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Celebrity

19 craziest TikTok challenges and the ordeals they’ve caused



Humanity has hit Tok bottom.

Created in 2016 as a portal for short, humorous clips, TikTok has recently become synonymous with something far more sinister: viral internet challenges.

Pull up the video-sharing app and you’ll inevitably see opportunistic bozos risking their reputations and even bodies on camera for social media clout — like if Snapchat was created by the “Jackass” guys.

In the most notorious stunt recently, a female TikTokker wound up in the hospital after trying to style her hair with gorilla glue.

Unfortunately, the app’s eyeball-seeking algorithm makes it extremely difficult for these oft-harmful trends to be nipped in the bud before they metastasize across the internet.

To help readers know what to avoid, we’ve compiled a list of challenges so ludicrous we might want to reconsider a TikTok ban.

1. Gorilla Glue girl

This might not be a challenge per se. However, Louisiana’s Tessica Brown undoubtedly cemented her place on TikTok stupidity’s Mount Rushmore after slathering her hair with Gorilla Glue and having to get it surgically repaired during a four-hour procedure.

Unfortunately, this cautionary tale might not stick as Brown’s adhesive mishap landed her $20,000 dollars in donations, hundreds of free hair products and even a full-time agent — not to mention an unfortunate imitator.

2. DIY vampire fangs

Speaking of Super Glue fiascos, holiday revelers went viral this past Halloween after supergluing costume vampire fangs to their teeth. The cringe-worthy clips — which, using the hashtag #VampireFangs, amassed over 9 million views — depicted various bozos struggling to remove the faux chompers after fastening them to their incisors using Super Glue, nail glue and other adhesives.

Go figure: Dentists advised against this practice, citing the fact that nail glue “is poisonous and won’t come off.”

3. Tooth filing

In the realm of toothless TikTok challenges, DIY vampire fangs pale in comparison to these amateur cosmeticians remodeling their chompers with nail files.

For the uninitiated, the challenge involved various knuckleheads attempting to fix their uneven smiles by using a nail file to sand their snack-slicers down to size. It was basically the bargain-bin equivalent of an enameloplasty — a reshaping procedure involving enamel removal that one would receive from a cosmetic dentist.

However, unlike the latter, these freelance molar makeovers sparked an outcry from the dental community.

“You’re doing irreparable damage and destruction to your teeth,” Dr. Chad Evans, co-founder of Texas-based Smile Magic Family Dental, said.

4. Face wax challenge

Full facial waxing is the hot new beauty fad with vids of the procedure collectively amassing millions of views on TikTok.

The procedure, demonstrated here by Kapsalon Freedom barbershop in the Netherlands, involves caking a patient’s face — including their eyes — with gloopy green wax as if casting a mold for the “House of Wax” horror movie. They even have wax-dipped Q-Tips stuck in their noses to extract pesky nasal hairs. When finished, the rogue beautician peels the beauty batter off the subject’s face in one piece like a slasher villain mask.

Skin experts are calling the process traumatic “for the skin, especially sensitive areas such as those found around the eyes.”

5. Erection cream pout plumper

TikTok cosmeticians redefined maintaining a stiff upper lip after trying to plump their pouts with erection cream on camera. While one influencer did succeed in fluffing his flappers to life raft proportions, he had to stop the stunt early due to the burning sensation.

Meanwhile doctors said that the hack is “utterly ridiculous and can be extremely dangerous,” adding that the “temporary” procedure could lead to adverse reactions including soreness, swelling and blisters, as well as blood pressure fluctuations and “possible heart problems.”

6. Corn cob challenge

As part of a series of viral lifehacks, enterprising TikTokkers tried to accelerate their corn consumption by eating a cob affixed to a spinning drill bit. This Loony Toons-evoking feat gained international attention after rapper Jason Derulo chipped a tooth while performing the stunt.

However, Anaconda’s cracked kernel didn’t deter him from trying to inhale 22 hamburgers a month later to commemorate reaching 22 million TikTok followers.

7. Cereal challenge

This one just seems nasty from the outset, but it also could have a potentially dangerous end result. In this test of wills, a person pours milk and cereal into the open mouth of a person lying down and then eats breakfast from the human “bowl.” Needless to say, things can get super, super messy, not to mention become a choking hazard for the volunteer vessel.

