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January 3rd, 2024next

January 3rd, 2024: You probably shouldn't listen to me I mean T-Rex! I don't have the greatest record with knowing cartoon character motivations and personalities.

– Ryan

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SharedProphet
195 days ago
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Biden’s Conspiracy Theory About Gaza Casualty Numbers Unravels Upon Inspection

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President Joe Biden, asked last week what his government planned to do to reduce the number of civilian casualties in Gaza, responded by rejecting the idea that the numbers could be trusted. “I have no notion if Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” Biden said on Wednesday. “I’m sure innocents have been killed and it is the price of waging war,” he added. “But I have no confidence in the number that Palestinians are using.”

A new analysis by The Intercept provides evidence refuting that claim.

Biden’s effort to delegitimize the numbers coming out of Gaza as fake news has created an opening for defenders of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing campaign to dismiss the crisis; they note Hamas governs Gaza, therefore runs the Ministry of Health and is inflating the figures. (Biden later clarified he meant to say he didn’t trust Hamas, not all Palestinians, according to the Wall Street Journal.)

Biden’s claim was quickly rejected by human rights organizations that have been active in Gaza for years. The Associated Press noted that the Ministry of Health’s figures from previous conflicts have broadly matched the numbers arrived at by both the Israeli government and the United Nations. And the State Department itself has long considered the numbers reliable. 

The Gaza Ministry of Health, meanwhile, responded by publishing a list of names of 6,747 who had died as of October 26 since the bombing campaign began, including 2,664 children. The list included 2,665 children, but The Intercept found that one 14-year-old boy was listed twice, bringing its total down to 6,746. Otherwise the list does not contain duplicates.

Now that the Health Ministry has published a list of victims, skeptics have suggested that the list may be fabricated and that a paper with names on it proves nothing. Immediately after the publishing of these names, Biden’s National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby maintained the skepticism, saying that the ministry is “a front for Hamas” and that “we can’t take anything coming out of Hamas, including the so-called Ministry of Health at face value.” 

Pressed, Kirby acknowledged civilian casualties were rising. “We absolutely know that the death toll continues to rise in Gaza. Of course we know that. But what we’re saying is that we shouldn’t rely on numbers put forth by Hamas and the Ministry of Health,” he said. A reporter noted that independent reporting suggested “thousands” of civilians had been killed. “We would not dispute that,” Kirby said.

But is the list itself reliable? We interrogated it and were able to corroborate dozens of names on the ministry’s list through a single family. 

Prior to the release of the list, Maram Al-Dada, a Palestinian who was born and raised in Gaza but now lives in Orlando, Florida, had told The Intercept about the deaths of seven relatives on his father’s side of the family and 30 on his mother’s side, in and around Khan Yunis. A week later, that number had risen to 46 total. (He and his family were featured on last week’s Deconstructed podcast.)

We compared the list of his relatives that began to be compiled last week — before the release of the list by officials in Gaza — to the list subsequently made public by the Ministry of Health. Al-Dada and his parents requested that last names not be published, as there is concern in Gaza that Israel has targeted journalists and their families, and might also retaliate against civilians who speak to Western media. The family hopes to emerge from the war with as many relatives still alive as possible.

The list of those killed includes four different last names: 30 members of one branch of the family, nine from another, four from a third, and three from a fourth. 

Of those 46 members of Al-Dada’s family so far lost in the war, 43 appear on the list, from the littlest — a baby girl not yet one — to the oldest, a 71-year-old grandmother.

When a building is struck, multiple generations are wiped out. “In Palestine, the society is set up differently than it is here,” Al-Dada noted. “People never leave their place. So families are huge; they all stay close to each other. For example, if you have a son, he will get married and he will build a house right behind your house and this keeps going. That’s why you will find a lot of people are getting killed from the same family.” 

Each name on the list is the story of a profound tragedy. One family’s home had already been bombed, for instance, and so the father and two children sought refuge at his brother’s house. The wife of the family’s father was in Saudi Arabia, undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca, when she learned her husband and children had been killed in a new bombing at her brother-in-law’s house. The bombing also killed the man’s brother.

There have also been many close calls. On Monday, the neighbor of Al-Dada’s grandparents was bombed, killing the family living there. A small piece of shrapnel from the explosion tore through a steel grate, blasted through a white chair and destroyed the family’s refrigerator. His grandmother, who was unharmed, had been sitting in that chair just moments earlier. He shared the following photos with us.

A shrapnel piece, damaged plastic chair, and ruptured steel grate from the home of Maram Al-Dada’s grandparents in Khan Yunis, Gaza.
Image: Provided to The Intercept

A report in HuffPost also found that nearly 20 State Department reports have cited the ministry, and one also argued the ministry may have undercounted. “The numbers are likely much higher, according to the UN and NGOs reporting on the situation,” the U.S. State Department report read.

