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Last December, the recipients of the 2016 Nobel prizes gathered in Oslo and Stockholm to receive their awards and give lectures in their fields of expertise. Bob Dylan, the notoriously reticent American musician who unexpectedly won the prize in literature, was, expectedly, not among them.
From the moment the folk singer was announced as the winner in October he bucked prize formalities: He was silent for a full two weeks about winning the award, ignoring calls from the academy; he didn’t attend the ceremony where he’d normally collect the prize, and sent in his acceptance speech instead; he picked up the award four months later in a private ceremony when it was convenient—he happened to be on a European tour at the time.
But the prize stipulates that winners must give a lecture by June 10, six months after the prize ceremony, to be eligible for the cash prize. And Dylan has slid in just in time. He recorded a lecture on June 4 in Los Angeles to meet the prize requirements and to get his 8 million Swedish kronor (about $924,000). Today the foundation released a video on YouTube, a 27-minute audio recording of Dylan’s voice reading the lecture, set to some discordant piano.
Dylan focuses on three works that have inspired him: Moby Dick by Herman Melville, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, and The Odyssey by Homer. It’s like watching the coolest kid in your English class, after not speaking for the entire semester, get up in front of everyone and gives an impromptu, poetic, somewhat opaque book report from memory.
Dylan admires Melville’s poetic quotability, he says, and the sheer drama of the huge novel about a man obsessed:
Whale oil is used to anoint the kings. History of the whale, phrenology, classical philosophy, pseudo-scientific theories, justification for discrimination—everything thrown in and none of it hardly rational. Highbrow, lowbrow, chasing illusion, chasing death, the great white whale, white as polar bear, white as a white man, the emperor, the nemesis, the embodiment of evil.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Dylan says he felt swept up in the World War I novel’s message of incomprehensible chaos. “This is a book where you lose your childhood, your faith in a meaningful world, and your concern for individuals,” he says. “You’re stuck in a nightmare.”
He stays in a second-person address to describe the feeling of being overwhelmed by merciless, relentless terror:
You’re so alone. Then a piece of shrapnel hits the side of your head and you’re dead.
You’ve been ruled out, crossed out. You’ve been exterminated. I put this book down and closed it up. I never wanted to read another war novel again, and I never did.
Dylan talks about being drawn to Odysseus’ wanderings and missteps, as well as the treachery of the world around the legendary hero:
Goddesses and gods protect him, but some others want to kill him. He changes identities. He’s exhausted. He falls asleep, and he’s woken up by the sound of laughter. He tells his story to strangers. He’s been gone twenty years. He was carried off somewhere and left there. Drugs have been dropped into his wine. It’s been a hard road to travel.
Dylan concludes that literature has influenced him, in conscious and subconscious ways, and says you don’t necessarily need to get it all to get something out of a book, or poem, or song. “If a song moves you, that’s all that’s important,” he says. “I don’t have to know what a song means. I’ve written all kinds of things into my songs. And I’m not going to worry about it—what it all means.”
The Russian military used email phishing to target US election-related services, according to a leaked NSA document by Keith Collins
Russian military intelligence engaged in a spear-phishing attack against an unnamed company in the US, “evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware,” according to a top-secret National Security Agency (NSA) report, which was published on Monday (June 5) by The Intercept. The report says Russian intelligence agency also conducted phishing attacks against several government agencies and attempted to impede requests for absentee voting ballots.
Shortly after The Intercept published the NSA document, the US Department of Justice announced that the FBI had arrested a 25-year-old contractor in Georgia, Reality Leigh Winner, and charged her “with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.” The DOJ’s announcement did not mention The Intercept, and officials have not confirmed a connection between the article and the arrest. However, several key details between the article and an affidavit released by the DOJ, such as the date of the document in question, match up.
The report as published by The Intercept details operations that took place in August and October of 2016, just before the US presidential election on Nov. 8. It contradicts recent statements made by Russian president Vladimir Putin, who said last week that while “patriotic” Russian civilians may have engaged in hacking, the Russian government did not. He also suggested in an interview with NBC on Friday that hackers in the US may have framed Russia.
The NSA document explicitly says otherwise, calling out Russia’s General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU, for the agency’s name in Russian), the country’s military intelligence agency, as the main actor behind the operations.
On August 24, the GRU “executed a spear-phishing campaign from the email address email@example.com,” according to the report, sending fake Google Alert emails to employees of a US company apparently involved in developing election systems. When employees clicked a link in the email, it took them to what appeared to be a legitimate Google login page. If they entered their login credentials there, the hackers captured them.
A comment in the NSA report notes that at least one employee’s account was “likely” compromised.
With the information obtained in that attack, the GRU launched a second phishing campaign against “US local government organizations” in October, according to the report. The hackers created the email account “firstname.lastname@example.org,” which used the name of the elections-services company as its display name. From that account, the hackers sent 122 phishing emails to local government agencies, offering “election-related products and services.”
Those emails contained two Microsoft Word documents as attachments, both of which were “trojanized with a Visual Basic script, which, when opened, would spawn a PowerShell instance and beacon out to malicious infrastructure,” the report states. That is, once an attached Word document was opened by the victim, the malware would execute commands through PowerShell that connected the computer to an IP address within the US. It then downloaded “an unknown payload,” which then installed another piece of software the NSA believes was used to “establish persistent access or survey the victim for items of interest.”
The hackers also appear to have attempted to create email addresses that would intercept requests for absentee ballots by “mimicking a legitimate absentee ballot-related service provider.” In the 2016 election, millions of Americans voted by sending in absentee ballots.