Linked List: July 2020

The Talk Show: ‘Algorithms, How Do They Work?’ 

Nilay Patel returns to the show to discuss this week’s House antitrust hearing featuring testimony from Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai, and Mark Zuckerberg.

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HBO Drops Sick Trailer for Season 3 of ‘Succession’ 

Wait, sorry, this is the reality show one, not the fictional one:

Once considered a potential successor to Rupert Murdoch, Mr. Murdoch on Friday resigned from the board of the newspaper publisher News Corp, severing his last corporate tie to his father’s global media empire.

“My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company’s news outlets and certain other strategic decisions,” Mr. Murdoch, 47, wrote in his resignation letter, which News Corp disclosed in a filing shortly after the close of business on Friday.

Three People Have Been Charged for Twitter’s Hack, Including 17-Year-Old in Florida 

Sean Hollister, reporting for The Verge:

Early on July 31st, the FBI, IRS, US Secret Service, and Florida law enforcement placed a 17-year-old in Tampa, Florida, under arrest. He’s accused of being the “mastermind” behind the biggest security and privacy breach in Twitter’s history, one that took over the accounts of President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Apple, and more to perpetrate a huge bitcoin scam on July 15th.

But apparently, he wasn’t alone: shortly after the Tampa arrest was revealed and after we published this story, two more individuals were formally charged by the US Department of Justice: 22-year-old Nima Fazeli in Orlando and 19-year-old Mason Sheppard in the UK. They go by the hacker aliases “Rolex” and “Chaewon,” respectively, according to the DOJ.

According to federal agents, Sheppard had used a personal driver’s license to verify himself with the Binance and Coinbase cryptocurrency exchanges, and his accounts were found to have sent and received some of the scammed bitcoin. Fazeli also used a driver’s license to verify with Coinbase, where accounts controlled by “Rolex” allegedly received payments in exchange for stolen Twitter usernames.

It appears Twitter wasn’t the victim of anything vaguely approaching an expert caper. These kids are such dingbats they used Bitcoin accounts opened in their own names. This profoundly disturbing and dangerous hack was pulled off by unsophisticated pranksters.

Makes me wonder what actual expert hackers are getting away with on Twitter.

‘Microsoft Said to Be in Talks to Buy TikTok, as Trump Weighs Curtailing App’ 

Mike Isaac, Ana Swanson, and Alan Rappeport, reporting for The New York Times:

TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app that has been under scrutiny from the Trump administration, is in talks to sell itself to Microsoft and other companies as President Trump prepares to force TikTok to divorce itself from its parent company, ByteDance, said people with knowledge of the discussions.

Mr. Trump, who said on Friday that he was considering “banning TikTok,” is expected to require ByteDance to sever ties with the popular app, according to a person familiar with the administration’s plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. White House officials have said TikTok may pose a national security threat because of its Chinese ownership.

Yes but what does the government of the Cayman Islands have to say?

Twitter Permanently Bans White Supremacist David Duke 


Duke’s account “has been permanently suspended for Twitter Rules on hateful conduct,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. Twitter’s policy, revised in March, prohibits posts that promote violence or threats of violence against people based on their religion, race or ethnic origin.

It wasn’t immediately clear what specific post or posts by Duke led to the account’s ban. The verified account for Duke, the founder and former Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was blank Thursday, replaced with a message that the account had been “permanently suspended.”

Imagine going back in time 30 years and explaining to someone that in the future, there are privately-owned computer networks for socializing and sharing your thoughts, observations, and opinions, and that David Duke got kicked off the one that is most popular in news media circles.

“Ha, probably happened the first day,” your circa 1990 friend might say.

“No, actually, it took more than 10 years.”

“What? Does David Duke repent in the future? Does he disavow white supremacy?”

“No he doesn’t change at all.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Wait until you find out who the president is. Sleep tight.”

Twitter Releases a Few More Details on Security Incident That Resulted in High Profile Account Hijackings 


The social engineering that occurred on July 15, 2020, targeted a small number of employees through a phone spear phishing attack. A successful attack required the attackers to obtain access to both our internal network as well as specific employee credentials that granted them access to our internal support tools. Not all of the employees that were initially targeted had permissions to use account management tools, but the attackers used their credentials to access our internal systems and gain information about our processes. This knowledge then enabled them to target additional employees who did have access to our account support tools. Using the credentials of employees with access to these tools, the attackers targeted 130 Twitter accounts, ultimately Tweeting from 45, accessing the DM inbox of 36, and downloading the Twitter Data of 7.

I don’t find the level of detail here satisfying at all. I don’t expect Twitter to reveal the exact details of what happened, but this just isn’t enough. My guess is that they’re saying that the attackers targeted low-level employees via the phone, tricked them into revealing details, and used those details to (here’s where the guessing starts) impersonate them on Twitter’s internal Slack. Then, impersonating them on Slack, they tricked other employees into giving them access to these incredibly sensitive account management tools?

What seems clear is that internally, Twitter was inexcusably sloppy with sharing access to incredibly sensitive account management tools.

Federalist Society Co-Founder Steven Calabresi: ‘Tweet Is Fascistic and Is Itself Grounds for the President’s Immediate Impeachment’ 

Steven Calabresi, in a New York Times op-ed:

I have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980, including voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I wrote op-eds and a law review article protesting what I believe was an unconstitutional investigation by Robert Mueller. I also wrote an op-ed opposing President Trump’s impeachment.

But I am frankly appalled by the president’s recent tweet seeking to postpone the November election. Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist. But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.

Describing the Federalist Society as conservative and influential is like describing the ocean as large and salty. I truly never thought I’d be able to say I’m in complete agreement with Steven Calabresi, but here we are.

Apple Announces 4:1 Stock Split 

Todd Haselton, CNBC:

Apple on Thursday announced in its fiscal third-quarter earnings that the Board of Directors has approved a four-for-one stock split. Since Apple stock currently trades above $380, it means investors should expect to again have a chance to buy a share of Apple for around $100, depending on where the stock trades at the end of August.

Matt Deatherage notes:

We’ve periodically reminded that Apple’s lowest stock price was 23 Dec 1997, when it closed at a currently-adjusted price of $0.40 per share.

After 31 Aug 2020 and the 4:1 split, the new adjusted record low price on that date will be $0.10/share.


“Beleaguered” no more.

New iPhones Won’t Ship Until October 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

On Apple’s quarterly call with analysts Thursday, Apple CFO Luca Maestri made it official — the new iPhones won’t ship until October this year.

It’s unusual for Apple to say anything about future hardware, but they do like to set accurate expectations, and if they said nothing many would expect new iPhones in September.

Apple Q3 2020 Results 


Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2020 third quarter ended June 27, 2020. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $59.7 billion, an increase of 11 percent from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.58, up 18 percent. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

A record third quarter — in the midst of a pandemic. Truly hard to believe even knowing that work-from-home has surely led to new hardware purchases.

John Lewis: ‘Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation’ 

John Lewis, in an essay written shortly before his death July 17, to be published on the day of his funeral:

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google All Report Solid-to-Great Results 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, Karen Weise, Jack Nicas, and Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:

A day after lawmakers grilled the chief executives of the biggest tech companies about their size and power, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Facebook reported surprisingly healthy quarterly financial results, defying one of the worst economic downturns on record.

Even though the companies felt some sting from the spending slowdown, they demonstrated, as critics have argued, that they are operating on a different playing field from the rest of the economy.

Amazon’s sales were up 40 percent from a year ago and its profit doubled. Facebook’s profit jumped 98 percent. Even though the pandemic shuttered many of its stores, Apple increased sales of all its products in every part of the world and posted $11.25 billion in profit. Advertising revenue dropped for Alphabet, the laggard of the bunch, but it still did better than Wall Street had expected.

There was an undercurrent at yesterday’s hearing alleging that these companies, Amazon in particular, were profiteering during the COVID crisis. I don’t think that’s the case. Whatever one’s complaints about any or all of these four companies, they’ve thrived in 2020 because they’re among the few large institutions that have managed the crisis well.

‘Tech Titans Gave Their House Testimony Virtually, but It Was the Congressmen Who Departed From Reality’ 

Robin Givhan, writing for The Washington Post:

The hearing was billed as an investigation into online competition. And much of the evidence laid out before Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, speaks to ruthless business practices. Zuckerberg still doesn’t quite grasp the impact of Facebook on civic life. And most of those on the subcommittee weren’t really up to the task of questioning Cook on Apple’s business practices. Still, the voices of small-business owners whose livelihoods had been upended by Amazon were at least piped into the room.

Too many of the Republicans were focused on playing put upon and abused. They seemed more interested in Trump Jr.’s Twitter habit and throwing out accusations of anti-Americanism at the only executive of color testifying. Stifled competition and bullied employees were side notes. The event was virtual, but the disgrace was real. The titans were diminished, but far too many of the subcommittee members were the ones who looked small.

I watched the whole thing, and this is just an astoundingly fair and apt summary.

Coronavirus Disinformation Video Seen 20M Times Before Facebook Took It Down 

Casey Newton, writing for The Interface:

As I wrote at the time, the problem was not that the platforms were ignoring the video — it was that, at their scale, even the few hours it took them to research the issue were enough for “Plandemic” to get all the way around the world. “It likely won’t be the last piece of harmful misinformation about COVID-19 that becomes a blockbuster,” I wrote back then. “And when the next one comes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that the pathway to virality leads straight through Facebook groups.”

Indeed, on Monday we got the sequel. And Facebook groups played a significant role.

NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny:

That Breitbart video from the doctors claiming that Hydroxychloroquine cures the coronavirus has been going crazy in anti-vax, anti-mask, reopen Facebook Groups today. It’s at >20 mil views on FB. And that doesn’t include all the private groups it’s been spreading through.

This exemplifies why this isn’t a free speech issue. Facebook isn’t (merely) a host for this video, it’s the facilitator for spreading it to tens of millions of people.

And scale is no excuse. Surely there are very few videos that reach this many people so quickly. A million views per hour is over 250 views per second. It’s laughable to argue that Facebook isn’t responsible for immediately taking notice of such a video. Think about a large casino. There might be thousands of people gambling at any moment. Casino management can’t pay attention to them all. But if someone starts wagering at a pace of, say, $1 million per hour — over $15,000 per minute, every minute — yeah, I’d say casino management is going to take a close look at that person very quickly.

Could be it’s on the up and up. The casino gambler might be an honest whale. The viral Facebook video might be a dog riding a skateboard. But if the gambler is an obvious cheat the casino is going to give them a tap on the shoulder within minutes. That ought to be the case for a harmful video on Facebook too.

