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Believe All Military Officials
morning report #4 // anti-pride month, solana on the uap whistleblower, zuck ascendant, and more links in tech, politics, and the clown world
Welcome back to the MORNING REPORT, where we round up all the current news in technology, politics, domestic and foreign affairs. Then finally, a dispatch from the Clown World. TODAY:
Our broad tech digest features Meta and Zuck, lawsuits against Twitter, a self-driving car that caused a mass shooting, another ominous development for San Francisco, your favorite “whistleblower” Frances Haugen, and a bunch more.
Solana’s on the lead story in our national digest, with his perspective on the UFO “whistleblower.” Then: cloud seeding, a potential future Longevity State, and a bunch of links on the economy, finance, and politics.
This week in foreign affairs, UK’s NHS significantly limits the use of puberty blockers for minors, items on Russia and Ukraine, and other news from across the ponds.
Over in the Clown World trenches, staff writer River Page describes what seems to be the first ever Anti-Pride Month, and a bunch more links after that.
Zuck on Apple VisionPro: “not the future I want.” In a statement on the release of Apple’s VisionPro headset, he said it revealed serious philosophical differences between Apple and Meta, describing his vision for the metaverse as “fundamentally social,” whereas all the people in Apple’s promotional video were “sitting on a couch by themselves.” (Twitter)
Meta’s Twitter competitor to be standalone app, not Instagram add-on (WSJ)
Zuck: “the establishment censored things that were true” during Covid (Twitter)
Meta to integrate AI into essentially every facet of its platforms (Axios)
Meta gives employees access to AI chatbot trained on internal data (The Verge)
Twitter facing hundreds of discrimination claims from former employees. The company is facing 775 claims of gender, disability, and family leave discrimination. Elon replied, simply: “But if you discriminate against everyone, then, tautologically, you’re not discriminating against anyone!” (Twitter) (Twitter)
Twitter to begin paying verified creators for ads presented in their replies “a few weeks” from now (Twitter)
Twitter no longer paying its Google Cloud bills, trust and safety handwringers express concern (Insider)
The “shocking toll” of Tesla’s autopilot. Tesla’s autopilot has been involved in 736 crashes resulting in 17 fatalities since 2019. On the other hand, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 42,795 people died in car crashes in 2022 alone. (WaPo)
Tesla strikes deal with GM, will open charging network to their EVs, as announced via Twitter Space conversation between Elon and GM CEO Mary T. Barra (NYT)
Another vector of attack on self-driving tech: mass shootings. On Friday, nine people were injured in a San Francisco shooting during which an autonomous taxi “appeared to block” emergency responders. The company’s statement: “Our car initially stopped as it was approaching an active emergency scene, then proceeded to perform a U-turn and pull over. Throughout this time, all vehicles, including emergency response vehicles, were able to proceed around our car.” (NBC Bay Area)
Jackie Fielder, a popular area socialist unsatisfied with the mere partial destruction of the city, opted to blame the company for the carnage rather than the failed policies of her sociopathic comrades. She thinks the cars should be removed from the road. No word yet on what she thinks of the shooter. Fielder is, perfectly, running for the Board of Supervisors.