TikTok provides an extensive list of “community guidelines” that state the company does not allow “content that is excessively gruesome or shocking, especially that promotes or glorifies abject violence or suffering.” It also outlines “risky activities or other dangerous behavior” that are not allowed, including activity that “encourages, promotes, or glorifies such behavior, including amateur stunts or dangerous challenges.”

8. Skull breaker challenge

The title says it all.

This viral craze — reportedly originating in Venezuela as “rompcráneos,” or “skull breaker” — depicts three friends (we use the term loosely) jumping next to each other as the bookending buds kick the middle guy’s feet out from under him. The action sends the person crashing to the ground, landing on their back and hitting their head in the process.

Not only has the alarming trend led to injuries in MiamiNew Jersey and Arizona, but Daytona Beach, Florida police have charged two high school teens with misdemeanor battery and cyberbullying following an incident there. In addition, two students in Mexico did their own version of the “skull breaker,” but reportedly used a sweater instead of their feet to trip a girl into doing a face-plant.

Doctors have unsurprisingly condemned the practice for its potential to cause “serious and life-threatening injuries,” ranging from “skull fracture to paralysis and death.”

9. Penny challenge

This shocking fad involves sliding a penny behind a partially plugged-in phone charger, as seen in multiple viral videos circulating on YouTube and TikTok.

While the prank may seem innocuous, the coin can strike the metal prongs, causing “sparks, electrical system damage, and in some cases, fire,” warned Massachusetts Fire Marshall Peter J. Ostroskey in an advisory issued last year.

Case in point: The marshal obtained a photo of a scorched outlet in Holden reportedly caused by the viral prank. In another incident, a student at Plymouth North High School allegedly started a fire after performing the challenge in what Plymouth Schools Superintendent Dr. Gary Maestas called an “irresponsible act. Fortunately, no one was injured — but the accidental arsonist was charged for the crime.

10. Benadryl challenge

This inflammatory challenge, which involves taking enough Benadryl to hallucinate and posting the footage on the video-sharing platform, resulted in the death of a 15-year-old Oklahoma girl last year.

This, along with several other near-fatal incidents, prompted pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and the FDA to issue PSAs warning teens not to abuse the antihistamines.

The latter warned, “Taking higher than recommended doses of the common over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medicine diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can lead to serious heart problems, seizures, coma or even death.”

11. ‘Cha-Cha Slide’ challenge

This ridiculous TikTok trend involved teen drivers swerving all over the road like maniacs in time with the stunt’s namesake dance anthem, first released 20 years ago by DJ Casper, a k a Mr. C The Slide Man.

Despite the obvious risks, the trend has taken TikTok by storm, reportedly causing several near-accidents by participants. “The car almost flipped,” reads the caption to a video of one TikTokker performing the stunt with friends.

TikTok warns viewers on several clips that “the action in this video could result in serious injury.”

12. Pee your pants challenge

Nothing to ward off the coronavirus doldrums like a viral video leak, right? At least that’s what one bored livestreamer thought when he heeded nature’s call on camera, inspiring scores of other lonely TikTokkers to follow suit like a Pied Pee-per.

The #peeyourpantschallenge hashtag currently quickly racked up 3.9 million views on TikTok, as well as a flurry of criticism from horrified commenters.

“People seriously need to get back to work soon . . . everybody has gone insane,” sputtered one.

13. The poop challenge

In an even sicker stunt, these parents in lockdown smeared excrement on their progeny and filmed their aghast reactions. “WTF” seemed to be the overwhelming response.

14. Verbal abuse challenge

These moms…



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Politics

Tech Giants Are Gaining Too Much Power


Guest post by mathematician and financial planner Bobby Piton

 

Since 2001, when China entered the WTO, three months to the day after September 11th, the United States has accumulated trade deficits of over $10 trillion.  $5 trillion is owed to China and $1 trillion is owed to Mexico.

Under this arrangement, the total debt of the United States has skyrocketed by over $13 trillion.  Without this arrangement, we would have maintained a similar debt ratio of the economic activity seen in pre-9/11 2001.

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We the People should AUDIT these trade and budgetary figures to be sure the goods & services represented in these debts did, in fact, change hands, the proper revenue/income recognition took place, and that the proper taxes have been paid.  There is a very strong possibility that this issued debt did not have a corresponding benefit to the American people.