Trump Retweeted a Doctor Who Believes in Alien DNA, Demon Sperm, and Hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 Treatment 

Will Sommer, writing for The Daily Beast:

A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video. […]

Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.

She’s an absolute kook, as nutty as a squirrel turd. And the president of the United States is promoting her “medical” advice for the worst pandemic in a century. Which means he is a mentally deranged kook. Yes, that’s terrifying, but it’s obviously true.

Tom Nichols:

If Obama or Clinton or Biden were up late tweeting out crackpot theories from a “sex with demons” doctor, the Republicans would be calling on the military to surround the White House and enforce the 25th amendment with nuclear weapons.

Two updates:

  • Just in case you think The Daily Beast took Stella Immanuel’s positions out of context, she tweeted to thank them for their summary. Spend a few minutes reading her own tweets — if anything, The Daily Beast underplayed just how bonkers she is. She should be getting medical help, not giving it.

  • When asked about Immanuel’s clearly insane positions at a press conference today, President Trump, rather than walk back his retweet, doubled down on it, saying “I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her.” And then walked out of room. Watch for yourself. Either he’s OK with her nuttiness and therefore is himself unhinged from objective reality, or he knows she’s nuts but promoted and continues to stand by her hydroxychloroquine quackery anyway, in which case he’s a sociopath. I’d say the answer is both — that Trump has an at-best tenuous grasp on objective reality and he’s a narcissistic sociopath — but clearly at least one is true. This one incident is a small self-contained proof that he’s mentally unfit.

The Talk Show: ‘The Least Worst’ 

First-time special guest Christina Warren joins the show. Topics include the App Store and antitrust, the general crumminess of video streaming service UIs, and historical examples of when Apple gets something wrong.

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Ike on Leadership 

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
—Dwight Eisenhower

Another Good Story for the Enough-About-Politics-and-Trump’s-Clear-Mental-Derangement-Let’s-Stick-to-Sports Readers Out There 

Katie Rogers and Noah Weiland, reporting for The New York Times:

An hour before Dr. Anthony S. Fauci threw the first pitch at the season opener between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals, President Trump stood on the briefing room stage at the White House and declared that he, too, had been invited to throw out his own opening pitch.

“Randy Levine is a great friend of mine from the Yankees,” Mr. Trump, referring to the president of the baseball team, told reporters on Thursday as Dr. Fauci was preparing to take the mound. “And he asked me to throw out the first pitch, and I think I’m doing that on Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium.”

There was one problem: Mr. Trump had not actually been invited on that day by the Yankees, according to one person with knowledge of Mr. Trump’s schedule. His announcement surprised both Yankees officials and the White House staff.

But Mr. Trump had been so annoyed by Dr. Fauci’s turn in the limelight, an official familiar with his reaction said, that he had directed his aides to call Yankees officials and make good on a longtime standing offer from Mr. Levine to throw out an opening pitch. No date was ever finalized.

As a sidenote to a story that clearly shows Trump’s raging narcissism, compulsion to bullshit, and inability to read the room, the photo that accompanies the story is really quite a thing. The man, for one brief moment in this 4-years-and-counting hellish inferno, looks genuinely happy.

CES 2021 Will Be Digital-Only 

The CTA:

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) today announced CES 2021 — January 6-9, 2021 — will be an all-digital experience connecting exhibitors, customers, thought leaders and media from around the world. […]

“Amid the pandemic and growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it’s just not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA.

Smart of them to make this decision early. But at this point I genuinely wonder if CES 2022 will be feasible in-person.

Regis Philbin Gets Bumped 

David Letterman on the late Regis Philbin: “When he retired I lost interest in television. I love him.”

Jason Snell has an absolutely classic clip of Philbin on Letterman. That’s a rabbit hole worthy of hours of your time.

Yankees-Phillies Game Postponed After Marlins COVID-19 Outbreak at Citizens Bank Park 

R.J. Anderson, reporting for CBS Sports:

The New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies will not play their Monday night game as scheduled, Major League Baseball announced. The game at Citizens Bank Park has been postponed. The game’s status came into question Monday morning, when the Miami Marlins were confirmed to have a COVID-19 outbreak on their roster.

The Marlins, who played the Phillies in Philadelphia over the weekend in Philadelphia, reportedly have had at least 14 individuals test positive since last week.

MLB teams have been playing for one weekend — one weekend — and already there’s an out of control outbreak on one team. I do not think this is going to work. The Marlins ought to be quarantined for 14 days, which puts the whole season in jeopardy.

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien Tests Positive for COVID‑19 

Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak, and Betsy Klein, reporting for CNN:

A senior administration official told CNN that O’Brien has been working from home since last week. A source familiar said O’Brien was last in the office last Thursday, when he abruptly left the White House. The White House statement said there is “no risk of exposure to the President or the Vice President.”

The National Security Council chief was accompanied on the trip to Europe by Secret Service agents, staffers and multiple reporters. Multiple pictures released from the trip showed O’Brien neither practicing social distancing nor wearing a mask.

“Sir, a Mr. Charles Darwin is holding on line one…”

Algoriddim: djay Pro AI 

My thanks to Algoriddim for sponsoring this week at DF to promote djay Pro AI, the latest version of their Apple-Design-Award-winning app. Recreated from the ground up using Core ML to harnes the power of Apple’s Bionic chip, djay Pro AI provides human brain-like processing of sound on iPhone and iPad. Instantly isolate beats, instruments, and vocals of any song — in real time.

It’s gorgeous, fun, and powerful.

‘Apple Puts Power Mac G4 Cube on Ice’ 

As mentioned in the aforelinked piece by Steven Levy on the 20th anniversary of the G4 Cube, this was Apple’s own headline for the press release announcing its discontinuation. What a fun way to break bad news. Phil Schiller is still there (he’s even quoted in the press release), but somehow I can’t see Apple writing a headline like this today. I wish they would though. I think that Apple is still there, but they no longer let it show.

“Apple Pulls the Plug on AirPower” would have been an opportunity, but they not only didn’t write a funny headline for that announcement, they didn’t even post about AirPower’s cancellation on Newsroom. The Washington Post did use this exact pun in their headline, but it would have packed a lot more punch if Apple itself had used it.

“Apple Puts Power Mac G4 Cube on Ice” was a deft way of acknowledging that they swung and missed with the Cube without actually acknowledging anything other than what they say in the press release. Headlines matter.

Steven Levy on Steve Jobs and the G4 Cube 

Steven Levy, writing for Wired:

In any case, the G4 Cube failed to push buttons on the computer-buying public. Jobs told me it would sell millions. But Apple sold fewer than 150,000 units. The apotheosis of Apple design was also the apex of Apple hubris. Listening to the tape, I was struck by how much Jobs had been drunk on the elixir of aesthetics. “Do you really want to put a hole in this thing and put a button there?” Jobs asked me, justifying the lack of a power switch. “Look at the energy we put into this slot drive so you wouldn’t have a tray, and you want to ruin that and put a button in?”

But here is something else about Jobs and the Cube that speaks not of failure but why he was a successful leader. Once it was clear that his Cube was a brick, he was quick to cut his losses and move on.

In a 2017 talk at Oxford, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about the G4 Cube, which he described as “a spectacular commercial failure, from the first day, almost.” But Jobs’ reaction to the bad sales figures showed how quickly, when it became necessary, he could abandon even a product dear to his heart. “Steve, of everyone I’ve known in life,” Cook said at Oxford, “could be the most avid proponent of some position, and within minutes or days, if new information came out, you would think that he never ever thought that before.”

The Cube was a worthy failure, deserving of our utmost praise in hindsight. Powerful computers needed to get smaller, quieter, and more attractive. The Cube pushed the state of the art forward.

But the more important lesson embedded in this story has nothing to do with the Cube specifically and everything to do with Jobs’s truly extraordinary ability to change his mind. Strong opinions loosely held — no one’s opinions were stronger, no one’s more loosely held.

Why not pull a Steve Jobs on the App Store? Cut the commission rate to 85/15 across the board and act like it’s innovative and something only Apple could or would do. Open up the Netflix rule to all developers — maintain the rule that if your app charges money as an in-app purchase, you must use Apple’s in-app payment system — but let any and all apps choose to do what Netflix does if they want to opt out of that, and sign up customers on their own outside the app. Just make all of this antitrust stuff disappear before it even starts by eliminating the complaints about money and maintaining what matters more to Apple: independence and control.

Calculator Desk Accessory 

You might ask why you should spend $8 on a calculator app whose only appeal has nothing to do with functionality and everything to do with gimmicky nostalgia. To you I say, you don’t know how to properly squander $8.

The Talk Show: ‘I’m Batman. America. Freedom.’ 

Adam Lisagor returns to the show. Topics include the cinematic and presentation style of Apple’s WWDC keynote, some post-production details on The Talk Show’s WWDC episode, the tribulations of producing professional videos during COVID-19, and the new sounds of MacOS 11 Big Sur.

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Intel Announces Further Delay on 7 NM Process 

Paul Alcorn, reporting for Tom’s Hardware:

Intel announced today in its Q2 2020 earnings release that it has now delayed the rollout of its 7nm CPUs by six months relative to its previously-planned release date. Intel’s press release also says that yields for its 7nm process are now twelve months behind the company’s internal targets, meaning the company isn’t currently capable of producing its 7nm process in an economically viable way.

Good time to be a computer maker who has taken its destiny into its own hands with CPU design and fabrication.

Woz Sues YouTube Over Ongoing Bitcoin Scams 

Monica Chin, reporting for The Verge:

According to the lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, crooks have been posting videos on the platform claiming that Wozniak is hosting a bitcoin promotion. They convince users that if they send bitcoin to a provided address, “Wozniak” will return double the amount.

“YouTube has featured a steady stream of scam videos and promotions that falsely use images and videos of Plaintiff Steve Wozniak, and other famous tech entrepreneurs, and that have defrauded YouTube users out of millions of dollars,” the complaint reads.

They won’t stop these scams, but if you upload a video with a copyrighted song they’ll have it down in about a minute. They police what they care about.

U.S. Ambassador to Britain Petitioned to Have British Open at Trump’s Golf Course 

Mark Landler, Lara Jakes, and Maggie Haberman, reporting for The New York Times:

The American ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson IV, told multiple colleagues in February 2018 that President Trump had asked him to see if the British government could help steer the world-famous and lucrative British Open golf tournament to the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland, according to three people with knowledge of the episode.

The ambassador’s deputy, Lewis A. Lukens, advised him not to do it, warning that it would be an unethical use of the presidency for private gain, these people said. But Mr. Johnson apparently felt pressured to try. A few weeks later, he raised the idea of Turnberry playing host to the Open with the secretary of state for Scotland, David Mundell.

