Image: Games Done Quick
Games Done Quick’s (GDQ) next big speedrunning marathon for charity will kick off on August 16th at 11:30AM ET / 7:30AM PT on Twitch. This year’s summer GDQ will be a bit different than past years due to the pandemic: instead of taking place in a giant room filled with people, it will be entirely virtual.
But just because the event is online doesn’t mean it should be any less interesting than past years. The schedule is packed with runs, like a Hollow Knight race on Monday, Virtual Boy Wario Land Any% on Wednesday, and Super Smash Bros. 64 Break the Targets All Characters Blindfolded (!!) on Saturday. There’s sure to be some more hidden gems in there. After all, half the fun of GDQ for me is just tuning into the stream whenever I can...
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
If you weren’t watching tech news yesterday, you missed an entire afternoon’s worth of cramming handfuls of popcorn in your mouth as you stared wide-eyed at the screen wondering what madness was coming next. It was A Day. Epic baited both Apple and Google into banning Fortnite from their respective app stores and did so with a full game plan in mind — including an in-game anti-Apple video event and two very public lawsuits.
Beyond Epic, I have many tech topics to weigh in on from this week that I haven’t had a chance to tackle because I’ve been working on our review and video for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — hit me up if you have questions you’d like to see addressed in that.
But before we get to the Battle Royale between these three...
TikTok's US employees are planning to file a lawsuit challenging a Trump administration executive order they say would make it illegal for their employer to pay them. From a report: Last week, President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring any US transactions with ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, and its subsidiaries. The language of the order is broad, so it's unclear if it would bar TikTok from paying its employees. The Trump administration didn't respond to questions about how the order would impact TikTok's employees. The order, which would take effect Sept. 20, would effectively ban the short-form video app from operating in the US if ByteDance doesn't sell TikTok. Microsoft has acknowledged it's discussing a deal to buy TikTok's service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Negotiations could be completed by Sept. 15, which is before the executive order's deadline.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
On Monday, August 10, the White House released a fact sheet about "President Trump's Historic Coronavirus Response." It is — perhaps unsurprisingly — full of shit. While I suppose one could argue that any action taken during a 21st century pandemic is inherently "historic" inasmuch as it has no historical precedent due to the unstoppable forward progression of time, this is not what the brief is actually arguing. Instead, it makes such claims as:
- Took early action to cut off travel from China
- Built the world's leading testing system from nothing
- Enacted mitigation measures to slow the spread
- Mobilized public and private sectors to secure needed supplies
- Took action to protect vulnerable Americans
- Launched effort to deliver a vaccine and therapeutics in record time
- Provided support to workers and businesses
- Paved way for reopening to get America working again
- Surged resources to hot spots as they arose
- Confronted China as origin of the virus while Democrats and media cowered
Some of these might raise an eyebrow; others are deliberately vague and platitudinal enough to maybe pass muster, at least at first glance.
But the fact-checking team at Medium has done a fantastic and comprehensively-linked breakdown of each and every one of those "historic" responses — and succinctly eviscerates most of it.
They do give credit where it's due as well; for example:
The U.S. was neither ahead or after the curve in restricting travel from China. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on January 30. The same day, the State Department raised its travel advisory for China to "Level 4 — Do Not Travel." In doing so, the U.S. was acting in accordance with many other countries. According to ThinkGlobalHealth, a Council for Foreign Relations program that has tracked the countries that have imposed travel bans on China, 36 countries including the U.S. had imposed travel restrictions by February 2.
So yes, congratulations to President Donald J. Trump for gleefully enacting his xenophobic policies right when the W.H.O. that he despises recommended doing so for non-xenophobic reasons.
Anyway, if you're looking for a comprehensive resource for fact-checking the US coronavirus response, Medium's got you covered.
Fact-Checking President Trump's 'Historic Coronavirus Response' Brief [Coronavirus Blog Team / Medium]
Image: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead (Public Domain)
I can't believe I never knew about this deleted scene from Cameron Crowe's 2000 semi-autobiographical film, Almost Famous. In it, main character William, loosely based on Crowe, tries to convince his conservative, over-bearing mother to let him write an article for Rolling Stone by playing her Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," based on "the literature of Tolkien," to prove to her that rock n' roll isn't just about sex and drugs.
