Joe Camel The Influencer

MAY 13, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE



“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”

– Truman Capote




Russia’s War Against the Rest: Elections for the European Parliament will be held soon — May 23 to May 26. Behind the scenes, a multitude of websites and social media accounts linked to Russia and other copycat far-right groups have been hard at work, replicating the Kremlin’s 2016 US election interference by spreading disinformation and encouraging discord and distrust in decades-old centrist governing parties. EU investigators, academics and advocacy groups say fringe political commentary sites in Italy bear the same electronic signatures as pro-Kremlin websites, while two German political groups share servers used by Russian hackers who attacked the Democratic National Committee.

Researchers found numerous groups echoing Russian talking points, evidence of a clear and continuing Kremlin-driven effort to widen political divisions and weaken Western institutions despite indictments, expulsions and recriminations. Also clear is that, to date, online policing efforts by American technology companies have been unable to halt the spread of false information and divisive stories about the EU, NATO, immigrants and more. Investigators point to ubiquitous conspiracy theories relayed on Twitter and WhatsApp, including that last month’s Notre-Dame cathedral fire was the work of Islamic terrorists, a spy agency, or an elite cabal that secretly runs the world. “The goal here is bigger than any one election,” a former FBI analyst and Senate investigator said. “It is to constantly divide, increase distrust and undermine our faith in institutions and democracy itself. They’re working to destroy everything that was built post-World War II.”

US intelligence officials have not publicly accused the Kremlin of backing specific candidates in Europe in the way American authorities say Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to promote Donald Trump in 2016. But dividing the EU has long been a goal of Putin’s, as has supporting populist movements seeking to undermine the bloc from within. Since 2016 Facebook has hired thousands of people to work on security and elections, including at a new hub in Dublin to coordinate oversight of Europe’s elections. The effort has resulted in the removal of almost 3 billion fake accounts. In October 2018 Facebook, Twitter and Google agreed to a voluntary code of conduct for limiting the spread of disinformation on their EU platforms. But critics say tougher laws and penalties are still needed.




Big Talk Or Big Tariffs?: US-China trade talks ended unsuccessfully Friday, and negotiators said they expected retaliation after President Trump ordered tariffs on $200 billion Chinese imports raised from 10 to 25 percent. Saturday the president tweeted: “the only problem [with China’s approach to trade talks] is that they know I am going to win (best economy & employment numbers in US history, & much more), and the deal will become far worse for them if it has to be negotiated in my second term. Would be wise for them to act now, but love collecting BIG TARIFFS!” Observers have suggested that Trump doesn’t seem to understand the economic impact of tariffs, that they are actually taxes businesses absorb by passing them along to consumers in the form of higher prices on goods. Beijing retaliated for previous tariff hikes by raising duties on $110 billion of US imports, slowing customs clearance and stepping up regulatory scrutiny, which hurts American businesses and farmers who export goods to China. (Guardian, NYT)

South Africa’s Election Results: As predicted, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa and his governing party, the African National Congress, held on to power in last week’s dual parliamentary and legislative elections. The ANC garnered roughly 58 percent of the vote, while opposition parties — the Democratic Alliance and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters — picked up 21 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The ANC’s overall share of the vote decreased from previous elections amid widespread corruption scandals within the party, and a sluggish economy. The country’s unemployment rate hovers around 27 percent, and several million eligible South Africans simply did not register to vote. (NPR)

Four Score And Seven Threats Ago: President Trump has upped the military ante in the Persian Gulf by sending in the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command region, an area that includes the Middle East. National security adviser John Bolton said the move was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” He didn’t provide details, but said the US wants to send a “clear and unmistakable” message to Iran that “unrelenting force” would meet any attack on US interests or those of its allies. The Trump administration has been intensifying a pressure campaign against Iran, but many critics are cautioning against assuming a pugilistic posture and rushing to ratchet up tensions in the area. They note that Trump has surrounded himself with hardliners in his administration who have openly called for bombing Iran and carrying out regime change, and warn of the possibility of a military confrontation being engineered through provocative action. (Reuters, Independent UK)

Joe Camel The Influencer: Cigarette maker Philip Morris International, Inc has suspended a global social media ad campaign using young online personalities to market its new “heated tobacco” device, after Reuters sent photographs and marketing posts containing the hashtag “#IQOSambassador” to the company for comment. The hashtag tied the international tobacco giant to a network of social media influencers it was relying on to brand the IQOS as a safer alternative to cigarettes, and a sexy fashion accessory. Included was a paid post plugging the tobacco product by online influencer Alina Tapilina in Moscow – who listed her age as 21 on Instagram – alongside some seductive photos showing her drinking wine, swimming and posing with little clothing in luxurious settings.

The company’s internal “marketing standards” prohibit it from promoting tobacco products with youth-oriented celebrities or “models who are or appear to be under the age of 25,” but a review of the firm’s marketing of IQOS in Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Russia and Romania showed that Tapilina’s online persona was typical of what the company called its social media “ambassadors”: rail-thin young women who revel in the high life. Last month the US Food and Drug Administration agreed to allow sales of the IQOS device in America, after a two-year review process in which Philip Morris repeatedly assured the regulator that it would warn young people away from the product. (Reuters)




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What Are You Smoking?: Both hemp and marijuana are varieties of the cannabis plant that produces chemicals called cannabinoids, some of which produce a high when smoked or ingested, while others do not. Marijuana is rich in THC, the psychoactive component that causes a high. Hemp is richer in CBD and generally contains only 0.3 percent THC or less. In its 2018 Farm Bill the federal government legalized the possession and sale of CBD oils containing no more than 0.3 percent THC. Unfortunately laws in most states haven’t caught up to federal law, leading to wildly divergent opinions among local police departments and prosecutors over what they think is legal and what isn’t. (NYT)




Outsourcing Emotional Labor: A century ago the employment environment was changing, as new technologies were threatening manual labor jobs on farms and in factories. Anxieties about being innovated out of a job or being replaced by machines brought into focus those skills and states of mind that are irreducibly human. The difficulty of existing jobs began to be reappraised, and jobs requiring cognition, “brain work,” performed in offices and at desks, was thought to be the way of the future for displaced workers. Now add the component of “emotional labor” to the category of jobs. Psychiatrists and others are highlighting just how taxing, how hard, this kind of work can be. Whether it’s in the care industries or at home, emotional labor has long been associated with women — which is a major reason it’s been overlooked for so long. Emotional labor is to artificial intelligence as brain work was to the mechanization of factories: both are ways of using science and medicine to celebrate certain kinds of work. Today, in the face of technological change, emotional labor is being held up as the one form of work that’s safe from automation. So as companies begin to outsource emotional labor rather than doing it in-house, what will that look like? (Aeon)

Bottle Up and Explode: What purpose does anger serve? Are men angrier than women? Can it affect our mental wellbeing? Anger is one of the most primitive emotions we experience. Scientists believe the capacity for anger has been hardwired into the brain over millions of years of evolution. It forms part of our instinct to fight off threats, to compete for resources and to enforce social norms. Anger is rooted in the brain’s reward circuit. We are constantly — often subconsciously — considering what we expect to happen in any situation. When there is a mismatch between what we’ve learned to expect, and what happens, our brain’s reward circuit sounds the alarm and activity is triggered in a small area in the brain called the amygdala. The intensity with which we feel anger, from mild frustration to absolute fury, and how we act on it, is very personal. Now there are some new explanations about the ways that personality, age, gender and life experiences shape the way we feel this emotion. (Guardian) Additional song: Bottle Up and Explode by Elliott Smith.

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