For those of you who’ve been asking for fewer posts on politics and Trump’s jackassery, I figured I’d post about sports.

American Airlines Adopts Strict Mask Policy 

American Airlines:

American Airlines will require all customers over the age of 2 to wear face coverings at airports and on board, strengthening the airline’s commitment to keep customers and team members safe. This requirement will become effective on July 29, 2020. Due to safety risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission by individuals without face coverings, all customers must wear a face covering from the time they enter their departure airport and not remove it until they exit their arrival airport. […]

The only time face coverings may be removed at the airport or on board is when the customer is eating or drinking. Those unwilling to comply with this face covering requirement at any time during their journey with American may be barred from future travel for the duration of this face covering requirement.

Sorry, Senator Cruz.

Apple Hires Outside Economists to Compare the App Store to Other ‘Digital Marketplaces’ 

Ian Sherr, reporting for CNet:

Ahead of an antitrust hearing on Capitol Hill next week, Apple is fighting back against the perception that its App Store charges onerous commission rates to developers. It hired economists from the firm Analysis Group, who said the tech giant’s fees were similar to competitors.

The research, published Wednesday, collected commission rates reported on or disclosed by app stores from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and others. The company’s economists also studied ticket resale marketplaces, game stores and ride-hailing apps. Overall, the economists said the commissions charged were similar, though stores generally offered different features for consumers and developers.

Here is the Analysis Group’s PDF report.

You know you’re in trouble when part of your argument is “Hey, at least we’re better than Ticketmaster.”

Delta Has Already Banned 100 Anti-Maskers 

Ben Schlappig, writing at One Mile at a Time:

Delta has been requiring passengers to wear masks on flights since early May. Initially enforcement was perhaps lax, given the vague wording of the rules, allowing exceptions for “people unable to keep a face covering in place, including children.”

However, as the use of face masks has become more political, Delta has also stepped up its enforcement. Bastian claims that Delta has placed 100 people on its “no fly list” over mask issues, and says that if you insist on not wearing a mask, he insists on you not flying Delta. As he explains:

“We’ve been steadily and rather aggressively stepping up our enforcement of the mask policy. You cannot board a Delta plane unless you have a mask on. If you board the plane and insist on not wearing a mask, we insist that you do not fly Delta into the future. We already have 100 people put onto that list.”

Even better:

On top of that, anyone who has a condition preventing them from wearing a mask should show up at the airport early to complete a “Clearance-to-Fly” process, which could take over an hour. This process includes a virtual consultation with a healthcare professional, who will consider circumstances, and could make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

Delta is no longer using the “honor system” for wearing masks. Any passenger found to be making false claims about a disability or health condition in order to obtain an exemption can have travel privileges on all Delta flights suspended for as long as the airline is requiring passengers to wear face masks.

Bravo to Delta — every other airline should immediately adopt this same policy.

Apple Opens iPhone ‘Security Research Device’ Program 


As part of Apple’s commitment to security, this program is designed to help improve security for all iOS users, bring more researchers to iPhone, and improve efficiency for those who already work on iOS security. It features an iPhone dedicated exclusively to security research, with unique code execution and containment policies.

The Security Research Device (SRD) is intended for use in a controlled setting for security research only. Shell access is available, and you’ll be able to run any tools and choose your entitlements. Otherwise, the SRD behaves as closely to a standard iPhone as possible in order to be a representative research target.

SRDs are provided on a 12-month renewable basis and remain the property of Apple. They are not meant for personal use or daily carry, and must remain on the premises of program participants at all times. Access to and use of SRDs must be limited to people authorized by Apple.

This initiative was announced last year by Ivan Krstic, Apple’s head of security, at the Black Hat conference.

Twitter Finally Cracks Down on ‘QAnon’ Nutters 


We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. In line with this approach, this week we are taking further action on so-called ‘QAnon’ activity across the service.

We will permanently suspend accounts Tweeting about these topics that we know are engaged in violations of our multi-account policy, coordinating abuse around individual victims, or are attempting to evade a previous suspension — something we’ve seen more of in recent weeks.

  1. No longer serve content and accounts associated with QAnon in Trends and recommendations
  2. Work to ensure we’re not highlighting this activity in search and conversations
  3. Block URLs associated with QAnon from being shared on Twitter

According to NBC News, this move bans 7,000 accounts and limits 150,000 others.

Your move, Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg on Ridiculous and Crazy Ideas 

Mike Allen, writing at Axios today:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, under fire for allowing President Trump to post inflammatory statements on his platform, tells Axios there’s no truth to whispers that the two have a secret understanding.

Why it matters: Zuckerberg, facing a growing ad boycott from brands that say Facebook hasn’t done enough to curtail hate speech, has become increasingly public in criticizing Trump. “I’ve heard this speculation, too, so let me be clear: There’s no deal of any kind,” Zuckerberg told Axios. “Actually, the whole idea of a deal is pretty ridiculous.”

Zuckerberg in 2016, after Trump’s election:

“Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way — I think is a pretty crazy idea. Voters make decisions based on their lived experience.”

Zuckerberg in 2017:

“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it.”

Astute point from Tony Romm, on Twitter:

No one said there was a deal. They said Facebook was acting kindly to Trump out of self interest.

There’s a lot of that going around.

How Facebook Handles Climate Disinformation 

Veronica Penney, reporting last week for The New York Times:

All opinion content on the platform — including op-ed articles or posts that express the views or agendas of politicians, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations — is exempt from fact-checking. This policy has been in place since 2016, according to said Andy Stone, Facebook’s policy communications director. […]

According to Climate Feedback, the op-ed cherry-picked facts and compiled them in a deliberately misleading manner. You can read the full fact-check here.

John Podesta, an adviser to President Barack Obama who coordinated the administration’s climate policy, called Facebook’s opinion policy “a loophole that you can drive a Mack truck through.”

According to Mr. Stone, Facebook is most concerned with flagging or removing content that poses an immediate threat to human health and safety, including disinformation about the coronavirus or hate speech that incites violence. Climate change content, he said, does not fall within that category.

John Paczkowski:

The “imminent threat” loophole is just shameful BS.

Fact-Check of Viral Climate Misinformation Quietly Removed From Facebook 

Judd Legum and Emily Atkin, jointly reporting for Popular Information and Heated:

Shortly after the email was sent to top Facebook executives, Science Feedback’s fact-check was removed from The Daily Wire article. According to Facebook’s policy, a rating should only be removed if: 1. The fact-checker determines their initial rating of the was wrong, or 2. The factual errors in the article are corrected.

In this case, neither occurred. Science Feedback is standing by its fact-check of The Daily Wire. It is still the featured fact-check on its homepage. And The Daily Wire did not correct the article. Instead, at the very bottom of the article, The Daily Wire briefly summarized Science Feedback’s fact-check and provided a link. […]

But Science Feedback removed the rating from The Daily Wire anyway. Emmanuel Vincent, the founder and director of Science Feedback, acknowledged that, normally, articles need “to be corrected with a prominent correction notice” to have a rating removed. Vincent said that, in this case, the link appended to the end of the article was “barely sufficient” because the initial rating was “partly false.”

Facebook ought to start putting dick quotes around “fact-check”, then they can just say they’re not really fact-checks, they’re just fake fact-checks.

WSJ: ‘Disney Slashed Ad Spending on Facebook Amid Growing Boycott’ 

Suzanne Vranica, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+ link):

Walt Disney Co. has dramatically slashed its advertising spending on Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the situation, the latest setback for the tech giant as it faces a boycott from companies upset with its handling of hate speech and divisive content.

Disney was Facebook’s top U.S. advertiser for the first six months of 2020, research firm Pathmatics Inc. estimates. It joins hundreds of other companies that have paused spending, including Unilever PLC, Starbucks Corp., Ford Motor Co., Verizon Communication Inc. and many small marketers.

In the first half of this year, Disney spent an estimated $210 million on Facebook ads for Disney+ in the U.S., according to Pathmatics. Disney was the biggest ad spender during that period. Last year, it was the No. 2 Facebook advertiser in the U.S., behind Home Depot Inc.

If you won’t advertise on Breitbart or The Daily Caller or Ben Shapiro’s Hate Club, why advertise on the social network that promotes them all?

The State of Google Pixel and My Own Very Brief Review of the Pixel 4 

Joe Maring, writing for Android Central:

I don’t expect Google to make phones that are flawless, but what I do wish is that its phones had a clear identity and purpose. This strategy of constantly changing plans and going back to the drawing board is hurting and turning users away, and given the limited scope of the Pixel brand in the first place, that’s not really something Google can afford.

Growing pains in the beginning were to be expected, as they would be for any company trying to make its own smartphone hardware for the first time. It’s now been four years, however, and Google seems to be even more lost with the Pixel than it was in 2016.

My basic theory is that Google, institutionally, is bored with Android — and if Google has lost interest in Android generally it’s going to lose interest in Pixels specifically.

I bought a Pixel 2 in 2017 and a Pixel 4 last fall. There’s a lot that’s nice about the hardware but the software is sloppy. My nutshell review of the experience of using a Pixel 4 can be summed up just by looking at this screenshot of my home screen (or this one with an alternate system font). “Instagr…”, “Podcas…”, “Play St…” — that’s how the home screen displays the names for Google’s own apps and Instagram, one of the most-used apps in the world.

Now imagine that the same lack of attention to detail that would lead to a home screen like this, where even Google’s own essential apps like Play Store have their names truncated hamfistedly, is applied to every aspect of the entire system. That’s what using Android on a Pixel 4 is like.

Marc Levoy, Former Head of Computational Photography at Google, Lands at Adobe 

David Imel on Twitter:

Holy hell.

Just got word that Marc Levoy, who previously led Computational Photography at Google has just joined @Adobe as a VP and fellow to work on [computational photography] initiatives, as well as a “Universal Adobe Camera App”.

See also: Imel’s interview from October with Levoy (and his then-colleague Isaac Reynolds) for Android Authority.

Bahamas Shuts Borders to U.S. Tourists Amid Spiking COVID Cases 

Jacqueline Charles, reporting for The Miami Herald:

Less than three weeks after reopening its borders to international visitors, the Bahamas on Sunday announced that it is closing all of its airports and seaports to tourists from the United States, effective Wednesday.

51 years ago the United States landed men on the moon.

Today, thanks to President Trump and every goddamn idiot and/or bigot who voted for him, we’re not allowed to go to the Bahamas.

Marriott to Require Face Masks in All Hotels 


Following American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA)’s “Safe Stay Guest Checklist” announcement last week, Marriott International will require all guests to wear a face covering in its hotels effective July 27.

How was this not the policy already, and why in the world is this not taking effect for another week?

