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ISIS-K, Reddit, Gaza & More

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The ISIS-K Attack Inside Russia.

  • On Friday, 22 March 2024, members of ISIS-K conducted a terrorist attack at a packed concert venue in Krasnogorsk, on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia. The death toll continues to rise, and is marked at 133 killed / 100+ wounded at the time of this writing.

  • ISIS-K (also referred to as “IS-KP”) is a branch of ISIS operating out of Afghanistan. Prior to 2024, the group’s attacks took place almost exclusively in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This year, there appears to be an international shift in ISIS-K planning, with the Kerman bombings in Iran on 3 January and the attack in Russia this past Friday. The group has also previously targeted Americans, including in the 2021 Kabul airport attack during the US evacuation from Afghanistan, in which 13 US servicemembers were killed. This is also not the first time ISIS (as a whole, though not specifically ISIS-K) has attacked Russia, as ISIS has previously taken credit for the September 2022 suicide bombings at the Russian embassy in Kabul, claiming the lives of two embassy staffers.

  • What’s different here, and bears recognizing, isn’t that ISIS-K attacked Russia, but that ISIS-K managed to successfully attack inside of Russia. ISIS / ISIS-K has several reasons to target Russia, not the least of which is Russia’s ongoing operations against ISIS in Syria. However, given the relative powers and control available to Russian internal security services versus those of any number of Western democracies, Russia presents a much more difficult operating environment for terrorist groups.

  • In the same vein, Russia’s approach to counterterrorism operations is another point of distinction. Though this is an antiquated reference, I can’t help but recall the KGB Spetsnaz operation in Beirut, Lebanon in 1985, in which it’s been reported that Soviet commandos kidnapped family members of Hezbollah hostage-takers, partially dismembered them (alive), and mailed the dismembered body parts to Hezbollah offices demanding the immediate release of the remaining Soviet hostages. (It worked.) More recently, one might recall the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis, during which 40-50 Chechen terrorists took roughly 800 civilians hostage in a theater in Russia demanding a Russian withdrawal from (predominantly Muslim) Chechnya. The eventual Spetsnaz raid was billed as a “success” by Russian media, with all hostage-takers neutralized, though 120 of the hostages also perished. Internationally, the raid was widely criticized for the Spetsnaz’s use of a fentanyl-variant gas pumped in to the theater prior to forces making entry, resulting in some of the hostage casualties. The point here is that Russian counterterrorism operations are of a different breed.

  • The Putin regime is one of political expediency, and it’s no surprise that Putin has already sought to link the ISIS-K attack to Ukraine, citing both material assistance to the terrorists from Ukraine-based individuals and a planned escape route west over the Russian-Ukrainian border. These statements, of course, aren’t for international ears, but for those of ordinary Russians growing weary of Russia’s “special military operation” now 2 years on. If this seems to be a bridge too far even domestically for Putin, recall that he’s previously attempted to convince (and did convince?) the Russian people that Ukrainian president Zelenskyy is a Jewish Nazi. This latest claim, by comparison, is easy pickings, and it’s the latest iteration of a near-constant reminder that (willfully?) ignorant masses pose one of the gravest threats to humanity today.

  • Internally, things aren’t nearly so rosy for Putin. As we’ve discussed above, Russia doesn’t accede to terrorists; it kills them, violently, and using nearly any means at its disposal. So, any plans to scale back operations in Syria, and perhaps also elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa, might now be seen as something of an accession, and Putin won’t be seen to lose face in that manner. Russia’s prized Spetsnaz forces, however, are already deployed in Ukraine and, by some accounts, have lost serious numbers there. While this one incident alone won’t be dispositive of much, a rising terrorist threat against Russia and its interests globally could play a role in the shifting dynamics of the Ukraine conflict in the months ahead.

  • There’s also the weird complication from what’s known as the “duty to warn” principle: US intelligence knew about the threat posed by ISIS-K to Russia and, in early March, did, in fact, warn Russia of the threat of an attack. First, this throws a wrench into the Putin narrative that Ukraine was somehow behind it all. Second, it leaves us wondering whether the Russian apparatus believed its own narrative, that the warning was actually a US destabilization operation, and not an actual warning. I’m not sure this changes anything between the US and Russia at all, but on a domestic front, one can’t help but wonder if rank-and-file Russians aren’t wondering why the US seems to be doing more to protect them from terrorism than their own government.

What Reddit’s IPO Has To Do With The Future Of AI.

  • So, Reddit IPOed on Thursday (21 March 2024). It priced at top of range, debuting at $53.78, and had fallen to $45.96 as of the close on Friday. Great. That’s the story. Moving on…

  • Wait, nevermind; there’s actually a few other things to talk about here. For one, Reddit pricing at top of range seemed, at least prior to the start of trading, to be a harbinger of a solid 2024 for IPOs after a less than stellar 2023. With companies like Stripe and Databricks expected to file this year, Reddit coming out at a market cap of over $7 billion seems…great, and the top-of-range pricing might have left the bankers—again, this was before trading started—feeling like they might have left some money on the table.

