com/article/japan-tsunamis-tokyo-d35637331403c59bbdf61e5ee1f09dbc
U.S. Concerned Over Reported Russian Troop Movements Amid Heightened Tensions In Eastern Ukraine
— Read on www.rferl.org/amp/ukrainian-russian-military-buildup-border/31180563.html
More than 180 human rights groups, politicians, and lawyers have called on the United States and its allies to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. They insist that China’s brutal treatment of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and its heavy-handed repression of ethnic Uyghurs should disqualify it from hosting an event of such global stature.
Critics of the proposed boycott argue that withdrawing from a sports competition will do little to alter Chinese behavior. And that is largely true: a boycott of the Olympic Games would probably not force the Chinese Communist Party to radically change course. But Olympic boycotts are still potent weapons that strike at the vanities of authoritarian countries, which is why they have been a recurring feature of the modern running of the Games.
— Read on www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2021-03-25/why-authoritarians-love-olympics