Zoom to Sell 27-Inch Dedicated Appliance for $600 

Ron Miller, TechCrunch:

The device, dubbed the Zoom for Home — DTEN ME, is being produced by partner DTEN. It consists of a standalone 27-inch screen, essentially a large tablet equipped with three wide-angle cameras designed for high-resolution video and 8 microphones. Zoom software is pre-loaded on the device and the interface is designed to provide easy access to popular Zoom features.

Put aside the lunacy of buying hardware from a company with Zoom’s security and privacy track record — who has room in their home for a dedicated 27-inch display just for Zoom?

Simris Algae Omega-3 

My thanks to Simris for sponsoring DF last week to promote their algae-based omega-3 supplements. One third of the matter in your brain is literally made of omega-3, and many people eat fish and take fish oil as an omega-3 supplement. But the source of omega-3 is algae — not fish. Fish get their omegas from eating algae. Simris Algae Omega-3 is a completely plant-based and superior alternative to fish oil and krill, without the mercury, PCB, and dioxins, and without harming our oceans.

Simris is a Swedish pioneer company growing microalgae. They save and protect endangered marine habitats by replacing unsustainable marine ingredients, and proudly combine Scandinavian innovation and design at its finest.

Everything about Simris’s products is just really nice: from their website to their packaging to the actual capsules.

David Shor’s Unified Theory of American Politics 

While I’m on a political kick, please allow me to direct your attention to this interview with political strategist and data analyst David Shor, by Eric Levitz for New York Magazine. Shor’s insights are extraordinarily smart, fascinating, data-driven, and in ways large and small, often counter to conventional wisdom (e.g. big-money donors are pushing the Democrats to the left). I assure you it is worth your time and full attention.

A taste, regarding why non-college-educated voters have been drifting right, both in the U.S. and Europe, for decades:

So why is this happening? The story that makes the most sense to me goes like this: In the postwar era, college-educated professionals were maybe 4 percent of the electorate. Which meant that basically no voters had remotely cosmopolitan values. But the flip side of this is that this educated 4 percent still ran the world. Both parties at this point were run by this highly educated, cosmopolitan minority that held a bunch of values that undergirded the postwar consensus, around democracy and rule of law, and all these things.

Obviously, these people were more right wing on a bunch of social issues than their contemporary counterparts, but during that era, both parties were run by just about the most cosmopolitan segments of society. And there were also really strong gatekeepers. This small group of highly educated people not only controlled the commanding heights of both the left and the right, but also controlled the media. There were only a small number of TV stations — in other countries, those stations were even run by the government. And both sides knew it wasn’t electorally advantageous to campaign on cosmopolitan values.

So, as a result, campaigns centered around this cosmopolitan elite’s internal disagreements over economic issues. But over the past 60 years, college graduates have gone from being 4 percent of the electorate to being more like 35. Now, it’s actually possible — for the first time ever in human history — for political parties to openly embrace cosmopolitan values and win elections; certainly primary and municipal elections, maybe even national elections if you don’t push things too far or if you have a recession at your back. And so Democratic elites started campaigning on the things they’d always wanted to, but which had previously been too toxic. And so did center-left parties internationally.

Microbe Economics 

Paul Krugman:

Econ 101 has lots of good things to say about free markets (probably too many good things, but that’s a discussion for another time), but no rational discussion of economics says that free markets, left to themselves, can solve the problem of “externalities” — costs that individuals or businesses impose on others who have no say in the matter. Pollution is the classic example of an externality that requires government intervention, but spreading a dangerous virus poses exactly the same issues.

Yet many conservatives seem unable or unwilling to grasp this simple point. And they seem equally unwilling to grasp a related point — that there are some things that must be supplied through public policy rather than individual initiative. And the most important of these “public goods” is probably scientific knowledge.

And this again exemplifies how this abject failure of Republican leadership is not about any traditional left-right conservative-liberal partisanship. It’s science vs. willful ignorance. And the simple truth is that the Republicans used to be — or at least fancied themselves — the party of facing hard truths even when inconvenient or downright unpleasant. They insisted Democrats were “bleeding heart liberals”, who chose policies based on compassion rather than facts.

White House Portraits of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Moved From Prominent Space to a Closet, Like Deck Chairs Being Moved on Titanic 

Jeff Zeleny and Kevin Liptak, reporting for CNN:

White House tradition calls for portraits of the most recent American presidents to be given the most prominent placement, in the entrance of the executive mansion, visible to guests during official events.

That was the case through at least July 8, when President Donald Trump welcomed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The two stood in the Cross Hall of the White House and made remarks, with the portraits of Clinton and Bush essentially looking on as they had been throughout Trump’s first term. But in the days after after that, the Clinton and Bush portraits were moved into the Old Family Dining Room, a small, rarely used room that is not seen by most visitors.

That places the paintings well outside of Trump’s vantage point in the White House. In their previous location, the pictures would have been seen daily as Trump descends the staircase from his third floor private residence or when he hosts events on the state floor of the White House. Now, they hang in a space used mainly for storing unused tablecloths and furniture.

The story of these portraits, in itself, is not important. But what’s behind this petty insignificant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-events story is the same fundamental truth that is the cause of so many deeply important problems happening right now: Donald Trump has the small mind and emotional maturity of a petulant child.

The portrait story is all the more clarifying given that Bush is a two-term Republican. It’s hard to imagine a more politically polarizing president than Bush. We do live in a polarized time, and George W. Bush exemplified that polarization on the left-right divide. He was certainly far more conservative than Trump, both in rhetoric and policy. (Clinton was, famously, a moderate, and left office with the highest approval ratings of any president since World War II. Why Trump despises him is plainly obvious and has nothing to do with politics.) Trump’s problem with Bush isn’t partisan. It’s about adherence to foundational American ideals such as the rule of law, and the idea that the President of the United States is the leader of all Americans, not just those who support him. Say what you want about Bush’s presidency, when the nation faced a true crisis on 9/11, he brought the nation together.

When faced with this crisis, Donald Trump, mind-bogglingly, drove the country further apart. His remaining supporters are with him not despite this, but because of it, like pigs wallowing in mud.

‘The Plan Is to Have No Plan’ Redux 

Jay Rosen, back in early May:

“The plan is to have no plan” is not a strategy, really. Nor would I call it a policy. It has a kind of logic to it, but this is different from saying it has a design — or a designer. Meaning: I do not want to be too conspiratorial about this. To wing it without a plan is merely the best this government can do, given who heads the table. The manufacture of confusion is just the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives.

I linked to this back when Rosen wrote it. What’s happening today was obvious months ago to anyone willing to look at it with open eyes, but yet it still takes your breath away.

Trump Regime Opposes New Funds for Testing, Tracing, and CDC in Virus Relief Bill 

Erica Werner and Jeff Stein, reporting for The Washington Post:

The Trump administration is trying to block billions of dollars for states to conduct testing and contact tracing in the upcoming coronavirus relief bill, people involved in the talks said Saturday.

The administration is also trying to block billions of dollars that GOP senators want to allocate for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and billions more for the Pentagon and State Department to address the pandemic at home and abroad, the people said.

The administration’s posture has angered some GOP senators, the officials said, and some lawmakers are trying to push back and ensure that the money stays in the bill. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal confidential deliberations, cautioned that the talks were fluid and the numbers were in flux.

Even Republicans are getting it through their thick skulls that Trump and his regime really do only care about the optics — they care only about the reported number of positive test results, not the actual number of infections.

I wrote this on April 10:

Any feasible plan starts with massive testing, completely subsidized by the government. And yet just yesterday the president claimed we don’t need mass testing. The one thing that everyone who knows what they’re talking about agrees on is that we need mass testing — and the president is arguing we don’t need it.

We needed massive federalized testing months ago. And here we are in July, with daily records for cases nationwide and several states raging out of control, and the Trump regime is pushing to block spending for what’s needed. The house is ablaze and the fire department is calling for the water to be shut off. They’re not just a little off course, they’re insane.

We’ve elected a mad king and he’s surrounded himself with enablers.

‘Inside Trump’s Failure: The Rush to Abandon Leadership Role on the Virus’ 

Michael D. Shear, Noah Weiland, Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman, and David E. Sanger, reporting for The New York Times:

Each morning at 8 as the coronavirus crisis was raging in April, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, convened a small group of aides to steer the administration through what had become a public health, economic and political disaster.

Seated around Mr. Meadows’s conference table and on a couch in his office down the hall from the Oval Office, they saw their immediate role as practical problem solvers. Produce more ventilators. Find more personal protective equipment. Provide more testing.

But their ultimate goal was to shift responsibility for leading the fight against the pandemic from the White House to the states. They referred to this as “state authority handoff,” and it was at the heart of what would become at once a catastrophic policy blunder and an attempt to escape blame for a crisis that had engulfed the country — perhaps one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in generations.

Absolutely riveting — and infuriating, and terrifying — account of how the U.S. response went so terribly wrong. Devastating assessment of Jared Kushner (no surprise) and Dr. Deborah Birx (a bit surprising).

Civil Rights Hero and Icon John Lewis, ‘Conscience of the Congress’, Dies at 80 

Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times:

On the front lines of the bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, with blows to his body and a fractured skull to prove it, Mr. Lewis was a valiant stalwart of the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

More than a half-century later, after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis, Mr. Lewis welcomed the resulting global demonstrations against systemic racism and the police killings of Black people. He saw those demonstrations, the largest protest movement in American history, as a continuation of his life’s work, though his illness had left him to watch from the sideline.

The arc of Lewis’s career is simply hard to conceive.

Lewis: “My philosophy is very simple: When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to stand up and just say something. You have to do something. I got into good trouble, necessary trouble. Even today, I tell people, ‘We need to get in good trouble.’”

Twitter: ‘An Update on Our Security Incident’ 


At this time, we believe attackers targeted certain Twitter employees through a social engineering scheme. What does this mean? In this context, social engineering is the intentional manipulation of people into performing certain actions and divulging confidential information.

The attackers successfully manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials to access Twitter’s internal systems, including getting through our two-factor protections. As of now, we know that they accessed tools only available to our internal support teams to target 130 Twitter accounts. For 45 of those accounts, the attackers were able to initiate a password reset, login to the account, and send Tweets. We are continuing our forensic review of all of the accounts to confirm all actions that may have been taken. In addition, we believe they may have attempted to sell some of the usernames.

“May” is a bit of a stretch here given that The New York Times reported hours ago that they had been selling usernames, and Brian Krebs reported it yesterday.

For up to eight of the Twitter accounts involved, the attackers took the additional step of downloading the account’s information through our “Your Twitter Data” tool. This is a tool that is meant to provide an account owner with a summary of their Twitter account details and activity. We are reaching out directly to any account owner where we know this to be true.

