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Don’t read this if you like cereal

Darwin was wrong, and the #CerealChallenge proves it. What is the #CerealChallenge, you say? Brace yourself. Take a breath. Stop reading if you’re feeling irritable and/or eating cereal. The #CerealChallenge is the latest trend on TikTok. Have you ever felt inclined to eat cereal out of someone else’s mouth? Well, now you have an excuse not only to do it, but to film yourself doing it and then to upload it on the internet. Because that’s what the #CerealChallenge entails.

When I first read that people were eating cereal out of each other’s mouths, I saw an image in my mind of people imitating the feeding techniques of birds. Meaning one person chews cereal and then lets it drop into the other person’s mouth. That was the wrong interpretation. I suppose I should have known better.

In the #CerealChallenge, one person’s mouth acts as the bowl. He or she lies down flat on his or her back. (The floor and the table are ideal surfaces based on my research.) That person then opens up wide, as you do at the dentist’s office. The other proceeds to pour cereal and milk into the gaping mouth (the cereal is typically poured first, though I’ve seen it done the other way round; each to his own).

Once the cereal is in the “bowl,” the upright person grabs a spoon and digs in. The video clip is usually accompanied by some atrocious R&B song.

It’s a repellent spectacle. It’s also, as you might imagine, quite dangerous. In one video, a man attempts (or pretends to attempt) to do this with a young woman he introduces as his sister. The sister dumps the milk in first. It’s too much, though, and once the cereal is added the man spits it all over his face and the table.

I’m waiting for the news story about the teenager who choked to death while trying out the #CerealChallenge.

The #CerealChallenge is revolting in any case. But more so when someone tries it with a dog, as one person did. In that clip, a boy who looks to be college-age lies down on the floor and someone else pours milk into his mouth as a dog looks on. Once the milk is in place the dog is allowed to walk over, at which point it begins to drink the milk from the boy’s mouth. Off camera someone can be heard laughing inanely.

The video’s caption says that “he yakked in the bathroom after this.” You don’t say …

The first such “challenge” I remember seeing is the Ice Bucket Challenge. That, while dumb, reportedly raised more than $200 million for ALS research. The only value the Cereal Challenge is likely to have is providing extraterrestrials with a case study in primitive human behavior.

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Jack Dorsey’s personal fortune has tripled since Trump’s election

Remember when Donald Trump announced his presidential bid in the summer of 2015? Came down the escalator in Trump Tower and gave an interview in which he railed against Mexican immigrants, establishing himself as the Racism Candidate and guaranteeing himself tons of free media coverage.

Trump’s train wreck candidacy was a bonanza for the media industry, and everyone wanted a piece of the action. In the guise of challenging Trump, all the big Western media gave him wall-to-wall coverage. They projected Trump into our living rooms and workplaces. They made it impossible for people to ignore him and his antics. They breathed life into his clownish campaign and, in doing so, helped to polarize American society in a way that had not been achieved since the Civil War. And the circus continued into Trump’s first term.

Why did the media do this? Because it was good for business. Pure and simple. All the cable news stations enjoyed record-breaking ratings. Trump articles in the major newspapers got enormous traffic. But Trump wasn’t just a windfall for CNN and the New York Times. Social media got a big piece of the pie too.

According to a new report in Forbes, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has seen his net worth climb more than 240% since Trump was elected president. “He now sits atop a $4.4 billion fortune, more than triple the $1.3 billion he had at the start of Trump’s presidency.” Here’s more:

“Twitter’s stock has climbed 105%, boosting Dorsey’s stake in the company from $275 million to $610 million. A bigger share of his wealth comes from Dorsey’s other business, payments firm Square. The Twitter chief executive also serves as CEO of Square, in which he held a bigger, $1 billion stake at the time of Trump’s inauguration. Square shares have surged nearly 370% since then, compared to a 45% increase in the overall stock market. Dorsey’s Square stake is now worth $3.6 billion, enough to compose 80% of the tech tycoon’s fortune.”

That’s right—@jack has benefited more from Trump’s presidency than perhaps anybody else. It’s insane to think that he would ever consider suspending Trump’s Twitter account, despite his passion for political censorship and Trump’s tendency to use Twitter to threaten entire countries with massive acts of violence, including war crimes.

