Worked Up

Two weeks weeks ago, Victoria Nuland, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe, apologized for using a profanity during an intercepted phone call as she criticized the European Union for not moving fast enough to address the crisis in Ukraine.

Now the U.S. is looking to the EU to take the lead in formulating a tough response after the standoff between President Viktor Yanukovych and anti-government protesters exploded into violence yesterday, stirring talk of a civil war.

Secretary of State John Kerry indicated the U.S. is preparing to follow the EU in weighing economic sanctions in response to Yanukovych’s crackdown, which undercut Western efforts to encourage a political compromise in Kiev.

“We are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps with our friends in Europe and elsewhere in order to try to create the environment for compromise,” Kerry said today before a meeting in Paris with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The German, French and Polish foreign ministers were to fly to Kiev today for talks with Yanukovych. Tomorrow, EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels to weigh “all possible options,” including “restrictive measures against those responsible for repression,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in an e-mailed statement.

SAN FRANCISCO — In one of the biggest technology deals of the past decade, Facebook agreed to buy WhatsApp for $16 billion to expand in the fast-growing mobile messaging market and pursue its goal of connecting as much of the world’s population as possible over the Internet.

Facebook said it will pay $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock for WhatsApp, a service that has 450 million monthly users and is adding more than 1 million new users a day.

“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement announcing the deal.

Zuckerberg has been trying to get into the mobile messaging market for a while. The company offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion last year, but that messaging start-up spurned the offer.

To close the WhatsApp deal, Facebook offered an extra $3 billion in restricted stock units, a common type of equity compensation, to WhatsApp founders and employees. These awards will vest over four years. Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s co-founder and CEO, also gets a seat on Facebook’s board of directors.

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) — TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline route through Nebraska was ruled illegal by a state court judge in a decision seen as setting back the project by as long as a year as U.S. officials consider needed approval.

The ruling sends the pipeline back to Nebraska for review as the Obama administration studies whether to approve the northern portion of the international project.

“This gives the U.S. State Department and Obama an out,” said Bob Schulz, a University of Calgarybusiness professor, who predicted there will be an appeal of the ruling. “Why would they decide if they don’t have to decide? I think he’s going to push it back another year.”

Judge Stephanie Stacy in Lincoln, the state’s capital, today struck down legislation that shifted the power to approve the pipeline route to Governor Dave Heineman, a Republican, from the state’s Public Service Commission. Legislation depriving the commission of that power violates the Nebraska Constitution, Stacy said, declaring the measure “unconstitutional and void.”

“Because the governor’s actions of Jan. 22, 2013, in approving the Keystone XL Pipeline route were predicated on an unconstitutional statute, the court also finds the governor’s actions in that regard must be declared null and void,” she said.

What started as a relatively small, crowdsourced play-through of Pokémon has become something of a global cultural experiment — spurring fan-created mythology, a battle of political systems, and even warring religions.

On Feb. 13, an anonymous programmer started Twitch Plays Pokémon. Viewers of the gaming service Twitch would enter various commands — up, down, left, right, a, b — in a chat window; those commands would be performed in the classic Nintendo game Pokémon Red and Blue.

At first, this experimental interactive game had a fairly small audience of around 1,600 people, but it has since amassed a following of over 100,000 viewers, becoming one of the most popular streams on the streaming website, Twitch.

The goal of the play-through was to see if the group could progress through the storyline ofPokémon Red and Blue — which involves defeating the leaders of gyms in eight cities, followed by the best of the best, the Elite Four. But the more people that joined the experiment, the more narratives and fan art were created around characters — such as a Charmeleon creature randomly named “ABBBBBBK” by player input. It is now affectionately known as “Abby.”

Most notably, the viewers created a pseudo-religion around one plot point in the game where the player must choose between two Pokémon fossils: the Helix Fossil or the Dome Fossil. This choice between the two fossils, which can later be revived into actual Pokémon, led to a schism in the viewership.

In Twitch Plays Pokémon, the Helix Fossil was chosen, and after repeatedly clicking on the item to no effect, the viewers decided the Helix Fossil was in fact a benevolent god watching over this chaotic play-through. Repeated clicking on the Helix became known as consulting the god. In similar semi-serious fashion, players declared that the Dome Fossil was the devil.

Viewers have also been engaging in an epic political debate. In an effort to get the game to go faster, the creator of Twitch Plays Pokémon offered a new mode: Democracy. The original mode —now dubbed Anarchy — had the game register any and all commands made in the chat and reproduce them in sequential order.

Instead, Democracy mode aggregates commands. In other words, users vote on what to tell the game to do at any given moment, with the most popular command being implemented.

With a smattering of things going on, it seems that people get so worked up over the smallest things. You have to remember that our time on earth is so temporary, that it does not matter how we are hurt on earth. It is always important to think about our future, but our future is not dictated by our actions alone. It is the actions of society that determine where society will go and it is the action of the individual to see where the individual can go.

Liked it? Take a second to support ryanjhite on Patreon!