The Secretive Prisons That Keep Migrants Out of Europe | New Yorker
In the past six years, the European Union, weary of the financial and political costs of receiving migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, has created a shadow immigration system that stops them before they reach Europe. It has equipped and trained the Libyan Coast Guard, a quasi-military organization linked to militias in the country, to patrol the Mediterranean, sabotaging humanitarian rescue operations and capturing migrants. The migrants are then detained indefinitely in a network of profit-making prisons run by the militias. In September of this year, around six thousand migrants were being held, many of them in Al Mabani. International aid agencies have documented an array of abuses: detainees tortured with electric shocks, children raped by guards, families extorted for ransom, men and women sold into forced labor. “The E.U. did something they carefully considered and planned for many years,” Salah Marghani, Libya’s Minister of Justice from 2012 to 2014, told me. “Create a hellhole in Libya, with the idea of deterring people from heading to Europe.” […]
Once the Coast Guard has the coördinates, it races to the boats, trying to capture the migrants before rescue vessels arrive. Sometimes it fires on the migrant boats or directs warning shots at humanitarian ships. In the past four years, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (I.O.M.), the Coast Guard and other Libyan authorities have intercepted more than eighty thousand migrants. In 2017, a ship from the aid group Sea-Watch responded to distress calls from a sinking migrant boat. As Sea-Watch deployed two rescue rafts, a Libyan Coast Guard cutter, called the Ras Jadir, arrived at high speed, its swells causing some of the migrants to fall overboard. Coast Guard officers then pulled the migrants out of the water, beating them as they climbed aboard. Johannes Bayer, the head of the Sea-Watch mission, later said, “We had a feeling the Coast Guard were only interested in pulling back as many people to Libya as possible, without caring that people were drowning.” One migrant jumped overboard and clung to the Ras Jadir as it accelerated away, dragging him through the water. According to Sea-Watch, at least twenty people died, including a two-year-old boy. A migrant told Amnesty International that this past February a Coast Guard ship damaged a migrant boat while officers filmed with their cell phones; five people drowned.
The Coast Guard appears to operate with impunity. In October, 2020, Abdel-Rahman al-Milad, the commander of a Coast Guard unit based in Zawiya, who had been added to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions list for being “directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats using firearms,” was arrested by Libyan authorities. Milad had attended meetings with Italian officials in Rome and Sicily in 2017, to request more money. This past April, authorities released him, citing a lack of evidence. The Coast Guard, which did not respond to requests for comment for this piece, has often pointed to its success in limiting migration to Europe, and argued that humanitarian groups hinder its efforts to combat human trafficking. “Why do they declare war on us?” a spokesman told the Italian media. “They should instead coöperate with us if they actually want to work in the interest of the migrants.” The spokesperson for the Trust Fund said that the E.U.’s work with the Coast Guard is intended “to save the lives of those making dangerous journeys by sea or land.”
Half a Billion in Bitcoin, Lost in the Dump | New Yorker
When Howells had his uh-oh moment, his hard drive was already buried under other people’s trash. He wanted to go to the dump, but he was embarrassed—and afraid that nobody would believe his story. “Explaining Bitcoin at the time was not easy,” he recalls. So for about a month he told no one, and watched helplessly as the bitcoin market soared, and with it the value of his lost holdings. He remembers saying to himself, “Oh, shit—this is turning into a bigger and bigger mistake.” Around the time that his bitcoin became worth six million dollars, he confessed to Hafina. She was shocked to learn of the potential windfall, and encouraged him to go to the dump to see if anything could be done. When he told the manager there that he’d accidentally thrown away about four million pounds, he got a lot of head shakes, but eventually the manager took him to an elevated spot to survey the site: the mounds of churned earth, the depot where trash was mixed with soil, the grassed-over areas of retired landfill. Howells’s heart sank: he saw ten to fifteen soccer pitches’ worth of garbage. How could he possibly sift through it all?
But then the manager gave him some cheering news. Dumps were not filled randomly—like computers, they had an architecture. Newport had organized its dump into different cells: asbestos was deposited in one location, general household trash in another. It would not be impossible to pinpoint the area where the hard drive was buried, then disinter it. All he needed was the city’s permission.