DMs are the first thing that comes to mind with the “Your Twitter Data” tool. That archive contains pretty much everything, including your location data.

NYT: ‘Hackers Tell the Story of the Twitter Attack From the Inside’ 

Extraordinary reporting by Nathaniel Popper and Kate Conger for The New York Times:

But four people who participated in the scheme spoke with The Times and shared numerous logs and screen shots of the conversations they had on Tuesday and Wednesday, demonstrating their involvement both before and after the hack became public.

The interviews indicate that the attack was not the work of a single country like Russia or a sophisticated group of hackers. Instead, it was done by a group of young people — one of whom says he lives at home with his mother — who got to know one another because of their obsession with owning early or unusual screen names, particularly one letter or number, like @y or @6. […]

The hacker “lol” and another one he worked with, who went by the screen name “ever so anxious,” told The Times that they wanted to talk about their work with Kirk in order to prove that they had only facilitated the purchases and takeovers of lesser-known Twitter addresses early in the day. They said they had not continued to work with Kirk once he began more high-profile attacks around 3:30 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.

In one of the first transactions, “lol” brokered a deal for someone who was willing to pay $1,500, in Bitcoin, for the Twitter user name @y. The money went to the same Bitcoin wallet that Kirk used later in the day when he got payments from hacking the Twitter accounts of celebrities, the public ledger of Bitcoin transactions shows.

Secret Police in Portland Are the Opposite of ‘Law and Order’ 

Rep. Adam Schiff:

Federal officers wearing camouflage, using unmarked vans, arresting and detaining peaceful protestors, over the objections of local authorities, isn’t “law and order.”

It’s the exact opposite.

And it’s un-American and unacceptable.

My friend and lifelong Portlander Cabel Sasser:

p.s. I could’ve sworn one of the top 5 fantasies for gun owners was to bravely prevent an armed federal occupying force in unmarked vehicles and without identification from invading a city — super weird how quiet they are now.

The longstanding argument of rightwing gun nuts that they’re ready to defend liberty for all Americans in the event of some ever-imminent power grab by no-badge no-warrant “jackbooted” government forces, is quite obviously nonsense given their collective reaction — which ranges from silence to vocal support — of the Lafayette Square fiasco in Washington D.C. six weeks ago, and their continuing silence/support of what’s now happening in Portland. But more than mere hypocrisy or even fantasy, it’s projection: “attributing one’s own unacceptable urges to another”. Rightwing nuts live in constant fear of an armed fascist crackdown from the left because they assume the left would abuse such power against them in the ways they would abuse power (and now are) against the left. It’s always been obvious but now it’s transparently so.

Federal Agents Unleash Militarized Crackdown on Portland 

Sergio Olmos, Mike Baker, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, reporting from Portland for The New York Times:

Federal agents dressed in camouflage and tactical gear have taken to the streets of Portland, unleashing tear gas, bloodying protesters and pulling some people into unmarked vans in what Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon has called “a blatant abuse of power.”

The extraordinary use of federal force in recent days, billed as an attempt to tamp down persistent unrest and protect government property, has infuriated local leaders who say the agents have stoked tensions.

“This is an attack on our democracy,” Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland said. […]

In a statement issued on Friday, Customs and Border Protection said agents who made the arrest had information that indicated a suspect had assaulted federal authorities or damaged property and that they moved him to a safer location for questioning. The statement said that the agents identified themselves but that their names were not displayed because of “recent doxxing incidents against law enforcement personnel.”

We don’t have secret police in the United States. Well, we didn’t.

Ken Klippenstein, reporting for The Nation:

While many people have criticized the alleged lawlessness of the arrests, some even engaging in conspiracy theories about them, these arrests are likely legal, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials interviewed by The Nation. And that’s exactly what makes them so troubling, explains Jenn Budd, a former senior Border Patrol agent.

“During the DC protest, many federal agents removed their insignia,” Budd explained, referring to a June 1 protest in front of the White House where protesters were teargassed. “What the agencies discovered was that they could do this without much blowback from Congress,” Budd explained.

A former senior DHS intelligence officer explained that while other federal agencies are required to wear identifiers when conducting arrests — NCIS agents have to wear both marked jackets and hats during arrests, for example — that is not the case with the DHS. “The fact is, they don’t have to do anything in marked vehicles,” he said. “Such operations happen all the time and at the discretion of supervisors.”

More fuel for the argument that the entire Department of Homeland Security should be disbanded.

Republican Governor Larry Hogan: ‘Trump Left Maryland Vulnerable to the Pandemic’ 

Maryland governor Larry Hogan, writing in The Washington Post:

Meanwhile, instead of listening to his own public health experts, the president was talking and tweeting like a man more concerned about boosting the stock market or his reelection plans.

America’s governors took a different approach. In early February, we descended on Washington for the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association. As chairman, I had worked closely with the staff for months assembling the agenda, including a private, governors-only briefing at our hotel, the Marriott Marquis, to address the growing viral threat. We brought in Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was already widely admired but whose awesome knowledge and straight-talking style hadn’t yet made him a national rock star; CDC head Robert Redfield; Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of homeland security; Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases; and Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services.

They hit us with detailed presentations and the unfiltered truth, as well as it was known then. I remember hearing many dire claims: “This could be catastrophic.… The death toll could be significant.… Much more contagious than SARS.… Testing will be crucial.… You have to follow the science — that’s where the answers lie.”

It was jarring, the huge contrast between the experts’ warnings and the president’s public dismissals. Weren’t these the people the White House was consulting about the virus? What made the briefing even more chilling was its clear, factual tone. It was a harrowing warning of an imminent national threat, and we took it seriously — or at least most of us did. It was enough to convince almost all the governors that this epidemic was going to be worse than most people realized.

In theory it shouldn’t, but in practice it matters that Hogan is not just a Republican governor, but a popular one. Hogan’s scathing condemnation of the president’s response to the COVID-19 crisis puts the lie to the notion that the fundamental problem with Trump and his remaining supporters is about the left/right political divide. It’s about the science/anti-science divide, deferring to expertise vs. defiant know-nothing-ism as a political stance. There is nothing conservative or liberal about combating a pandemic.

‘The Science Should Not Stand in the Way of This.’ 

The New York Times:

Several large school districts — including in Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco — said this week that they would open the academic year with online classes, bucking pressure from President Trump and his administration to get students back into classrooms.

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said Thursday that Mr. Trump still wants to see schools reopen. “When he says open, he means open and full, kids being able to attend each and every day at their school,” she said. “The science should not stand in the way of this.”

Ms. McEnany then referenced data published in JAMA Pediatrics, a respected medical journal published by the American Medical Association, that indicated the risk of children contracting the coronavirus was low compared with seasonal influenza.

Trump and McEnany are really stupid. Trump says “Put your children at risk to make me look good”; voters think “Screw this guy, and screw his party, too.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp Sues Atlanta Mayor Over City’s Face Mask Mandate 

NBC News:

Georgia’s governor on Thursday sued Atlanta’s mayor over that city’s mask law, a day after the governor banned local governments from requiring the coverings that health experts say help to stop the spread of COVID-19. […]

Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, and members of Atlanta’s City Council. The lawsuit argues that Bottoms exceeded her authority in issuing coronavirus-related orders that are more restrictive than the state’s orders.

Kemp issued his executive order, which banned more than a dozen local governments from mandating that masks be worn in public, on Wednesday. A spokesman for Atlanta’s mayor had said that the mayor’s order remained in effect, that the city would be guided by data and science, and that “masks save lives.”

Brian Kemp is really stupid, and let’s not mince words, evil.

In Separate Rallies, Utahns Protest Mask Mandate and Demand in-Person Classes 

Courtney Tanner, reporting for the Salt Lake Tribune:

As she walked up to the podium to speak, one of the moms grabbed a face mask and spit her gum out into it. “It’s garbage,” she shrugged, wadding it up. “It doesn’t work anyway. Not for me and not for my kids.”

A dad who spoke after her said he, too, doesn’t think the masks are effective, and said he’s pulling his kids out of school this fall if the state doesn’t lift its mandate requiring all K-12 students to wear a face covering. Another mother carried her 4-year-old son in her arms, noting there’s no way he would keep one on in his kindergarten class — but she thinks they’re stupid anyway, regardless of age.

Parent after parent followed at the Utah County commission meeting Wednesday afternoon, objecting for more than two hours to having their kids in masks even as counts of the virus continue to climb across the state, where there are more than 30,000 confirmed cases.

The first photo — a meeting of well over 100 people packed elbow to elbow in a room — is startling. These people are incoherently angry, and that’s striking. But the most salient fact — which straight news reporting won’t just come out and state — is that they are really, really stupid.

Apple Wins Irish Tax Battle Against E.U. 

Valentina Pop and Sam Schechner, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

Apple Inc. won a major battle with the European Union when the bloc’s second-highest court on Wednesday sided with the U.S. company over a €13 billion ($14.8 billion) tax bill that EU antitrust officials had said the company owed to Ireland. The decision was a rebuke to Margrethe Vestager, who is leading the charge at the European Commission to rein in alleged abuses by big tech companies including Apple, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, and Inc. […]

Apple and Ireland on Wednesday applauded the annulment of the tax case. Ireland reiterated that it gave no special treatment to Apple, and said that the company had paid taxes according to “normal Irish taxation rules.”

Apple said that it supports international talks over how countries should divide up taxation rights for multinational companies. “This case was not about how much tax we pay, but where we are required to pay it. We’re proud to be the largest taxpayer in the world as we know the important role tax payments play in society,” an Apple spokesman said. […]

It’s perfectly reasonable and perhaps correct to argue that Apple, along with all other titanic corporations today, should pay more in taxes. But Apple is not one of these companies that somehow makes a fortune yet pays no or little in taxes — they really are the biggest taxpayer in the world, and I really do think it’s true that they pay what they owe, worldwide. If you think they should pay more, your beef is with the law, not Apple’s compliance with them or their accounting practices.

“Sometimes, the Commissioner for Competition would be well-advised to restrain her eagerness for catchy political headlines and instead prepare her cases more thoroughly, so that they can hold up in a court of law,” said German center-right MEP Markus Ferber, who in 2016 backed the commission’s decision against Apple. “High-profile decisions like these being overturned is quite the disservice to the cause of tax justice,” he said.

I think that’s a harsh burn from a German.