The Intercept presented the White House with our new reporting and asked if Kirby and Biden stand behind their claims. We also asked whether the administration has made any independent efforts to gauge the extent of the killing if the Health Ministry’s numbers aren’t reliable, and if, as the administration states publicly, it is concerned about civilian casualties. The White House referred us to public comments made by Kirby and State Department spokesperson Matt Miller that acknowledged civilian casualties.

“We don’t have any way to make an accurate assessment of our own about the number of civilians who have died in Gaza,” Miller told reporters. “There is not an independent body that’s operating in Gaza that can provide an accurate number. But we do have skepticism about everything that Hamas says, but that said, obviously a number of civilians have died, which is why we’re working to do everything we can to minimize civilian harm and get humanitarian assistance in to the civilians in Gaza.”

Far from doing everything it can to minimize civilian harm, the IDF has said its “emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy.” Amir Avivi, former deputy commander of the Gaza Division of Israel’s military, said recently, “When our soldiers are manoeuvring we are doing this with massive artillery, with 50 aeroplanes overhead destroying anything that moves.”

Al-Dada said his family was firmly apolitical, with zero connections to Hamas. The October 7 attack on Israel surprised them as much as it did the world. 

Since Biden muddied the waters on the extent of the carnage, Israel imposed a total communications blackout on Gaza, while ratcheting up its airstrike campaign and launching a ground invasion. U.S. officials have reportedly issued private warnings to the Israeli government but have still not threatened to withdraw any military, political, or economic support. Instead, the Biden administration is putting together a $14 billion package for Israel that includes money for the Iron Dome, replenishment of weapons, and more.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza produced updated figures: As of Tuesday, October 31, at least 8,525 Palestinians have been killed and more than 21,543 injured since October 7.

The post Biden’s Conspiracy Theory About Gaza Casualty Numbers Unravels Upon Inspection appeared first on The Intercept.









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SharedProphet
259 days ago
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Bibbidi bobbidi submitted by /u/Drawer_Of_Drawings to r/comics
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341 days ago
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Elon Starts Bribing His Biggest Fans As He Admits The Company Is Still Burning Cash (Despite His Earlier Claims To The Contrary)

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It seems to anger certain Elon Musk fans every time I mention it, but pre-Elon Twitter was generally doing okay. Not great. Not terrible. Just okay. It wasn’t printing cash like Meta or Google, but it had been steadily increasing revenue and was profitable in 16 of the previous 20 quarters before Elon took over. There was a big paper loss in the 2nd quarter of 2020 due to a single noncash deferred tax asset, and many people see that giant loss and mistakenly think it showed the company was deep in the hole. However, you can tell it was nothing given that most analysts basically ignored that single big loss and focused on the underlying advertising and user numbers.

Elon has admitted multiple times now that he basically set fire to Twitter’s value and what had been a growing revenue stream. So it’s little surprise that he admitted it once again over the weekend, tweeting an admission that the company had lost around 50% of its advertising revenue.

The more interesting bit here, though, was him admitting that the company was “still negative cash flow.” Remember, in February, he had said the company was “trending to breakeven” and in April had suggested that it was now there. That April statement included him claiming that “most” advertisers had returned to Twitter, which Musk is now effectively admitting was a lie. And, his prediction that the company would be “cash flow positive” in the 2nd quarter didn’t quite pan out, I guess.

Of course, both of the things he complains about are directly due to Musk’s own terrible decisions. Advertisers have bailed because of his terrible choices, setting fire to brand safety efforts and driving away top tier advertisers (and users), and the “heavy debt load” was entirely due to his decision to finance $13 billion of the takeover with debt, on which the company how has to pay interest.

Both of those moves could have been easily avoided.

On top of that, you have to wonder how a company that was effectively breakeven before all of this is still cash flow negative when he’s (1) fired somewhere around 80% of the employees, (2) stopped paying rent (3) refused to pay out owed severance packages (4) not paying lawyers and PR companies or (5) cloud computing bills. He’s also shut down one of the company’s three data centers and closed offices (or been evicted from them).

What expenses is he actually paying?

Well, it seems he’s paying out what can only be considered bribes to some of his favorite Twitter users. Back in February, Elon announced that the company would start sharing ad revenue with Twitter Blue subscribers.

But since then there had been not a peep, even as some users raised questions about such payments.

Then, finally, late last week, some users started tweeting about how they had received their first payments, though many noticed that these payments were basically only going to Elon Musk’s favorite reply guys. This left some others (including some other Musk stans) pissed off that they weren’t getting their share of the cash.