US federal agencies to cut TikTok ad spending. While not a major advertiser on TikTok, the rule from the General Services Administration — “the central purchasing clearinghouse for virtually the entire federal government” — is well within the recent lineage of the USG’s hostility to the Chinese app. (The Information)
TikTok aiming for $20b in e-commerce sales this year, mostly overseas (Bloomberg)
Anduril prohibits TikTok, ByteDance from devices with internal access (Twitter)
Louisiana passes bill requiring parental consent for minor social media use. If the governor signs it into law, it’ll take effect in August 2024. In addition to requiring parental consent for new accounts, it will allow parents to retroactively vacate existing terms of service contracts signed by their children. (NYT)
Frances Haugen wants attention again. On a promo junket for her new memoir, Haugen says “tens of millions” could die in the next few years if we don’t reign in social media’s excesses. Instead of buying her book, consider reading “Bombshell,” Solana’s thorough evisceration of Haugen’s sensationalism. (Insider)
American tech companies starting to steer clear of Hong Kong. Previously a haven for internet freedom relative to mainland China, Hong Kong authorities are increasingly cracking down on online speech. As a result, Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI have all restricted chatbot access for Hong Kong residents. (WSJ)
→ San Francisco
San Francisco’s worrisome decline: Westfield Mall edition. According to Roland Li of the SF Chronicle, “Westfield stopped paying its $558 million mortgage and is surrendering its namesake SF mall, the biggest in the city, to lenders in the wake of Nordstrom's planned closure and plunging foot traffic (down ~42% from 2019) and sales (down ~1/3).” This is a huge deal. The shopping center has long been a key fixture of the city’s commercial life, and its decline is another in a long line of negative signals regarding SF’s future. (Twitter)
Activists in San Francisco block traffic. The protests were held in the street and featured a WWE-style skit where a man dressed as Gov. Gavin Newsom beat a train with a stick. Activists say they blocked traffic to draw attention to proposed budget cuts that would affect public transportation. Oddly, nobody appears to have been arrested. (San Francisco Standard)
Salesforce pledges $500M in generative AI startup investments (TechCrunch)
Google releases conceptual framework for AI cybersecurity (Axios)
Sam Altman calls for US-China collaboration to combat AI risk (WSJ)
Major AI companies to give UK data access for AI safety research while German president Steinmeier, who does not run a country in which a significant AI company presently exists, warns of AI weaponization by authoritarians, “libertarian-technocrats” (TechCrunch) (Bloomberg)
Yushua Bengio: “too much uncertainty” to rule out possibility of AI apocalypse (Insider)
AI-powered robots giving eyelash extensions (WaPo)
→ Quick tech links
Apple, Samsung hurt by Vietnam’s heatwave-induced power shortage (WSJ)
Google set to launch long-awaited News Showcase (Axios)
Live feed of Reddit forums going dark in protest of API pricing (Reddark)
Biden admin allowing South Korean, Taiwanese chip makers to grow Chinese operations without reprisals (WSJ)
a16z opens UK outpost to serve as new crypto accelerator HQ (Axios)
After mass layoffs, tech companies renew H-1B Visa lobbying push (Lee Fang)
SpaceX launches dozens of satellites, including a hypersonic drug factory from Varda, the Vatican’s first-ever satellite, and a satellite designed to strategically shift the orbits of other satellites (Twitter)
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Believe All Military Officials
Last week, in a bombshell report from the Debrief, David Charles Grusch, a highly-decorated former combat officer, and a former NRO representative to the nation’s UAP Task Force, alleged the existence of a covert government program hiding multiple vehicles of non-human origin from Congress. Grusch further alleged a secret global arms race to reverse engineer the technology, and then, in an exclusive interview for NewsNation, casually mentioned the existence of recovered, non-human pilots — in other words, literal alien corpses in a secret government bunker. Pentagon officials deny the story, in stark departure from the “oops, UFOs are real” reporting they corroborated a few years back. But the denial doesn’t really matter much, as Grusch’s central claim concerns an organization not only hidden from public, but from the Department of Defense.
There are two pieces of this story that bring it to life with unique vigor in the pantheon of recent UFO bangers — two words, really: “cleared” and “corroborated.” In keeping with whistleblower protocol, Grusch “cleared” his story with the DoD for release to the media, and the DoD okayed the disclosure for what appear to be straightforward bureaucratic reasons. Then, the Debrief “corroborated” Grusch’s story by noting several other well-placed government officials, who all agree Grusch is a great guy, heard similar claims. But while Grusch provided Congress with “hours of recorded classified information,” it doesn’t seem the classified information includes any hard evidence (a hunk of Vulcan metal, for example), and no one in the press has even seen his spooky documents. Grusch admits he’s never seen a recovered alien pilot himself, or vehicle, or even a little ol’ alien cigarette lighter. A lot of people he respects have simply told him all of these things exist, and he believes them because — he insists! — they are trustworthy, which… ok. The whistleblower seems like a nice guy, but I’m going to need a little more than “my friends in the government have said some friends of theirs have said.”
The broader, pilled internet has been somewhat less discerning.
In the debut episode of his Twitter broadcast, Tucker Carlson entered the alien discourse with strong words for our fake news media. “In journalism,” he said, “curiosity is the greatest crime.” He then followed with a summary of a summary of a story mainstream outlets like the New York Times — which he incredibly attempts to frame as too scared to touch the subject — have been breaking in pieces since 2017. Elsewhere, Michael Shellenberger reported he’s heard similar claims of alien aircraft from other allegedly high-level government officials. His argument for taking this all seriously is he knows for certain his contacts aren’t crazy, a professional sense he’s developed following years of speaking with actual crazy drug addicts in San Francisco (I am not being facetious, this is his argument). While I appreciate much of Shellenberger’s reporting, “believe all military officials” doesn’t land for me, and while — truly — I do want to believe, I guess what I’m getting at here is just that I don’t. Sorry.