Since the 2008-2009 housing crisis, there has been about 25 companies that have gone from being worth less than $500 billion (half a trillion) to over $10 trillion dollar (or 20-fold!) in 12 years.  What do all these companies have in common?  They might be engaging in some of the following activities that Wall Street Firms are prohibited from partaking in:

  • Insider Trading – Knowing something the public does not know before the information is publicly disclosed and trading on it to profit at the expense of the public (Example; zombie Wall Street). These firms might be capturing non-public information from people using their search engines and “trading” on these searches to the detriment of the American Public.
  • Behaving as both an Agent/Principal. Issuing (raised the money for a company or other institutions) securities and were paid 4-7% of the amount raised and then sold these same securities to your clients and receive a commission.  This is outlawed in the finance industry. (These similar activities might not be outlawed in the Big Tech space.)
  • These companies may or may not be collecting personal information about their clients and using it unfairly to undermine the very companies using their platforms. Imagine if you went to Vegas and played poker and the dealer was able to see all your cards in real time while you were playing and dealt cards to the other players based on what you held.  Would you really still want to play Texas Hold ‘Em?

These companies sell your personal information to the highest bidder (Example: Who has figured out how to manipulate you most effectively.)  These financial companies pay tech companies to gather psychological facts about their clients.  Supposedly they have mapped over 5,000 characteristics about most individuals and quite possibly know you better than you know yourself.  This is worse than the NSA spying on you because at least with the NSA, they work to protect Americans and are sworn to adhere to the fourth amendment.  The merger of Big Money and Big Tech are obsessed with using psychological data to enslave Americans to take on unnecessary debt to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t even know or might not even like.

We have been entrapped by psychographically-charged predatory lending on a national scale (A sort of debt diplomacy).  Corrupt politicians and ideologically-obsessed government employees have sold out the average American to get their cut of these ill-gotten gains.  Is this why Twitter, Google, Facebook (all occasionally funded by We the People’s intelligence apparatus) does not care if they trounce all over the US Constitution?  The United States Constitution defines how We the People agree to be governed.  These corrupt politicians possess both the weakest minds our society has ever created and obnoxious personalities typically reserved for a Jerry Springer show.  This same ineptness is why We the People are being treated like farm animals.  Implied mask mandates are being forced to breathe in our own bacteria, inhibiting up to 20-30% of the oxygen flow to our brains, and possibly damaging our lungs as well.  Why haven’t we heard any studies about this potential damage to our bodies?

General Flynn, American Patriots, Trust Seekers, and thousands of other conservative accounts and sites (including myself) have been censored by unholy alliance of the oligarchs found in both Big Money and Big Tech.

Gateway Pundit was recently banned from Twitter after building a base of over 375,000 followers.  I know from firsthand experience built a base of 130,000 and had 3,300,000 million impressions a day.  Gateway Pundit had three times as many followers as me, so you can imagine how many people are being denied their ability to read their unique viewpoint. All this spells a breakdown of our key ingredient of a prosperous society, trust. These psychopaths that loaded us with debt ( I think we should haircut all debt of every person/institution that has its holdings in offshore trusts) to make up for the trillions stolen from the American Public. All these trillions which corporations made through the violations of our constitutional rights simply be taken back by freezing all equity markets to determine what is fair compensation to the American Public which funded this companies. (Keep in mind during WWI the markets closed for 6 months). Google, Facebook, Apple, and any other companies who used Intellectual Property that was paid for by US Taxpayers should be properly deluded, and every share should be journaled into a US Sovereign wealth fund for the benefit of the American People.





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Politics

Gov. DeSantis Humiliates Reporters For Defending Big Tech (VIDEO)


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis calls out the media’s hypocrisy for its ‘hacked information’ guidelines.

DeSantis said, “You’re trying to tell me if there was hacked information that could damage me, you wouldn’t print it? Give me a break. You can whiz on my leg, but don’t tell me it’s raining.”

In October of 2020, the New York Post revealed their “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad” and Twitter removed the links associated with the article because of alleged hacked/stolen material.

One user took to Twitter calling out the platform for locking out The New York Post of their account.

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The Florida governor made it clear how the media and Big Tech ignored the true story of Hunter Biden because of the upcoming election.

According to Business Insider, The New York Post article was shared more than 300,00 times before the company said it ‘reduced its distribution’

Andy Stone called the reduced distribution as part of their standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation.

Click below to watch Governor Ron DeSantis call out the media and Big Tech!





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Celebrity

Popular YouTuber’s DIY torture device slammed by women


Judging by his past instructional videos — a spiked “study” chair for “sleepy” students, or a spring-loaded head thumper — it would be fair to assume YouTube vlogger and machinist Geng Shuai, AKA “Useless Edison,” has a flair for the sadistic.