The scene had to be cut from the film when the members of the band refused to let Crowe use the song. This was obviously a critically important scene as he has allegedly said that he wouldn't have even bothered to make the film if he'd known this scene wasn't going to be in it.
Watching this, I have to admit that I got a massive nostalgia hit that almost knocked me off of my Aeron chair. From the moment that tone arm goes down on that final fat cut of side two of Led Zeppelin IV, with that iconic green and orange Atlantic Records label. And that lyric sleeve. Tears may have been shed.
I was that kid! I lived on the surface of that lyric sleeve. I poured over every minute detail of it and the rest of the record. Just like Cameron/William, I had similar desires of being an "almost famous" writer. And the same dreams of misty mountains, May Queens, and "music's mystical attempts to elevate humanity," as William puts it. We had the same haircut.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film, Brian Hiatt and James Andrew Miller of the Origins podcast spoke with Cameron Crowe and castmembers Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, and Patrick Fugit.
H/t Laurie Fox
Betelgeuse is one of the closest massive stars to Earth. It's also an old star, and it has reached the stage when it glows a dull red and expands, with the hot core only having a tenuous gravitational grip on its outer layers. This combination means that we're actually able to resolve different areas on the star's surface, despite the fact that it resides over 700 light years away.
That ability came in handy late last year when Betelgeuse did something unusual: it dimmed so much that the difference was visible to the naked eye. Telescopes pointed at the giant were able to determine that—rather than a tidy, uniform drop in luminance—Betelgeuse's dimming was unevenly distributed, giving the star an odd, squished shape when viewed from Earth. That raised lots of questions about what was going on with the giant, with some experts speculating that, because of Betelgeuse's size and advanced age, the strange behavior was a sign of a supernova in the making.
Now, an international team of observers is here to throw cold water on the possible explosion. Said researchers were lucky to have the Hubble pointed at Betelgeuse before, during, and after the dimming event. Combined with some timely ground observations, this data indicates a rather mundane reason for the star getting darker: a big burp that formed a cloud of dust near the star.
The experts and regulators are calling for the federal government to renew efforts to bolster safe storage, handling, use and transport rules for ammonium nitrate in the U.S.
(Image credit: STR/AFP via Getty Images)
The information includes details on where transmission is happening most. If more states shared this widely, it could shape policy and save lives, health researchers say.
(Image credit: Ruth Talbot/NPR)
The presumptive Democratic nominee now leads President Trump by 11 points. And more people are worried about the coronavirus, but 35% still say they won't get vaccinated when one's available.
(Image credit: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)
The pandemic forced this years conventions to go virtual. That won't be the end of the change, as future gatherings shift from the age of television to the world of social media and viral moments.
(Image credit: Laura Rauch/AP)
California may be on the cusp of creating a watchdog agency. Proponents say federal regulators aren't doing their job, leaving leaving millions of Americans vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis.
(Image credit: Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
Many of those institutions hung on year-to-year even before the pandemic. Now COVID-19 threatens to cut off the oxygen sustaining these schools, and the sports programs that drive enrollment.
(Image credit: Frank Morris/KCUR)
The president's campaign had begun holding "Black Voices for Trump" events, but the coronavirus pandemic shut down in-person campaigning for months. During that time, the election landscape shifted.
(Image credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
A security researcher was awarded a $6,000 bug bounty payout after he found Instagram retained photos and private direct messages on its servers long after he deleted them. From a report: Independent security researcher Saugat Pokharel found that when he downloaded his data from Instagram, a feature it launched in 2018 to comply with new European data rules, his downloaded data contained photos and private messages with other users that he had previously deleted. It's not uncommon for companies to store freshly deleted data for a time until it can be properly scrubbed from its networks, systems and caches. Instagram said it takes about 90 days for deleted data to be fully removed from its systems. But Pokharel found that his ostensibly deleted data from more than a year ago was still stored on Instagram's servers, and could be downloaded using the company's data download tool. Pokharel reported the bug in October 2019 through Instagram's bug bounty program. The bug was fixed earlier this month, he said.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
When you delete something from Instagram you expect it to be gone for good. But when security researcher Saugat Pokharel requested a copy of photos and direct messages from the photo-sharing app, he was sent data he’d deleted more than a year ago, showing that the information had never been entirely removed from Instagram’s servers.
