Monday, April 28, 2014

The real tragedy of Donald Sterling's racism: it took this long for us to notice: The LA Clippers owner made his millions off racist housing policies. Where was the NBA and presidential outrage then?; Guardian, 4/28/14

Kevin B. Blackistone, Guardian; The real tragedy of Donald Sterling's racism: it took this long for us to notice: The LA Clippers owner made his millions off racist housing policies. Where was the NBA and presidential outrage then? :
"Neither the league, nor the players, nor the sports media paid much if any attention to Sterling's agreement in 2003 to pay upwards of $5m to settle a lawsuit brought by the Housing Rights Center charging that he tried to drive non-Korean tenants out of apartments he bought in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles. Only a few observers noted in 2006 that the Justice Department sued Sterling for allegations of housing discrimination in the same neighborhood. The charges included statements he allegedly made to employees that black and Hispanic families were not desirable tenants.
And while a handful of us in the media excoriated Sterling and the NBA in 2009 when Sterling settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $2.73m following allegations he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics, blacks and families with children, the story didn't resonate – despite it being the largest housing discrimination settlement in Justice Department history...
But pro sports have their own legacy of ignorance as bliss.
The sudden Sterling backlash exposed a mythology that we've allowed to grow in sport's billion-dollar commercial industrialization: sport leads social change. In many cases, however, such as the blind eye cast to racial discrimination of prodigious proportion, sport is a laggard in social reform, its leaders tacit supporters – if not propagators – of unethical and immoral behavior."

Open data: slow down Whitehall's approach has the subtlety of a smash-and-grab-raider and it must take its own advice on best practice; Guardian, 4/18/14

Editorial, Guardian; Open data: slow down Whitehall's approach has the subtlety of a smash-and-grab-raider and it must take its own advice on best practice:
"Open data is potentially of incalculable value. The capacity to merge and manipulate information from a range of public bodies is already delivering wider benefit that ranges from better policing to environmental protection. It will lead to sharper policy making, cheaper drugs and improved health strategies. More contentiously, it could also develop into a valuable revenue stream for government. Whitehall is understandably excited about the potential. But it is approaching the whole open data project with the subtlety of a smash-and-grab raider...
A year ago, the government's own review into open data was published. Its first call was for a National Data Strategy, open to audit, that would set out what data should be released and in what form. Other recommendations included a focus on security, releasing anonymised data only into "safe havens" and introducing tough penalties on end users that fail to safeguard it. This may be part of the best practice HMRC insists it is committed to observing, but external experts are sceptical. Whitehall needs to take its own advice. It needs a strategy, one that explains exactly what the criteria for release of data are, sets out security safeguards that withstand challenge and introduces tough penalties for any breach that demonstrate a genuine respect for privacy."

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Disturbing Tape and a Potential Moral Quandary: Comments Linked to Sterling Put Clippers Players in Ethical Bind, 4/26/14

William C. Rhoden, New York Times; A Disturbing Tape and a Potential Moral Quandary: Comments Linked to Sterling Put Clippers Players in Ethical Bind:
"In one of his popular songs of black consciousness, Curtis Mayfield asked: “If you had a choice of colors, which one would you choose, my brothers? If there was no day or night, which would you prefer to be right?”
The question might now be asked of Los Angeles Clippers players faced with a potential moral quandary about how to react if racist sentiments captured on an audio recording were, in fact, made by the Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling.
Do the players boycott the rest of their playoff series against Golden State? Do they write their boss a letter of protest and dismay? Do they simply soldier on without comment?
During the 10-minute conversation, reportedly between Sterling and a female friend, the owner asks her why she insists on parading her friendships with blacks, and at one point asks her not to bring “them” to Clippers games...
The more compelling question for the league’s players is whether they will speak out — or act out — against Sterling. And what about the league’s other owners? How will they respond? Will they remain silent? Will they issue a collective statement?...
The Clippers’ players find themselves in a no-win predicament: play it safe and keep quiet, or speak out and take a stand on principle."

Saturday, April 5, 2014

DuckDuckGo: the plucky upstart taking on Google with secure searches; Guardian, 4/4/14

Alex Hern, Guardian; DuckDuckGo: the plucky upstart taking on Google with secure searches:
"DuckDuckGo bills itself as "the search engine that doesn't track you". After the revelations in the US National Security Agency files, that sounds tempting.
Named after the playground game duck duck goose, the site is not just banking on the support of people paranoid about GCHQ and the NSA. Its founder, Gabriel Weinberg, argues that privacy makes the web search better, not worse. Since it doesn't store your previous searches, it does not and cannot present personalised search results. That frees users from the filter bubble – the fear that, as search results are increasingly personalised, they are less likely to be presented with information that challenges their existing ideas.
It also means that DuckDuckGo is forced to keep its focus purely on search. With no stores or data to tap, it cannot become an advertising behemoth, it has no motivation to start trying to build a social network and it doesn't get anything out of scanning your emails to create a personal profile.
Having answered one billion queries in 2013 alone, DuckDuckGo is on the rise. We asked Weinberg about his website's journey."