But it’s his latest invention that has landed him in hot water with his followers, primarily via Chinese social media, according to a South China Morning Post report.

The DIY video features a contraption called a “wooden horse,” a humiliating and lethal torture device designed for women, which is thought to have originated during the Song Dynasty a millennium ago.

Apparently unbeknownst to Geng, victims would be ordered to mount the donkey to be dragged through the streets while receiving a whipping — all while seated on a saddle of wooden or metal spikes. Other cultures have made use of the “wooden donkey” design, though often depicted as marginally less injurious with the removal of the back lancets.

Geng’s version was also made without blades. However, viewers were undeterred in their distaste for the horrendous tribute to sex-based torture. On Wednesday, the 32-year-old craftsman issued an apology after his video was removed from at least one Chinese social media site, Bilibili, claiming he was unaware of the history associated with the device, SCMP reports.

Vlogger Geng Shuai in his workshop in China.
Vlogger Geng Shuai, dubbed “Useless Edison,” became popular by building hapless inventions for social media viewers.
The Washington Post via Getty Im

“I offer my most sincere apologies, no matter what excuses I may have, if this has hurt your feelings,” Geng reportedly said on Weibo. “It’s due to my lack of understanding of history that I made a video disrespectful to women. I hope to obtain your forgiveness.”

On YouTube, where he’s dubbed “Handy Geng,” the inventor from Yang village in Hebei province boasts 37.8 million subscribers, which he’s built since landing on the site in March 2020. In China, his social media prestige goes back to 2018. He allegedly makes money in the “tips” he receives from viewers.

It doesn’t appear that the “wooden donkey” video made it to YouTube, but only last week he uploaded a similarly disturbing how-to, a chair furnished with ejecting needles on the seat for the purpose of perking up the “students who want to study without [being] sleepy.” It also happens to be a well-known torture device called an “iron chair.”

He added a disclaimer in the caption: “There is some dangerous behavior in the video, please do not imitate it.”



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Politics

Please Help Us In Our Battle Against Big Tech Censorship


Dear Friends,

The Media spent four years telling lie after lie about President Trump.

The Media spent years attacking this great president in a constant stream of lies and baseless accusations.

This same media ignored the historic achievements of this same administration.

TRENDING: TWO MORE GOP LAWMAKERS Call on Liz Cheney to Step Down as House Conference Chair Before She Destroys Party — It May Be Too Late

Democrats stole the election from President Trump.

Please support the Gateway Pundit, by donating to The Justice League of America –  legal and investigations fund – with whatever you can spare, by donating below, and I promise to keep putting out the quality journalism you need to fight liberal lies.

** Click here to donate GiveSendGo

The media spent two months lying in every breath to cover up and suppress the evidence.

A “Stop the Steal” peaceful protest of hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters was hijacked by nefarious characters at the US Capitol on January 6th.  The protesters entered the Capitol and five people died including one Capitol Hill police officer from an aneurism.

Ashli Babbitt was murdered.

Everyone to the right of liberal Mitt Romney is now declared a seditious traitor, an insurrectionist, and worse!

Hundreds of RINO and Never Trump DC elitists repudiate 75 million Trump voters because Twitter and Facebook demand they do so like trained circus monkeys.

President Trump is banned from all mainstream social media outlets. Tens of thousands of his voters are as well. People are deplatformed, doxxed, families torn apart, and federal authorities waste no time and spare no expense in bringing down the full federal power on Trump voters.

This is happening because the left knows that inconvenient facts are going to ruin the political left for a generation:

* The Democrats stole this election, documented most extensively by the Gateway Pundit

* The Biden Crime Family is a national security disgrace, documented most extensively by the Gateway Pundit.

Do you want your only media options to be MSNBC or CNN?

Please support the Gateway Pundit, by donating to The Justice League of America –  legal and investigations fund – with whatever you can spare, by donating below, and I promise to keep putting out the quality journalism you need to fight liberal lies.

** Click here to donate GiveSendGo

Do you want your news spun by the same people making lists of how to dox, harass, bankrupt, and get you fired? Where conservatives are mocked and dismissed as they pretend to be objective and impartial?

If you read the Gateway Pundit, I know that you want success for everyone, a return to the Constitution and basic free speech principles. You want an America where we respect one another, and we don’t seek to silence every view we disagree with.

The Gateway Pundit is doing several important things that I need your help with:

** We are continuing to document the fraud and Antifa bad actors behind the violence at the 2021 Capitol Siege.

** We are going to continue documenting the 2020 election fraud.

** And we are taking on the tech giants in the courtroom.

Because we are one of the left’s biggest media targets, many advertisers are too scared to support our voice. The major donors who support projects like this are scared of the crazy left-wing crusaders. So your support is critical. Your involvement is critical.

Please support the Gateway Pundit with whatever you can spare, by donating below, and I promise to keep putting out the quality journalism you need to fight liberal lies.

For Truth,
Jim Hoft

Please support the Gateway Pundit, by donating to The Justice League of America –  legal and investigations fund – with whatever you can spare, by donating below, and I promise to keep putting out the quality journalism you need to fight liberal lies.

** Click here to donate GiveSendGo





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Dining News

The Food Timeline Website Has Been Saved by Virginia Tech


A few years ago, I was working on a story about bread soup when I stumbled upon a gold mine of culinary research called the Food Timeline. An obsessively catalogued, exhaustively comprehensive resource on the history of food, the Food Timeline is a lo-fi website free from advertising, where anyone can learn about the origins of what we eat from 17,000 B.C. onward. Want to know about how marshmallows came to be? Curious about the first appearance of sorghum in our diets? It’s all there. The page on soup alone contains over 70,000 words from primary sources, cataloged in breathless detail.

Even after I had finished researching that story, I spent untold hours on the Food Timeline. But I noticed that around 2013, the timeline mysteriously stopped. One small line at the bottom of the site explained why: “The Food Timeline was created and maintained solely by Lynne Olver (1958-2015, her obituary),” it read, “reference librarian with a passion for food history.”

In 2018, three years after she had passed away from leukemia, I went to New Jersey to meet with Olver’s family. I learned that she was a picky eater. That she loved The Twilight Zone. That she worked on the Food Timeline for hours every day outside of her full-time job, where she was the director of a local library. She took her laptop on vacation. She wrote in the royal “we” to lend the site more legitimacy. And in the nearly 20 years she’d been running the Food Timeline, she had answered more than 25,000 questions from people wondering where this recipe for pound cake or that recipe for clams casino came from.

I also learned from her family that in the three years since she had passed away, no one had come forward to carry on the legacy of the Food Timeline, and so the site languished. While Olver was protective of the site, and had renewed the domain for 10 more years before her passing, she never put together a succession plan; they had all believed to the last, when her leukemia took a turn for the worse, that she would pull through, that her bone marrow transplant would work. “None of us were of the opinion that it wasn’t going to work until the moment that it didn’t,” Gordon Olver, Lynne’s widower, said.

So for the past few years, Gordon has put out feelers to institutions to take over Lynne’s life’s work. He wanted to donate the website and Lynne’s more than 2,300 reference books to an organization willing to continue the timeline and Olver’s careful research, ad-free and in the interest of the public good. “I talked to people about it who I thought might have better ideas, but I really only had a couple of places that I thought I could go,” he recalled over the phone in December. “I got very little — if any — interest from those organizations.”

The situation changed this summer, after the profile I wrote about Olver and the Food Timeline was published. “I thought maybe a university or two, or a couple of individuals, might be interested in doing something,” Gordon said. Instead, the response overwhelmed him. “There was a combination of 87 organizations and individuals that expressed a significant interest in taking over the website,” he said.

The range of responses was not limited to universities with library science programs or culinary institutions interested in acquiring Lynne’s expansive food library. There were celebrity chefs, fiction writers, food fanatics, and even one woman I knew from high school, all reaching out with the hopes of carrying on Lynne’s legacy. “When I logged onto the Food Timeline in 2015 and discovered Lynne had died, I was devastated. I was in disbelief,” one person wrote by email. “If there is any small way that I might be of assistance in keeping her legacy alive, please call on me,” one professional chef offered. “The magic of the site, it seems to us, is that it is not just a place where you can go to learn about food, but a place where you learn how to go about finding more,” a married couple from Michigan wrote.

The Olver family started to collect the responses in a spreadsheet, Gordon said, narrowing down the options to their top five. The most important things for the family were that the future custodian stay true to the idea of no advertising, that Lynne’s collection of 2,300 books would be made available to the public, and that the website, in all of its web 1.0 glory, not change too much. “Even if there was a need to make changes and to upgrade it,” Gordon said, that was fine, as long as it held onto its flavor. “You can have a very old-looking car with new guts.”

A clear favorite eventually emerged: the Special Collections and University Archives department at Virginia Tech University. Lynne had no specific connection to the university, but of all the suitors, the staff at VT were the most committed to maintaining the Food Timeline’s mission. Kira Dietz, the assistant director of special collections and university archives at Virginia Tech, wrote that their proposal for the project would be interdisciplinary among different sectors of the university, and that even outside of the library and food studies program, “other faculty are willing to commit time and technical expertise to this potential project.” That meant that, even if Lynne’s books were housed in the History of Food & Drink library, they would be accessible to everyone. And the site, as always, would continue on as a free resource for everyone, everywhere, with students and faculty updating it with their latest research.

Lynne’s books arrived at the university in the winter and the early plans of what comes next are still in development. The path forward won’t necessarily be a smooth one, at least until we emerge from the pandemic, Dietz told me. Right now, Virginia Tech has limited operating hours, and visits to the library can be made by limited appointments only. “There are primarily three of us and we’re all only on site half-time or less,” Dietz said. She hopes that the books will be cataloged by the end of January, and that she and the other reference librarians can start answering food-related questions and adding to the site shortly thereafter. The website is currently down as Virginia Tech performs maintenance, but Dietz anticipates it will be back up and running again within the next two weeks. In the meantime, she said, the Wayback Machine version is still accessible for any pressing research questions.

Taking on such an enormous resource was never going to be an immediate handover, Dietz said. “This is not going to be an overnight process.” But she encouraged anyone who is interested in learning more about their plans for the timeline, or who has a food reference question, or who wants to talk about Olver’s legacy, to reach out to her anyway. She said the librarians on staff will do their best to answer as soon as they can, with as much information as they can, just like Lynne would have done. In time, when the global pandemic has passed, Dietz anticipates there could be as many as eight full-time qualified staff members working on and maintaining some part of the Food Timeline.

For Gordon, the most important thing for now is that the site and his wife’s books are in good hands. He estimates that with the donation of books and the value of the domain, he’ll get a considerable amount of money back in his taxes next year. “I plan on donating that money to start a foundation for a scholarship in Lynne’s name,” he told me. The fund would support the people, whether students or otherwise, who will keep the work of the Food Timeline going at Virginia Tech. He hopes that when the details are worked out, others will contribute to this scholarship fund, too. “If you found value in this and you want to help keep Lynne’s name out there, this would be one way to do it,” he said. “She put so much time and effort into this and we just love her so much and miss her.” Anything he can do to honor Lynne’s life and work, he said, is worth it.

Dayna Evans is a freelance writer currently based in Philadelphia.



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Breaking New

Biden’s promised Cuba reset has big tech implications



Tech sanctions were not only bad for Cubans, the thinking went, but for U.S. interests: Access to the global internet and mobile phones could help pull Cuba further into the American orbit. Once the legal landscape settled down a bit, American companies began poking a toe into Cuban waters. Chief among them was Google. Even before Obama himself visited Havana, the Silicon Valley search engine quietly began exploring whether it could be a part of the effort to bring more Cubans online.

Then came the election of Donald Trump, and a reset of Obama’s reset. Trump re-tightened some of the restrictions on Cuba that Obama had loosened, particularly in terms of travel and remittances. On the telecoms front, “It’s fair to say that the Trump administration left in place what existed on the morning of Jan. 20, 2017,” says John S. Kavulich, president of the business group U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. But the generally uncertain landscape chilled U.S. business interest.

Google has forged ahead, signing an agreement last year, for example, with Cuba’s state-run telecom to share internet traffic, but those moves are widely seen as baby steps.

Cuba, though, didn’t exactly spend the Trump era waiting on the U.S. Pushed in part by its younger generations’ hunger to get connected, the country has made a giant leap in recent years when it comes to getting wired. It has rolled out 3G access and hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots. Internet access in Cuba was near the single digits when Obama took office. Now, per the World Bank, it’s in the neighborhood of 60 percent — still low for the region, but far beyond where it once was.

Also not waiting to see how U.S. policy to Cuba played out: China. Beijing has jumped into the market with both feet, saturating the island with low-cost telecommunications equipment. “China dominates Cuba’s telecommunication sector and provides a challenge to U.S. firms looking to enter the sector,” a report from the State Department’s Cuba Internet Task Force found last year.

Enter the president-elect. Biden has said he’ll overhaul the U.S. approach to Cuba: “In large part, I’d go back,” he said. What exactly does that reset look like? TBD.

When it comes to Cuba policy, “what you can expect under Biden is that empowering the Cuban people and empowering the Cuban private sector — and the growing tech entrepreneurial sector — is a priority,” says Ricardo Herrero, executive director of the nonprofit Cuba Study Group. But with so much facing the incoming president, says Herrero, don’t expect Cuba, generally, to be at the top of the list of things the Biden administration will tackle in the short term.

“It would be regrettable if the U.S. would completely cede the [information communications technology] market in Cuba to China,” says Herrero.

Should Biden launch a meaningful effort to unthaw U.S. relations with Cuba (again), it could be a boon to U.S. tech. Just opening up travel by Americans to Cuba could increase demand for the sort of robust connectivity that American companies can help provide. (Your author has a distinct memory of being in a bar in Havana in 2015 among American tourists demanding to know why they couldn’t use their AT&T equipped phones.)

Boosting Cuba’s technological landscape, however modest so far, has already led to a hunger for cutting-edge tech among Cubans. “It used to be, someone would say to me, ‘Do you have any kind of old flip phone, a Motorola, anything, that’d be great,’” says Kavulich of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “But then, Obama visited, and it became, ‘Have you got that iPhone 10?’”



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Breaking New

State, federal suits against Facebook expected as tech antitrust fight escalates



The states’ case would come as the Federal Trade Commission is expected to vote as early as Wednesday on its own antitrust suit against Facebook, another person familiar with that case said. The FTC suit could be filed as soon as Wednesday afternoon and is likely to be filed in Washington, D.C., federal court, the person said.

In late October, the Justice Department and 11 states’ attorneys general filed a separate antitrust case against Google, which also faces other state and DOJ lawsuits expected to land in the coming weeks and months.

The suits, following years of grumbling in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere about giant tech companies’ dominance, are finally arriving in the twilight of Donald Trump’s presidency. President-elect Joe Biden has voiced his own harsh criticisms of Facebook, accusing the company of “propagating falsehoods they know to be false,” although his transition team and early personnel picks have drawn scrutiny for their ties to Silicon Valley.

POLITICO reported Monday that the states, led by New York Attorney General Tish James, and the FTC were likely to sue Facebook this week. The Washington Post reported Tuesday night that the suits are expected to come Wednesday.

Facebook’s market power: A House investigation into Facebook earlier this year found the company has a monopoly in social networking, which it has maintained by copying, acquiring or killing off potential rivals. While the U.S. and foreign competition authorities looked into some of the company’s most problematic acquisitions when Facebook announced them — such as its 2012 purchase of photo-sharing app Instagram and the 2014 purchase of messaging service WhatsApp — those truncated reviews didn’t fully appreciate Facebook’s deals as efforts to head off potential competitors.

Facebook has denied being a monopoly, noting that it ranks behind Google in how much revenue it claims from the $160 billion global market for online display advertising.

The investigations: James said in September 2019 she was leading a multistate coalition investigating Facebook, which has roughly 2.74 billion users worldwide and whose CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, ranks fifth on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest billionaires.

The FTC, one of the United States’ two federal antitrust agencies, opened a probe into Facebook in July 2019 after the agency, which also enforces consumer protection laws, finished an investigation into the Cambridge Analytica data breach. Facebook paid $5 billion in penalties and agreed to an internal restructuring to resolve that privacy probe with the FTC. But Democrats on the commission, and consumer advocates outside the agency, said the settlement went easy on the company.



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Breaking New

EU seeks anti-China alliance on tech with Biden – POLITICO



Europe on Monday proposed teaming up with incoming U.S. President Joe Biden to squeeze China out of the global technology trade. 

Exhausted by four years of trade tensions on two fronts, fighting against both U.S. President Donald Trump on one flank and Beijing on the other, Europe is trying to seize an early initiative ahead of Biden’s inauguration on January 20 by rolling out geostrategic plans for closer transatlantic cooperation.

At a closed-door meeting to discuss Europe’s strategy, Sabine Weyand, Brussels’ top trade bureaucrat, told lawmakers from the European Parliament that the European Commission would propose a “Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council” to set joint standards on new technologies, according to two people in the room.

This would target one of the big objectives of both the Europeans and Americans: Preventing China from establishing economic dominance across a number of high-value sectors by developing its own widely used technological and industrial standards.