Instagram says this was due to a bug in its system that it’s now fixed, and Pokharel has been rewarded a $6,000 bug bounty for highlighting the problem. As reported by TechCrunch, Pokharel discovered the bug in October last year and says it was fixed earlier this month.
“The researcher reported an issue where someone’s deleted Instagram images and...
An anonymous reader shares a report: The followers poured in. Then the likes. Then tens of thousands of people watched my TikTok video. The clip itself was of a few Motherboard staffers winning a match in the hugely popular game Call of Duty: Warzone; TikTok is full of streamers and players uploading their wins or soul-crushing loses. The video itself isn't good -- there's no slick editing, no captivating TikTok personality talking to camera, and certainly no dancing -- but in a few short hours the video accumulated 25,000 views and over 1,000 likes. This is very little engagement compared to the most popular videos on TikTok, but it's not bad for my first ever clip uploaded to the platform. The video climbed through the rankings of one of the Warzone-related hashtags people use to share their games. But most of that engagement was fake. I bought the TikTok followers, likes, and views from a website that offers them all for sale. For around $50 in total I had artificially inflated the popularity of my TikTok clip, and, although my video certainly isn't about to go viral, potentially increased the chance for unsuspecting TikTok users to see it themselves. The news comes amid increased attention on TikTok, including not-yet-publicly verified claims from the Trump administration that the app poses a national security risk. Last week President Trump signed an executive order that would ban TikTok from the United States if the company isn't bought by an American company. TikTok plans to sue in response as early as this week, NPR reported. Microsoft is in talks to purchase TikTok.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
I spent some time recently with two Harvard undergraduates who are camped out in a Cambridge apartment. I’m the oldest person that they’ll have any contact with for the foreseeable future, yet these 20-year-olds behave as though they either worked or lived in a nursing home for 90-year-olds. Asked why they put so much effort into mask-wearing and deny themselves so many social opportunities that they would previous have jumped at, they say that they are personally afraid of getting coronavirus. They’re not obese or chronically ill, so their statistical risk of being felled by Covid-19 is low (see
from mass.gov, statistics that have now been removed), but they seem to perceive Covid-19 as the main risk to their lives and health. They won’t take off their masks, for example, even when outside in mostly-deserted Cambridge. After talking to and observing them, I concluded that, at least for young Americans, Covid-19 is now primarily a disease of the mind. Support for my theory: “We’ve Hit a Pandemic Wall” (NYT, August 5)?
New data show that Americans are suffering from record levels of mental distress.
Let’s start with the numbers. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, roughly one in 12 American adults reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder at this time last year; now it’s more than one in three. Last week, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a tracking poll showing that for the first time, a majority of American adults — 53 percent — believes that the pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health.
This number climbs to 68 percent if you look solely at African-Americans. The disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on Black lives and livelihoods — made possible by centuries of structural disparities, compounded by the corrosive psychological effect of everyday racism — is appearing, starkly, in our mental health data.
Turns out the extra ten extra pounds around my middle have moved in and unpacked, though I’d initially hoped they were on a month-to-month lease.
The newspaper that has been cheerleading for Shutdown now is surprised that there are some negative consequences? How did the coastal elites not figure out that not everyone’s shutdown experience would be positive? A friend in the Boston suburbs, who was a work-from-home consultant long before the Age of Shutdown, was telling me that his 8th grader hadn’t minded being at home for three months with minimal instruction being provided by the lavishly funded public school. Therefore, he concluded, shutdown was not a big deal, and if the school shutdown lasted another year that was okay too. His son would do fine practicing on the grand piano, learning from Ph.D. Dad and super smart stay-at-home Mom, etc.
I pointed out that not every American child lived in a 6,000 square foot $2 million house with two biological parents who get along at least reasonably well. Would he acknowledge that an inner-city child crammed into a two-bedroom public housing unit with mom, a step-sibling, and mom’s latest boyfriend might have a less favorable view of school shutdown? (he did!)
