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Putin Dies Unexpectedly

Plus cop spy apps, shifty school board texts, and students on the move in today's Flyover.

RIP, big guy.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Zoo

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily midday digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

MN Zoo Loses Unfortunately Named Amur Tiger

Putin has died. No, not that Putin. The Minnesota Zoo’s 12-year-old Amur tiger, who received his unfortunate birth name in the Czech Republic, died during a routine medical procedure on Wednesday. The big cat came to Minnesota in 2015 at the age of six and was one of about 100 Amur tigers in North American zoos, according to Bring Me the News. Fewer than 500 Amur tigers live in the wild. Why was he named Putin? Well, his disreputable namesake has championed the protection of the Amur tiger, convening a 2010 international summit with the goal of doubling the cat’s population. There’s probably some kind of disturbing nationalist bent behind that I’d rather not look into. We at Racket are staunchly pro-tiger, anti-Putin, and very much against assigning innocent animals with regrettable names.

Spying on the Press? There’s an App for That. 

Intrepid Response is “a geospatial solution with feature-rich live mapping” that allows cops to “view all personnel, tagged assets, and map markers in near real-time,” according to copy from the Verhoevenian smartphone app’s website. It’s also at the center of an unnerving report from Sam Richards and Tate Ryan-Mosley over at Technology Review. In it, reporter/friend of Racket J.D. Duggan details how police photographed dozens of journalists as they covered protests following the police killing of Daunte Wright last year in Brooklyn Center. “I asked where the pictures would go,” Duggan tells TR. “And the officer told me that it just goes into their system. He didn’t really give me any details. He said they have an app.”

Unsatisfied, Duggan filed a personal data request with law enforcement, thus shedding light on the shady ways in which Operation Safety Net—the umbrella term for the network of cops who’ve harassed citizens and journalists since the murder of George Floyd—uses Intrepid Response to spy on citizens and journalists. The technology is “ripe for abuse,” a privacy expert tells Technology Review, and “doesn’t appear to serve any law enforcement purpose beyond intimidating reporters who are doing their job,” according to a press freedom advocate.

Who Wants to Be School Superintendent?

Eric Moore, that’s who. According to some screenshots shared by Bright Lights Small City, the MPS chief of research, accountability, and equity texted Minnesota Federation of Teachers president Greta Callahan with an unusual, perhaps inappropriate request. He said he was seeking to unseat current superintendent Ed Graff and asked for her support in his bid, seemingly in exchange for a more understanding voice in contract negotiations. “You know we’re in the middle of bargaining right now?” Callahan texted back. Moore does, in fact, know this, because he’s on the district’s bargaining committee. “The mudslinging has gotten so low,” Moore told the Strib, calling the reports “gross” and “disappointing.” Anyway, don’t ever text anything you don’t want everyone to see on the internet.

Students Occupy MPS HQ

Students continue to support the Minneapolis teachers’ strike. While some get up early to join the teachers as they rally and march through neighborhoods each morning, others are taking a stand by occupying Minneapolis Public Schools’ Headquarters. Students moved into the Davis Center at 1250 W. Broadway Ave. yesterday and haven’t left since. The crew of young activists spent last night in the space, and plan to do so until the union’s requests are met. “Our demands stand behind the teachers,” says student leader Helena Kouame, ”specifically wanting equitable funding within Minneapolis Public Schools, hiring more teachers of color, and providing livable wages for our teachers.” You can see teachers and ESPs cheering the students on the headquarters via this sweet tweet here.