Journalist/developer. Storytelling developer @ USA Today Network. Builder of @HomicideWatch. Sinophile for fun. Past: @frontlinepbs @WBUR, @NPR, @NewsHour.
1813 stories

Men’s Tennis Tour Penalizes Wimbledon Over Ban on Russian Players

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“How do you draw the line of when you ban players and when you don’t?” Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a Russian and a former No. 1 singles player, said in a telephone interview from Moscow.

3 hours ago

Unlike Wimbledon, the lead-in events in Britain have not been stripped of ranking points despite being formally part of the tours. Wimbledon, as a Grand Slam event, operates independently but does have agreements with the tours on many levels, including ranking points. But the ATP and WTA chose not to strip points from the British lead-in events because other tournaments located on the European continent were still open to Russian and Belarusian players during those three weeks of the grasscourt season. There was also the concern that without ranking points on offer, players would choose to withdraw from the British grasscourt tournaments. Wimbledon, with its huge prize money and prestige, is unlikely to experience such withdrawals even without points.

Wimbledon had come under pressure from the British government to act. The tournament opted for a ban after rejecting the government’s suggestion that Russian and Belarusian players provide “written declarations” that they were not representing their countries; that they were not receiving state funding or sponsorship from companies with strong links to the Russian state; and that they had not and would not express support for the invasion of Ukraine or their countries’ leadership. There was above all concern that signing such a declaration could put players or their families at risk and also concern that the option would not be available to all Russian and Belarusian competitors. Junior players, for example, are routinely funded by the Russian and Belarusian tennis federations and would thus have been unlikely to be eligible to sign.

But in announcing bans on individual athletes, Wimbledon and the British grass-court events remain outliers. No other tour event has followed their lead. Russian and Belarusian players, including the men’s No. 2, Daniil Medvedev of Russia, and the women’s No. 7, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, are set to take part in the French Open, the next Grand Slam tournament on the schedule, when it starts on Sunday.

After the war in Ukraine began in February, professional tennis moved quickly to bar Russia and Belarus from team events such as the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup, both of which were won by Russia in 2021. The tours and the International Tennis Federation also canceled tournaments scheduled to be played in Russia and Belarus later this year, including the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. The I.T.F. suspended the countries’ tennis federations from its membership as well.

But Russian and Belarusian players were allowed to keep competing on tour as individuals, albeit without any national identification. There are no flags or countries listed next to their names on scoreboards, in draws or in the tour’s official computer rankings. If the Wimbledon ban remains in place as expected, Russians and Belarusians will be able to take part in the grass-court season only by playing in events held outside Britain. Medvedev, for one, intends to do so, confirming on Friday in Paris that he would play for three straight weeks on grass before Wimbledon at tournaments in 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, Halle in Germany and Majorca in Spain.

No Russian or Belarusian player has indicated publicly that they intend to take legal measures against Wimbledon to seek entry into the tournament. Medvedev made it clear that he would not even while suggesting that there might be room for such an appeal.

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2 days ago
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How Often Can You Be Infected With the Coronavirus?

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A virus that shows no signs of disappearing, variants that are adept at dodging the body’s defenses, and waves of infections two, maybe three times a year — this may be the future of Covid-19, some scientists now fear.

The central problem is that the coronavirus has become more adept at reinfecting people. Already, those infected with the first Omicron variant are reporting second infections with the newer versions of the variant — BA.2 or BA2.12.1 in the United States, or BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.

Those people may go on to have third or fourth infections, even within this year, researchers said in interviews. And some small fraction may have symptoms that persist for months or years, a condition known as long Covid.

“It seems likely to me that that’s going to sort of be a long-term pattern,” said Juliet Pulliam, an epidemiologist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

“The virus is going to keep evolving,” she added. “And there are probably going to be a lot of people getting many, many reinfections throughout their lives.”

It’s difficult to quantify how frequently people are reinfected, in part because many infections are now going unreported. Dr. Pulliam and her colleagues have collected enough data in South Africa to say that the rate is higher with Omicron than seen with previous variants.

