Trump’s World Still Faces 16 Known Criminal Probes

In December, WIRED took stock of then 17 known criminal investigations swirling around Donald Trump, Russia’s role in the 2016 election, and Trump’s network of businesses and business partners—probes by not just Special Counsel Robert Mueller but by at least a half-dozen other federal, state, and local investigators.

In the months since, there have been significant developments in many of the cases—particularly in the last three weeks, which have seen the release of Robert Mueller’s final report as special counsel, charges against DC power lawyer Greg Craig for his work alongside Paul Manafort, and the sentencing last week of Russian “spotter” Maria Butina, as well as the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after the Ecuadoran government booted him out of its embassy in London, where he’d spent the better part of a decade hiding. Over the winter, prosecutors also charged Michael Flynn’s former business partners for their role in a Turkish lobbying scheme.

Now, as US attorney general William Barr prepares to face congressional hearings this week about the Mueller probe’s conclusions and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the Mueller probe for nearly two years, resigns, a fresh assessment of the current investigative landscape facing Trump makes clear how the center [...]  read more

The FBI Wanted a Backdoor to the iPhone. Tim Cook Said No

In 2016, Tim Cook fought the law—and won.

Late in the afternoon of Tuesday, February 16, 2016, Cook and several lieutenants gathered in the “junior boardroom” on the executive floor at One Infinite Loop, Apple’s old headquarters. The company had just received a writ from a US magistrate ordering it to make specialized software that would allow the FBI to unlock an iPhone used by Syed Farook, a suspect in the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015 that left 14 people dead.

The iPhone was locked with a four-digit passcode that the FBI had been unable to crack. The FBI wanted Apple to create a special version of iOS that would accept an unlimited combination of passwords electronically, until the right one was found. The new iOS could be side-loaded onto the iPhone, leaving the data intact.

But Apple had refused. Cook and his team were convinced that a new unlocked version of iOS would be very, very dangerous. It could be misused, leaked, or stolen, and once in the [...]  read more

The Time Tim Cook Stood His Ground Against the FBI

In 2016, Tim Cook fought the law—and won.

Late in the afternoon of Tuesday, February 16, 2016, Cook and several lieutenants gathered in the “junior boardroom” on the executive floor at One Infinite Loop, Apple’s old headquarters. The company had just received a writ from a US magistrate ordering it to make specialized software that would allow the FBI to unlock an iPhone used by Syed Farook, a suspect in the San Bernardino shooting in December 2015 that left 14 people dead.

The iPhone was locked with a four-digit passcode that the FBI had been unable to crack. The FBI wanted Apple to create a special version of iOS that would accept an unlimited combination of passwords electronically, until the right one was found. The new iOS could be side-loaded onto the iPhone, leaving the data intact.

But Apple had refused. Cook and his team were convinced that a new unlocked version of iOS would be very, very dangerous. It could be misused, leaked, or stolen, and once in the [...]  read more

Al Gore Did Not Invent the Green New Deal, but He Likes It

I met Al Gore when I interviewed him for Red Herring magazine during his run for the presidency 20 years ago. I remember thinking I’d never met a politician so intellectually curious and so uncomfortable with campaigning. (Red Herring’s archives are long gone, but The Weekly Standard’s derisive summary of our conversation still exists.) The then-vice president was genuinely interested in technology: At one point, he spun an elaborate metaphor, likening American democracy to a microprocessor. Gore helpfully sketched the idea on a napkin, drawing the executive branch as the control logic section. We kept the napkin, printing it in the magazine—along with the cover line, “E-Gore.”

I was therefore not surprised when Gore became a successful technology investor, a senior partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, and a member of the board of Apple. Recently, I met him [...]  read more

A More Humane Livestock Industry, Brought to You By Crispr

Hopes were running high for cow 401, and cow 401 serenely bore the weight of expectations. She entered the cattle chute obligingly, and as the vet searched her uterus, making full use of the plastic glove that covered his arm up to his shoulder, she uttered nary a moo. A week ago, Cow 401 and four other members of her experimental herd at UC Davis were in the early stages of pregnancy. But now, following a string of disappointing checkups, it was all down to her. Alison Van Eenennaam, the animal geneticist in charge of the proceedings, kept watch from off to one side, galoshes firmly planted in the damp manure, eyes fixed on a portable ultrasound monitor. After a few moments, the vet delivered his fifth and final diagnosis. “She’s not pregnant,” he said. Van Eenennaam looked up. “Ah, shit,” she muttered.

Cow 401 and her herdmates were the product of two and a half years of research, Van Eenennaam’s attempt to create a strain of gene-edited cattle specially suited to the needs of the beef industry. Had everything gone as planned, all the calves in this experiment would have been born male—physiologically, at least. Like humans, cattle carry two sex chromosomes; those born XX are female, and those born XY are male. But it isn’t the Y that makes the man. It’s a single gene, called SRY, that briefly flickers to life as an embryo grows and instructs it to develop male traits. Using Crispr, Van Eenennaam’s team added a copy of SRY to the X chromosome too. That way, even if a cow was born genetically female, she’d be expected to appear male all the same. Since beef ranchers generally prefer males to females (more meat for the money), Van Eenennaam believed there could someday be a market for these Crispr’d animals.

Christie Hemm Klok

More than that, though, the project was a proof of concept. One [...]  read more

For Workers in the Gig Economy, Client Interactions Can Get … Weird

If you work in the gig economy, things can get weird. Like sexually suggestive, or worse. Just ask Roxanne, 27, a freelance chef who hired herself out as an in-home cook through the Kitchensurfing app. (TaskRabbit for chefs, basically.)

