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/
Sickle cell trait has been cited in dozens of police custody deaths ruled accidental or natural, even though the condition is benign on its own, a Times investigation found.
— Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/us/african-americans-sickle-cell-police.html
Donald Trump’s attacks on democracy are being promoted by rich and powerful conservative groups that are determined to win at all costs.
— Read on www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/08/09/the-big-money-behind-the-big-lie
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/
Matt sits down with John Pfaff, professor and author of Locked In, an influential and important 2017 book about mass incarceration in America. The two discuss some common misconceptions about America’s prison population, three different meanings of the term “broken windows,” and what might be the true cause
The Weeds is Vox’s podcast for politics and policy discussions. Every Tuesday and Friday, Matthew Yglesias, Dara Lind, and other voices dig into the weeds on important national issues, including healthcare immigration, and housing. You can listen to it, and more Vox podcasts, here or join the Weeds Facebook community for conversation around each episode.
— Read on www.vox.com/the-weeds
John Sims’s current exhibition confronts the symbols of white supremacy and visual terrorism
— Read on www.theartnewspaper.com/news/black-artist-accosted-by-police-in-his-own-artists-residency-in-south-carolina
We created a 3D model of Greenwood, home of “Black Wall Street,” as it was before a white mob set it on fire 100 years ago.
— Read on www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/05/24/us/tulsa-race-massacre.html
The US Federal Reserve is took a step toward developing a digital currency as it announced plans to publish a research paper on the subject..
— Read on www.engadget.com/us-federal-reserve-is-looking-closer-at-a-digital-currency-125534039.html
Trudeau said Tuesday that his government shares Quebec’s views on both nationhood and the protection of the French language
— Read on nationalpost.com/news/experts-divided-on-whether-quebec-can-change-constitution-to-claim-nationhood