I’m a daily user of Twitter, because it’s where I can find the very latest news, often before it’s on TV or published anywhere. Yesterday’s shock news was that Elon Musk bought Twitter and took the company private. Lots of people apparently deleted their Twitter accounts, and so many people tried to sign up for an app called “Counter Social” that the site crashed repeatedly.
I’ve briefly tried Counter Social, and so far I don’t think it will work for me. I agree with this thread:
I don't know who it's supposed to appeal to, but I don't think it's me. There are boxes and rooms and gadgets and lots and lots of tech talk. It brags about its openness but I see it as closed to all but the most tech-savvy.
So I guess I’m going to stick with Twitter for now and see what happens. Obviously, I’m not happy about Twitter’s new owner either. I didn’t know that much about him until he started making noises about buying the company, but the guy seems to be a Trump-like monster. Here’s just one example from the Los Angeles Times in February: Horrific allegations of racism prompt California lawsuit against Tesla.
The N-word and other racist slurs were hurled daily at Black workers at Tesla’s California plant, delivered not just by fellow employees but also by managers and supervisors.
So says California’s civil rights agency in a lawsuit filed against the electric-vehicle maker in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday on behalf of thousands of Black workers after a decade of complaints and a 32-month investigation.
Tesla segregated Black workers into separate areas that its employees referred to as “porch monkey stations,” “the dark side,” “the slave ship” and “the plantation,” the lawsuit alleges.
Only Black workers had to scrub floors on their hands and knees, and they were relegated to the Fremont, Calif., factory’s most difficult physical jobs, the suit states.
So says California’s civil rights agency in a lawsuit filed against the electric-vehicle maker in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday on behalf of thousands of Black workers after a decade of complaints and a 32-month investigation.
Graffiti — including “KKK,” “Go back to Africa,” the hangman’s noose, the Confederate Flag and “F– [N-word]” — were carved into restroom walls, workplace benches and lunch tables and were slow to be erased, the lawsuit says….
The state’s lawsuit suggests the relocation to a state known for looser enforcement is no coincidence, declaring it to be “another move to avoid accountability.”
Not only were Tesla’s Black workers subjected to “willful, malicious” harassment, but they were also denied promotions and paid less than other workers for the same jobs, the suit asserted. They were disciplined for infractions for which other workers were not penalized.
Twitter employees reacted with shock and dismay Monday as a new reality sank in: Elon Musk — the world’s richest man, free speech defender and strong critic of Twitter — would be the company’s new owner.
On Twitter, in private messages and in interviews with The Washington Post,employees expressed fear about Musk’s $44 billion takeover. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal,along with board chair Bret Taylor, held an internal town hall on Monday afternoon in which the leaders tried to assure anxious staff but offered few direct answers.A central concern was that Muskwould attempt to break down safeguards to protect everyday users that staff had built over many years, according to the interviews and tweets, as well as audio from the town hall obtained by The Post.
Some tweeted tear-filled emoji and memes of people having emotional breakdowns, while others told The Post they were too in shock to speak. At Monday’s town hall, leaders were vague in response to questions about future layoffs, changes to the company’s approach to free speech and safety, and whether the company will continue to make money from advertising.
“Totally understand that this is entertainment for some,” one employee tweeted. “But please understand that this is certainly not entertainment for me.”
“The news today is so crazy I literally forgot I have COVID,” another tweeted.
Twitter employees who have worked long and hard to stop hate speech and public health misinformation on the platform were very concerned.
In dozens of internal messages obtained by The Post, workers expressed worries that the firebrand Musk could inflict damage to the company’s culture and make it harder for people to do their jobs. Observers and misinformation researchers echoed the criticism.
The company, which is based in liberal San Francisco and has more than 5,000 employees, has spent years building a progressive corporate culture that allows employees to say just about anything they want and to live anywhere they choose. Twitter was the first company to take action against former president Donald Trump for his tweets supporting Capitol rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, and engineering teams have spent years building tools to fight spam, disinformation and hate speech under an initiative known as healthy conversations.
“I don’t know any non-engineer who works on health issues who sees how this helps,” said a Twitter employee in an interview in response to questions about Musk’s ownership, referring to the company’s health division that enforces rules against harmful content such as hate speech and misinformation. “Most find it dispiriting.”
The news that ELON MUSK is buying Twitter has thrown Washington into a tizzy over one major question: Will DONALD TRUMP return to his old favorite social media platform and start tweeting again?
As it turns out, no one is more petrified of this than members of Trump’s own party.
On Monday night, in a series of calls and texts with several top GOP insiders, every single one of them told us that they hoped the former president stays the hell away from Twitter, lest he sink their chances at flipping the House and Senate. Some of his allies even think that a return to his old Twitter habits could damage his own brand ahead of a possible third presidential bid in 2024.
“If I’m a Democrat, I’d pray that Elon Musk puts Trump right back on Twitter,” said one House GOP leadership aide, who asked not to be named to speak candidly. “I don’t think it costs Republicans the House, but it certainly will elevate Trump’s opinions — and is going to put Republican candidates and members back having to answer for that.”
The person added: “It’s enough to create headaches — and it’s enough to probably cost us a couple seats.”
Some may find this a rather surprising reaction, given that many Republicans have both accused Big Tech of censoring conservative voices (the former president being the most prominent example) and showered praise on the Musk takeover. But as is often the case with the GOP and all things Trump, privately, they feel very differently.\
If right-wingers dream of a platform that would welcome back Trump and his sludge of misinformation they might consider whether it is viable to maintain a platform that includes terrorism threats, crime narratives, targeted hate speech and more. https://t.co/DYvufSpbBJ
— Jennifer 'I stand with Ukraine' Rubin 🇺🇦🇺🇦 (@JRubinBlogger) April 26, 2022
A decade ago, Twitter executives, including the chief executive, Dick Costolo, declared that the social media site was the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” The stance meant Twitter would defend people’s ability to post whatever they wished and be heard by the world.
