Ireland's data protection authority has fined WhatsApp Ireland €5.5 million for breaches of the GDPR relating to its service and told it comply with data processing laws within six months.…
A Republican lawmaker in North Dakota introduced a bill that would fine people $1,500 if they refer to trans people using their correct pronouns, rather than the pronouns they were assigned at birth.
The rule would apply to organizations that receive state funding—which includes public schools. That means schools and teachers could be fined for using their trans colleagues’ or students’ pronouns.
‘Words used to reference an individual's sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression, mean the individual's determined sex at birth, male or female,” states Senate Bill 2199. “Any person that violates this section must be assessed a fee of one thousand five hundred dollars.”
Republican state Sen. David Clemens introduced the bill, which has received basically zero support, according to local news station KFYR. In fact, the state’s senate judiciary committee recommended the bill shouldn’t pass, in part because it was poorly written and would be difficult to enforce. Still, the bill will move to the senate floor, and is a sign of just how emboldened many conservative lawmakers are getting in their crusades against trans and nonbinary people. In 2023, state governments have already tried to introduce some of the most draconian anti-trans bills yet, including an Oklahoma bill that would ban gender-affirming care for people under 26.
North Dakota is already the site of many proposed anti-trans bills, including bans on gender-affirming care and trans sports participation. SB 2199 is the latest example in a string of related proposed policies.
According to the bill, when a person’s gender identity is contested, the person’s deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, would be used to establish the sex and gender. As LGBTQ Nation reported, this could be referring to chromosomes, which are made up of DNA and proteins.
“We do not have ‘he’ and ‘she’ encoded into our DNA, and human biological sex is not binary. One would wonder how a bill like this would treat intersex people with nonstandard DNA profiles,” said transgender activist and researcher Erin Reed in her newsletter. “Would people be forced to submit to mandatory DNA tests in order to determine what pronouns we should use for them? The implications of this bill are absurd.”
SB 2199 “does not publicly outlaw an individual’s personal expression, but it does outlaw the use of public funds to promote or support anything that is contrary to a person’s biological sex at birth,” said Clemens while testifying to the judiciary committee in support of his new bill.
“Say they’re a boy, but they come to school and say they’re a girl. As far as that school is concerned in this bill, that person is still a boy,” added Clemens. “If it becomes contested, the burden will be on the girl, the so-called girl, or the boy, to prove that he is a girl.”
Clemens reportedly struggled to explain how his bill would be enforced, and when it would apply in the first place.
The Republican-led committee unanimously voted for a “do not pass” recommendation, and said it was poorly written and unenforceable. More than 90 people showed up to testify against the bill on Wednesday, local news reported. No one testified in favor.
“Respectfully, I see no way this law would pass any sort of legal challenge based on basic legal construction principles. It’s vague, fails to advance any legitimate state interests, and not only would cause impermissible, gender-based discrimination, its very purpose is gender-based discrimination,” Christina Sambor, a staffer representing the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, told the committee.
“If she were to have gone to a school that referred to her as he/him, we would have lost her much sooner,” Feldmann reportedly told Clemens. “Your bill will kill children. It’s important that you be aware of that.”
Clemens then proceeded to call Feldmann’s daughter a “boy” and “son,” and asked whether the family sought counseling “to bring her back to thinking that she was a boy.”
A copy of the U.S. No Fly List has leaked after being stored on an unsecure server connected to a commercial airline. The No Fly List is an official list maintained by the U.S. government of people it has banned from traveling in or out of the United States on commercial flights.
As first reported by The Daily Dot, a Swiss hacker known as maia arson crimew discovered the list on an unsecured Jenkins server one night while poking around on Shodan, a search engine that lets people look through servers connected to the internet.
“Like so many other of my hacks this story starts with me being bored and browsing shodan (or well, technically zoomeye, Chinese shodan), looking for exposed jenkins servers that may contain some interesting goods,” crimew said in a blog about the leak. “At this point I've probably clicked through about 20 boring exposed servers with very little of any interest, when I suddenly start seeing some familiar words. ‘ACARS,’ lots of mentions of ‘crew’ and so on. Lots of words I've heard before, most likely while binge watching Mentour Pilot YouTube videos. Jackpot. An exposed jenkins server belonging to CommuteAir.”
On the server was a large amount of company data about CommuteAir, including the private information about its employees. There was also a file containing a copy of a 2019 edition of the No Fly List. The list includes names and birth dates and more than 1.5 million entries, but many of those entries are aliases that all reference the same person.“It’s so much bigger than I thought it’d be,” crimew told Motherboard.
“TSA is aware of a potential cybersecurity incident, and we are investigating in coordination with our federal partners,” a spokesperson for the TSA told Motherboard.
The United States has maintained a No Fly List for decades, but its number was much smaller in the days before 9/11 and only contained 16 people. After the attacks and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the list rapidly expanded. The exact number of people on the list is unknown, and the leaked data is a few years old and contains multiple entries for a single individual, but recent estimates put the total number at somewhere between 47,000 and 81,000 people.
“It’s a perverse outgrowth of the U.S. police and surveillance state,” crimew said. “Just a list with no due process…mostly just based on them being related to someone or being from the same village as someone. It’s so massive. I feel like this has no place anywhere. I feel like this doesn’t solve the problem.”
crimew told Motherboard they weren’t shocked to stumble on an unsecured copy of the No Fly List. “I’ve been digging into various jenkins [servers] for a while and there’s just so much to find,” they said. “It was just a matter of time until I found something like this.”
CommuteAir said the leak happened because of a misconfigured development server. “The researcher accessed files including an outdated 2019 version of the federal no-fly list that included first and last name and date of birth,” it said. “Additionally, through information found on the server the researcher discovered access to a database containing personal identifiable information of CommuteAir employees. Based on our initial investigation, no customer data was exposed. CommuteAir immediately took the affected server offline and started an investigation to determine the extent of data access. CommuteAir has reported the data exposure to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and also notified its employees.”
Twitter was sued yesterday by a consulting firm that says it was never paid for work it did on the lawsuit that forced Elon Musk to complete his purchase of the company.
