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Friday, June 30th, 2023
1. Chinese Spy Balloon Using American Tech, but Doesn't Bother Transmitting Intel
The Chinese spy balloon that floated over the U.S. early this year was loaded with American-made equipment that helped it collect photos, videos, and other information. Several defense and intelligence agencies, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have analyzed the debris retrieved after the U.S. military detected and shot down the balloon nearly five months ago in an event that added fresh, unexpected volatility to the already fraught U.S.-China relationship. That analysis found the balloon was crammed with commercially available U.S. gear, some of it for sale online, and interspersed with more specialized Chinese sensors and other equipment to collect data to transmit to China. The officials described the Chinese balloon, with its mix of off-the-shelf and specialized equipment, as an inventive attempt by Beijing at surveillance rather than the benign task of monitoring weather, as the Chinese government claimed. Though the balloon collected data during its eight-day joyride, it somehow forgot to send that information back to China. Maybe it just had stage fright or encountered a malfunction, who knows? Regardless, this incident derailed attempts at reconciliation between the US and China. President Biden himself called it "more embarrassing than intentional," which is a statement that accurately sums up the entire situation.
You know what else is “more embarrassing than intentional”? Not subscribing to The Beautiful Scoop…
2. Bill Gates's Billionaire Boys Club
Bill Gates's private office is making waves again, but this time it's not about his questionable associations or secret meetings with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. No, it's about the outrageous interview questions female job candidates have been subjected to. Apparently, when applying for a position in Gates's inner circle, it's not enough to have an impressive résumé; you also need to be grilled about your sexual history, pornography preferences, and even the existence of nude selfies on your phone. Because nothing says qualified professional like being asked if you've ever "danced for dollars." Who knew that working for one of the world's richest men required a background in exotic dancing? Gates's office denies any knowledge of these probing inquiries, claiming it would be "unacceptable" and a violation of their agreement with the security firm responsible. It's comforting to know that they draw the line somewhere—although it's unclear where exactly, considering Gates himself has a history of extramarital affairs. Anyway, good luck to all the go-go dancers out there aspiring to land a job as Bill Gates's personal assistant!
3. Inflection AI's $1.3 Billion Funding Round
Inflection A.I., a Palo Alto-based startup, has raised $1.3 billion from investors including Microsoft and Nvidia. The investment, a mix of cold, hard cash and cloud credit (the most valuable form of currency, of course), valued the one-year-old company at $4 billion, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. Inflection released its chatbot Pi last month, which uses generative AI technology similar to ChatGPT to interact with users through dialogues. Inflection aims to build a personal AI that will help people plan, schedule, gather information, and perform other tasks that we're already quite capable of doing ourselves. But hey, truth be told, we wouldn't turn down an A.I. personal assistant either so carry on. Inflection AI has about 35 employees and raised $225 million, most of which will be used to build computing power to develop a more powerful foundation model, according to Mustafa Suleyman, chief executive at Inflection. With luminaries like Bill Gates and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt also hopping on board, it's clear that everyone wants a piece of the AI pie - pun very much so intended.
4. Microsoft's Appeal of UK Activision Veto Charges On
Microsoft's appeal against the UK's veto of its $69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard will go ahead as planned at the end of July. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which blocked the takeover in April, wanted the hearing delayed from July 28 to October to give it more time to prepare and present its case. But the Competition Appeal Tribunal smacked down the CMA with a resounding: "We consider that the CMA has not paid sufficient heed to the true public interest in this case – which is the swift resolution of Microsoft's Notice." Translation: "this a multi-billion dollar deal; we're not delaying any longer. Wake up and get a grip."
5. Snapchat+: The Subscription Service That May Actually Be Worth Something?
Snapchat+ has reached a milestone of 4 million paid subscribers since its launch in June 2018. The subscription service costs $3.99 per month and gives users a first look at new offerings such as Snapchat for Web and its AI-powered chatbot, My AI. My AI was built using startup OpenAI's ChatGPT technology and we reported that it had quite a contentious release, quickly solidifying itself as one of the most hated software updates since we all got U2's album force-fed into our iTunes libraries. Shares of the photo messaging app rose about 1% to $11.73, as users continue to flock to the subscription service so clearly something is working...