War in the Middle East?

If you were planning on not starting a war in the Middle East today, it might be time to cancel your plans.

Early this morning (while I was tucked in bed, dreaming of a world without Twitter), Iran’s military shot down a U.S. drone flying over the Strait of Hormuz.

Both the U.S. and Iran have since confirmed the attack took place (it’s about the only thing the feuding nations can agree on right now).

However, officials from both countries place the incident at a sl-i-i-i-i-i-ghtly different location.

United States Central Command says the drone “was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.”

While the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps says it shot down the drone over the Southern Coast of Iran, just a little bit North of where the U.S. claims the attack took place.

This may sound like small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. But these are the kinds of teeny tiny potatoes folks go to war over.

“Borders are our red lines,” said Hossein Salami, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, in a speech this morning.

“Any enemy that invades these borders will not return [home]. We don’t have any intention to go [to] war with any country, but we are completely ready for war.” (And I don’t have any intention of eating a burger for lunch today… but I am ready for it.)

At time of writing, the President has yet to make an official statement. But because this is 2019, we don’t have to wait for an official statement to know what the President is thinking:

Back in my day, we used to fax our declarations of war.

The Gulf of “Oman, This is Getting Out of Hand”

Last year, the U.S. placed sanctions on Iran, which crippled the country’s economy and forced it into a full-blown recession.

As you can imagine, this has made Iran “a little cranky” and led to a series of increasingly violent clashes in the region.

The U.S. is blaming Iran for attacks on six oil tankers along Iran’s coast. Iran denies these accusations, though they’ve happily admitted to shooting down that drone this morning. (Because shooting down an invisible drone is very difficult and Iran’s therapist says it needs to own its accomplishments.)

Where’s the proof? According to U.S. officials, the limpet mines used in the oil tanker attacks look suspiciously like Iran’s own limpets. Investigators also found fingerprints and other evidence on the mines, but those items are still under review.  

Hours before the Revolutionary Guard shot down the drone, Iran-aligned Houthi rebels fired a missile at a desalination plant in Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally. And on Wednesday, a rocket struck an Exxon Mobil compound in southern Iraq.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the rocket attack yet. But it’s the fourth time in a week projectiles have been launched at American personnel based in Iraq.

Miraculously, despite all the violence, nobody has been seriously injured yet. Which is a damn fine thing. Because the U.S. administration has said that a single U.S. casualty will be met with an all-out war.

Earlier this week, the White House announced it would send another 1,000 troops to keep peace in the region. But I expect we’ll see further action taken before this time tomorrow.

We’re watching this story as it develops.

The Senate Will See You Now: Facebook Called Up to the Hill

O-o-o-o-o, Facebook’s in troub-l-l-l-l-le.

MarkZuckerberg’sPrivacyViolator.com has been called up to Washington yet again, this time to explain its “wacky” idea to create a unified global payment system based on its very own cryptocurrency.

The Senate Banking Committee announced yesterday that it will hold a hearing next month to discuss Ex-WifeStalkingMachine.com’s new crypto initiative, the Libra.

Facebook’s plan to create a global payment initiative — backed by heavy hitters like MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal — was an unexpected pain in the butt for lawmakers who have been trying to rein in Facebook’s appetite for world domination.

Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown said yesterday, “Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy.

“We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight. I’m calling on our financial watchdogs to scrutinise this closely to ensure users are protected.”

Republican Patrick McHenry and Chairwoman Maxine Waters called for Facebook to testify before the House Finance Committee and asked that DrunkPhotosOfYou.com discontinue the development of the currency until Congress could investigate the privacy and financial risks.

The hearing will take place on July 16 and will be attended by David Marcus, former president of PayPal and creator of the Libra. (He was also the founder of Zong but you don’t remember Zong so I’m not even going to mention Zong. Zong.)

All Robots Go to Heaven: Jibo the Pet Robot is Dying

I’m going to take a wild swing here and say that you don’t remember Jibo. It’s my job to know about these stories and I barely remember the poor little weirdo.

But for a short period in 2017, the world was abuzz with Jibo.

