Auto Sears: The Return of the Machine Gun
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 15:20
The Mongolian Boys Society was out for revenge. Six members of the Fresno, California, criminal gang huddled in a vacation rental in November 2019, cleaning their guns in preparation to retaliate against the Asian Crips for the suspected killing of one of their own.
According to court records, one of the ''triggermen'' carried a Glock pistol outfitted with an auto sear, a small device the size of a thimble that transformed his semiautomatic weapon into a machine gun capable of firing 20 rounds per second. Around 8 p.m., the crew drove across town to a palm tree-lined street. Moments later, in one of the backyards, they opened fire on a gathering of people. Bullets sprayed through the crowd, killing four and wounding six.
But the house was not a rival gang den; police later determined that a family had gathered there to watch football together. Six members of the Mongolian Boys Society were arrested for their alleged involvement in the mass shooting. Three face the death penalty.
An auto sear '-- the most common automatic conversion device '-- transforms a semiautomatic gun into a weapon capable of emptying an entire magazine with a single pull of the trigger. Also known as switches or chips, auto sears have been around since the '70s but are exceedingly tough to acquire legally in the United States, where machine guns cannot legally be owned without a special license. In recent years, these small metal or plastic devices have exploded in popularity on the black market and gained a particular cachet among criminals and anti-government extremists. Last year, members of the Boogaloo Boys, an accelerationist movement that hopes to spark a second civil war, used weapons equipped with auto sears to attack a federal courthouse.
An investigation by The Trace and VICE News found that federal prosecutions involving automatic conversion devices have spiked in recent years. From 2017 to 2021, the number of cases jumped from 10 to 83, according to our exclusive nationwide analysis of court filings. We found over 260 cases filed in the last five years, including robberies, assaults, and murders, with over 1,000 devices recovered. The government has not previously compiled this data, and the actual number of illegally converted machine guns on the streets is likely far higher.
Olga PierceThe Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the federal agency responsible for policing guns in the U.S., said it seized 1,500 weapons modified with auto sears in 2021, a staggering increase over 2020, when only 300 were recovered.
''Auto sears are everywhere on the street right now,'' said Jefferey Boshek, a 21-year ATF veteran who now serves as the special agent in charge of the Dallas Field Division. ''They're one of the scariest things we've dealt with since I became an agent.''
The ascent of the auto sear has been propelled by its availability and ease of use. The American market is largely supplied by China, where manufacturers sell the devices on websites like Alibaba and Wish.com directly to consumers, law enforcement officials say. Auto sears are often advertised as airsoft parts or tools and shipped with false documentation and packaging labels. They can also be created using a 3D printer. Once in a person's hands, installation can take just seconds and requires scant technical knowledge or tools.
''It is so simple,'' said Rick Vasquez, the former head of the ATF's Firearms Technology Division. ''The information is out there, and the knowledge to do it is out.''
An auto sear installed on a Glock handgun.VICE NewsConversion devices can be installed in many types of handguns or rifles, but they're particularly common for Glock pistols. That's because of the Glock's internal design, which makes its parts easy to access and modify. A Glock spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In September, a Houston man opened fire with a Glock pistol modified with an auto sear after police showed up at his front door to arrest him on a narcotics warrant. One officer was killed and another wounded. Four months later, a convicted felon with a converted Glock wounded three more Houston officers in a gun battle in broad daylight. The suspect managed to escape, but police arrested him later that same day at his home, where they also found a cache of guns, machine gun components, and a 3D printer.
To gang members, auto sears are an advantageous new accessory that can inflict incredible damage and intimidate enemies, especially when paired with high-capacity magazines. One California ATF agent, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the agency's behalf, said that in his first decade on the job, he hardly ever came across machine guns; now he sees firearms that have been converted with auto sears ''all the time.'' Some criminals, the agent added, have been caught with the devices on ghost guns '-- untraceable firearms that can be made at home or obtained without a background check.
For nearly 90 years the federal government waged an aggressive campaign to shrink the pool of automatic weapons available to the public.
In 1934, after several high-profile crimes involving machine guns, Congress passed the National Firearms Act, which required anyone who owned a fully automatic weapon to register it with the government and pay a $200 tax, equivalent to about $4,000 today. This significantly drove up the cost and difficulty of owning one.
Industrious gunsmiths searched for workarounds. In the '70s, conversion devices started surfacing in niche gun communities but the general public rarely sought them out. It became more difficult to obtain an auto sear in 1981, when the ATF ruled that possessing one was, in legal terms, the same as owning a machine gun, whether or not the device was installed on a firearm. Having an auto sear without the proper federal license, which requires an extensive background check and costly fees, can carry a 10-year federal prison sentence.
The auto sear overrides a handgun's trigger bar, allowing it to fire multiple times with the single pull of a trigger.Five years later, Congress passed the Firearms Owners Protection Act, blocking the import or manufacture of any new automatic weapons in the U.S.
The 1986 law created an extremely limited pool of legal machine guns, and the weapons now command sky-high prices. Even basic models can cost $10,000 online. More sought-after weapons, like World War II-era machine guns, can run six figures.
But obtaining an illegal machine gun is no longer so expensive or logistically challenging. Over the last five years, advances in low-cost manufacturing tools, like 3D printers, plus global commerce on the internet, have combined to create a vast black market of illegal machine gun makers, dealers, and traffickers. With an auto sear, anyone willing to break the law can effectively create a machine gun for as little as $20.
Sales of auto sears have also been popularized by YouTubers and Instagrammers, whose demonstrations of the devices have racked up millions of views.
''People don't sell drugs, for the most part, outside of the dark web '-- they're not on Instagram selling crack cocaine or powder cocaine, but they are out there selling machine guns now,'' said Boshek, the ATF agent in Dallas.
Boshek said the wide availability of auto sears has created an arms race on the streets, and that his division in Texas is inundated with cases '-- including homicides and robberies '-- involving the devices.
At the Ohio home of a self-described incel charged last July with plotting to massacre sorority members, sheriff's deputies discovered a modified Glock machine gun stashed in a heating vent. In May 2021, federal agents in Florida seized two converted machine guns from a convicted felon linked to the murder of a 20-year-old mother.
In Denver, when undercover ATF agents told arms traffickers they needed help outfitting a drug cartel ''going to war'' with its enemies, the blackmarket gun sellers quickly obliged. Over the course of a five-month investigation in 2018, traffickers working out of an auto-repair shop demonstrated their custom weaponry to the agents and showed them how to install and use auto sears and other automatic conversion devices. One trafficker extolled the devices as being ''fuckin' fast,'' achieving ferocious rates of fire that caught him ''by surprise.'' They sold the agents a Glock handgun and five AR-15-style ghost guns. All the weapons had been modified into machine guns. ''We go full-auto everything,'' the traffickers said.
''If you don't have one, pretty much you're butt naked,'' said a former arms trafficker whose name has been withheld to protect his identity. He said demand for auto sears skyrocketed around 2020, as word got out on the street about the effectiveness of conversion devices. He claims to have modified and sold thousands of Glock machine guns, commanding between $500 and $3,000 per gun.
He says the shooting death of a close friend motivated him to take his business above board and apply for a dealer license from the ATF.
In 2019, the ATF opened an investigation into a Michigan resident who ordered auto sears through the mail. Agents say the man, a convicted felon on probation for selling machine guns, openly bragged about selling switches in a music video and ordered more than 20 conversion devices from a company located in Shenzhen, China.
According to federal court documents, a separate investigation found that the company had sold auto sears to American customers 2,400 times over a 15-month period, for as cheap as $19.98 per device.
The U.S has become an increasingly lucrative market for auto sears. Many smugglers operate out of China, court records show, where conversion devices can be manufactured at low cost and shipped to American customers falsely labeled as innocuous items. In 2019, officials at Los Angeles International Airport intercepted more than 200 packages from China containing auto sears. The packages were labeled ''multitool switch'' or ''screwdriver.''
''It scares me for all of us,'' said Nancy O'Malley, the district attorney for Alameda County in California. She says officers in her district have started coming across shipments of switches: ''If there is a box of switches, then we know a modified weapon is in the community.''
Police and emergency vehicles on the scene of the November 2019 mass shooting in Fresno involving an auto sear that left ten people shot.Larry Valenzuela/GettyThe problem has prompted Homeland Security Investigations to form a task force with Customs and Border Protection, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the ATF, and Chinese counter-smuggling officials intended to stem the flow of auto sears from China into the U.S.
''China is very good at identifying items, whether it be auto sears or sneakers, and expanding those markets to sell them,'' said Joe Lestrange, the division chief of public safety and border security at Homeland Security Investigations.
In 2019, the agency launched Operation TriggerFish, an initiative to track auto sear deliveries in the U.S. back to their points of origins. Homeland Security worked with international authorities to shut down production of switches in the Guangdong Province of China. It was a blueprint modeled after the government's war on blackmarket fentanyl smuggling.
Lestrange said that in the last three years, Homeland Security had seized 4,348 auto sears and opened up over 600 investigations related to the devices. While the agency regarded those seizures as successes, he said auto sears continue to show up in criminal investigations at an alarming rate. Stopping the flow of the devices, he added, depends on gathering new intelligence about how auto sears are entering the country. ''We don't know what we don't know,'' said Lestrange.
The spike in smuggling has pushed U.S. senators to ask for answers. In October 2021, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker wrote a letter asking the Department of Justice how it plans to address overseas smuggling, as well as for statistics on seizures.
Experts say auto sears are particularly sought after by anti-government extremists, who see amassing military grade weapons as a way to resist the government.
In August 2020, an FBI agent posing as a foreign terrorist purchased a 3D-printed AR-15 auto sear from Timothy John Watson, a West Virginia man selling conversion devices as ''portable wall hangers'' online. According to court documents, authorities seized 903 conversion devices from Watson's business, which had ties to the Boogaloo Boys.
One of those devices was sold to Steven Carrillo, a 32-year old Air Force staff sergeant and Boogaloo adherent who'd converted his homemade AR-15 into a machine gun. On May 29, 2020, during a protest in Oakland against the murder of George Floyd, Carrillo launched an ambush on two federal security officers, killing one.
The following month, Carrillo struck again. He texted his fellow Boogaloo Boys to ''kit up and get here,'' before shooting at three California police officers when they arrived at this property. One was killed in the attack.
A motorcade accompanies the hearse containing the coffin of Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, who was fatally shot by extremist Steven Carrillo.Shmuel Thaler/APCarrillo was apprehended by authorities after being wounded in the shooting, but not before he wrote ''boog'' in his own blood on the trunk of his stolen car.
Rachel Rivas, a senior policy analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said far-right and anti-government extremists seek machine guns because they are woven into much of their apocalyptic and conspiratorial ideology.
''There is a worldview that there will be a coming moment in which they have to take up arms against the government and to do that they will need heavy weaponry,'' she said. ''It's the ultimate symbol of personal freedom and individual rights; to the extreme.''
Firearms are the weapon of choice for extremists to carry out violence. According to a recent report from the Anti-Defamation League, 75 percent of extremism-related deaths over the last decade were shootings.
''It's so much easier to have a full-auto firearm than to make weaponized anthrax,'' said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the ADL. He said that extremists represent a small sliver of criminal activity, but the types of attacks they carry out warrant concern. ''You really do have to take it seriously. Some may argue it's only a matter of time before we see one of these shooting sprees actually be conducted with full-auto weapons.''
Additional reporting by Brian Freskos
Policy recommendations for addressing content moderation in podcasts
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 15:13
Charlie Kirk, the conservative activist and podcast host who played an important role in spreading misinformation about the outcome of the 2020 election, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida on February 24, 2022. (Zach D. Roberts via Reuters Connect)A great reckoning has arrived for content moderation in podcasts. Just as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other digital platforms have struggled for years with difficult questions about what content to allow on their platforms, podcast apps must now weigh them as well. What speech should be permitted? What speech should be shared? And what principles should inform those decisions?
