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Mr. Bad Vibes
News Roundup: March 29-April 6, 2023.
Mr. Bad Vibes
This week, former U.S. President Donald Trump pled not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records in a “catch and kill” scheme for unfavorable stories during his 2016 campaign — including, as previously mentioned, record of a sizable hush payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels. The charges, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, rely on an untested foundation. But an incensed Trump has claimed that it amounts to election interference.
The once commander-in-chief could also face charges in Georgia. There, grand jurors are reviewing phone calls from the president to state officials during the 2020 election which depict Trump badgering state officials to actually overturn the election results, according to leaks from members of the grand jury. There are also potential federal charges incoming.
Regardless of how it all turns out, Trump is now the first ex-president to ever get indicted… Couldn’t have happened to a nicer ex-president.
EDUCATION and RE-EDUCATION
SUE-U: Online program manager 2U is suing the Education Department over its proposed new third-party servicer rules. Quick recap: Under pressure from lawmakers who view the online management of university programs as responsible for adding to the student debt crisis by using shady marketing tactics, the Education Department offered a set of surprisingly restrictive new rules. Well, those will now face a challenge.
EXPENSIVE MOUTHPIECE: Twitter continues to suck airtime, even though it now has to compete with Trump, headline generator extraordinaire. In the latest: Twitter — under Musk, who bought the platform for, um, “free speech” — censored a number of critics of Indian MP Narendra Modi. The list of those censored includes a Canadian politician and several journalists. Not wanting to rest on its laurels, though, Twitter also slapped a “state-sponsored media” label on NPR. That’s despite previously saying the outlet, unlike Russia Today, isn’t state-sponsored media because it retains editorial independence. Twitter has also ripped away free access to its data for researchers, one of the biggest sources of digital behavior research. The recently released prices are outrageous, researchers say.
EXPELLING THE ADULTS: The brawl over gun control continues after the latest school shooting in Nashville, with the Tennessee legislature expelling two Democrats as reprisal for pro-gun control protests.
POLITICS and WORLD
PLUS ONE: Things are continuing in the microwave-reheated version of the Cold War. The latest: Finland officially joined NATO.
FIFTH COLUMN SYNDROME: Relatedly, Russia’s Federal Security Service seized Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, an American citizen. Russia alleges — though has reportedly offered no proof — that Gershkovich was acting as a spy for the U.S.
PROXY WAR ON DRUGS: With the U.S. ratcheting up intensity over the opioid crisis, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is turning to China to help rein in fentanyl shipments.
A DIVINELY-INSPIRED CORRECTION: The Vatican revoked the “Doctrine of Discovery,” which was widely used to justify the colonial appropriation of non-Christian lands during the Age of Discovery. But the Vatican also tried to displace responsibility for the doctrine, saying it was not really a teaching of the church and that the papal bulls which spelled it out were “manipulated” by political interests. Neither has the Vatican returned the loot it picked up from colonial enterprises over the centuries. Being God’s representative on earth means never having to make amends.
HAS LIFETIME APPOINTMENT, LIKES TO PARTY: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has taken undisclosed luxury trips — such as his half-million dollar 2019 vacation on a private plane and yacht — from billionaire and Republican donor Harlan Crow for about two decades, according to an expose from ProPublica.
COLONIAL ERA HANG-UPS: Uganda’s anti-gay law, which prescribes the death penalty for homosexuality, threatens to upset the country’s projected 6 percent annual growth if the billions of dollars in foreign company investments decide to take flight. The brutal law builds on colonial-era pearl-clutching around homosexuality and has been egged on by foreign fundamentalists.
BUSINESS and ECONOMICS
OIL CUTS: OPEC+ announced shock cuts in oil production. It’s almost like they want to keep the prices high or something.
ELEVEN IS THE MAGIC NUMBER: The UK joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (street name: CPTPP), a trans-pacific free trade agreement.
IMPORTS-EXPORTS: Japan — under pressure from the U.S. which is trying to limit Chinese influence — will restrict imports of semiconductors from China. China is pressuring Japan to abandon the restrictions.
GO SMALL, GO HOME: There’s been a big push to get consumers to opt for community banks by the Independent Community Bankers of America, a small banking lobby group. So far with large banking on the outs post-Silicon Valley Bank collapse, POLITICO reports, it’s going pretty well.
SUSHI TERRORISTS: Japan is gripped by panic over “sushi terrorism,” from a series of viral pranks that taint food safety. In only a few months, the pranks have led to a trio of arrests, imperiling traditional “sushi trains,” where raw fish gets served on a conveyor belt for fully cooked prices.
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN BEING TALKED ABOUT: The furor over AI has led to a number of warnings, from the risible — Ray Kurzweil, the 21st century’s answer to Nostradamus, says that humans could achieve immortality in the next seven years — to the improbable, with calls for a halt to AI research. Meanwhile, chatbots have breached fintech.
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