Charles River Associates (CRA) says it was hired by Twitter in August 2022, shortly after Twitter sued Musk over his refusal to complete their $44 billion merger agreement. Musk finally completed the purchase in late October after it became clear that he was likely to lose in court.
From August 15 to October 27, "CRA provided all requested expert consulting work and services to Twitter and its legal counsel in connection with the Musk Litigation and pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Contract," according to the lawsuit filed yesterday in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, Massachusetts. The lawsuit said that "Twitter has breached the Contract by failing to pay all of the CRA Invoices," which added up to $2.19 million.
The former president of the NYPD sergeants’ union pleaded guilty on Thursday to wire fraud for stealing over $600,000 from the union’s funds.
Edward Mullins, who served as the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) from 2002 to 2021, filed inflated expense reports to the union, requesting reimbursement for personal purchases and asking for more money back than the purchase’s price, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.
“Beginning in 2017, Mullins devised a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the SBA,” the press release states. “Mullins used his personal credit card to pay for meals at high-end restaurants and to purchase luxury personal items, among other things, and then submitted false and inflated expense reports to the SBA, representing that his charges were legitimate SBA expenditures when in fact they were not.”
“Mullins also inflated the costs of his meals—whether SBA-related or not,” the release continues. “For example, if the actual cost of a meal was $522.55, Mullins would seek reimbursement from the SBA for $822.55 and pocket the difference. Mullins would also take personal expenses like supermarket bills and claim them on his expense reports as SBA-related meals for which he also sought reimbursement.”
Mullins’ grossly overstated expense reports were then paid for by the SBA’s Contingent Fund, which the union’s around 13,000 members fund with annual dues.
The SBA did not respond to a request for comment.
Mullins, 61, was widely considered a controversial figure in New York City during his tenure at the SBA. He, among other police union chiefs, proudly endorsed Donald Trump in the 2020 election. He was docked $32,000 worth of vacation days for using slurs in offensive tweets against city officials and leaking former NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter’s arrest records. He also shared a 15-minute video calling Black people “monsters” with thousands of fellow officers, writing in an email that it was “the best video [he’d] ever seen telling the public the absolute truth.” For this, he has since apologized multiple times.
Mullins was asked to resign from his position by the SBA Executive Board in October 2021, after the FBI searched his offices and his home in Port Washington, New York. At the time, the scope of the federal investigation was unclear, but the board determined that due to the severity of the situation, it would be best for him to step down, according to a message sent to members. He was charged in February 2022 with one count of wire fraud.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the NYPD’s communications office wrote, “He retired from the Department in 2021.”
Mullins pleaded guilty before District Judge John G. Koeltl, and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 25. He has already agreed to forfeit $600,000 to the U.S. government as part of his plea agreement, to make up for the money he stole from the union—the maximum possible sentence he could receive is 20 years in prison.
“Edward Mullins promised to look out for the thousands of hard-working NYPD Sergeants who are members of the SBA,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, who oversaw Mullins’ case, said in a statement on Thursday. “Instead, as admitted today in federal court, he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from them to fund his lavish lifestyle. Thanks to the hard work of the FBI, Mullins’s betrayal has been exposed, and he now faces jail time and significant financial penalties.”
Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) maker Wizards of the Coast's (WotC) latest attempt to update its decades-old Open Gaming License (OGL) still includes the controversial statement that "the Open Game License 1.0a is no longer an authorized license." The news comes after the company's first attempt to draft an OGL update with similar language (and other controversial changes) was met with widespread fan outrage and alienation from the creator community.
WotC says this proposed "deauthorization" of OGL v1.0a won't affect any original content that was published under that earlier license since its debut in the early '00s and that such content won't need to be updated or relicensed to comply with any new OGL language. But any content published after the proposed OGL v1.2 goes into effect would not be able to simply choose the earlier license instead, according to the update as drafted.
In an explanatory post on the D&D Beyond blog, WotC Executive Producer Kyle Brink said that WotC realizes this planned deauthorization is a "big concern" for the community. But he added that it's a necessary move to enforce the new OGL's restrictions on illegal and/or hateful content, including "conduct that is harmful, discriminatory, illegal, obscene, or harassing," as determined by WotC.
"Long-standing" can apparently mean "tomorrow" at Elon Musk's Twitter, as the company has changed its developer agreement to seemingly justify its banning of third-party clients. The change happened two days after a vague tweet about "enforcing long-standing API rules" without pointing to any.
As noted by Internet sage Andy Baio, a text comparison (diff check) of Twitter's developer agreement between the effective dates of October 10, 2022, and January 19, 2023, shows only one change besides the effective date: a new line added to the section "Restrictions on Use of Licensed Materials." The addition restricts the ability of developers to:
c) use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications;
With that, Twitter put an end to an era, one in which third-party clients not only coexisted with Twitter's official app—originally based on Tweetie, an early third-party app itself—but often introduced and drove new features. Twitter's official apps and its website are now the only reliable ways to access the service.
Intel appears to be casting doubt on previous proposals to build a chip factory in Italy, as the company plays off European countries against each other for the privilege of hosting its production facilities.…
This content comes from the latest installment of our weekly Breaking the Vote newsletter out of VICE News’ D.C. bureau, tracking the ongoing efforts to undermine the democratic process in America. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.
Lies and the seats
GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, talking about Jan. 6, last month: “If Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, we would’ve been armed.” Greene, Tuesday: “It will be my honor to serve my constituents and the American People on the House Committee on Homeland Security to focus on the security of the United States.”
Greene’s knack for racism, antisemitism, and conspiracy theories got her kicked off her committee assignments in early 2021 with the support of all Democrats and 11 Republicans in the House. After that, she grew fond of gloating to reporters that GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy had not only promised to restore her committee assignments when he became speaker, but that those assignments committees would be even better than the ones she had lost.
Marjorie Taylor Greene was exactly right. McCarthy gave her everything she predicted he would.
