For those who could read between the lines, the censored news out of China was terrifying. But the president insisted there was nothing to worry about. Fortunately, we are still a nation of skeptics. Fortunately, there are those among us who study pandemics and are willing to look unflinchingly at worst-case scenarios. Michael Lewis’s taut and brilliant nonfiction thriller pits a band of medical visionaries against the wall of ignorance that was the official response of the Trump administration to the outbreak of COVID-19. The characters you will meet in these pages are as fascinating as they are unexpected. A thirteen-year-old girl’s science project on transmission of an airborne pathogen develops into a very grown-up model of disease control. A local public-health officer uses her worm’s-eye view to see what the CDC misses, and reveals great truths about American society. A secret team of dissenting doctors, nicknamed the Wolverines, has everything necessary to fight the pandemic: brilliant backgrounds, world-class labs, prior experience with the pandemic scares of bird flu and swine flu…everything, that is, except official permission to implement their work. Michael Lewis is not shy about calling these people heroes for their refusal to follow directives that they know to be based on misinformation and bad science. Even the internet, as crucial as it is to their exchange of ideas, poses a risk to them. They never know for sure who else might be listening in. Michael Lewis is the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, The Big Short.
As cyberattacks increase in scale and severity, so too does the global demand for cybersecurity professionals – in all aspects of the field and across all sectors. The supply seemingly cannot keep up, resulting in an acute talent shortage. But in this talent shortage, there is an even bigger and more troubling gap: the lack of diversity in cybersecurity. Improving the work environment for underrepresented groups The latest statistics on demographics in cybersecurity are troubling: according to the Aspen Digital Tech Policy hub’s latest report, underrepresented groups such as Black (9%), Hispanic (4%) and Asian (8%) professionals make up an increasingly low percentage of the industry. For example, women make up 51% of the population, but only comprise only 24% of the cybersecurity workforce. On the flip side, there are almost 500,000 open jobs in cybersecurity in the United States alone, signalling a systemic, yet not-insurmountable divide. If we work together through individual and collective action to improve the current environment for underrepresented groups, there could be lasting positive impacts across the field of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity professionals work long hours. In many circumstances, they exhaust themselves to safeguard infrastructure, IT systems and institutions. Almost everyone in cybersecurity is stretched thin. Organisations and nations alike need more qualified people to work in cybersecurity. Professionals must truly understand the threats while producing more robust solutions. To do so, the industry must fix parts of recruitment, retention and leadership development. Choosing candidates with the right core traits Focusing on the barriers to inclusion and success in the industry, instead of just overt discrimination, can help reduce the talent shortage. Cybersecurity leaders play an important role in this. They should focus on diversity and inclusion when selecting candidates. Instead of merely recruiting new diverse candidates into the workforce, they must also provide those professionals already in it […]
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– by Johnathan Franzen Jonathan Franzen’s gift for welding depth and vividness of character with breadth of social vision has never been more dazzlingly evident than in Crossroads. It’s December 23, 1971, and heavy weather is forecast for Chicago. Russ Hildebrandt, the associate pastor of a liberal suburban church, is on the brink of breaking free of a marriage he finds joyless—unless his wife, Marion, who has her own secret life, beats him to it. Their eldest child, Clem, is coming home from college on fire with moral absolutism, having taken an action that will shatter his father. Clem’s sister, Becky, long the social queen of her high-school class, has sharply veered into the counterculture, while their brilliant younger brother Perry, who’s been selling drugs to seventh graders, has resolved to be a better person. Each of the Hildebrandts seeks a freedom that each of the others threatens to complicate. Jonathan Franzen’s novels are celebrated for their unforgettably vivid characters and for their keen-eyed take on contemporary America. Now, in Crossroads, Franzen ventures back into the past and explores the history of two generations. With characteristic humor and complexity, and with even greater warmth, he conjures a world that resonates powerfully with our own. A tour de force of interwoven perspectives and sustained suspense, its action largely unfolding on a single winter day, Crossroads is the story of a Midwestern family at a pivotal moment of moral crisis. Jonathan Franzen’s gift for melding the small picture and the big picture has never been more dazzlingly evident.