Although there are insights to be gleaned from these ongoing discussions, addressing the spread of hate speech, misinformation, and related content via podcasts is different than on other social-media platforms. Whereas digital platforms host user-generated content themselves, most podcasts are hosted on the open web. Podcasting apps typically work by plugging into an external RSS feed, downloading a given podcast, and then playing it. As a result, the main question facing podcasting apps is not what content to host and publish, but instead what content to play and amplify.
Making those determinations is far from straightforward, of course, but the challenge is not an intractable one. From new policies and user interfaces to novel regulatory approaches, the podcast ecosystem can and should employ far more robust content-moderation measures.
Balancing moderation with censorship
Debates over content moderation in podcasts hinge primarily on whether and how widely to share so-called ''lawful but awful'' content. Major podcasting apps'--the applications commonly used on smartphones, tablets, and computers to listen and download to podcast episodes'--already have policies and procedures in place to deal with blatantly illegal content. Spotify or Apple Podcasts won't knowingly distribute an Islamic State recruitment podcast, since doing so would open them to prosecution for supporting a designated terrorist group. How podcasting apps should handle hate speech, misinformation, and related content that is legal but may have harmful societal effects is far less clear.
Below the level of blatantly illegal content, the most popular podcasting apps face a daunting challenge. On the one hand, given the scale and reach of apps like Spotify and Apple Podcasts'--each now enjoys more than 25 million monthly podcast listeners in the United States'--their content moderation policies need to account for the societal harms that can result from the mass distribution of hate speech and misinformation. Popular podcasts played a prominent role in spreading the so-called ''Big Lie'' in the lead-up to the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, for instance, and have also been a key vector in spreading misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines, leading to unnecessary deaths. On the other hand, popular podcasting apps also have a responsibility not to curtail speech too aggressively. Since hate speech and misinformation can be difficult to define, excessively restricting the reach of contentious political speech'--as China, Russia, and other authoritarian states are wont to do'--risks unduly limiting the freedom of expression on which democratic discourse depends.
Until recently, major podcast applications have largely refrained from balancing free speech with societal harms at all. Whereas major platforms like Facebook and Twitter have developed sophisticated platform policies and interface designs to address ''lawful but awful'' content, the major players in the podcasting space have yet to establish similarly robust policies and measures. As a result, the guidelines and processes for content moderation in the podcasting ecosystem remain relatively underdeveloped and opaque.
For starters, podcasting apps need to develop far more nuanced and transparent policies for the kinds of content that users can download and play. Podcasting applications have long argued that because they typically do not host content themselves, they operate more like search engines than a traditional social media network or file-sharing service. That is undeniably true. But major search engines like Google and Bing still have well-developed guidelines for the kinds of content they will surface in search results, and those guidelines go well beyond blocking illegal content alone. By comparison, Apple's podcast guidelines for illegal or harmful content are enumerated in a paltry 188 words. One of the guidelines includes a prohibition on ''defamatory, discriminatory or mean-spirited'' content but gives no indication of how these terms are defined. In stark contrast to YouTube and Spotify, there are no policies at all for managing election- and COVID-related misinformation.
Podcasting applications should also have clear guidelines for what kinds of podcasts the app itself will recommend. Along with word-of-mouth, users tend to discover podcasts through a given app's ''most popular'' feature (e.g., Apple's ''Top 100'' list) or a ''personal recommendations'' feature (e.g., Apple's ''You Might Also Like'' section). By definition, these features will not recommend content that has already been removed. But without further guidelines, they may recommend so-called ''borderline'' content that comes close to violating an application's guidelines without actually doing so. By way of example, consider a podcast that falsely claims vaccines are responsible for mass infertility. Such a podcast would not violate, say, Spotify's prohibition on podcasts that claim vaccines cause death'--and therefore would not be blocked within the Spotify app. But that does not mean Spotify's algorithms should still actively promote and recommend to its users a podcast linking vaccines to infertility. Just as YouTube and other platforms have developed separate guidelines for the kinds of content their recommendation algorithms can promote, so too major podcasting apps like Spotify and Apple Podcasts should develop nuanced policies around the kinds of podcasts they are comfortable playing in their app but not amplifying across their user base.
Podcast apps should also build more robust measures for reporting. Whereas major social media platforms rely on a mix of algorithmic filtering, manual review, and user reporting to screen posts for harmful content, podcast apps frequently do not have well-developed algorithms or in-house moderation teams to identify harmful content at scale. Absent the development of sophisticated, real-time systems that allow for better monitoring of prohibited and borderline content, these apps will remain more dependent on user reporting to identify harmful content.
Yet clear and easy-to-use mechanisms for user reporting are conspicuously underdeveloped in several podcasting applications. Whereas social media networks typically have reporting features embedded in the primary user interface, not all major podcasting apps employ similar features. On Google's Podcasts app, users looking to report inappropriate content can ''send feedback'' via a simple text form. On Spotify, neither the desktop nor iPhone app offers an easy reporting process for users. For example, here is Spotify's interface, which provides no means to directly report content from a podcast series' page:
By comparison, Apple Podcast offers a more robust reporting experience. Note how at both the series and episode level users are invited to ''Report a Concern'':
From there, users are directed to a webpage, which delineates specific categories of ''concern'' that may be in violation of their content moderation policies. Apple's reporting interface highlights two essential features for leveraging the collective knowledge of users as a tool in content moderation: (1) clear icons in the primary user interface that direct users toward a reporting process; and (2) multiple categories for different types of violations that link to a specific content moderation policy.
Finally, in addition to improved user reporting, some podcasting apps may consider experimenting with voting and commenting systems. For example, both Reddit and Stack Overflow, as well as other open forums like Discourse, allow users to both upvote and downvote content and leave comments on posted content. The goal of this approach is to leverage the collective knowledge of the community to ensure that quality content is featured prominently across these platforms. ''Wisdom of the crowd'' approaches such as these aren't feasible for every app, and they need to be developed in a way that guards against adversarial or other attempts to game the system. Nonetheless, they offer a promising way to leverage user feedback as a way of moderating content at scale.
Regulators and lawmakers also have a role to play in shaping policies in the podcast ecosystem. Regulating podcasts is difficult in part because it requires balancing the right to freedom of expression with the need to preserve societal welfare and protect against social harms. To strike that balance appropriately, regulators and government officials should neither seek to proscribe lawful content outright nor indirectly pressure podcasting applications to interpret their terms of service such that certain content is banned.
Yet even if government officials should not weigh in on the permissibility of otherwise legal speech, that does not mean they should take a hands-off approach to the podcast ecosystem overall. In particular, for podcast applications with mass reach, policymakers and regulators should push for greater transparency on:
Content guidelines and policies. Regulators should require podcasting apps to clearly disclose what their content moderation polices are. Ideally, the policies would also be easy for users to understand and include either examples or clarifications of how ambiguous terms will be interpreted. For example, Apple podcasts' prohibition on ''mean-spirited'' content should be qualified in more detail: How will ''mean-spirited'' content be distinguished from merely ''critical'' content? Clear guidelines about what categories of content will be restricted, and what those categories actually entail, are essential for a vibrant podcast ecosystem. Without public and transparent guidelines, content moderation decisions will appear ad hoc and undermine user trust. Moderation practices and appeals process. Podcast apps should also be required to publicly and transparently disclose high-level details about their content-moderation practices, as well as their review process. Whether a podcasting app relies on client-side scanning to check a given podcast for harmful content before playing it or instead relies primarily on user-reporting should be disclosed, as users have a right to know what role they or their devices play in the application's content moderation process. Further, apps should also be required to publish clear guidelines for how to contest a moderation decision: If a podcast episode has been banned, users have a right to know how to appeal that decision and whether the review process will involve an automated or manual review. Recommendation algorithms. Since users often discover new podcasts series and episodes via recommendation algorithms, podcasting apps should be required to disclose the content their recommendation algorithms are amplifying the most, as well as basic details about how those algorithms work. As we documented earlier this year, more than 50% of popular political podcast episodes between the November election and the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol contained electoral misinformation. There is a clear public interest in knowing whether those episodes were among the most recommended on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Likewise, if those episodes were recommended widely, there is also a public interest in understanding why they were recommended. That does not mean podcast apps should be required to disclose user data or detailed information about the architecture of their algorithms, but it does mean they should be required to list basic factors about what kinds of data the algorithm considers when boosting an episode or series. Funding. At present, advertising represents the primary source of revenue for the podcasting ecosystem. While Apple requires advertising to ''be in compliance with applicable law'', and Spotify requires ''content providers to comply with applicable laws and regulations,'' including sanctions and export regulations, there are few obvious guidelines in place for financial disclosures in podcasting beyond those dictated between sponsor and series. Furthermore, it is unclear how apps might determine if and where to report when a podcast is in fact in violation of ''applicable laws.'' As a result, anyone could in theory provide financial support for a podcast, including foreign governments or obscure funders. As with radio reporting guidelines, regulators could help bring transparency to this opaque business model by delineating clear public financial reporting processes for podcast series. Given the size of the podcasting ecosystem, these guidelines might be limited to those series that generate a certain minimum revenue or audience size and would most benefit from an additional level of transparency. In short, regulators should push podcasting applications to adhere to the emerging standards for transparency enumerated in the Santa Clara principles and elsewhere. By focusing on transparency, regulators can vastly improve the quality of content moderation in the podcast ecosystem without compromising freedom of expression. And since policymakers in the United States, the EU, and elsewhere are already considering similar transparency requirements for other digital platforms and online service providers, extending those provisions to the podcasting space should be straightforward.
Mature content-moderation regimes
Today, nearly a quarter of the U.S. population gets their news from podcasts. As that figure continues to rise, the content moderation policies of major podcasting apps will need to mature accordingly. Podcasts are now a mass medium, yet the content moderation policies and reporting mechanisms of many podcasting apps remain remarkably underdeveloped'--as do the regulatory frameworks that oversee them.
Developing a robust content moderation framework for the podcasting ecosystem will not be simple, especially as podcasting business models and architectures evolve. With Spotify, YouTube, and now Substack entering the podcasting market in ways that upend the once-open architecture of the medium, the space now encompasses both more traditional media business models as well as newer, more decentralized ones. As a result, a flexible, broadly applicable approach to moderating content and regulating podcasting platforms will become increasingly critical. By drawing on common principles and practices that have informed content moderation in other digital platforms, the approach briefly outlined above would encourage responsible content moderation without unduly restricting free speech. To get the balance right, podcast apps, users, and regulators all have a role to play'--if they embrace it.
Valerie Wirtschafter is a senior data analyst in the Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies Initiative at the Brookings Institution.Chris Meserole is a fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and director of research for the Brookings Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative.
Facebook, Google, and Microsoft provide financial support to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization devoted to rigorous, independent, in-depth public policy research.
(20) Christina Pushaw ðºð¸ on Twitter: "Why Taylor Lorenz gave me a ''deadline'' of an hour to respond, at 8pm last night: She WANTED to write in Washington Post that ''@GovRonDeSantis Press Secretary declined to comment on her relationship with @l
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 15:09
Christina Pushaw ðºð¸ : Why Taylor Lorenz gave me a ''deadline'' of an hour to respond, at 8pm last night: She WANTED to write in Washington'... https://t.co/jjfp87e9Ij
Tue Apr 19 19:41:03 +0000 2022
Obamas to End Exclusive Deal With Spotify - Variety
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 15:00
Higher Ground, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama's media company, is ending its exclusive podcast deal with Spotify and is shopping for other partners in the podcasting space, Variety has confirmed.