Since then, Twitter has been dragged into morasses over disinformation peddlers, governments’ abuse of social media to incite ethnic violence and threats by elected officials to imprison employees over tweets they didn’t like. Like Facebook, YouTube and other internet companies, Twitter was forced to morph from hard-liner on free expression to speech nanny.
The past 10 years have seen repeated confrontations between the high-minded principles of Silicon Valley’s founding generation of social media companies and the messy reality of a world in which “free speech” means different things to different people. And now Elon Musk, who on Monday struck a deal to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion, wades directly into that fraught history….
Soon, Mr. Musk will be the one confronting the gap between an idealized view of free speech and the zillion tough decisions that must be made to let everyone have a say.
His agreement to buy Twitter puts the combative billionaire, who is also the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, at the white-hot center of the global free-speech debate. Mr. Musk has not been specific about his plans once he becomes Twitter’s owner, but he has bristled when the company has removed posts and barred users, and has said Twitter should be a haven for unfettered expression within the bounds of the law…..
Mr. Musk is a relative dilettante on the topic and hasn’t yet tackled the difficult trade-offs in which giving one person a voice may silence the expression of others, and in which an almost-anything-goes space for expression might be overrun with spam, nudity, propaganda from autocrats, the bullying of children and violent incitements.
if this kind of transparency ever happened (skeptical!) you’d have legions of these types sifting through code and data they don’t have the skillset to understand and taking anything that sounds even remotely ominous wildly out of context https://t.co/RZeBOb0E9e
The Dark Timeline: There is, I suppose, a world in which Musk goes wild and attempts to turn Twitter into a Truth Social/Gab/Parler free-for-all. This seems like it would have to start with a total gutting of senior leadership and the instatement of some kind of Musk loyalist regime. (I’m honestly not even sure who would qualify, though such people certainly exist!) It could involve reinstating banned accounts, particularly former president Donald Trump’s. There have been attempts to quantify exactly what Trump’s presence on a social network actually means, and what it boils down to is that his Twitter account was a megaphone for bullshit. Shortly after he was banned from Twitter last year, a social-media analysis from Zignal Labs found that “conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter.” [….]
The darkest-darkest timeline is the one where the world’s richest man runs a communications platform in a truly vengeful, dictatorial way, which involves Musk outright using Twitter as a political tool to promote extreme right-wing agendas and to punish what he calls brain-poisoned liberals. This is the scenario I’ve seen some privacy folks worrying about. (What might Musk do with all of the private data the company collects, including our non-encrypted DMs?) This nightmare unfolding is easy enough to imagine, but it would probably trigger a revolt from existing employees, who would need to be replaced by people who share Musk’s values.
The Weird/Chaotic Timeline: This is the one where Musk remains invested and interested in doing experimental things with his new platform. The most cited example is an edit button, which he could introduce to the delight of some and the groaning of many others. A Musk-owned Twitter could introduce this feature carefully, study how it changes the platform, and tweak it accordingly—or it could move fast and break things by tossing it onto the platform and simply seeing what happens. The break-things ethos is the one I think about most when considering a Musk-owned Twitter—lots of quick building, throwing shit at the wall, with very little consideration of the consequences. [….]
The Recent Past Is Future Timeline: When it comes to content moderation, Elon Musk doesn’t know what he’s talking about. (For an explainer, read Mike Masnick’s excellent piece from last week.) A number of the changes that Musk has suggested are things Twitter has already attempted to do, or even implemented. I strongly believe that Musk has thought about Twitter as a service only as it relates to his user experience—which is, to say the least, a unique one. As one former senior Twitter employee put it to me this morning, Musk’s musings about improvements to the service are mostly “highly solipsistic things that are only about his experience of the product as a user with 80 million followers and a consent decree with the SEC.”
And so, owning Twitter may prove to be a boring logistical nightmare for Musk—one he might offload onto underlings while directing his attention to things that interest him. He’d still come in for the culture warring and the trolling—I’m sure he’s delighted by the notion that his every missive will carry the new weight and context of coming from Twitter’s Keeper. The thing Musk might ultimately enjoy most about owning Twitter is the ability to attract more and more attention to his potential power.
Just a quick note that won't get any silly responses at all: unless you've really spent time working on content moderation, your instincts about content moderation are almost certainly wrong. Speak with people who have experience before you jump to conclusions.
So as Elon Musk plans on how to get every Twitter user's identity, Twitter's excellent legal team is (once again) working hard to protect the anonymity of its users. This is what I was talking about yesterday: https://t.co/LYlIpYX34H
While concerns about the Russian bots and blarmy bigots returning to the hellfeed where news happens does have merit, let me offer a countervailing perspective about the impact of the Twitter acquisition.
Musk Twitter might also be a disaster for a couple of groups who cosmically deserve it:
1) Mitch McConnell and the establishment Republican ostriches who are doing everything in their power to put their heads in the sand and pretend Donald Trump doesn’t exist (unless they need to cash in on his name and likeness).
2) The Nazi grifters who started the various Deploratwitter knockoffs like TRUTH, Parler, and Gettr and are now set to be totally pwned by Twitter offering these very fine people the same freedom to shitpost in front of bigger audiences.
So if the two-faced Trumpists and the worst MAGA scammers are going to suffer, might we consider squeaking out one cheer for Musk. Or a half a cheer? Or even just a mild affirmative grunt?
The case for their suffering is as follows:
In Georgia on Insurrection Eve, we saw how a big Trump megaphone could divide the Republican base, resulting in political success for the Democrats. The election fraud mass formation psychosis led Trump voters in rural parts of the state to stay home rather than participate in yet another RIGGED contest while a small percentage of Atlanta Kemp/Raffensperger Republicans refused to be a party to the anti-democratic horror show. As a result, Georgia elected the state’s first black and Jewish senators—on the same day!—despite the fact that both had fewer votes than their GOP opponents during the November election.