I think it’s safe to say that pledging to bomb Iran’s cultural sites—a unambiguous war crime—violates Twitter’s “community guidelines,” for example. But @jack doesn’t care. He’ll just keep pulling accounts belonging to Iranians and Venezuelans and Syrians, and alternative voices inside the US, all the while raking in a few more billion dollars. Jack’s a jerk-off.

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Facebook extends more tentacles into UK economy

Facebook is reportedly going to bring in 1,000 employees from London, mostly for product development and safety purposes, bringing the tech/surveillance/censorship company’s UK workforce to more than 4,000. According to Reuters, most of the new jobs will be tech-related—e.g. software engineering and data science. The rest will be part of Facebook’s “community integrity” squad, whose job it is to “remove harmful content from platforms like Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.” “Community integrity” is an interesting euphemism for censorship. (See here.)

Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the company was satisfied with Prime Minister Boorish Johnson’s attempts to address its Brexit-related concerns.

“The Johnson government has been very clear about what that looks like,” Mendelsohn said, “and so we will continue to invest here in London.”

Boorish is happy about it:

“We are committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, alongside being one of the best places for technology companies to be based.”

As Reuters reports, Facebook is taking measures to rehabilitate itself after the Cambridge Analytica mess, in which a third party company was able to collect private information from millions of Facebook users without their consent. Facebook didn’t address, or even divulge, the massive breach until it was called out by several news outlets. Zuckerberg eventually agreed to testify about the scandal in front of the US Congress, giving a decidedly robotic performance.

“We also understand that this [securing user data] is an ongoing important conversation—we want to be part of that conversation,” Mendelsohn said in a boilerplate statement. “We want to be working with policymakers in this area to get to thoughtful policy.”

She proceeded to boast, based on Facebook’s own reading of a study by Copenhagen Economics, that the company has created more than 3 million jobs in Europe.

Given less attention is Facebook’s ability to eliminate jobs. Here’s an example. In 2016, Inc. Magazine named Render Media the second fastest-growing media company in the United States. Two years later Render Media announced that it was going out of business.

“In a note to clients, Render Media blamed changes to Facebook’s branded content guidelines, which led it to no longer support its partner publishing network with articles,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “The spokeswoman for the company also said that the social media site’s recent news feed algorithm tweak contributed to the decision, among other factors.”

Render isn’t the only casualty:

“The branded content changes, along with a related tweak to Facebook’s news feed algorithm that reduces the amount of content from publishers in favor of posts from friends and family, have stymied companies that rely heavily on traffic from Facebook to prop up their businesses. Earlier this year, the female-focused digital publisher LittleThings closed its doors, after the news feed change caused its traffic to plummet by 75%.”

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Big Tech ramps up censorship activity

Twitter rang in the new year with one of the most prolific political purges in the young history of the digital age, leapfrogging Facebook and YouTube to claim the top spot in the censorship sweepstakes.

The festivities began in earnest in 2018 with the coordinated banning of right-wing nutbag Alex Jones and his conspiracy program Infowars. This was done under the guise of protecting innocent people from “fake news.” How good of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey to act as our nannies. Without their paternal oversight our small little minds might be corrupted by unsavory views. Sarcasm aside, I happen to think that grown-ups should be allowed to decide for themselves what is true and what is false. In order to do so they have to have access to all the available perspectives, including those deemed “dangerous” by tech monopolies. If a small percentage end up adopting the wrong opinions, well, that’s part of living in a free society. If you want total conformity of thought, enforced by powerful people, move to Saudi Arabia.

Evidently, many people slept through Orwell Day in high school. How else can we explain all the positive reactions to blatant political censorship?

It began with Alex Jones; now it has expanded to social media accounts belonging to governments at odds with the United States; alternative media outlets countering official US narratives; and even individual people with no connection to any government or media outlet, but who raise inconvenient questions and look at things from a different perspective than the one espoused by, say, the Washington Post.

Twitter’s most recent censorship spree was reported on in detail by The Grayzone:

“In this latest purge, Twitter suspended the official accounts of Venezuela’s National GuardNavyAir ForceStrategic CommandPetroleum MinistryPenitentiary Services MinistryNational Commission of Information Technology, and Foundation Engineering Institute.

