The Readers Have Spoken


Hundreds of Daily Pnut readers said “no mas” to a Sports Nuts section. Boy, are we glad we asked! The common refrain is we are the smart set, and we aren’t interested in ball kicking or ball throwing, and if we are, we will read about it elsewhere. On a more serious note, 18 Daily Pnut readers provided their reactions to Charlottesville. The responses run the gamut of the political and cultural spectrum and even included a comment from a reader across the pond. Readers, thank you for your feedback on both issues. Please read the Charlottesville responses here.


Two Terrorist Attacks in Spain: Fourteen people were killed and 100 injured late Thursday afternoon when a van swerved through a pedestrian walkway in Spain’s historic Las Ramblas district in downtown Barcelona. It was the country’s deadliest attack since 2004, when 192 passengers riding Madrid’s commuter trains were killed by al-Qaida-inspired bombers in coordinated assaults. The van driver in Thursday’s attack escaped, but two suspects were later arrested in the northern Catalan town of Ripoll and in Alcanar, where a gas explosion in a house is being investigated for a possible connection. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack. Early Friday morning police in the resort town of Cambrils, south of Barcelona, responded to a second terrorist attack in which five suspects carrying bomb belts  were shot and killed. Five civilians and a police officer were wounded in the second attack. Catalonia’s Interior Minister told a local radio station early Friday that the Cambrils attack was connected to the Barcelona attack, but did not elaborate further.As of this writing, three people had been arrested in connection with the two attacks.

Assad’s March to the East: Syria’s war has entered a new phase as President Bashar al-Assad moves east to capture areas that have been taken from ISIS. The war for western Syria, long Assad’s first priority, has slowed thanks to two ceasefires, including one organized by Moscow and Washington in the southwest. Backed by Russia and Iran, the Syrian government hopes to overtake US-backed militias as it attacks ISIS’s last major stronghold in the country, the Deir al-Zor region that extends to the Iraqi border. Assad’s move to the east has “underlined his ever more confident position and the dilemma facing Western governments that still want him to leave power in a negotiated transition.

There is no indication that the ceasefires will lead to peace talks aimed at putting Syria back together with a deal that would satisfy Assad’s opponents and resolve a refugee crisis of historic proportions. Instead, Assad’s face has been printed on Syrian banknotes for the first time, and his quest for complete victory may mean that he will try to destroy rebel pockets in the west once his goals in the east are accomplished. Assad will be helped by US President Trump’s decision to end CIA support to rebels that has weakened the insurgency the west. In addition, Iranian influence will likely increase and solidify in the country, as the numerous Shi’ite militias that have been essential to Assad’s gains are likely to remain in the country for the foreseeable future.


Is Radically Partisan News Coming to Local Stations?: Maybe. And you should be prepared if it does. Because Sinclair Media Group is the owner of the largest number of TV stations in the United States, and they make Breitbart look like left-wing sympathizers. A George W. Bush-appointed former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the top US broadcast regulator, said of the company: “Sinclair’s probably the most dangerous company most people have never heard of.

Operating pretty much under the radar, Sinclair has become the biggest broadcaster in the US, and with its right-leaning agenda and close ties to the Trump administration, the increasing concern is that it may have been allowed to unfairly skirt market regulations.In fact, if the FCC approves Sinclair’s $3.9 billion purchase of 42 more stations, it would be seen in almost 75% of American homes. Approval is likely, because Trump-appointed FCC head Ajit Pai has been busy relaxing protections for local broadcasting and moving swiftly to clear hurdles for Sinclair’s proposed takeover of Tribune Media –former owners of the illustrious Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. Unlike Fox News, which brands itself clearly and proudly as conservative, Sinclair is much more subtle. It is doubtful viewers will have any idea who owns their local news broadcasts, or that, for example, Sinclair “forces its local stations to run pro-Trump ‘news’ segments,” or that it mandates a “must-run” 10-minute political commentary by Sinclair’s chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump campaign spokesperson and member of the White House press office. Referring to Epshteyn’s contributions, the news and analysis website Slate said: “As far as propaganda goes, this is pure, industrial-strength stuff.


Move Over Silicon Valley, Across the Pacific Rivals Loom: The tech world’s “$400 billion-and-up club”—long just a group of exclusively American names like Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon—will have to to make room for two Chinese members. The Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings dominate their home market and are now both among the world’s most highly valued public companies. Alibaba and Tencent have exploded in China, the world’s single-largest internet market with more than 700 million online users. Soon, Tencent will be the only company in the world other than Facebook with a network of more than one billion users–its messaging app WeChat has 960 million monthly active users. Alibaba has more than 500 million monthly active users for its online shopping apps. Both companies are growing faster than Facebook and Alphabet (Google’s parent company).

The ascendance of Tencent and Alibaba is “emblematic of a rebalancing of global technological influence.” These two giants and other rapidly-growing Chinese start-ups and internet behemoths present the one true rival in scale, value, and technology to Silicon Valley (despite places from Paris to Seoul trying to claim that much-vaunted mantle). In Silicon Valley, some tech companies have even begun looking to their Chinese counterparts for ideas and innovation. However, it should be noted that Alibaba and Tencent owe a good deal of their success to China’s censorship of and strict limits on foreign tech firms, which have kept American giants such as Facebook and Amazon from breaking into the Chinese market.


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