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Man, where can we even begin with this past week? It was a doozy. For one, the US government barreled towards shutdown. For another, the Senate refused to back President Trump’s nominee for US district judge in North Carolina following accusations that the judge backed measures to disenfranchise black voters. (Senators also failed to vote on a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller.) Oh, and DJ Khaled was charged with cryptocurrency fraud. Meanwhile, the Congo is experiencing the second largest Ebola outbreak in history, and for some unknown reason, the hashtag #BeatlesSongsforMillennials is a thing. What is this world in which we live? And, more appropriately for this particular column, what else has everyone been talking about online this week? Read on.
Political Climate Change
What Happened: You might think that the Trump administration could not continue its war on climate change science when that science is coming from the Federal government itself. You’d be wrong.
What Really Happened: Here’s how you know that the current administration really cares about climate change: They released a major report that took the issue seriously and pointed out that it will hurt the economy as the effects worsen in the future, in contradiction to the president’s denials. Oh, but there’s a catch; the National Climate Assessment, which featured a lot of important information, was released the day after Thanksgiving, when no one was really paying attention to the news. Yet, even if the administration was trying to bury it, the National Climate Assessment was still an official report by the administration’s own scientists, so surely that made it difficult for traditionally obstructionist, denialist politicians to do their usual schtick. Or … did it? Let’s ask the president.
As for those responsible for the report, they weren’t happy with the way the White House had handled things, whether it was the timing of the release or the responses to it. Why, here’s climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who worked on the report.
Well, that showed them. Surely now climate skeptics in the administration will stop trying to undermine the legitimate work behind their own report, right?
Oh, come on.
The Takeaway: Still, all the denial of science was based on the idea that the report wasn’t factual—even though it was—so we can assume the counterargument is based on facts, right?
Welcome Back to the Spotlight, Paul Manafort!
What Happened: In the first of this week’s unexpected returns of old faces, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort stepped up to claim the No Really, You Did What?! Award for poor legal decisions.
What Really Happened: It turned out to be a surprisingly busy week for Paul Manafort, former campaign chair for Donald Trump’s 2016 election bid. You may remember him from being found guilty on eight counts of financial fraud and his subsequent plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year. Well, last week, he was back in the news for a number of different reasons, and none of them good.
That sounds even worse, not least of which because it translates to “the special counsel doesn’t have to live up to its side of the agreement now, but Manafort can’t pretend he didn’t plead guilty to his crimes.” That kind of thing proves to be important when it comes to sentencing, after all.
Many people believed the lies Manafort is accused of telling were the result of an ongoing relationship with the president—a suspicion that proved to be correct, as was revealed later in the week.
Once this was out in the open, talk of whether or not Manafort was angling for a presidential pardon became much louder … again, with good reason.
Whether or not a pardon is the final aim, Manafort’s decision to break the plea deal was revealed to be especially short-sighted on Friday, when a hearing to schedule his sentencing quickly turned to matters that might have surprised him (even if no one else would have been especially shocked).
Yeah, that’s going to hurt. Is this enough Manafort for you? We hope not, because there was even more Mananews, thanks to The Guardian.
Unsurprisingly, both parties denied it even happened.
But this is worth remembering:
The Takeaway: Just how bad can this end up getting? Actually, quite bad if those in positions of authority want to take it as far as they can.
… Oh, and Michael Cohen Too!
What Happened: Meanwhile, as Paul Manafort was revealing that his flip was more of a flip flop, another member of the Trump crew was about to unveil his next move.
What Really Happened: Turns out, Paul Manafort’s wasn’t the only familiar face to reemerge last week. Remember this guy?
Yes, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer who once famously announced that he would take a bullet for Trump, only to flip on him, secretly record him, and plead guilty to federal fraud charges. That Michael Cohen. What is he up to these days?
That seems like it could be pretty important, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Oh, actually very important. Especially in light of commentary like this:
All told, the Cohen plea, and the information it brought with it, made clear that the president—or “Individual 1” as he’s referred to in the court papers—is vey much at the center of the investigation, despite what he will otherwise claim. For anyone wondering how the White House felt about this, perhaps this tweet says it all.
And then there’s this:
But perhaps the most amusing response might have come from Cohen’s successor as the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Within hours of that comment, however, Giuliani was telling the New York Times that President Trump’s memory regarding the Moscow Trump Tower project actually matched Cohen’s—a contradiction that plenty of people picked up on.
The Takeaway: What might be most surprising about all of this is just how accidentally shady everyone manages to make themselves look, while simultaneously thinking that they’re doing a great job remaining squeaky clean.
It really does feel like something out of a movie, doesn’t it?
And Throw Away the Key
What Happened: Some people take social media very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they’ll go to extreme lengths when they find themselves cut off. Or extremely ridiculous lengths, at least.
What Really Happened: Perhaps you’ve never heard of Laura Loomer. If so, a quick primer: She’s a right-wing personality who recently got booted from Twitter after criticizing Minnesota Representative-elect Ilhan Omar’s Muslim faith. Last week, she showed that she wasn’t going to take the ban lying down.
Yes, Loomer handcuffed herself to Twitter’s front door to protest her removal for hate speech by saying things like “Twitter is upholding sharia when they ban me for tweeting facts about sharia law.” (Spoilers: She was not tweeting facts.) “I’m here today to stand in solidarity with the millions of conservatives around the world who have been silenced,” she said.
Of course, that wasn’t all she said, as those on the scene faithfully reported.
As it happened, Loomer didn’t have to have self-owns. Others were bringing their own.
The whole protest brought a great response from Twitter.
As it turned out, the protest was, unsurprisingly, unsuccessful.
That’s not to say she didn’t accomplish anything, mind you.
Perhaps her problem was her location, all things considered.
That’s perhaps the best thing about this whole ordeal: Loomer wasn’t actually at Twitter’s headquarters, which is in San Francisco; instead, she was at the company’s New York office. Maybe she just couldn’t bear to make her point in person, and figured someone in the New York office would pass the message on?
The Takeaway: But maybe we all doth protest too much?
Holidays at the White House
What Happened: The White House’s holiday decorations went up, but they didn’t go over so well.
What Really Happened: Oh snap, look at the calendar! Yes, now that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday season is in full swing. As is traditional at this time of year, the White House is celebrating by decking the halls. Want a peek? First Lady Melania Trump posted some images of the decor early last week.
OK, let’s be honest; there’s something … weird about the look of that, right? You can see what they’re going for, but…
Oh, yeah; that as well. The upsetting visuals were discussed in suitably troubled tones, as was the social media response. Indeed, looking at Twitter, it really did seem as if everyone agreed that the decor was more disturbing than decorative this year:
Oh, did we say this year? Turns out, this is a running theme in Melania’s design choices.
Perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise, considering some of her earlier aesthetic decisions. That said, maybe we were all looking at this the wrong way, and it was far more whimsical and we actually believed.
Once again proving that she really doesn’t care, Melania responded to critics midweek saying, “We are in the 21st century and everybody has a different taste. I think they look fantastic.” So there you have it.
The Takeaway: For those who thought that Melania had taken things as far as possible in 2018, let’s thank The Onion for reminding us that there’s always room for improvement.
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