This is not how it was supposed to be. Earlier in the pandemic, experts thought that immunity from vaccination or previous infection would forestall most reinfections.

The Omicron variant dashed those hopes. Unlike previous variants, Omicron and its many descendants seem to have evolved to partially dodge immunity. That leaves everyone — even those who have been vaccinated multiple times — vulnerable to multiple infections.

“If we manage it the way that we manage it now, then most people will get infected with it at least a couple of times a year,” said Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. “I would be very surprised if that’s not how it’s going to play out.”

The new variants have not altered the fundamental usefulness of the Covid vaccines. Most people who have received three or even just two doses will not become sick enough to need medical care if they test positive for the coronavirus. And a booster dose, like a previous bout with the virus, does seem to decrease the chance of reinfection — but not by much.

At the pandemic’s outset, many experts based their expectations of the coronavirus on influenza, the viral foe most familiar to them. They predicted that, as with the flu, there might be one big outbreak each year, most likely in the fall. The way to minimize its spread would be to vaccinate people before its arrival.

Instead, the coronavirus is behaving more like four of its closely related cousins, which circulate and cause colds year round. While studying common-cold coronaviruses, “we saw people with multiple infections within the space of a year,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York.

If reinfection turns out to be the norm, the coronavirus is “not going to simply be this wintertime once-a-year thing,” he said, “and it’s not going to be a mild nuisance in terms of the amount of morbidity and mortality it causes.”

Reinfections with earlier variants, including Delta, did occur but were relatively infrequent. But in September, the pace of reinfections in South Africa seemed to pick up and was markedly high by November, when the Omicron variant was identified, Dr. Pulliam said.

Reinfections in South Africa, as in the United States, may seem even more noticeable because so many have been immunized or infected at least once by now.

“The perception magnifies what’s actually going on biologically,” Dr. Pulliam said. “It’s just that there are more people who are eligible for reinfection.”

The Omicron variant was different enough from Delta, and Delta from earlier versions of the virus, that some reinfections were to be expected. But now, Omicron seems to be evolving new forms that penetrate immune defenses with relatively few changes to its genetic code.

“This is actually for me a bit of a surprise,” said Alex Sigal, a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute. “I thought we’ll need a kind of brand-new variant to escape from this one. But in fact, it seems like you don’t.”

An infection with Omicron produces a weaker immune response, which seems to wane quickly, compared with infections with previous variants. Although the newer versions of the variant are closely related, they vary enough from an immune perspective that infection with one doesn’t leave much protection against the others — and certainly not after three or four months.

Still, the good news is that most people who are reinfected with new versions of Omicron will not become seriously ill. At least at the moment, the virus has not hit upon a way to fully sidestep the immune system.

“That’s probably as good as it gets for now,” Dr. Sigal said. “The big danger might come when the variant will be completely different.”

Each infection may bring with it the possibility of long Covid, the constellation of symptoms that can persist for months or years. It’s too early to know how often an Omicron infection leads to long Covid, especially in vaccinated people.

To keep up with the evolving virus, other experts said, the Covid vaccines should be updated more quickly, even more quickly than flu vaccines are each year. Even an imperfect match to a new form of the coronavirus will still broaden immunity and offer some protection, they said.

“Every single time we think we’re through this, every single time we think we have the upper hand, the virus pulls a trick on us,” Dr. Andersen said. “The way to get it under control is not, ‘Let’s all get infected a few times a year and then hope for the best.’”

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5 days ago
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If Programming Languages Were Futurama Characters

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May 9th, 2022

Good news, everyone! Coming to you live from Omicron Persei 8, in Hypno-Vision, and sponsored by Bachelor Chow... What if programming languages were Futurama characters?

