Tuesday, February 21, 2023

21: Putin, Biden

Two Supreme Court cases this week could upend the entire internet An expansion of apps and websites’ legal risk for hosting or promoting content could lead to major changes at sites, including Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube, to name a few....... Many Republican officials allege that Section 230 gives social media platforms a license to censor conservative viewpoints. Prominent Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have argued Section 230 prevents tech giants from being held accountable for spreading misinformation and hate speech. ........ Rulings in the cases are expected by the end of June. ........ The case involving Google zeroes in on whether it can be sued because of its subsidiary YouTube’s algorithmic promotion of terrorist videos on its platform. ........ Google and other tech companies have said that that interpretation of Section 230 would increase the legal risks associated with ranking, sorting and curating online content, a basic feature of the modern internet. Google has claimed that in such a scenario, websites would seek to play it safe by either removing far more content than is necessary, or by giving up on content moderation altogether and allowing even more harmful material on their platforms. ......... Friend-of-the-court filings by Craigslist, Microsoft, Yelp and others have suggested that the stakes are not limited to algorithms and could also end up affecting virtually anything on the web that might be construed as making a recommendation. That might mean even average internet users who volunteer as moderators on various sites could face legal risks, according to a filing by Reddit and several volunteer Reddit moderators. Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and former California Republican Rep. Chris Cox, the original co-authors of Section 230, argued to the Court that Congress’ intent in passing the law was to give websites broad discretion to moderate content as they saw fit. .......... In recent years, however, several Supreme Court justices have shown an active interest in Section 230, and have appeared to invite opportunities to hear cases related to the law. Last year, Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch wrote that new state laws, such as Texas’s that would force social media platforms to host content they would rather remove, raise questions of “great importance” about “the power of dominant social media corporations to shape public discussion of the important issues of the day.”

The housing market correction just took a new turn Brutal. That’s the best way to describe KB Home’s fourth quarter, which saw its buyer cancellation rate spike to 68%. That figure dwarfed the publicly traded homebuilder’s 13% cancellation rate from the previous year’s period. It also surpassed the industry’s peak cancellation rate of 47% during the darkest days of the 2008-era crash.

‘Treason!’ Wagner boss slams Russia’s military leaders They want to ‘destroy’ Wagner, says Yevgeny Prigozhin about Russia’s defense minister and army chief........ Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the private Wagner Group, has claimed that the Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, are trying to “destroy” Wagner — marking an escalation in hostilities between the influential paramilitary boss and Russia’s military establishment. ......... Prigozhin’s remarks are another sign of infighting in the Russian military. Ultranationalist figures such as Prigozhin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov have long pushed for a restructuring of the top echelons of the military command. ....... The Wagner boss has been continuously increasing power in the shrinking inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin

How Vladimir Putin sells his war against ‘the West’ Unable to explain setbacks in Ukraine, the Kremlin appeals to past victories. ....... “It’s unbelievable but true: we are again being threatened by German Leopard tanks,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin, who traveled to Volgograd to deliver a speech on February 2. “Again and again, we have to repel the aggression of the collective West.” ........ Putin’s statement was full of factual inaccuracies: Russia is fighting not the West but Ukraine, because it invaded the country; the German Leopards being delivered to Kyiv date back only to the 1960s; there’s no plan for them to enter Russian territory. ......... But the Russian president’s evocation of former victories was telling — it was a distillation of his approach to justifying an invasion that hasn’t gone to plan. These days in Russia, if the present is hard to explain, appeal to the past. ........... “The language of history has replaced the language of politics,” said Ivan Kurilla, a historian at the European University at St. Petersburg. “It is used to explain what is happening in a simple way that Russians understand.” ........ Putin has long harkened back to World War II — known in the country as The Great Patriotic War, in which more than 20 million Soviet citizens are estimated to have died. ............. On the streets, however, Russians seemed confused. ........ The term “special military operation” at least was somewhat clearer. It suggested a speedy, professional, targeted offensive. ...... As the special military operation turned into a protracted conflict, and the facts on the ground refused to bend to Putin’s narrative, the Kremlin has gradually been forced to change its story. ......... by spring the terms “demilitarization” and “denazification” had practically disappeared from the public sphere .......... In October, Putin declared that one of the main goals of the war had been to provide Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, with a stable water supply. .........

But the appeal to history has remained central to Putin’s communication effort.

......... In June, he referenced Peter the Great’s campaign to “return what was Russia’s.” And during an October ceremony to lay claim to four regions in Ukraine, it was Catherine the Great who got a mention. ......... “Especially in spring and early summer, there was an attempt to Sovietize the war, with people waving red flags, trying to make sense of it through that lens.” ........ Throughout, the Kremlin has sought to depict the conflict as a battle against powerful Western interests bent on using Ukraine to undermine Russia — a narrative that has become increasingly important as the Kremlin demands bigger sacrifices from the Russian population ......... “What we observe today is the culmination of that feeling of resentment, of unrealized illusions, especially among those over 50” ......... “We are moving away from a special military operation towards a holy war … against 50 countries united by Satanism,” the veteran propagandist Vladimir Solovyov said on his program in January. .............. Russians are now expecting the war to last another six months or longer. “The majority keep to the sidelines, and passively support the war, as long as it doesn’t affect them directly” ........... reports of Western weapons deliveries have been used to reinforce the argument that Russia is battling the West under the umbrella of NATO — no longer in an ideological sense, but in a literal one. ........... “What started out as a historic metaphor is being fueled by actual spilled blood.” .......... In newspaper stands, Russians will find magazines such as “The Historian,” full of detailed spreads arguing that the Soviet Union’s Western allies in World War II were, in fact, Nazi sympathizers all along — another recycled trope from Russian history. ......... “This level of hatred and aggressive nationalism has not been seen since the late Stalin period”

Zelenskyy: Macron is ‘wasting his time’ with Putin ‘It’s a useless dialogue,’ Ukraine’s president says. ........ Macron added that although he wished for the Kremlin to lose, the war would end not on the battlefield but with peace talks — and that France would “never” support “crushing Russia.” ........ “He likes vodka? If that’s the case, we have some of the finest quality in Ukraine — we can offer him some,” Zelenskyy said. ........ The Ukrainian president also commented on recent reports from the U.S. that China was ready to send weapons to Russia, saying he hoped Beijing would keep a “pragmatic approach,” to avoid a “Third World War.”

Biden’s Military-First Posture in the East Is a Problem A singular focus on countering the threat of Chinese aggression made America neglect economic ties in the Indo-Pacific. ........ Changi Naval Base, which sits on the east coast of Singapore near the busy shipping lanes of the Singapore Strait, has in the first months of 2023 been welcoming well-armed American visitors. Less than two weeks into the new year came a visit from the USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship. Days later, the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier with a small city’s worth of crew members, made a port call—accompanied by three destroyers. ........ U.S. troops have access to five military bases in the Philippines, which is a former U.S. colony and America’s oldest treaty ally in Asia. Earlier this month, the two countries reached an agreement that gives U.S. forces access to four more. That announcement followed a decision by American and Japanese officials to enhance their military cooperation. ........

The aim—sometimes spoken, other times left unsaid—of such developments is to counter China’s more assertive presence in the region.

Washington now views Beijing as a growing threat to America and its partners and allies there. These concerns have only intensified since a spy balloon launched by China was shot down two weeks ago. Hence the Biden administration’s focus on defense and security in the Indo-Pacific.

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