Greene also got a spot on the powerful Oversight Committee, a made-for-TV panel where many of Republicans’ coming investigations will originate. She’ll be joined by her partner-in-boosting-white-nationalism Rep. Paul Gosar, and frenemy Rep. Lauren Boebert. It’s the latest example of what McCarthy’s limp into the speakership proved: the Republicans who did the most to promote, and in some cases organize, Trump’s attempt to illegally cling to office now have more power than they did two years ago.
We accept you, one of us!
Meanwhile, Anthony Devolder George Devolder Anthony Zabrovzky Kitara Ravache GADS Rep. George Santos, is officially a GOP House member in good standing after receiving two committee assignments from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. An outcast during his first few days in the Capitol, Santos seems to have found his clique in the GOP conference. Imagine, the MAGA caucus eager to accept an undeterrable, scamming liar. Go figure!
- Knave Navarro
Former Trump trade advisor and charitable cause Peter Navarro will have to stand trial at the end of the month for defying his subpoenas from the Jan. 6 committee. A federal judge ruled Thursday that Navarro hadn’t backed up his claim that former President Donald Trump had asserted executive privilege over his testimony. Navarro tried a bunch of other tactics to get his case dismissed but Judge Amit Mehta shot them all down.
Now Navarro has to face a contempt trial similar to the one that could soon land Steve Bannon in prison. Bannon is appealing his conviction while also awaiting trial on a multimillion fraud and money laundering rap in New York.
- A Proud sedition
The government’s case against five Proud Boys for seditious conspiracy and more got underway this week. Filmmaker Nick Quested, who also testified at the Jan. 6 committee was called, and the jury saw his now-famous documentary footage of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio meeting with Oath Keepers founder (and convicted seditionist) Stuart Rhodes in a Washington, D.C. parking garage on Jan. 5.
While the jury was out, prosecutors played a clip from the meeting video where someone can be heard saying, “It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. We just have to do it strong, fast, together.” That sparked a dispute between prosecutors and defense attorneys because it’s not clear who’s speaking, and the defense argued the shocking statement could prejudice the jury. Prosecutors never played it for them.
Jurors also heard from a Secret Service agent assigned to Veep Mike Pence, and US Capitol Police who tried to hold back the MAGA mob.Solomon Peña, who has been accused of "masterminding" a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of Democrats after losing an election he denies he lost. (TWITTER/SOLOMON PENA FOR NM)
Better collar Sol
Trumpist Republicans who’ve lost elections vent their fury in all kinds of ways: stealing voting equipment, threatening election workers, convening a violent mob to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Solomon Peña compensated for his 48-point loss in a 2022 state House race by allegedly getting people to shoot up the Albuquerque homes of elected Democrats he didn’t like.
Peña is being held without bond after appearing in court for the first time Wednesday. Prosecutors say Peña, a former felon who attended several Trump events including the Stop the Steal rally before the Jan. 6 riot, refused to concede his loss, then paid a bunch of dudes to target the homes of four area Dems. A witness puts Peña in the car with an AR-15 on one of the assaults, though his gun jammed. “We have a significant amount of evidence. We’re very confident,” Bernalillo County DA Sam Bregman told CNN.
“Hang ‘em until dead!” Peña wrote on Telegram last year after hearing claims of voter fraud in Nevada.
On one hand, the charges tell a story of a conspiracy-addled weirdo steeped in right-wing disinfo, who luckily didn’t succeed in hurting anyone (though came close to hitting a 10-year-old girl.) They’re also another (and another) reminder of how green-lighting and praising political violence quickly normalizes it.
But here’s the chef’s kiss: Peña’s alleged plot is so egregious that the MAGA conspiracy theorists he believes in most are hanging him out to dry as a false flag infiltrator sent to make their movement look bad.
The big Lycoming
In rural Lycoming County, Pa., stolen election delusions manifested themselves in a less violent, though still incredibly silly, way. Officials there spent three days and hundreds of hours on a hand recount… of the 2020 election.
Local Republicans, convinced that Donald Trump’s Pennsylvania loss couldn’t really have happened, pressured county officials into staging the recount of 60,000 ballots. In the end, both Trump and Joe Biden lost a few votes from the official machine-counted tally. Trump carried Lycoming by more than 40 points. The recount netted him a total of eight votes.
Newly-minted Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen campaigned on a platform that mixed Stop the Steal disinformation with antisemitic theories like the one about George Soros plotting to register liberal voters. So as soon as he took office this week, Allen made good on a campaign promise: He removed Alabama from the non-profit and bipartisan Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a 30-state consortium that matches voter data and other data so states can keep their voter rolls clean.
ERIC was started and staffed by officials from across the political spectrum. But Allen’s pledge to leave it was borne entirely of right-wing propaganda falsely claiming that Soros founded and funded it. Even Allen’s GOP predecessor said that was a lie. In reality, ERIC works to identify voters who’ve died, moved, or become ineligible so that states don’t duplicate registrations.
Algorithm and blues
The January 6 committee chose not to say much about social media companies’ role in spreading violent rhetoric and incitement, preferring to focus on Donald Trump and his direct role in the coup plot instead. But a 122-page memo released by the committee lays out some stark bottom lines.
Read all about how social media platforms in general failed to anticipate or closely moderate violent and extremist rhetoric once the November, 2020 election was over, giving extremists including Trump valuable running room in spreading increment. And while Elon Musk’s “Twitter files” have tried to make a case that company executives worked to silence Republicans and help Democrats, the committee found the opposite. Twitter’s leaders and content moderators scrambled to accommodate Trump’s rule-breaking and false rhetoric for fear of reprisals from him and backlash from conservatives.
And while we’re on the topic of Trump’s tweets, the disgraced former president reached new depths with a Mar-a-Lago documents-related rant on Truth Social Wednesday, calling the FBI “Gestapo” who planted documents on him and trying on a new misdirection about how he just liked to collect classified cover sheets (the very same ones that are are evidence he knew he was holding classified documents.)
Which is all to say… great news! Trump is soon to be back on Twitter and Facebook after using those platforms to attempt a coup!