The Obamas are exiting their exclusive pact with Spotify, originally inked in 2019, after being frustrated with the company's exclusive terms '-- primarily, they want to have their podcast programming distributed as widely as possible, according to two sources familiar with the situation. Higher Ground also has disagreed with Spotify over how many of its shows would feature the former president and first lady, as first reported by reported by Bloomberg.
Higher Ground's current deal with Spotify runs through October 2022. According to one source, Spotify declined to make an offer to renew the agreement.
Reps for Spotify and Higher Ground declined to comment.
Podcasts that Higher Ground has produced for Spotify will continue to launch on the streaming platform through the fall, according to the Bloomberg report. But the company is currently in talks with other audio distribution companies, including Amazon-owned Audible and iHeartMedia, in hopes of reaching a nonexclusive deal for its podcast content.
Higher Ground's first podcast for Spotify was ''The Michelle Obama Podcast,'' released in mid-2020, which at one point had ranked as the most-listened-to Spotify original to date. The company also produced ''Renegades: Born in the USA,'' a series of conversations between Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen, released on Spotify last year.
In January, Higher Ground's ''The Big Hit Show,'' focused on transformational moments of pop culture, premiered on Spotify. The company also released ''Tell Them, I Am,'' a podcast collection of universal stories from Muslim voices on the platform.
Spotify will retain certain distribution rights to ''The Michelle Obama Podcast'' and other Higher Ground shows in perpetuity. In addition, wherever the Obamas take their next podcast deal, it is likely that those new projects would be distributed on Spotify on a nonexclusive basis.
Separately, Higher Ground has a pact to produce films and TV shows exclusively for Netflix. The company's first film, ''American Factory,'' won the 2019 Oscar for best documentary feature.
Spotify has spent billions to establish itself as a top podcast destination, including securing a $200 million-plus deal with controversial host Joe Rogan to exclusively distribute his popular podcast as well as a deal worth more than $60 million with ''Call Her Daddy'' host Alex Cooper. Spotify has acquired multiple podcast content and tech companies, including Gimlet Media, Parcast, The Ringer and Megaphone.
Spotify also has an exclusive deal with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Archewell, which earlier this year said the couple had urged the company to make changes to prevent ''serious harms'' from COVID misinformation present on its platform. That was an apparent reference to Rogan, who was the target of a Spotify boycott instigated by Neil Young and joined by other musicians and talent in protest of COVID misinfo on ''The Joe Rogan Experience.'' Archewell said it was proceeding with plans to produce Markle's first podcast for Spotify, called ''Archetypes,'' after the couple was encouraged by talks with Spotify execs to address their concerns.
optional screen readerRead More About:
AIDS-Like "Chronic Covid" is Taking Over Europe, Australia and NZ
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 15:00
This article will explain exactly why endless Covid reinfections happen, and the dangerous consequences that they lead to, based on recent scientific advances.
When Omicron appeared around December of last year, the powers-to-be in most Western countries found themselves in a situation of mass vaccine failure, where a Covid variant Omicron, about infectious as measles, was spreading like wildfire, while at the same time evading vaccine immunity.
So, the clever solution was to abolish containment altogether, wish ''illness and death'' on the unvaccinated people, and hope that the vaccinated world gains ''herd immunity'' while enjoying relatively low mortality.
Unfortunately for them and for us, things did not work out this way. Hospitals are overwhelmed by the vaccinated. Endless Covid short term reinfections, plaguing the UK and the rest of the Western world, are sliding towards ''Chronic Covid''. Herd immunity is enjoyed only by unvaccinated countries.
Chronic Covid is a situation where the vaccinated cannot develop natural immunity, cannot quickly clear infections, and remain ill and infectious for extended period of time. Such repeat infections progressively damage their immunity to the point of not being able to clear Covid at all. That would lead to people being chronically infected, infecting others, and overwhelmed with toxic Covid viral proteins, while remaining immunosuppressed.
UK: Covid Becoming CHRONIC, like AIDS, and Will Take us Down
I would like to discuss very disturbing statistics from the UK, that clearly shows that Covid is becoming a chronic disease, in the same sense as AIDS is a chronic disease. Covid, for many Brits, is an illness that will just not go away. Endless bouts, recurrence, or even never-ending disease, is now the norm and not the exception, and will lead to a ca'...
16 days ago · 293 likes · 438 comments · Igor Chudov
This article describes scientific mechanism and shows why this is happening. Using three recent studies, I will show that
The vaccinated cannot develop ''natural immunity''
The boosted cannot clear the virus quickly upon infection
Covid virions invade and damage monocytes, the blood cells providing immunity, due to Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE), leading to gradual destruction of the immune system. Sars-Cov-2 also infects immune T-cells.
Natural Immunity and Original Antigenic SinMyself and many amazing substackers, including El Gato Malo and Eugyppius, wrote many articles pointing at the likelihood that the vaccinated cannot acquire proper ''natural immunity'', like unvaccinated people do, due to so called Original Antigenic Sin, or ''immune imprinting''.
Please note that another notable substacker, Brian Mowrey, disagrees with us. I am providing a link to his article just for completeness, however here Brian and myself disagree.
We finally have a well done scientific study, showing OAS in neatly presented form, based on meticulous scientific research.
This is not the place to give this very important Cell article full attention. The point to take out is that vaccinated persons do NOT produce a full immune response to any variants that they are infected with, instead producing useless Wuhan antibodies that did not even keep them from getting infected.
This is the main reason why the vaccinated get reinfected so often. We spoke a lot about it on substack, but finally have a scientific confirmation.
Slow Viral Clearance in the BoostedAnother groundbreaking article shows not only that ''Covid vaccine'' does not prevent infection, but also that the boosted remain infections and Covid positive for extremely long times after apparent resolution of their symptoms.
You can see here that the boosted participants, despite appearing to resolve their symptoms, remain infections FAR LONGER and still show high viral loads (Ct < 30) even at day 9. Mind you, CDC said that they can end isolation at day 5. Well, we know how that worked out, but such a long viral clearance is extremely concerning. It shows that despite resolving the symptoms, the patients remain ill, infected, and infectious! What other virus does it? That's right, HIV. The symptoms go, but the virus stays.
This also, incidentally, explains why the boosted have so many heart problems and pulmonary embolisms around day 10 of their illnesses. The other, less visible result of that is extended damage that Covid does to their immune systems.
Please understand how abnormal this is: the boosted immune system stops ''symptoms'', such as fever, without actually clearing the virus completely. This represents an immune failure to do the most basic job of the immune system: to clear the virus. The symptoms stop, but the virus persists for quite a bit longer, doing its damage without opposition.
Vaccine Antibodies Enhance Destruction of Immune Monocyte Cells via ADEThe worst part of my article is contained in this section. It turns out that the dreaded ''Antibody Dependent Enhancement'', or ADE, finally found a scientific confirmation. It turns out that some Covid antibodies help ''breakthrough infections'' infect and destroy so called monocytes, which are blood cells responsible for many functions of human immune systems.
What the article is saying is that antibodies facilitate infection of monocytes by Sars-Cov-2. This infection leads to death (pyroptosis) of infected monocytes, leading to inflammation, severe symptoms, destruction of monocytes and damage to the immune system. Read John Paul's article for more details.
Killing off monocytes with each infection is unlikely to work out well if reinfections are tightly spaced together.
Note also that, strangely using the same LFA-1 protein as HIV, Sars-Cov-2 also invades and kills T cells. So we have damage to monocytes and also damage to T cells, occurring with each reinfection.
So, in summary we have original antigenic sin inviting first several reinfections. These reinfections might seem mild outwardly, but fail to clear the virus for up to 9 days. The result of each reinfection is progressive damage to monocytes and the immune systems.
All of this is in addition to numerous reports, much discussed in my and others' article, that mRNA vaccination itself is damaging to the immune systems. Some people even use term VAIDS to describe such immune problems. I explained this term in my article two months ago.
How will it end up? I am not sure if it will end up well. I hope it does. It may actually end up with mass fatalities. I hope for as few as possible but dread that it could be very many.
It happens across the entire heavily vaccinated world. In the UK, for example, 1 out of 13 people is having Covid right now. It is the same for all UK countries so here's England:
The cases are still sky high
And the UK is becoming slightly dysfunctional also:
And this is how Chronic Covid may end:
Putin calls for new infrastructure to reroute energy exports
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 15:00
Summary Currently around 70% of Russia's gas exports go to Europe.
by: NGWRussian president Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to draft plans by the end of next month for new infrastructure to divert oil and gas exports that currently flow to Europe to Asia instead, in response...
$50bn wiped off Netflix's value as subscribers quit - BBC News
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 14:59
By Daniel ThomasBusiness reporter, BBC News
Image source, NETFLIX
Image caption, One of Netflix most popular series, Bridgerton, launched its second series last month
Shares in Netflix have slumped by 35% after it revealed a sharp drop in subscribers and warned millions more are set to quit the streaming service.
It wiped more than $50bn off the firm's market value as experts warned it faced a struggle to get back on track.
Netflix faces intense competition from streaming rivals, but was also hit after it raised prices and left Russia.
Yet some cast doubt on its plans to boost growth, which include bringing in a free ad-supported service.
It also plans to crack down on password sharing, estimating that more than 100 million non-paying households watch the service this way.
In a sign of the unease, one of America's best known investors, William Ackman, ditched his $1.1bn investment in Netflix on Wednesday, taking a loss of more than $400m.
His hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management had bought the shares just three months ago.
In a brief statement, Mr Ackman said that while Netflix's plans to change its business model made sense, investing in the company felt too risky.
"While Netflix's business is fundamentally simple to understand, in light of recent events, we have lost confidence in our ability to predict the company's future prospects with a sufficient degree of certainty," he wrote.
In a trading update on Tuesday, Netflix said its total number of subscribers had fallen by 200,000 in the first three months of 2022, falling well short of its target.
It also said some two million more were likely to quit the service in the three months to July.
Some analysts warned that, after period of turbo-charged expansion during the pandemic, the streaming giant has run out of easy ways to grow.
Squeezed consumers are cutting back on streaming services to save money, while some feel there is too much content to choose from amid an avalanche of competition from rivals such as Disney and Amazon.
"Netflix's wider problem, along with the rest of the sector is that consumers don't have unlimited funds, and that one or two subscriptions is usually enough," said Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets.
"Once you move above that something has to give in a cost-of-living crisis, and while Netflix is still the market leader, it doesn't have the deeper pockets of Apple, Amazon or Disney, which makes it much more vulnerable to a margin squeeze."
But Julian Aquilina, senior TV analyst at the media research firm Enders Analysis, said it was wrong to write the firm off.
"The streaming market is maturing and the high expectations people had about Netflix are being reset.
"But I think it will remain the market leader, it has such a commanding position. If people are going to ditch a subscription, Netflix won't be the first one they choose."
He added that the firm had just put up its prices "which always leads to a drop in subscribers, but also means it's making more revenue per customer".
Netflix remains the world's leading streaming service with more than 220 million subscribers. It is increasingly producing its own content and shows such as the Crown, Bridgerton and Squid Game have been global hits.
The firm had enjoyed uninterrupted quarterly growth in subscribers since October 2011 but on Tuesday it admitted it was losing customers to rivals, while struggling to expand due to password sharing.
It also said a decision to raise prices in key markets had cost it 600,000 subscribers in North America alone, while its exit from Russia over Ukraine lost it 700,000.
Despite the challenges, revenue grew by $7.8bn (£6bn) in the first three months of the year, up 9.8% compared with the same period last year.
That marked a slowdown from earlier quarters, while profits fell more than 6% to roughly $1.6bn.
Netflix's shares plunged 35% on Wednesday, and fell a further 3.5% in opening trade on Thursday.