A repeat of that is the worst-case scenario for the GOP at a time when the political environment is looking rather rosy for them.
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to order a review of a law that has long protected Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet’s Google from being responsible for the material posted by their users, according to a draft executive order and a source familiar with the situation.
News of the order comes after Trump threatened to shut down websites he accused of stifling conservative voices. It follows a dispute with Twitter after the company decided to tag Trump’s tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact-check the posts.
The order, a draft copy of which was seen by Reuters, could change before it is finalized. On Wednesday, officials said Trump will sign an executive order on social media companies on Thursday. It was not, however, listed on Trump’s official schedule for Thursday released by the White House.
What’s in the draft order?
The executive order would call for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose and clarify regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law largely exempting online platforms from legal liability for the material their users post. Such changes could expose tech companies to more lawsuits.
The pink house, Newburyport, MA, by Melissa Abbott
The order asks the FCC to examine whether actions related to the editing of content by social media companies should potentially lead to the firms forfeiting their protections under section 230.
It requires the agency to look at whether a social media platform uses deceptive policies to moderate content and if its policies are inconsistent with its terms of service.
The draft order also states that the White House Office of Digital Strategy will re-establish a tool to help citizens report cases of online censorship. The tool will collect complaints of online censorship and submit them to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
It requires the FTC to look into whether complaints violate the law, develop a report describing such complaints and make the report publicly available….
The draft order also requires the attorney general to establish a working group including state attorneys general that will examine the enforcement of state laws that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Wednesday separately announced they were both working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal protections that ensure the company is not held liable for what is posted on its platform.
The lawmakers began work on legislation following Twitter’s decision to add warnings to two tweets by President Trump this week in which he railed against California’s decision to expand mail-in voting. Trump tweeted without evidence that mail-in voting could increase voter fraud.
Plum Island Pink, by Heather Karp
Both Hawley and Gaetz argued that Twitter’s decision to flag the tweets called its legal liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act into question. Section 230 protects social media platforms from facing lawsuits over what users post.
Hawley sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday questioning why the platform should be given Section 230 protections and tweeted that he would soon introduce legislation to end “government giveaways” under the legal shield.
“If @Twitter wants to editorialize & comment on users’ posts, it should be divested of its special status under federal law (Section 230) & forced to play by same rules as all other publishers,” Hawley tweeted. “Fair is fair.”
Hawley questioned Dorsey on whether Twitter’s “fact check” was part of an effort to “target the President for political reasons” and raised concerns that Twitter fact-checkers were biased against Trump.
Threatening to shut down Twitter for flagging false content. Claiming he can “override” governors who dare to keep churches closed to congregants. Asserting the “absolute authority” to force states to reopen, even when local leaders say it’s too soon.
As he battles the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has been claiming extraordinarily sweeping powers that legal scholars say the president simply doesn’t have. And he has repeatedly refused to spell out the legal basis for those powers….
First it was Trump’s assertion that he could force governors to reopen their economies before they felt ready. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” he claimed.
Pink House, by Julia Kamenskikh
Trump soon dropped the threat, saying he would instead leave such decisions to the states. But he has revived the idea in recent days as he has tried to pressure governors to allow churches and other places of worship to hold in-person services, even where stay-at-home orders and other limits on large gatherings remain in effect.
Asked Tuesday what authority he had to enforce such a mandate, Trump was cagey.
“I can absolutely do it if I want to,” he said. “We have many different ways where I can override them and if I have to, I’ll do that.”
Trump simply doesn’t care about any constitutional limits on his powers. He will continue to push the limits and get away with more than any past president.
Trump “certainly does not have the power under any reasonable reading of the Constitution or federalism to order places of worship to open,” said Matthew Dallek, a historian at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management who specializes in the use of presidential power.
But Dallek said that just because Trump doesn’t have the authority to do most of the things he’s threatened, doesn’t mean he won’t, for instance, try to sign executive orders taking such action anyway — even if they are later struck down by the courts.
“What has limited Trump previously? Not very much. So I think he will do whatever seems to be in his best interest at any particular moment,” Dallek said.
Trump, he said, also could try to abuse his powers to leverage other instruments of government, from the Department of Justice to the IRS, to push for investigations or launch regulatory crackdowns to punish states, cities or companies. Trump also has showed he’s willing to exercise powers that modern presidents have largely avoided, including his recent purging of inspectors general.
In January 2016, Donald Trump said something unintentionally profound: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” We’ll hopefully never find out whether Trump really could get away with murder. But we now know he can at least falsely accuse someone of murder without triggering a political exodus.
Pink House, by Carol Bouville
This “Fifth Avenue problem” is a central puzzle of the Trump presidency. Somehow, Trump can tweet something that would destroy any other politician when he wakes up, and it’s forgotten by lunchtime.
Don’t believe me? In the last week, Trump didn’t just make a false accusation of murder. He also praised one of the United States’ most virulent anti-Semites as a man who bestowed “good bloodlines” on his descendants. He retweeted a man who called Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be a major-party candidate for president, a “skank.” Trump shared an image with Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker, with duct tape over her mouth and then mocked her physical appearance. And he repeatedly fabricated lies about voter fraud.
If Joe Biden behaved like that, it would destroy his career. But when Trump does it, it has no significant impact on his support. His depravity is now just widely assumed. It’s baked in.
That presents a paradox: The last three years have felt like we’re collectively strapped into the world’s worst roller coaster — of endless scandals, tweets in search of reality and new lows for presidential conduct. Yet for all those disorienting twists and turns,and the seemingly endless plunge of presidential standards, Trump’s approval rating has remained pretty much the same.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
We passed a terrible milestone yesterday, and that is likely the reason for Trump’s attempts to distracts us with his wannabe dictator claims.