“We’re not done.” — Lawyer Karen DiSalvo, after helping force a hand recount of 2020 election results in Lycoming County, Pa. this week that yielded a net eight votes out of 60,000 for Donald Trump.Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference outside federal court in New York, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.(Jefferson Siegel/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Milwaukee sewers — Wisconsin Dems are calling for the ouster of a Republican statewide election official who gloated about how GOP tactics successfully suppressed people of color from voting. Robert Spindell, who sits on the Wisconsin Elections Commission (and was also a fake elector for Trump!) crowed in an email that Republicans “can be especially proud” that turnout in Dem-heavy Milwaukee was down, with “the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.”
Spindell has defended his comments, and his praise for the GOP “Negative Black Radio Commercials” that he credited with helping Republicans in Milwaukee. Keep in mind: this isn’t a brazen elected official with a constituency who’s voted for him. He’s a member of the Wisconsin body that’s supposed to oversee free and fair elections.
MAGA gate — We already know some of the MAGA world characters and coup plotters who streamed through the White House gates to meet with Trump and his staff as the zero hour of Jan. 6 approached. Sidney Powell, Jeffrey Clark, Rudy Giuliani, Patrick Byrne and others all show up in reporting and in the pages of January 6 committee report. But want to know if anyone YOU know is among the huge crowd? Take a searchable tour through the pre-insurrection White House visitor logs!
This is USSS — Unfortunately the ship has sailed on the two days of text messages from Jan. 5 and 6 that the U.S. Secret Service (definitely accidentally) erased. But now a government watchdog group is suing to get records of the agency’s communications with Oath Keepers before the insurrection. The recent trial that convicted Oath Keepers founder Stuart Rhodes and others of sedition produced testimony that Rhodes, Ariz. GOP state Senator Wendy Rogers, and other Oath Keepers were in contact with the Secret Service before the insurrection.
Bragg Stormy hour — America’s worst TikToker and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen met for 2 1/2 hours with Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s team this week. Cohen is back because the DA is taking a fresh look at the hush-money payments Cohen admitted to paying Stormy Daniels after her encounter with Trump. Cohen famously displayed checks Trump wrote to him reimbursing for the payments, including one written while he was president. There’s potential fraud, money laundering, or campaign finance violations here. Bragg is also reportedly still interested in the criminal side of the insurance fraud case that got Trump sued by the New York AG.
FROM THE GUARDIAN
FROM THE ATLANTIC
Former President Donald Trump has angered large parts of his base by taking credit for the COVID-19 vaccine roll out and dismissing their concerns about the vaccine’s safety.
Trump called in to the alternative right-wing network Real America’s Voice this week, and host David Brody raised the issue of the COVID vaccine being unsafe, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which warned last week that a safety monitoring system had flagged that the shot could be linked to a type of brain stroke in older adults. Regulators in the EU and Israel have since said there is no evidence to prove this link.
Brody then asked Trump if he would effectively back up conspiracies claiming the vaccines are not as safe as regulators first claimed.
But rather than leaning into the claims that vaccines are unsafe—as he has done for decades—Trump instead touted the number of lives saved by the fast roll out of the vaccine.
“You have many reports that say the vaccines saved tens of millions of lives and without the vaccines you would have had a thing like we had in 1917,” Trump said, likely referring to the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Trump also took credit for getting the FDA to fast track the approval process from “maybe 5 or 12 years” to just nine months. He also baselessly claimed that “some say that I saved 100 million lives worldwide,” even though there is no evidence to suggest anyone ever made such a claim.
Trump’s comments quickly riled up the anti-vax community, which has a large overlap with his own base.
Among those to blast Trump for his latest comments supporting the COVID vaccine was Ed Dowd, an author who has spread disinformation related to the pandemic, including a book that baselessly linked sudden deaths to the COVID vaccine.
“Unfortunately, Trump is still hanging his hat on this vaccine,” Dowd told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in an interview Thursday, adding: “That guy needs to get off this asap or he’s done.”
Jones replied: “He’s almost autistic when it comes to admitting he’s wrong.”
One of the loudest voices speaking out against Trump this week was Tracy Beanz, a right-wing talking head and one of the earliest promoters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, who said the former president’s defense of the vaccine is unacceptable and that he should be aware of the conspiracy theories about it being linked to death.
“This is a very serious issue for me,” Beanz tweeted on Thursday alongside a video of Trump’s comments. “I can’t look past it. By now there is no reason he shouldn’t know what is happening. Hate me if you want. I can’t look past this.”
The vast majority of the almost 2,700 responses to Beanz’s post agreed with her claim that Trump’s defense of the vaccine roll out meant they could no longer support him.
Stew Peters, a popular right-wing podcast host and conspiracy theorist who has produced several unhinged anti-vax films, also weighed in: “Millions have been maimed and murdered,” he falsely tweeted. “This is 100% disqualifying in my book.”
This is not the first time Trump has riled up his base by expressing support for vaccines. But as his 2024 campaign kicks into gear, his desire to tout what he perceives as his achievements during his term in office will run head first into the conspiracy theories that many of his followers believe.
On Telegram, where some of his most extreme supporters spend their time online, there was a similar reaction.
“Trump’s just as culpable and every time he continues to push it, more and more want him sitting next to Fauci and Gates at NUREMBERG 2.0,” one member of a popular QAnon channel wrote.
Another user said people need to take action and demand Trump issue a new statement denouncing the vaccines.
“Everybody in this movement needs to demand Trump denounce the vaccines,” one Telegram user wrote. “Everybody should be hounding him on all social media. If there’s a rally there needs to be chants. See him walking into his building in New York and yell at him to denounce the vaccines.”
But of course, because this is Trump, there are always supporters willing to suspend disbelief and create an alternative universe where he is still their hero.
In QAnon channels, Trump supporters worked hard to outdo each other with increasingly implausible explanations for why the former president was defending the vaccine, from suggesting that Trump was playing a complex long game to claims he approved the vaccine to protect the world from a deep state bioweapon.
