Ban Thy Neighbor
August 30, 2022
Some Good News
- Argentine woman’s affordable chemo cap offers hope by preventing hair loss (Reuters)
- National Cinema Day is when movies in most theaters will cost $3 (WaPo, $)
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” – Oscar Wilde
A Bad App(le)
Donald Trump was banned from major social media platforms after the January 6 insurrection. Upon leaving office, the former president formed Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), the holding company for Truth Social, his new free speech app for conservatives that was announced on October 21, 2021. The business said its mission is “to create a rival to the liberal media consortium and fight back against the ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley.” On October 26, RightForce CEO Martín Avila announced his internet infrastructure company would host Trump’s new social media app and lay the global groundwork to support 75 million users. Avila said, “we support the president … and we’re committed to building a free speech American ideas based internet.”
Trump reportedly holds a controlling interest in Truth Social, although his monetary investment in it is said to be negligible to nonexistent, and he doesn’t control its day-to-day operations. TMTG planned to merge with Digital World Acquisition Corporation (DWAC), a special purpose acquisition company, in a move that would take TMTG public and give it access to roughly $1 billion allegedly raised from various hedge funds and investors. In January, former representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) was named CEO of Trump Media, with Trump described in regulatory filings as its chair. Truth Social soft-launched in February and rolled out to all U.S. iOS users in May.
Presently, like so many of Trump’s other endeavors, TMTG is following a chaotic trajectory. RightForge contends Truth Social hasn’t made its contractually obligated monthly payments for setting up the platform’s web-servicing infrastructure and it’s owed $1.6 million in back payments. The IPO is delayed, as DWAC is under investigation by the SEC, and its CEO is being sued by an investor for fraud. Also unclear is whether certain members of Truth Social’s board are actually still on the board, including Trump himself. Three top officials in product, technology, and legal resigned earlier this year, partly due to cash flow issues, and earlier this month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused Trump’s application to trademark “Truth Social.” The app has less than 4 million followers, compared to roughly 88 million followers Trump once had on Twitter. Plus, the app isn’t available on Android operating systems, meaning around 44% of smartphone users in the U.S. can’t download it. (Axios, NYT ($))
Protests Erupt In Baghdad
- Powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced Monday he was closing his offices and quitting politics following a months-long deadlock that has blocked the formation of a new cabinet. Sadr, who had drawn broad support by opposing both U.S. and Iranian influence on Iraqi politics, was the biggest winner of an October election.
- But in June, he withdrew all his members from parliament after failing to form a government that excluded his rivals, mostly Tehran-backed Shiite parties. Hours after the retirement announcement, young men loyal to the popular cleric stormed government headquarters in the secure Green Zone, once a palace of dictator Saddam Hussein.
- At least 10 Iraqis were killed and dozens injured as the loyalists clashed with supporters of rival Tehran-backed groups. The army quickly ordered a broad national curfew, and Sadr said he would go on a hunger strike until the violence ended. (ABC News)
Ban Thy Neighbor
- E.U. foreign ministers have been in talks about whether to limit travel permits for Russian citizens or outright ban Russian tourist visas. It would be “inappropriate for Russian tourists to stroll in our cities, on our marinas,” a senior E.U. official involved in the talks said. “We have to send a signal to the Russian population that this war is not OK, it is not acceptable.”
- On Monday, E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chairs the E.U. foreign ministers’ meetings, played down the prospects for a proposal to implement a complete ban on Russian travelers. Forbidding all Russians from entering the E.U. “is not a good idea,” Borrell said. “We have to be more selective.”
- The foreign ministers would need to reach a unanimous agreement to implement a ban. Instead they are expected to back suspending a visa facilitation agreement with Moscow when they meet in Prague on Tuesday and Wednesday. The move would make it significantly more difficult and expensive for Russians to travel. (Al Jazeera, Politico)
Additional World News
- Invasions and illegal exploitation of indigenous lands in Brazil tripled under Bolsonaro, says advocacy group (CNN)
- The Catholic Church’s cardinals have converged at the Vatican with Pope Francis (WaPo, $)
- Protesters march in Belgrade against planned gay Pride event (Reuters)
- Russia identifies 2nd suspect in death of nationalist Dugina (ABC)
- Heat-weary Chongqing, Sichuan now on flood alert amid torrential rain (Reuters)
- U.N. inspectors head to Ukrainian nuclear plant at the center of radiation disaster fears (NBC)
Hero Identified In Oregon Shooting
- 66-year-old Donald Ray Surrett Jr. served in the U.S. Army for two decades before becoming an employee of a Safeway store located in the Forum Shopping Center in Bend, Oregon. On Sunday evening, 20-year-old Ethan Blair Miller, who lived in an apartment complex behind the shopping center and worked at the grocery store, armed himself with an assault rifle and started randomly shooting in the shopping complex’s parking lot.
