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Grieving

Sometimes the grief I feel is overwhelming. In the last few years several close friends and former bandmates passed away. They include Phil Naro (who I did a lot of songwriting with, roomed with, and performed with in Coney Hatch and Masi), Jim Huff (who I recorded The Works first album with), Jeffrey Alan Dick (who I played and recorded with in The Trio of Stridence), Andrej Podgajski (who was a classmate of mine at Seneca College and close friend), and Adrian Davison (who I recorded my first record with back in 1988).

But the real pain of grief hits home when I think of my dad, Leno, who died in 2015, my mom Tina, who died in 2018, and my brother Lorie (who died last year way before his time). I miss them so much that it’s almost too much to bear and hard to think of anything else.

It seems like the whole world is going down the drain, and these losses just make it all unbearable.

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Before Elon Musk bought Twitter, slurs against Black Americans showed up on the social media service an average of 1,282 times a day. After the billionaire became Twitter’s owner, they jumped to 3,876 times a day.

Slurs against gay men appeared on Twitter 2,506 times a day on average before Mr. Musk took over. Afterward, their use rose to 3,964 times a day.

And antisemitic posts referring to Jews or Judaism soared more than 61 percent in the two weeks after Mr. Musk acquired the site.

These findings — from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups that study online platforms — provide the most comprehensive picture to date of how conversations on Twitter have changed since Mr. Musk completed his $44 billion deal for the company in late October. While the numbers are relatively small, researchers said the increases were atypically high.

The shift in speech is just the tip of a set of changes on the service under Mr. Musk. Accounts that Twitter used to regularly remove — such as those that identify as part of the Islamic State, which were banned after the U.S. government classified ISIS as a terror group — have come roaring back. Accounts associated with QAnon, a vast far-right conspiracy theory, have paid for and received verified status on Twitter, giving them a sheen of legitimacy.

These changes are alarming, researchers said, adding that they had never seen such a sharp increase in hate speech, problematic content and formerly banned accounts in such a short period on a mainstream social media platform.

“Elon Musk sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “They have reacted accordingly.”

Mr. Musk, who did not respond to a request for comment, has been vocal about being a “free speech absolutist” who believes in unfettered discussions online. He has moved swiftly to overhaul Twitter’s practices, allowing former President Donald J. Trump — who was barred for tweets that could incite violence — to return. Last week, Mr. Musk proposed a widespread amnesty for accounts that Twitter’s previous leadership had suspended. And on Tuesday, he ended enforcement of a policy against Covid misinformation.

But Mr. Musk has denied claims that hate speech has increased on Twitter under his watch. Last month, he tweeted a downward-trending graph that he said showed that “hate speech impressions” had dropped by a third since he took over. He did not provide underlying numbers or details of how he was measuring hate speech.

On Thursday, Mr. Musk said the account of Kanye West, which was restricted for a spell in October because of an antisemitic tweet, would be suspended indefinitely after the rapper, known as Ye, tweeted an image of a swastika inside the Star of David. On Friday, Mr. Musk said Twitter would publish “hate speech impressions” every week and agreed with a tweet that said hate speech spiked last week because of Ye’s antisemitic posts.

Changes in Twitter’s content not only have societal implications but also affect the company’s bottom line. Advertisers, which provide about 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue, have reduced their spending on the platform as they wait to see how it will fare under Mr. Musk. Some have said they are concerned that the quality of discussions on the platform will suffer.

On Wednesday, Twitter sought to reassure advertisers about its commitment to online safety. “Brand safety is only possible when human safety is the top priority,” the company wrote in a blog post. “All of this remains true today.”

The appeal to advertisers coincided with a meeting between Mr. Musk and Thierry Breton, the digital chief of the European Union, in which they discussed content moderation and regulation, according to an E.U. spokesman. Mr. Breton has pressed Mr. Musk to comply with the Digital Services Act, a European law that requires social platforms to reduce online harm or face fines and other penalties.

Mr. Breton plans to visit Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters early next year to perform a “stress test” of its ability to moderate content and combat disinformation, the spokesman said.

On Twitter itself, researchers said the increase in hate speech, antisemitic posts and other troubling content had begun before Mr. Musk loosened the service’s content rules. That suggested that a further surge could be coming, they said.

If that happens, it’s unclear whether Mr. Musk will have policies in place to deal with problematic speech or, even if he does, whether Twitter has the employees to keep up with moderation. Mr. Musk laid off, fired or accepted the resignations of more than half the company’s staff last month, including those who worked to remove harassment, foreign interference and disinformation from the service. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of trust of safety, was among those who quit.

The Anti-Defamation League, which files regular reports of antisemitic tweets to Twitter and keeps track of which posts are removed, said the company had gone from taking action on 60 percent of the tweets it reported to only 30 percent.

“We have advised Musk that Twitter should not just keep the policies it has had in place for years, it should dedicate resources to those policies,” said Yael Eisenstat, a vice president at the Anti-Defamation League, who met with Mr. Musk last month. She said he did not appear interested in taking the advice of civil rights groups and other organizations.