Twitter Account Hijackings Were an Inside Job 

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard:

A Twitter insider was responsible for a wave of high profile account takeovers on Wednesday, according to leaked screenshots obtained by Motherboard and two sources who took over accounts. […]

After the publication of this piece, Twitter said in a tweet that “We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”

Cryptocurrency Scammers Hack Twitter Accounts of Apple, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Many More 

Karissa Bell, reporting for Engadget:

Hackers promoting crypto scams took over a number of high-profile Twitter accounts Wednesday, including Bill Gates and Elon Musk, who has been a frequent target of would-be crypto scammers. The attackers also gained access to Apple’s Twitter account, which has never sent a tweet. […]

It’s unclear how the hackers gained access to the accounts. CoinDesk reports that many of the affected accounts were using two-factor authentication.

They got the @joebiden account too. Imagine the havoc if they’d tweeted, say, that he was dropping out of the election rather than scamming people for bitcoin.

Will be fascinating to learn how these accounts were hacked. Twitter, to my knowledge, only supports the notoriously insecure SMS as a second factor for 2FA. Will be fascinating too if we can figure out how much of a score these thieves hauled in. Cryptocurrency is like a cash transaction — the thieves get to keep every penny from this. No refunds, no tracing. Perfect for a heist.

Update: Turns out Twitter now supports token-based authentication apps like Authy and hardware dongles as second factors — just switched my accounts, good to know. Solid theory: the thieves didn’t hack all of these high-profile accounts, they hacked one thing, Twitter’s internal tools, giving them access to tweet from any account they want. Update 2: The thieves are stealing the hacked accounts, not just somehow tweeting from them — but they’re not revoking the existing authentication tokens, so account owners still have access.

Update 3: Looks like the heist netted around $118,000. A pittance compared to the disruption it caused.

Trump Makes His Best Case to Date for Invoking 25th Amendment 

Peter Baker, writing for The New York Times on Trump’s “press conference” yesterday — 63 minutes in length with just 6 of those minutes spent answering questions:

“We could go on for days,” he said at one point, and it sounded plausible.

At times, it was hard to understand what he meant. He seemed to suggest that his presumptive Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., would get rid of windows if elected and later said that Mr. Biden would “abolish the suburbs.” He complained that Mr. Biden had “gone so far right.” (He meant left.)

Even for those who follow Mr. Trump regularly and understand his shorthand, it became challenging to follow his train of thought.

For instance, in discussing cooperation agreements with Central American countries to stop illegal immigration, he had this to say: “We have great agreements where when Biden and Obama used to bring killers out, they would say don’t bring them back to our country, we don’t want them. Well, we have to, we don’t want them. They wouldn’t take them. Now with us, they take them. Someday, I’ll tell you why. Someday, I’ll tell you why. But they take them and they take them very gladly. They used to bring them out and they wouldn’t even let the airplanes land if they brought them back by airplanes. They wouldn’t let the buses into their country. They said we don’t want them. Said no, but they entered our country illegally and they’re murderers, they’re killers in some cases.”

Makes sense to me.

Shameless Beneficiary of Outrageous Nepotism Unveils Ad Campaign Advising 18 Million Unemployed Workers to ‘Find Something New’ 

Hamza Shaban, reporting for The Washington Post:

Ivanka Trump urged out-of-work Americans to “find something new” Tuesday as part of a new jobs initiative designed to tout the benefits of skills training and career paths that don’t require a college degree.

But the effort — complete with website, advertising campaign and virtual roundtable featuring Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM chair Ginni Rometty — was swiftly derided on social media as “clueless” and “tone-deaf” given the pandemic, recession and Trump’s own familial employment history.

I don’t know what the exact expiration date was on Cook’s stance that it was better to engage with Trump and his kakistocratic administration, but I do know we’re past it.


Contemplate this roundtable video from a historical standpoint — say, a few decades from now. What will people see? They will immediately note the stunningly low technical quality and production values. It will be instantly recognizable, whether our future viewers lived through these times or not, as “one of those awful virtual meeting videos made during the COVID-19 crisis”. You know, the crisis in which several hundred thousand Americans needlessly died and millions were sickened because of the Trump administration’s incompetent, insane, sclerotic response. The crisis that Trump’s disastrous, humiliating, “what the hell was anyone thinking when they voted for this obvious lunatic?” presidency is now and forever will remain synonymous with. Like how when I say “Jimmy Carter”, people think “genial peanut farmer who was in over his head and allowed 52 Americans to be held hostage by Iran for over a year and oversaw an energy crisis that culminated in an automobile-dependent nation being unable to buy gasoline”. Or I say “Richard Nixon” and people think “shifty crook whose crippling paranoia drove him to send a squad of bumbling goons straight out of a Coen brothers casting call to burgle his political opposition’s headquarters and then oversaw a criminal attempt to cover it up, inexorably leading to his resigning from office in utter disgrace”. When you say “Trump” decades from now, after our current hot moment has turned igneous, we’ll think about shamefully blatant racism, we’ll think about jaw-droppingly transparent corruption, we’ll think about his stupid-looking hair and poorly-applied bronzer and the rapidly degenerating incoherence of his every utterance, but more than anything we will think about the COVID-19 crisis, and his heartbreakingly cruel, incomprehensibly stupid and irresponsible response to it. That’s Trump’s lines-around-the-block-for-gasoline, his Watergate, his Hoovervilles. But hundreds of thousands of Americans didn’t die waiting for gas in the ’70s, or because G. Gordon Liddy shouldn’t have been trusted to shoplift a pack of gum without getting caught. Just try to imagine how much worse the jaded eyes of history will view a self-inflicted fiasco that resulted in so many American deaths that morgues were overrun in cities across the nation. It’s a presidential albatross without peer.

This roundtable isn’t particularly noteworthy in and of itself, but as an artifact it is emblematic of both the months-long-with-no-end-in-sight quarantine that necessitated the video’s socially awkward and jarringly-low-fi “Brady Bunch” title sequence format, and the I-can’t-believe-this-is-real hypocrisy of a White House initiative to glibly counsel the record-shattering number of unemployed to just “find something new” being led by a senior White House advisor whose one and only qualification for the job is that she is the president’s loyal daughter and only fully-acknowledged adult child who isn’t a complete numb nut.

That’s the roundtable video Tim Cook agreed to be a part of.

Life in the NBA ‘Bubble’ at Disney World 


Luke Walton, Kings coach: “The strangest thing I brought that I’m very happy I brought now is, I dedicated a whole carry-on bag to my coffee. Which is like seven pounds of coffee beans, my coffee grinder, I got a French press in my room, because I knew we were going to be quarantined so I couldn’t trust whatever was going to be in my room.”

Via John Kivus at Rope Drop, who also has excerpts from reporter Joe Vardon’s life-in-the-bubble piece for The Athletic.

Typefaces of Protest 

Illuminati Bold and Dipshit Condensed are personal faves.

iPhone 12 Could Ship With New Braided USB-C to Lightning Cable 

My suggested rewrite of this headline: “iPhone 12 Could Ship With Lightning Cable That Doesn’t Fall Apart When Used”.

‘Ted Lasso’ Debuts Next Month on Apple TV+ 

He’s like Trump for football, except actually funny.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Butcher Shop 

Kara Swisher, in her column at The New York Times:

This week, I finally settled on a simpler comparison: Think about Facebook as a seller of meat products.

Most of the meat is produced by others, and some of the cuts are delicious and uncontaminated. But tainted meat — say, Trump steaks — also gets out the door in ever increasing amounts and without regulatory oversight.

The argument from the head butcher is this: People should be free to eat rotten hamburger, even if it wreaks havoc on their gastrointestinal tract, and the seller of the meat should not be the one to tell them which meat is good and which is bad (even though the butcher can tell in most cases).

Basically, the message is that you should find the truth through vomiting and — so sorry — maybe even death.


Rashad Robinson on Facebook’s Response to Civil Rights Audit: ‘Come On’ 

Charlie Warzel, writing for The New York Times:

Facebook’s long-awaited civil rights audit is now public and it isn’t flattering. The 100-plus-page report laid bare many of the issues facing the platform — that Facebook does not fully understand how its algorithms drive hate, that anti-Muslim speech is “rampant,” that Facebook’s reforms never fix the problem — and warned the company may be “driving people toward self-reinforcing echo chambers of extremism.”

Warzel interviewed Rashad Robinson, the head of the civil rights group Color of Change, who met with Mark Zuckerberg regarding the audit and its conclusions:

Warzel: You met with Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook over Zoom on Tuesday and told my Times colleagues, “They showed up to the meeting expecting an A for attendance. Attending alone is not enough.” Do you think Facebook actually understands this problem?

Robinson: It’s so frustrating. We are doing a lot of work for a multibillion-dollar company and it’s just always dispiriting we have to do this for them because they won’t do it for themselves.

Mark was talking about how much hate they’re catching and throwing this number out: 89 percent [that the company catches 89 percent of hate speech before it is reported by users]. And I was like, “Come on. Even I see this stuff on my feed and my algorithms are pretty trained around progressive stuff.” And I tell you that to say that what they’re doing is gaslighting. You’re in these meetings and you’re listening to them explain their rationale and thinking, “Nope, that’s not how this works.” And you’re left with this choice: Do I argue with the very premise that they don’t seem to understand the actual problem of their platform? Or do I argue with the number — that catching only 89 percent of hate isn’t something to be happy with?

Robinson speaks with clarity and concision. His criticisms of Facebook are clear, bracing, and obviously true.

Anti-Pseudoscience Advocate Anne Borden King Has Cancer, and Now Her Facebook Feed Is Full of Pseudoscience Cancer ‘Alternative Care’ Ads 

Anne Borden King, writing at The New York Times:

Last week, I posted about my breast cancer diagnosis on Facebook. Since then, my Facebook feed has featured ads for “alternative cancer care.” The ads, which were new to my timeline, promote everything from cumin seeds to colloidal silver as cancer treatments. Some ads promise luxury clinics — or even “nontoxic cancer therapies” on a beach in Mexico.

There’s a reason I’ll never fall for these ads: I’m an advocate against pseudoscience. As a consultant for the watchdog group Bad Science Watch and the founder of the Campaign Against Phony Autism Cures, I’ve learned to recognize the hallmarks of pseudoscience marketing: unproven and sometimes dangerous treatments, promising simplistic solutions and support. Things like “bleach cures” that promise to treat everything from Covid-19 to autism.

When I saw the ads, I knew that Facebook had probably tagged me to receive them. Interestingly, I haven’t seen any legitimate cancer care ads in my newsfeed, just pseudoscience. This may be because pseudoscience companies rely on social media in a way that other forms of health care don’t.

“May be” is too kind, as is “social media” in general as opposed to Facebook in particular. Scammers and fraudsters of all sorts, from alternative “medicine” quacks to financial investment grifters, have found a welcoming home advertising and promoting their rackets on Facebook.