- Miller murdered an 84-year-old customer at Safeway’s entrance, then moved through the aisles “spraying shots” until he was confronted by Surrett in the produce section in the back of the store. The Army veteran tried disarming the shooter before being shot to death. Miller then committed suicide; police found his body near an AR-15-style weapon and a shotgun. Three Molotov cocktails and a sawed-off shotgun were found in Miller’s car.
- A police spokeswoman called Surrett a hero who “may very well have prevented further deaths.” A former high school classmate remembered Miller as an extremely combative person who had few friends. In November, Oregon residents will vote on one of the strictest gun-control measures in the nation. (WaPo, $)
Spore Of The Moment
- Valley fever is a disease that comes from Coccidioides, a fungus endemic to the soil of the U.S. Southwest. Valley fever has been increasing in California’s Central Valley for years, and while still relatively rare, experts say future cases could rise across the American west as the climate crisis renders the landscape drier and hotter.
- The fungus grows in the dirt as a filament that can segment and break off. It becomes airborne when disturbed, traveling as far as 75 miles – it has even infected sea otters. People can be exposed to Valley fever by digging in undisturbed soil or simply by breathing. People who work outdoors are thought to be at greater risk.
- Last summer, seven firefighters who responded to fires around the Tehachapi mountains southeast of Bakersfield experienced respiratory illness. Three were diagnosed with Valley fever. About 40% of people develop a respiratory illness that can be very mild, and 1% have more severe outcomes. Those who contract a severe form of Valley fever can face years of debilitating illness. Many struggle to find effective treatments, leaving them financially drained. (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- Dutch soldier dies of injuries after shooting in Indianapolis (Guardian)
- Columbus, Ohio, teachers ratify new education agreement (CNN)
- Bacterial infection disrupts Beto O’Rourke’s campaign for Texas governor (WaPo, $)
- Maryland Gov. Hogan says “no question” there are signs of authoritarianism within Republican Party (CBS)
- Here’s what could happen when an election denier becomes a chief election official (Politico)
- How a Whistleblower Could Help Elon Musk in His Case Against Twitter (NYT, $)
All Creatures Gator And Small
- Joseph Henney, 69, of Jonestown, Pennsylvania, has helped relocate unwanted alligators, snakes, and iguanas to wildlife sanctuaries as a hobby for about 30 years. He keeps his rescue reptiles in his home in separate indoor enclosures and finds sanctuaries or zoos that will take them. In 2015, a friend called from Florida and asked if Henney could take in a few gators found in a pond in Orlando. After a while, he sent two of the gators to reptile refuges out of state, but the third one – 14 months old and 20 inches long at the time – Henney decided to keep. He named him WallyGator.
- Henney said he noticed from day one that WallyGator was different. He didn’t try to bite when being held or fed chicken legs and dead rats, and particularly loved cheesy popcorn. Henney felt comfortable enough to keep WallyGator in the house proper instead of an enclosure. Before long, Wally was following Henney around like a curious puppy. He said his leathery roomie showed affection by staying close and being docile. “He enjoyed being held, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a super nice, friendly alligator,’” Henney said. In 2017, several members of Henney’s family died, leaving him sad and grieving. “I was depressed and WallyGator started to do silly things to cheer me up. When I was on the couch, he’d pull my blanket to the floor.” Soon, WallyGator was up on the couch with him.
- When Henney told his doctor how much WallyGator’s antics had greatly reduced his depression, the physician seriously suggested he register WallyGator as an emotional support animal. The rest is history. Henney now takes his gator to swim parties, football games, schools, and summer camps for educational presentations about reptiles. Wally especially likes going to old folks’ homes to cheer up the senior citizens. He walks on a leash and doesn’t have a harness around his mouth, but he’s never bitten anyone. WallyGator has a following on TikTok and Instagram, and he made headlines Friday after being taken to Love Park in Philadelphia. “Wally is definitely not your average crocodilian,” Henney noted. (WaPo, $)
- Dragons, Lizards and Cobras Pop Up in England’s Suburbs (WSJ, $)
- Two Air France pilots suspended after cockpit fight (CNN)
- Paul Pogba responds to brother Mathias’ ‘revelation’ threats against Juventus star, Kylian Mbappe (ESPN)
- India’s state-funded helmet promises ‘fresh air’ in battle on winter smog (Reuters)
- Fuel leaks force NASA to scrub launch of new moon rocket (AP)
- NASA will crash a spacecraft into a 525-foot-wide asteroid in September. Here’s how to watch it. (USA Today)
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