Elon Musk says 'woke mind virus' makes Netflix 'unwatchable' -- Society's Child -- Sott.net
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 14:59
(C) Bloomberg via Getty Images Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Netflix is now "unwatchable."
Elon Musk said Netflix is shedding subscribers because
its programming has been infected by the "woke mind virus" which has made the streaming service "unwatchable."Tesla's billionaire boss was reacting to Netflix's share price tanking in pre-market trading on Wednesday after the California-based company revealed it had lost 200,000 subscribers between January and March of this year.
The company expects that it will lose an additional 2 million subscribers by the end of the second quarter.
Musk did not specify which content on Netflix was "woke" though the company has been criticized for programming deemed by some to be provocative.
Earlier this year it released "He's Expecting," a Japanese-language comedy drama about a man who becomes pregnant.
Netflix also released "Dear White People," an original series about black students' experiences at an Ivy League colleague. The series caused a stir due to what some said was a racist portrayal of white people.
Another recently released documentary, "
Vikings: Valhalla," was criticized for inaccurately depicting women as Viking warriors.
Last year, however, Netflix was criticized by LGBTQ activists and their supporters for not censoring Dave Chappelle's standup special which included jokes and comments about transgender people.
Netflix's 26% tumble after the bell on Tuesday erased about $40 billion of its stock market value. Since it warned in January of weak subscriber growth, the company has lost nearly half of its value.
(C) Google Netflix shares fell by more than 25% after the bell on Tuesday.
It was the first time in more than 10 years that Netflix reported a decrease in the number of paid subscribers.
The company said inflation, the war in Ukraine, and fierce competition among streaming services was leading to an erosion of its customer base.
The lagging subscriber growth prompted Netflix for the first time to say it might offer lower-priced version of the service with advertising.
Insteon Smart Home System Has Apparently Disappeared - CNET
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 14:58
Insteon's smart home hub.
Chris Monroe/CNET Insteon users have complained online of suddenly losing power to their smart home hubs as of Friday, as reported earlier by Stacey on IoT.
"One moment the system worked. The next moment, their cloud was crickets," one Reddit user said Sunday. "Fortunately, the devices themselves continue to work so we can still turn our lights on and off (and open garage doors) by setting up and pressing switches directly."
As pointed out by Stacey on IoT, the Insteon Twitter account hasn't been active since mid-2021, while the company's executives no longer list Insteon anywhere on their LinkedIn profiles -- except for the former CIO Mike Nunes, who says his role ended April 2022, and the chief research officer Dan Cregg, who says his role at Insteon ended in 2022.
Smartlabs, the parent company of Insteon, didn't immediately respond to request for comment.
SmartHome TipsSmartHome Tips
By signing up, you agree to our
Thanks for signing up!
An error occurred. Please check your email and try again
TAPSTRI-The Terror Asymmetrics Project '' The Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideologies
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 14:54
TAPSTRI is a pending not for profit, non-partisan virtual defense research institute dedicated to studying and disseminating open source intelligence on the operational strategies, tactics and belief systems of radicalized extremist organizations, individuals and communities throughout the world. TAPSTRI develops and advises national governments and policymakers on counter-ideology programs designed to disrupt, defeat and discredit radical extremists in the physical, psychological and cyber battlespaces.
TAPSTRI has been on the ground in Ukraine covering the unfolding war. We will continue to cover the war against Ukraine by Vladimir Putin.
CALL YOUR CONGRESS MEMBERS AND SENATORSTell them you want to protect Ukraine. Either arm them or implement a no-fly zone.202-225-3121
Millions of Ukrainian people have been displaced. They've either left their homes, cities or even country. To help, consider visiting:
THE DONATION RELIEF PAGE
AVOID FUNDRAISING SCAMS: READ MORE
RSS Error: A feed could not be found at `https://kyivindependent.com/feed/`; the status code is `503` and content-type is `text/html; charset=UTF-8`
OFFICIAL UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT
ÐÑÐ¾Ð²ÑÐ² ÑÐµÐ>>ÐµÑÐ¾Ð½Ð½Ñ ÑÐ¾Ð·Ð¼Ð¾Ð²Ñ Ð· @CyrilRamaphosa. Ð Ð¾Ð·ÐÐ¾Ð²ÑÐ² ÐÑÐ¾ Ð½Ð°Ñ ÑÐÑÐ¾ÑÐ¸Ð² ÑÐ¾ÑÑÐ¹ÑÑÐºÑÐ¹ Ð°Ð"ÑÐµÑÑÑ. ÐÐ±Ð"Ð¾Ð²Ð¾ÑÐ¸Ð>>Ð¸ Ð·Ð°Ð"ÑÐ¾Ð·Ñ Ð"Ð>>Ð¾Ð±Ð°Ð>>ÑÐ½Ð¾Ñ ÐÑÐ¾Ð´Ð¾Ð²Ð¾Ð>>ÑÑÐ¾Ñ ÐºÑÐ¸Ð·Ð¸, ÐÐ¾Ð"Ð>>Ð¸Ð±Ð>>ÐµÐ½Ð½Ñ Ð²ÑÐ´Ð½Ð¾ÑÐ¸Ð½ Ð· ÐÐÐ ÑÐ° Ð²Ð·Ð°Ñ--Ð¼Ð¾Ð´ÑÑ Ð² Ð¼ÐµÐ¶Ð°Ñ
Ð¾ÑÐ"Ð°Ð½ÑÐ·Ð°ÑÑÐ¹.The TAPSTRI team is on the ground in Ukraine. We're focused on gathering information, providing analysis and logistical support to both rescue and resistance efforts. To help us do that, please consider a donation within your means.
#Ukraine: The Operational Command "North" of the Ukrainian army reported the capture of two Tornado-U Ural-63704-0010 6x6 Heavy utility trucks, which are a recent model.They are in fully functioning condition and as claimed were only made in 2021. https://t.co/7tWRU5n7xI The @FinancialTimes has put an immensely informative investigative video using interceptions of Russian radio conversations made by different groups, including ShadowBreak Intl. https://t.co/brWmPOxdO6TAPSTRI is not yet a 501C (3) non-taxable charity. All donations are considered GRANTS until such time as the non-profit status is awarded.
TAPSTRI, PO Box 295 Hudson NY 12534
Pegasus spyware used to infiltrate Downing Street network - report | Politics News | Sky News
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 14:40
Pegasus spyware is suspected to have been used to infect the 10 Downing Street network, researchers at Canadian internet security watchdog Citizen Lab have concluded.
A device connected to that network was infected using the spyware on 7 July 2020, according to a report on the research by the New Yorker.
The report added that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) tested several phones at Downing Street including that of the prime minister - but was unable to locate the infected device.
Image: The NCSC reportedly tested several Downing Street phones including that of the prime ministerIt said the nature of any data taken was never determined.
John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, told the New Yorker: "When we found the Number 10 case, my jaw dropped."
Another senior researcher, Bill Marczak, told the publication: "We suspect this included the exfiltration of data."
Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab, confirmed in a statement that in 2020 and 2021 it had "observed and notified the government of the United Kingdom of multiple suspected instances of Pegasus spyware infections within official UK networks".
These included 10 Downing Street and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Mr Deibert said the suspected infections relating to the FCO "were associated with Pegasus operators that we link to the UAE, India, Cyprus and Jordan".
Image: The spyware is made by Israel's NSOThe suspected infection at 10 Downing Street "was associated with a Pegasus operator we link to the UAE," he added.
According to the New Yorker, the UAE did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Sky News has contacted the NCSC and the FCO for comment.
A government spokesperson said: "We do not routinely comment on security matters."
Earlier this year, it emerged that the Foreign Office was targeted in a "serious cyber security incident" for which it paid contractor BAE Applied Intelligence £467,000 for urgent support.
Details of the incident or any damage caused were not made clear at that time.
An investigation last year found that the Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli surveillance company NSO, was used to target journalists, politicians and government officials in more than 50 countries.
NSO has repeatedly said that it is "not involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies".
CDC launches new center to forecast infectious diseases
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 14:15
FILE - This Nov. 19, 2013 file photo shows a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logo at the agency's federal headquarters in Atlanta. On Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, the CDC released new guidance stating that new mothers can breastfeed if they either have COVID-19 or suspect they have the virus. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
Posted at 4:31 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 16:31:51-04
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a new center that would forecast outbreaks of infectious diseases.
The agency announced Tuesday that the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA) would be like the National Weather Service but for infectious diseases.
The CDC said planning for the center began last August with the goal "to improve outbreak response using infectious disease modeling and analytics and to provide support to leaders at the federal, state, and local levels."
It plans to focus on enhancing the capability to make real-time decision-making to improve outbreak response using data, models, and analytics and to have a way to gain better access to data from state governments and hospitals.
Its initial funding of $200 million came from the 2021 coronavirus relief package.
It'll be housed at the CDC.
Copyright 2022 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Sign up for the Headlines Newsletter and receive up to date information.
U.S. to announce another colossal military aid package for Ukraine
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 14:05
WASHINGTON '-- The Biden administration is expected to announce another substantial security assistance package for Ukraine this week, five U.S. officials familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The package is set to be about the same size as the $800 million military aid package President Joe Biden announced last week, three of those officials said.
Earlier in the day, Biden confirmed that the U.S. will send more artillery to Ukraine. When asked whether he planned to do so, he paused and replied, "Yes."
The United States has already provided more than 50 million rounds of ammunition to Ukrainian forces. But as troops go through tens of thousands of rounds a day, and fiercer fighting is expected in the coming weeks, there is an urgent need for additional aid.
U.S. Marines with Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines fire the M777-A2 Howitzer down range during Integrated Training Exercise 2-15 at Blacktop Training Area aboard Camp Wilson, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 31st, 2015.
Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson | US Marine Corps
The need for more artillery was also raised Tuesday morning when Biden joined a secure call with more than a half-dozen world leaders, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to detail items in the upcoming weapons package during a briefing at the Defense Department, citing security concerns. Kirby said that the makeup of previous U.S. security packages comes "directly out of multiple conversations with the Ukrainians."
Among the weapons included in the $800 million security package announced April 13 were 18 howitzer artillery systems, the first known heavy artillery platforms of that caliber to be transferred to Ukrainian forces. The Pentagon also committed 40,000 artillery rounds, from both Army and Marine Corps stockpiles.
Kirby said U.S. service members would begin training a small number of Ukrainian troops on how to use the howitzers "in short order." Kirby added that the training would be conducted outside Ukraine.
US soldiers work on their vehicles at a temporary base installed close to the Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport, south eastern Poland, February 16, 2022.
Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images
The next security package will be the eighth such installment. It comes after U.S. intelligence assessments indicated that the Kremlin will soon focus its military might in eastern and southern Ukraine after weeks of stalled ground advances on the capital city of Kyiv.
In the past seven weeks, Russian forces on the ground in Ukraine have faced a slew of logistical problems on the battlefield, including reports of fuel and food shortages, as well as frostbite.
The Pentagon observed Russian forces carry out a limited offensive in the southwest of Donetsk and south of Izyum, a senior U.S. Defense official told reporters earlier Tuesday.
"We think these offensives are preludes to larger offensive operations that the Russians plan to conduct," said the Defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share new details from the Pentagon's assessment of the war.
The official said that the U.S. expects to send seven more military aircraft carrying security assistance for Ukraine in the next 24 hours.
Since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the Biden administration has deployed more than 100,000 U.S. troops to NATO-member countries and authorized $2.6 billion in security assistance. The U.S. has provided a total of $3.2 billion to Ukraine since the beginning of Biden's presidency, according to the White House.
In the weeks immediately following Russia's invasion, Western allies sought to draw a distinction between "defensive" and "offensive" weaponry, preferring to send Ukraine anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles than to provide more heavy artillery.