A Commission paper to EU countries mapping out a strategy for a transatlantic alliance against Beijing also mentioned that proposal.

“The EU is proposing to establish a new EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council (TTC),” the paper read.

“The aim will be to … strengthen our technological and industrial leadership and expand bilateral trade and investment. It will focus on reducing trade barriers, developing compatible standards and regulatory approaches for new technologies … As part of this, there should be … closer cooperation on … investment screening, Intellectual Property rights, forced transfers of technology and export controls.”

Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU’s super-commissioner for economy and trade, first floated the plan at a meeting with EU trade ministers this month, where he said the EU and U.S. should “cooperate on new technologies and digital services and be aligned on regulation and standards.”

EU officials said the plan was to resuscitate those parts of the failed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations that focused on regulatory cooperation on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, where both Washington and Brussels fear that China stands to become the global standard setter.

One senior Commission official described the tech alliance as a “low-hanging fruit,” since the EU and U.S. had already planned to establish a joint committee that would coordinate regulations on future technologies as part of their frozen negotiations on their earlier TTIP mega deal. “It’s very hard to align rules on products that already exist, but it is fairly easy to do it on emerging technologies,” the official said.

Both Weyand and the other senior official argued a resumption of TTIP negotiations was not back on the cards, both because of fierce public opposition to the deal and because negotiations had become stuck over things like EU protections for agriculture and U.S. public procurement discrimination with the Buy America Act, which Biden has said he wants to ramp up rather than dismantle.

But the thinking in Brussels now is that disagreements on chemical rinses for chicken and public infrastructure contracts should not hinder the EU and U.S. from working on joint rules for technologies like next-generation wireless networks.

As part of that new “positive agenda,” Brussels would also seek to set common rules on industrial subsidies and investment screening, while working with Washington to reform the World Trade Organization, the senior Commission official said.

Much will depend, however, on the overarching political atmosphere between Brussels and Washington, which could well sour over what the U.S. sees as unfair regulatory action against its biggest digital champions, both in terms of competition cases and tax.

Diplomats from EU countries will on Tuesday discuss the Commission plan along with proposals to work more closely on coronavirus vaccine distribution, climate change, and foreign policy, including a proposed “Summit of Democracies” that the EU wants to organize with the U.S. next year, according to one of the diplomats.

Jacopo Barigazzi and Barbara Moens contributed reporting.





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Lifestyle

Loosen Your Waistband—and Other Surprising Solutions to Physical and Emotional Tech Stress


Step one, be aware that when we feel it, it’s almost too late. When we work at the computer, our shoulders go up a little bit, but we don’t realize that they’re up, and only by the end of the day do we feel the fatigue. So the key is to assume that you’re unaware.

Step two, interrupt the pattern by changing your body-movement habits. I recommend getting up and wiggling and moving every twenty minutes or so. Install a stretch break program. There’s a free program called Stretch Break. Feel the difference right now. Just get up for a moment, stand up, and stretch and skip in place and bring your arms up to the ceiling. Look at the ceiling; dance in place. If you do this for even a moment, even if people think you’re silly, your energy will go up. We have demonstrated that many times in many studies. [Editor’s note: Here are some other apps you might want to try out.]

Three, start learning to breathe slowly and deeply into the belly. When you do that and breathe about six times a minute, your heart rate will tend to slow down.

Four, we have a choice as to what we focus our brain on. I can focus on hopeless, helpless, powerless options or on more-positive options. When you are in a collapsed position, which most of us are when we are sitting on the couch and watching television, we become like the letter C. That is a body posture of defense or powerlessness. That allows us to have much quicker access to our hopeless thoughts. If on the other hand, you arch up and look up, you have easier access to positive memories.

We have studied this, and it’s fun to see for yourself. Sit slouched, think only of hopeless, helpless memories for about thirty seconds, then evoke only empowering memories. Then shift to an upright position, looking up. Repeat thinking only hopeless thoughts, and then empowering ones. When you’re in the slouched position it’s much easier to access hopeless thoughts. In our neurological studies, we have demonstrated that when you’re slouched, your brain has to work harder to access positive thoughts.

We did a study with the posture guru Esther Gokhale, monitoring the body position she teaches. It turns out that sitting correctly, in a way that minimizes disc compression—without slouching or overarching—requires little work by the back muscles [Editor’s note: You can read more about Gokhale in this goop article.]



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