  • But then shares started to trade, and while the week’s two sessions weren’t a complete bottom fallout, a shed of nearly 9% during the latter placed Reddit third on the day’s list of biggest losers. Champagne…back in the fridge.

  • People are talking / writing about the potential “meme-ification” of Reddit stock, a la GameStop’s back in 2020. The folks behind GameStop’s wild ride were, of course, Redditors on r/WallStreetBets. Ironic, but in the way Alanis Morissette defined it.

  • There’s also a story here about AI (because it’s 2024, so of course there is). Google’s inked a deal with Reddit to use its data (i.e., eeeeeeeverything posted to Reddit) to train AI models. That’s a lot of information, from a lot of humans, and if you have a sense of how AI models are trained, it’s not difficult to understand just how valuable that information is, both for AI developers and, well, for Reddit. And maybe not just Reddit, right? The Reddit deal, and Reddit’s new public status, might be among the first to start booking something like user-generated content / data as a balance sheet asset. Also, with the pressure on public companies to increase earnings quarter on quarter, there’s now pressure on Reddit—and maybe other public companies?—to get that data monetized (i.e., in the hands of AI developers) as often as possible, for as much money as possible.

  • But there’s obviously a consent issue here, or at the very least, a fairness issue? Because Reddit didn’t create the content, ordinary (uncompensated) people did. Is that just the (free?) cost of using the platform, then? And is that fair? This is something I’ll cover in longer form, maybe here, maybe elsewhere. But, it’s a space to watch, as the value of data climbs to new heights.

The Latest In Gaza.

  • Checking in on the Gaza crisis: civilians in Gaza are massed in / around Rafah, in the south of Gaza up against the Egyptian border; Israel says it’s going to invade Rafah to finish off Hamas; there’s a high potential for civilian casualties; the US doesn’t want Israel to invade Rafah; Israel says we’re going to do it regardless of what the US or anyone else says; and the US has basically said “ok but I wish you wouldn’t.” The UN has gone further, with UN Secretary General António Guterres calling for an immediate ceasefire, and calling the situation a “moral outrage.” Top of mind was Israel’s ongoing blocking of humanitarian aid to Gaza, a situation that might be remedied by the planned US logistics operation involving the construction of a floating pier in Gaza.

  • On a recently recorded episode of The Noisecutter Podcast, I had the opportunity to speak with Preston Stewart (author of his own pretty great Substack, Preston’s Substack) about the planned “LOTS” operation, the ongoing situation in Gaza, and more. Preston is a West Point graduate, former Army officer, and a leading voice on global conflict in the world today (viz., you’re going to want to hear what he has to say). Episode coming out shortly; subscribe via Spotify, Apple or YouTube so you don’t miss it.

The Latest In Haiti.

Bob Menendez Can’t Stay Away.

  • Back in September, US Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was indicted on corruption / bribery charges for accepting, among other things, a bunch of gold bars(?!?) in exchange for a lot of the usual political favors politicians get bribed for…and also greenlighting millions in military equipment sales to Egypt. One of the major LOLs from the indictment is where Menendez apparently googled “how much is one kilo of gold worth.” Priceless. (The googling, not the gold.)

  • Menendez has been in hot water before; back in 2015, he was indicted on wholly different corruption charges, though the case resulted in a hung jury and mistrial with charges not being re-filed.

  • With the trial on his current charges starting in May, Menendez has not only not resigned from his Senate seat, he wants to pursue re-election(!) as an “independent Democrat”(!!) if he’s exonerated! The gall.

  • The bigger picture here is the absolute wrestling match for control of the Senate set to take place in November. The last thing Democrats need is to lose a seat in New Jersey because of a Menendez bid pulling support from the Democratic nominee. Now, Menendez won election back in 2018 by a margin of roughly 11%, and so maybe there’s not a whole lot to worry about here even if Menendez manages to beat the charges. Nevertheless, this is a clown show, and US politics—on both sides of the aisle—needs less clown shows.

Realtors And The Future Of Real Estate.

  • Finally! We’re done paying 6% commission on real estate transactions. Since as far back as I can remember, 6% has been the standard: 3% to buyer’s broker, 3% to seller’s. (For reference, on a $500,000 sale, that’s $15,000 per side.) On a standard residential property, attorneys doing the closing often charge a flat fee of a couple thousand dollars. Home inspectors, who, if they’re doing their job right, are up in all of the nitty gritty of a home, typically charge somewhere between $500 and $1,000 for an inspection. What, pray tell, did a realtor do to earn multiples on both of those folks combined? That’s the gripe a lot of folks have had over the years, which led to lawsuits, and now a changing of the “standards.” The discussion around this has been “where do we go from here?” What does the future of the real estate industry look like? Here’s a few thoughts:

  • On the buyer’s side, with access to websites like Zillow, we can see listings pretty easily. Sellers will likely increasingly place their own properties on Zillow for sale. A neat business model for Zillow might be to connect prospective sellers with professional real estate photographers in order to get the best photos for the listing. Currently, realtors do that, but why do they have to be the ones to do it? People hire photographers for loads of other things, like weddings, etc. Zillow could also connect sellers to staging professionals, cleaners, repair folks, etc. AI plays a role in gathering data, both for the individual listing and for buyers choosing between neighborhoods—things that realtors have historically done.

