The Backlash Against Techopolies Begins


2017 has been the year of technology company scandals (Uber, Juicero, Google antitrust, Bodega), and the hits keep coming. Yesterday, ProPublica revealed that anyone could have advertised on Facebook to target “Jew Haters.” This follows news of Facebook’s own disclosure that Russians spent $100k on Facebook that resulted in 3,000 ads that amplified “divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.” Here’s what some of those ads look like.

Peter Thiel, a Facebook board director and Trump’s most famous technology backer, supported Trump financially and also spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention. But it is very likely that the biggest boost he provided to Trump was way back in September 2004 when he first invested in Facebook.

Obama is said to have won the 2008 election because of his team’s savvy use of technology. It seems Donald Trump could have won the 2016 election because of the Russians’ savvy use of Facebook. Some estimates have it that 70 to 100 million Americans saw a Russian Facebook ad. People are not just frustrated about Russian ads on Facebook and Facebook’s lack of transparency around advertising, users are also rebelling. We predict that the Techopolies (Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft) will increasingly be seen “as sinister new centers of unaccountable power.” Perhaps the gilded age of tech is finally coming to an end.


Public Support In South Korea For Nuclear Weapons: President Moon Jae-in is totally opposed to redeploying US nuclear weapons in South Korea, warning of the potential of a nuclear arms race. Yet polls taken even before North Korea’s latest nuclear test show that 68 percent of South Koreans support reintroducing nuclear weapons, and 60 percent support developing nuclear weapons of its own. Now a senior delegation of Moon’s opponents is in Washington to make the case to the Trump Administration and Congress that such a move is necessary.

While the stated US goal on the Korean peninsula is complete denuclearization, proponents of putting nukes in South Korea say it would strengthen retaliatory capability in the event Kim attacks, thereby bolstering that deterrence. Plus the threat of South Korea going nuclear could push China to do more to rein in Pyongyang. Finally, since stopping Kim’s nuclear program appears impossible, putting nukes back in South Korea could be a bargaining chip for future negotiations.

Trump Visits Florida After Hurricane Irma: President Trump visited Naples, Florida on Thursday, praising both first responders and residents for doing an “incredible” job on rescue and recovery. He spoke with one survivor who was working to rebuild his house and handed out sandwiches to residents at a feeding station under a blue shade pavilion. Earlier in the day in Fort Myers, Trump also praised the state and local officials standing with him, which included Florida Governor Rick Scott, Senator Marco Rubio, and State Attorney General Pam Bondi, as well as FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “We’re with you today. We’re going to be with you tomorrow,” Trump said. “We are there for you 100 percent. This is a state that I know very well….These are special, special people and we love ’em.”


Yet Another Ultra-Super-Megawatt Dam Project in Africa. So We’re Trying This Again, Eh? The government of Nigeria announced a $5.8 billion contract to build the largest power plant in the country–the 3,050-megawatt Mambila hydroelectric power project. It will be constructed by a group of Chinese state-owned firms and will feature four dams between 50 and 150 meters tall and take six years to complete. The Chinese Export-Import Bank will finance 85 percent of the project, while the Nigerian government will contribute 15 percent. Despite being one of the largest economies in Africa, over 40 percent of Nigerians do not have access to electricity.

The project is primed for the obstacles that many large infrastructure projects in Africa encounter. The Nigerian government says that 100,000 people will be displaced by the project and has pledged to resettle and compensate them. Environmental groups such as International Rivers (which monitors the impact on local communities of large infrastructure projects around the world) have also raised concerns about the environmental and social impacts for those currently living along the banks of the Benue River. Investments such as the Mambila dam make good business sense for China, which is likely to gain from the deal (or easily absorb the losses in case of failure), while there is much higher risk for the Nigerian government.

  • China’s massive economic investment in Africa is a concern to many, but the United States’s history in Africa has some very dark moments, such as when it was a passive observer to the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
  • China’s power is on the rise globally, and no surprise here given economic might almost always translates to military and geopolitical power. But domestically it’s an uncertain time: “2017 is effectively an election year in China. In an authoritarian dictatorship, where one man/Party controls all levers of power, this makes it easy for the government to juice the [Chinese economy]. This is what has happened.”
  • Nation-state rivalries have become less arms races and more intellectual property and technology races, from clean energy sources to technology to artificial intelligence. It’s not surprising that China and Russia don’t want Google, Facebook, and Amazon to be major companies in their country.
  • Harvard, in with Chelsea Manning, and out with a former acting CIA director.
  • If you are an undocumented immigrant, you should think twice about staying at a Motel 6 (Anti-Sponsored Nuts), as they might provide the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities of your information and whereabouts.

War Is A Booming Business for Russia: When wars go on for years, it’s devastating for soldiers and civilians of the countries involved. But for arms manufacturers and exporters, it’s business that booms. Since the onset of the Arab Spring in 2010, the makers of ammunition, assault rifles, and guided missiles in the former Communist countries of Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have seen a major uptick in sales, particularly to Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Russia has been a major of benefactor of War, Inc. and is now the world’s second largest weapons exporter after the United States. Vladimir Putin’s government racked up sales of $15 billion last year, and just this month, finalized a contract potentially worth $2.5 billion to supply Turkey with air-defense missiles.


No Country for Undocumented Migrants: 12 undocumented migrants in Turkey wanted to go to  Romania but got on the wrong ferry and ended up at sea in Ukraine. Now, seven weeks later,  they’re locked three to a cabin, still at sea, and neither Turkey nor Ukraine will take them. And they’re getting a little testy. A spokesman for the Danish passenger ferry that the men mistakenly boarded said, “There has been a tendency to violence and aggressions and they have threatened to jump overboard … so there is no alternative to locking them inside the cabins.”


Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is likely to have never uttered the mantra “drain the swamp.” A millionaire many times over and former Goldman Sachs banker, he is said to have “requested the use of an Air Force jet on the couple’s European honeymoon this summer.” Louise Linton, his wife, is best known for doing an excellent Marie Antoinette impersonationNow, I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger.

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Daily Pnut Writers: Tim, Vanessa, & Penelope.

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