Europe Edition: Russia Robots: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning.

A warning about Russian cyberattacks, new tensions in Syria, and robots take over in Eastern Europe. Here’s the latest:

• The Russians are coming (for your computers).

The United States and Britain issued a first-of-its-kind joint warning about Russian cyberattacks against government organizations, companies, homes and offices in both countries, a milestone in the escalating use of cyberweaponry among major powers.

The urgency of the alerts called to mind a computer-age version of a Cold War drill, only now it’s upgrading passwords rather than “duck and cover.”

Separately, a Russian journalist who had reported on Russian paramilitary groups in Syria died after falling from his balcony, the authorities in Russia said. The death set off alarms in a country where activists and journalists are sometimes killed in connection with their work.

• Robots to the rescue?

Fast-growing economies in Eastern Europe have led to severe labor shortages, so companies are installing machines.

Automation is helping countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland adapt to aging societies, shifting industries and rising wages.

But critics say the robots will pose a risk to workers when recessions hit.

“You won’t switch off the robots and bring back people,” a Czech artificial intelligence researcher said.

(Above, an assembly line in the Czech city of Slany in March.)


• Lung cancer researchers have made a major discovery: Patients can survive much longer if they receive immunotherapy alongside chemotherapy.

The drugs — including an immunotherapy agent made by Merck (which paid for the study) — cost more than $100,000 a year and help only some patients.

But they’re seen as a potential key in the fight against lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths globally. Above right, a scan of a malignant tumor in a lung.


Put away that smartphone! A French company has created stand-alone kiosks that deliver printed short stories to patrons of libraries, airports and cafes, like the one above in San Francisco.

“They eat money.” Since apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994, tens of billions of dollars in public funds has been siphoned off by leaders of the governing African National Congress, the political party that had promised an equal and just nation. Above, a dairy farm used to launder money for corrupt officials in Vrede, South Africa, in March. [The New York Times]

Conchita Wurst: The winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, who performed in drag, announced that he is H.I.V. positive, saying a threat of blackmail prompted him to reveal the diagnosis. [The New York Times]

German prosecutors charged a 94-year-old former Nazi death camp guard with assisting in the murders of more than 13,000 people. [BBC]

Barbara Bush, 92, the wife of the 41st U.S. president and mother of the 43rd, is seriously ill and has decided to stop seeking medical treatment to prolong her life. [The New York Times]

In Sweden, a rise in violent crime and gang-related murders is shattering the country’s peaceful self-image. [Politico]

Quel fromage! For the first time, a cheese from France was the grand-prize winner at the World Cheese Championships in Madison, Wis. [The New York Times]

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

Talk about fight club: In India, hundreds of women and girls, above, are taking free self-defense courses taught by the New Delhi police, as the country combats sexual assault.

The Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth, Germany, built in 1748, is reopening after a six-year renovation that has revived its dazzling details.

Friends forever. Scientists have found that the brains of close friends respond so similarly that they could predict the strength of two people’s social bond based on their brain scans alone.

Pulitzer Prizes: Applause rang out in The Times newsroom as we celebrated three awards. They included the Pulitzer for public service (shared with The New Yorker) for reporting on sexual harassment that ushered in a reckoning about the treatment of women by powerful men in the uppermost ranks of Hollywood, politics, the media and technology.

And the search for alien worlds (and perhaps alien life) will take another step outward this week when TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is launched by NASA into orbit around the Earth. The satellite will spend at least two years scrutinizing the sky for exoplanets — planets around other stars — within about 300 light years of our own.

Back Story

Each week, The Times’s crossword column, Wordplay, highlights the answer to one of the most difficult clues from the previous week’s puzzles.

This week’s word: babas.

“Baba au rhum” are rich, rum-flavored cakes that are largely popular in France and Italy. Babas is the plural.

The baba originated in France and was supposedly inspired by the Polish king Stanislaw I, whose daughter Marie married King Louis XV. It is said that Stanislaw was partial to the Alsatian Gugelhupf cake, though he discovered that the dry dough tasted better when dipped in liquor.

The Parisian baker Nicolas Stohrer went on to popularize this combination, and one of his descendants eventually established rum as the alcohol of choice. Stohrer’s patisserie is still around today.

Babas have continued to be a staple of French baking, and the success of the cake has carried over to Italy and the United States. Babas are now often made with raisins in their dough, and they usually resemble Bundt cakes or doughnuts in shape. Variations may use sweet wine or liqueur in place of rum.

Deb Amlen contributed reporting.


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