But as Russia's tactics have grown more brutal, with civilians increasingly targeted in what are likely war crimes, Western leaders have largely dropped the distinction between what is defensive and offensive. The shift is most visible on the battlefield, where increasing numbers of U.S. and European-made battle tanks, howitzers and aircraft are being deployed by Ukrainian forces.
After Twitter Rejects Musk Offer, DeSantis and Musk Team Up With A New Strategy - Chicks On The Right
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 13:18
OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Twitter has pushed by against entrepreneur Elon Musk's $43 billion cash offer to purchase the company by initiating a ''poison pill,'' a method of diluting Musk's shares in order to weaken his current standing.
Musk currently is the largest shareholder with over 9% of the company valued at roughly $3 billion.
ð¨ POLL: Is Twitter bias against conservatives?YES ð or NO ðReports circulating claim that Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida is stepping in to help Musk takeover the social media platform, which is accused of widespread censorship that fails to provide Americans with the basic right to free speech.
Musk has allies in ownership, which includes the state of Florida. The state is a shareholder in the company through the state's pension fund. Governor DeSantis has signaled that lawyers are currently looking into what actions he can take to thwart the Twitter board's ''poison pill'' effort.
DeSantis announced that a team of lawyers is currently reviewing how the state can hold the Twitter board ''accountable for breaching their fiduciary duty.''
Musk used this exact language on Twitter's platform, warning that the board may soon face legal repercussions for ''breaching their fiduciary duty'' to Twitter shareholders. Take a look:
If the current Twitter board takes actions contrary to shareholder interests, they would be breaching their fiduciary duty.
The liability they would thereby assume would be titanic in scale.
'-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2022
More on this story via Western Journal:
Musk's recently announced he would be attempting to purchase 100 percent of Twitter in a bid to create a true free-speech platform. Musk offered to buy Twitter in its entirety at $54.20 per share, a 54 percent premium on the shares' actual value. Twitter's board of directors '-- which has led the company to adopt numerous left-wing-biased censorship policies '-- has fought back'...
What Musk didn't mention at that time, however, was the fact that Ron DeSantis would be the one leading that charge.
''I don't want to expend resources just to kind of be able to send out a press release or something. I mean, we really want to feel like we have a solid theory to be able to win,'' DeSantis said, according to WJXT.
''But I can tell you just looking at it, most of the time the people I talk to would say if you're on the board in that situation, you really do need to sell. It's a massive return for your shareholders. I mean, most people and their investment vehicles are not making 20 percent in a year.''
DeSantis went on to claim that Twitter only rejected the offer because of differences in ideology.
If Musk was some crazed leftist hell-bent on censoring more right-wing narratives, would Twitter be rejecting his proposal?
Of course not.
''They know that he will not accept the narrative and that their little play toy of Twitter, it would not be used to enforce orthodoxy, and to basically prop up the regime and these failed legacy media outlets. And so that's why they did it. It was not, in my judgment, because it wasn't a good business deal,'' DeSantis said.
''They advertise as being open platforms. They advertise as you being able to express yourself and communicate with other people, and yet, their censorship decisions and deplatforming decisions are based on viewpoint discrimination.''
This new guide is designed to make climate part of TV and movies
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 12:48
We're already living with the reality of the climate crisis'--more than 40% of Americans experienced climate-related extreme weather last year'--but it's still rare that climate change appears in movies and TV shows. Between 2016 and 2020, according to a study that will soon be published, words related to climate showed up in only 2.8% of scripts.
A new guide written for screenwriters, Good Energy: A Playbook for Screenwriting in the Age of Climate Change, is designed to help change that. ''As a communications strategist, I'm just always looking for innovative and creative ways of talking about climate change that do move people at a hearts-and-minds level,'' says Anna Jane Joyner, founder and director of the Good Energy Project, who wrote the guide along with screenwriters after consulting with scientists, climate psychologists, activists, and more than 100 TV and film writers. Her organization also worked with the University of Southern California's Media Impact Lab on the study, which found that industry employees rarely use climate keywords in scripts. ''It wasn't showing up in any of the television and film I was watching, and I tracked it pretty closely. It started as more of a personal campaign: Why isn't this here? How do we change it?'' she says.
[Image: courtesy Good Energy]The playbook gives writers scientific background about climate and shares the history of how fossil fuel companies shaped the narrative about climate for decades, delaying any action through ''greenhouse gaslighting.'' It talks about climate psychology and how on-screen characters can help viewers process climate anxiety. The team worked with a climate scientist and world-building consultant from Marvel Universe to show two different possible futures, depending on how hot the world gets, and how a character might live in those worlds. It also shares more examples of real and imagined characters who could be used in stories, potential storylines, and examples of how climate can be incorporated into stories'--including subtle placement of solar panels or flooding in Miami.
''When you say 'climate storytelling,' a lot of writers and executives and others in the industry jump straight to Don't Look Up'--a whole show or season devoted to climate,'' Joyner says. ''Of course, we want more stories where climate is a big part of the plot driver and the character motivator. We also just want it portrayed in any story, in any genre . . . We're not asking everyone to stop what they're doing and write only climate stories. We're just asking writers to show that climate is now a part of our world in whatever way feels authentic to those characters' stories. And we want to help them do that.''
The guide puts it bluntly: ''If facts and data were going to save us, we would have fixed this shit long ago.'' We know what solutions work, it says'--what we need now is the political will to implement those solutions, and storytelling could be a powerful way to catalyze new policy, in the same way that TV shows helped build support for marriage equality. Joyner was inspired by Define American, another organization working to change how immigration is depicted in shows.
[Image: courtesy Good Energy]
[Image: Good Energy]Regularly depicting climate change in entertainment can help normalize talking about it. Three quarters of Americans are now concerned about climate'--from mildly concerned to deeply alarmed'--but only one in three talk about it in day-to-day life. ''It's creating this, like, very, very isolating feeling,'' Joyner says. ''We also know from research, including some research that we've done that we'll be releasing in the coming months, that we almost always underestimate how much those around us care about climate change. So we are freaked out personally, but we don't think the people around us are as freaked out.''
The nonprofit is meeting with industry executives to share the playbook and will officially launch it tonight at an event with screenwriters, directors, and producers at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Net loss: Fuel prices sink shrimp industry profits | MyRGV.com
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 12:46
For the Texas shrimp industry and the Gulf shrimp industry in general, it's been a long while since the good news has outweighed the bad for any length of time.
The pandemic, however, unexpectedly produced a rare silver lining last year in the form of higher prices for wild-caught Gulf shrimp. People were eating at home instead of going to restaurants, and they were reading the labels on the shrimp they bought, and they were choosing wild-caught product over less expensive farm-raised often enough to make a difference.
That's according to Andrea Hance, executive director of the Texas Shrimp Association, citing a study done for the TSA.
''Our sales through the retails outlets, the stores, actually increased,'' she said. ''That's originally what pushed our prices up, where they were before the fuel prices jumped up.''
A shrimper paints the crosstree of his shrimp boat at the Brownsville, Texas Shrimp Basin Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2022, where many shrimp boats are docked due to rising inflation and diesel fuel prices. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)The spike in the price of dockside diesel, exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, means about 90% of the Brownsville-Port Isabel fleet of about 145 boats is tied up in the basin rather than out in the Gulf, because fishing is currently a money-losing proposition, said Hance, who owns two shrimp boats with her husband, Preston.
''We've all done the math and based on what the prices are now, break even would be about $3.50 (per gallon),'' she said. ''And then coming down below that, like $3.00 or $3.25, it may allow us to make a little bit of money.''
Shrimp boats hold between 15,000 and 25,000 gallons of fuel, depending on the size of the tank.
''Right now that's anywhere from I think $70,000 to $100,000 to fill it up with fuel for 60 days (in the Gulf),'' Hance said. ''My pockets aren't that deep.''
The local fleet normally fishes Louisiana waters, since Texas doesn't open its shrimp season until July 15. Of the Brownsville-Port Isabel boats in the Gulf, likely half are headed back to port by now because they're running on low on fuel '-- less expensive fuel purchased before the spike, Hance said.
''One of our boats still has 9,000 gallons of the cheap fuel, and we're saving that before the season opens just to be on the safe side,'' she said. ''What everybody's kind of thinking right now '-- unfortunately we're not the most optimistic group '-- we just don't see anything that's going to cause those prices to come down. I hope I'm wrong.
''If they stay consistently high for the next several months, the problem with that is we're going to lose our crew, and that's a crisis on top of a crisis.''
A shrimpers uniform dries with the wind and sunlight at Brownsville, Texas Shrimp Basin Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2022, as many shrimp boats are docked due to rising diesel fuel cost for shrimp crews. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)The industry was already dealing with a shortage of experienced, qualified workers, but was coming off a decent year in 2021 in terms of high prices even if the season's harvest was average at best, Hance said. Then came the calamity of fuel prices.
''Preston and I are lucky with our two boats,'' she said. ''We have two captains that are financially secure for about six months. That's unusual. And then we have a rig man. He lives paycheck to paycheck, so he's already calling.''
Hance suspects that in the next month or so, as shrimp boat crew members unable to make a living max out their credit cards, they'll have no choice but to find work elsewhere since boat owners, especially smaller operators, won't be able to keep writing checks.
''That's unfortunate, because we're probably not going to be able to replace them, with their experience and all that,'' she said. ''If prices come down below $3.25 in the next week we might be OK. It's just going to be really tight. '... Certainly right now everybody's just kind of waiting to see what they're going to do.''
Hance is worried that she won't have a crew left by the time the Texas season opens ''because we can't pay our guys.''
''Personally we can't, and I can't imagine anybody else going much deeper than we have,'' she said. ''We turned into a bank. At some we can't afford to be a bank. We're in uncharted waters. Let's put it that way.''
Shrimp buyers, meanwhile, say they can't push Gulf shrimp prices much higher because no one will buy it '-- the law of diminishing returns, Hance said. And because boats aren't fishing, shrimp inventories have plummeted and buyers are snatching up what's left fast, she said.
For consumers, Gulf shrimp is pricey and getting scarcer. For restaurants, offering Gulf shrimp becomes no longer an option once it reaches a certain price point.
''I think that's where it's kind of headed right now,'' Hance said. ''Unfortunately we're not one of those industries that can just pass on the extra expense to our consumers, because they'll just stop purchasing that shrimp and go back over to the old farm-raised, especially restaurants. I can't blame them. They have to look out for their bottom line.''
High-end restaurants, rather than serving farm-raised shrimp, will simply remove shrimp from their menus until prices come down again, she said.
If and when fuel prices do come down enough that boats can make money again, then shrimp prices can come down a bit, making it attractive to consumers and restaurants again, Hance said.
''Good news doesn't last very long in this industry,'' Hance said. ''If you would have talked to me last year I would have been a little more optimistic.''
Hepatitis of 'unknown origins' spreads '-- RT World News
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 12:35
Cases of acute hepatitis in children have been reported in the UK as well as multiple EU nations
Multiple cases of acute hepatitis in children have been reported in Europe over the past few days, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement on Monday.
The UK was the first to report the issue and had accumulated the most cases to date, the watchdog noted. All the cases in Britain were ''presented clinically with severe acute hepatitis, with increased levels of liver enzymes,'' while some of the patients also ''reported gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting in the preceding weeks.''
''Following the reports of cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin by the UK Health Security Agency, additional cases in children have been reported in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Spain,'' the ECDC stated.
In addition, nine cases of acute hepatitis among children ages one to six have been found in the US state of Alabama, the watchdog said. The transatlantic cases have also tested positive for adenovirus and it was not immediately clear whether or not they are somehow related to the European outbreak.