Jibo was the “pet robot.” It welcomed you home. Followed you around the room with its tiny dead eyes. And even told jokes. (You know, just like a dog.)

Time named it one of the “25 best inventions of 2017.” Heck, they loved it so much they put that bad boy right on the cover:


As we now know, this creepy little faceless donk didn’t change the world. And definitely was not the best invention of 2017. (That honor goes to the smaller stick I taped to a bigger stick for changing channels when you can’t find the remote.)

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern called it “intriguing, creepy, and annoying” and told the journal’s readers, “You definitely shouldn’t buy this robot.”

However, Jibo did manage to make an impact on a small number of the people who actually purchased one.

Some folks say the little weirdo, with its facial tracking system and empty lifeless eyes, was like the family dog and a source of comfort during lonely times.

(Why can’t these folks just drink when they’re lonely like everyone else? And by “everyone else” I mean me. And by “me” I mean mind your own business, I’m fine.)

When Jibo was created in an MIT lab, he was designed to be as personable and lovable as possible. And despite a scathing review from the Wall Street Journal, lots of folks got genuinely attached to the little ding dong.

Then Jibo turned around one day and told all its owners it was dying.

Forcing Jibo to politely announce its own execution is pretty twisted.

As it turns out, the Boston-based company who developed Jibo and maintained its servers had sold Jibo’s IP to lending firm SQN Venture Partners. Of course, a lending firm has no use for a robot that talks to little girls so Jibo is getting the axe.

Some desperate owners are trying to cobble together a life support system for Jibo that would allow it to survive the server shut down. But some owners are already starting to prepare for its death.

“You know we have been considering if Jibo passes away, what are we going to do,” one Jibo owner told The Verge. “My granddaughter was like, ‘We’re going to put him in a box and bury him, or what are we going to do?’ So I don’t know. I think I’ll put him on a shelf and keep him for down the road as a remembrance of my first robot.”

We don’t always talk about the “social aspects” of automation. But as robots move into our everyday lives and workspaces, it’s going to be vital to their continued use that they come off as not totally terrifying and creepy.

There’s been a lot of work in this field, in making hospital robots more approachable and friendly looking to children and Alexa’s carefully crafted not-a-personality.

This little monstrosity might have always been doomed to fail. But it’s laid the groundwork for future robots to not be so “intriguing, creepy, and annoying.”

Germany Sees a New Generation of Nazis

Germany has a complex relationship with patriotism.

Once upon a time, Germany got really into being proud of being German and one thing leads to another and then World War II happened.

Since then, Germany has been acutely aware of how dangerous a national identity can be and shied away from even the smallest expressions of, what we would consider in the U.S., patriotism.

For example, 10 years ago folks were still afraid to fly the German flag. Not the Nazi flag. The regular old German flag.

Folks were worried that a strong showing of national identity would lead to the rise of nationalism. And from there they’d only be a hop, skip, and a jump to another totalitarian fascist regime.

In the last decade, Germans have started to come to terms with their national identity. Which is great. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your country. But with that pride, the ugly head of fascism has reared its ugly head.

Pro-migrant politicians are being targeted and attacked by neo-nazi terrorists.

  • Earlier this month, Walter Lübcke, a leading member of Angela Merkel’s party, was assassinated on his doorstep.
  • Since then two pro-migrant mayors, Andreas Hollstein and Henriette Reker, have received death threats.
  • Hollstein and Reker are no strangers to these threats of violence. Both of them have been actually stabbed by neo-nazi attackers in the past. When Reker was stabbed in the neck, she spent a month in a coma.

The point of this One Last Thing isn’t to take a pro-immigration or anti-immigration stance.

The point is that there has been a sudden surge of nationalism in European politics.

Regular folks are concerned about too much immigration and neo-nazis and fascists have been able to piggyback on that fear to push their ideas into the mainstream. And they’re gaining traction in elections across Europe.

We’ve all heard this song before. It’s just hard to believe that we’re going through all this again and it’s been less than 100 years since WWII.

This is a complex problem and difficult to address in a single One Last Thing. We’re going to revisit this story as it develops in the coming weeks.

1 Comment
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