“Trump used Project Warpspeed to prevent the dark winter that would ultimately bring us into the great reset,” one follower wrote, adding: “Quick vaccine = The Greater good,” Another claimed that “the vaccines under Trump were different than the vaccines under Biden.”
Other claims Trump’s dismissal of safety concerns about the vaccine was just a ploy to catch those who are not truly loyal to him.
“Everyone’s turned on him after yesterday,” one Telegram poster wrote. “Trump is master at this, weeding out the rats… just watch.”
Others went deeper down the conspiracy rabbithole. “It was a DARPA bioweapon made in 2012…it was the military not Trump who made it. He had it released early so they couldn’t keep us locked down until 2030 while they killed us with other viruses.”
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If there was any doubt that Tesla CEO Elon Musk knew the company's much-watched 2016 self-driving demo was staged, emails obtained by Bloomberg should lay that to rest. "Just want to be absolutely clear that everyone’s top priority is achieving an amazing Autopilot demo drive," Musk wrote in an email. "Since this is a demo, it is fine to hardcode some of it, since we will backfill with production code later in an OTA update."
Musk saw little wrong with this strategy, saying, "I will be telling the world that this is what the car *will* be able to do, not that it can do this upon receipt," he wrote. But instead of making this clear, the video, released to the world via Musk's Twitter account, opens instead with white text on a black background telling the viewer that "the person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons. He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself."
Musk took to Twitter on the day of the video's release to tell his followers that the car could read parking signs, and it knew not to park in a disabled spot. He also claimed that someone could use the "Summon" function on a car parked on the other side of the country.
In the months leading up to the trial of Genaro García Luna, the highest-ranking Mexican law enforcement official ever to face charges of narco-corruption in the United States, federal prosecutors made it sound like they had a mountain of evidence. Court filings described more than 1.2 million pages of documents, thousands of recordings, and a roster of cooperating witnesses who could potentially testify about delivering multi-million dollar bribes.
But now, with opening arguments in the trial set to start Monday, the high-stakes case hardly seems like a slam dunk. In a ruling handed down Thursday evening, Judge Brian Cogan—who also presided over the trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán—delivered a blow the prosecution, restricting some types of evidence from being heard by the jury and revealing the names of several likely cooperating witnesses, some of whom appear to have major credibility issues.
Cogan’s ruling, first reported by VICE News, referenced cooperators (former high-ranking cartel members who cut deals with U.S. prosecutors to testify in exchange for reduced sentences) who were allegedly involved in acts of cannibalism, along with another who has expressed beliefs in aliens, witchcraft, and the Illuminati.
The judge also granted a request by the defense to block evidence of García Luna’s “expensive lifestyle” after he left the Mexican government in 2012 and moved to Miami, where he worked as a private security consultant, lived in a waterfront mansion, had access to a yacht, and enjoyed other trappings of luxury. Cogan ruled that prosecutors had so far failed to present any proof that García Luna’s lifestyle was “financed with cartel money.”
García Luna’s attorneys, Cogan said, will be allowed to show the jury photographs of the defendant meeting with high-level U.S. officials during his time leading the Mexican equivalent of the FBI from 2000 to 2006, and later during his tenure as Mexico’s secretary of public security, which ended when he left office in 2012. The defense has said García Luna interacted with former President Barack Obama, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the late Sen. John McCain, along with former directors of the CIA, FBI, and DEA, among others.
On the flipside, Cogan ruled that the defense will not be allowed to tell the jury about all the ways top U.S. officials have publicly praised García Luna over the years. To present that evidence, Cogan said, García Luna would have to call the officials—who are now presumably less effusive in their praise now that he’s under indictment—to “testify as character witnesses,” which would then make them subject to cross-examination by the government.
Prosecutors still have no shortage of ammunition to use against García Luna. Once hailed as a hard-charging “supercop” willing to take out cartel bosses by any means necessary, Cogan’s ruling confirmed the identities of several potential cooperators who might have firsthand knowledge of García Luna’s alleged corruption. The list includes the brother of Sinaloa Cartel leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who previously testified during El Chapo’s trial that he once handed García Luna a briefcase stuffed with more than $3 million cash.
Another potential cooperator named in Cogan’s ruling is Edgar Veytia, the former attorney general for the Mexican state of Nayarit. Nicknamed “El Diablo,” Veytia was arrested while attempting to cross the U.S. border in 2017 and later sentenced to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges he “used his official position to protect drug trafficking activities.”
But Veytia is potentially problematic as a witness. Prosecutors had sought to prevent the defense “from asking Veytia about adverse credibility findings by various arms of the federal government and the related decision not to offer him a cooperation agreement,” indicating the Department of Justice—which is currently prosecuting García Luna—had found him to be unreliable. Cogan ordered the government to “produce all materials in its possession concerning Veytia’s credibility.”
Cogan’s ruling also mentions Alex Cifuentes-Villa, a Colombian cocaine trafficker who was once close to El Chapo. Cifuentes-Villa helped prosecutors convict the former Sinaloa Cartel kingpin in 2019 by testifying against him. He faced an aggressive cross-examination by El Chapo’s lawyers, who highlighted inconsistencies in his statements to U.S. investigators. More troubling was what jurors were not allowed to hear: That Cifuentes-Villa allegedly helped procure child prostitutes that El Chapo allegedly drugged and raped.
Cogan precluded jurors from hearing that evidence, deeming it too prejudicial and unreliable. The judge also blocked defense attorneys from questioning Cifuentes-Villa about his previously stated beliefs about aliens and the Illuminati. García Luna’s defense will be similarly limited, Cogan ruled, because such questions ”would distract the jury, confuse the issues, and waste time.”
Cifuentes-Villa is hardly the only potential cooperator with a disturbing past. Cogan’s ruling includes a sub-section entitled “Cannibalism.” The individuals involved are not named, and Cogan barred the defense from asking about “prior acts of cannibalism” during the trial, writing that such questions would be “highly inflammatory and distracting.”