The origins of acute hepatitis are still unknown and the ECDC along with local specialists are currently running various tests to establish the reasons behind the outbreak. ''Investigations are ongoing in all countries reporting cases. At present, the exact cause of hepatitis in these children remains unknown,'' the watchdog said.
A UK incident team investigating the cases has suggested that they might have been caused by ''an infectious agent or a possible toxic exposure.'' The investigators have already ruled out possibilities that the outbreak might be linked to coronavirus vaccines, since the children infected had little in common altogether.
''No link to the COVID-19 vaccine was identified and detailed information collected through a questionnaire to cases about food, drink and personal habits failed to identify any common exposure,'' the ECDC stated.
Poland declines to take or pay for more COVID-19 vaccines for now | Reuters
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:53
A doctor prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the University Hospital in Bialystok, Poland January 4, 2021. Agnieszka Sadowska/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comWARSAW, April 19 (Reuters) - Poland will not take or pay for more doses of COVID-19 vaccine under the European Union's supply contract, its health minister said on Tuesday, setting the stage for a legal battle with manufacturers.
Poland, along with other EU members, has been receiving COVID-19 vaccines during the coronavirus pandemic under supply contracts agreed between the European Commission and vaccine makers such as BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) and Pfizer (PFE.N) or Moderna (MRNA.O).
Poland's biggest supplier is Pfizer. However, the country has seen lower vaccine uptake than most of the European Union and has surplus vaccine stock, part of which it has sold or donated to other countries. read more
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com"At the end of last week, we used the force majeure clause and informed both the European Commission and the main vaccine producer that we are refusing to take these vaccines at the moment and we are also refusing to pay," health minister Adam Niedzielski told private broadcaster TVN24.
"Indeed, the consequence of this will be a legal conflict, which is already taking place," he said.
Poland cannot directly terminate the contract for the supply of vaccines as the parties to the contracts are the European Commission and manufacturers, he said.
The value of the contract for vaccine supplies to Poland up to the end of 2023 with one producer alone was worth over 6 billion zlotys ($1.4 billion), with over 2 billion zlotys of that for supply in 2022.
Pfizer said its agreement over the supply of its COVID-19 vaccine to European Union member states was with the EU Commission.
"Our discussions with Governments and the details of vaccine deliveries are confidential," it added.
Pfizer's partner BioNTech only said that Pfizer was in charge of the commercial relationship with Poland.
Poland, a country of around 38 million people, has reported 5,983,864 cases of the coronavirus and 115,809 deaths.
European Commission health spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker told a news conference on Tuesday that member states were bound by contractual obligations, but that it understood Poland's "difficult position".
"We continue to facilitate discussion between the Polish government and the company in order to find a pragmatic solution to this specific situation the country is confronted with," he said.
In Poland, 59% of the population has been vaccinated with two doses and 31% has received a booster shot. This is well below the EU average of 72.5% and nearly 53%, respectively.
($1 = 4.2868 zlotys)
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Editing by Susan Fenton and Ed Osmond
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Stand Up for Ukraine: Global campaign
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:47
The ''Stand Up for Ukraine'' global pledging event and campaign has raised '¬9.1 billion for people fleeing the Russian invasion, inside Ukraine and abroad, including '¬1 billion from the European Commission.
On top of that, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has announced an additional '¬1 billion in loan to cover the needs of the people displaced by the invasion.
US weapons for Ukraine disappearing into 'black hole' '' CNN '-- RT World News
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:42
Intelligence sources told CNN that American weaponry sent to Ukraine is difficult to track
The US government is scrambling to trace large quantities of ''lethal aid'' transferred to Ukraine's armed forces in recent months, officials have allegedly leaked to CNN, noting that intelligence agencies have ''almost zero'' ability to follow the shipments to their final end-users.
Though weapons shipped to Ukraine account for the ''largest recent supply to a partner country in a conflict,'' the White House is increasingly concerned the aid ''may wind up in the hands of other militaries and militias that the US did not intend to arm,'' a senior defense official told CNN on Tuesday.
''We have fidelity for a short time, but when it enters the fog of war, we have almost zero,'' said another source briefed on US intelligence, adding that the weapons fall ''into a big black hole, and you have almost no sense of it at all after a short period of time.''
Despite that ''blind spot'' '' which the outlet suggested is ''due in large part to the lack of US boots on the ground'' in Ukraine and the portability of many of the weapons provided '' the White House has ''factored in the risk'' that some American arms will go to ''unexpected places,'' another Pentagon official said.
Western estimates for Ukrainian casualties and other battlefield details also remain ''foggy,'' two intelligence sources added, meaning the United States and its NATO allies are often forced to depend on information from the government in Kiev, which they said is not always reliable.
''It's a war '' everything [Ukrainian officials] do and say publicly is designed to help them win the war. Every public statement is an information operation, every interview, every Zelensky appearance broadcast is an information operation,'' said another source familiar with Western intelligence, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Since Russia launched its attack on Ukraine in late February, Washington has provided more than $2.6 billion in military aid to Kiev and several billion more in humanitarian assistance, while President Joe Biden has sent a total of $3.2 billion since taking office in 2020. More than 100,000 American soldiers have also been redeployed to bolster NATO's ''eastern flank,'' while individual members of the military bloc have also offered billions in aid themselves.
As of Tuesday, the White House is reportedly mulling yet another major lethal aid package for Ukraine in preparation for a Russian assault on the territory claimed by the Donbass republics, after authorizing $800 million in heavy artillery, drones, armored vehicles, military helicopters and other gear just last week. The Pentagon has declined to detail what the next weapons transfer will include, however.
Mastodon officially comes to the Play Store
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:32
Let's just ignore all the other clients already in there
Unless you're a social media trendsetter. chasing down alternatives to the behemoths of Internet interactivity, you might not be familiar with Mastodon, the semi-popular microblogging alternative to Twitter first launched in 2016. Whereas Twitter is a centralized ivory tower that can issue bans on a whim and is subject to hostile takeover attempts from eccentric billionaires, Mastodon is built entirely on open-source software and consists of independent, user-managed servers capable of interoperating with each other. Despite being more than half a decade old, Mastodon had yet to release an app for another open-source platform '-- Android. Thankfully, that's finally changed.
ANDROIDPOLICE VIDEO OF THE DAYDue to its open-source nature, this isn't the first app that lets you tap into its network, but it is the first official client released by the Mastodon team (via XDA Developers). Although this social network doesn't have the 200-million-strong user base that Twitter has, the fact that it's open-source means you won't have to worry about a growing plague of ads, and your feed will always remain in chronological order. It comes at a strong time for Mastodon, too. After Elon Musk's initial investment in Twitter, Mastodon saw a spike in new users that's only likely to grow now that it's officially available to the billions of Android users worldwide.
However, this app does miss out on a couple of features included by other third-party clients. While notifications, search, and communities are here, you can't view local or federated timelines. Still, if a missing first-party app has kept you from trying out Mastodon and you want to give it a spin, the app is free on the Play Store and runs on Android 6.0 and above.
Android 13 might stop relentlessly killing your apps
About The Author
Daniel Allen (69 Articles Published) Daniel covers Android and tech news. He's been writing for over 20 years in newspapers, magazines, and websites. He's always on the lookout for what's new and cutting edge.
More From Daniel Allen
German government funds 'research' project that doxxed Libs of Tik Tok | The Post Millennial
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:26
The hit piece on the woman behind Libs of Tik Tok by the Bezos-funded Washington Post's professional victim Taylor Lorenz was based on a cyberstalking thread by an ex-Twitter employee who is working on a German-backed project.
Software developer Travis Brown, a former Twitter open source advocate per LinkedIn, unearthed Libs of Tik Tok's history on Twitter and posted a thread Saturday detailing information about the account's profile changes.
Lorenz cited Brown's series of tweets in her WaPo report published Monday doxing the woman who created the Libs of Tik Tok sleuthing persona.
Brown is working on an ongoing project with support from Prototype Fund, an organization that provides financial support to Brown's so-called "Hatespeech-Tracker." Protoype Fund is a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
Travis Robert Brown's Hassreden-Tracker is composed of his existing tools, such as cancel-culture, which Travis uses to track, stalk, dox, and harass those he has a personal vendetta against. You can see the hundreds of lists he's created here.https://t.co/3LZSFEivOB
'-- Pontic Steppe Dad (@PonticSteppeDad) April 19, 2022"We give those affected by online hate speech a tool to defend themselves," reads the Hatespeech-Tracker's project description on Prototype Fund's website.
Brown's open-source project "cancel-culture" on GitHub shows a compilation of data he has gathered to track, stalk, dox, and harass targets he has a personal vendetta against, according to an anonymous Twitter user who shared a website link that exposes Brown's bullying, cyberstalking, and online harassment tactics.
Hatespeech-Tracker builds on several existing open-source projects Brown is maintaining, including the cancel-culture project which he defines as tools for Twitter archiving, indexing, and block list management.
"Eight months later and we now have an archive of 35 million deleted tweets, mostly from the far right and their allies..." Brown tweeted in September.
Brown explained that his scraper crawls its way through "right-wing grifter / bootlicker Twitter" through the Wayback Machine, which archives links.
"If you ever need a record of a specific instance of harassment on Twitter ... hit me up'--there's a chance we have it indexed," Brown solicited in a follow-up tweet.
"What makes the story even more interesting is that Travis worked at Twitter. I'm speculating here, but we believe he has friends on the inside which is why his account has not been banned and his API access has not been shut off, despite clear violations and mass reporting," the Twitter user speculated.
If you're a journalist (a real one, not you Taylor), please pick up this story and reply here for more receipts (I'll DM you).If you want to report Travis:https://t.co/uAJAy3hNMa
'-- Pontic Steppe Dad (@PonticSteppeDad) April 19, 2022Brown's cancel-culture uses Twitter API with Elevated Access, according to the website unmasking Brown. "Use of this API requires signing Twitter's Developer Policy and Developer Agreement contract twice, as well as manually submitting an application describing the use of the tool and answering specific questions regarding where and how the data will be used," the site elucidates.
In the WaPo piece, Lorenz credited Brown with the effort to dox Libs of Tik Tok.
"Pro-tip: if you want to run a viral moral panic account for the worst people on earth and stay anonymous, maybe start from scratch instead of doing whatever the fuck this is," Brown tweeted Saturday. He included a snippet of code listing the previous screen names associated with the woman operating Libs of Tik Tok.
Brown had compiled over 100 deleted tweets by one of Libs of Tik Tok's old Twitter handles, according to Lorenz's report, using the cancel-culture generator.
The woman behind @libsoftiktok is ''holed up in a safe location'', fearing for her life. This is not the first woman who has feared for her life due to Travis Robert Brown's cyberstalking and incitement of harassment. pic.twitter.com/c1UZXWFDbr
'-- Pontic Steppe Dad (@PonticSteppeDad) April 19, 2022Libs of Tik Tok revealed Lorenz appeared at her family's homes Monday. Brown knows that his project has incited real-world stalking and harassment. He didn't express remorse for his actions. When a Twitter user asked Brown if it's okay that Lorenz appeared at Libs of Tik Tok's family residence to harass her relatives, Brown said that "it's part of the job" for journalists to knock on people's doors.
Negative 11 downvotes on Reddit for his defiant: "Can you be more specific about what you mean by this 'latest disgusting harassment wave'?"
'-- Pontic Steppe Dad (@PonticSteppeDad) April 19, 2022Brown has stated he is "not opposed to doxing in principle" and believes "it's an extreme tool for extreme cases of community self-defense."
Although he has claimed he's "never distributed any kind of list," Brown has provided Antifa accounts involved in career sabotage with data for doxing efforts.