That number—100,000 dead from the coronavirus—is hard to grasp. For those who have lost someone, the pandemic’s scope is not just a statistic; within the abstraction lies an intimately life-changing event. For the rest of us, it is a fact we must try to wrestle into perspective. One hundred thousand people is nearly the population of the city I now live in; it is a neighborhood’s worth of people in Brooklyn, my longtime home; it is perhaps 10 times the total number of people most of us will cross paths with in our entire lives. It is graveyard upon graveyard upon graveyard. It is mass burials at Hart Island, bodies stacked in refrigerated trucks outside hospitals and nursing homes. It is PTSD for the nurses and doctors in the hardest-hit areas. Mostly, it is the shocking echo that follows the loss of even one person: zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. A lament: O, O, O, O, O.
A country that prides itself on its exceptionalism can now without ambiguity claim that title for its experience of the virus. The United States stands head and shoulders at the top of the world league table of confirmed cases, as well as the total number of deaths.
There will be much to analyse in coming years about how the US responded to this contagion, including how many lives have been lost needlessly as a result of Trump’s maverick response.
Already one lesson of the pandemic is clear: America’s deep and brutal fault lines – of race, partisanship, gender, poverty and misinformation – rendered the country ill-prepared to meet the challenges of this disease. The ravages of Covid-19 have revealed the deep cracks in the glittering facade of the richest and most powerful nation on Earth.
The ancient Greeks thought of the constellation Canis Major as a dog chasing Lepus, the hare. The star Sirius is the dog’s nose; the Greeks called it the “dog star.” (National Geographic)
We are in the midst of the dog days of summer–traditionally the hottest days of the year, which extend from about July 2 to August 11. I has been very hot all over the country for the past few weeks. Here in Boston, we have had a couple of weeks of temperatures around or above 90 degrees.
Why do we call them the “dog days?” It dates back to the Greeks and Romans and their beliefs about Sirius, the “dog star.” At National Geographic, Becky Little explains:
To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe.
The phrase “dog days” was translated from Latin to English about 500 years ago. Since then, it has taken on new meanings.
“Now people come up with other explanations for why they’re called the ‘dog days’ of summer, [like] this is when dogs can go crazy,” said Anne Curzan, an English professor at the University of Michigan.
At the end, dogs like summer, they get to play with the kids, and maybe take some baths, and depending on your breed, you could get some pretty good food, we like to give special kind of food to our pitbull, you could get to know more about it in this pitbull meal info.
“This is a very human tendency,” she said. When we don’t know the origin of a phrase, we come up with a plausible explanation.
“The meaning has been lost,” said Holberg, “but the phrase has lived on.”
Summer heat is gripping opposite sides of the country into this weekend, including parts of the West and the Northeast.
The heat will help clinch one of the hottest Julys on record for some Northwest cities, and a few locations may challenge their all-time or monthly record highs on Friday. It’s also helped set a record for the most 90-degree days in a year in Seattle and has given Portland its hottest temperatures since 2009.
The Northeast heat will not be as extreme, but it will stick around into next week for some cities….
A strong ridge of high pressure is building over the Northwest as the jet stream bulges northward to the Canadian border. This is allowing temperatures 5 to 20 degrees above average to take hold across parts of northern California, Oregon and Washington into the weekend, while also spreading to portions of Idaho and Montana.
It’s a fitting end to what will be one of the hottest Julys on record in parts of the Northwest. Seattle, Washington, and Astoria, Oregon, were both seeing their hottest July on record as of July 29, according to data from the Southeast Regional Climate Center. For Seattle, July 2015 could beat out August 1967 for the hottest month on record if the final average temperature for July exceeds 71.1 degrees.
July was the third warmest on record through July 29 in Portland, Oregon, and fourth warmest on record for Yakima, Washington.
High temperatures at or above 100 degrees are forecast for the Portland, Oregon, area through Friday, with middle to upper 90s expected this weekend. Portland hit 103 degrees on Thursday, which is the hottest temperature there since July 29, 2009. Even hotter temperatures are expected for the rest of the Willamette River Valley of western Oregon on Friday, which is under an excessive heat warning issued by the National Weather Service.
Wow! 100 degrees in Seattle? And on the East coast:
Wednesday was the hottest day so far in 2015 in New York City (96 degrees) and Albany, New York (95 degrees). Concord, New Hampshire, set a daily record high of 96 degrees, beating the old record for July 29 of 95 degrees set in 1949.
Highs will stay a handful of degrees above average for mainly eastern sections of the region into early next week.
For the most part, this heat in the Northeast will not be record breaking. However, the longevity of it will likely be greater than we’ve seen so far this summer in some cities. By early next week, some locations could meet the definition for a heat wave in the Northeast, which is generally defined in that region as three or more days in a row with temperatures at or above 90 degrees.
Temperatures in New England are beginning to moderate, and it will be only around 89-90 for the next few days. That will give some relief. I really feel for Luna out in Washington and Fannie in Idaho.
Speaking of Seattle, I came across this wonderful video of the city in 1955, posted on youtube by Jeff Alman, whose grandfather made it when on vacation in the city. The first part, which shows city streets and buildings, is the coolest, IMO. The rest is gorgeous views taken from a small plane.
Altman also posted his grandfather’s video of San Francisco in 1958.
My grandfather made color films many years ago, and they were of such high quality that my brother was able to edit them into a wonderful video that he shared with all of our relatives who appeared in them. Every time I watch it, the old images bring me to tears. What a treasure!
Seeing the scenes of Seattle made me think about how different my life might have been if my Dad had decided to take a job at a different university back in about 1958. He had offers from Seattle, Miami, and a couple of other places, but ultimately he chose the offer from Ball State in Muncie, Indiana. I’m not sure if my folks wanted to live in a smaller college town or if the money was better at Ball State.
