Monday, February 26th, 2024


A Touching Story

This lead item is not for you. It's for the other people. The small niche of the population who occasionally visits adult sites on the internet. I know, gross right? There are about 2.5 million people who visit the most popular sites. Every sixty seconds. (Your guess is as good as mine as to what those folks are doing with the extra forty seconds.) Even though folks like you and me don't frequent such sites, they draw a lot of people, and the industry is often at the forefront of technological developments. Most people stopped paying attention once they solved the video buffering issues, but the advances continue, and that includes the use of artificial intelligence. Like most things tech, there will be good advances and really bad advances. Tatum Hunter visits the adult video news expo to find out the latest about changes that are at once titillating and deeply concerning. WaPo (Gift Article): AI ‘dream girls' are coming for p-rn stars' jobs.

+ Like you, this was all news to me. As I once wrote in NPR, I grew up in an age of Pong and Space Invaders, when the scrambled version of adult content was about all we could handle. Coming Of Age In The World Of Pay-Per-Minute P-rn.


Air Kiss

"At night, when Roe's family is sleeping, it 'smells like you're camping, because the fresh air is getting pumped in at such a rapid rate,' he said. You know the air is good, he told me, because the hydrangeas last. Typically, when cut at the stem and arranged in a vase, the delicate flowers wither and droop in a few days. In his apartment, the blooms will stay perky for nearly two weeks." The Hot New Luxury Good for the Rich: Air.


The Price Cost

We may not know (or even want to know) the details. But we know on an intuitive level that if we can buy stuff for a really small amount of money then someone on the other side of that supply chain is being exploited. Well, it's worse than you think. Ian Urbina in The New Yorker: Inside North Korea's Forced-Labor Program. "Workers sent from the country to Chinese factories describe enduring beatings and sexual abuse, having their wages taken by the state, and being told that if they try to escape they will be 'killed without a trace.'" And you're not just buying a new device. You're buying weapons for Kim Jong Un. "The program is run by various entities in the North Korean government, including a secretive agency called Room 39, which oversees activities such as money laundering and cyberattacks, and which funds the country's nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs. (The agency is so named, according to some defectors, because it is based in the ninth room on the third floor of the Korean Workers' Party headquarters.) Such labor transfers are not new. In 2012, North Korea sent some forty thousand workers to China. A portion of their salaries was taken by the state, providing a vital source of foreign currency for Party officials: at the time, a Seoul-based think tank estimated that the country made as much as $2.3 billion a year through the program. Since then, North Koreans have been sent to Russia, Poland, Qatar, Uruguay, and Mali."


Line Reading

"As the migrant surge has continued — 178,600 have arrived since the spring of 2022 with a notable recent influx of Africans who have flown to Central America and crossed the southern border — the Adams administration has been working to subtly push single migrants out of the system entirely. Over the summer, the city instituted a 60-day limit on shelter stays for single adult migrants. In September, that limit narrowed to 30 days. Adams seemed to hope the inconvenience of reprocessing would discourage applicants, and, in fact, the city offers anyone at St. Brigid a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world. The length of the line — with a wait time that can stretch to two weeks — reflects a colossal civic miscalculation."Jay Bulger and Paula Aceves in Curbed: In Line at St. Brigid.


Extra, Extra

Bunker Mentality: "The underground bunker, built to replace the destroyed command center in the months after Russia's invasion, is a secret nerve center of Ukraine's military. There is also one more secret: The base is almost fully financed, and partly equipped, by the CIA." NYT (Gift Article): The Spy War: How the CIA Secretly Helps Ukraine Fight Putin. Zelensky says 31,000 soldiers have been killed, giving a figure for first time. And some Americans may not be prepared to defend NATO, but NATO is growing in Europe. Hungary's parliament clears path for Sweden's Nato membership.

+ Parts of Speech: "The justices will determine whether social media platforms are more akin to newspapers that have the freedom to exercise editorial judgement, or like shopping malls that serve as gathering places for the public and can be made to host demonstrations." Supreme Court hears arguments on the future of online speech.

+ Appealing: "Former President Donald Trump, his adult sons, and two former Trump Organization officials have appealed the $464 million judgment entered against them in the New York attorney general's civil fraud case." Trump still appeals to his base. The Atlantic (Gift Article): How Donald Trump Became Unbeatable. "The other candidates hoped to be able to defeat Trump even as they accommodated his behavior and made excuses for his criminality. They even said they would support his reelection. By doing so, they established a permission structure for Republican voters to return to Trump, all but ensuring his rise."

+ Storm Hoopers: "How many times does a player have to get into something, where they get punched, or they get pushed, or they get taunted right in their face? It's a dangerous thing." Injuries intensify college basketball court storming debate.

+ Bronx Cheer: "The donation comes from Ruth Gottesman, chair of the school's board of trustees, who started working at Einstein's Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center over 55 years ago." Free tuition for Bronx medical students after $1 billion donation.

+ A's for Effort: The A's are trying to leave Oakland. Their fans aren't budging. Fans' Fest shows Oakland A's fans are only getting stronger in their fight with John Fisher.

+ "Imagine You're a Joystick": "As a coach for what she's described as 'powerful nerds,' she often relies on her background in tech to win over potential clients. Engineers or scientists she's worked with often 'don't trust the embodiment, somatics, conscious sexuality world,' she said. 'But then they saw that I went to MIT.'" Bay Area coach charges 'powerful nerds' thousands to learn to be better lovers.


Bottom of the News

"Promoted as 'the most insane athletic showdown on Earth,' the Florida Man Games poke fun at the state's reputation for bizarre stories that involve brawling, drinking, gunfire, reptile wrangling and other antics carrying a risk of time in jail or intensive care." At the Florida Man Games, big crowds cheer competitors evading police and wrestling over beer.

+ This teenager was struggling to find size 23 shoes to wear. Shaq came to his rescue.

+ Take a couple cold plunges in Vermont ('Totally cold' is not too cold for winter swimmers competing in a frozen Vermont lake) and New Jersey (Seaside Heights polar plunge brings biggest crowd ever). These activities will inspire the exact opposite physical reaction as today's top story...