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America has a spies problem
What we are reading this weekend
Good morning! On account of Buddha Purnima, there is no edition of The Intersection today. But, we've curated some longreads for your reading pleasure. We will resume publishing on Monday, May 8.
The Signal is now on Telegram! We've launched a group — The Signal Forum — where we share what we’re reading and listening through the day. Join us to be a part of the conversation!
Spy vs. spy: It took a 21-year-old kid with basic security access to mastermind the explosive 2023 Pentagon leaks. What does that tell us about the state of the affairs within US intelligence? English journalist and military historian Max Hastings doesn’t beat around the bush in this Bloomberg column, where he argues that Chinese and spymasters have an edge over the Western intelligence community. For one, American tech companies such as Meta, Apple, and Google are accountable to virtually no one and shy away from intelligence partnerships with the US government. Two, easy access to technology (such as satellite images) has birthed a swarm of civilian spooks and cyberware specialists. As Hastings says, “patriotism has atrophied”, and only a quarter of all intelligence material is derived from old school undercover sources. The CIA is no longer the badass it used to be… or is it?
Welcome to Chappelleville: Dave Chappelle, an American stand-up comedian, has been in the headlines this year for all the wrong reasons—joking about Jews, the LGBTQ+ community, and being a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). In 2021, he was boycotted by the staff of Netflix, for whom he’s done several specials. But the people who are perhaps most miffed with the 49-year-old are the residents of Yellow Springs, a village in Ohio with a population of 3,700. They don’t care about what he does or says during his shows; it’s what he does when he’s back home that concerns them. As one resident told Bloomberg, Chappelle is “a force that’s turning us into the place that we’re all trying to stay away from.” Check out this story about why Yellow Springers are worried about how their village is changing because of one wealthy resident.
A collective tragedy: [Warning: descriptions of suicide]
The wells in a vast desert are either running dry or sealed shut. This story in The Print details why: Barmer district in Rajasthan is grappling with an alarming number of suicides by young, married women.
A district survey revealed that women were buckling under pressure from being married off young, facing domestic violence and harassment from their in-laws, grappling with family debt, or navigating an inter-caste or extramarital affair. Most of these women, from upper-caste conservative families, are confined to their homes and their suicides are never reported. Local authorities, unwilling or unable to address the systemic abuse that drives them to their deaths, are resorting to closing up wells with concrete. There have been some progressive measures, such as the ‘Anmol Jeevan’ (precious life) campaign that set up an emergency helpline and discouraged YouTubers from sensationalising the deaths to prevent copycat suicides. But the program was stopped last year, and now the deaths are rising again.
Work is (NOT) worship: Remember the pithy T-shirt quote "hard work never killed anyone, but why take the risk"? Forget the hard part, work has been suffering from a legitimation crisis for a while, as Harvard lecturer Erik Baker argues in this long rumination in Harper’s Magazine. Baker says the crisis of work suggests that many people understand work as a governing institution in its own right. “In a sense, work functions as a nation within a nation—an imagined community, in Benedict Anderson’s famous definition. Its moral health is of obscure but paramount significance. If earlier work was legitimised with the value of industriousness, with industrial maturity (meaning there was not much grunt work left to do) entrepreneurial work ethic became the underpinning value. If the earlier discontent was about meaningless work, the current one is the crisis of entrepreneurialism which lays bare the hollow promise of personal growth and self-realisation through work.
Preparing for Q-Day: The holy grail of quantum computing is to build a computer with one million qubits (quantum bits). The most powerful built to date has only 433 qubits. Scientists are getting there slowly but steadily. Algorithms for then have already been written. It may take up to 40 years, some estimate. Meanwhile, governments and companies are also pouring money for the day—dubbed Q-day—when a working quantum computer will be built. A functioning quantum computer will break the Internet, upend current communicating systems, and change the way everything functions. The universally used RSA password algorithms will fall like picket fences under battle tanks. No password in the world will be safe. This Financial Times animated story tells the quantum computer’s journey. While China is spending the biggest chunk on the quest, India has the second-highest number of quantum-related talent in the world after Europe.
Cup of woes: In 2018, Sheikha Latifa, daughter of Dubai Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum, attempted to flee the UAE with the help of Finnish capoeira instructor Tiina Jauhiainen and former French navy officer Hervé Jaubert. But her plans didn't go too far. She was caught by armed coastguards in the Arabian Sea and was forced to return to Dubai. Unfortunately for her, ruler Sheikh Mohammed considered her a fugitive. Sheikha Shamsa, Latifa's sister, had also tried to flee from her father's estate in Surrey, England. She was caught and subjected to confinement for years under heavy sedation. Another Emirati royal, Sheikha Bouchra, who was married to Sheikh Mohammed’s brother, was kidnapped, drugged, and eventually killed. All this, as Sheikh Mohammed was praised as the champion of women's rights. This harrowing read in The New Yorker details the ordeals of the women who tried to escape the shackles of patriarchy.