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Recode Daily: The Pentagon had a secret UFO program

Plus: SoftBank is changing how funding works in Silicon Valley, and meet the meme team.

U.S. Department of Defense

True story: The Pentagon has admitted that it ran a secret UFO investigation program from its fifth floor for five years, until it was closed in 2012. The $22 million spent on the Defense Department’s “X-Files" unit — actually called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program — was almost impossible to find in the $600 DoD budget. Which was how the Pentagon wanted it. Bonus story: Two navy pilots describe the ... thing they saw flying in 2004. [The New York Times]

Here’s how Uber’s top investor, Benchmark’s Bill Gurley, suffered through the wildest tech drama of 2017. Gurley has had a remarkable year — he helped lead the Stitch Fix IPO in November and made a pretty penny from Snap’s March public market debut. But Gurley's friends and colleagues will tell you that he spent much of 2017 glued to his phone, losing sleep and eating poorly, obsessing over a single four-letter word: Uber. [Ari Levy / CNBC]

Top congressional Democrats have called for hearings on Disney’s $52 billion bid to buy 21st Century Fox; the Disney deal will likely take 12 to 18 months to complete, and will still have to pass muster with government regulators. Key voices on competition and consumer protection, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. David Cicilline, fear that the deal gives Disney too many major box-office franchises and too much power over regional sports networks and streaming video services. Donald Trump, meanwhile, has already blessed the deal with a congratulatory call to Rupert Murdoch. [Tony Romm / Recode]

Twitter begins enforcing new rules today that will suspend accounts affiliated with hate groups — a policy that could lead to a crackdown on some alt-right users. Announced in November, the policy will penalize accounts that include “hateful imagery and display names,” presumably including Nazi insignia, or those who “use [a] username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior.” [Tony Romm / Recode]

SoftBank is looking to invest up to $300 million in a dog-walking app called Wag — an eye-opening example of how the Japanese multinational is transforming tech financing. The LA-based Wag, which pairs dog owners with available walkers in their neighborhood, was originally looking to raise $100 million in this latest round, but that ballooned to the $300 million neighborhood when SoftBank expressed interest. In the last month, SoftBank has been behind almost all of the biggest financings in Silicon Valley, from Uber to WeWork to DoorDash. [Theodore Schleifer / Recode]

“Amazon is a machine that makes the machine,” says analyst Benedict Evans, who provides a clear sketch of how the company’s operating structure works. Amazon, he says, is hundreds of small, decentralized, atomized teams sitting on top of standardized common internal systems, leading to almost infinite scalability. In other words, Amazon “is a machine to make more Amazon.” [Benedict Evans]

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