“The office of the government of the Capital District, the office of the vice president of the economy, and the press office of the armed forces also had their accounts removed by Twitter.”

Alternative news outlets in Venezuela were also unplugged, as was the account of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (it was later reinstated).

Washington is targeting Maduro’s government; therefore, so is Twitter.

Who else is being targeted by Washington? Iran is. Therefore:

“In the wake of the Trump administration’s execution of Iran’s top general Soleimani, a clear act of war, Twitter moved to restrict the account of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.” Moreover:

“Many individual Iranians have been targeted as well. Users posted lists of dozens of Iranians who had their accounts taken down. These included prominent activists, journalists, and researchers who challenged Western propaganda and disinformation against their country.”

Ditto Syria:

“On January 4, Twitter temporarily suspended the official Twitter account of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A few days later, amid backlash, it restored the account.

“Twitter has repeatedly suspended and restricted the profile of Syria’s president, forcing the country’s presidential office to create multiple accounts (neither of which has verified by the company).”

Is that clear enough? As we move deeper into the darkness of the digital age, I think it’s time we retired the term “Stalinist Purge” (most young’uns probably don’t know who Stalin was) and replaced it with Dorsey-esque Purge.” Or “Zuckerbergian Purge.” Either will do.

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Murderer plugs Instagram page ahead of trial

In an example of life imitating art imitating life, or something approximating that, a 19-year-old facing a double capital murder charge plugged his own Instagram while being questioned by a gaggle of reporters.

Kiernan Christopher Williams of San Antonio was allegedly at a bar called Ventura when he shot dead two fellow patrons. The arrest affidavit quotes witnesses as stating that Williams was fighting with one of the victims before the shooting.

One witness said they saw Williams “intentionally shoot [the victim]. The Defendant continued to fire his weapon into the crowded venue causing several victims to be struck by gunfire.”

As two cops conveyed a handcuffed Williams through a parking garage on the way to a police car, the alleged murderer spoke candidly to reporters.

“He [the victim] told me he was gonna kill me,” Williams said. “He told me because I bumped into him he was gonna kill me.”

He added, “Don’t worry about me. I’m gonna be alright.” Then came the money shot:

“Man, y’all gotta follow me on Instagram: _32baby.k9_. That’s me. Actually I’m an upcoming artist.”

One reporter responded by asking Williams if he realized the gravity of the charges leveled against him.

Williams: “I do realize my charge of capital murder.”

Reporter: “Do you think you’ll ever be able to listen to your music again?”

Williams: “I bet you I will—self-defense, sir.”

Asked if he had any regrets, Williams said, “On the cool, I regret everything that I did. No lie. I do.”

Reporter: “Do you know them [the victims]? Are you friends? Do you know them? Had you seen them before?”

Williams: “Yes, sir.”

Reporter: “Why did you feel like you had to pull the trigger?”

Williams: “Because he pulled a gun on me.”

Reporter: “Did he ever fire the gun?”

Williams: “No, sir. He didn’t have a chance.”

End of interview.

This reminds me of one of the Scream films. Specifically the end of the second one, in which Mickey (Timothy Olyphant) articulates his motive for the murders he committed. Here’s a extract from his manic soliloquy:

“This is just the beginning, a prelude to the trial. That’s where the real fun is, because these days it’s allll about the trial. … I’ll get Dershowitz or Cochran to represent me. … People love a good trial. It’s like theater, they’re dying for it. And I’ve worked hard to give the audience what they want.”

Doubtless, _32baby.k9_ has considerably more followers now than it did before Williams murdered those people in the bar. There’s your motive. Wes Craven was a modern day prophet.

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Reddit ‘discovers’ diabolic Russian campaign to influence UK election!

The Russians are coming again, and again, and again. A sinister Russian propaganda/disinformation/trolling/interference/meddling/hacking campaign has been uncovered yet again … on Reddit. You see, shortly before the recently concluded UK national election, in which the clownish Boris Johnson made mincemeat of the decent Jeremy Corbyn, documents were leaked pertaining to trade negotiations between the UK and the US.

The leaked documents were presented in redacted form by Corbyn’s Labour Party, as they judged them to be in the public interest and damaging to the Tories.