Philip J. Fry is... Perl


A bit goofy, but optimistic and well-meaning. Seems like it's been frozen for 1000 years, but still delivers. Kind, forgiving, but not always quite so bright. Accidentally became it's own grandfather (via autovivification). Good friends with Bender.

print reverse(split(/!?/,join(" ",map{tr/N-ZA-Mn-za-m/A-Za-z/;$_;}


Turanga Leela is... Go

Strong-willed, powerful, will get you through whatever trouble you're in. Makes all the rules, projecting self-confidence, but is constantly seeking peer confirmation. Actually a sewer mutant; lacks depth perception.

fmt.Printf("%q", d)

Bender Bending Rodríguez is... Shell


Lacks a backup unit, but able to self-assemble. Surprisingly versatile, but does not give a single fuck. Will take you to the suicide booth and steal your money. Needs alcohol to run, and largely avoids doing any real work, but can be used to bend anything. Good friends with Fry.

printf "$(echo '694265746q20207968736r692079656q6174206p73612173000n'|
tr '[n-zN-Z]' '[a-mA-M]'|sed 's@\(..\)\(..\)@\\x\2\\x\1@g')"

Prof. Farnsworth

Hubert J. Farnsworth is... C

Has been around for a long time, happy to risk the crew to get the job done. Alternates between brilliance and amoral senility, between being friendly and spiteful; outcomes often defy known laws of physics. Has a collection of doomsday devices. Not memory safe.

int main(){uint64_t f=0x0a2e65726966206e;uint64_t e=0x6f20736920656d6f;
uint64_t d=0x68207327656e6f65;uint64_t c=0x6d6f532021656e6f;
uint64_t b=0x7972657665202c73;uint64_t a=0x77656e20646f6f47;

Amy Wong is... Ruby

Amy Wong

Object-oriented, cute, really popular, and a bit naive. Had a bit of Fry grafted onto herself for a while. Also had a thing with Bender. And Zapp. Easy going, but doesn't do well in difficult situations, falls over easily.

puts "@aq`b`,Ctg".split("").map(&:succ)*''

Hermes Conrad

Hermes Conrad is... Rust

Superficially you'd expect him to be relaxed, fun, but under the surface awaits a workaholic bureaucrat, always technically correct (the best kind of correct) at all cost. Does not permit dangling pointers and remains in charge of all resource management.

fn main() {
    // Obfuscation is inefficient and incorrect.
    println!("Hello World!");

Dr. Zoidberg is... PHP

Dr. Zoidberg

Claims to be an expert in many things without actually having a background in any of them, like human anatomy, reasonable typing, or object injection. Desperate for friendship and attention, exhibits many behaviors commonly considered as appalling. Somehow still part of the whole adventure, as managers wonder: "Why not Zoidberg?"

Zapp Brannagan

Zapp Brannagan is... Java

The pompous, flashy, egotistical leader of a giant, complex war machine, happily willing to sacrifice your time and efforts to overwhelm your opponent with complexity. Brute force and arrogant swagger provide an aura of being a great strategic leader. Nobody ever got fired for hiring Zapp, regardless of the outcome.

public class HelloWorld {
    private static HelloWorld instance;
    public static void main(String[] args){
    public static void instantiateHelloWorldMainClassAndRun(){
    	instance = new HelloWorld();
    public HelloWorld(){
    	HelloWorldFactory factory = HelloWorldFactory.getInstance();
// >100 more lines here

Kif Kroker is... JavaScript

Kif Kroker

Timid, bashful, easy to exploit. All sorts of weird, but generally well meaning and unexpectedly competent. Can't shed loyalty to and is often left to clean up after Zapp. Lacks any internal structure; has a camouflage reflex and a number of other surprising capabilities, but just... doesn't seem very appealing.

alert("*Sigh* - no, sir, 'undefined' is not a function.");


Mom is... C++

Dominates the industry while maintaining a public image of benevolence; in reality ruthless, arrogant, ill-tempered, and megalomaniacal. Has been around for a while. You do not want to work with Mom, but don't really get a choice here. Machiavellian. Has a romantic history with Hubert J. Farnsworth.

int main(){std::cout<<"\x4E""o\167 \x63""o\156q\x75""e\162 \x45"
"a\162t\x68"" \171o\x75"" \142a\x73""t\141r\x64""s\041\x0A";};

Lrrr is... Python


Unambitious, yet powerful. Trivially defeats Zapp. Can easily conquer planets, but doesn't really feel like it most of the time. Gets along surprisingly well with Fry and Leela, but also may try to eat them.