Among those in Twitter’s payout pool was Andrew Tate, who tweeted that he received $20,379 under the new program. Tate wrote that “every penny” of the proceeds will go toward his Tate Pledge charity initiatives. The former pro kickboxer, who once tweeted that women should “bare [sic] some responsibility” for being raped, last year claimed tech platforms had banned him for what he said were “traditional masculine values.” Tate has 7.1 million followers on Twitter; his Twitter account had been banned in 2017 and was reinstated after Musk acquired the social network. Last month Tate was charged with rape and human trafficking offenses in Romania. Earlier this week, Tate and his brother Tristan sued a Florida woman and others, alleging they conspired to falsely accuse the Tates in the Romania case, the AP reported.

Also getting Twitter payments were Brian Krassenstein ($24,305) and Ed Krassenstein ($24,877), entrepreneurs who originally rose to prominence on the platform with their relentless anti-Trump tweets. “Now I’m going to stop promoting border crossings and begin promoting Tesla vehicles,” Ed Krassenstein joked in a tweet. “I assumed I’d would be getting paid around $500 or so for the past 4-5 months. I thought, it would be pennies on the dollar compared to what George Soros pays me (sarcasm).”

In 2019, the Krassentein brothers were banned by Twitter for allegedly using fake accounts to amplify their reach (which they denied). Following Musk’s takeover of the company last fall, Twitter reinstated their accounts in December.

Other Twitter users who shared ad-revenue payouts included podcaster and political commentator Benny Johnson ($9,546), Ashley St. Clair, a writer for political satire site Babylon Bee ($7,153), and an anonymously run account called End Wokeness ($10,419).

One user, who was not included, emailed Twitter and heard back from the company confirming that those selected were not based on the criteria stated in Twitter’s blog post about the program, but rather the payouts went “to a selected group of people.”

That email is all kinds of hilarious. In case you can’t see the image, it says:

Thanks for reaching out about being unable to receive your payment from Creator Ads Revenue Sharing on Twitter. We have information for you.

Currently, creator ad revenue sharing is only available to a selected group of people.

We hope this clarifies your concern.

Indeed, you do have information.

So… to sum up: Elon’s own decisions destroyed the company’s revenue and saddled it with way more expenses in the form of debt interest/repayment. The company is bleeding users and revenue, and despite promising a large group of users payouts if they joined his failed “Twitter Blue” program, the company is only paying that money to a small handpicked group which seems to consist almost entirely of accounts that suck up to Musk on the platform.

I might not be an intergalactic business genius, like many people assure me Musk is, but I fail to see how this strategy succeeds.

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SharedProphet
365 days ago
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Disney Gets A Nice Fat Tax Break For Making Its Streaming Catalog Worse

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We just got done discussing how, as the streaming video space consolidates and grows, it’s starting to behave more and more like the unpopular, consolidated cable and broadcast companies they once disrupted. Cory Doctorow’s theory of enshittification has come to streaming, in a big way.

Netflix now thinks password sharing is the devil. Streaming catalogs are shrinking because hugely profitable companies are increasingly too cheap to pay residuals. Writers are striking because executives making billions of dollars don’t want to pay creatives a basic living wage. Prices and restrictions are increasing at the same time the quality of the streaming service you’re paying for deteriorates.

Mindless mergers and consolidation, and Wall Street’s inevitable need for improved quarterly returns at any cost (even if it profoundly harms long term company and brand health) are taking a sector that was just hitting its stride competitively and innovatively, and turning it inside out. All overseen by upward-failing execs who seem to have no idea what they’re doing (looking at you Time Warner Discovery).

We’ve noted repeatedly how these companies keep pulling shows from their lineups in a bid to save money. Often because they’re just too cheap to pay residuals. Following on the heels of HBO Max, last week, Disney+ pulled more than 100 titles from its lineup, including some (like Willow) it had only just produced. Why? Because it netted them a giant tax break:

According to an SEC filing from late Friday, Disney’s set to write off about $1.5 billion following this streaming purge. It was previously known this was a way for Disney to cut costs, and the filing notes that this will be reflected in the company’s fiscal third quarter. But if you thought this would be a one-and-done affair, that is not the case. Towards the end of the filing, the SEC wrote that Disney is “continuing its review and currently anticipates additional produced content will be removed.” Those removals equate to an additional estimated $400 million. But as far as when these removals may happen (or what canceled shows may be caught in the crossfire), that isn’t touched on in the filing, and Disney hasn’t yet said.