Now for some news.
There’s a big health story this morning: a new vaccine for the Ebola virus could make a huge difference, based on the results of a study that will appear in The Lancet. BBC News reports: Ebola vaccine is ‘potential game-changer.’
A vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus has led to 100% protection and could transform the way Ebola is tackled, preliminary results suggest….
Experts said the results were “remarkable”.
This trial centred on the VSV-EBOV vaccine, which was started by the Public Health Agency of Canada and then developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck.
It combined a fragment of the Ebola virus with another safer virus in order to train the immune system to beat Ebola.
A unique clinical trial took place in Guinea. When a patient was discovered, their friends, neighbours and family were vaccinated to create a “protective ring” of immunity.
This could be the breakthrough the world has been waiting for.
There is caution as the results are still preliminary, with more data coming in.
But officials at the WHO believe the effectiveness of the vaccine will end up being between 75% and 100%.
According to the BBC, other vaccines are also being tested. This could be very good news!
I’m sure you’ve heard about the agonizing death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe at the hands of Walter Palmer, a Minnesota Dentist who likes to kill big game with a bow and arrow.
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwean police said Tuesday they are searching for an American who allegedly shot a well-known, protected lion with a crossbow in a killing that has outraged conservationists and others.
The American allegedly paid $50,000 to kill the lion named Cecil, Zimbabwean conservationists said. Authorities on Tuesday said two Zimbabwean men will appear in court for allegedly helping with the hunt. The American faces poaching charges, according to police spokeswoman Charity Charamba.
Walter James Palmer of Minnesota was identified on Tuesday by both the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force and the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe as the American hunter, a name that police then confirmed.
“We arrested two people and now we are looking for Palmer in connection with the same case,” said Charamba.
Zimbabwe is seeking Palmer’s extradition, and the outrage on social media has been so extreme that Palmer was forced to close his dental practice. He has “apologized,” but that’s apparently not going to be enough to save his skin, and I say “Good!” Still you have to wonder why stories of human deaths don’t get as much attention. More recent headlines on this story:
Obviously, as a New England Patriots fan, I’ve been following the Tom Brady/Deflategate story for a long time, and this morning I came across this in Wired: Even if Tom Brady Did Smash His Phone, It’d Make Zero Sense. It turns out that the NFL and Roger Goodell could easily get Brady’s text messages if they wanted to.
JUST HOW EASY is it to destroy your text messages? In the eyes of the NFL, it’s as simple as destroying your cellphone. But as anyone who has ever had their phone stolen can tell you, that’s not even remotely true.
This week, the NFL upheld the suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for four games in the wake of accusations he was “generally aware” of the team’s deflation of footballs. The decision, authored by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, largely hinged on the revelation that Brady destroyed his cellphone shortly before meeting with league investigators. The league suggests this was to suppress evidence and obstruct the investigation. Brady insists he was just replacing a “broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6.”
It was a fun story for a few minutes and there was some mild hoopla surrounding the idea of a frenzied Brady destroying his cellphone. Problem is, even if he had … so what? This isn’t The Wire, and snapping a cellphone in half and tossing it in the gutter wouldn’t be enough to erase Brady’s history anyway. The digital trail our phones leave behind long outlive the physical device itself, and the league could have potentially tracked down the information in a number of ways—which is why the whole story was utterly ridiculous. Regardless, here is exactly why it wouldn’t matter if Tom Brady smashed his cellphone….
Once upon a time, it was hard to recover text messages without actually having the phone they were sent to. However, Google and Apple’s efforts to sync data across multiple devices has made text message retrieval significantly easier.
As Brady was on a Samsung during the “deflategate” scandal, he was most likely using an Android device. Not only do most modern Android devices use Google Hangouts as their primary text messaging app, Google makes the process of deleting those messages inconvenient and difficult. Android’s Hangouts has a setting to delete old text messages, but the feature only does so as disk space fills up. Unlike the iPhone, which can automatically delete messages that are older than a set period of time, Android gives the user no control over how long to preserve messages.
In his speech to the United Nations on Wednesday morning, President Obama said, “Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition.”
But on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said more than 50 nations have agreed to join the coalition. And in a document released by the State Department on Tuesday, 62 nations (including the European Union and the Arab League) are listed as providing support to the U.S.-led coalition.
The strongest allies in the coalition are those providing air support to the United States, while others are offering delivery services and some are providing humanitarian aid.
President Barack Obama has pledged to destroy Islamic State and ensure fighters “find no safe haven.” But even as U.S.-led airstrikes are underway in Iraq and Syria, it is clear that bombs alone will not do the job. For Islamic State hides out in the most perfect haven: the World Wide Web.
In June 2014, the militant group that Obama refers to as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, grabbed the world’s attention after it took over much of northern Iraq in roughly four days. Islamic State accomplished this by building a massive, sophisticated virtual network of fighters in addition to those on the ground. Indeed, its expansion online has been as swift as its territorial gains. It is this virtual power grab that will be most difficult to combat.
The Internet has largely sustained the jihadist movement since 9/11. With this powerful tool, jihadists coordinate actions, share information, recruit new members and propagate their ideology.
Until the rise of Islamic State, extremist activity and exchanges online usually took place inside restricted, password-protected jihadist forums. But Islamic State brought online jihadism out of the shadows and into the mainstream, using social media — especially Twitter – to issue rapid updates on its successes to a theoretically unlimited audience.
In the same way that Islamic State’s land grab proved stunning, the group’s actions online have been deeply troubling. Up until a recent crackdown by Twitter, Islamic State’s presence on the site had grown tremendously — from a small one to a well-organized network with dozens of accounts.
Click the link to read all about it at Reuters’ “The Great Debate” page.
Reading the Newspaper. War News, by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky
The backing from Gulf countries for the military intervention against militants of the so-called Islamic State in northern Syria, far from helping the United States in the battle for hearts and minds, may actually be hurting Washington in the region. And the reasons for that suggest just how densely complicated the Mideast quagmire has become.
While the participation of the super-rich Gulf monarchies in a coalition against the group widely known as ISIS or ISIL may help with some moderate Muslims, and may reassure European leaders, among those Islamists inside and outside Syria who are at the core of the opposition to President Bashar al Assad this development is viewed with deep suspicion.
“This has been labeled as a war against ISIS but it is a war against Islamic groups,” Tauqir Sharif, a British Islamist activist based in Idlib, Syria, told British Channel Four news Wednesday.
Already ISIS activists and jihadists sympathizers in the Gulf are leveraging their social media skills to fuel suspicions that the Americans are ready to give Assad a free pass and that the Sunni Muslims of Syria will be sacrificed with the connivance of the Gulf monarchies.
Much more at the Daily Beast link.
Suspect in Alleged Abduction of UVA Student Captured in Texas
I’ve been following the case of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham since Janicen posted about it about a week ago. The last person to be seen with Graham on surveillance footage was Jesse Matthew, 32, who worked as a nurses’ aid at the university. After police searched his car and apartment, Matthew came to the police station and asked for an attorney. He then drove away at a high speed and apparently disappeared. Police issued a warrant for his arrest for a traffic violation, but could not locate him. After more searches of his apartment, police upgraded the charge to abduction of Graham.
Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach in the Texas community of Gilchrist by Galveston County Sheriff’s authorities, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo announced Wednesday night.
The capture came less than a full day after police announced they had probable cause to arrest Matthew on charges of abduction with intent to defile Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old sophomore who went missing on Sept. 13 in Charlottesville.
Longo said an intense search for Graham continues.
“This case is nowhere near over,” he told a news conference late Wednesday. “We have a person in custody but there’s a long road ahead of us and that long road includes finding Hannah Graham.”
Longo said Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show that the search is focusing on rural and wooded areas around Charlottesville.
Matthew was captured at a beach in the sparsely populated community of Gilchrist around 3:30 p.m. after police received a call reporting a suspicious person, the Galveston County Daily News reported. The newspaper quoted Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset as saying a deputy responding to the call found a man who had pitched a tent on the beach with his car parked nearby. Trochesset said a check of the car’s plates revealed it was the vehicle sought in connection to the case. Authorities were trying to get a warrant to search the car, he added.
Reading the Morning Newspaper, Harry Herman Roseland
Detectives investigating the case of a missing University of Virginia student were headed to Texas today after a man suspected in her disappearance was arrested after being caught on surveillance video there buying mosquito repellent a day before his capture….
The surveillance video from a convenience store in Galveston showed Matthew buying Off!, said the store’s owner, Dave Paresh.
“He asked me the question if it’s safe to stay on the beach, so I told him yeah, it’s good there,” Paresh, told ABC News station KTRK in Houston.
I guess there must be lots of mosquitoes on Galveston beaches right now.
For anyone who thinks I shouldn’t write about “missing white girl” stories, violence against women is endemic in this country. It’s a bloodbath out there, with women being beaten (see the NFL scandal), raped, and/or murdered daily in this country; and I think it should be talked about. There truly is a war against women. Admittedly, the use of violence against women for entertainment should be discussed. Think about how many movies and TV shows center around the rape, torture, and murder of women. It’s important that real-life cases be seen as horrible crimes that involve agonizing suffering for victims, their families and friends.
Police Misconduct in the News
Speaking of violence against women, even police get into the act. Thank goodness they are often caught on video these days.
New York City police officers are under investigation this week after a bystander used a smartphone to capture a particularly rough arrest of a Brooklyn woman five months pregnant.
The video shows the arrest of Sandra Amezquita, a Colombian immigrant and mother of four, who fell belly first onto the pavement as officers wrestled her to the ground and cuffed her hands behind her back. The incident occurred during an early morning melee Saturday in Sunset Park – a neighborhood sometimes called Brooklyn’s “Little Latin America,” since more than half its residents are Latino.
The video also shows another officer violently shoving an unidentified woman to the pavement as she stands near the arrest. Police simply issued Ms. Amezquita a summons for disorderly conduct, but the other woman, reported to be a friend, was neither arrested or accused of a crime.
Amezquita suffered vaginal bleeding after the incident. She was arrested for trying to interfere with police who were beating her son after they stopped and frisked him.
“It’s appalling,” said Sanford Rubenstein, Amezquita’s attorney. “It’s clear to me when an incident like this occurs you understand why police-community relations are at an all-time low,” he told The Associated Press.
The scuffle occurred after Amezquita and her husband, Ronel Lemos, attempted to intervene as police arrested and allegedly began to beat their 17-year-old son, Jhohan Lemos, who was accused of carrying a knife and resisting arrest around 2:15 a.m. on Saturday.
The elder Mr. Lemos was also arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer during the arrest of his son. Photos show the younger Mr. Lemos with his eye swollen shut and lacerations to his cheek and forehead following his arrest.
Reading the News at the Weavers’ Cottage, 1673, Adriaen van Ostade
A woman who was punched repeatedly by a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer in an incident caught on film earlier this year will receive $1.5M as part of a settlement reached Wednesday.
CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow announced the settlement in an emailed statement and an attorney for 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock confirmed the deal to the Associated Press. The agreement was reached after nine hours of mediation in Los Angeles.
As part of the agreement, the officer who struck Pinnock, Daniel Andrew, will resign. Andrew, who joined the CHP in 2012 and had been on paid administrative leave, could still be charged criminally in the case. The CHP forwarded the results of its investigation of the incident to Los Angeles County prosecutors last month, saying he could face serious charges but none have been filed yet.
