Start Up No.1906: Crypto lender Genesis in big trouble, Twitter redux, Euro MPs mandate EVs by 2035, Russia aims at Signal, and more

When’s the best time of day to exercise if you want to get the best results? Morning, afternoon or evening? CC-licensed photo by Mark Bonica on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Not employed at Twitter. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Crypto lender Genesis asks Binance and Apollo for cash • WSJ

Vicky Ge Huang, Patricia Kowsmann and Caitlin Ostroff:


Cryptocurrency firm Genesis is still trying to raise cash.

The lender has approached crypto exchange Binance for an investment and to bid for its loan book, according to people familiar with the matter.

Binance decided not to invest, fearful that some of Genesis’s business could create a conflict of interest down the line, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. The company also approached private equity giant Apollo Global Management for capital assistance, according to people familiar with the matter. 

“We have no plans to file bankruptcy imminently. Our goal is to resolve the current situation consensually without the need for any bankruptcy filing. Genesis continues to have constructive conversations with creditors,” a Genesis spokesman said.

Genesis has faced a rush of withdrawals from its lending arm following the collapse of crypto exchange FTX. The company initially sought an emergency loan of $1bn from investors before it told clients it was suspending redemptions and loan originations in a brief call Nov. 16, Genesis said. At that meeting, interim chief executive Derar Islim said Genesis would deliver a plan for its lending business this week.

Genesis’s outreach to Binance was first reported by Bloomberg.

Genesis became the latest crypto lender to pause withdrawals last week after the swift and sudden collapse of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that Genesis had loans outstanding to Alameda Research, an affiliated trading firm of FTX that Mr. Bankman-Fried founded, with FTX’s own cryptocurrency used as collateral.

Earlier this year, Genesis lent $2.4bn to Three Arrows, according to court documents. Genesis’s parent company, Digital Currency Group, has a $1.2bn claim against the hedge fund. 


Last night Genesis lowballed itself and started asking for “only” $500m. One has to feel this story isn’t going to end well, and that there are many more – and bigger – dominoes to fall. At this point, the entire cryptocurrency exchange system looks ready to collapse because the contagion is so widespread. Impressive: took them only a decade or so to reproduce the entire systemic failure that took centuries to create with normal financial systems.
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Elon Musk says Twitter is done with layoffs and ready to hire again • The Verge

Alex Heath:


During an all-hands meeting with employees on Monday, Musk said that Twitter is done with layoffs and actively recruiting for roles in engineering and sales and that employees are encouraged to make referrals, according to two people who attended and a partial recording obtained by The Verge. His comments were made the same day an unspecified wave of cuts hit Twitter’s sales department, which has lost almost all of its senior leadership since Musk took over.

Musk didn’t specify the kinds of engineers or sales roles Twitter was hiring for, and the company doesn’t currently have any open roles listed on its website. The Verge reported last week that Twitter recruiters were already reaching out to engineers asking them to join “Twitter 2.0 – an Elon company.”

Anyone entering Twitter now will work in a much smaller company than it was before Musk took over. While the exact number of departures under his watch is unclear, there were nearly 7,400 people with access to Twitter’s internal systems before he laid off about half the company. That number, which excludes the thousands of outside contractors Musk also cut, has since fallen to just over 2,700 people as of press time, according to people with the matter.


As the NY Times points out, this is the same formula that Musk has used at Tesla and SpaceX. Worked there. And getting information out of Twitter is going to be a lot more difficult now: there are simply fewer people, and those who are there are either loyal to Musk or have a strong interest in not getting fired. Meanwhile there’s no media relations department, and Musk is the most unreliable of narrators.

The Twitter stuff is very boring, though. Is it in terrible peril? Probably not. Is it getting worse? Yes, as some things do (do you remember which president followed Obama)? Is it the most interesting topic in tech? Not even close. But it occupies a lot of the bandwidth.
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The big takeaway from Cop27? These climate conferences just aren’t working • The Guardian

Bill McGuire:


It really does beggar belief, that in the course of 27 Cops, there has never been a formal agreement to reduce the world’s fossil fuel use. Not only has the elephant been in the room all this time, but over the last quarter of a century it has taken on gargantuan proportions – and still its presence goes unheeded. It is no surprise, then, that from Cop1 in Berlin in 1995, to Egypt this year, emissions have continued – barring a small downward blip at the height of the pandemic – to head remorselessly upwards.