Users were given a week’s notice that this content would be disappearing. Media bean counters, myopically fixated on “growth for growth’s sake,” have begun the enshitification process of making you pay more money for an increasingly worse product. Even if that means harming the company’s long term success, brands, and employee and customer relationships.

Lost in the conversation is the fact that these companies burned through hundreds of billions of dollars on completely pointless megamergers that were supposed to deliver untold synergies, broad resiliency, and untold consumer benefits. These same companies also spent billions more on bloated executive compensation packages, or luxury resorts nobody could afford.

That these companies would have saved untold billions (far more money that it costs to host Willow on a server) by avoiding bloated executive compensation packages, leadership incompetence, or completely pointless mergers (see the $200 billion AT&T set on fire for its disastrous Time Warner and DirecTV deals) is curiously either footnoted or not mentioned at all in the broader conversation.

The MBAs who defend these kinds of decisions as cold calculus, are incapable of stepping back and acknowledging that the entire process of mindless consolidation and enshittification is violent, unpopular, senseless, often completely purposeless, results in untold layoffs and ill will, and actually harms these companies longer term. Because, and this is the gist, the stupidity benefits them personally.

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SharedProphet
406 days ago
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Elon Musk Is Full Of Shit, Again. No, Federal Agencies Did Not Have ‘Full Access’ To DMs

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Elon Musk went on Tucker Carlson this week and spewed some utter nonsense, claiming that one thing he discovered upon taking over Twitter was that federal agencies had full access to everything at Twitter, including DMs.

“The degree to which various government agencies effectively had full access to everything that was going on at Twitter blew my mind,” Musk says in video posted ahead of the Monday night interview. “I was not aware of that,” Musk adds, claiming that his predecessors even allowed those agencies access to infiltrate users’ direct messages.

From everything that’s been discussed so far, and the way that the old Twitter regime handled requests for information from Twitter (i.e., repeatedly fighting the government in court when it requested DM info, and that includes when Democrats on the January 6th Committee subpoenaed info) this sounded highly unlikely to be true. Given how frequently Twitter was seen directly and publicly challenging demands for information, and revealing how often it rejected government requests for information in its transparency reports (that Elon no longer issues), this whole claim seemed highly questionable.

Certainly, none of the Twitter Files revealed anything like this.

Given the bizarre claim, I reached out to three separate former Twitter employees who would be in positions to know how the company handled federal government requests for information. Two out of the three actually started off their responses with swear words out of anger that Elon is flat out making shit up. All insisted he’s absolutely, categorically wrong about this claim.

From one:

This is completely false. Pre-Elon Twitter worked tirelessly to protect users from overreaching government requests for information. The idea that Twitter was somehow fighting the US government in courts, while giving the US government access to DMs, is simply absurd. Moreover, it’s dangerous rhetoric.

Another former exec called it a “shocking lie” and noted:

DMs were exceedingly locked down. The FBI needed a search warrant to get that kind of content…. There were tools in place to be able to respond to valid legal process – but [it] would go through EXTREME scrutiny.

The third also noted that DMs were “specially locked down” and also pointed out that the company had made specific promises to the FTC regarding who had access to DMs (remember the consent decrees?) and that execs at the company knew full well that lying to the FTC would be very, very bad.

Of course, I would surmise that the company’s executives used to know that. I doubt it’s true today. However, given Elon is making those claims publicly, I’m guessing the FTC may be sending over more requests for information.

Honestly, this seems like typical Elon, where he makes claims based on what he thinks his audience wants to hear rather than anything connected to reality. As per usual, he’s playing to the Fox News audience (he did the same thing when he did his BBC interview last week). But as some of the people quoted above note, this is not just absolute bullshit, it’s a dangerous lie that implies things about the former management team that are simply not true.

If confronted on this, I’m sure he’d claim that he meant the kind of access they got through valid legal process, which is not even remotely “full access to everything that was going on at Twitter.” Alternatively, as one person I spoke to noted, there’s a reading of this (that I’m sure Elon didn’t mean) that what actually blew his mind was that the government did not, in fact, have full access to everything. But there’s no way that’s actually what he meant.

Instead, he’s just making shit up without realizing the consequences. Because he’ll never face them. He never does.

Now, after that clip, he does talk about encrypting DMs, which he’s been promising for a while, and which we applauded. Because it would be a big and important step. But it’s also incredibly difficult to do well, and easy to screw up. And given how things have been working at Twitter lately, I wouldn’t trust the DM encryption until it’s been audited. So, really, a lot of this seems to be Elon’s warped understanding of why he needed to encrypt DMs. Doing so definitely makes it much more difficult for government to ever get access to anyone’s DMs, but that doesn’t mean that “various government agencies” had “full access” to people’s DMs. That’s just utter bullshit.

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455 days ago
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