    __import__(True.__class__.__name__[1] + [].__class__.__name__[2]),
    ().__class__.__eq__.__class__.__name__[:2] +
    1, (lambda _, __: _(_, __))(
        lambda _, __: chr(__ % 256) + _(_, __ // 256) if __ else "",

Obfuscating 'Hello World'


Scruffy is... AWK

Everybody forgets about him, but he's there, doing what he's always done. Secretly in love with a robotic wash bucket.

echo "01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01100101 01101100
01110110 01100101 01110011 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101
00100000 01100010 01100001 01100011 01101011 00101110" |
awk 'func b(i,t,a,c){a=1;for(c=length(i);c>0;c--){
t+=substr(i,c,1)=="1"?a:0;a*=2}return t};{split($0,a," ");

These are the main characters. What about the others, like Morbo, Calculon, the Donbot, Clamps, or Barbados Slim? Who would be Lisp, Swift, Scala, Lua, or Haskell? Well, you can always swap them as you see fit using (the mathematically proven) Ken Keeler's Theorem. And then you get to pick your favorite, so long as it's Hypnotoad. ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!

Futurama main characters

May 9th, 2022

See also:

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12 days ago
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Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows

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“Until the latter part of the 20th century, there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Zero. None. No state constitutional provision had recognized such a right,” Alito adds.

Alito’s draft argues that rights protected by the Constitution but not explicitly mentioned in it – so-called unenumerated rights – must be strongly rooted in U.S. history and tradition. That form of analysis seems at odds with several of the court’s recent decisions, including many of its rulings backing gay rights.

Liberal justices seem likely to take issue with Alito’s assertion in the draft opinion that overturning Roe would not jeopardize other rights the courts have grounded in privacy, such as the right to contraception, to engage in private consensual sexual activity and to marry someone of the same sex.

“We emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right,” Alito writes. “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”

Alito’s draft opinion rejects the idea that abortion bans reflect the subjugation of women in American society. “Women are not without electoral or political power,” he writes. “The percentage of women who register to vote and cast ballots is consistently higher than the percentage of men who do so.”

The Supreme Court remains one of Washington’s most secretive institutions, priding itself on protecting the confidentiality of its internal deliberations.

“At the Supreme Court, those who know don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know,” Ginsburg was fond of saying.

That tight-lipped reputation has eroded somewhat in recent decades due to a series of books by law clerks, law professors and investigative journalists. Some of these authors clearly had access to draft opinions such as the one obtained by POLITICO, but their books emerged well after the cases in question were resolved.

The justices held their final arguments of the current term on Wednesday. The court has set a series of sessions over the next two months to release rulings in its still-unresolved cases, including the Mississippi abortion case.

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20 days ago
Think especially of all of the people who said it was hysterical overreaction when this was predicted as the outcome of the stolen seat and nomination of unqualified ideologues
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20 days ago
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“An audible gasp”: Quartz, once a high-flying startup, has sold to G/O Media

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Business news site Quartz began life 10 years ago as an ambitious news site targeting the “global business elite.” It saw its competition as the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. Its ads, glossy as a magazine’s, came from the likes of Cathay Pacific, Rolex, Credit Suisse, Ralph Lauren, and Boeing. By 2017, it had turned a profit for the first time and planned on 270 staffers worldwide.

In recent years, with revenue cratering and employees laid off, it became clearer that Quartz had not achieved its early promise. (What’s the last Quartz story you read?) Still, it was a shock to many to see it sold to G/O Media, the private equity firm–owned digital media conglomerate that relies on cheap, programmatic ads and which has gotten perhaps the most attention in its corporate life for wrecking Deadspin.