  • Now, that’s not to say realtors are completely unnecessary in this brave new world; rather, it’s going to be extremely transaction-specific. For buyers, I’d expect the role of realtors to be far more limited, catering mainly to those who don’t have the time to line up showings on their own. For sellers, I’d imagine the role to be limited to being sort of the “responsible person” at showings and open houses, mainly making sure the place doesn’t burn down, etc. Presently, realtors are the ones who make / present offers, but what’s actually the point in that extra layer of communication? With buyers’ agents specifically, there’s an inherent conflict of interest in the negotiation process: buyers want to pay less, but their agents get paid more if the buyers pay more. That’s never made sense to me.

  • Shares of Zillow and its peers did take a hit on news of the reduced fees to realtors, but that’s because these businesses currently make most, if not all, of their money by charging realtors for things like lead generation, etc. When the people who pay you get paid less, you get paid less; that math maths. But that math is also short-sighted. Sites like Zillow can come away as the big winners in all this if they correctly anticipate and plan for how the business of real estate will shift in response, and that’s away from realtors and towards actual buyers and sellers.

Shohei Ohtani And The Inherent Danger Of Trusting People.

  • Some of you readers like sports; others of you don’t. Both groups are equally great, except when it comes to having to write about sports. So, for those not in the know, there’s this baseball player from Japan, Shohei Ohtani, who’s one of the best players currently playing in the MLB, and he also doesn’t really speak a ton of English. For a guy living in LA and playing for the Dodgers, as you can imagine, this leaves him pretty dependent on a translator for everything from team meetings to everyday life. It’s to the extent that wherever he plays for has to employ his translator as well, sort of a “twofer” of hires to get Ohtani.

  • The translator is a guy called Ippei Mizuhara, and back in 2013, he was hired by an epically named Japanese baseball team—the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters—to translate for the team’s English-speaking players. In that same year, Ohtani signed to play on the Ham Fighters, and he and Mizuhara presumably became friends. In 2018, Ohtani moved to LA to play for the Angels and Mizuhara came with him, being hired by the Angels as Ohtani’s interpreter. When Ohtani moved to the Dodgers between the 2023 and 2024 seasons, Mizuhara again came along. On paper, Mizuhara is a translator; based on what I’ve read, though, I feel like he’s more a combination of E and Turtle to Ohtani’s Vinny Chase.

  • Earlier this month, in the course of an investigation, ESPN uncovered a massive transfer of money from accounts belonging to Shohei Ohtani to a sports betting operation in southern California that is under investigation by the FBI. No one’s calling this a Pete Rose story just yet, though, as it doesn’t appear that Ohtani himself engaged in any sports betting. Instead, it was the translator, Mizuhara, who’d racked up gambling debts in the millions of dollars. At first, it was reported that Ohtani willingly and knowingly covered the debts of his longtime friend and translator…but oh wait!…all that information was being conveyed through Mizuhara! Apparently, Ohtani sensed that something was amiss, realized what had happened, and then claimed that he never authorized the transfers, and that Mizuhara had instead stolen the money from him! Weirder still, though, it’s been reported that Ohtani’s name is on the wire transfers, and thus, presumably, also his signature! The whole thing is now under investigation by basically everyone you can think of: the Dodgers (who’ve fired Mizuhara), the MLB, the FBI and the IRS.

  • There’s a few things to note here: sports betting is legal in 40 states, but is not legal in California, where Ohtani lives and where this all took place. Also, legal sports books can only take bets paid up-front; sports bets on credit are the domain of illegal bookies, as it was here.

  • Regardless of what’s true and what’s false here, there’s two real takeaways: 1) don’t do dumb stuff like gamble on credit; and 2) don’t trust anyone, ever. Right? That seems right.






Today’s news cycle is doomed.

Never before in the history of the world have we had this much access to this many headlines. News outlets around the world give us the facts, but without any context, they’re just not very useful. That’s where we come in.

Here at Noisecutter, we provide insight and analysis on news items that matter. We create content for an audience that’s keenly interested in forming a better, more nuanced understanding of the world today and the forces that shape it. We do our best to avoid any ideological bent, and instead try to strike at the truth of the issues we cover, no matter how unsettling that truth might be.

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Rex Chatterjee

Rex is a lawyer and risk analyst living and working in Brooklyn, New York.

For the past 20 years, Rex has been a keen observer of and commentator on a wide range of news items and current events. Rex’s interests span the breadth of business and finance, technology and innovation, and conflict and global affairs, among others.

In addition to writing and producing the Noisecutter newsletter and podcast, Rex interviews creators, founders and business leaders for his other podcast, Roadmap Zero.

Rex maintains a private law practice, Chatterjee Legal, which focuses on the needs of startups and other innovation-driven businesses. He also serves as the managing principal of Titan Grey, a risk management consulting firm.

Rex is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Law School.

Rex Chatterjee




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