pipeline

‘Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard. Just ask. I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS. People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They “trust me.” Dumb fucks.’ –Mark Zuckerberg

Today, the Federal Trade Commission filed an amended complaint against Facebook in the agency’s ongoing federal antitrust case. The complaint alleges that after repeated failed attempts to develop innovative mobile features for its network, Facebook instead resorted to an illegal buy-or-bury scheme to maintain its dominance. It unlawfully acquired innovative competitors with popular mobile features that succeeded where Facebook’s own offerings fell flat or fell apart. And to further moat its monopoly, Facebook lured app developers to the platform, surveilled them for signs of success, and then buried them when they became competitive threats. Lacking serious competition, Facebook has been able to hone a surveillance-based advertising model and impose ever-increasing burdens on its users.  

“Facebook lacked the business acumen and technical talent to survive the transition to mobile. After failing to compete with new innovators, Facebook illegally bought or buried them when their popularity became an existential threat,” said Holly Vedova, FTC Bureau of Competition Acting Director. “This conduct is no less anticompetitive than if Facebook had bribed emerging app competitors not to compete. The antitrust laws were enacted to prevent precisely this type of illegal activity by monopolists. Facebook’s actions have suppressed innovation and product quality improvements. And they have degraded the social network experience, subjecting users to lower levels of privacy and data protections and more intrusive ads. The FTC’s action today seeks to put an end to this illegal activity and restore competition for the benefit of Americans and honest businesses alike.”

{ Federal Trade Commission | Continue reading }

BREAKING NEWS FROM PLANET BULLSHIT

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Elon Musk is going to launch a satellite that displays ads in space, reports @BusinessInsider.

He is one of several billionaires investing vast sums on the space race.

SpaceX will launch the satellite with a display screen in 2022.

Ad space will be bought using cryptocurrency.

{ AJPlus | More: Daily Mail }

Hocus pocus double focus

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In the late 1940s, the British magician David Berglas started refining a trick that came to be known as “the holy grail of card magic.” […] The trick is a version of a classic plot of magic, called Any Card at Any Number. These tricks are called ACAAN in the business.

ACAAN has been around since the 1700s, and every iteration unfolds in roughly the same way: A spectator is asked to name any card in a deck — let’s say the nine of clubs. Another is asked to name any number between one and 52 — let’s say 31.

The cards are dealt face up, one by one. The 31st card revealed is, of course, the nine of clubs. Cue the gasps.

There are hundreds of ACAAN variations, and you’d be hard pressed to find a professional card magician without at least one in his or her repertoire. (A Buddha-like maestro in Spain, Dani DaOrtiz, knows about 60.) There are ACAANs in which the card-choosing spectator writes down the named card in secrecy; ACAANs in which the spectator shuffles the deck; ACAANs in which every other card turns out to be blank.

For all their differences, every ACAAN has one feature in common: At some point, the magician touches the cards. The touch might be imperceptible, it might appear entirely innocent. But the cards are always touched.

With one exception: David Berglas’s ACAAN. He would place the cards on a table and he didn’t handle them again until after the revelation and during the applause.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas { Andy Warhol, Are You “Different?” (Positive), 1985 }

‘It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of Renaissance or of any past culture.’ –Jackson Pollock

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It was June 2020, and Mr. Hamamoto, a former Goldman Sachs executive who invested in real estate, was searching for a business to take public through a merger with his shell company. He had raised $250 million from big Wall Street investors including BlackRock, and spent more than a year looking at over 100 potential targets. If he couldn’t close a deal soon, he would have to return the money.

Then, around nine months before his deadline, bankers from Goldman gave Mr. Hamamoto an enticing pitch: Lordstown Motors, the fledgling electric truck maker that President Donald J. Trump had hailed as a savior of jobs. What followed was a swift merger, then a debacle that put two of the biggest forces shaping the financial world on a collision course.

Lordstown went public in October via a merger with Mr. Hamamoto’s special purpose acquisition company, DiamondPeak Holdings. A Wall Street innovation, SPACs are all the rage, having raised more than $190 billion from investors since the start of 2020, according to SPACInsider. At the same time, small investors have become a potent force in the markets, driving up the stock prices of companies like GameStop and lapping up shares of SPACs, which are highly speculative and can pose financial risks.

In Lordstown, those forces eventually collided, highlighting the uneven playing field between Wall Street and Main Street. Small investors began piling into Lordstown shares after the merger closed, attracted to the hype around electric vehicles. That’s exactly when BlackRock and other early Wall Street investors — as well as top company executives, who all got their shares cheaply before the merger — began to sell some of their holdings.