Expectations were never especially high over the course of the 12 months since Glasgow’s Cop26. Even so, COP27 has to be a new low – held in a country cowed by a malicious dictatorship, the world’s biggest plastic polluter on board as a sponsor, and hosting more than 600 fossil fuel representatives and many others who are there to prevent, rather than promote progress and action. Some old hands have labelled it the worst COP ever, and I doubt many would argue.

…And there is another huge and growing problem too. The all-encompassing nature of the annual Cop climate conference provides one enormous open goal for fossil fuel representatives; an unprecedented opportunity to kettle ministers and heads of state from every corner of the planet, but particularly the majority world, to browbeat them into handing over their untouched fossil fuel reserves for exploitation. At Cop27, the sharks were circling around African nations, desperate to persuade them of the urgent need for a “dash for gas” and looking for a very large piece of the action.

In retrospect, it does seem that the whole idea of annual climate carnivals was probably not the best means of promoting serious action on global heating, but their hijacking by the fossil fuel sector, and failure, year on year, to do the job they were set up to do, surely means that Cop is no longer fit for purpose.


All these get-togethers take on a life of their own after a while: same time next year? Sure! Same talking shop, same minimal outcome.
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When is the best time to exercise? • Big Think

Ross Pomeroy:


alas, early exercisers may not be able to achieve peak performance. Stiffer muscles, fewer stored energy reserves from overnight fasting, and a slightly cooler body temperature in the morning add up to hamper exercise output. Therefore, more avid exercisers might prefer working out in the afternoon.

“The best window for explosive athleticism seems to be between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.” Shawn Arent, chair of the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina told CNN.

For example, in one study, young men instructed to cycle to exhaustion at a set difficulty were able to ride 20% longer in the afternoon compared to the morning. A review of studies also found that muscle strength, muscle power, and sprinting abilities all peaked in the afternoon, topping morning performance by anywhere from 3% to 20%.

Exercise itself may also be more efficient in the afternoon. A small, 12-week study focusing on pre-diabetic and diabetic men found that afternoon training produced slightly more beneficial metabolic effects and resulted in a little more fat loss compared to morning training. The advantages, however, were marginal.

Finally, some folks may decide to work out later in the evening. Studies centered around this time of day tend to focus on whether or not nightly exercise negatively impacts sleep quality. Gathered research suggests it does not and, instead, actually improves sleep.


Looks like those sports events which put everything off to the post-lunch period have got it right.
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European Parliament moves to mandate EVs by 2035 • CleanTechnica

Jennifer Sensiba:


The European Parliament and Council have reached an agreement that by 2035, all new cars registered in Europe will emit zero emissions. As a way of gradually reaching this goal, the average emissions of new cars must be reduced by 55% come 2030, and for vans, 50%. This is the first step in the adoption process of “Fit for 55″ proposals put forth by the Commission earlier this year. Additionally, it shows COP27 attendees how committed the EU is to meeting international climate goals.

…The EU Parliament has [also] agreed to a set of rules that will see an increase in the number of recharging and alternative refueling stations for cars, trucks, trains, and planes. This is part of the “Fit for 55 in 2030 package” which plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% come 2030. In 2024, each member state must have a plan to meet the minimum national targets for MPs who agree to put in place infrastructure for using alternative fuels.

“At the moment we have 377,000 charging stations in the EU, but this is half the amount that should have been achieved had EU countries lived up to their promises,” said EP rapporteur on alternative fuels infrastructure Ismail Ertug. “We need to tackle this decarbonisation bottleneck and quickly roll out the alternative fuels infrastructure to save the Green Deal.”

The electric car charging stations should be placed every 60 kilometers (about every 37 miles in non-metric speak) on main EU roads by 2026. However, this excludes areas with little traffic or public transportation systems, such as trucks and buses that rely heavily on core TEN-T networks. These regions will have their own set of regulations for these stations.


