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‘Resist Becoming Numb’: Biden Pays Tribute to the 500,000 Who Died—and Those They Left Behind

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty

For the second time in 33 days, President Joe Biden gathered the nation on Monday to mourn a loss it can no longer fathom, to collectively grieve after a year of grief beyond imagining, as the nation’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic officially crossed half a million people.

“We often hear people described as ‘ordinary Americans,’ but there’s no such thing,” Biden said, standing in the Cross Hall of the White House. “The people we lost were extraordinary.”

The pandemic year has seen more deaths, as the president noted in a proclamation commanding all U.S. flags be flown at half-mast until sundown on Friday, than the number of Americans who perished “in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, left; Tidal streaming service founder Jay-Z. | Victor Boyko/Getty; George Pimentel/WireImage A speculative explainer of the Square/Tidal deal that includes cryptokitties and Grimes. Here is the straight news headline: Square, the financial services company run by Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, is buying Tidal, the streaming music service founded by Jay-Z. And here is the question you, a normal person, may have about this deal: WTF? The answer, depending on how you’re inclined to look at deals between billionaires, could be intriguing, silly, or stupid. Maybe all of the above. Square is paying $297 million in cash and stock for a “significant majority” of Tidal. Dorsey’s Twitter thread announcing the deal (of course) is vague about what Square intends to do with Tidal, but mentions things like “entirely new listening experiences” and “new complementary revenue streams.” I’m grateful for Jay’s vision, wisdom, and leadership. I knew TIDAL was something special as soon as I experienced it, and I’m inspired to work with him. He'll now help lead our entire company, including Seller and the Cash App, as soon as the deal closes.— jack (@jack) March 4, 2021 It doesn’t take much imagination to come up with Square + Tidal rollouts in the future: A Square-enabled way for artists to sell T-shirts on tour, or even when they’re not on tour, for instance. More intriguingly, given Dorsey’s love of All Things Blockchain, and the current mania over NFTs, it won’t be surprising to see Square + Tidal work on their own NFT scheme. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are blockchain-enabled digital pieces of ... anything that investors and speculators and collectors are hoovering up at a crazy rate. Even if none of this makes sense to you, you may have heard about people paying real money — a lot of money — for digital ephemera like cartoon cat GIFs or animated trading cards of NBA players dunking or blocking. It’s a thing, for now. So you can picture the Jay-Zs of the world selling songs, or snippets of songs, or the digital version of a lyric scribbled on a napkin, as NFTs, in deals that let Square and the artist get part of the deal. If they get it out fast enough — while NFT mania booms — it’s easy to imagine many more headlines like these, except you’ll replace “Grimes” with “Beyonce” or whomever: Grimes sold $6 million worth of digital art as NFTs— The Verge (@verge) March 1, 2021 As long as you’re okay with the purely speculative hype around these kinds of sales and stories — and the understanding that some investors, including people who don’t fully understand what they’re doing, are going to make a lot of money, and some will get burned badly (see: GameStop, and also Cryptokitties, an early NFT gambit/gimmick that was kind of hot in 2018 and then cooled off but may be hot again) — then this all seems ... okay? Maybe ... good? It certainly allows musicians — famous ones as well as ones you’ve never heard of — a chance to make money in an industry that currently offers them few options: Streaming music generally only pays out for enormously successful acts, and touring is hard work in the best of times. It’s also currently not available at all, due to the pandemic. The most optimistic version of the NFT story is that it allows artists (or anyone) to capture more of the value of the stuff they create than selling it through middlemen, like record labels or streaming services. On the other hand: Even if you think the idea of Jay-Z selling five-second beatbox videos for millions of dollars and high-fiving Jack Dorsey is pretty awesome, none of this requires a $300 million deal to buy Jay-Z’s company. If Square wants to create new ways to help musicians sell real goods and digital goods, it could just do that. 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