Sweeping Away a Search History; New York Times, 4/2/14

Molly Wood, New York Times; Sweeping Away a Search History:
"YOUR search history contains some of the most personal information you will ever reveal online: your health, mental state, interests, travel locations, fears and shopping habits.
And that is information most people would want to keep private. Unfortunately, your web searches are carefully tracked and saved in databases, where the information can be used for almost anything, including highly targeted advertising and price discrimination based on your data profile.
“Nobody understands the long-term impact of this data collection,” said Casey Oppenheim, co-founder of Disconnect, a company that helps keep people anonymous online. “Imagine that someone has 40 years of your search history. There’s no telling what happens to that data.”
Fortunately, Google, Microsoft’s Bing and smaller companies provide ways to delete a search history or avoid leaving one, even if hiding from those ads can be more difficult."

Ex-Ethics Chief in Ga. Wins Retaliation Lawsuit; Associated Press via ABC News, 4/4/14

Kate Brumback, Associated Press via ABC News; Ex-Ethics Chief in Ga. Wins Retaliation Lawsuit:
"Jurors awarded the former director of Georgia's ethics commission $700,000 on Friday, ruling in her favor in a lawsuit in which she said her salary was cut and a deputy removed for investigating complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal.
The jury sided with Stacey Kalberman after more than two hours of deliberations, also deciding she would receive attorney's fees and back pay.
Kalberman claimed in her suit against the commission and its current director that commissioners had slashed her salary and eliminated her deputy's post after the two sought approval to issue subpoenas as part of the agency's investigation into Deal's 2010 campaign reports and financial disclosures.
The state argued that the personnel actions were motivated by budget concerns.
Deal, a Republican bidding for another term, was later cleared of major violations in the ethics probe and agreed to pay $3,350 in administrative fees."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Price of a Slur; New York Times, 4/2/14

David Treuer, New York Times; The Price of a Slur:
"On March 24, Mr. Snyder announced the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, a charitable organization with the stated mission “to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities.” To date, the foundation has distributed 3,000 winter coats, shoes to basketball-playing boys and girls, and a backhoe to the Omaha tribe in Nebraska.
The unstated mission of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation is clear: In the face of growing criticism over the team’s toxic name and mascot imagery, the aim is to buy enough good will so the name doesn’t seem so bad, and if some American Indians — in the racial logic of so-called post-racial America, “some” can stand in for “all” — accept Mr. Snyder’s charity, then protest will look like hypocrisy...
Seldom has the entwined nature of ethics and money and influence been revealed as so unavoidably intestinal in its smell and purpose: to consume the material, to nourish the host and to expel the waste. American Indians — who do not see or refer to ourselves as “redskins” and who take great exception to the slur — are that waste."

G.M. Secrecy on Crashes Adds to Families’ Pain; New York Times, 4/2/14

Rachel Abrams and Danielle Ivory, New York Times; G.M. Secrecy on Crashes Adds to Families’ Pain:
"There is anger that General Motors did not come forward sooner with information about its faulty cars. There is grief that loved ones were lost in crashes that might have been preventable. And there is outrage that federal safety regulators did not intervene.
But what is now most upsetting to many relatives of people killed in accidents involving recalled G.M. cars is the uncertainty and secrecy surrounding the crashes — the fact that G.M. won’t tell them what they most want to know.
Not only has G.M. twice adjusted the number of deaths it says are linked to an ignition switch defect, but it has also refused to disclose publicly the list of the confirmed victims, now said to be 13. The enduring mystery has left scores of grieving families playing a guessing game, including the relatives of one accident victim, identified by The New York Times and confirmed by the office of Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, to be among the 13."

Ethics report could help NASA weigh risks of long-term space travel; Los Angeles Times, 4/2/14

Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times; Ethics report could help NASA weigh risks of long-term space travel:
"As NASA plans to send astronauts to an asteroid or even to Mars in the coming decades -- missions that could last well beyond 30 days -- they’re grappling with an ethical dilemma. How do they handle decisions on long-distance space exploration when it could expose astronauts to high or unknown health hazards?
To help develop an ethical framework for venturing into this unknown territory, the space agency asked the Institute of Medicine to convene a panel of experts to offer some helpful guidelines. The results in a 187-page report were released Wednesday...
Among the report's recommendations: Avoid harm by minimizing risk to astronauts. Missions should be valued for the benefits they provide. Make sure the benefits outweigh the risks enough for the mission to be worthwhile. Operate in a transparent and accountable way, and keep astronauts informed of the risks they face. Basically: Act in a responsible and transparent manner."