Just for reference, EVs were 12% of new EU passenger car registrations in 2020, and 18% in 2021. Let’s see if that 50% growth trend continues.
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Hive Social


Hive is a social media platform that aims at creating a better experience for its users through a chronological feed and continuous self expression features that currently include profile music, profile banners, image/gif/text posts, and much more.

Zodiac signs, pronouns, badges, and full app color theme changes coming soon!


Might pass on the zodiac signs, thanks. But if you’re looking for a social media app that isn’t Mastodon, isn’t Instagram and isn’t Be Real, you could try this. It’s been going since June 2019.
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Milk and cheese drive food price inflation to 45-year high • BBC News

Michael Race:


Food prices are rising at their fastest rate for 45 years, with the cost of basics such as milk, cheese and eggs surging.

Food price inflation hit 16.2% in the year to October, up from 14.5% in September, latest figures show. Energy and fuel costs also rose sharply, pushing the overall inflation rate to its highest level since 1981.

The surging cost of living is squeezing household budgets, leaving many people facing hardship.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said it was hitting poorer households hardest, as they spent around half of their income on food and energy, compared to about a third for those on middle incomes.

October’s overall inflation rate, of 11.1%, is the highest for 41 years and up from 10.1% in September.


This is a few days old, but worth bearing in mind that it’s the staples which are seeing prices rise fastest. Low-fat milk and margarine prices? Up nearly 50% year-on-year. Pasta, oils and fats, butter: up by about 30%. The fuller data (Table 2 on this ONS page) seems to me to suggest that it’s lots of the optional purchases that haven’t moved much in price, while the essentials have leapt up.
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Russian zero-day thirst traps • The Info Op

“the grugq”:


Last month a Russian exploit company increased their price offer for Signal RCE exploits to three times the Zerodium rate.

…OpZero is a Russian company that buys exploits. Their history is unclear. Google only indexed their website in October 2022, although their social media presence dates back to July 2021. There isn’t much of anything interesting publicly available about the company and its early incarnations.

The Ukrainian military and government use Signal on their phones as a communications channel. This is a huge exposure if there is a way to compromise either Android phones or the Signal app. There is attack surface on the Signal app, which exposes WebRTC, which means there could be exploitable vulnerabilities. (My understanding is that WebRTC is only exposed after you have established a link, e.g. chat or call, with a contact.)

The Ukrainian military, and much of the government and civilian population, communicate using Signal on Android phones. Android market share is a little under 80%, and iOS is slightly over 20%. A handful of legacy and other devices make up the remainder with less than 0.5% 

Signal use has exploded since the invasion began.1 In March, there were 2 million installs, and that number has likely increased significantly since then. In February, growth for Signal downloads was almost 2,000%, making it the number one most downloaded app in Ukraine.

This presents a problem. Android phones with Signal are robust security platforms. They’re not military equipment, but they’re perfectly capable of providing protection against a wide range of security threats. Including nation state level threat actors.

Russia appears to be lacking an Android or Signal capability. Either one would be sufficient to gain access to Signal communications. Needing both may indicate, or at least suggest, that Russia doesn’t have capabilities for these platforms.


The amount on offer is single-digit millions (plural), indicating to him that Russia is getting both desperate and annoyed that it can’t get such an exploit from its normal sources (internal and external). Hurrah for Signal.
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A breast cancer vaccine shows promising results, UW study finds • Axios Seattle

Christine Clarridge:


In a decade-long Phase I human trial, the vaccine created a strong immune response to proteins that cause tumors to grow aggressively, researchers said in a study published in JAMA Oncology this month.

About 264,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed annually in women and about 2,400 in men in the U.S., according to the CDC.

“I have very high hopes that it is close to the final step of this vaccine potentially becoming a treatment for patients with breast cancer,” said the study’s lead author Mary “Nora” Disis, a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Cancer Vaccine Institute.

Disis said the vaccine was found to be “very safe” in the Phase 1 trial, with the most common side effects being similar to those of the COVID vaccine: Soreness at the injection site and flu-like symptoms for a few days.

The vaccine targets a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). HER2 is overproduced by as much as a hundredfold in as many as 30% of breast cancers, according to UW Medicine. “HER2-positive” cancers tend to be more aggressive and more likely to recur after treatment, Disis said.