They don’t advertise on legitimate media because legitimate media won’t have them, and because Facebook makes it affordable by doing all the hard work of targeting for them. Facebook is a criminal enterprise fully and knowingly complicit in all of this — from the spread of bigotry to the spread of pseudoscience.

Conversely, legitimate advertisers are abandoning Facebook because they want nothing to do with any of this. To remain on Facebook is to be complicit by association.

Gun-Toting St. Louis Jerks Mark and Patricia McCloskey Are Lifelong Jackasses 

You know that St. Louis husband-and-wife duo who threatened Black Lives Matter protesters like a couple of card-carrying Brooks Brothers Rewards Program Yosemite Sams? Jeremy Kohler of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the backstory on them, and it’s a doozy:

Mark McCloskey’s first taste of ownership may have been on his 20th birthday, in 1976. A card from his parents, Bruce and Lois “Carol” McCloskey, would much later become an exhibit in a lawsuit against his father and his father’s trust. The card said: “You are now the sole & only owner of 5 acres of the Phelps County Farm. Papers to follow. This is on the river — Luck! Happy Birthday! Mom + Dad.” […]

In March 2013, in Phelps County, Mark McCloskey sued his father and his father’s trust over the gift. The birthday card and earth, he claimed, were sufficient title because they met the legal definition of “livery of seisin,” a ceremony performed in medieval England for the conveyance of land.

In 2016, a special judge ruled against him, writing that “Exhibit 1 attached to the petition is a birthday card, not a deed” and that it was too late to claim ownership of part of the farm. The archaic legal claim, the judge ruled “does not operate as a matter of law to transfer title to real property.”

“This is a birthday card, not a deed” is the best real-life version of “Sir, this is a Wendy’s drive-through” I’ve ever heard.

‘Carl Reiner, Perfect’ 

Steve Martin:

I’ve known only two perfect people in my life. One is that son of a bitch Martin Short; the other is Carl Reiner.

Change the Twenty: The Harriet Tubman Twenty Dollar Bill 

My thanks to Dave Pell’s NextDraft for sponsoring DF last week to promote Change the Twenty:

One of the Trump administration’s first moves was to delay the release of the approved Harriet Tubman Twenty Dollar Bill. Yes, it’s only a symbol, but as we’ve seen in 2020, symbols matter. And the bill is overdue. For every $20 shirt purchased, we will donate $20 to a Donors Choose K-12 program focused on Black history, literature, equality, and/or racial justice.

You pay $20 for a great t-shirt, $20 goes to Donors Choose, and we all raise awareness for a righteous cause.

Apple Seeds First Public Betas of iOS and iPadOS 14 

I’ve been running the developer beta of iPadOS and it’s been quite stable, but beta means beta, so expect the worst.

Herewith, a reading list of iOS/iPadOS 14 first looks:

Arizona Is #1, Bahrain Is #4: COVID-19 Outbreak in the U.S. Sunbelt Is Worse Than in Any Country in the World 

David Leonhardt, reporting for The New York Times:

There is no country in the world where confirmed coronavirus cases are growing as rapidly as they are in Arizona, Florida or South Carolina. The Sun Belt has become the global virus capital.

This chart ranks the countries with the most confirmed new cases over the past week, adjusted for population size, and treats each U.S. state as if it were a country. (Many states are larger in both landmass and population than some countries.)

The only countries with outbreaks as severe as those across the Sunbelt are Bahrain, Oman and Qatar — three Middle Eastern countries with large numbers of low-wage migrant workers who are not citizens. These workers often live in cramped quarters, with subpar social services, and many have contracted the virus.

Don’t tell me the problem here in the U.S. is not the south.

And it keeps getting worse:

As President Trump continued pressing for a broader reopening of the United States, the country set another record for new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with more than 59,000 infections announced and some states’ final numbers still unreported, according to a New York Times database. It was the fifth national record set in nine days.

The previous record, 56,567, was reported on Friday.

The country reached a total of three million cases on Tuesday as the virus continued it a resurgence in the West and the South. At least five states — Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia — set single-day records for new infections on Wednesday.

As of Tuesday, there had been a 72 percent increase in the daily number of new cases over the past two weeks.

All in the last two weeks. Almost entirely in the south. And all of these states had months of warning from the northeast, west coast, and, you know, the rest of the entire world. Months of warning, and all we had to do was listen to the experts. Stay at home. Close all non-essential businesses. Forbid large gatherings. Wear masks. It fucking sucks but it’s not complicated. You just have to follow the advice of experts who know what the fuck they’re talking about.

More on COVID and Brain Damage 

Melinda Wenner Moyer, in an op-ed for The New York Times:

The more we learn about the coronavirus, the more we realize it’s not just a respiratory infection. The virus can ravage many of the body’s major organ systems, including the brain and central nervous system.

Among patients hospitalized for Covid-19 in Wuhan, China, more than a third experienced nervous system symptoms, including seizures and impaired consciousness. Earlier this month, French researchers reported that 84 percent of Covid patients who had been admitted to the I.C.U. experienced neurological problems, and that 33 percent continued to act confused and disoriented when they were discharged.

Warning of Serious Brain Disorders in People With Mild Coronavirus Symptoms 

Ian Sample, reporting for The Guardian:

Neurologists are on Wednesday publishing details of more than 40 UK Covid-19 patients whose complications ranged from brain inflammation and delirium to nerve damage and stroke. In some cases, the neurological problem was the patient’s first and main symptom.

The cases, published in the journal Brain, revealed a rise in a life-threatening condition called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem), as the first wave of infections swept through Britain. At UCL’s Institute of Neurology, Adem cases rose from one a month before the pandemic to two or three per week in April and May. One woman, who was 59, died of the complication. […]

One coronavirus patient described in the paper, a 55-year-old woman with no history of psychiatric illness, began to behave oddly the day after she was discharged from hospital. She repeatedly put her coat on and took it off again and began to hallucinate, reporting that she saw monkeys and lions in her house. She was readmitted to hospital and gradually improved on antipsychotic medication.

Another woman, aged 47, was admitted to hospital with a headache and numbness in her right hand a week after a cough and fever came on. She later became drowsy and unresponsive and required an emergency operation to remove part of her skull to relieve pressure on her swollen brain.

Germany yesterday reported 298 new cases of COVID-19.

The U.S. reported over 55,000. Just yesterday. It is raging out of control here in the United States. It’s that simple. We’ve lost any handle on it we might have had, infections are now — I repeat myself because there’s no other way to accurately describe it — raging out of control, and a large segment of the population has decided to pretend it isn’t happening and isn’t a big deal if you do get it.

For those of us who’ve been taking this seriously since March, it’s soul-crushing that this is where we’re at after four months of isolation. It sucks. We who’ve done the right thing are the ones most yearning for — and let’s be honest, most deserving of — a few tastes of normalcy. I see people in the south complaining about the physical discomfort and social awkwardness of wearing a mask because they’re new to it and I could not be more “Fuck you”. We should be over the hump, easing our way back to normalcy with confidence, like every country in the world that isn’t led by a dimwitted angry sociopath, but we’re not, and we have to face the fact that we’re in this indefinitely.

Do the right thing — stay home as much as you can, wear a mask and keep your distance when you’re out. You don’t want to get this and you don’t want your family to get it.

New Work by Gary Larson 

Gary Larson:

So here goes. I’ve got my coffee, I’ve got this cool gizmo, and I’ve got no deadlines. And — to borrow from Sherlock Holmes — the game is afoot.

Ben Dolnick on Our Long Parenthetical Moment 

Ben Dolnick, in a delightful piece for the NYT:

Here’s something I used to think about, back in the before-times: A clause set off by em dashes is like dropping underwater while swimming breaststroke — just a quick dip before popping back to the sentence’s surface. A parenthetical clause is more like diving down to the pool bottom to pick up a coin. And a footnote is a full-blown scuba dive — you have strapped on equipment and left the surface behind and you had better, after going to all that trouble, see something interesting down there.

How was it that I had never noticed that this entire taxonomic system of authorial interruptions took for granted that readers would enjoy being plunged into a medium in which they couldn’t take a breath?

Simultaneously an astute observation on writing and a spot-on assessment of our collective moment.

AirPods Versus AirPods Pro 

Adam Engst, writing for TidBITS:

I also wasn’t expecting to care about the case design. Because of their shorter stems and silicone tips, the case for the AirPods Pro is shorter and wider than the case for the AirPods. Even rotated 90 degrees, it’s slightly larger in both dimensions, and it’s also a little thicker. It’s not bad, but where Apple got the heft and hand feel of the AirPods case absolutely perfect, the AirPods Pro case feels… slightly off.

I’m sure this varies depending on your hand size, but I find that the AirPods case is an addictive fiddle — it’s like that smooth stone from the beach that you just can’t put down. The AirPods Pro case, on the other hand, is a little large in my pocket and just doesn’t have the same addictive feel.

I just love this assessment. I’ve thought the same thing ever since getting AirPods Pro but never quite to the level of writing it down.

For me personally, though, the utility of noise cancellation wins out over all else. I too find the regular AirPod buds more comfortable in my ears, but the acoustic advantages of AirPods Pro lead me to prefer them strongly.

Uber Buys Postmates for $2.65 Billion 

Really, it makes a ton of sense. If you take one money-losing company in a low-margin business and combine it with another money-losing company in a low-margin business, it’s like multiplying two negative numbers: you get a big positive number. Total sense.

Lunchbox by Sandwich 

While I’m directing your attention to my friends at Sandwich, do not miss their shot-in-quarantine spot for Slack and the fascinating behind-the-scenes video documenting how they did it and created a system around the process:

It’s not easy to produce new live-action work these days that’s full of authentic character, on-message and on-brand, without sacrificing quality or relying on stock clips. But we’ve built new methods for doing just that, tastefully, repeatably and safely. With real lights, sound and cameras (not just iPhones).

(I will also add that all of our collaboration for the production and editing of The Talk Show Remote was done over Slack, and it was frictionless. I give Slack grief over the interface details of their client apps (especially Mac), but I complain because I care. You know the oft-cited adage that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”? That’s what Slack is for remote collaboration.)

How to Look and Sound Better in Video Meetings 

Speaking of Adam Lisagor and making video calls look and sound better, Patrick Lucas Austin talked to him about just that for Time:

If you really want to go all out, adding a backlight can illuminate your hair and shoulders, separating you from your background in a pleasing way.

“It’s a matter of preference,” says Adam Lisagor, founder of video production company Sandwich, which makes commercials and other videos for companies like Slack, Starbucks, and Etsy, among others. “Some people would really prefer that every shadow is filled in … but I think, personally, I find a portrait more interesting if there’s some shadowing and shape to it.”