Reactions to the news on Thursday included: “An actual gasp,” “I audibly gasped,” “I audibly gasped at this news,” “oh boy,” “hoping for the best for my colleagues,” “ugh. what a mess,” “bleak,” “lollololololololol,” “uhhhhhhhh,” “whoa,” “this is going to be messy, “wow wow wow,” “would not have predicted this,” “bummer.”

“After taking Quartz private in 2020, we had sought to raise money and remain on our own,” Zach Seward, the company’s cofounder, who will become its editor-in-chief under G/O Media, wrote in a memo to staff on Thursday. “Selling was not the plan, but it became the very best path for Quartz, and for all of you, when we started talking to G/O earlier this year.” He promised, “There are no layoffs connected to the sale, nor planned once we integrate,” and said employees “will be eligible for deal bonuses from the proceeds of the sale, totaling more than $1 million.”

Katherine Bell, the company’s current editor-in-chief, is leaving the company “to try something new. We remain business partners, and struck this deal with G/O together. She supports it,” Seward wrote.

The site, which got rid of its paywall two weeks ago, will continue its premium paid newsletters, which will also be G/O Media’s first subscription products, Seward (one of Nieman Lab’s earliest employees) told me.

As Seward also noted in his memo, “This is the third time Quartz has been sold.” The site launched in 2012 as Atlantic Media’s business site, a mobile-first property offering news for a young, elite international audience.

In 2018, it was bought by Uzabase in Japan for a reported $86 million. In 2020, Quartz laid off 80 staffers (out of a staff of about 180) and closed international offices. Later that year, Seward bought the company back from Uzabase. As of February 2022, the site had 110 staffers.

In the pre-Uzabase era — say, 2012 to 2016 — Quartz was quirky, inventive, and on the path to profitability. It launched as a free site, supported not by traditional display advertising but via sponsorships from Boeing, Credit Suisse, Chevron, and Cadillac. “We’re not the first to do sponsored content, but what’s interesting is the fact that we’re building it into the foundation,” Atlantic Media president Justin Smith said at the time.

“There are few more compelling digital journalism stories than the growth of Quartz,” our Joshua Benton wrote in 2015. “Though it was born with the advantage of a highly desirable target audience — the global business elite — it has still managed to do so much right: sharable content, visual distinction, global reach, smart advertising strategy, mobile-first design…all while maintaining high quality. It’s one of the few operations I recommend to the many people who ask me: Who’s doing it right?”

Quartz experimented early with chat apps and released its own data visualization tool, Atlas. The site surpassed The Economist in web traffic in 2013. It grew its annual revenue from $18.6 million in 2015 to $30 million in 2016, according to an Uzabase investor presentation, but by 2017, revenue had fallen back to $27.6 million — a decrease that Uzabase said was due to overreliance on advertising revenue.

So Quartz put up a paywall and launched a $100/year membership in 2019. But revenue continued to collapse — to $12.3 million in 2020 and $11.1 million in 2021, sources told The New York Times. The sources also said that the site lost $6.9 million last year and, before the deal with G/O, had not been expected to break even until 2023. G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller said it will be profitable by the end of this year, the Times reported.

Two weeks ago, the paywall came down. “We had made that decision separately, before we even started talking to G/O,” Sewards said, “but in fact it fits very well with G/O strategy.”

Seward told me that G/O Media’s “portfolio model, or conglomerate model, or stable-of-brands model, whatever you want to call it,” is a good fit for Quartz — as well as being, now, the model employed by “basically all of G/O’s competitors,” from Vox Media to Bustle Digital Group.

The acquisition will allow the newsroom to “focus on just doing the best journalism possible and reaching as many people as possible,” he said. “We won’t have to worry, day-to-day, about where our financing’s coming from, because we’re supported by a much larger organization.”