One other potential witness identified by Cogan’s ruling is Sergio Villarreal Barragán aka El Grande, a former high-ranking member of a cartel called the Beltrán Leyva Organization now serving time in the U.S. prison system. Also on the list is Miguel Arriola Marquez, another major Mexican trafficker sentenced in 2010 to 20 years in prison after federal prosecutors in Colorado linked him to smuggling several thousand kilos of cocaine worth tens of millions of dollars.
During jury selection this week, prosecutors indicated the case against García Luna will hinge almost entirely on the testimony of these ex-cartel operators.
“This is a cooperator case, that’s what this is,” prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy said at one point. Komatireddy also told the court that “the evidence of this case consists of witness testimony.”
This is all they could come up with?
Prosecutors may have dealt themselves a tough hand if cooperating witness testimony is indeed the only card they have to play against García Luna. Several jurors, including two who were chosen to sit on the 12-person panel that will decide the case, expressed skepticism about the credibility of ex-traffickers who have cut deals with the government.
One juror, an older man, used the word “dirty” to describe cooperating witnesses on a questionnaire he was required to submit to the court. Asked by the court to explain what he meant, the man replied: “Plea bargaining, reduced sentences, I think that’s what they’re doing… It’s self defense, I guess.”
García Luna’s attorney, Cesar de Castro, declined to comment. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is prosecuting the case, also declined to comment.
Bill Purpura, one of the attorneys who represented El Chapo during his trial, told VICE News that García Luna appears to have a much stronger defense than his former client. Purpura said García Luna’s lawyers will likely attempt to portray him as “basically a hardworking cop who’s now in the crosshairs of these cooperators.”
“In other cases they’ve had wire intercepts and everything else they had against Chapo—I would list all the things they don't have and emphasize what it’s coming down to is cooperators,” Purpura said. “With all this time the government had to make their case and all their power, this is all they could come up with?”
OpenAI reportedly hired workers in Kenya – screening tens of thousands of text samples for sexist, racist, violent and pornographic content – to help make its ChatGPT model less toxic.…
Former Russian president and current deputy chairman of the Kremlin’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, told the world that Russia losing its war in Ukraine might lead to a nuclear war in a Telegram post on Thursday. This is what nuclear experts call nuclear blackmail. America has tried it several times in the past and it never quite works out the way the politicians making the threat think it will.
"The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war may trigger a nuclear war," Medvedev said in his post, according to a translation from Reuters. "Nuclear powers have never lost major conflicts on which their fate depends."
When Russia first escalated its war in Ukraine almost a year ago, the Kremlin thought it would be marching through the streets of Kyiv in a few days. That didn’t happen. Instead, casualties are mounting, the Kremlin can’t seem to equip or train many of its troops, it's using ancient ammunition, and Russian military bloggers who once fawned over Putin have started to criticize him. Russia is being humiliated on the world stage, doubling down on the occupation of east Ukraine and a war in Ukraine that may take years and tens of thousands of lives.
The United States is no stranger to this humiliation, and is a fine example for how an arrogant nuclear power can lose a war without using its nuclear weapons. It has fought long, pointless, devastating conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq that the world now widely agrees were foolhardy and disastrous. It spent 20 years in Afghanistan and lost the war. During the entire time it was there, only President Trump made even vague allusions to using nuclear weapons to win. In the end, the U.S. didn’t use its most powerful weapon and instead ate the loss at the cost of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, and many more civilian casualties in the countries it occupied. It took the loss because the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons is so strong that even the most powerful country in the world would rather be humiliated on the world stage than drop a few bombs capable of causing world ending devastation.
Moscow has repeatedly rattled the nuclear saber during its war with Ukraine. In February of 2022, Putin announced he was putting Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert. In a September speech following the official and illegal annexation of east Ukraine, Putin accused the West of Satanism and promised to use nukes if NATO threatened Russia’s territorial integrity.
The U.S. also threatened to use its nukes to settle disputes that had no business going nuclear. It’s a feature of nuclear powered countries. In 1950, President Harry Truman said the use of atomic weapons was on the table for the Korean War. He later said he was being rhetorical, but the use of the bomb in the conflict was a hot topic. Truman’s talk wasn’t empty either. The weapons were moved close enough that the military could, if authorized, use them.
After Truman left office, former general Dwight D. Eisenhower took over the presidency. He, too, threatened to use nuclear weapons on China. First, in 1953 as a means of bringing the country to the negotiating table over Korea. Then again in 1955 when China seized a group of islands in the Taiwan Strait.
Some members of America’s military leadership wanted to use nukes to turn the tide in Vietnam during the 1960s and ‘70s. Plans were drawn up and generals pushed the president to issue public threats, but both Kennedy and Johnson demurred. Nixon did want Hanoi and Moscow to think he would drop a nuke, but all three presidents avoided using nuclear weapons to get out of a humiliating defeat in southeast Asia. Any one of these presidents could have dropped a bomb to win some kind of victory. None did.
Russia needs to learn from America and know how to lose without using nuclear weapons. Better yet, it can learn that invasion and occupation should be avoided in the first place.
Most Americans are struggling to find cheaply-priced eggs and other groceries, but their options for where to buy them have also been shrinking over the years.
A study published on Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health looked at data from 50,000 households collected between 2008-2020, looking at trends in household food purchases by type of store. What they found is that a smaller share of food purchases are being done at grocery stores, and a growing amount of food is bought at dollar stores, as well as larger shopping centers and department stores.
While dollar stores are still nowhere close to the share of household food purchases of grocery stores, they drew particular alarm from researchers because of the rate at which they’re growing and their lack of fresh food options. Researchers said dollar stores, “offer foods that are mostly packaged, shelf-stable, higher in calories, and lower in nutrients.”
According to the study, households spent an average 62.3 percent of their food budget in traditional grocery stores in 2008, which decreased to 58.3 percent by 2020. Most of that difference was made up by club stores like Costco, which require a membership and where customers typically buy in bulk. Their total share of Americans’ household food budgets increased by 2.4 percent. This was followed by supercenters (think Walmart) which increased their share by 1.5 percent, and dollar stores, which increased their share by 1 percent. While that might not sound ominous, researchers said “dollar stores were the fastest growing retail channel,” for food purchases, with an 89.7 percent increase between 2008-2020.