Literary hoaxes thrive on exposure. At best, they are politically transgressive. They strip away anything smug, pretentious or hypocritical to reveal an uglier reality underneath. Hoaxes may use ethically questionable methods. But when they work, they tell us something about the relationship of art to life and politics. It’s the literary equivalent of Banksy shredding an artwork at Sotheby’s as the hammer came down. If they don’t, then we should question if they deserve to be called a hoax at all. Recently, hoaxes were in the headlines when three men leapt onto a Barcelona stage to accept a million euro literary prize awarded by the publishing house, Planeta – “unmasking” themselves as the Spanish writer, Carmen Mola in the process. “Mola”, a bestselling crime author, won the Euro prize for La Bestia – The Beast – a thriller about a serial killer stalking Madrid in the midst of a cholera epidemic. Cue global shock, followed by shrugs from authors, publishers and critics. So far, the fury has centred on who is allowed to write what, and why. However author Margaret Atwood crisply and correctly called the unveiling a “a great publicity stunt”. This hoax was embarrassing and high profile. But it was also unoriginal and apolitical. The men behind Mola said they were tired of lying. But might claiming a lucrative, prestigious prize – and a bit of ego – also have been a factor in unmasking themselves? Pen name politics The Mola hoax infuriated many because the authors, who wrote a trilogy of ultra-violent novels starring a female detective, Inspector Elena Blanco, had generated a backstory that was more than a pseudonym. It was an identity. It was also stereotypically gendered. Mola, which roughly translates as “Carmen the cool” in English, claimed she was an academic who kept her writing career a secret because she was bashful about the allegedly transgressive […]
‘A fox could be a shape-shifter, a spirit being. It could appear in human form if this suited its purposes; it could come and go as it pleased, play tricks, lead men astray.’ A film director in Hackney with a fox problem in her garden; an escapee from a cult in Japan; a Sydney café-owner rekindling an old flame; an English tutor who gets too close to an oligarch; a journalist on Mars, face-to-face with his fate. The world has taught these men and women to live off their wits. They know how to play smart, but what happens when they need to be wise? In the Time of Foxes is both compellingly readable and deeply insightful about the times in which we live, each narrative a compressed novel. With an exhilarating span of people and places, woven together by the most mercurial of animals, it shows the short story collection at its most entertaining and rewarding, and introduces Jo Lennan as a captivating new storyteller. ‘Each of these stories is a whole new world of experience and meaning, and to read them together is to fall utterly under Lennan’s spell as a master storyteller.’ Ceridwen Dovey, author of Only the Animals ‘Spanning Sydney, Kyushu, Moscow and the European surf, these are some of the best stories I’ve read this year – possibly ever. Lennan writes about men on the edge and women with secrets magnificently. These are world class stories, tales that feel so palpable, true and lived, they almost feel like an act of possession.’ Benjamin Law ‘Lennan is a master at creating worlds: above all, she is able to make the small details stick.’ The Saturday Paper ‘I’m absolutely blown away by the short story collection In the Time of Foxes by Jo Lennan. I can’t imagine how one person has managed to live so many lives, because […]
The climate talks in Glasgow are just days away, and may be the last chance to coordinate global efforts to stop the planet warming beyond 1.5℃ this century. More than 100 world leaders will attend the summit to try to agree on the details of crucial issues, such as timetables to deliver on emissions reduction commitments. So which countries hold the cards? Well, the nature of these particular climate talks make it less likely one or more states – regardless of their power or contribution to climate change – will determine the summit’s success. But this wasn’t always the case. In 1997 Kyoto Protocol talks, all developed states needed to agree on targets, timeframes and what could be included or excluded from calculations. This meant Australia was able to hold the agreement to ransom by threatening to withhold support, unless demands were met. In 2009 talks in Copenhagen, the plan was to develop a new post-Kyoto Protocol agreement, based on new binding emissions targets. The reluctance of China, and even the United States, ultimately prevented a new agreement being reached. Organisers of the Paris talks of 2015 learnt their lesson. Rather than aim to agree on a fair allocation of responsibility across almost 200 countries, organisers allowed states to develop their own nationally determined contributions – targets for reducing emissions. Unity in Glasgow is still crucial While the success of the Glasgow summit doesn’t depend on a consensus across all participating nations, there are three big reasons international cooperation is still crucial. First, the summit serves as the default target date for nations to articulate new emissions reduction commitments since the Paris Agreement. States will also need to agree on the next deadline for updated national climate targets. Second, it will determine commitments from wealthy countries to finance developing states’ transition away from greenhouse-intensive development like […]
In 1993, Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev used part of his Nobel peace prize money to help set up the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, buying the publication its first computers. Nearly 30 years later, the paper has another Nobel peace prize in its history. Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, was jointly awarded the prize with Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”. The prize is a surprising and welcome show of support to Russia’s independent press, which has been under constant pressure during the 21 years of Vladimir Putin’s rule. Thanks to Gorbachev’s perestroika political reforms and liberation of the press during the 1980s, investigative journalists became national heroes in the late Soviet Union. They revealed the regime’s crimes of the past, tracing them in newly-opened archives, and uncovered corruption among bureaucrats who abused their power to enrich themselves. It was in this context that Muratov’s career skyrocketed. In 1987, he left his hometown to join Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper in Moscow. This newspaper of the young Communists took a critical stance towards the Soviet regime in its final years, and was considered a leading voice of perestroika. Komsomolskaya Pravda was among the newspapers that stood against the 1991 military coup, led by a conservative bloc of the Communist government, to overthrow Gorbachev. The August coup marked the end of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in December that year, and led to a new era for the press. In 1992, Muratov left Komsomolskaya Pravda over a dispute about the paper’s future. Muratov was among those who defended the newspaper as an investigative media outlet, while his competitor Valery Sungorkin sought to turn it into a tabloid to make money. The tabloid view succeeded. Muratov and a team of colleagues began publishing New […]
Meet the traders who supply the world with oil, metal and food – no matter how corrupt, war-torn or famine-stricken the source. The modern world is built on commodities – from the oil that fuels our cars to the metals that power our smartphones. We rarely stop to consider where they come from. But we should. In The World for Sale, two leading journalists lift the lid on one of the least scrutinised corners of the economy: the workings of the billionaire commodity traders who buy, hoard and sell the earth’s resources. It is the story of how a handful of swashbuckling businessmen became indispensable cogs in global markets: enabling an enormous expansion in international trade, and connecting resource-rich countries – no matter how corrupt or war-torn – with the world’s financial centres. And it is the story of how some traders acquired untold political power, right under the noses of Western regulators and politicians – helping Saddam Hussein to sell his oil, fuelling the Libyan rebel army during the Arab Spring, and funnelling cash to Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin in spite of strict sanctions. The result is an eye-opening tour through the wildest frontiers of the global economy, as well as a revelatory guide to how capitalism really works.