Steve Bannon, Aleksei Navalny, Algorithm Bias: Your Friday Briefing
Steve Bannon, Aleksei Navalny, Algorithm Bias: Your Friday Briefing
Trump’s former adviser charged with fraud
Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former strategist, was charged on Thursday with defrauding donors in a scheme tied to building Mr. Trump’s wall on the Mexican border.
He and three others are accused of conspiring to cheat hundreds of thousands of donors in an online effort called We Build the Wall that raised $25 million. Prosecutors said that money was siphoned off and that Mr. Bannon used nearly $1 million on his personal expenses.
In a hearing in Manhattan, Mr. Bannon pleaded not guilty to charges of wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.
The arrest scene: Mr. Bannon was arrested at 7:15 a.m. on a $35 million yacht off the coast of Westbrook, Conn., that belongs to one of his business associates, the fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengu.
Response: Freed on a $5 million bond, Mr. Bannon said, “This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.” Mr. Trump distanced himself. “I feel very badly,” he told reporters. “I haven’t been dealing with him for a very long period of time.”
International efforts to evacuate a stricken Aleksei Navalny multiply
Aleksei Navalny, Russia’s best known and fiercest critic of President Vladimir V. Putin, was reported to be in serious but stable condition in a Siberian hospital as speculation that he had been poisoned mounted.
His doctor and fellow activist Anastasia Vasilyeva was denied access to Mr. Navalny’s medical records and the intensive care ward at the hospital in Omsk, Russia, where he was being treated after falling so violently ill on a flight to Moscow that the plane made an emergency landing.
A Berlin-based movie producer, Jaka Bizilj, said his foundation was flying an air ambulance to Omsk and hoped to bring Mr. Navalny back for treatment. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France offered medical help and possible asylum. “What urgently needs to be clarified is how this situation came about,” Ms. Merkel said.
A pattern: Mr. Navalny is the latest in a long line of Kremlin opponents to be suddenly afflicted by bizarre and sometimes fatal medical emergencies — often after drinking tea, which Mr. Navalny had done at the airport before his flight.
Fog of disinformation: The state-owned news agency Tass said that Mr. Navalny could have “taken something himself” before boarding the plane. Pro-Kremlin news outlets pumped out other apparently fictitious alternatives: a drug overdose; heavy drinking the night before; the side effects of anti-depressants; a botched medical treatment in the West.
The pitfalls of automating government
The British government has thrown out the computer-generated scores it issued to replace exams that were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the uproar is far from over.
The scores reduced the grades of 40 percent of students, particularly those from lower-income areas with struggling schools, and the government’s reversal couldn’t restore the slots many lost at their preferred universities.
Experts say the debacle is a sign of battles to come over technology in public services — something Britain has been aggressively adopting — and a crude example of the risks of relying on an algorithm that might amplify biases.
Analysis: Cori Crider, a lawyer at the London-based law firm that filed a complaint against the grading algorithm, criticized the lack of transparency. “There has been a tendency to compute first and ask questions later,” she said. “There’s been a refusal to have an actual debate about how these systems work and whether we want them at all.”
The future of our abandoned offices
Yellowed newspapers stacked high. Wilted plants. A lesson plan dated March 12. Times photographers visited three offices around New York — including our own headquarters — that have been unused since March, when the city locked down for the coronavirus.
A team of writers surveyed employees, who seemed largely happy working from home, and explored what became of workplace gossip, handshakes and work attire, all to answer the question: Is this an opportunity to change how we work, once and for all?
In other developments:
A surge of cases in Britain resulted in a citywide lockdown in Birmingham, after the number of people testing positive in England rose more than 25 percent in a week.
Florida is the fifth U.S. state to see its death toll from the coronavirus exceed 10,000 people, according to a New York Times database.
North Korea made a rare admission of failure, as state media reported on Thursday that the triple punches of the pandemic, international sanctions and flood damage had significantly delayed plans to improve the country’s economy.
If you have some time, this is worth it
Reviled by their professional peers, a pair of British of orthodontists — 91-year-old John Mew, above, and his son — are celebrated in certain dark corners of the internet, including among the “involuntary celibate” young men known as “incels.”
Their theory? Crooked teeth are a recent phenomenon, caused by deficient modern diets and lifestyle that have shrunk our jaws. Their beliefs are filtering into the public consciousness, with sometimes frightening consequences.
(There’s an audio version embedded in the article, if you’d rather listen.)
Here’s what else is happening
2020 presidential campaign: On the final night of the Democratic National Convention, former Vice President Joe Biden accepted the nomination, vowing to bridge the country’s divides. “While I’ll be a Democratic candidate, I’ll be an American president,” he said.
Manchester arena bombing: Hashem Abedi, the brother of the suicide bomber who set off an explosion at a 2017 pop concert killing 22 people and injuring hundreds, was sentenced to a minimum of 55 years in prison.
Greenland’s ice sheet: Greenland lost more than 530 billion tons of ice in 2019, more than twice the annual average since 2003, researchers reported. Nearly half of the loss was in July, after an unusual heat wave.
Snapshot: Above, a fire in California’s Bay Area. Fires in Sonoma and Napa Counties have forced many residents to evacuate. As climate change worsens, the region’s fire season has expanded to nearly year-round.
What we’re reading: Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker essay on the meditative and restorative power of gardening. “I’m not a gardener. But it turns out that reading about people who are can be a psychological salve,” writes Ian Prasad Philbrick from the Briefings team.
Now, a break from the news
Cook: Samin Nosrat’s sabudana khichdi, a savory tapioca dish with creamy potato and cumin seeds, is the perfect comfort food.
Deal: Can’t decide whether to accept wedding invitations during the pandemic? Here are some important questions to ask.
Go: See art shows from Lisa Alvarado, Luc Sante and Wang Xu, in person or virtually.
There are plenty of ways to stay busy safely. Our At Home collection adds more ideas every day on what to read, cook, watch and do.
And now for the Back Story on …
Every year, scores of Indians are killed and hundreds more are tortured to death in police custody. But many Indians choose to side with the police or avoid speaking out against them — even after worldwide movements prompted by the death of George Floyd in police custody in the United States.
Jeffrey Gettleman, our South Asia bureau chief, has been reporting on police brutality in India, and the lack of an organized response to it. He spoke to us about what he’s finding.
What kind of relationship does the average person have with the police in India?
Many Indians are afraid of the police. Police brutality is a problem the world over. But in India, prosecutors, the judiciary and other branches of government rarely step in.
How did residents you talked to respond to the topic of police brutality?
Many people are frustrated with the impunity of the police. We’ve heard some very chilling accounts of brutality, and even killings, at the hands of the police that barely get investigated, even if the brutality has been thoroughly documented.
Do people talk about any ties between the current state of the police and British colonialism?
Some Indians have told me that the way India is policed is a holdover from colonial times, when the police force was used to control the public, not necessarily to serve them. During the British period, the police were deployed to quell uprisings and go after people who challenged the government. Many Indians we’ve spoken to say things haven’t really changed.
Some intellectuals, human rights observers and advocates for members of minority groups speak out about police abuse, but it doesn’t usually go wider than that. Many Indians are so fed up with crime and corruption, they don’t mind giving the police a free hand to do whatever they want to those who are seen as criminals, whether the suspects have been given due process or not.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with me. See you next time.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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