“His actions to date show that he is not committed to a transparent process where he incorporates the best practices we have learned from civil society groups,” Ms. Eisenstat said. “Instead, he has emboldened racists, homophobes and antisemites.”

The lack of action extends to new accounts affiliated with terror groups and others that Twitter previously banned. In the first 12 days after Mr. Musk assumed control, 450 accounts associated with ISIS were created, up 69 percent from the previous 12 days, according to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that studies online platforms.

Other social media companies are also increasingly concerned about how content is being moderated on Twitter.

When Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, found accounts associated with Russian and Chinese state-backed influence campaigns on its platforms last month, it tried to alert Twitter, said two members of Meta’s security team, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The two companies often communicated on these issues, since foreign influence campaigns typically linked fake accounts on Facebook to Twitter.

But this time was different. The emails to their counterparts at Twitter bounced or went unanswered, the Meta employees said, in a sign that those workers may have been fired.

Story by Peter Eavis and Isabella Simonetti 

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter last month, his stewardship of the social network has been marked by turmoil, intrigue and no shortage of questions. Here’s one: How much time is he spending on his job as chief executive of Tesla, the electric-car maker?

Robyn Denholm, Tesla’s chairwoman, testified in court last week that although she did not know the answer, she was not perturbed. “The quantum of time isn’t a measure that concerns me,” she said. “It’s more the results that he’s able to drive.”

But as Mr. Musk has become consumed with Twitter, Tesla is facing a range of threats to its business and its stock price has been plunging. Some corporate governance experts say Tesla’s board needs to ensure that the company has a chief who is not distracted.

“They’re violating their fiduciary responsibility if they don’t address that issue head on,” said William Klepper, a professor of management at Columbia Business School.

Tesla’s board has long been criticized by shareholder groups for lacking independence from Mr. Musk. When Tesla’s stock price was soaring and the company appeared to have the electric-car market mostly to itself, that argument found little resonance.

Now Tesla is facing much fiercer competition, especially in China, a huge market for the company, and it is still contending with supply chain problems and scrutiny of safety issues with its driver-assistance systems. Its stock has plummeted nearly 60 percent from its peak a year ago; since Mr. Musk bought Twitter last month, the S&P 500 stock index has risen 4.5 percent, but Tesla shares are down 25 percent. Mr. Musk has sold roughly $30 billion of Tesla stock this year and last, in part to help finance his Twitter acquisition.

“I would expect that a good board would be doing everything it can to ensure that a C.E.O. was sufficiently focused on their company,” said Brianna Castro, senior director of U.S. research at Glass Lewis, a shareholder advisory firm. “And in situations similar to Tesla’s, a good board would be concerned why their stock is down when the market is up, and doing what they can to address any issues.”

Some corporate governance experts are concerned that the board members’ views may be clouded by their personal relationships with Mr. Musk. Mr. Musk’s brother, Kimbal, is a member, and other directors, like James Murdoch, a media executive and a son of Rupert Murdoch, are longtime friends of Mr. Musk. Some Tesla board members have financial ties to Mr. Musk’s other businesses, like SpaceX, the rocket company.

Another factor: Tesla’s directors receive compensation, almost entirely in stock, that is many times larger than what directors get at other large companies, enabling some of them to amass fortunes over the years.

“If the pay is so compelling that the director is going to be motivated to do whatever is reasonably possible to keep that gravy train rolling,” said Marc Goldstein, head of U.S. research at ISS Governance, a shareholder advisory group, “that will interfere with the director exercising independent oversight over the management team.” ISS has recommended voting against re-electing certain Tesla directors.

Mr. Musk and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

Ms. Denholm’s testimony in the Delaware Court of Chancery last week arose over a pay deal Mr. Musk received in 2018 that ended up awarding him tens of billions of dollars Tesla stock. A shareholder filed a lawsuit asserting that the payout was excessive and that the board did not act with sufficient independence when approving it.

Mr. Musk was both chief executive and chairman of Tesla until he was required to step down as chairman as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 to resolve securities fraud charges.

Ms. Denholm, a former telecom executive who assumed the chair, has made huge sums as a director. Her compensation, composed almost entirely of stock options, was $5.8 million in 2020, well in excess of the average pay for a director at a large public company.

A study by Steven Hall, a compensation consultant, showed that director pay was on average just over $300,000 at large companies in 2020. At the higher end, John L. Hennessy, the chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent, had compensation of $620,000 last year.

And Tesla securities filings show that since 2014, the company awarded Ms. Denholm compensation, paid almost completely in Tesla stock options, that the company valued at more than $30 million. As Tesla’s stock rose in value, she was able to sell her shares for significant gains. Since 2020, she has sold Tesla stock worth $280 million, according to securities filings. Ms. Denholm did not respond to requests for comment.