The trends varied by region: Southern households spent the most on food in dollar stores, households in the West coast spent the least. And “rural non-Hispanic Black” shoppers spent 11.6 percent of their food budgets in dollar stores, the most of any demographic group in the data
The growth was more pronounced in rural areas, where Dollar Stores increased their share of household food purchases by 102.9 percent. Much of that growth was attributed to two large chains, Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which owns another large chain, Family Dollar). Dollar General alone opened 1100 retail locations last year and plans to open another 1050 this year. An analyst told The Wall Street Journal in December that dollar stores thrive in rural areas because “They really can outcompete the local grocer in a smaller market.”
“On the one hand, dollar stores may challenge and force out local grocers through competitive pricing, leaving consumers with limited, less-healthy food options,” one of the study’s authors, Wenhui Feng, Tufts Health Plan Professor of Health Care Policy wrote Motherboard. “On the other hand, in some places, local grocers may not have enough business to support maintaining a store, or that grocery stores’ consolidation may leave residents with less food options. In these cases, dollar stores may be the only option in terms of food access.”
When supercenters began taking over a larger portion of peoples’ food budgets, there was a similar concern about a lack of healthy food options, Feng said, but, “Over the years, as supercenters offered a larger variety of foods, such concerns subsided.”
Dollar General claimed to have more physical locations than any other retail outlet in the U.S, according to a December earnings call. Facing criticism for taking advantage of food deserts, Dollar General’s CEO said that the chain already sold fresh produce in 3,000 of their over 18,000 stores, and plans to up that number to over 10,000
According to Forbes, a big reason more consumers are buying their groceries at dollar stores is their ubiquity, which factors into costs of living: residents who may prefer grocery stores can’t afford the gas costs if they have to drive 20 miles to a grocery store, but there’s a dollar store nearby. There is a Dollar General within 5 miles of 75 percent of the U.S. population, according to Forbes. The outlet said Dollar General uses an algorithm to propose new locations, which takes into account population density and traffic patterns.
Some cities have been cracking down on the expansion of dollar stores, concerned about growing food deserts.
The City of Birmingham, Alabama banned new dollar stores opening within one mile of an existing one. They also allocated $500,000 to spur the development of new grocery stores. Forth Worth, Texas requires new dollar stores to be at least 2 miles from an existing store and requires that they devote 10 percent of their floor area to fresh food. Dekalb County, Georgia established a moratorium on new dollar stores that has been in effect since December 2019. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, there are also restrictions on dollar stores in Kansas City, Kansas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Akron, Ohio; and Oklahoma City and Tulsa in Oklahoma.
Leigh Hurwitz is Coordinator of School Outreach Services at Brooklyn Public Library.
Over the last eight months, 6,000 teens from all 50 states took a bold step to defend our civil rights: they applied for a library card.
In April 2022, for National Library Week, my colleagues at Brooklyn Public Library and I launched Books Unbanned. Responding to a dramatic increase in book challenges and bans in school and public libraries, almost half of which were targeting young adult titles, we offered a free national teen eCard, giving access to our collection of half a million eBooks and eAudiobooks to anyone ages 13 to 21. We asked teens to email us about their experience with censorship. The results were both sobering and hopeful. I know because I read nearly every one.
An overwhelming number of the teens who wrote to us are the real-life counterparts to the characters depicted in challenged and banned books. “I am queer,” they wrote. “I am black.” “I live in a rural state.” “I am gay and live in Mississippi.”
According to PEN America’s September 2022 report Banned in the USA, the two categories of books targeted most frequently bans in schools were those with LGBTQ themes, protagonists, or prominent secondary characters, and those with protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color. Of all banned books, 40 percent were intended for a young adult audience.
These aren’t just your garden variety “think of the children” responses to books. The challenges come from well-organized conservative groups attempting to erase entire communities. Banning books is just one tool in their arsenal.
According to the PEN America report, an estimated 40 percent of bans are tied to proposed or passed legislation—like the Parental Rights in Education bill, better known as “Don’t Say Gay,” and the Stop the Wrongs to Our Parents and Employees (Stop WOKE) Act in Florida. The sharp spike in book bans corresponds with an alarming uptick in anti-trans legislation, with 155 bills being proposed across 23 states in 2022 alone. These include proposals that seek to ban trans youth and young adults from using the correct bathrooms, playing in school sports, and accessing gender-affirming healthcare.
When a Black student can’t read about their own history or the social movements currently in progress, or when a trans student can’t experience the affirmation brought on by seeing themself authentically, or even joyfully, portrayed in a book, it is a fracture that has a long-term impact on their well-being and their understanding of the world around them.
“Books on topics such as race and sexuality are quickly disappearing from our shelves, often to an extreme degree,” wrote one teen. “Earlier in this school year, a book about Rosa Parks was temporarily banned in my county and the government is at war against educating students about critical race theory.”
Another important thing I learned from reading these emails is for many teens, accessing books of any kind can be difficult. Underfunded libraries in rural areas may have limited hours or be too far to visit on a regular basis.
Some teens have fines, and their borrowing privileges are blocked. Trans teens who don't have IDs with their chosen names avoid the library since they would have to use their deadname to get a library card, possibly outing themselves.
Others are currently unhoused and unable to apply for a library card because they lack the required identification. Still, they are determined to read. "I run into many issues trying to get into different public libraries due to me being a foster kid…I would like this email linked to the digital BPL account if I can get one," wrote one teen.
We read thousands of letters from teens who wished to read books but could not. Teens with print disabilities or who are neurodiverse need audiobooks, or eBooks with accessibility functions like OpenDyslexic type, a special font style which helps make text more legible to people with Dyslexia. Patrons with disabilities should have the same reading options as those who are nondisabled, but many libraries do not have the funds to provide them.
We also heard from teens who did not feel safe being seen with books about anti-racism, sexuality, or trans narratives; for them, requesting and borrowing digital books is a lifesaver. One teen, who had recently come out, found their library card blocked by family members. Others said at school, they were often victims of racial slurs or physical assaults and simply were afraid to go out, even to the library.