Now Lordstown is flailing. Regulators are investigating whether its founder, Steve Burns, who resigned as chief executive in June, overstated claims about truck orders. The heat is on Mr. Hamamoto. The company has burned through hundreds of millions of dollars in cash. Its stock price has plunged to $9, from around $31. Investors are suing, including 70-year-old George Troicky, who lost $864,201 on his investment, according to a pending class-action lawsuit.

And Lordstown has yet to begin producing its first truck.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

image { Jackson Pollock at work in his studio in 1950 photographed by Hans Namuth }

The panoramic view of the sky and the sun beamin’

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If you carry a double-O number, it means you’re licensed to kill, not get killed

An Amazon executive […] “We had beaten publishers into submission. When Amazon asks for a nickel, publishers know to give a dime. We aren’t there yet with the Whirlpools and the Samsungs. We’ll get them under our thumb.” […]

Mr. Bezos’s disdain for taxes […]

Amazon’s yearlong pursuit of a second headquarters […] got results — nearly $600 million in incentives from Virginia officials

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘I was following orders’

For six years after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Hollywood studios avoided making films that made the Nazis look bad, because they did not want to lose access to the German market. […]

Now history seems to be repeating itself, with the studios kowtowing to Communist China. […] John Cena, star of the new Fast and Furious movie, just issued an abject apology for casually referring to Taiwan as a “country.”

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

Uber Tracks Passengers’ Locations Even After They’re Dropped Off

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Let’s start with the Navy cases. Some of the pilots have told of seeing flying objects shaped like Tic Tacs or other unusual forms. The recordings from the planes’ cameras show amorphous shapes moving in surprising ways, including appearing to skim the ocean’s surface and then disappear beneath it. This might appear to be evidence of extraterrestrial technology that can defy the laws of physics as we understand them — but in reality it doesn’t amount to much.

For one thing, first-person accounts, which are notoriously inaccurate to begin with, don’t provide enough information for an empirical investigation. Scientists can’t accurately gauge distances or velocity from a pilot’s testimony: “It looked close” or “It was moving really fast” is too vague. What a scientist needs are precise measurements from multiple viewpoints provided by devices that register various wavelengths (visual, infrared, radar). That kind of data might tell us if an object’s motion required engines or materials that we Earthlings don’t possess.

Perhaps the videos offer that kind of data? Sadly, no. While some researchers have used the footage to make simple estimates of the accelerations and other flight characteristics of the U.F.O.s, the results have been mixed at best. Skeptics have already shown that some of the motions seen in the videos (like the ocean skimming) may be artifacts of the cameras’ optics and tracking systems.

There are also common-sense objections. If we are being frequently visited by aliens, why don’t they just land on the White House lawn and announce themselves? There is a recurring narrative, perhaps best exemplified by the TV show “The X-Files,” that these creatures have some mysterious reason to remain hidden from us. But if the mission of these aliens calls for stealth, they seem surprisingly incompetent. You would think that creatures technologically capable of traversing the mind-boggling distances between the stars would also know how to turn off their high beams at night and to elude our primitive infrared cameras.

{ Adam Frank/NY Times | Continue reading }

encaustic on newspaper and cloth over canvas { Jasper Johns, Green Target, 1955 }

‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ Is Leaving YouTube After $760,999 NFT Sale

Long believed by others to be a copy or the work of Leonardo’s studio, the “Salvator Mundi” was purchased in 2005 by a consortium of speculative art dealers for under $10,000. Eight years later, after the painting had been restored and declared the work of the Renaissance master, Bouvier bought it for $80 million after enlisting the help of a poker player to beat down the price.

The dealer swiftly sold it on for $127.5 million to his then-client, Dmitry Rybolovlev. […] And while Rybolovlev later auctioned off the painting for an astonishing $450 million in 2017, to a secret buyer now widely believed to be Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he nonetheless alleges that Bouvier defrauded him — a claim Bouvier denies. […]

In the documentary, “The Savior for Sale,” an anonymous high-ranking French official claims that Prince bin Salman was adamant that the “Salvator Mundi” be displayed next to the “Mona Lisa” in order to solidify its place as an authentic Leonardo — despite ongoing questions about whether the work is entirely by the Italian master.

The French government ultimately decided not to exhibit the painting under the Saudis’ conditions, which the anonymous official says in the film “would be akin to laundering a piece that cost $450 million.”

{ CNN | Continue reading }

‘This world is arranged as it had to be if it were to be capable of continuing with great difficulty to exist; if it were a little worse, it would be no longer capable of continuing to exist. Consequently, since a worse world could not continue to exist, it is absolutely impossible; and so this world itself is the worst of all possible worlds.’ –Schopenhauer

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{ The Clubhouse isn’t owned and operated by the influencers themselves but is overseen by outside investors. | Harper’s | full story }

Upcoming UFO report will be ‘difficult to explain,’ former national intelligence official says

For some Navy pilots, UFO sightings were an ordinary event: ‘Every day for at least a couple years’

‘Sightings all over the world’

‘I don’t want to be 20 cent’ –50 cent

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Between the 1970s and the early aughts, the incidence of myopia in the US nearly doubled, to 42 percent. Myopia’s rise has been the starkest in Asia; one survey in Korea found a rate as high as 96 percent among teenagers.

Clearly, something is going on. But scientists can’t agree on exactly what. Being constantly tethered to devices and books indoors might be part of it: Based on a handful of large epidemiological studies on myopia, spending time outdoors—especially in early childhood—reduces the onset of myopia. […]

Neuroscientists discovered the classic animal model for myopia by accident in the 1970s, when they were sewing one eye shut in newborn monkeys to study the development of the brain’s visual system. […] Around the same time as the eye-sewing experiments, neuroscientists figured out they could do the same in chickens and tree shrews—much easier to keep in the lab than monkeys. And instead of sewing the eyelid shut, they could just put what looks like half a ping pong ball over the eye. This “form deprivation” model of myopia has inspired some fascinating science. In 2010, for example, Morgan’s collaborators found that exposure to bright light could reverse this type of induced myopia in chickens. Further experiments pinned down the mechanism, too: Light activates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which prevents the eyes from growing longer.

{ Wired | Continue reading }

‘Try to be free: you will die of hunger.’ –Cioran

Apparently someone sat Elon Musk down and told him where Bitcoins come from […] The funny move here would be if Tesla Inc. had dumped all its Bitcoins at the highs. […] The source of value for Bitcoin is not its use as a currency or economic importance; the source of value for Bitcoin — for everything — is simple proximity to Elon Musk. […]

Mark Zuckerberg shared a picture of his pet goats on Monday, introducing them to the world as Bitcoin and Max.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

related { Tesla’s Musk halts use of bitcoin for car purchases }

Emails show Steve Jobs referred to Facebook as ‘Fecebook’

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Before coronavirus shuttered the world, a typical month for Connecticut native Zac Mathias was packed with appointments for microneedling (a collagen-stimulating process that involves repeated pin-pricks all over the face), regular resurfacing hydrafacials, rejuvenating laser treatments and the occasional red-light therapy session.

The beauty influencer particularly misses his weekly infrared saunas, where light is used to heat the air instead of traditional steam. The technology has been praised for reversing the effects of photo-aging. Mathias is 18. […]

“Skin care was always a self-care time; that’s how I decompress at night.” […]

“Premature aging at 16. What are my options?” […]

“I’m 15 in 2 days and I’m already using retinol, vitamin C and gua sha with my sunscreen.” […]

Brands have made the fear of looking older into a lucrative business, with the anti-aging market predicted to pull in over $88 billion in global sales by 2026. […]

“There’s a new beauty persona called the Skinvestors, a next-gen, science-first beauty consumer who sees skin care as an investment.

{ CNN | Continue reading }

‘There are many people today who see that modern society is heading toward disaster in one form or another, and who moreover recognize technology as the common thread linking the principal dangers that hang over us.’ –Theodore Kaczynski

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if you want to build a global taxi service that people can hail from a smartphone app, one way to do it is to coordinate with the taxi commissions of hundreds of cities to get regulatory approvals and make sure that you comply with local requirements, and another way to do it is to completely ignore those regulations and just launch your app everywhere. The second approach might expose you to ruinous fines or shutdown orders or bad publicity or prison, but it also might work; you might end up so popular in so many places that the local regulators can’t ban you and will have to accept your proposed terms. […]

If you want to build self-driving cars, you will need to test them. […] [a] way to test them is to just send out a bunch of cars to drive themselves everywhere, without asking for permission, and see what happens. […]

Federal agencies say he’s breaking the rules and endangering people. Mr. Musk says they’re holding back progress. […] When asked to comment on the specifics of this article, Mr. Musk replied with a “poop” emoji.

{ Matt Levine/Bloomberg | Continue reading }

previously:

Driverify [cryptocurrency]: Developed by Tesla’s self-driving-car division. Cars mine Driverify with spare computing power while idling, and spend it bidding against each other for right-of-way if they arrive at a four-way stop sign at the same time (users can preprogram how aggressively their cars bid in these auctions). […]

Banned [by the SEC] because: in the Phoenix suburb where the system was being tested, a pedestrian and Driverify-equipped car reached an intersection at the same time. The car dutifully wired a bid, but the pedestrian failed to respond. The car interpreted this as a bid of zero and ran into her.

{ Astral Codex Ten | Continue reading }

related { NASA suspends SpaceX’s $2.9 billion moon lander contract after rivals protest }

Shaken, not stirred

One instructor at the CIA came up with an ingenious way to use the Starbucks gift card as a signaling tool instead of the traditional chalk marks and lowered window blinds.

He gives one [gift card] to each of his assets and tells them, “If you need to see me, buy a coffee.” Then he checks the card numbers on a cybercafé computer each day, and if the balance on one is depleted, he knows he’s got a meeting. Saves him having to drive past a whole slew of different physical signal sites each day [to check for chalk marks and lowered window blinds]. And the card numbers aren’t tied to identities, so the whole thing is pretty secure.

{ NPR | Continue reading }

‘Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard. Just ask. I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS. People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They “trust me.” Dumb fucks.’ –Mark Zuckerberg

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Mr. Zuckerberg told his lieutenants that Facebook “needed to inflict pain” upon Apple and Mr. Cook, said a person with knowledge of the discussions. […]

In 2017, Facebook had expanded its work with Definers Public Affairs, a Washington firm that specialized in opposition research against its clients’ political foes. Definers employees distributed research about Apple’s compromises in China to reporters, and a website affiliated with Definers published articles criticizing Mr. Cook, according to documents and former Definers employees.

Definers also began an “astroturfing” campaign to draft Mr. Cook as a 2020 presidential candidate, presumably to put him in President Trump’s cross hairs, The New York Times reported in 2018. […]

(Definers’ work against Apple was also funded by Qualcomm, another Apple rival, according to a Definers employee. Facebook fired Definers after The Times reported on its activity.)

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

A hallmark of people who have strong narcissistic traits is the avoidance of taking responsibility for their incompetent behavior

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Musk tweeted on Monday that “data logs recovered so far” show the car’s Autopilot feature was not enabled […] The NHTSA currently has about two dozen active probes into Tesla vehicle crashes that may have involved Autopilot […]

Tesla in the past has drawn the ire of federal agencies for how it markets Autopilot and whether there’s true understanding on the part of passengers/drivers that the cars can’t fully drive themselves.

Tesla has warned that drivers must remain fully engaged while using these features.

Tesla told California regulators that its latest “full self-driving” software doesn’t actually make the car autonomous, seemingly contradicting its name.

{ Axios | Continue reading }

Sous le soleil de satan

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Facebook Says It’s Your Fault That Hackers Got Half a Billion User Phone Numbers

She goes to the spa, has lunch, goes to the spa (again) and has dinner. Rinse and repeat. Every day.

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Stacy Blatt was in hospice care last September listening to Rush Limbaugh’s dire warnings about how badly Donald J. Trump’s campaign needed money when he went online and chipped in everything he could: $500.

It was a big sum for a 63-year-old battling cancer and living in Kansas City on less than $1,000 per month. But that single contribution — federal records show it was his first ever — quickly multiplied. Another $500 was withdrawn the next day, then $500 the next week and every week through mid-October, without his knowledge — until Mr. Blatt’s bank account had been depleted and frozen. When his utility and rent payments bounced, he called his brother, Russell, for help.

What the Blatts soon discovered was $3,000 in withdrawals by the Trump campaign in less than 30 days. They called their bank and said they thought they were victims of fraud.

the Trump campaign and the for-profit company that processed its online donations, WinRed, […] begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election.

Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out.

As the election neared, the Trump team made that disclaimer increasingly opaque, an investigation by The New York Times showed. It introduced a second prechecked box, known internally as a “money bomb,” that doubled a person’s contribution. Eventually its solicitations featured lines of text in bold and capital letters that overwhelmed the opt-out language. […]

Several bank representatives who fielded fraud claims directly from consumers estimated that WinRed cases, at their peak, represented as much as 1 to 3 percent of their workload. [..]

All the banking officials said they recalled only a negligible number of complaints against ActBlue, the Democratic donation platform, although there are online review sites that feature heated complaints about unwanted charges and customer service. […]

Over all, the Trump operation refunded 10.7 percent of the money it raised on WinRed in 2020; the Biden operation’s refund rate on ActBlue, the parallel Democratic online donation-processing platform, was 2.2 percent, federal records show.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }