Speak Your Mind

Getting a Voice Back, The Kremlin is Looking for a New Caterer.

“At Ann Johnson’s wedding reception 20 years ago, her gift for speech was vividly evident. In an ebullient 15-minute toast, she joked that she had run down the aisle, wondered if the ceremony program should have said “flutist” or “flautist” and acknowledged that she was ‘hogging the mic.’ Just two years later, Mrs. Johnson — then a 30-year-old teacher, volleyball coach and mother of an infant — had a cataclysmic stroke that paralyzed her and left her unable to talk.” Johnson’s voice from that speech is finally being heard again, powered by signals from her brain. “Technology converted her brain signals into written and vocalized language, and enabled an avatar on a computer screen to speak the words and display smiles, pursed lips and other expressions … Mrs. Johnson chose the avatar, a face resembling hers, and researchers used her wedding toast to develop the avatar’s voice.” Pam Belluck in NYT (Gift Article): A Stroke Stole Her Ability to Speak at 30. A.I. Is Helping to Restore It Years Later.

+ More from UCSF: How Artificial Intelligence Gave a Paralyzed Woman Her Voice Back.


Revenge on Caterer Served Cold

On the two month anniversary of the Wagner uprising against Putin, all passengers on a plane shot down northwest of Moscow were killed. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the passenger list. Many Russia experts predicted it was only a matter of time before Putin carried out his usual response to betrayal. In this case, one of the worst people in the world ordered the murder of one of the worst people in the world. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin presumed dead after Russia plane crash.

+ “Prigozhin was born in Soviet Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in 1961, nine years after Putin. As a teen-ager, he took up with a gang of petty thieves who robbed apartments. One night, in 1980, the gang mugged a woman on a dark Leningrad street. Prigozhin was sentenced to thirteen years in prison and served nine. His release coincided with the final stage of the Soviet Union’s slow-motion collapse, and, for his next act, he launched a hot-dog business. He and his associates mixed the mustard in the kitchen of his apartment, while his mother counted the profits.” So how did this common criminal turned hot-dog salesman turned Kremlin caterer end up running the world’s most well-known private military force? Joshua Yaffa in The New Yorker: Inside the Wagner Group’s Armed Uprising.


The Crackpot at the End of the Rainbow

“Sylvia Rhodea, one of eight self-described conservative Christians elected last November to the 11-person board, began by describing what she saw as the threat posed by LGBTQ groups and the Pride flag. In much of America, the rainbow banner represented the acceptance of gay, lesbian and transgender people. To Rhodea, it meant something very different. It was, she announced, ‘time to define the plus’ in the LGBTQ plus movement. ‘Over 50 different flags are flown under the LGBTQ flag,’ Rhodea said. Their ranks, she continued, included pedophiles, polygamists and furries, which she described as ‘those who dress as furry animals and may use litter boxes.'” Yes, people like Rhodea sound like lunatics from a fear mongering past. But this nonsense is happening now and it’s having a major impact on school boards across the country. WaPo: (Gift Article): A sex educator in Michigan refused to be shamed. Then came the backlash. “Heather Alberda found her calling by speaking bluntly about sex in her conservative county. Her career was no match for the nation’s culture wars.” This is directly related to crackpot, punching-down, woke-obsessed political speech that has become so popular these days. Expect to hear more of it at tonight’s first GOP debate. And remember, these aren’t just throw-away lines from politicians who don’t believe what they’re saying. This is a policy direction that’s taking hold. “Nearly 400 proposals aimed at allowing parents and government officials to change school lessons have been introduced in state legislatures since 2021 … Though less than 10% have passed, the climate around the bills has intimidated educators into self-censorship in schools, limiting discussions around racism and gender, PEN America said.” Education ‘intimidation’ bills have skyrocketed since 2021, report says.

+ People believe this crap. And they act on this crap. “The man who shot and killed the store owner last week over her display of a pride flag outside her store was a far-right conspiracy theorist who shared deeply anti-LGBTQ and antisemitic content on his social media accounts.”


Hoop Reams

“On 5 January 1971, Louis Herman Klotz did something that no basketballer has dared repeat. In front of a disbelieving audience in the city of Martin, Tennessee, the man known as Red broke one of the most sacred unwritten rules in sport. As player-coach for the Washington Generals, Klotz shot the winning basket against the Harlem Globetrotters … Over more than 50 years since, the Globetrotters have been ruthless in meting out their revenge. To the unmistakable melody of Sweet Georgia Brown, they’ve showboated their way to victory at the expense of hapless Generals who’ve never again beaten their illustrious opponents.” What’s it like being on the losing end of every game in a never-ending season? One win, 17,000 defeats – life as a Washington General.


Extra, Extra

South Parked: “An Indian spacecraft landed on the rugged, unexplored south pole of the moon on Wednesday in a mission seen as crucial to lunar exploration and India’s standing as a space power, just days after a similar Russian lander crashed. ‘This moment is unforgettable. It is phenomenal. This is a victory cry of a new India,’ said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

+ Fulton County Total Landscaping: Six defendants in the Trump Georgia case have surrendered at the Fulton County Jail, so far. Rudy Giuliani has landed in Atlanta for his mugshot. Here’s the latest for CNN. Meanwhile, in a major twist in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, “a key witness against former President Donald Trump and his two co-defendants in the Mar-a-Lago documents case recanted previous false testimony and provided new information implicating the defendants after he switched lawyers.” Basically, Yuscil Taveras, the director of information technology at Mar-a-Lago, decided to tell the truth after he stopped being represented by one of Trump’s lawyers. The great flipping has begun.

+ Pregame Injury: “North Dakota governor and Republican presidential candidate Doug Burgum suffered a high-grade tear of his Achilles tendon while playing a game of pick-up basketball with his staff Tuesday.” Burgum is questionable for tonight’s debate.

+ The Wheels on the Bus: “School bus driver positions have long been hard to fill, largely because of the job’s expectations and low pay. But since COVID, the problem has reached crisis levels. Driver shortages are the rule, not the exception.” A USA Today analysis of news coverage and local statistics found at least one instance of a major school bus driver shortage in every state this year.

+ Brow Beaten: “Broward County tourism officials say that financial losses are continuing to mount as conventions once scheduled for Fort Lauderdale have opted to go someplace else … They cite Florida’s culture wars on issues that critics say attack Blacks, gays, and transgender youth, as well as policies targeting state universities as well as migrants.”

+ See Spot None: “Giraffe experts believe she is the only solid-colored reticulated giraffe living anywhere on the planet.” A rare spotless giraffe was born in a Tennessee zoo. (The Tennessee legislature wants to ban it and Florida refuses to teach kids about it.)

+ No Turtle-necking: CDC warns not to ‘kiss or cuddle your turtle‘ as salmonella outbreak spreads to 11 states. (How do you explain this to your turtle?)


Bottom of the News

“Netflix is treating the end of the DVD era like a birthday party — or a funeral, depending on your point of view. The company announced in April that it would send its last DVD by mail on September 29, a little over 25 years after it sent the very first one.” And if you’re still getting DVDs by mail, you can keep them. Netflix is just giving DVDs away now. (Now I just have to figure out where to return my Kozmo DVDs.)

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