Putin's wins, dystopian new tech and Biden's brain
TODAY'S BIG QUESTION
Did Putin gain anything from his Carlson interview?
Russian President Vladimir Putin has mostly shunned American media, but he sat down with right-wing commentator Tucker Carlson in a two-hour interview released Thursday.
Putin spun narratives that backed the Ukraine invasion and promoted dubious theories on Russian history. Carlson, who has been lambasted for his pro-Russia comments, provided minimal pushback. The Kremlin only allowed Carlson to interview Putin because "his position differs from the approaches of the Western media," Russian news agency TASS said.
Was the Russian president simply looking for a way to reach an American audience with propaganda? And did he accomplish this?
What did the commentators say? Putin likely hopes that "Republican lawmakers will be susceptible to Moscow's narratives usually only parroted within domestic Russian media," Will Vernon and Matt Murphy said for BBC. There is also a "domestic element": Russia's presidential elections next month. Putin is all but guaranteed to win, but the chat with Carlson "allows the Russian leader to present himself as an international statesman with a global presence to his home audience."
But Putin's true purpose was to convey to the United States there is "no point helping Ukraine with more money and weapons" because the war will continue regardless, Eva Hartog and Sergey Goryashko said for Politico. The interview also helped Putin spread a message that the "U.S. political system is, to borrow a phrase, an undrained swamp and American democracy an illusion."
In all, the interview was a "massive propaganda victory for Putin, who can — and will — now twist the encounter for his own ends," Oliver Darcy said for CNN, noting that Russian state media began amplifying the interview immediately.
What next? Additional aid for Ukraine has long been a point of conflict among American politicians. The U.S. Senate voted to advance a "stripped-down bill that would provide aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan," NBC News said. However, given the contention in Congress, the "next steps are uncertain, and it's not yet clear it will have the votes for final passage in the chamber."
The interview brought a look ahead related to Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was detained in Russia in March 2023 on allegations of espionage. Putin told Carlson a "prisoner exchange would probably lead to" his release but "declined to give a time frame," the Journal said.
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in The Spotlight
The Apple Vision Pro's dystopian debut
Artificial intelligence has been the main attraction in the tech world lately. But Apple is shifting attention back to virtual reality with the Apple Vision Pro. Did the product's much-ballyhooed debut launch without a hitch?
Background Apple introduced the Vision Pro mixed-reality headset, with a starting price of $3,499, in June 2023 at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. In a press release, Apple called the headset a "spatial computer" capable of merging digital media and the real world by combining virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
The Vision Pro has a customizable digital display that can also display immersive virtual environments. Users can access apps, play games, FaceTime friends with a digitally rendered "persona" and watch video content, controlling the interface with their eyes, fingers and voice.
The latest After eight months of hype and some skeptical early review, the Vision Pro officially dropped in the U.S. on Friday, Feb. 2. Meanwhile, videos of people wearing the headset in the wild have started appearing online. Some of the most reckless offenders have posted videos wearing the Vision Pros in the driver's seat of a self-driving car.
One such video of a driver in a Tesla Cybertruck pickup caught the attention of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. "Reminder — ALL advanced driver assistance systems available today require the human driver to be in control and fully engaged in the driving task at all times," he said in a post on X.
The reaction Critics have had a mixed reaction. A common complaint from journalists and techies reviewing the device is that it can be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. Some reported feeling nauseated, and many complained about how heavy it was. The problem with Apple's ambitions is the Vision Pro is a "VR headset masquerading as an AR headset," Nilay Patel said in The Verge.
Apple wants the Vision Pro to be as "subtle and unobtrusive as pulling out an iPhone or a pair of AirPods," Kevin Roose said in The New York Times. "But that's not going to happen, at least not for a while."
Statistic of the day
200: The height in feet of a radio tower that was stolen by thieves in Jasper, Alabama. This resulted in the local radio station, WJLX, being knocked off the air. "I have heard of thieves in this area stealing anything, but this one takes the cake," Brett Elmore, the station's general manager, said on Facebook. CNN
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"If I was a white woman, my name would be Melissa McCarthy. Same track record! … The opportunities are not the same."
Comedian and actor Mo'Nique airing her grievances with the entertainment industry during a viral interview on Shannon Sharpe's "Club Shay Shay" podcast
It's not really about Biden's brain — unless it is
It was supposed to be a victory lap over a special counsel report that absolved President Joe Biden from any criminal liability for mishandling classified material. It was intended to push back on the report's allegation that Biden might appear as a "sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory" to any potential jury. At first, Biden did just that in Thursday evening remarks, joking that "I'm well-meaning, and I'm an elderly man, and I know what the hell I'm doing" and sparring with Fox News' Steve Doocy by quipping that "my memory is so bad I let you speak."
That feistiness, however, disappeared when Biden incorrectly described Egyptian ruler Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the "president of Mexico." The mistake reopened a long-simmering debate over Biden's age and mental fitness, along with Donald Trump's. What is the debate over Biden's brain really about?
'A grim situation' Special Counsel Robert Hur's report "strips away the defenses that Biden's press operation has used to protect him," Democratic party strategists told NBC. "For Democrats, we're in a grim situation," said one anonymous House member, calling the report and Biden's gaffe a "nightmare" that "weakens Biden electorally."
With a recent poll showing more than three-quarters of Americans have "major" or "moderate" concerns about Biden's mental acuity, his advisers will be "weighing whether Biden needs to take a different approach to questions about his age," the Financial Times said. Questions about Biden's age are a "profound and growing problem" for the president's reelection team, said Politico.