Fresh unrest in Ferguson, Mo., Tuesday night shows that the embers of the month-old unrest surrounding Michael Brown’s death can be kindled by even tiny sparks.
Detectives are investigating how a makeshift memorial to Mr. Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9., burned early Tuesday morning. The memorial, which is one of two near where Brown died on Canfield Drive, included mementos and small candles that may have caused the fire.
But some in the area suggested that it’s “naïve” to think the fire was accidental, and about 200 protesters rallied to West Florissant Avenue again Tuesday, squaring off with police and looting for the third time a store called Beauty Town. There were media reports of looters yelling “Burn it down!” and of gun shots in the area near Canfield Drive. Police made five arrests.
XENIA, Ohio – Officers’ actions were justified in the fatal shooting of a man holding an air rifle inside an Ohio Wal-Mart store, a grand jury determined Wednesday — using surveillance video the slain man’s family said shows the shooting was completely unjustified.
The Greene County grand jury opted not to issue any indictments in the Aug. 5 death of 22-year-old John Crawford III inside a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Special Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said.
A 911 caller reported Crawford was waving what appeared to be a rifle in the store. Police said he was killed after failing to obey commands to put down what turned out to be an air rifle taken from a shelf.
Since the shooting, Crawford’s family had demanded public release of the surveillance footage, a request denied until Wednesday by the state attorney general, who said releasing it earlier could taint the investigation and potential jury pool.
Video presented at a news conference by Piepmeier in Xenia shows Crawford walking the aisles, apparently on his cellphone, and picking up an air rifle that had been left, unboxed, on a shelf.
Crawford carries the air rifle around the store — sometimes over his shoulder, sometimes pointed at the ground — before police arrive and shoot him twice.
Would a customer have called 911 if Crawford hadn’t been a black man?
At the Miliners, by Edgar Degas, 1882
In Other News . . .
I’m running out of space, so I’ll end with some links to other stories that may pique your interest.
Tom House, an Atlanta Braves reliever at the time, tells about recovering the historic ball and giving it to Aaron after he touched home plate:
The game was stopped and, as fireworks flashed in the sky and Atlanta Stadium erupted into cheers, House made a jubilant dash toward home plate, where a relieved Aaron was being congratulated. “As fast as my legs would carry me,” House recalls. He held out the ball, which Sammy Davis Jr. had offered $25,000 for, and said, “Here it is, Hammer.”
Aaron, generally a portrait of quiet dignity and grace, was crying and holding his mother, Estella. “I had not seen much emotion out of Henry. That was cool,” House says now. “They both had tears in their eyes. She kept hugging him and hugging him.
“I heard later that she wouldn’t let go because she was afraid he was going to get shot. Some of the death threats had said he’d be shot at the plate.”
Hank Aaron hits No. 715 off Dodgers pitcher Al Downing on April 8, 1974 (NY Daily News)
When Roger Maris broke the Babe’s single season home run record in 1961, it was a hellish experience for Maris. The abuse he endured forever changed his life and affected his outlook; but at least Maris was white. Aaron was a black man in an era of racial turmoil.
It remains an important moment in the game’s history not just because the quiet, dignified Aaron toppled Ruth’s 714, which was probably the most famous single number in sports. But because of what Aaron endured to get there — death threats, vulgar hate mail rife with the worst kind of racism imaginable.
All these years later, the home run is significant in another way, too — it reverberates in today’s game, among today’s statistics. Plenty of people believe Aaron is still the true home run king, not the Steroid Era Barry Bonds, who topped Aaron’s career mark of 755 by seven homers.
As he approached the record Aaron was getting daily hate mail.
In a UPI story that ran in the Los Angeles Times on May 17, 1973, Aaron said he got letters filled with invective every day.
“If I were a white man, all America would be proud of me,” Aaron was quoted as saying. “But I’m black. You have to be black in America to know how sick some people are. I’ve always thought racism a problem, even with as much progress as America has made.”
Aaron said he read the mail anyway. It wasn’t going to stop him.
There’s much more in the Daily News article, and I do hope you’ll go read it.
Henry Aaron’s record-setting 715th home run off Al Downing on April 8, 1974 still stands today as one of the greatest milestones in Major League Baseball history. By breaking the four-decade mark of the great Babe Ruth, Aaron strode out of the shadows – and stepped into a cauldron.
This accomplishment transcended sports. By his own accounts over the years, we can recognize that Aaron went through hell during that time. It was tough enough when reporters and camera crews chronicled his every at-bat and invaded his privacy. But that was the least of it. Here, a black man stood poised—while playing in the Deep South, to boot—to claim one of the sports world’s most storied marks. Bigots hounded Aaron and made his life miserable, at a time when he should have basked in the glow of both his historic achievement and the recognition that had eluded him for decades.
Still, you know what? We might conclude that Aaron got off easy four decades ago, long before social media dominated every facet of our lives and removed any shred of privacy.
Just try to imagine how much more intense and challenging his predicament would have been. Can you picture the potential for incessant racist taunts on Facebook and Twitter, not to mention the blogosphere? In the 1970s, the haters reached Aaron by what we call “snail mail.” Today, in our sped-up-world of modern communications, Aaron would have had no escape.
Is Friedman right? I hate to think so, but after what we’ve seen after Americans elected a black president, I have to wonder.
The situation in Ukraine continues to escalate.
Pro-Russia protesters burn tires near a regional administration building in Kharkiv in a back-and-forth clash with riot police for control of the building. (Oleg Shishkov, EPA / April 7, 2014)
Ukrainian riot police cleared a regional administration building and public square in the eastern city of Kharkiv of hundreds of pro-Russia protesters Tuesday morning, detaining scores in the process, officials said.
“Seventy criminals were taken into custody during the operation,” Ukraine acting President Olexandr Turchinov told the parliament in televised remarks Tuesday morning.