I still remember all the excitement about the discovery (and patenting of methods for identification) of BRCA1 and BRCA2 back in the 1990s. It seemed then that some sort of treatment might be just around the corner. The corner’s still unfurling.
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Mammoth migration • Excel Pope

Andrew Pope on Mastodon:


In some ways, having one big thing is bad. Some idiot could buy it and run it into the ground, for example. With the lots-of-small-things model the same idiot could pay around twenty bucks a month to run his own small-thing, and do what he liked with it, making a saving of $43,999,999,980.00 in the process. Except he couldn’t. For the small things to work in a way that emulates the one-big-thing all the small-things have to agree to talk to each other and Mastodon has an explicit “Be nice” spirit, which seems to place it one Kerplunk! stick away from descending into a purity-spiral so deep that it might bore a hole to the centre of the Earth.

For example, lots of people have been gleefully sharing this conversation with Eugen Rochko, the founder of Mastodon, as a great example of how the platform will be better than Twitter, seemingly without pausing to ask themselves, “Who’s deciding who is a Nazi?”

The lots-of-little-things model means everything is in the hands of lots-of-little-moderators. If one of moderators on the little-thing your account is attached to decides you’re a Nazi – perhaps for saying that women are real – then that can be it; your whole account, all your posts, all your follows and followers, gone. And your ban might not even be for saying anything. Maybe you just posted some links to news stories that suggest you’re guilty of wrongthink, or retweet someone who’s saying the wrong thing, or just have already upset enough people that they badger your local moderators to not even give you a chance, as was the case with Telegraph journalist, Suzanne Moore.

The lots-of-little-things model means its lots-of-little-moderators are all weak links, even ones not swigging the gender ideology Kool-aid, likely to be easily swayed by mass reporting, or hearsay about who’s too dangerous to let on to Mastodon.

Nor is there a loophole in getting a few people together and setting up your own little-thing. When a group of gender-critical people tried that in in 2019, with Spinster, the moderators of other little-things were pressured into not talking to it, which has a special Mastodon name that’s too boring to repeat. In other words, you’re free to moderate your own little-thing, so long as you don’t mind only talking to other people who use that little-thing and having nothing to do with the lots-of-little-things-joined-up-to-look-like-a-big-thing thing.

All of this happens with no oversight and no recourse.


John Siracusa made much the same points on the most recent episode of ATP (“Tiny Tyrants“), and added: any Mastodon instance that gets big enough will essentially run into exactly the same problems as early rapidly growing Twitter, but without venture capital money to help it through. And that’s not going to be pretty. (For those asking, yes, I have set up an identity on Mastodon, and no, I can’t be bothered to tell you yet.)
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Meet Unstable Diffusion, the group trying to monetize AI porn generators • TechCrunch

Kyle Wiggers:


while Reddit quickly shut down many of the subreddits dedicated to AI porn, and communities like NewGrounds, which allows some forms of adult art, banned AI-generated artwork altogether, new forums emerged to fill the gap.

By far the largest is Unstable Diffusion, whose operators are building a business around AI systems tailored to generate high-quality porn. The server’s Patreon — started to keep the server running as well as fund general development — is currently raking in over $2,500 a month from several hundred donors.

“In just two months, our team expanded to over 13 people as well as many consultants and volunteer community moderators,” Arman Chaudhry, one of the members of the Unstable Diffusion admin team, told TechCrunch in a conversation via Discord. “We see the opportunity to make innovations in usability, user experience and expressive power to create tools that professional artists and businesses can benefit from.”

Unsurprisingly, some AI ethicists are as worried as Chaudhry is optimistic. While the use of AI to create porn isn’t new  — TechCrunch covered an AI-porn-generating app just a few months ago — Unstable Diffusion’s models are capable of generating higher-fidelity examples than most.


The goldrush always includes porn, and the people who sell the shovels always do best out of the goldrush. $2,500 per month isn’t chickenfeed: $30,000 per year, and probably going to grow.
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• Why do social networks drive us a little mad?
• Why does angry content seem to dominate what we see?
• How much of a role do algorithms play in affecting what we see and do online?
• What can we do about it?
• Did Facebook have any inkling of what was coming in Myanmar in 2016?

Read Social Warming, my latest book, and find answers – and more.

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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