One particular "deleted-tweets-archive" project includes datasets generated by Salish Coast Anti-Fascist Action based on Brown's coding. Its purpose is to "provide research material to researchers and others regarding threats to our communites" by targeting alleged "Nazis, fascists and other bad actors." The Post Millennial's editor-at-large Andy Ngo is named in the Antifa project's description as is The Post Millennial itself, which is falsely describes as a "far-right tabloids."
Lorenz is now claiming victimhood in the fallout of her doxing piece on Libs of Tik Tok. The Washington Post also lied, insisting they did not publish details about Libs of Tik Tok's personal life and defending Lorenz's journalistic standards.
Meanwhile, after the failed takedown, Libs of Tik Tok's popularity has skyrocketed.
Dutch Government to Shutter Groningen, Rely More on LNG - Natural Gas Intelligence
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:16
The Netherlands will rely on increasing liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports instead of counting on domestic gas production from the Groningen field to help replace Russian imports.
The Dutch government has decided against increasing output from Groningen, which was under consideration as a way for Europe to refill natural gas storage and displace Russian supplies.
''This is the last normal gas year for Groningen,'' said Jules van de Ven, spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. ''The field will remain available in case of emergency starting October 2022 with only a minimal flow'' of about 1.5 billion cubic meters (Bcm) annually, van de Ven said.
[ Want today's Henry Hub, Houston Ship Channel and Chicago Citygate prices? Check out NGI's daily natural gas price snapshot now . ]
''We're planning to permanently close down the field in either 2023 or 2024, meaning that production will be zero and all gas wells will be abandoned and cleaned up,'' he told NGI.
Europe has depended on production from Groningen for decades. It was once one of Europe's largest gas fields, reaching peak output of 88 Bcm in 1976. It was producing nearly 30 Bcm as recently as five years ago.
The field had been slated for closure this year after years of earthquakes, but a cold winter left Europe's storage inventories depleted and Russia's invasion of Ukraine stoked further supply concerns.
Difficult decisionA new coalition government was left with the decision whether to increase Groningen's gas output to help replace Russian gas imports after Dutch citizens were promised the Groningen field would cease gas production, given the earthquakes.
Dutch gas grid operator NV Nederlandse Gasunie supported the government's decision. Spokesperson Simon den Haak told NGI that news media reports suggesting Gasunie urged the government not to shutter the field next year were incorrect.
Gasunie advised the government not to ''further reduce the technical production capacity of the Groningen field considering the current geopolitical situation, but did not advise the government to maximize production in Groningen.''
The company suggested the government postpone refitting of the Grijpskerk storage site for one year as ''this would be beneficial for security of supply without needing to increase production volumes from the Groningen field,'' den Haak said.
Grijpskerk is an underground seasonal gas storage site for Groningen production. Dutch gas company Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV intended to close the storage facility at the end of 2021, in line with Groningen's decreasing output. However, the Dutch economy ministry has issued a draft approval for Grijpskerk to now store high-calorific, rather than the low-calorific gas that comes from Groningen production.
Gasunie plans to increase the import capacity of the Gate LNG import terminal in Rotterdam from 12 Bcm/year to 16 Bcm/year, den Haak said, reaching an agreement with Exmar for the lease of the 4-5 Bcm/year floating storage and regasification unit. The vessel is set to begin operating by the end of the year at the Port of Eemshaven in Groningen.
''Since the Netherlands is only 15% dependent on Russian gas imports, around 5- 6 Bcm/year, increasing LNG capacity will replace those volumes,'' den Haak told NGI.
Florida Senate Passes Bill to Eliminate Disney's Special Tax District - WSJ
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:13
Republican-led House expected to approve measure, as state takes aim at company's opposition to gender and sexuality legislation
Updated April 20, 2022 6:33 pm ETThe Republican-led Florida Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would eliminate a special tax district that allows Walt Disney Co. to govern the land where its theme parks sit, as lawmakers target the company for opposing legislation restricting classroom instruction on gender and sexuality.
The GOP-led House will likely vote to approve the measure Thursday. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who called for lawmakers to consider such a bill in a special session he convened this week, has made clear he would sign it.
Advertisement - Scroll to Continue
The Republican-led Florida Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would eliminate a special tax district that allows Walt Disney Co. to govern the land where its theme parks sit, as lawmakers target the company for opposing legislation restricting classroom instruction on gender and sexuality.
The GOP-led House will likely vote to approve the measure Thursday. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who called for lawmakers to consider such a bill in a special session he convened this week, has made clear he would sign it.
Losing the nearly 40-square-mile district near Orlando could be a major blow to Disney's Florida operations.
The special district, created in 1967 and known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, exempts Disney from a host of regulations and certain taxes and fees. It has allowed the entertainment company to manage its theme parks and resorts in the state with little red tape for more than 50 years.
It saves Disney tens of millions of dollars a year, according to a person familiar with the company's finances who studied the issue over a decade ago.
Advertisement - Scroll to Continue
On Wednesday, Disney declined to comment on the bill. A representative of Reedy Creek didn't reply to messages seeking comment.
Mr. DeSantis and GOP lawmakers have clashed with Disney over the company's opposition to the recently signed Parental Rights in Education law, which critics call the ''Don't Say Gay'' legislation. The measure prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity through grade three, and limits it for older students to material that is ''age-appropriate.''
Disney initially didn't comment on the legislation, but came under pressure from employees to oppose it. After it passed, the company pledged to push for its repeal and to fight similar bills in other states.
Advertisement - Scroll to Continue
Under the bill passed by the Senate 23-16 on Wednesday, any special district established prior to the ratification of the Florida Constitution in 1968, and not renewed since then, would be dissolved on June 1, 2023. Disney could seek to re-establish a special district after its dissolution.
Reedy Creek, which has a permanent population of about 50, as well as its own board of supervisors and fire department, allows Disney to construct new buildings and expand its parks without having to adhere to state or county regulations related to construction, wastewater management and drainage. It encompasses four theme parks, two water parks, a sports complex and hotels, stores and restaurants.
''You'll notice you never see potholes when you drive up to Walt Disney World. That's because Disney doesn't have to wait for the county to come fix them,'' said David Ramba, executive director of the Florida Association of Special Districts.
Advertisement - Scroll to Continue
''Reedy Creek is probably the most efficient local government in Florida, because it's not a typical bureaucracy. It's run like a business,'' he said.
If the bill is signed into law, responsibility for Reedy Creek's governance would likely fall to Orange County and to a lesser extent Osceola County, according to Mr. Ramba.
''Orange County Government is monitoring the special session in Tallahassee, particularly when it comes to unfunded cost shifts to local governments,'' Mayor Jerry Demings said in a statement. An Osceola County spokeswoman said the county is monitoring the legislation, but declined to comment further.
Advertisement - Scroll to Continue
Disney currently pays property and other taxes to both counties. In addition, the company, as the primary landowner at Reedy Creek, provided most of the $153 million in revenue from taxes and fees that the district collected in fiscal 2021. That money covers all of the district's governing expenses, including paying about 400 employees' salaries and servicing about $977 million in long-term bond debt that Reedy Creek has issued over the years.
If the district is dissolved, that debt would become the responsibility of the taxpayers in Orange and Osceola counties, Mr. Ramba said, but the counties would likely set up a new special taxing district in order to tie bond payments to the tax revenue produced by Disney's properties within Reedy Creek. Also, some of the taxes and fees Disney currently pays Reedy would go instead to local governments.
Walt Disney, the company's late founder, visited Florida secretly in the mid-1960s scouting land for a new theme park. When the company identified the plot that would eventually become Walt Disney World, he asked his brother Roy, who handled much of the company's finances, to lobby the state for a special district.
Walt Disney was unhappy with how the land surrounding the company's original Disneyland park in Anaheim, Calif., had been developed and in Florida, he wanted more control over the businesses that opened around the resort, said James Clark, a historian at the University of Central Florida who has studied Reedy Creek.
''Roy kept saying to him, 'Why are we buying 27,000 acres?' and Walt would reply, 'Don't you wish we had bought 27,000 acres in Anaheim?''' Mr. Clark said.
There would also likely be a messy negotiation about how to pay for Reedy Creek's municipal debt, Mr. Clark said.
''If taxpayers get stuck with the bonds, then the counties will be the big losers from this bill, and Disney loses a lot by losing the control they get from having Reedy Creek,'' Mr. Clark said. ''The only clear winner if this bill passes is Ron DeSantis.''
There are two other valuable benefits that Disney receives from the state that lawmakers haven't targeted in the current clash with the company. One is a $570 million tax break that Florida offered the company to move about 2,000 employees to the state. The other is an Orange County law that earmarks hotel room taxes in the county to promote tourism.
Disney employs nearly 80,000 people in the state, mostly at its theme parks and resorts. Tourism to the area contributes $5.8 billion in local and state tax revenue yearly when operating at full capacity, according to Visit Orlando.
Write to Robbie Whelan at firstname.lastname@example.org and Arian Campo-Flores at email@example.com
Delta, United and Alaska Airlines lift bans on some mask rule breakers
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:12
Some air travelers who were banned after breaking mask rules earlier in the pandemic may get a second chance to fly the friendly skies.
"On a case-by-case basis we will allow some customers who were previously banned for failing to comply with mask-related rules to fly United again '' after ensuring their commitment to follow all crewmember instructions on board," United Airlines said in a statement.
Roughly 1,000 United customers have been banned for breaking mask rules. Asked about the criteria for who gets to return and what repercussions may be in store for passengers who disobey flight crew again, United told USA TODAY, "We don't have anything additional to share on this, as we do not share specifics of our internal security policies and procedures."
WHERE ARE MASKS STILL REQUIRED?: What travelers need to know
DO AIR FILTERS DO ENOUGH?: What experts say about airplane filtration systems
Adam Jenne of Southwest Florida says he got banned after wearing a red thong as a face mask last December. He says he has worn women's underwear for masks on flights throughout the pandemic both to illustrate the absurdity of mask rules and because "no matter who you are or what side of the political spectrum you are on, it's funny!"
"Every time I wore it, it was met with laughter," he said, but not this time.
"The flight attendants basically told me to change my mask, and I politely refused and asked questions as to why my mask didn't meet the requirements," he said, noting the thong covered his nose and mouth. "I was peaceful about it. I'm not going to get into an alteration."
According to the federal mandate in place at the time, masks should also "fit snugly against the sides without gaps."
After getting escorted off the plane, he said, "I got an email later that day saying I was banned from future flight(s) on the airline ... until the mask mandate was over" and that he could appeal the decision if desired.
He hasn't heard from United, outside of fighting over a refund for another leg of his trip, but says he's not in a rush to fly the airline again.
"There's a lot of other planes going to the same destinations," he said.
IN-FLIGHT RUCKUS: Feds say unruly Delta passenger refused to wear mask, mooned flight attendant
BITING, HITTING, SPITTING: FAA proposes its 'largest-ever' fines against unruly passengers
Alaska Airlines will also give some its grounded guests the green light. The airline banned more than 1,700 guests over mask violations across the pandemic.
"Now that the mask policy has been overturned, guests who were banned solely for mask noncompliance will be allowed to purchase tickets on our flights," Alaska said in a statement via media relations manager Cailee Olson. "However, some guests whose behavior was particularly egregious will remain banned.''
Delta Air Lines said approximately 2,000 customers are on its mask no-fly list.
"With masks now optional, Delta will restore flight privileges for customers on the mask non-compliance no-fly list only after each case is reviewed and each customer demonstrates an understanding of their expected behavior when flying with us," said airline spokesperson Morgan Durrant. "Any further disregard for the policies that keep us all safe will result in placement on Delta's permanent no-fly list. Customers who demonstrated egregious behavior and are already on the permanent no-fly list remain barred from flying with Delta."