Howells went home and examined the dump on Google Maps. “There’s only a certain amount of space,” he told himself. “The amount of rubbish is finite. The object is findable.” He was like the protagonist of Poe’s story “The Gold-Bug,” William Legrand, when he first cracks a coded message on a piece of parchment and sees a huge treasure within his grasp. However, Legrand needs only a shovel to start digging. When Howells called the city’s refuse division and left a message asking to launch a search, nobody called back.
The Trump SPAC Did a PIPE | Bloomberg Money Stuff
The Trump SPAC Pitch Is Weird | Bloomberg Money Stuff
Two very amusing posts from Matt Levine:
But since the stock traded up, things are different, and TMTG and DWAC have talked a lot about raising a PIPE. There are two basic ways to think about raising a PIPE here:
Go out to institutional investors, explain the business model, introduce them to the experienced management and technical teams, give them financial projections and let them pressure-test them, and generally get investors comfortable with a high-10-digit fundamental valuation for this company.
Go out to institutional investors and say “look if you buy stock at $30 you can sell it to some retail rubes at $40.”
On Saturday, TMTG and DWAC announced a billion-dollar PIPE, and if you read the announcement very carefully I think you can tell which approach they took. […]
Well! Now you almost know the name of the chief technology officer of Trump Media and Technology Group. It’s Josh A. (“Personnel subject to change.”) The chief product officer is Billy B. All very reassuring.
Yesterday we discussed the $1 billion private investment that Trump Media & Technology Group is planning to raise from investors when it merges with Digital World Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company that is taking TMTG public. The basic point was that, in this $1 billion PIPE (private investment in public equity) investment, TMTG will sell stock to hedge funds for $1 billion, at a 40% discount to the trading price of the stock. The hedge funds will then immediately turn around and sell that stock to public retail investors, very much not at a discount. So the hedge funds will get an instant 67% return (buy at $24, sell at $40, etc.) at the closing of the merger, as a reward for committing money to Trump now. […]
Third, I pointed out my favorite slide in the TMTG investor deck yesterday — the ones with the team’s first names — but I really do recommend savoring the whole thing. For instance here are the absolutely magnificent slides 22 and 23, labeled “Infrastructure” […]
How do you think they presented those slides in investor meetings?
Donald Trump: At this point I’d like to turn it over to our chief technology officer, Josh A.
Josh A.: Thanks Mr. Trump. Turning to slide 22, we lay out the infrastructure of our social network. The first layer of infrastructure is users. A user might be a sales representative who travels to visit customers. Actors may be internal or external to an organization.
Investor: Sorry I … this is a social network right? Like for people to tweet about how much they like Donald Trump, only instead of “tweets” you call them “TRUTHS”?
Josh A.: Oh yes.
Investor: So … “a sales representative” … what?
Josh A.: A sales representative might want to TRUTH his TRUTH about how much he likes President Trump.
Investor: But … visiting … customers … I don't get it?
Josh A.: Honestly we just copied this from somewhere and didn’t read it before we got here.
Josh A.: Anyway. The term database server may refer to both hardware and software used to run a database.
Investor: Ah. Yes. True. Who will be providing your database server?
Josh A.: Our what now?
Investor: I assume that you’ll have a third-party database server holding all of your tweets, I mean TRUTHS; who will be providing that?
Josh A.: Great question. Ryan L., make a note of that. No, the other Ryan L. Just write “GET DATABASE SERVER.” [to Investor] Really super suggestion. I can see why you’re such a renowned tech investor.
Investor: Thanks. I have to say this is incredibly weird even for imaginary “Money Stuff” dialogue.
Josh A.: Let’s move on. On slide 23 there is a diagram showing that the user interacts with the client which interacts with the DNS servers which interacts with the CDN which interacts with the load balancers which interacts with the application servers which interacts with the database servers.
Investor: Why are you showing me this slide?
Josh A.: Doesn’t it look like a slide from a tech company?
Investor: Honestly … no?
Josh A.: No I guess it doesn’t.
Banker: We’re gonna give you a 40% discount to the post-closing price of the stock.