We have more than enough smoke here to demand further investigation of the secret alien unit from Congress, and a public report on our congressional findings. But until I see hard evidence I remain (sadly) skeptical. Also, I kind of think the likeliest explanation here is just that Grusch was on his way to some kind of advanced intelligence clearance, and this was all a loyalty test that he failed.
In any case, sobriety and reason be damned, the aliens have naturally bled into our broader national anxiety. On Friday, following the Debrief’s report, Vegas locals witnessed an “object falling from the sky.” Shortly after, police nervously responded to a call reporting a pair of 10-foot, bug-eyed “alien” figures stalking a concerned citizen’s backyard. For me, the phrasing conjures the image of lanky, celestial beings in drag, marching the drug-fueled carnal desert streets of Sin City like extras in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, but just getting off work, wasted, lit cigarettes in hand, trash talking Debbie from props. “I seriously think Earth is being invaded by aliens” alleged one poster in a viral tweet.
This is definitely not true, but whatever, I guess, I’m obviously laughing. Carry on.
→ Domestic news
US port subsidies cannot be used to fund automation. The Biden Administration’s grant stipulation is designed to protect against the loss of union jobs, which definitely matter more than our nation’s ongoing infrastructural collapse. (Twitter)
Anti-aging enthusiasts want to form an independent state. Rhode Island may one day be home to a self-governing community of longevity enthusiasts united in their ardent belief that “aging is morally bad.” (MIT Technology Review)
Demand for cloud seeding surges in Western US, Mexico. With the American southwest facing the prospect of worsened droughts, cloud seeding programs are starting to proliferate. (WSJ)
Censorship Superteam: Stanford University to join Project Liberty’s Institute. “Digital technologies, from social media platforms to cryptocurrencies to generative AI, are the source of a variety of problems that undermine the interests of individuals and organizations, and the foundations of democracy itself.” Translation: censorship is good, and we should be in charge. (Stanford)
→ Jobs, economy, finance
Construction jobs in America hit all-time high (Twitter)
New home buyers face least affordable market ever (Twitter)
LA Times newsroom lays off 74 employees, or over 10 percent of workforce (Twitter)
Use of US dollar as reserve currency on the decline (Twitter)
Commercial pilots have higher wages, lower debt than doctors, lawyers (Twitter)
George Soros passes torch to son Alexander, son says “I’m more political.” Lol. Lmao, even. (WSJ)
Sacks, Palihapitiya to host fundraiser for RFK Jr. in Silicon Valley this week (Axios)
Republican North Dakota governor Doug Burgum announces presidential run (Axios)
→ Domestic drama
JP Morgan settles lawsuit with one of Epstein’s victims (Insider)
Tucker Carlson sued by Fox News for breach of contract (Reuters)
Crypto.com shuts down US institutional exchange (Twitter)
Robinhood delists Cardano, Polygon, Solana (again, we state here for the record: NO RELATION) after SEC suit names them as securities (Twitter)
Cohere, developer of NLP solutions for developers and enterprises, raises a $270M series C led by Ionia Capital, with participation from Nvidia, Salesforce Ventures, Index, Alphabet, and others. This latest round values the Toronto-based company at $1.75B pre-money.
Blackpoint, a cybersecurity platform focused on the “managed detection and response space,” raises $190M in later-stage funding in a deal led by Bain Capital. Accel and other existing investors participated in the round.
Charm Industrial, an SF-based company developing carbon removal technology that is able to produce hydrogen from biomass, raises a $100M series B from General Catalyst, Thrive, and other investors.
GetHarley, a skincare consultation platform, raises a $56M series B led by Index Ventures. Headline and Village Global also participated in the round. The company is headquartered in London.
EvenUp, a platform that processes medical documents and case files for injury lawyers, raises a $50M series B led by Bain Capital with participation from DCM, NFX, Gokul Rajaram, Scott Belsky and others.
