January 18th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Microsoft arms for the game wars.

All I have to do is listen to the hours of screaming from my teenage son’s room to know that videogames are a big, big business. And unlike many other industries, it was unharmed by the pandemic. In fact, the industry got bigger. That’s part of the reason why Microsoft, already a huge player in the space with Xbox, Minecraft, and Halo, just announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush) for a cool $69 billion. For the deal to go through, the two companies will have to shoot, blast, and build their way past government regulators in order to level up to what would be Microsoft’s biggest ever acquisition. To give this deal some context, consider that Microsoft’s biggest acquisition so far was its $26 billion purchase of LinkedIn. And the price tag for Activision Blizzard is roughly equal to Microsoft’s five previous largest acquisitions combined. That number is that enormous despite the fact that Activision has fired dozens of employees due to an ongoing sexual misconduct scandal.

The deal is about gaming. It’s also about, yes, the metaverse. Peter Kafka in ReCode: “While streaming TV shows and movies occupy a ton of media attention, video games capture a ton of regular people’s attention: Microsoft says there are 3 billion gamers around the world today, and says that number will get to 4.5 billion by 2030. And if you want to get really fanciful: If any version of the metaverse or virtual reality future we’ve been hearing about for the past couple years comes to pass, it will almost certainly be grounded in games. Maybe Future You won’t want to strap on face goggles throughout your day. But putting on a device to shoot at virtual strangers is less of a stretch.” Microsoft is buying one of the biggest names in games — if Washington lets it. (I’d have to ask for my son’s insight on this, but to me, if Activision Blizzard is worth $69 billion, Wordle has to be worth at least $70 billion. And as a bonus, unlike my son, I only scream once a day.)


Mother _ _ _ _ _ _

Please get your mind out of the gutter. The second word in this headline is Nature. Even with climate change pushing natural disasters to new limits, Mother Nature still has the ability to shock, as it did when the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai volcano erupted, sent a damaging tsunami to Tonga, and impacted countries across the world. “The event literally touched every corner of the globe as a pressure wave spread out in all directions to complete a full circumnavigation.” My wife and kids are Samoan, so I have a pretty deep interest in the region. When I saw the news about the blast and the wave start to spread on Twitter, I dialed into a Samoan radio station, where people were racing to higher land, and calling in to say they heard what was probably the biggest volcanic explosion in 30 years, loud and clear. And Samoa is 550 miles from Tonga. Meanwhile, all the way in the Bay Area, we had flooding in Santa Cruz, unusually large waves in Sausalito, and surfers had to be rescued from Ocean Beach. “More than 10,000km away, two people drowned off a beach in northern Peru amid abnormally high waves.” There was so much ash in the sky, it’s taken days for the New Zealand military to begin to assess the heavy damage in Tonga, where entire communities are covered in thick ash. From The Conversation: Why the volcanic eruption in Tonga was so violent, and what to expect next. Here are some more photos from the scene.

One of the reasons why we’re only getting a first glimpse of the damage in Tonga is because “the undersea cable connecting its internet to the rest of the world has been destroyed by the blast.” Tonga’s volcano blast cut it off from the world. Here’s what it will take to get it reconnected.


Reform Judaism

In many ways, this weekend’s synagogue attack reflected my view on being Jewish in modern America, where 1 in 4 American Jews say they experienced antisemitism in the last year. Four people were taken hostage during a long standoff that ended with freed hostages and a dead suspect. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker is well known in his Texas community for reaching out and breaking bread with people from other religions and backgrounds. He and his congregants are 100% right to do that. It’s core to the faith. But, to put it bluntly, if someone comes in and threatens your life in your house of worship, they need to be attacked, and if necessary, made dead. Here’s the Rabbi explaining how he threw a chair at the suspect, after which he and two other remaining hostages escaped. It’s required viewing for American Jews. A couple years ago, I was in a discussion session with college students and parents talking about how bad antisemitism is on campus. After about an hour, someone said that with all the local and global antisemtism, it’s hard not to be scared. And I said, be pissed, be aware, be resilient, be tough. But don’t be afraid. We tried that already.

+ And no, I’m not trying to sound like I’m a tough guy. I’m just the son of one.

+ MI5 investigated Texas synagogue hostage-taker in 2020. They “concluded Malik Faisal Akram posed no threat, which allowed him to travel to US and buy gun.”


Case Load

“One of Holland’s key tactics — lying to suspects — remains common and protected by the courts. But in the search for Bobbie Sue Hill’s killer, the Ranger also used more contested methods, including hypnosis and hypothetical narrations of the crime. Altogether, his tactics demonstrate how far a detective can go without breaking the law, and how easy it is for the legal system to rely on a questionable confession. Even after years of high-profile exonerations, academic research on why innocent people are convicted, and attempts by judges and lawmakers to fix the problems, detectives continue to use techniques that are known to produce false confessions.” The Marshall Project with the cold, hard truth about some cold cases: Anatomy of a Murder Confession.


Extra, Extra

Supreme A-Hole: “Sotomayor [who has diabetes] did not feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked. Chief Justice John Roberts, understanding that, in some form asked the other justices to mask up. They all did. Except Gorsuch, who, as it happens, sits next to Sotomayor on the bench. His continued refusal since then has also meant that Sotomayor has not attended the justices’ weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone.” There are so many jerks on today’s Supreme Court that they can’t even stand each other. (I guess that means the court reflects society.)

+ Vote Moat: The Senate Dems are pushing a debate on voting rights legislation even though not all of the Senate Dems are planning to vote to remove the filibuster to get it done.

+ Mine Shaft: “Even in places such as North Dakota, where supply and demand align with clean energy, culture and politics pose major obstacles.” WaPo (Gift Article): How coal holds on in America.

+ Pande-mic Drop: Wealth of 10 richest men doubled in pandemic as 99% of incomes dropped.

+ Site for Sore Eyes: The Gov’s free rapid test site is up and ordering is open. The site is snappy, too. Either that mean excellent tech work or light demand.

+ DeSantis Little Helper: “Ron DeSantis, has proposed the formation of a large and unprecedented state agency to investigate election crimes – in a state where there is little evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election or otherwise.” (This is what’s known as weaponizing The Big Lie.)


Bottom of the News

The NFL wildcard playoff weekend had plenty of highlights. But none of them compared to this Nickelodeon interview. So awesome.

+ Capitol rioters called Nancy Pelosi’s office looking for a ‘lost and found‘ for items they left behind on January 6.

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