Investor: And reg rights so I can blow out immediately?
Banker: So many reg rights.
Investor: I’ll take $50 million.
Josh A.: Oh wow it says here CDN stands for “content delivery network.”
Why Describing Utopia Goes Badly | Cold Takes
I attended the Society for Utopian Studies's annual conference. This was the only conference I could find focused on discussing utopia or something like it. It was a very small conference, and most of the people there were literary scholars who had a paper or two on utopia but didn't heavily specialize in it. I asked a number of people why they had come, and a common answer was "It was close by."
A lot of the discussion revolved around dystopia. When people did discuss utopia, I often had the sense that "utopia" and "utopian" were being used as pejorative terms - their meaning was something like "Naive enough to think one knows how the world should be set up." One person said they associated the idea of utopia with totalitarianism.
Rather than excitement about imagining designing utopias, the main vibe was critical examination of why one would do such a thing. I think that people thought that the analysis I'd done - using opinion polling to determine whether any utopias are broadly appealing to people - was pretty goofy, though this could've been for a number of reasons (such as that it is).
In a world with a large thriving social science literature devoted to auction theory, shouldn't there be at least a few dozen papers engaged in a serious debate over where we're hoping our society is going to go in the long run? […]
When one describes a utopia in great detail, I think there tend to be a few common ways in which it sounds unattractive: it tends to sound dull, homogeneous and alien. […]
My view is that utopias are hard to describe because of structural issues with describing them - not because the idea of utopia is fundamentally doomed.
Diseasonality | Astral Codex Ten
Why is winter flu season? Why do diseases even have a season? […]
The most common theories for disease seasonality are:
Pathogens like the cold
Pathogens like low humidity
People are cramped indoors during the winter
People have low vitamin D during the winter, and vitamin D helps fight pathogens
None of these are really satisfactory on their own. […]
So one possible model is something like: once you get a disease, you’re protected for a while. There’s no particular length of time, it’s a spectrum, absent any external rhythm-setter you would end up like the tropics, where people have epidemics at random times, once a year, twice a year, whatever.
But the seasonal cycle “entrains” this rhythm (cf. the idea of a zeitgeber). It offers a good way for everyone’s inconsistently-and-gradually-declining immunity to get below the threshold where an epidemic can start at the same time.
What’s going on here, with this human? | Graham Duncan
The philosopher Kwame Appiah writes that “in life, the challenge is not so much to figure out how best to play the game; the challenge is to figure out what game you’re playing.”
When I try to figure out what game I’m playing, I see that for the last 25 years I have been playing a game of strategy applied to people, a game where over and over I try to answer the question “what’s going on here, with this human?” In this essay, I make recommendations about candidate selection based on thousands of assessments I have made and my somewhat obsessive interest in the topic.
My goal in this essay is to help others make better decisions on a potential hire, business partner, or even life partner as quickly and as accurately as possible. It’s made up of suggested action steps and some of the ruminations that underlie them. At the end I include my own assessment of different personality assessments and some of my go-to interview and reference questions. […]
I try to conduct references with an eye to quirky forms of excellence. When I’m on the receiving end of reference calls, I notice that the caller is often subtly framing the exercise with a mildly suspicious “gotcha” vibe (“so why did George leave after only two years?”). I don’t find that particularly effective; it tends to make me shut down as a reference giver. Instead, when I’m calling someone, I try to imagine myself as head of people operations for the entire hedge fund or private equity ecosystem, that I’m agnostic as to where they should sit and just trying to help them get to the best spot. That mindset seems to allow me to size up people more generously and accurately, and to accommodate more quirkiness.
As your sample size of references goes up, you can begin to calibrate on the credibility of the reference giver (what’s their sample size? What are their biases?) as well as to tune into what a “table-pounding” reference sounds like. Fourteen years later I still remember a reference I did for our CFO hire: the woman who had worked with him had a tone of “why are you wasting your time talking to me and not spending your time trying to convince him to join you?” She felt slightly sorry for me that I didn’t get it yet. I’ve listened for that tone ever since on other references, and in the rare moments I hear it, it’s always proven to be high signal.