Instabase, a developer of AI-enabled business workflow software, raises a $45M series C led by Tribe Capital, with participation from NEA, a16z, and Spark Capital. This latest funding values the SF-based company at $1.96B pre-money.
Gensyn, an SF-based startup building a decentralized machine learning compute protocol, raises a $43M series A led by a16z.
Curri, a logistics platform focused on construction materials, raises a $42M series B led by Bessemer, with participation from Initialized and other investors. The Ventura-based company will use the funds to build out their last-mile logistics product.
Pomelo Care, an online pregnancy care platform, raises a $33M series A led by a16z with participation from First Round Capital and others. The New York-based company will use the funds to expand their partnerships with major health plans.
Insify, a Netherlands-based insurtech for freelancers and small businesses, raises a $27.7M series A in a deal led by Munich Re Ventures and Accel.
Mosaic, a strategic finance platform, raises a $26M series C round led by OMERS Ventures, with participation from General Catalyst, Friends & Family Capital, and Founders Fund.
Private Tech, a stealth-mode privacy-focused cellular network, raises a $21.38M series A from XYZ Venture Capital, a16z, and Forward Deployed.
Payrails, a Berlin-based payments product for high-growth businesses, raises a $20M seed led by a16z and EQT Ventures. General Catalyst and other investors participated in the round.
Contextual.ai, a Bay Area-based developer of foundation LLMs, raises a $20M seed from BCV, Lightspeed and other investors, including angels such as Amjad Masad and Elad Gil.
TeraWatt Technology, a Bay Area company developing ultra-high energy density lithium-ion batteries, raises an undisclosed round from Khosla Ventures and other investors.
Sloyd, developer of AI-powered 3D modeling software, raises $1M as part of a16z’s Speedrun program for gaming startups.
Percepto | $67M series C | KDT, Zimmer Partners & others
The Austin, Texas company develops software and hardware for industrial drone applications
Shift5 | $50M series B | Insight Partners & others
The Virginia-based company creates intrusion detection and prevention systems for defense and commercial applications.
Granica | $45M series A | NEA, BCV, & others
The Mountain View, CA company develops AI infrastructure services
CloudZero | $32M series B | Innovius Capital, Threshold Ventures & others
The Boston-based cloud cost optimization startup has 10x’d revenue since 2021
HealthifyMe | $30M round | Khosla, Blume Ventures & others
The India-based company operates an online fitness app and health coaching platform.
Aave | $15M round | IDEO CoLab, Blockchain Capital, GC & others
The company operates a DeFi crypto protocol.
Taiko Labs | $12M early stage | Generative Ventures, GGV & others
The company operates a scaling solutions platform designed for Ethereum Blockchain
High-ranking Russian military officer reportedly killed in a missile strike. According to a Russian outlet, Sergei Goryachev, Chief of Staff for the Russia’s 35th Combined Arms, was recently killed in a Ukrainian air strike. (Twitter)
NHS says puberty blockers will only be prescribed to minors “as part of clinic research.” The NHS is also creating a new service for children with gender incongruence in England and Wales, which will put medical doctors in charge of physical treatments, rather than therapists or psychologists. The UK isn’t the only country pumping the brakes on child transition. This year, eight American states have banned puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Last year, Sweden halted hormone therapy for minors “except in very rare cases” and said mastectomies for minors should be limited to a research setting. (Daily Mail) (AP) (France 24)
Putin admits Russia needs more weapons, as Ukraine announces a new counteroffensive (Insider)
Pentagon sending $2 billion to Ukraine for air defense systems (Twitter)
North Korean hackers stole billions in crypto to fund ballistic missiles program (WSJ)
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi passes away on Monday (Twitter)
Ex-Samsung exec allegedly stole chip data to build copycat plant in China (TechCrunch)
Taiwan’s US chip exports rise for 26th consecutive month amid global semiconductor slump (Bloomberg)
Malaysia, pushing to become neutral data hub amid rising US-China tensions, tries to lure Google and Microsoft (Bloomberg)
UK Amazon workers withdraw union bid, accuse company of stifling unionization effort with foul play (Bloomberg)
Ford opens EV assembly plant in Germany (The Verge)
If my husband and I had a trans child and they requested to go to Cracker Barrel I would smack them and say “we’re rich you dumb tranny.” — Gay comedian Tim Dillon
“We take no pleasure in reporting that @CrackerBarrel has fallen,” tweeted the Texas Family Project, a conservative NGO. “A once family friendly establishment has caved to the mob.” Attached were pictures of a comically large rainbow rocking chair at a park along with a copy/paste DEI statement about anti-discrimination. It’s Pride month, formerly an excuse for gay guys to party while lesbians in orthopedic sandals yap on walkie-talkies, directing traffic.