“There’s shadows in life, you know,” he adds.

That’s a reference, baby.

Yes Plz Coffee 

My thanks to Yes Plz for sponsoring this past week at DF. Yes Plz sends outstanding coffee beans right to your door, and it is absolutely delicious. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly even if they weren’t sponsoring the site.

World-class coffee delivered right to your door, on a schedule you control. Every week, every other week, once a month — it’s up to you, and you can tweak your schedule whenever you want. That’s Yes Plz. Just what the doctor ordered in these stay-at-home times. Try it now — no hassle, no commitment, and you can pause or cancel anytime. They even have a special deal for DF readers: $5 off your first bag using promo code FIREBALL5 at checkout.

Garry Kasparov on the Farce of Russian Democracy 

Garry Kasparov, in an op-ed for CNN:

It’s fair to ask, why bother with the pretense of democracy? Dictatorships are obsessed with the superficial trappings of legitimacy and democracy, both as distraction and to sully the meaning of these terms. And after decades of liquidating the opposition and crushing all dissent, a despot might even enjoy thinking that he’s as popular as the worthless polls, elections and state media say he is.

These sham votes aren’t only to provide Putin with cover in Russia, where civil society barely exists, but to give foreign leaders the pretext of treating Putin like an equal instead of confronting him like the autocrat he is. It also allows foreign media to continue calling him “president,” putting him on par with the leaders of free countries. As with every tyrant before him, Putin thrives partly due to the cowardice of those who could deter him but choose not to.

These aren’t just semantics. It would be awkward, even outrageous, to make deals with dictator Putin, to trust him, or to speak fondly of him the way President Donald Trump does. The title feeds the hypocrisy, and so the myth of Putin the elected, Putin the popular, must be perpetuated.

Part of the de-Trumping of America should be to stop treating Putin as an elected official.

Dithering’s July Album Art 

Part of the schtick with Dithering — the new thrice-weekly podcast from me and Ben Thompson — is that we’re putting out new album art each month, with the help of designer extraordinaire Brad Ellis. The mask on the batter at the plate in this month’s art is not Photoshopped — that’s really how they played baseball during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. Everything old is new again.

July 2020 cover art for Dithering, depicting a baseball player in 1918 wearing a face mask while at the plate.

Anyway, the show is a lot of fun. 15 minutes per episode — not a minute less, not a minute more. $5 per month — cheap! If you’re not subscribed you’re missing out.

On iOS Apps Peeking at Your Clipboard Contents 

Catalin Cimpanu reporting for ZDNet’s Zero Day:

In a video shared on Twitter, the Urspace developer showed how LinkedIn’s app was reading the clipboard content after every user key press, even accessing the shared clipboard feature that allows iOS apps to read content from a user’s macOS clipboard.

Erran Berger, VP of engineering at LinkedIn:

Appreciate you raising this. We’ve traced this to a code path that only does an equality check between the clipboard contents and the currently typed content in a text box. We don’t store or transmit the clipboard contents.

I know a lot of people are so cynical — justifiably — from never-ending news of privacy disasters that they just assume the worst about all these apps being revealed for looking at the clipboard contents. But I think almost all of this is just sloppy programming, not data collection. Even if you really did want to make an app that steals people’s clipboard contents, there’s absolutely no reason you’d check the clipboard contents this frequently. It’s just sloppy programming. But once revealed, a sloppy implementation like LinkedIn’s looks sketchy as hell.

It’s also the case that there are plenty of good reasons why an app might look at the clipboard without your having performed a manual Paste action. Think about image editors: for as long as I can remember, if you have an image on the clipboard, you can use File → New in MacOS’s built-in Preview app to make a new image with the contents of the clipboard. This does more than just save you the step of manually pasting — the new image is sized exactly right for the clipboard contents. It saves you a bunch of steps, not just one ⌘V. Same thing for podcast clients and RSS readers — if it looks like you have a feed URL on the clipboard, they can save you a few steps when subscribing.

It’s like managing camera and microphone access. Most apps want to access these things for good, honest reasons, but because some don’t, we need OS features to defend against the bad actors. And it winds up adding a bit of unfortunately necessary friction.

On Ming-Chi Kuo’s Report of a 24-Inch ARM iMac 

Old pre-WWDC news I’m catching up on. From a note by Kuo on what he expects to be the first Macs to ship with Apple silicon chips:

(1) ARM 13.3-inch MacBook Pro:

The new model’s form factor design will be similar to that of the existing Intel 13.3-inch MacBook Pro . Apple will discontinue the Intel 13.3-inch MacBook Pro production after launching the ARM 13.3-inch MacBook Pro .

(2) ARM iMac:

ARM iMac will be equipped with the all-new form factor design and a 24- inch display. Apple will launch the refresh of existing Intel iMac in 3Q20 before launching the ARM iMac .

Something’s got to go first, so it might as well be the 13-inch (14-inch?) MacBook Pro. But it’d be a little weird for the smaller, cheaper MacBook Pro to move to Apple silicon before the 16-inch MacBook Pro, because Apple’s laptop chips are going to blow Intel’s away in performance. We can safely bet the house on this based solely on the performance developers are seeing from the A12Z-based dev kit hardware. If the smaller MacBook Pro moves to Apple silicon before the 16-inch model does, we’ll have a gap where the highest-performing model, by far, is the cheaper smaller one.

As for a 24-inch iMac, that size only makes sense if it’s a replacement for the 21-inch iMac, in which case there should be a new 30-inch iMac to take the place of the current 27-inch models. Going from 27 to 24 inches would be a huge downgrade in display size. It makes no sense at all that this would be the only iMac Apple would make, and makes almost no sense that it would be the first iMac they’d release with Apple silicon.

Apple Card Now Has a Website and It Is Excellent 

It’s quintessentially Apple-y that Apple Card didn’t have a website until now — but this is a very good website.

Update: I mean seriously this is an outstanding website. The more I think about it and click around, the more amazed I am. There’s no bullshit. Anything you want to do is easy and obvious to do: Payments, Statements, Settings, Support. That’s it and that’s all there should be. It’s so minimal that one might be tempted to think not much work went into it, but making something this simple and clear takes a ton of work.

Retrobatch 1.4 and JavaScript Expressions 

Gus Mueller, writing back in March about the then-new Retrobatch 1.4:

There’s a couple of interesting new features in this update I’d like to call out. First up is JavaScript expressions in Retrobatch Pro. Various nodes in Retrobatch which allow you to set the size or length of a value (such as the Crop, Border, Gradient, Adjust Margin nodes) now have an option of running a little snippet of JavaScript code to figure out the value. This is a super powerful feature, which you can read about in our JavaScript Expressions documentation.

First, Retrobatch is super cool. It’s a batch image processor for the Mac — think of it as something like Automator or Shortcuts but just for image processing, with almost all the power of Acorn. It’s a really useful way to effectively write your own custom image processing workflows, which run really fast — but rather than using a scripting language, you do it graphically using nodes. It’s powerful but the experience of creating and tweaking your own workflows is largely self-explanatory.

But sometimes what you really want to do when you’re automating a task is just write a little bit of actual code — the process you want to define is best expressed (or can only be expressed) in code. Being able to just write a JavaScript expression is just what the doctor ordered. I feel like iOS Shortcuts could learn something from this.

Also new, and personally quite useful to me:

And finally for my short list, you can now make a droplet which doesn’t take any files. Why is this useful? Well, imagine you have a workflow that reads an image from the clipboard, resizes it to a specific width, and then writes it back to the clipboard. Now you can make a little droplet to do just this. Just a double click from the Finder (or a single click from the Dock) and your workflow is run.

Facebook Admits Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire Has Engaged in Pay-for-Engagement Scam 

Judd Legum, reporting for Popular Information:

Facebook has concluded there is an undisclosed financial relationship between The Daily Wire, the website founded by right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro, and Mad World News, a notorious outlet that exploits fear and bigotry for profit. This relationship, Facebook acknowledges, violates its rules.

Last week, Popular Information exposed how The Daily Wire has gained unprecedented distribution on Facebook through its relationship with Mad World News. Five large Facebook pages controlled by Mad World News expanded The Daily Wire’s audience by millions through the coordinated posting of dozens of links from The Daily Wire each day. […]

“After further investigation, we’ve found that these Pages violate our policies against undisclosed paid relationships between publishers. Our enforcement typically focuses on the Page distributing the cross-promoted content, which is why we are temporarily demoting Mad World News. We are also warning Daily Wire and will demote them if we see this behavior continue,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Put aside the politics and it’s clear that Facebook “engagement” is a game riddled with grifters. Kind of hard to put aside the politics though:

The disparate treatment between Mad World News and The Daily Wire raises questions. Why are the sites being treated differently when they conspired together to violate the same Facebook rule? What was the influence of Shapiro’s personal relationship with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg?

Netflix Hires Bozoma Saint John as Chief Marketing Officer 

Todd Spangler, reporting for Variety:

Netflix has tapped marketing veteran Bozoma Saint John, a former senior exec at Apple, Uber and most recently Endeavor, as its new CMO, the company announced.

Saint John is Netflix’s third chief marketing officer in less than a year. She replaces Jackie Lee-Joe, the one-time CMO of BBC Studios, who had only been at Netflix for 10 months. According to Netflix, Lee-Joe is exiting the streamer for personal reasons; she has been living in Australia with her family since March since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Lee-Joe had been named to succeed former Netflix CMO Kelly Bennett, who announced his retirement from the company last year.

Saint John will start at Netflix this August, reporting to chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

Unofficial Pin Set for WWDC 2020 

I’m not a pin person — I just give away my WWDC pins each year to the first person I run into who wants them — but this is a neat Kickstarter campaign for those of you who dig them.

YouTube TV Raises Price to $65 Per Month 

Sarah Perez, reporting for TechCrunch:

YouTube TV is getting another price hike, making its live TV streaming service less competitive with the cable TV services it aims to replace. The company announced today its service would now cost $64.99 per month, starting today, June 30, for new members. The change will also be reflected on the next billing cycle for current members after June 30.

The bump in pricing is now one of several price increases YouTube TV has seen since its debut, starting with a modest $5 per month bump in 2018, followed by a much more substantial price hike last year to $50 per month.

$65/month is $780/year — still less than most cable TV packages (or at least less than my cable TV package here in Kabletown), but a lot of money. And the whole “Well of course we had to raise your monthly rate, we added a bunch of new channels you may or may not even want” angle has been the unofficial motto of the cable industry for 40 years. Cord-cutting is quickly devolving into something that’s merely different from traditional cable TV, not cheaper than cable TV.