One client, after his girlfriend was a no-show, asked Roxanne to join him for dinner on his rooftop. “I was like, ‘No, I’m going to leave,’ she says. ‘This is too much.’”

He pressured her to stay, eager to show off his new apartment, but she said she had another booking. “I try to leave it civil; I try to make sure the situation doesn’t end up coming off badly, just try to leave it like: ‘No, thank you anyway, but I’m going to head out,’”she says. “I don’t just plainly say, ‘No, you weirded me out. Now, good-bye.’”

And it’s not just chefs. Across the gig economy, independent contractors are navigating tricky sexual waters as they work—often inside the homes of their clients. They experience everything from suggestive looks to unwanted touching to frank propositions. It’s hard to know how to respond. And the already-ambiguous situation is further complicated by the fact that most gig workers are independent contractors who need good reviews [...]  read more

How YouTube Made a Star Out of This Super-Smart Film Critic

Lindsay Ellis is just about ready to start shooting a video in her personal studio—aka a tiny second-floor room in Ellis’ western Los Angeles home—and the 34-year-old writer and YouTube essayist is making some final preparations. She gently repositions a couple of pet tortoises resting in a tank nearby, so they won’t noisily thunk their heads against the wall mid-shoot. Then she heads to a shelf stocked with Transformers of varying sizes, colors, and allegiances.

“Which Starscream should I use?” she asks, scanning her collection. She eventually selects a handful of figures, including miniature-sized versions of Starscream and Windblade that recently appeared on her wedding cake, and carries them back to her desk

If you’ve seen any of Ellis’ videos on YouTube, where she has more than half a million subscribers, you’re no doubt aware of her love for all things robots-in-disguise-related. A Transformer sometimes appears in the background as she narrates one of her thoughtful, deeply researched film-criticism essays, which have included such entries as “The Ideology of the First Order” and “The Death of the Hollywood Movie Musical.”

And for the past two years, she’s been slowly rolling out The Whole Plate, a series that deconstructs the ear-drum-splitting mayhem of the Transformers franchise through various academic lenses: Feminism. Marxism. Auteur theory. (There’s even an entry titled “ [...]  read more

Monkeys With Superpower Eyes Could Help Cure Color Blindness

In the video, a preposterously cute grey squirrel monkey named Dalton bonks his head against a computer screen in front of him. Wide-eyed and muttonchopped, Dalton has quite the set up—the screen, wide in squirrel-monkey terms, displays dots of varying sizes and colors. Below that is a monkey-sized basin, like a sink in a dollhouse kitchen remodeled with stainless steel fixtures.

Dalton is doing science. Male squirrel monkeys don’t see color well; they have a kind of red-green colorblindness. Dalton’s eyes really only see medium and short wavelengths of light—blues and greens, and their overlap color, yellow. He’s what vision scientists call a protanope. With no receptor for reddish hues, he sees reds as dark yellows and yellow-browns, and greens as mostly yellow—to the extent that human color words mean anything to a monkey.

He isn’t really bonking his head; Dalton is trained to indicate when he can see a color on the screen. “He’s actually fairly carefully touching his tongue to the screen,” says Jay Neitz, a color vision researcher at the University of Washington. Dalton sticks his tongue out, Jay says, because he knows that when he recognizes a color, a drop of grape juice will appear in the basin. Dalton really likes grape juice. And a little click will sound in the background, another bit of reinforcement. When he sees a color, [...]  read more

Finding Lena Forsen, the Patron Saint of JPEGs

Every morning, Lena Forsen wakes up beneath a brass-trimmed wooden mantel clock dedicated to “The First Lady of the Internet.”

It was presented to her more than two decades ago by the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, in recognition of the pivotal—and altogether unexpected—role she played in shaping the digital world as we know it.

Among some computer engineers, Lena is a mythic figure, a mononym on par with Woz or Zuck. Whether or not you know her face, you’ve used the technology it helped create; practically every photo you’ve ever taken, every website you’ve ever visited, every meme you’ve ever shared owes some small debt to Lena. Yet today, as a 67-year-old retiree living in her native Sweden, she remains a little mystified by her own fame. “I’m just surprised that it never ends,” she told me recently.

Lena’s path to iconhood began in the pages of Playboy. In 1972, at the age of 21, she appeared as Miss November, wearing nothing but a feathered sun hat, boots, stockings, and a pink boa. (At her suggestion, the editors spelled her first name with an extra “n,” to encourage [...]  read more

How a Trash-Talking Furry Became Esports’ Dominant Player

Las Vegas may be the boxing capital of the world, but for a long weekend every summer, it becomes the mecca of a more vicarious form of combat.

Evo, short for the Evolution Championship Series, is the world’s most prestigious tournament for fighting videogames. Whether you specialize in a long-running series like Street Fighter or newer titles like BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, Evo is the Super Bowl of virtual hand-to-hand brawling. And last August, the most dramatic moments of Evo 2018 played out in a brand-new game.

Dragon Ball FighterZ had only arrived in stores months before, but it immediately found a following among the competitive ranks of fighting-game enthusiasts. Part of the game’s appeal was owing to the beloved anime series it was based on; more was a result of the game’s well-calibrated tag-team action; all of it was palpable in the thrumming Mandalay Bay Events Center when the finals bout took place. More than 2,500 people had registered to try their hand at FighterZ, making it the most popular game of the tournament, [...]  read more