[guest post by Dana]
First news item
The US military has carried out multiple airstrikes in Syria against Iran-aligned groups who it blamed for a deadly drone attack that killed a contractor, injured another and wounded five US troops, the Pentagon said.
The strikes were in retaliation for an attack against a US-led coalition base near Hasakah in north-east Syria on Thursday, it said.
Second news item
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee for roughly five hours…Members grilled Chew, citing concerns about privacy for Americans’ data, protections for children online and TikTok’s connection to the Chinese Communist Party…Congress and President Joe Biden are looking at ways to crack down on the app, including a potential U.S. ban. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters during the hearing that he’d back a ban…Chew said in his opening statement that TikTok is safe and secure and that it shouldn’t be banned. He also noted that 150 million people in the U.S. are active TikTok users, underscoring how entrenched the app has become in the three years Washington has sought to rein it in.
Chew stressed that Tik Tok is not an arm of the Chines government:
Chew used his testimony to stress TikTok’s independence from China and play up its US ties. “TikTok itself is not available in mainland China, we’re headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, and we have 7,000 employees in the U.S. today,” he said in his opening remarks.
“Still, we have heard important concerns about the potential for unwanted foreign access to US data and potential manipulation of the TikTok US ecosystem,” Chew said. “Our approach has never been to dismiss or trivialize any of these concerns. We have addressed them with real action.”
P.S. Accusations of “xenophobia” were made after the hearing.
By combining personnel data with travel records, health records, and credit information, Chinese intelligence has amassed in just five years a database more detailed than any nation has ever possessed about one of its adversaries. The data and its layers work both to identify existing US intelligence officers through their personnel records and travel patterns as well as to identify potential weaknesses—through background checks, credit scores, and health records—of intelligence targets China may someday hope to recruit. Numerous cases in recent years have shown the creative ways China has identified and targeted potential spies, even sometimes using LinkedIn to find employees at companies of interest. The wealth of combined data now in the hands of Chinese intelligence will only make such targeting easier in the future.
Third news item
Trump crazily ratchets up the rhetoric, warns of possible violence if indicted, and goes after District Attorney Alvin Bragg:
What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!
WHY WON’T BRAGG DROP THIS CASE? EVERYBODY SAYS THERE IS NO CRIME HERE. I DID NOTHING WRONG! IT WAS ALL MADE UP BY A CONVICTED NUT JOB WITH ZERO CREDIBILITY, WHO HAS BEEN DISPUTED BY HIGHLY RESPECTED PROFESSIONALS AT EVERY TURN. BRAGG REFUSES TO STOP DESPITE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY. HE IS A SOROS BACKED ANIMAL WHO JUST DOESN’T CARE ABOUT RIGHT OR WRONG NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE HURT. THIS IS NO LEGAL SYSTEM, THIS IS THE GESTAPO, THIS IS RUSSIA AND CHINA, BUT WORSE. DISGRACEFUL!”
Charging him in the Stormy Daniels case is below us—not below him, but us. The subject matter is below us. The nature of the charges is below us. The players in the drama aren’t people of import who stand for big things, they’re not fate-of-the-republic people, they don’t have any size. They’re tacky lowlifes doing tacky lowlife things. The case involves a questionable legal theory that depends on the testimony of Michael Cohen, who is half-mad in his own right and also in the way all “close Trump advisers” past and present are half-mad: money-addled, fame-addled, power-addled, screwball in their thinking…“No one is above the law.” True, and an important tenet of democracy. But no nation is above good judgment…“But the hush money payments likely had tax implications.” Everything has tax implications, hold your fire…Whether indictment helps or hurts Mr. Trump’s political prospects is irrelevant. We have to think more broadly than that. He has called on his supporters to arise and . . . do something, it’s not quite clear. He wants a big public reaction. Will he get it? I don’t think he has that kind of juice anymore. His followers know what happened to the people he inspired to overrun the Capitol: They’re in jail…Are we doing the wise thing? No. Hold your fire. Save the mug shot for Georgia, the handcuffs for Jan. 6. Those were real offenses against the country. Not Stormy Daniels, which was an offense against his wife.
Fourth news item
Aschool principal in Tallahassee, Florida, was forced to resign because, she said, a Renaissance art lesson included a section on Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Bible’s David, which one parent described as pornographic.
Hope Carrasquilla, who had been the principal at Tallahassee Classical School, stepped down Monday during an emergency board meeting, the Tallahassee Democrat reported…The school board’s chair, Barney Bishop, told Carrasquilla that she could either quit or be fired but gave no reason for the ultimatum. She told the newspaper that she believes it was because of the art lesson, saying, “It saddens me that my time here had to end this way.”