Last week, a post on Reddit titled “Suspected Campaign from Russia on Reddit” asserted the following:

“We were recently made aware of a post on Reddit that included leaked documents from the UK. We investigated this account and the accounts connected to it, and today we believe this was part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.”

Note the use of equivocal phrases such as “we believe” and “has been reported as.” Such language is code for: “we don’t know this to be true but we would like it to be.”

It’s like when intelligence agencies state that they have “high confidence” in their assessment of this or that. According to legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, that means “we really don’t know squat.”

But back to Reddit. The post goes on to say:

“Earlier this year Facebook discovered a Russian campaign on its platform, which was further analyzed by the Atlantic Council and dubbed ‘Secondary Infektion.’

“Suspect accounts on Reddit were recently reported to us, along with indicators from law enforcement, and we were able to confirm that they did indeed show a pattern of coordination. We were then able to use these accounts to identify additional suspect accounts that were part of the campaign on Reddit.

“This group provides us with important attribution for the recent posting of the leaked UK documents, as well as insights into how adversaries are adapting their tactics.”

The Atlantic Council, in case you’re curious, is funded in part by the US State Department and NATO. It is a highly politicized organization and any of its “findings” are to be taken with an entire bag of salt. Reddit provides no evidence that these accounts or that this irregular behavior was part of some campaign directed by the Kremlin, but that’s obviously what they’re implying. The big media outlets ran with the story, needless to say. Just as they did with the DNC email hack (still not proven) and the Skripal affair (questions remain) and the chemical weapons attacks in Syria (narratives unraveling as I write).

Eh, evidence is overrated anyway.

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WWE and TikTok: Match made in Neverland

Hey, all you grown-ups who still watch professional wrestling, the WWE has teamed up with another entertainment service designed for teenyboppers—TikTok. (I naturally assume that adults who never grew out of their Degeneration-X phase are also using TikTok, but I could be wrong.)

The new partnership will be officially launched today, 15 December, just in time for the WWE Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view extravaganza. According to a WWE press release, the company now has an official TikTok account featuring entrance theme music from over 30 famous wrestlers. Among them, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker (is that cat still alive?), the Ultimate Warrior (pretty sure he’s dead by now), Becky Lynch (whoever that is), and John Cena.

“The themes and original entrance music will be integrated into TikTok’s vast content library joining music from top artists like Lil Nas X, Mariah Carey, Lizzo, and emerging artists like Arizona Zervas,” the press release states. ”By offering WWE’s iconic entrances for TikTok users to play off of and make their own unique videos, the partnership provides fans a new way to engage with their favorite Superstars.”

Jayar Donlan, WWE’s Executive Vice President, Advanced Media, is very excited, or pretending to be.

“We are thrilled to be launching this partnership which offers a new level of engagement with WWE content by enabling the TikTok community to create their own shareable stories tied to WWE‘s world renowned Superstars,” she said.

Mayan Scharf, Global Partnerships, TikTok, sounded an equally euphoric note.

“By capturing the passion and thrill of wrestling, WWE is at the forefront of bringing together sports and entertainment in an unconventional and fun way,” Scharf said. “Through our partnership with WWE, we’re looking forward to bringing the excitement of the WWE experience to TikTok’s global community.”

What are you waiting for? Open up your TikTok app, follow the WWE account, crack open a few Budweisers and start blasting that Stone Cold theme song.

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Twitter announces decentralized network plan

New from @jack: Twitter is assembling a small team of researchers to develop an “open and decentralized standard for social media.” Company CTO Parag Agrawal has been tapped as the person whose job it is to tap a leader for the project, who will then tap up to five people to work on the project, which is lamely called Bluesky. Here it is in @jack’s own words:

“Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard.

“Twitter was so open early on that many saw its potential to be a decentralized internet standard, like SMTP (email protocol). For a variety of reasons, all reasonable at the time, we took a different path and increasingly centralized Twitter. But a lot’s changed over the years…

“First, we’re facing entirely new challenges centralized solutions are struggling to meet. For instance, centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people.

“Second, the value of social media is shifting away from content hosting and removal, and towards recommendation algorithms directing one’s attention. Unfortunately, these algorithms are typically proprietary, and one can’t choose or build alternatives. Yet.

