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The Morning After: Ukraine lost Starlink access over funding

YASUYOSHI CHIBA via Getty Images

On October 15th, billionaire Elon Musk said he would indefinitely fund Ukraine’s Starlink use to support the country. But, on October 24th, the Ukrainian military lost internet access, causing problems for commanders and soldiers fighting the Russian invasion. The outage was reportedly caused by a funding brouhaha between Musk, SpaceX and the Department of Defense.

The issue centers on the (roughly) $3.15 million running cost, which SpaceX had asked the US to pay for, but withdrew after public criticism. The report added that DoD officials are likely to take on the running costs but want to set firm contract terms, lest the impulsive billionaire “change his mind.” That’s a reference to, uh, lots of things, but also that Musk has publicly called on Ukraine to hand over chunks of its territory to Russia to guarantee peace.

– Dan Cooper

The biggest stories you might have missed

Meta will reportedly announce ‘large-scale’ layoffs next week

The company employs over 87,000 people

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp owner Meta will apparently start the week by announcing a round of large-scale lay-offs. This is a reaction to both Meta’s recent financial woes (burning all of its profit on a metaverse boondoggle) and the sheer number of people it employs. In its most recent earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg said the company would focus its investments on “high priority” areas, which would see non-priority teams stay flat or shrink.

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Virgin pulls its name from Hyperloop One

The decision to drop passenger operations was behind the split.

Hyperloop One homepage announcing rebrand.
Hyperloop One homepage announcing rebrand.

Virgin Hyperloop is no more after the Virgin Group withdrew its branding from the well-funded Hyperloop startup. The company has now reverted to its previous name, Hyperloop One, and is promising a fresh start in its operations. The split was prompted by the startup’s decision to end research into building a passenger service to concentrate on freight shipping.

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HBO cancels sci-fi drama 'Westworld' after four seasons

Three seasons too late, if you ask me.

Image from HBO's Westworld
Image from HBO's Westworld

Westworld’s first season was a thoughtful and entertaining exploration of AI, humanity, free will and commerce. Unfortunately, the blockbuster conclusion of that run also kicked the narrative legs out from under the series as it attempted to continue. After limping on for three more awful years of go-nowhere, no-stakes storytelling, ratings fell from 3.3 million in the pilot to a low of 312,000 during its fourth season. It’s no surprise HBO pulled the plug, citing the high budget and miniscule audience as justification. And to think: The second season of Carnivále pulled in 1.7 million viewers a week, but that wasn’t enough to spare it from the axe.

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Spain temporarily closed its airspace due to an out-of-control Chinese rocket

This isn’t the first Long March 5B to screw up its descent.

Image of a Long March 5B rocket
Image of a Long March 5B rocket

Spain was forced to close its airspace, leading to hundreds of flight delays, to prevent mid-air collisions caused by a falling Long March 5B. The Chinese-made rocket carried the final piece of the country’s Tiangong space station into orbit, before making an uncontrolled descent. Unlike other heavy rockets, which can fire engines to guide their fall back to Earth, the Long March is just left to land wherever. The approach has already drawn the ire of NASA administrator Bill Nelson, who said China risks causing major damage or loss of life.

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Twitter Corner

Here’s a rundown of everything that happened with Twitter over the weekend.

Image of the Twitter logo on the side of its HQ
Image of the Twitter logo on the side of its HQ

A number of major companies opted to pull their adverts (and money) from Twitter after Elon Musk’s content-moderation promises failed to reassure them. One of the world’s largest advertising companies has advised clients to pause spending on Twitter until the dust around the acquisition settles.

The reaction is only natural. Blue-chip brands don’t really want to have ads sitting side by side with hate speech. This is especially the case given the company lost around 15 percent of its trust and safety team in the mass-layoffs. Not long after, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, said fighting misinformation remains a top priority as the US goes to the polls. Roth’s pleas may fall upon disbelieving eyes, however, as Musk himself promoted a conspiracy theory concerning Paul Pelosi’s attacker last week.

Twitter then began testing support for its new Blue subscription, with its paid-for verification system. The setup isn’t live yet, but app updates already reveal groundwork laid for the features. Activations for the paid-for verification wouldn’t start until November 9th at the earliest, however, holding off until after the midterm elections, to prevent abuse of the system.

Another feature, announced this weekend, is the ability to append long-form essays to tweets. This, said Elon Musk, would end the absurdity of “notepad screenshots,” common when users want to post lots of text (usually an apology) in a single tweet.

Speaking of apologies, Twitter co-founder and former CEO, Jack Dorsey, posted one of his own on Saturday. He said the need for large-scale layoffs was his fault because he grew the company “too quickly.”

But clearly, despite those claims, Twitter has apparently had some remorse of its own around the scale of its layoffs. Management has reportedly realized many of the employees unceremoniously dumped last week were actually doing important work. It’s rumored some of those people were asked to return, but you can understand if they’re not feeling much generosity of spirit toward their former employer after the nature of their split.