'An endless loop' Focusing on Biden's mental health is a "disservice to the American public," analyst Asha Rangappa said on X. Instead, the media should be "discussing the legal distinction between Biden's handling of classified documents and Trump's" to inform voters about the "relevant differences between the candidates."
There's media hypocrisy in focusing on Biden in light of Trump's mental health history, said conservative CNN analyst Ana Navarro. Trump "makes as many gaffes." The former president last month repeatedly mistook Nikki Haley for Nancy Pelosi and seemingly claimed Barack Obama was the current POTUS.
Regardless of fairness, these mistakes will "dog Biden's presidential campaign," said former MSNBC Host Mehdi Hasan, despite unequal attention paid to Trump's "mental health issues and fascist talk." Democrats need a "plan (or at least a plan B)."
Good day 🌏
… for the search for another Earth.Astronomers discovered a "super-Earth," a world larger than our own, orbiting a star about 137 light-years away. The exoplanet, known as TOI-715b, "orbits a red dwarf star that is cooler and smaller than our sun," CNN said. Lead study author Dr. Georgina Dransfield said the discovery will "begin to show us how common planets truly similar to Earth really are."
Bad day ☎️
… forAI scammers.The Federal Communications Commission has officially banned using AI-generated voices in robocall scams. The new law went into effect immediately on Thursday, shortly after fake robocalls that interfered with the New Hampshire primary were tied to a company in Texas. The calls spoofed Biden's voice and discouraged people from voting in the primary.
Picture of the day
A fire breather performs a stunt to mark the 669th anniversary of the birth of Hindu Guru Bawa Lal Dayal in Amritsar, India Narinder Nanu / Getty Images
The rule of this hard-hitting collection is that the movie cannot just be about loving couples going through a rough patch. No, the movie has to depict people who are poison for one another and would be better off apart. Love doesn't always win.
'Blue Valentine' (2010) Derek Cianfrance's "Blue Valentine" has it all: a dead dog, wrenching alcohol-drenched arguments and a heartbroken child, all courtesy of the toxic relationship between Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams). The best word to describe the experience of watching this movie is "scarring."
'May December' (2023) The Mary Kay Letourneau scandal gets an exceedingly thin layer of fictionalization in the latest film by director Todd Haynes' (who also directed "Safe"). Julianne Moore plays Gracie, a disgraced former schoolteacher who did time after sleeping with her 13-year-old student Joe (Charles Melton). The twist, as in the Letourneau case, is that the pair ends up getting married. Natalie Portman is Elizabeth, who in a genuinely ludicrous plot mechanism decides to bone up for her role playing Gracie in an upcoming movie by hanging out with the whole family for a few days like some kind of emotional vampire.
'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' (1966) Director Mike Nichols' 1966 adaptation of Edward Albee's award-winning play is about an afterparty gone badly awry. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor play George (a history professor) and Martha (the university president's daughter), a miserable middle-aged couple who seem to take dark pleasure in hurling cutting invective at one another.
Over one-fifth of viewers for the upcoming Super Bowl said Taylor Swift's presence is influencing their decision to watch the game, according to a new poll from Seton Hall University. The poll found that 21% of respondents said Swift factored into their viewing of the game. Among those between the ages of 18 and 34, this figure nearly doubled to 41%.
Today's best commentary
'Trump pretends he's still president. Biden should treat him that way.' Alex Shepherd in The New Republic "Donald Trump pretends he's still president," says Alex Shepherd in The New Republic. There's a "perverse kernel of truth" in his fantasy. He wields "unprecedented control" over the Republican Party. The border deal, for example, was the "most restrictive immigration reform in decades" but Republicans "killed it at Trump's behest." If Trump wants to act like an incumbent, President Joe Biden "should humor" him and point out he is bringing back the "chaos" voters "roundly rejected" in 2020.
'The empty promise of endless steak' Joe Fassler in The New York Times "Cultured meat" was supposed to save the planet, says Joe Fassler in The New York Times. We were going to have "abundant and affordable" meat — "without the killing" — but use less land and water. We would "drastically cut planet-warming emissions" without depriving ourselves of the "juicy burgers and seared tuna" we love. But years of effort have shown it was a "delicious delusion." Averting "climate catastrophe" is going to take hard work and sacrifice.
'Biden's latest abortion fumble is particularly distressing' Susan Rinkunas at Slate President Joe Biden says he doesn't "want abortion on demand" but "thought Roe v. Wade was right," says Susan Rinkunas at Slate. That's "certainly not enough" for a "presidential candidate whose party should be running on abortion access." Right-wingers use the phrase "abortion on demand" to make women seeking abortions "seem flighty." In the real world, "women demand abortions because they need them." They're also "human beings who deserve to make their own choices."
WORD OF THE DAY
A way of highlighting one's "accomplishments, strengths or abilities through humor or wit" to appear more relatable in interviews, Forbes said recently. Research suggests the practice blends self-promotion with appropriate humor to resolve the "paradox of self-promotion."
Evening Review was written and edited by Theara Coleman, Nadia Croes, Catherine Garcia, Harold Maass, Scott Hocker, Justin Klawans, Kelsee Majette, Joel Mathis, Summer Meza, Devika Rao, Rafi Schwartz, Anahi Valenzuela and Peter Weber, with illustrations by Stephen Kelly and Julia Wytrazek.
Image credits, from top: Illustration by Julia Wytrazek / Getty Images; Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images; Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images; Illustrated | iStock