Additionally, he said, the programmatic advertising that G/O Media relies on — and that Quartz once eschewed — will be a strength. “G/O’s advertising business is complementary to ours,” he said.

The reaction to the sale on Twitter was considerably less enthusiastic. The promise that there will be no layoffs was met with disbelief, because G/O Media has made that claim before, only to go on to lay people off.

Still, Seward stressed in his memo to staff that G/O’s offer seemed like the company’s best option. When he and Bell considered other offers “from individual investors, funds, and other media companies…too often their visions for our future began with slashing jobs.” When he spoke to Spanfeller, “it wasn’t hard to get commitments to no layoffs and editorial independence.” And, he wrote, “G/O was able to put up enough cash in this deal for Quartz staff to get a cut, which wouldn’t have been possible in any other scenario.”

As for the criticism of the deal, well: “I would say, everyone should just keep reading and judge based on what we have produced and will produce in the future,” Seward told me.

Photo of the Quartz newsroom in 2015 by Mia Mabanta.

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24 days ago
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Looking back at the early promise of Twitter with Andy Carvin and the Arab Spring

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With Twitter apparently on the verge of falling into the hands of billionaire troll Elon Musk (or maybe not), I thought back to a time when we thought it could be used as a force for good. More specifically, I thought back to a story broadcast on the “PBS NewsHour” 11 years ago (above) in which Andy Carvin, then with NPR, talked about how he was using it to track the Arab Spring uprisings that engulfed Tunisia and, later, Egypt and beyond.

This is a great story, and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it. I used to show it to my students as a demonstration of how Twitter could be used to track news in real time. If I showed it to them now, it would be as a historical artifact.

Carvin began with about a half dozen people in the Middle East who he was already following on Twitter — what interviewer Hari Sreenivasan called Carvin’s “first ring of trust.” From there, Carvin looked at who those people were following. He’d engage in private conversations via DM to add to his circle, building a “mental map” and explaining: “It doesn’t mean that they’re all reliable. It does mean that they’re all talking to each other.”

Carvin also discussed his methods, some of which I would not recommend today given the toxic cesspool that Twitter has become. “I see my Twitter feed as an open newsgathering operation,” he said, explaining he would often retweet items with comments such as “Source?” or “Verified?”

In one such instance, he said he retweeted a sign being held by protesters in Iran that showed three prominent politicians photoshopped to make it appear they were about to be hanged. He was able to verify that the sign was real. Today, given that Twitter has long since grown beyond a small conversation among a fairly sophisticated community, that sort of activity would be called out for promoting misinformation and probably removed by Twitter. (But maybe not after Musk takes over.)

Carvin talked about what was then the surreal experience, now fairly common, of watching live coverage of the protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square while using Twitter to follow people on the ground. “You don’t necessarily get complete situational awareness,” he said. “But you get a pretty close proximity to it.” Just a few years later, in 2014, many of us followed the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement on Twitter as protests broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Michael Brown — protests that television didn’t catch up with for many hours.

Carvin also discussed the overwhelming nature of social media, saying he would check tweets on his phone while making dinner, lay off while eating with his family and reading to his kids, and then go back to TweetDeck until nearly midnight to keep up with the latest. Of course, Carvin was a journalist covering vitally important live events, and his routine was certainly less exhausting than being a reporter on the scene. If you leave that aside, though, it speaks to the difficulty we’ve all had of achieving any sort of work-life balance in the age of always-on digital technology.

“I don’t know how to juggle all this,” he said. “I’m kind of hoping that others will be able to come in and do similar things. I probably will reach some saturation point at some point. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting pretty close.”

Twitter remains a valuable tool for journalists, but it’s fallen far short of its initial promise. It’s hard to see how Musk is going to make it better. Even after reaching a deal to buy the platform, he was attacking top executives at Twitter, unleashing his army of trolls. It has not been a good week — or, as the Carvin video reminds us — a good decade for any of us who are interested in preserving some sliver of civil online discourse.

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25 days ago
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