The noxious atmosphere in San Francisco this past week has been impossible for anyone living there to ignore.
Nearly 1,000 people are missing and 77 people have died after the Camp Fire, and millions more in the region's economic centre, the Bay Area, are now feeling the side effects. Smoke from the huge fires, more than 100 miles to the north, has been gathering over the City by the Bay for a week now.
Air quality in San Francisco on Thursday turned worse than anywhere else in the world, including the world's most polluted cities such as Delhi and Lahore. Public health authorities warned people to stay inside. Schools and cable car rides have shut down.
Meanwhile, a few miles south in Menlo Park, Facebook has been fighting some fires of its own. The cloud of toxicity that has surrounded the social network for more than a year shows no sign of dissipating (and the metaphor is proving irresistible to Silicon Valley commentators).
A New York Times investigation into Facebook's “delay, deny, deflect” response to privacy and misinformation scandals has put the spotlight on operating chief Sheryl Sandberg.
Facebook’s share price dropped to its lowest level in 20 months on Friday, despite Ms Sandberg's assurances that she felt a “tremendous responsibility” to prevent bad behaviour, such as fake news and Russian interference, on the platform.
“To suggest that we weren’t interested in knowing the truth, or we wanted to hide what we knew, or that we tried to prevent investigations, is simply untrue,” Ms Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post.
But one former Facebook executive tells Hannah Kuchler that Ms Sandberg has only become more “robotic” over time, while founder Mark Zuckerberg “never really had any empathy”. “You have two leaders of a company desensitised to all the problems they were creating in the world,” he said.
Read Hannah's full profile of Sheryl Sandberg in this week's FT Person in the News.
Flag as Important
Robot-soldiers, stealth jets and drone armies
Katrina Manson examines the race between China and the US to define the future of war, in a disturbing FT Magazine feature.
Number 3 with a bullet
Bankers in Silicon Valley are gearing up for a bumper year for tech IPOs in 2019 and JPMorgan Chase does not plan on being left out. After edging into second place in US tech M&A for the year to date, JPMorgan is trying to break the duopoly of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley on big tech deals.
The extent of Apple's influence
Richard Waters' latest column considers a new legal analysis of the iPhone maker's regulatory limits, which one rival is circulating around the corridors of power.
Google's VR shoes
Digital Trends spotted a bizarre patent application from Google: wheeled, motorised shoes for wearing while using a virtual-reality headset. The “moonwalker” shoes would allow the wearer to feel as if they are walking through virtual worlds without running into their living-room walls. The approach is an unusual one but solving “locomotion” problems in VR is a lively area of research.
Who will shed a tear for Alphabet's stalled contact lens research?
Verily, Google's sister company that is focused on life sciences, said on Friday that it was halting work on its best-known project: a four-year-old effort to put sensors on contact lenses that could measure blood glucose levels. The costly joint venture with Novartis' Alcon produced “insufficient consistency” in its results to be relied upon as a medical device, Verily's blog post said.
Tech tools you can use — air quality apps
San Franciscans are frantically checking just how terrible the air quality is. I have found the most reliable (if not particularly reassuring) app is AirVisual, which provides real-time AQI stats for anywhere in the world.
Get alerts on Technology when a new story is published