“Third, existing social media incentives frequently lead to attention being focused on content and conversation that sparks controversy and outrage, rather than conversation which informs and promotes health.

“Finally, new technologies have emerged to make a decentralized approach more viable. Blockchain points to a series of decentralized solutions for open and durable hosting, governance, and even monetization. Much work to be done, but the fundamentals are there.”

There’s more, but all this copy and pasting is giving me carpal tunnel.

Anyway, as The Verge reports Jack’s BIG announcement is pretty small beer in the eyes of folks who are already developing decentralized networks.

“I hear Twitter wants to invest in creating a new decentralized social media protocol,” tweeted developer Darius Kazemi. “Meanwhile a bunch of us are out here already doing the hard work.”

Kazemi added:

“The hilarious thing is that they could take their budget for this initiative, slash it by 90%, distribute the remaining 10% to like 2 dozen Patreons, and thereby do approximately 1000% more to create a viable decentralized social media standard and implementations.”

Poor @jack.

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US government may block integration of Facebook apps

Facebook is reportedly planning to combine Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp into a single digital package. Not so fast, says the US government. As NBC News reports, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been investigating Facebook for a while to determine whether it is in violation of antitrust laws, which are designed to prevent corporations from monopolizing markets and crushing competition. Here is a clip from NBC’s report:

“The FTC could seek a preliminary injunction to stop Facebook from weaving its disparate parts together. An injunction could deal a severe blow to Facebook and its efforts to combine its services, which began earlier this year. It would also leave the company more vulnerable to being broken up.”

Such an injunction would require a majority vote from the five-member FTC, which could reportedly happen as soon as January.

Here is more from NBC:

“Pursuing an injunction would be an extraordinary step for the FTC, which does not typically try to undo mergers that have already happened. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014. The five-member commission would need to vote to pursue the injunction and then file suit in federal court. The FTC would also need to prove that Facebook was in violation of antitrust law.”

News of the FTC’s potential action was first reported in the Wall Street Journal; Facebook shares dropped 3 percent as a result.

The WSJ story quotes some hot air discharged from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in March, whereby he stated:

“There are privacy and security advantages to interoperability. With the ability to message across our services…you’d be able to send an encrypted message to someone’s phone number in WhatsApp from Messenger.”

Translation: this is good for our bottom line.

The WSJ also quoted Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, a former senior adviser for the FTC, as saying:

“The advantages are that it gets things moving, and sort of forces things to a judicial decision very quickly, as opposed to having an antitrust investigation going for five years….The burdens of proof can be higher for the government, but if they’ve got a good case it can be advantageous.”

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Trump breaks personal Twitter record

With impeachment looming, Donald Trump is going into Twitter overdrive mode. The beleaguered president reportedly tweeted and/or retweeted a total of 115 (though some estimates put the figure at 123) times on Thursday, setting a new personal record. The following day, the House of Representatives voted to move forward with impeachment, approving the articles of impeachment published earlier in the week.

The Trump twitter monsoon began Sunday when he tweeted 105 times; he was a little less feverish on Monday and Tuesday before firing out 77 tweets on Wednesday. Then came the historic 115 on Thursday.

The overwhelming majority of Trump’s tweets are to do with the impeachment inquiry—or The Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of the United States, as he refers to it. He attacks Democratic lawmakers and media personalities while retweeting messages of support from Republicans and Fox News “reporters,” as well as his brain-damaged son, Don Junior.

But even Fox News isn’t immune from Trump’s fire-breathing Twitter persona. Yesterday he posted the following:

“Hard to believe that @FoxNews will be interviewing sleazebag & totally discredited former FBI Director James Comey, & also corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff. Fox is trying sooo hard to be politically correct, and yet they were totally shut out from the failed Dem debates!”

Trump also set aside some time to join the band of old men personally attacking teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Said old men were extremely triggered when Thunberg delivered a speech at the UN lambasting world leaders for looking the other way while our planet burns. Responding to news that Thunberg had been named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year, Trump tweeted:

“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

On that note, a Twitter account for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign posted an edited image of the Greta Thunberg TIME cover with Trump’s head photoshopped onto the teenager’s body.

Not sure how to react to that. Someone resurrect Freud.