(see also “Coronavirus impact: Chasm grows between whites, people of color, California poll finds; Spanish-speaking Latinx voters say COVID-19 has seriously hurt their ability to pay for food and rent” (Mercury News, August 6))
Some top-voted NYT reader comments:
This is like the Twin Towers imploding all over again – except this time, one story collapses each day, and there is no ground floor.
The pandemic in and of itself is stressful but then add the stress of Trump’s daily tweets. The thought that he might get re-elected makes the stress almost unbearable.
What I think has caused the national stress-out, Ms. Senior, is that America now knows that it’s on its own. We don’t have a president who actually understands and cares about us.
I stress over the corrupt Republican leadership, so unconcerned for 99.9% of Americans that they let a a spoiled child throw our health, education, and welfare out the window, …
A coworker yesterday confided that about 15 of her relatives are COVID positive after a big family graduation party 10 days ago. I couldn’t hide my disgust. She is a very highly paid executive. We work for a research university health system!!! My neighbors just had a 40-person party for their 9-year-old. And seemed miffed and befuddled that many of us on the block declined to attend. They were all crammed under a tent shoulder to shoulder. Nary a mask in sight.
Maria from Maryland: The thing is, a lot of us are coming to the conclusion that all our problems are the same problem. Botched coronavirus response? Republicans. Insisting on doing things that spread the disease? Same. Economic deprivation? Republicans again. Two generations of failing to address racial issues? Again. Two generations of banging our heads against the same gender barriers? You guessed it. Failure to deal with climate change? Do you need to ask? Guns? Infrastructure? Science? Arts? They’ve been at it my whole adults life, ruining everything. And at their apex, they produced the very worst man in the world. There will be a vaccine for the virus, but what about the humans who are ruining our lives?
Coronaplague wouldn’t bother them at all, apparently, if Joe Biden were the Great Father in Washington right now!
Coronaplague obviously is a real problem for the elderly/vulnerable. And in societies where it is allowed to run wild, e.g., Sweden, it will kill approximately 0.05 percent of the population within a few painful months. But will readers agree with me that if young people are afraid of getting the disease personally, despite having no actual or planned contact with the old/vulnerable, then coronavirus has mutated into something whose main effect is mental illness?
That’s S.V. Dáte, of the Huffington Post. When will the rest of those reporters get that kind of spine?
Wow. A reporter (I'm not sure who he is) asks Trump, "after three and a half years, do you regret all the lying you've done to the American people?" Trump quickly moves on to the next question. pic.twitter.com/DHn3UvXHnN
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 13, 2020
By the way, Trump is now Just Asking Questions about Kamala Harris’s eligibility to run for office. We knew that would be coming: she’s black, she’s a woman, she can’t possibly be qualified. Screw Newsweek for thinking this was an issue worth raising.
Hey, Donald Trump keeps blithering about his Scot and German ancestry. I think we need to consider the possibility that he’s a foreign agent.
Facebook remains a safe space for Shutdown Karens to pour out their fear regarding school reopening. Children will die. Maybe the death rate among children could become 100X what it had been? Certainly it could! The Tuesday, August 11, 2020 dashboard:
Out of 8,529 deaths so far, exactly 0 have been among those under 20. A naive person might look at these data and say “since I’m not 82 years old, I won’t worry too much and I certainly won’t worry about children, none of whom have ever died here in Massachusetts.”
[How is Maskachusetts doing as Month 6 of Shutdown begins? The never-masked, never-shut Swedes have lost 5,770 residents so far (WHO). In other words, righteous Massachusetts, carefully following Church of Shutdown dogma, has had twice the cumulative death rate of the wicked Swedes, sending their children into the killing zones (schools) daily.]
The August 12, 2020 dashboard has a new format. This one is much scarier to middle-aged parents. 8,547 of us have perished. There is no breakdown by age nor average age reported. 18 people were reported dead yesterday (compare to 4 in Sweden, suggesting that Massachusetts has 6X the daily death rate compared to Sweden).
President Donald Trump requested a mail-in ballot for Florida's Tuesday primary election, despite weeks of spewing hot lying garbage all over the place about how voting by mail means cats and dogs and zombies will get the vote.