In the trial over the shareholder suit, lawyers for the plaintiff, who wants Mr. Musk’s 2018 pay deal to be voided, sought to show that Tesla’s board was more like a private club than a committee of seasoned professionals dedicated to looking out for shareholders. Tesla directors detailed their personal connections to Mr. Musk and sometimes with one another.

Some of them pointed to the sharp rise in the company’s stock price since 2019 as proof that Mr. Musk had done a tremendous job and was invaluable to the automaker.

Ira Ehrenpreis, an investor who heads Tesla’s compensation committee, has been close to Mr. Musk for years. According to court documents, he helped Mr. Musk design the 2018 pay deal, which, after Mr. Musk fulfilled 11 of 12 performance goals, paid out stock now worth about $40 billion, at Tesla’s current share price.

In 2018, Tesla paid Mr. Ehrenpreis nearly $10 million, almost all in stock options, to cover three years, for his board duties. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Antonio Gracias, an investor who was on Tesla’s board until last year, acknowledged in court that he had known Mr. Musk for more than 20 years and that the two had endured “a lot of tough times” together, bringing them closer. He acknowledged he and Mr. Musk had vacationed together, been to each other’s homes, shared meals and discussed their children. Mr. Gracias also acknowledged that he attended Mr. Musk’s second wedding and Kimbal Musk’s wedding, and that he was friendly with Mr. Musk’s mother and sister. Mr. Gracias acknowledged he had been on ski trips with Mr. Musk and described James Murdoch as “a great skier.”

Mr. Gracias said he was able to maintain his independence while vacationing with Mr. Musk because of their “trusting and respecting relationship.” Mr. Gracias did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

In court, Mr. Murdoch said he met Elon Musk in the late 1990s when Mr. Musk was working on a digital advertising business. The two reconnected after Mr. Murdoch, then living in Britain, purchased one of the first Tesla vehicles sold in Europe and Mr. Musk reached out to thank him. Mr. Murdoch said he had been to Jerusalem and Mexico with Mr. Musk and his family. He also acknowledged he had attended Kimbal Musk’s wedding, dined with Kimbal Musk and his wife and personally invested in SpaceX. Mr. Murdoch also said he had purchased shares of Tesla before joining its board.

Since joining the board in 2017, Mr. Murdoch has received $11 million, mostly in stock options, for being a Tesla director and has a stake in the company worth more than $200 million, according to estimates based on Tesla’s securities disclosures. Mr. Murdoch did not respond to requests for comment on his Tesla holdings and whether the board was doing enough to ensure that Mr. Musk was not distracted.

Mr. Murdoch testified in the Delaware court that a board committee was monitoring the situation at Twitter, adding that Mr. Musk had in recent months identified a potential successor at Tesla but did not say who it was.

In court last week, Mr. Musk sought to make light of inferences that Tesla’s board was an elite club of friends. When asked about his vacations with Mr. Murdoch, he said his time off was less centered around leisure and more on getting work done, describing it as “email with a view.”

Elon Musk Should Be Ignored

He’s a liar, a clown, and an idiot. Everything he touches is bad news from the start or is eventually a disaster.

https://techbeacon.com/app-dev-testing/why-scrum-sucks

Behind closed doors, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez made openly racist remarks, derided some of her council colleagues and spoke in unusually crass terms about how the city should be carved up politically.

The conversation remained private for nearly a year, until a leaked recording reverberated explosively Sunday and turned the focus of a sprawling metropolis toward Los Angeles City Hall.

The comments elicited outrage across Los Angeles, with demands for her resignation coming Monday from Mayor Eric Garcetti, mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso, Sen. Alex Padilla and numerous members of the City Council.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/nury-martinez-taking-leave-of-absence-from-city-council/ar-AA12QazA

Pathetic

On the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

After an extremely detailed forensic analysis, independent, third-party examiners, as part of a process overseen by the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion.

In addition to the forensic and ballistic analysis, the USSC was granted full access to both Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Authority (PA) investigations over the last several weeks. By summarizing both investigations, the USSC concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad on May 11, 2022, in Jenin, which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.

The United States appreciates and continues to encourage cooperation between Israel and the PA in this important case. We will remain engaged with Israel and the PA on next steps and urge accountability. We again offer our deepest condolences to the Abu Akleh family.

The U.S.A. needs answers!

An Israeli soldier murdered Shireen Abu Akleh a few weeks ago. Israel kills Palestinians regularly and gets away with it. Shireen was an American citizen, and President Biden needs to insist on an independent investigation to find out exactly who is responsible so that they can be punished.

Read the Senate letter to President Biden demanding U.S. involvement in the investigation of the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, and call your representatives to implore them to add their signature, and offer support to those who have.

Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121

The new record, titled “Aural Recall” will be released on May 1st, 2022.

I lost my brother…

Okay, I previously suggested that the record would be released by Christmas, 2021, but that date came and went. Not long after that last post, my brother Lorie had his cancer return with a vengeance and he passed away in August. I still can’t believe it. These are truly dark times.