Progressives need to tell the positive story about immigration | Noahpinion
What I call the traditional immigrant story goes something like this: Immigrants come to the U.S. to better their lives, escaping religious persecution, stagnant societies, economic destitution, and so on. In America, they start out at a disadvantage due to lack of language skills, connections, and money, and they often face discrimination. But they work hard, learn English, save money, get an education, and fight their way up into the middle class, winning a permanent place for themselves in the tapestry of American society. Then new waves of immigrants come from new countries, and the process repeats, adding to our Nation of Immigrants.
As we all know, this is far from the only story that Americans tell about immigration. Since the birth of the republic there have been restrictionists who seek to cut off the inflow of people from foreign lands. They tell all kinds of scare stories: Immigrants are poor and will sponge off the welfare state, immigrants are dangerous criminals, immigrants will take our jobs and drive down our wages, immigrants are politically subversive, immigrants are culturally alien, immigrants are imported votes for the other political party, and so on. Donald Trump often seemed to be telling exactly this story, and he was successful in making opposition to immigration a pillar of Republican policy. Now, his ideological successors and hangers-on have woven together all of these anti-immigrant narratives into one unified story of a “Great Replacement”, painting immigrants as an invading army intent on dispossessing and displacing the existing population.
But I think what’s less generally realized is how over the last five or six years, progressives have started telling their own dark, negativistic story about immigration. In this telling, immigrants are basically refugees, who come to America out of necessity, because Western imperialism stole the wealth of their homelands and made those lands unlivable. Now, the story goes, people from countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa have no choice but to migrate to the imperial center for survival. This story is best embodied by Suketu Mehta’s 2019 book This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto, which has received fulsome praise from various figures in progressive media. According to the narrative in that book, immigration is not a golden opportunity but a form of reparations — a payment that is owed to the victims of Western imperial depredations.
Additionally, progressive messaging on immigration during the Trump era has focused almost exclusively on the mistreatment of asylum seekers by the Border Patrol and the deportations of the undocumented by ICE. Combining this with Mehta’s story of immigration-as-reparations paints immigrants as a people brutalized twice — once when the West devastated their homelands, and again when they are brutalized in the imperial center.
The Amazon Empire Strikes Back | Stratechery
The intended takeaway of this article is clear: Amazon is better and smarter and richer than any other retailers, and isn’t suffering the same sort of supply chain challenges that everyone else is this Christmas.
I’ll get to who the intended target for this message is in a moment, but there is an important question that needs to be asked first: is this even true?
Bros., Lecce: We Eat at The Worst Michelin Starred Restaurant, Ever | The Everywhereist
There is something to be said about a truly disastrous meal, a meal forever indelible in your memory because it’s so uniquely bad, it can only be deemed an achievement. The sort of meal where everyone involved was definitely trying to do something; it’s just not entirely clear what. […]
So no, we can’t call it dinner theater. Instead, we will say it was just theater.
Very, very expensive theater.
I realize that not everyone is willing or able to afford a ticket to Waiting for Gateau and so this post exists, to spare you our torment. We had plenty of beautiful meals in Lecce that were not this one, and if you want a lovely meal out, I’ll compile a list shortly.
But for now, let us rehash whatever the hell this was. […]
It’s as though someone had read about food and restaurants, but had never experienced either, and this was their attempt to recreate it.
What followed was a 27-course meal (note that “course” and “meal” and “27” are being used liberally here) which spanned 4.5 hours and made me feel like I was a character in a Dickensian novel. Because – I cannot impart this enough – there was nothing even close to an actual meal served. Some “courses” were slivers of edible paper. Some shots were glasses of vinegar. Everything tasted like fish, even the non-fish courses. And nearly everything, including these noodles, which was by far the most substantial dish we had, was served cold.
FLOW with Sam Favret — Big Mountain Skiing and Cinematic FPV Drone | Vimeo
FLOW, an aerial and symphonic journey with skier Sam Favret, in the heart of the closed resort of Chamonix, during this very special winter of 2021. A dose of unreality, serenity and Sam's powerful skiing. But above all the pleasure of rediscovering a playground back to its wild state.