On Wednesday, ballots for POTUS and for FLOTUS Melania Trump were sent to the Trump Mar-a-Lago resort. Palm Beach County elections records show this as their voter registration address.
Donald and Melania also voted by mail for the presidential preference primary in March, reports the Associated Press:
Following multiple claims that mail-in voting was unsafe and vulnerable to fraud, Trump changed his mind about the practice last week, at least in Florida.
"Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True," Trump tweeted last Tuesday. "Florida's Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!"
Meanwhile, Trump's campaign and the GOP are suing Nevada over its new vote-by-mail law. Nevada officials joined several states that plan on automatically sending voters mail ballots. Two states, California and Vermont, moved earlier this summer to adopt automatic mail ballot policies.
More at Associated Press
Epic Games has rejected Apple's 30% app tax. In the past Epic has owned every single partner or vendor and managed to hold on to all the value. Anyone remember Twitch? Or the streamers? Or organized eSports? Epic took the whole pie. Epic may be close to winning the next round of the entertainment advertising wars with it is in-game ads and events.
Good luck, Apple!
Epic Games has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple that argues the App Store is a monopoly. Epic is asking for no damages -— not a dime — but instead, injunctive relief that would force Cupertino to "allow fair competition."
In the lawsuit, Epic claims that Google forced OnePlus to break off a deal in which a special Fortnite launcher would come preinstalled on OnePlus phones, reports Jay Peters at The Verge.
More below from Twitter.
Epic Games sued Google over pulling Fortnite from the Google Play Store Thursday evening, following a similar lawsuit against Apple.
We might have expected that. What we didn’t expect: Epic claims that Google forced phone manufacturer OnePlus to break off a deal that would have seen a special Fortnite launcher preinstalled on OnePlus phones — and demanded that another Android phonemaker, LG, abandon any plans to do the same.
With OnePlus, Epic claims that Google “forced OnePlus to renege on the deal” after Google expressed ‘concern’ about Epic’s ability to bypass the Play Store. Epic also alleges that the original deal between Epic and OnePlus would have made the launcher available worldwide, but Google “demanded that OnePlus not...
The FBI and NSA have issued a joint report warning that Russian state hackers are using a previously unknown piece of Linux malware to stealthily infiltrate sensitive networks, steal confidential information, and execute malicious commands.
In a report that’s unusual for the depth of technical detail from a government agency, officials said the Drovorub malware is a full-featured tool kit that has gone undetected until recently. The malware connects to command and control servers operated by a hacking group that works for the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency that has been tied to more than a decade of brazen and advanced campaigns, many of which have inflicted serious damage to national security.
“Information in this Cybersecurity Advisory is being disclosed publicly to assist National Security System owners and the public to counter the capabilities of the GRU, an organization which continues to threaten the United States and U.S. allies as part of its rogue behavior, including their interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election as described in the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2017),” officials from the agencies wrote.
As Democrats and Republicans prepare to hold their national conventions starting next week, YouTube on Thursday announced updates to its policies on deceptive videos and other content designed to interfere with the election. From a report: The world's largest video platform, with more than 2 billion users a month, will ban videos containing information that was obtained through hacking and could meddle with elections or censuses. That would include material like hacked campaign emails with details about a candidate. The update follows the announcement of a similar rule that Google, which owns YouTube, unveiled earlier this month banning ads that contain hacked information. Google will start enforcing that policy Sept. 1. YouTube also said it will take down videos that encourage people to interfere with voting and other democratic processes. For example, videos telling people to create long lines at polling places in order to stifle the vote won't be allowed.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Sue Gordon was in line to be acting director of national intelligence after Dan Coats quit last year. President Trump thought otherwise. Gordon now recounts her time in his administration.
(Image credit: Office of the Director of National Intelligence via AP)
There are not enough schools participating because of coronavirus cancellations and season postponements.
(Image credit: Susan Walsh/AP)
In an interview with WebMD, CDC Director Robert Redfield warns of the dual threat of the coronavirus and flu season. He urges Americans to follow COVID-19 health guidance and get the flu vaccine.
(Image credit: Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
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