Nearly two-thirds of the 1,233 unruly passenger incidents recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration this year have been related to face masks. Many of those may have resolved without escalating physically but still have resulted in bans or fines under the FAA's zero-tolerance policy, which became permanent Wednesday.
The FAA and Transportation Security Administration are also working to strip fined passengers of TSA PreCheck privileges, but at present, there is no national no-fly list for unruly passengers shared across airlines.
"If people are out of hand and physical, I think you should always get banned from flying," Jenne said, noting that he was never fined as TSA agents later determined his "preferred mask" was in compliance.
But he thinks airlines "should probably extend an olive branch" to travelers who were banned over masks alone.
Southwest is sticking by its bans across the board, the airline said.
"Southwest's decisions to issue bans to unruly or disruptive passengers are unaffected by the court's recent decision," Southwest told USA TODAY.
USA TODAY reached out to every major U.S. airline as well as the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents Alaska and United flight attendants, to see where they stand on banned passengers and will update this story as details become available.
Dramatic moment Donald Trump storms off explosive Piers Morgan interview raging 'you're a DISLOYAL FOOL'
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:11
GRUMPY TRUMPY 16:00 ET, Apr 20 2022 Updated : 5:26 ET, Apr 21 2022 DONALD Trump stormed out of a world exclusive interview with Piers Morgan in a blazing row over the 'stolen' US presidential election.
The ex-President reached boiling point after Piers blamed Trump's refusal to admit defeat in the 2020 vote for last year's deadly riots at the Capitol.
Trump stormed out of an interview with Piers Morgan in a massive row over the 'stolen' US presidential election 5
Trump screamed that Piers Morgan was 'dishonest' and a 'fool' 5
Trump shocked the TV crew as he shouted: 'TURN THE CAMERAS OFF!'Trump screamed that his interviewer was 'dishonest', 'a FOOL' and barked at the shocked TV crew: 'TURN THE CAMERAS OFF!'
He also dubbed Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell 'stupid', and his former vice-president Mike Pence 'foolish and weak.'
The 75-minute interview will be screened on the launch show of Piers Uncensored on TalkTV on Monday at 8pm.
Trump and Piers have been friends for 15 years - but he was enraged by a series of critical comments the TV star has made about his conduct in office.
They clashed before the interview began, and again on camera.
Writing in The Sun today, Piers tells how the President stared at him with 'undisguised fury' and was 'almost foaming at the mouth'.
At one stage, the President snarled at him: 'What the f**k IS this?'
Trump said to Piers: 'You're not real. You're a fake.' To which Piers replied: 'No, I'm just brutally honest.'
Watch Piers Morgan Uncensored on Monday 25th April on Sky 526, Virgin Media 627, Freeview 237, Freesat 217 or on Fox Nation in the US. 5
Trump and Piers have been friends for 15 years 5
The former US president became enraged by a series of critical comments Piers Morgan had made Credit: GettyWe pay for your stories!
Do you have a story for The Sun news desk?
Court Orders Julian Assange's Extradition to U.S. - Big League Politics
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 11:04
Julian Assange's Extradition to U.S.''
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will likely be extradited to the U.S. from Britain following a decision by Britain's high court. Assange faces life in prison for felony charges under the Espionage Act in the U.S.
Assange has been serving time for years under cruel conditions in Belmarsh, a maximum-security prison in London, while fighting a U.S. extradition order. UK Home Secretary Priti Patel will need to sign off on the decision before it becomes final.
''16 months ago, this court decided that the extradition of Assange would pose a threat to his life, that it would be tantamount to a death sentence,'' WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said in response to the news.
''Now this court has decided to pass this death sentence. This is what happened here today,'' she added.
Assange's attorneys have until May 18 to make the case to the administration of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to refuse the extradition orders.
Big League Politics has reported on how federal authorities once plotted to assassinate Assange, which is an indicator that safety will be in grave danger if extradited to the U.S.:
''The Central Intelligence Agency considered plots to either kidnap or assassinate Australian journalist Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks in 2017, according to new reporting from Yahoo News published on Sunday.
Wikileaks' publication of information related to CIA hacking tools set off a renewed antipathy against the journalist within the intelligence agency. CIA personnel went so far as to ask for ''sketches'' or ''options'' for a possible assassination plot targeting Assange. The Wikileaks founder resided in the UK's Ecuadorian Embassy at the time as a means to evade arrest by British authorities.
Around the same time, CIA personnel were monitoring video surveillance footage of Assange associates and Assange himself, seeking means to disrupt Wikileaks by sowing internal discord within the organization.
Then-Trump administration CIA director Mike Pompeo was bent on revenge against Assange, siding with the US Deep State in an attempt to silence Assange's journalism. The United States continues to seek extradition of Assange after the United Kingdom arrested Assange on supposed violation of bail conditions. One British judge has already denied an extradition request, citing human rights concerns surrounding the US federal prison system.
The CIA's cavalier plans targeting Assange were ultimately shot down by Trump White House lawyers. Some CIA personnel concerned with the legality of kidnapping and assassination plots also brought the matter to the attention of members of Congress. The Department of Justice also worried outlandish plots to kidnap or assassinate Assange would ruin attempts to prosecute him for alleged involvement in plots to release classified information.
Assange is most known for exposing internal Democratic Party communications that revealed the party's 2016 presidential primary was rigged against Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton. Assange remains imprisoned at Belmarsh Prison in England on bail offenses, with the United States continuing to seek his extradition and prosecution under the Biden administration.''
Remember, President Donald Trump could have pardoned Assange before he was forced out of office. He instead chose to pardon rappers, drug dealers, and crooked associates. This is the legacy of the Trump presidency '' a fortified deep state and a much more hostile global atmosphere against freedom of information.
Support Big League Politics by making a donation today. You can also donate via PayPal, Venmo or donate crypto. Your support helps us take on the powerful and report the truth that the mainstream media wants to silence.
Julian Assange's Extradition to U.S. Our Latest Articles
China On The Verge Of A Major Food Crisis - Part 1 | ZeroHedge
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 03:34
By Eric Mertz of the General Crisis Watch Substack
A third of farmers in Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Liaoning report they can't get the necessary inputs to begin farming.
A worker transplants rice seedlings in China's Jilin province, where up to a third of farmers have insufficient agricultural inputs after authorities sealed off villages to fight Covid-19This report from the CCP administrations in those regions comes mere weeks before farmers were due to start planting, meaning they would at best miss the best time to plant - driving down yields - and at worst not be able to plant at all. The later seems likely, given the recent fertilizer shortage brought about by Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
The war in Ukraine will have a further impact for China, due to their reliance on roughly 2 million tons of corn from Ukraine each year, most of which is used as livestock feed for China's pig farms.
This disruption in corn to Chinese pig farmers comes as demand is increasing after three years of severe cuts due to African Swine Fever resulting in mass culling. Though its entirely possible China isn't out of the woods yet. Chinese pig farmers are reportedly losing $75 per hog slaughtered, as opposed to a profit of $175 per hog last year. This is extremely significant for Chinese nutritional health, as pork makes up over 60% of the average Chinese meat consumption at ~54 pounds per person per year.
The domestic situation is not helped by trucking volumes in rural areas dropping by 87% for the year. Vice-Premiere Hu Chunhua has already called on provincial authorities to adjust their Zero COVID policies to stop arresting farmers for working their fields during the lockdowns. This crisis seems to be driven by local officials implementing strict policies which results in truckers facing two-week quarantines. At a cost of ¥3360 ($556) for the 14 days spent in a camp, this amounts to half the annual average income for truck drivers in China. The situation linking rural areas to the cities aren't much better as major cities, and even entire provinces, shut down highway travel to prevent becoming another Shanghai. Beijing has ordered provincial authorities to implement priority passes to get long-haul truckers in to deliver goods, but it is likely too-little too-late.
Political InfightingTo make matters worse, the political infighting between former party leader Jiang Zemin's Shanghai Clique and Xi Jinping's Tsinghua clique may have just broken into the open. Vice-Premiere Sun Chunlan - the woman responsible for implementing China's COVID policy - has summoned a number of Shanghai officials before her to answer accusations of "lying flat". This comes after reports of party and local government mismanagement began to circulate on Western social media websites.
There have already been reports of assassination attempts against Xi in the past. And Xi hasn't left China since his state visit to Myanmar 822 days ago. In that time, he has purged top leadership of China's internal apparatus of oppression.
Now, with the 14th National Party Congress convening in March of 2023 - and with it the selection of the next President of the People's Republic of China - it appears Xi may be in a very real life-or-death struggle for control over the party.
However, these are not the only issues facing China. There is more to come.
Tinder screenshots continue to amuse and amaze with every swipe (30 Photos)
Thu, 21 Apr 2022 03:14
humor 0by: Jacob
In: Funny Pictures, Humor, Too True, WTF
1 hour ago01
Via Funny Tinder Screenshots on IGTrying to navigate the hellish world of dating apps is brutal, but it can be hilarious in its own way.
That's where the Instagram account Funny Tinder Screenshots comes in, and it certainly lives up to its name.
Like this post?0
Three people injured in riots in Sweden | Reuters
Mon, 18 Apr 2022 04:50
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comSTOCKHOLM, April 17 (Reuters) - Three people in the Swedish city of Norrkoping needed medical attention after being hit by police bullets during clashes between police and protesters following Quran burnings that caused riots in several Swedish towns over the Easter weekend.
In some places counter-protesters attacked police ahead of planned right-wing extremist demonstrations. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has condemned the violence. read more
"Three people seem to have been hit by ricochets and are now being cared for in hospital. All three injured are arrested on suspicion of crime," police said in an online statement, adding none of the injuries were life-threatening.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comSmoke billows from a burning car during a riot ahead of a demonstration planned by Danish anti-Muslim politician Rasmus Paludan and his Stram Kurs party, which was to include a burning of the Muslim holy book Koran, in Navestad, Norrkoping, Sweden April 17, 2022, in this handout image obtained by Reuters on April 17, 2022. Ulf Wigh/Wighsnews/Handout via REUTERS
Police said the situation in Norrkoping was calm on Sunday evening.
Police and protesters have been engaged in serious clashes during the past days where several police have been injured and multiple vehicles have been torched.
The violence began on Thursday after a demonstration organised by Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line. Paludan, who had permission for a series of demonstrations across Sweden during the Easter weekend, is known for Quran burnings.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Daniel Wallis
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng - Books on Google Play
Sun, 17 Apr 2022 16:55
"I was born in southern China in 1962, in the tiny town of Yellow Stone. They called it the Year of Great Starvation."In 1962, as millions of Chinese citizens were gripped by Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution and the Red Guards enforced a brutal regime of communism, a boy was born to a poor family in southern China. This family'--the Chens'--had once been respected landlords in the village of Yellow Stone, but now they were among the least fortunate families in the country, despised for their "capitalist" past. Grandpa Chen couldn't leave the house for fear of being beaten to death; the children were spit upon in the street; and their father was regularly hauled off to labor camps, leaving the family of eight without a breadwinner. Da Chen, the youngest child, seemed destined for a life of poverty, shame, and hunger.
But winning humor and an indomitable spirit can be found in the most unexpected places. Colors of the Mountain is a story of triumph, a memoir of a boyhood full of spunk, mischief, and love. The young Da Chen is part Horatio Alger, part Holden Caul-field; he befriends a gang of young hoodlums as well as the elegant, elderly Chinese Baptist woman who teaches him English and opens the door to a new life. Chen's remarkable story is full of unforgettable scenes of rural Chinese life: feasting on oysters and fried peanuts on New Year's Day, studying alongside classmates who wear red armbands and quote Mao, and playing and working in the peaceful rice fields near his village.
Da Chen's story is both captivating and endearing, filled with the universal human quality that distinguishes the very best memoirs. It proves once again that the concerns of childhood transcend time and place.