A World Without Sci-Hub – Palladium

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/

Khodorkovsky-Backed Media, Legal Aid Groups Shut Down After Russia Blocks Them

Two online publications and a legal aid group backed by exiled Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky announced they were ceasing operations on August 5 after the sites were blocked by Russian authorities.

— Read on www.rferl.org/a/open-media-russia-websites-news-mbkh-foreign-agents-khodorkovsky/31394446.html

Sergei Guriev: “We may already be seeing Russia’s return to the repressive dictatorship of the 20th century” – Institute of Modern Russia

The Institute of Modern Russia is committed to strengthening respect for human rights, the rule of law, and civil society.
— Read on www.imrussia.org/en/opinions/3321-sergei-guriev-“we-may-already-be-seeing-russia’s-return-to-the-repressive-dictatorship-of-the-20th-century”

A Century After His Birth, Dissident Sakharov Divides Opinion – The Moscow Times

The father of the Soviet bomb is sometimes publicly lauded, but his pro-democratic convictions are increasingly glossed over and opposed by the authorities.
— Read on www.themoscowtimes.com/2021/06/02/a-century-after-his-birth-dissident-sakharov-divides-opinion-a74086

Tajik-Russian Cooperation to Maintain Stability in Central Asia — Valdai Club

The core element of the Russian-Tajik strategic partnership and alliance is the coordination of joint activity in the international arena, both bilaterally and within global and regional organisations. Amid these conditions, the combined efforts of Tajikistan and Russia in ensuring the security of the southern borders of the CIS and the CSTO zone of responsibility is considered particularly relevant, writes Guzel Majtdinova, Professor of the Department of Foreign Regional Studies and Foreign Policy of the Russian-Tajik Slavonic University, who participates in the second session of the Valdai Club’s Central Asian conference.
— Read on valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/tajik-russian-cooperation-to-maintain-stability/

With Afghan pullout, Biden aims to reset global agenda – The Washington Post

Biden watched three presidents fail to end a war he saw as distracting from bigger threats like China and Russia. Now he’s pulling the plug.
— Read on www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-afghanistan-pullout-reset/2021/04/13/efdb656e-9c7c-11eb-9d05-ae06f4529ece_story.html

Articulated Gun Pods Allowed Soviet Aircraft To Fire Backwards, Downwards, And Even Sideways

The Cold War-era gun pods were a bizarre solution for strafing ground targets, but some linger on today.
— Read on www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/40020/articulated-gun-pods-allowed-soviet-aircraft-to-fire-backwards-downwards-and-even-sideways

Opinion | Putin again threatens war with Ukraine. The West must be ready to respond. – The Washington Post

The recent diplomatic flurry may not deter the Russian president.
— Read on www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/putin-again-threatens-war-with-ukraine-the-west-must-be-ready-to-respond/2021/04/08/7f292d8e-96f4-11eb-b28d-bfa7bb5cb2a5_story.html