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What Happened: November 22, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Waukesha Parade, Jerusalem Terror Attack, Meta’s Trademark Fight

The Scroll
November 22, 2021

The Big Story

At least five people were killed and another 40 injured after a career criminal drove his sports utility vehicle directly into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Sunday night. Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, was out on $1,000 bail after a Nov. 5 court appearance for domestic abuse charges that also included reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, and jumping bail. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said Monday that the bail was “inappropriately low.” Brooks, a Milwaukee resident, with an arrest record going back two decades that includes multiple felonies for violent crimes and sexual abuse of a minor, also appears to have had an unsuccessful sideline as a rapper. Police have not yet announced a motive in the attack, but the fact that it occurred days after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has prompted unconfirmed speculation that there may be a connection to the verdict. Law enforcement officials in Waukesha told multiple news outlets Monday that Brooks might have been fleeing from a knife fight at a local park when he drove into the crowd. Overhead video taken at the parade shows the car ramming through barricades and then speeding into a dense crowd of people without making any apparent attempt to swerve.

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Today’s Back Pages: Sean Cooper with a Scroll Exclusive on Facebook’s Mysterious Meta Trademark

The Rest

→ One person was killed and four were wounded Sunday morning in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem carried out by a Hamas member and “well-known preacher in East Jerusalem mosques.” After being shot in the attack, 26-year-old Eliyahu David Kay, a resident of the central Israeli city of Modi’in who emigrated from South Africa, died from his wounds. Kay previously served as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Force and was working as a guide at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. This was the second terrorist attack in Jerusalem in less than a week, after a stabbing attack on Wednesday in which two border policemen were wounded. Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Jerusalem Monday for Kay’s funeral.
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→Israel signed its largest cooperation agreement ever with Jordan Monday in a deal between the two neighbors to trade water for electricity. An outgrowth of the Trump administration’s Abraham Accords agreements, the deal was mediated by the United Arab Emirates and calls for an Emirati-built solar plant to be constructed in Jordan that would export 600 megawatts of electricity to Israel, while Israel would build a desalination facility along the Mediterranean coast and export 200 million cubic meters of water to Jordan. The agreement was signed in Dubai with representatives from the United States present, including Climate Envoy John Kerry, who is being credited with helping to close the deal—an interesting postscript to Kerry’s career as secretary of state, which culminated in a parting speech in 2016 in which Kerry declared, “There will be no advance and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and Palestinian peace. Everybody needs to understand that. That is a hard reality.”

→A self-identified Anglican priest responds to a terrorist attack by asking, “What did they do to deserve it?” and is met with an appropriate response.

The motive was antisemitism. The murderer hated Jews. He was a member of a group best known for proudly murdering Jews—a group whose charter cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as fact. Good God.

— andrew mark bennett (@acandidworld) November 21, 2021

→Aside from the obvious fact that the obscene corruption of the president’s son is a natural subject for news stories, you might be wondering why Hunter Biden’s business deals are back in the headlines. This time, it’s renewed interest in Hunter’s role brokering a $2.65 billion deal in 2016, while his father was vice president, for a state-backed Chinese company to purchase one of the world’s most profitable cobalt mines in Africa. It’s news again because the mineral cobalt is a key ingredient for making electric car batteries, and demand for it is expected to spike soon as President Biden’s $2 trillion spending plan, which includes billions of dollars in grants and subsidies for electric vehicles, moves toward becoming a reality.
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Mass protests against harsh new COVID-19 restrictions took place in cities across the world over the weekend, with the largest concentrated in Europe. Police in the Dutch city of Rotterdam fired on protestors Saturday night, hitting at least three who were treated for gunshot wounds in the hospital, after the protestors threw rocks and lit police cars on fire while demonstrating against a new vaccine pass and other COVID-19-related policies. At least 20 people were injured in the protests and riots that ensued. Other protests took place in Switzerland, New York City, Austria, Croatia, Northern Ireland, and Italy. The protests are building as countries impose draconian new lockdown measures in the face of mounting evidence pointing to their adverse effects and the limited efficacy of vaccines in stopping COVID-19 transmission. Austria just imposed its fourth national lockdown since the start of the pandemic following an announcement last week that it will become the first country in Europe to legally mandate COVID-19 vaccinations.

→El Salvador, the first and so far only country to make Bitcoin legal tender, now plans to create an entire “Bitcoin City.” This announcement was made Saturday night by President Nayib Bukele in a presentation he gave at Bitcoin Week, a festival of conferences and cryptocurrency parties in the Central American country. According to Coindesk, “Bitcoin City will be a full-fledged metropolis with residential and commercial areas, restaurants, an airport, as well as a port and rail service. The city will be laid out in a circle (like a coin), and in the city center will be a plaza that will be host to a huge Bitcoin symbol. The city will have no income, property, capital gains, or payroll taxes.” The government plans to locate Bitcoin City along the Gulf of Fonseca near a volcano. 

→Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—an organization with a less than spotless record of forthrightness and accuracy in transmitting vital information to the public—called for the government to track down and punish spreaders of COVID-19-related “misinformation” in an interview with NPR. This is, of course, the same Collins who announced his retirement earlier this year shortly before the NIH confirmed that, contrary to its previous denials, the agency had in fact funded highly risky gain-of-function research into bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. “I really think they are the ones that we ought to be trying to track down and figure out, why are you doing this?” Collins told NPR. “And isn’t there some kind of justice for this kind of action?” Yes, we’d all love to see some justice.

→Amazon founder and richest man in the world contender Jeff Bezos donated $100 million to the Obama Foundation, a charitable organization (about as charitable as Trump University was educational) run by the ex-president.
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→Justus Rosenberg—who fled the Nazis in his native Poland and landed in France, where he joined the French Resistance, eventually immigrating to the United States and becoming a professor of literature and languages at Bard College—died last month. Rosenberg kept his past secret for years, even from his wife, but in 2020 published a memoir: “The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground.”
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The Back Pages

backpages Tablet senior writer Sean Cooper on Facebook’s Mysterious Meta Trademark

Facebook’s bad year might still get worse, as a small business in Chicago prepares to take legal action against the social media company for infringement on its brand name and trademark. In an exclusive interview with Tablet, Nate Skulic, founder of MetaCompany, said he holds the trademark on the “meta” that the Mark Zuckerberg-owned social media giant is now claiming, and he hasn’t agreed to sell. Throughout the summer, Skulic said, he received inquiries from attorneys trying to buy his brand name. He believed the attorneys represented Facebook, but as he explained to Tablet in a subsequent email, they declined to identify the client on whose behalf they were attempting to make the purchase.

“They were generally friendly-seeming and vociferous in protecting their client and intent,” Skulic wrote, adding that when he pressed the attorneys further on their client’s intention, they demurred, saying to Skulic, “They haven’t told me their plans, sorry.” Skulic wrote, “This was the first dishonesty we caught them in.”

When Tablet asked Anthony Malutta, the Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton attorney who had represented Facebook on its previous trademark efforts, about bids his firm made to buy Skulic’s trademark, Malutta advised that we contact Facebook’s representatives directly. Facebook did not return multiple requests for comment.

After negotiations with Skulic’s company cooled, Facebook made its announcement on Oct. 28 that it would no longer be known as Facebook and was reinventing the company as an umbrella entity called Meta. The company has also publicized that it will begin trading under a new stock ticker of MVRS on Dec. 1, but doing so may complicate matters if it does not yet have the trademark for its rebranding secure. According to Illinois public records, MetaCompany, Nate Skulic’s hardware and software consultancy that he says also manufactures its own products and is staffed with a little under 20 employees, has been in good standing since Sept. 17, 2013. The U.S. Patent Office granted MetaCompany a serial number of 87027182 for its trademark on Aug. 29, 2016, according to public records. Other businesses have rushed trademark copyright applications since Facebook’s announcement, with competing claims to the Meta name, but Skulic’s Chicago operation appears unique in how long it’s operated as both a technology company and hardware maker under the title. Though a small operation that has thus far conducted its business with minimal public presence, its name is unavoidably in the news. And certainly it’s shown an appetite to defend it. As MetaCompany wrote in a public letter posted earlier this month, “We hope the negative association with Facebook and its founder will be forgotten—but we won’t ignore the damages done.”

The rebranding comes during a tumultuous year for Facebook, with a string of scandals punctuated by a former employee who turned over internal corporate documents to federal regulators. Putting aside the fact that the former employee has deep ties to the national security establishment and appears to be more a political partisan operative and less a whistleblower acting in the public interest, her leaked files are nonetheless revealing. They offer a glimpse into Facebook’s struggle to grow its key user demographic, namely young teens and adults, as its own research appears to show the risks the social media platform poses to those groups. Included in the documents are snapshots of Facebook’s research showing how its social media products create toxic experiences for teenagers, particularly young girls—contradicting Facebook’s public claims. Shortly after the scandal broke, Facebook announced it was halting the forthcoming release of Instagram Kids.

Under its new guise, Facebook says it wants to become a major force in the emerging technology system known as the metaverse that will use virtual and augmented reality technologies for users to shop, interact, and exist all while being continually funneled through digital sieves in which their behavior and communication can be monetized and manipulated. That Facebook sees itself as the grand infrastructure of this nascent online technology fits in line with its ongoing ambition to connect the world’s population through its pipelines and profiles. The possibility that Facebook rushed its rebranding and failed to diligently secure the proper business trademark certainly reflects an ongoing recklessness about how it handles its affairs.

Stay tuned for The Scroll’s continued coverage of the Meta launch.

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Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel.

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