In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a stern warning against the use of force on pro-Russia protesters in eastern Ukraine and alleged the direct involvement of private U.S. military experts.
“According to our information, Ukraine Interior Ministry and National Guard troops including militants of the illegal armed group the Right Sectort are being brought to the southeast regions of Ukraine,” read a statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official website Tuesday. “A special concern is connected with the fact that abot 150 U.S. experts from the private military organization Greystone dressed in the uniforms of [Ukraine] special unit Sokol are involved in the operation.”
“The organizers and participants in the operation are assuming huge responsibility for the creation of threats to rights, freedoms and lives of peaceful residents of Ukraine,” the statement said.
Ukrainian police on Tuesday regained control of a government building occupied by pro-Kremlin separatists in one volatile eastern city as pro-Russian protesters in another appeared to be slipping into disarray.
As Ukraine’s new government pushed to show its authority in the region, Russia warned that the use of force to dislodge demonstrators who had taken over government offices could plunge the country into civil war.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of instigating the protests that began Sunday in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk, suggesting that their powerful neighbor is trying to orchestrate a takeover similar to its incursion and annexation of Crimea. They have vowed to subdue the secessionists.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Tuesday morning that an “antiterrorist” operation had been launched in Kharkiv and around 70 separatists who had control of the regional administration building had been arrested.
He said roughly 200 pro-Russian agitators had barricaded themselves inside overnight and threw stun grenades and fired pellet guns at police and national guard officers who had surrounded the building. He said the protesters then set fire to a wing of the building and smashed windows. After the fire was contained, Mr. Avakov said special forces units stormed the building, made the arrests and seized a cache of weapons.
“The night in Kharkiv was endlessly long,” he said. “The boorish, brutal, ordered and generously paid pro-Russian aggression of the ‘protesters’ was off the charts.”
Mr. Avakov said that the Interior Ministry was moving more forces to the east of Ukraine to protect against further separatist activity.
But Russia’s foreign ministry threatened that any heavy-handed action by Ukrainian authorities could set off further violence.
Around another 60 artworks, including pieces by Monet and Renoir, have come to light at the Austrian home of an elderly German recluse whose earlier discovered art hoard is suspected to contain Nazi-looted works.
The latest pieces were found at the property in Salzburg belonging to Cornelius Gurlitt, his spokesman said Tuesday, just months after the art world was rocked by news of a spectacular trove of more than 1,400 works unearthed at his German home in 2012.
A first inspection indicates there is no Nazi loot — artwork that the fascist regime stole from Jewish owners or bought from them cheaply under duress — in the latest discovery, spokesman Stephan Holzinger said.
“More works were located in Cornelius Gurlitt’s house in Salzburg,” he said in a statement….
The Gurlitt case first made headlines late last year when it emerged that investigators had found more than 1,400 artworks in his Munich flat, including long-lost works by masters including Matisse and Chagall.
Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand, was an art dealer on assignment to the Nazis who died in 1956 in an accident; his son inherited the collection. In 2012, customs agents investigating Cornelius Gurlitt for tax evasion confiscated his Munich stash of some 1,400 works.
The existence of the collection — which includes works by artists such as Picasso, Dürer, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Beckmann and Matisse – was kept under wraps until Focus magazine broke the story last fall.
Spurred by art provenance researchers and restitution advocates around the world, Germany established a task force to deal specifically with the Gurlitt case. It includes experts recommended by the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, among others.
In the meantime, works collected by the elder Gurlitt also were found to be stashed in his son’s home in Salzburg, Austria, as well as in other locations in Austria and Switzerland.
Gurlitt, 81, has maintained that his collection is legitimate. Earlier this year, his attorneys publicized a new website where possible heirs could contact him.
Yesterday The Smoking Gun broke a surprising story about activist and MSNBC host Al Sharpton.
Beginning in the mid-1980s and spanning several years, Sharpton’s cooperation was fraught with danger since the FBI’s principal targets were leaders of the Genovese crime family, the country’s largest and most feared Mafia outfit. In addition to aiding the FBI/NYPD task force, which was known as the “Genovese squad,” Sharpton’s cooperation extended to several other investigative agencies.
TSG’s account of Sharpton’s secret life as “CI-7” is based on hundreds of pages of confidential FBI affidavits, documents released by the bureau in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, court records, and extensive interviews with six members of the Genovese squad, as well as other law enforcement officials to whom the activist provided assistance.
Like almost every other FBI informant, Sharpton was solely an information source. The parameters of his cooperation did not include Sharpton ever surfacing publicly or testifying on a witness stand.
Genovese squad investigators–representing both the FBI and NYPD–recalled how Sharpton, now 59, deftly extracted information from wiseguys. In fact, one Gambino crime family figure became so comfortable with the protest leader that he spoke openly–during ten wired face-to-face meetings–about a wide range of mob business, from shylocking and extortions to death threats and the sanity of Vincent “Chin” Gigante, the Genovese boss who long feigned mental illness in a bid to deflect law enforcement scrutiny. As the mafioso expounded on these topics, Sharpton’s briefcase–a specially customized Hartmann model–recorded his every word.
“I was never told I was an informant or I had a number or none of that,” the MSNBC host told the New York Daily News. “Whether or not they used some of the other information they got during that period for other purposes, I don’t know.”
The paper reported that Sharpton said he contacted authorities after receiving death threats.
“If you’re a victim of a threat, you’re not an informant — you’re a victim trying to protect yourself,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton also noted that this isn’t breaking news; it has been reported more than once in the past.
“I don’t see this as news,” Sharpton told FoxNews.com. “This has been brought up three or four times now. I don’t understand. It’s crazy.”
The New York Daily News also has a lengthy write-up of the story if you want more details.
Those are the stories that caught my eye today. What are you reading and hearing? Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great Tuesday!
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