Before, straight people — even right-wing ones — largely ignored Pride. Alas, no more.
This year, Pride has become a full-fledged part of the culture war: the mood can best be described as anti-Pride. The outrage has little to do with gays and lesbians. Throughout June thus far, the online discourse has been dominated by gender-identity issues involving children. Consider a few examples from the last week. In Ottawa, parents protested after an Ottawa school board reportedly sent an email to staff suggesting that they begin the next school year referring to students by they/them pronouns until students request otherwise. In an act of interfaith unity, Christians and Muslim parents joined together in stomping on Pride flags outside the school. On Twitter, conservative activist Robby Starbuck accused his former neighbor, Transformers actress Megan Fox, of transing her sons. More specifically, he said he’d witnessed Fox’s sons crying to their nanny about being forced to wear dresses. Fox denied the allegations, although in previous interviews she did say that one of her sons wears dresses. In California, a bill which recently passed the State Assembly would force judges to favor “affirming” parents in custody cases involving a child who identifies as transgender — some worry the wording of the bill would also classify non-affirmation as child abuse. Meanwhile, in nearby Washington, the state’s Human Rights Commission ordered a female-only Korean spa in Seattle to allow a transwoman with intact male genitalia into its facilities.
Even the Pride controversies that didn’t deal directly with trans issues and children were a degree or two removed in either direction. People accused the White House of violating the flag code when it displayed the “Progress” flag (an aesthetically monstrous amalgamation of the familiar rainbow pride flag and the trans flag, plus black and brown stripes for racial minorities) between two American flags. After April’s Dylan Mulvaney/ Bud Light controversy, people lost it after a flier from an “all ages drag show” claimed it was sponsored by Bud Light. In a hilarious spin, this was revealed to be a tongue-in-cheek troll; Bud Light had nothing to do with it, after all. But of course, the very existence of an “all ages” drag show is the point. I’m still not sure what kind of drag show would be appropriate for children — an exceedingly boring one, I suppose.
The harping on gender, and the impulse to involve children in it, has very little to do with Pride, where the pretense of gay rights — even before gay marriage was legal — was always merely a pretense for a good time. It’s become something else now. Who wants to show up at a drag show and be bothered by a bunch of vibe-killing brats running around? Who wants affirmation from the CIA? Not me. I just want a Corona and a cigarette. As a normal homo I’ll spend my Pride weekends getting drunk in Fort Lauderdale and pretending none of this matters to me because, frankly, it doesn’t.
→ A couple cute conspiracies
Canadian wildfire conspiracy. Reports of police investigations into arson as a cause of at least one Canadian wildfire have spurred a slew of conspiratorial takes online. The gist of the theory: after conservative legislators shot down Trudeau’s carbon tax last month, his administration orchestrated a covert eco-terrorist campaign, through which rampant wildfires would stoke fears of catastrophic climate change, thereby pressuring his political opponents into accepting the carbon tax. (Toronto Sun) (Twitter)
Philadelphia’s I-95 bridge collapse conspiracy. In similar fashion to Canadian wildfire conspiracists, the deep red nation has rushed to question what really caused the overpass collapse. Was it a tanker that caught fire, or was it perhaps an act of sabotage perpetrated by liberal public transit enthusiasts in a bid to promote a highly sought after subway extension project? Who knows. (Twitter)
→ More from the Clown World
Kari Lake, country music star? She’s featured on a new country music song called “81 million votes, my ass.” (Boing Boing)
NHS says dementia patients “should still be challenged” on transphobia. Official guidance from the British healthcare agency says patients with dementia should be challenged if they express discriminatory views about transgender staff. (Twitter)
Fat activists claim airline-seat policies are “discriminatory” (CNN)
No religious communities in America are comfortable with gender-neutral pronouns; at 50 percent, Jews are the most comfortable “learning that a friend uses gender neutral pronouns.” Wiccans suspiciously omitted from survey. (Axios) (Twitter)
Readers: it has, as ever, been absolutely real. The realest, even. See you on Thursday, and remember to follow us on Instagram.