Carrasquilla said that the school is obligated by law to teach lessons on the Renaissance to sixth graders as part of the annual curriculum. But three parents complained that their children felt uncomfortable with the lesson, which included a section on David, a marble statue of a nude male that represents youthful beauty as well as the Italian city of Florence. It is considered one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces as well as one of the Renaissance’s greatest sculptures.
Bishop is a lobbyist who has expressed his support for DeSantis’ approach to Florida’s K-12 education…”We agree with everything the governor is doing in the educational arena. We support him because he’s right,” Bishop said…”The whole woke indoctrination going on about pronouns and drag queens isn’t appropriate in school.”
In an interview at Slate, Bishop answered questions about the incident:
I think in this situation, some boards would say: We’re going to stand by the principal, the trained educator, as opposed to a handful of parents who have an issue. Why did you not go this way?
What issue do you believe people had?
That the statue was pornographic.
You’re operating from the wrong premise. The teacher mentioned that this was a nonpornographic picture, No. 1. The teacher said, “Don’t tell your parents,” No. 2. So the issue, Dan, isn’t whether children should see these pictures or not. Gosh, we’re a classical school. Why wouldn’t we show Renaissance art to children?
Fifth news item
The House on Friday passed GOP-sponsored legislation aimed at providing parents with more information about their children’s educations…would require public school districts to publicly post information about curricula for students, including providing parents with a list of books and reading materials available in school libraries…schools would be required to offer at least two in-person parent-teacher meetings annually, and school boards would be required to hear feedback from parents about students’ educations…Schools would have to publicly disclose their district budgets as well as the budgets of each school, including revenues and expenditures. They would also have to notify parents of violent activity occurring at schools or at events sponsored by schools…the bill would require parents to consent before any medical exams, including mental health or substance use disorder screenings, take place at school.
Sixth news item
The U.S. Copyright Office (USCO) has issued guidance clarifying that material created solely by artificial intelligence (A.I.) cannot be copyrighted. Under the new rule, though applicants may claim a copyright for an arrangement or editing of such material, the original work is ineligible. “In these cases, copyright will only protect the human-authored aspects of the work, which are ‘independent of’ and do ‘not affect’ the copyright status of the AI-generated material itself,” the USCO says…Generative A.I. such as the chatbot ChatGPT and image maker DALL-E can create artistic content in response to human prompts. A prompted A.I. creation does not fit traditional legal conceptions of expression and property rights.
Speaking of A.I., here’s some A.I. generated art:
every american president, but they're all cool and they all sport a mullet
46. Joe Biden pic.twitter.com/qoE9AJSxj5
— Cam Harless (@hamcarless) March 1, 2023
Trump even reposted an A.I. image of himself:
*The hands in A.I. works are usually a dead giveaway that the work has been artifically created.
Seventh news item
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, is demanding that there be demilitarised corriders around the territory Russia is claiming in Ukraine, and vows to “destroy this infection.” He also suggested retaliation after a German official said that Vladimir Putin would be arrested if he steps foot in Germany:
A top Russian security official warned Thursday about the rising threat of a nuclear war and blasted a German minister for threatening Russian President Vladimir Putin with arrest, saying that such action would amount to a declaration of war and trigger a Russian strike on Germany…Asked whether the threat of a nuclear conflict has eased, Medvedev responded: “No, it hasn’t decreased, it has grown. Every day when they provide Ukraine with foreign weapons brings the nuclear apocalypse closer.” …the 57-year-old Medvedev denounced the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin on charges of alleged involvement in abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine as legally null and void…Medvedev specifically blasted German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, who said last week that Putin would be arrested on the ICC’s warrant if he visits Germany.
“Let’s imagine … the leader of a nuclear power visits the territory of Germany and is arrested,” Medvedev said, adding that it would amount to a declaration of war against Russia. “In this case, our assets will fly to hit the Bundestag, the chancellor’s office and so on.”
Eighth news item
Imprisoned political activist Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, will be released from his incarceration as early as Saturday morning, senior Rwandan and Qatari officials have told Semafor.
At the conclusion of a key cabinet meeting on Friday, Rwanda’s Minister of Justice, Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, plans to announce that Rusesabagina and twenty others sentenced with him on terrorism-related charges will have their prison terms commuted. Their underlying convictions will remain intact, according to two senior Rwanda government officials.
“Should any of these individuals return to the criminal activities for which they were originally charged, the sentence will be automatically reimposed,” one official said.
Rusesabagina, a high-profile critic of Rwadan President Paul Kagame, became a global celebrity after Hollywood memorialized his efforts to save more than 1000 Hutus and Tutsis during during his country’s 1994 genocide. But in 2021 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges for his role leading the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, the dissident coalition whose militant wing Rwandan authorities accused of violent attacks resulting in civilian deaths.
Have a great weekend!