When you can’t safely leave your house (or stay in it), when you lack access to books, you cannot fully participate in public life. And that should concern everyone. When our neighbors have access to information and education, we all reap the benefits of a stronger community and more vibrant culture.
Like other members of my team, I read the notes, often hundreds at a time, on nights and weekends, on top of my regular responsibilities as BPL’s coordinator of school outreach services. Some of the letters were hopeful, like the thirteen-year-old who was starting a book club “to stand up to discrimination” and wanted a card for every member.
But there were times when after reading so many pain-soaked refrains, I needed to step away. Still, I always returned because it was an honor to be trusted with their stories and because these young people were counting on us, often writing at great personal risk.
“It may save another kid's life because reading saved my life a few years ago when I was struggling the most with my identity,” said one teen.
I also took to heart that teens have allies in every corner. We heard from educators, pastors, family members and neighbors wanting to help the young people in their lives get a library card.
While having access to one’s own history is important, it is as critical to connect with the present and with all of the possible futures. The removal of books is ultimately a tool designed to discourage young people from building a more just future. We must summon all of our power to ensure the necessary ingredients for imagining that future remain close at hand.
After surging 28 percent in 2022, foundry revenues are set to plunge over the next 12 months as wafer demand slows, inventory consumption slumps, and geopolitical conflict drives chip designers out of China, according to Trendforce.…
Welcome to Edition 5.24 of the Rocket Report! I have a blurb about this below, but for me the news of the week is that SpaceX not only launched a Falcon Heavy rocket, but two other Falcon 9 missions on separate coasts as well in just five days. The operational challenges of this are immense and, I think, underappreciated outside of people directly involved in this kind of work.
As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.
ABL updates on RS1 failure. On Wednesday ABL Space Systems provided an update on the January 10 failure of its RS1 launch vehicle. Long story short, the first stage of the vehicle suffered a "complete loss of power" at 10.87 seconds into flight, leading to a simultaneous shutdown of all nine of the vehicle's main engines. The rocket impacted the ground about 20 meters from the launch site. "Approximately 95 percent of the vehicle total propellant mass was still onboard, creating an energetic explosion and over-pressure wave that caused damage to nearby equipment and facilities," the company said.
Google is to lay off 12,000 employees amid something of a pandemic reckoning for technology companies that recruited heavily in recent years and are now facing harsh realities of a cooling economy.…
Vinesh Phogat is a name to reckon with in India. The 28-year-old is the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. She comes from an illustrious wrestling family in northern India that inspired a Bollywood movie, and her numerous victories at international wrestling competitions have galvanised a growing generation of women wrestlers in India.
This week, Phogat stood up for the women she’s inspired and joined dozens of wrestlers—both men and women—in the Indian capital New Delhi for a protest against systemic sexual abuse of young women athletes, allegedly at the hands of coaches and the president of the Wrestling Federation of India.
The federation chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, is from India’s powerful ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and has run the organisation for nearly a decade—despite being a suspect in four open murder cases.
“Some coaches in women’s camps sexually exploit women athletes and also groom them to be sexually exploited by our top chief [Singh],” Phogat said at a press conference during the protest on Thursday evening. “We’ve been hearing stories [of sexual abuse] ever since Singh became the chief. At least 100 women [must have gone through this].”
“Even if my career ends, I have a home and food to eat,” Phogat continued. “But I don’t want this next generation of athletes to go through this pain. We’re here to save wrestling and women.”
The protesting wrestlers are also adamant that the identities of survivors should not be revealed until they’re ready.
“We will release the names soon, but I personally know at least 20 girls who recounted their stories to me at national wrestling camps,” Phogat said. “But they don’t want to come forward because they don’t come from privileged backgrounds and aren’t powerful enough to fight.”Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh (C) arrives to address a press conference in Gonda on January 20, 2023, following allegations of sexual harassment to wrestlers by members of the WFI. Photo: AFP
These latest allegations of sexual abuse and mistreatment in Indian sports have rocked the country, but this isn’t the first time. A 2020 news report found 45 sexual harassment complaints registered at the Sports Authority of India in the past 10 years, 29 of which were against coaches. A 2019 government report on women empowerment stated that cases of sexual harassment in sports could be higher and, “many times, cases against coaches also might have gone unreported.” It further added: “The committee finds it quite unfortunate that the mentor and guide himself (is) turning the predator.”
The wrestlers’ protests are a rare act of public resistance against sexism in Indian sports. In India’s deeply patriarchal society, women often deal with negative attitudes and discrimination in their pursuit of sports. Many from underprivileged backgrounds rely on Indian government-owned sports facilities and organisations, which are riddled with nepotism, scams and corruption.
Phogat added that the accused are “so powerful” she doesn’t know if she will be alive or not after speaking out. The wrestlers say they will protest until Singh is removed and replaced with someone “safe”.
“There are people in the state wrestling associations too that have links with [Singh],” another wrestler, Bajrang Punia, said at Thursday’s press conference. “We want the [body] to be dissolved and restructured.”
India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has sought a response from the wrestling federation by Sunday on the allegations made by wrestlers.
Singh, a former wrestler himself, hit back against the accusations on Thursday, saying he’s ready to “hang” himself if they’re true, and won’t quit with the tag of a criminal. On Friday morning, he issued a statement calling the protests a “political conspiracy” that he will soon expose.
Singh is also an active part of India’s Hindu nationalist movement and has a police case against him for his part in the demolition of a historic mosque in 1992 by a mob who claimed—without proof—that there was a Hindu temple underneath. Singh has been involved in violence over the years, and was arrested for harbouring underworld gangsters in the 1990s. Despite this, he continues to run at least 50 educational institutes across northern India and has immense political clout.
On Friday, in a letter submitted to the Indian Olympics Association, the wrestlers stated, “It has taken a lot of courage for us wrestlers to come together and protest against [Singh].”
“We fear for our lives.”
Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter.