Friday, April 29, 2016

If Not Trump, What?; New York Times, 4/29/16

David Brooks, New York Times; If Not Trump, What? :
"Donald Trump now looks set to be the Republican presidential nominee. So for those of us appalled by this prospect — what are we supposed to do?
Well, not what the leaders of the Republican Party are doing. They’re going down meekly and hoping for a quiet convention. They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.
The better course for all of us — Republican, Democrat and independent — is to step back and take the long view, and to begin building for that. This election — not only the Trump phenomenon but the rise of Bernie Sanders, also — has reminded us how much pain there is in this country...
I don’t know what the new national story will be, but maybe it will be less individualistic and more redemptive...
We’ll also need to rebuild the sense that we’re all in this together. The author R. R. Reno has argued that what we’re really facing these days is a “crisis of solidarity.”...
Then at the community level we can listen to those already helping...
Over the course of American history, national projects like the railroad legislation, the W.P.A. and the NASA project have bound this diverse nation."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Online degrees could make universities redundant, historian warns; Guardian, 4/17/16

Richard Adams, Guardian; Online degrees could make universities redundant, historian warns:
"Oxford, along with all other universities, faces an “uncomfortable future” unless it embraces online degrees and draws up plans for raising billions of pounds to go private, according to the university’s new official history. The book, to be launched by Oxford University Press this week, says new technology has the potential to make universities such as Oxford “redundant” and that it is “only a matter of time” before virtual learning transforms higher education.
Laurence Brockliss, the historian and author, argues that Oxford itself should offer undergraduate degrees via online learning, and in doing so could solve the controversies it faces over student access. “I would like Oxford to pilot something, and say we are going to offer 1,000 18-year-olds online courses in different subjects, to experiment and see how it works and how it can be improved,” Brockliss said.
Offering online degrees could help Oxford to recruit students from backgrounds that it currently struggles to reach and allow it to forge better links with the general public, according to Brockliss, a professor of history at Magdalen College. “I don’t think we’re as good as we used to be at connecting with the public."

VW C.E.O. ‘Personally’ Apologized to President Obama in Plea for Mercy; New York Times, 4/28/16

Jack Ewing, New York Times; VW C.E.O. ‘Personally’ Apologized to President Obama in Plea for Mercy:
"“I used the opportunity to personally apologize to him for our behavior,” Mr. Müller said during a news conference in Wolfsburg on Thursday. “I thanked him for the constructive cooperation with his officials. Of course I also expressed the hope that I will be able to continue to fulfill my responsibility to 600,000 employees and their families as well as suppliers and dealers.”
Mr. Müller’s mention of Volkswagen workers and their families can be seen as a plea for American officials to not punish those who had nothing to do with any wrongdoing. Lawyers in the case expect the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to demand penalties that are painful for Volkswagen, but not so severe that they destroy the company.
Thousands of jobs in the United States depend on Volkswagen."

Social Media, Where Sports Fans Congregate and Misogyny Runs Amok; New York Times, 4/28/16

Juliet Macur, New York Times; Social Media, Where Sports Fans Congregate and Misogyny Runs Amok:
"DiCaro said she recorded the video of the mean tweets with the hope that it would change some people’s minds about harassing others on social media. She has two teenage sons, and she wants them and the younger generation to know what’s acceptable — and what’s not.
How does this abuse end? DiCaro said there needed to be more diversity in sports media. She lamented that sports was still a man’s world, and would be at least for the near future, leaving the few women in it as targets for some men who don’t want them in their boys’ club.
“It’s sort of like separating a weak antelope from the pack,’’ she said. “I think guys recognize that.”"

UC-Davis chancellor placed on administrative leave after revelations of ‘scrubbing’ Internet; Washington Post, 4/28/16

Fred Barbash, Washington Post; UC-Davis chancellor placed on administrative leave after revelations of ‘scrubbing’ Internet:
"The chancellor at the University of California at Davis has been placed on administrative leave after reports that the school paid at least $175,000 to consultants to clean up the school’s online reputation.
University President Janet Napolitano, in a statement and letter made public late Wednesday, said there was a wider investigation underway involving Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, not just into the “scrubbing” incident but into possible conflicts of interest, among them, allegations of special treatment and large raises for her son and daughter-in-law, who are employees of the university with the son reporting directly to his own wife. Katehi’s daughter-in-law got salary increases of $50,000 over a 2½-year period, Napolitano said."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How America's rich betrayed their fellow citizens; Guardian, 4/25/16

Anthony J. Gaughan, Guardian; How America's rich betrayed their fellow citizens:
"History shows it does not have to be this way.
As Harvard’s Memorial church demonstrates, the upper classes once felt a strong sense of obligation to their fellow Americans. Indeed, for much of the 20th century, wealthy families like the Rockefellers and the Carnegies established charitable institutions across the country to promote social mobility.
A few prominent billionaires, such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, have continued that noble tradition of socially minded philanthropy. Buffett and Gates serve as inspiring examples of how some people still use great wealth for the benefit of society at large.
But the sad reality is Buffett and Gates do not reflect the general attitude of wealthy Americans. Gordon Gekko does.
It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that middle-class and working-class Americans are so angry at political and economic elites. Until the Buffett and Gates families become the rule and not the exception, it seems likely that populist fury and class conflict will remain the dominant theme of American politics for years to come."

Boston College ordered by US court to hand over IRA tapes; Guardian, 4/25/16

Henry McDonald, Guardian; Boston College ordered by US court to hand over IRA tapes:
"An American university has been ordered by a court to hand over sensitive tapes of a former IRA prisoner talking about his role in the republican movement during the Troubles.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is seeking to force Boston College to release the interviews with Anthony McIntyre, who was the lead researcher in the Belfast Project, a recorded oral archive of IRA and loyalist paramilitary testimonies.
The subpoena to obtain McIntyre’s personal interviews has been served under the terms of a UK-US legal assistance treaty and the Crime (International Co-operation) Act 2003.
Boston College has been ordered to appear at the John Joseph Moakley courthouse in the city on 6 May to deliver McIntyre’s interviews, it was confirmed on Monday.
As well as conducting interviews with other former IRA members, McIntyre himself gave interviews to a guest researcher.
Set up in 2001, the project interviewed those directly involved in paramilitary violence between 1969 and 1994 in Northern Ireland. Participants were promised that the interviews would be released only after their death."

Book Debate Raises Questions of Self-Censorship by Foreign Groups in China; New York Times, 4/27/16

Edward Wong, New York Times; Book Debate Raises Questions of Self-Censorship by Foreign Groups in China:
"Robert T. Rupp, associate executive director of the bar association’s business unit, which oversees publishing, gave a statement to Foreign Policy that said the decision not to publish Mr. Teng’s book was made for “economic reasons, based on market research and sales forecasting.”
Mr. Teng said he did not believe that. What the bar association had done, he said, was emblematic of a larger problem in China. “Many N.G.O.s self-censor in order not to make the Chinese government angry, so they can continue their work in China,” he said.
The bar association came under criticism last year by some China experts and legal scholars for not taking a stronger stand against a harsh crackdown by the Chinese authorities on hundreds of human rights lawyers and their associates.
The accusations by Mr. Teng have inspired an even greater outcry. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial with the headline “American Self-Censorship Association.” The co-chairmen of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Representative Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, wrote a letter to the bar association demanding that it tell them whether it had rescinded the book offer because of perceived or real threats to its China programs."

Mitsubishi Motors Says False Mileage Tests Done Since 1991; Associated Press via New York Times, 4/26/16

Associated Press via New York Times; Mitsubishi Motors Says False Mileage Tests Done Since 1991:
"Mitsubishi Motors Corp., the Japanese automaker that acknowledged last week that it had intentionally lied about fuel economy data for some models, said an internal investigation found such tampering dated to 1991...
Japan is periodically shaken by scandals at top-name companies, including electronics company Toshiba Corp., which had doctored accounting books for years, and medical equipment company Olympus Corp., which acknowledged it had covered up massive losses.
Mitsubishi Motors struggled for years to win back consumer trust after an auto defects scandal in the early 2000s over cover-ups of problems such as failing brakes, faulty clutches and fuel tanks prone to falling off dating back to the 1970s. That resulted in more than a million vehicles being recalled retroactively."

VW Presentation in ’06 Showed How to Foil Emissions Tests; New York Times, 4/26/16

Jack Ewing, New York Times; VW Presentation in ’06 Showed How to Foil Emissions Tests:
"A PowerPoint presentation was prepared by a top technology executive at Volkswagen in 2006, laying out in detail how the automaker could cheat on emissions tests in the United States.
The presentation has been discovered as part of the continuing investigations into Volkswagen, according to two people who have seen the document and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the legal action against the company. It provides the most direct link yet to the genesis of the deception at Volkswagen, which admitted late last year that 11 million vehicles worldwide were equipped with software to cheat on tests that measured pollution in emissions.
It is not known how widely the presentation was distributed at Volkswagen. But its existence, and the proposal it made to install the software, highlight a series of flawed decisions at the embattled carmaker surrounding the emissions problem."

It’s OK to End Friendships Over Trump; Slate, 4/26/16

Isaac Chotiner, Slate; It’s OK to End Friendships Over Trump:
"Of course friendships should survive some political differences: I have friends who think differently than I do about everything from proper tax rates to abortion regulations. But having a friend who supports a blatantly (and proudly) bigoted candidate is categorically different. Everyone might have a different line about what issue to take some sort of moral stand on, but Trump has stepped over pretty much all of them. (The Lincoln comparison, moreover, doesn’t make much sense because it is Trump’s election that would tear the country apart.)
Wehner writes, “When political differences shatter friendships, when we attribute disagreements to deep character flaws, it usually means politics has become too central to our lives.” Call me moralistic, but I think being a racist or supporting a racist is a deep character flaw, and I don’t think I believe this because politics is too central to my life...
Of course, to say that decent people should have no social contact with Trump supporters is, for many of us, impossible and naïve. Maybe your lifelong chum backs Trump, or maybe your parents do. But people like Wehner—elites in every sense of the word—might want to ask themselves why they have friends or colleagues who are supportive of a bigot. The answer could have more to do with the political party they have long aided and abetted than the fraught and complicated subject of friendship."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Revenge porn: the industry profiting from online abuse; Guardian, 4/26/16

Dan Tynan, Guardian; Revenge porn: the industry profiting from online abuse:
"Perversely, while the internet has given a voice to vast numbers of people who might not otherwise be heard, unfettered free speech can have a chilling effect, whether it’s Gamergaters ganging up on female writers or Donald Trump using Twitter to attack his enemies, notes Stephen Balkam, CEO and founder of the Family Online Safety Institute.
“I think the people who profit most from online harassment are those who use it to suppress other people’s thoughts, suggestions, comments, and criticisms,” he says. “We are often so focused on making sure governments don’t chill speech, and here are anonymous stalkers and harassers doing just that.”"

Post-Gazette loses court fight to block state agencies from deleting emails; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/26/16

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Post-Gazette loses court fight to block state agencies from deleting emails:
"The Post-Gazette and other media outlets said the practice violated the due process rights of the public seeking records under the state’s Right-to-Know law.
The Commonwealth Court rejected the argument, saying the Right-to-Know law doesn’t have a record-retention requirement, doesn’t outlaw destruction of records and governs only whether existing records should be made public.
The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court and denied the paper’s request for an oral argument."

Monday, April 25, 2016

Why You Probably Shouldn't Say 'Eskimo'; NPR, 4/24/16

Rebecca Hersher, NPR; Why You Probably Shouldn't Say 'Eskimo' :
"According to the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, linguists believe the word Eskimo actually came from the French word esquimaux, meaning one who nets snowshoes. Netting snowshoes is the highly-precise way that Arctic peoples built winter footwear by tightly weaving, or netting, sinew from caribou or other animals across a wooden frame.
But the correction to the etymological record came too late to rehabilitate the word Eskimo. The word's racist history means most people in Canada and Greenland still prefer other terms. The most widespread is Inuit, which means simply, "people." The singular, which means "person," is Inuk.
Of course, as with so many words sullied by the crimes of colonialism, not everyone agrees on what to do with Eskimo. Many Native Alaskans still refer to themselves as Eskimos, in part because the word Inuit isn't part of the Yupik languages of Alaska and Siberia."

Captain America: Civil War viral video debates the 'Avengers impact', Entertainment Weekly, 4/23/16

Nick Romano, Entertainment Weekly; Captain America: Civil War viral video debates the 'Avengers impact' :
"In a viral video produced as a news segment, Everhart asks, “Our super-powered advocates have intervened time and time again in international incidents to great effect, but who accounts for the devestation they leave behind?”
Pointing to the infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. by the villainous Hydra (the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier), political correspondent Will Adams responded, “The question for me, Christine, isn’t if — or even should — our heroes be allowed to operate independently, it’s why shouldn’t they?”
“In most of the movies, there’s no question who we should be siding with,” Chris Evans told EW. “We all agree Nazis are bad, aliens from space are bad. But this movie’s the first time where you really have two points of view. It becomes a question of morality and I don’t think [Cap] has ever been so uncertain with what right and wrong is.”"

Cassandra Clare Created a Fantasy Realm and Aims to Maintain Her Rule; New York Times, 4/23/16

Penelope Green, New York Times; Cassandra Clare Created a Fantasy Realm and Aims to Maintain Her Rule:
"The place Ms. Clare occupies in publishing — and the work she does to keep herself there — is emblematic of the burdens and boons fan culture bestows on so many fantasy authors. Deeply possessive of the characters Ms. Clare has created, the fans can turn on her for plot directions they don’t approve of, or for the ways in which the television show diverges from the books. (Ms. Clare has no role in the TV series.)
Fantitlement, as this phenomenon is known, has raised her fortunes while at times it has bedeviled her, as it has so many of her peers. Laura Miller, a books and culture columnist at Slate who has written about fan culture, likened Ms. Clare’s experiences to that of George R. R. Martin, the “Game of Thrones” author whose fans grew so angry at his publishing pace that some created a blog, “Finish the Book, George.”"

Turkey’s Crackdown on Critics of Erdogan Snares Dutch Journalist; New York Times, 4/24/16

Tim Arango, New York Times; Turkey’s Crackdown on Critics of Erdogan Snares Dutch Journalist:
"[Ebru Umar, a Dutch journalist] is the latest on a growing list of journalists, academics, cartoonists and others — nearly 2,000 cases have been filed in Turkish courts — who have faced the Turkish justice system for insulting Mr. Erdogan. The crime carries a sentence of four years in prison. Ms. Umar was detained just as European leaders, including Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, were wrapping up a visit to Turkey to highlight progress in its pact with the European Union over the migrant crisis.
Turkey’s clampdown on the news media has increasingly become intertwined with Europe’s attempts to cooperate with Turkey on the migrant issue. European leaders, especially Ms. Merkel, are facing criticism that they are betraying European values in a bid to win over Mr. Erdogan."

Timbuktu's 'Badass Librarians': Checking Out Books Under Al-Qaida's Nose; NPR, All Things Considered, 4/23/16

NPR, All Things Considered; Timbuktu's 'Badass Librarians': Checking Out Books Under Al-Qaida's Nose:
"Librarian Abdel Kader Haidara organized and oversaw a secret plot to smuggle 350,000 medieval manuscripts out of Timbuktu. Joshua Hammer chronicled Haidara's story in the book The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. Hammer spoke with NPR's Michel Martin about how a librarian became an "operator.""

Europe’s Web Privacy Rules: Bad for Google, Bad for Everyone; New York Times, 4/25/16

Daphne Keller and Bruce D. Brown, New York Times; Europe’s Web Privacy Rules: Bad for Google, Bad for Everyone:
"Privacy is a real issue, and shouldn’t be ignored in the Internet age. But applying those national laws to the Internet needs to be handled with more nuance and concern. These developments should not be driven only by privacy regulators. State departments, trade and justice ministries and telecom regulators in France and other European countries should be demanding a place at the table. So should free-expression advocates.
One day, international agreements may sort this all out. But we shouldn’t Balkanize the Internet in the meantime. Once we’ve erected barriers online, we might not be able to tear them down."

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Is Open Access To Research Biden's Answer To Curing Cancer?; Forbes, 4/22/16

Lindsey Tepe, Forbes; Is Open Access To Research Biden's Answer To Curing Cancer? :
"Vice President Joe Biden sees hope beyond the horizon for cancer research. As the man tapped by President Obama to tackle the disease with a new “cancer moonshot,” Biden addressed the nation’s leading cancer experts at their annual research meeting this week by invoking an example from outer space—the Hubble Telescope—and laying out an exciting vision for open research in the process.
The Hubble Space Telescope mission promised to bring into focus faraway objects, celestial bodies beyond the view of astronomers. But when it was first launched in 1990, a faulty mirror blurred the telescope’s vision—it wasn’t until three years later that the NASA team was able, using tiny mirrors, to improve its sight and take its first, sharp photographs of the universe. With the addition of improved spectrograph technology a few short years later, the team was able to improve its search for supermassive black holes...
Openness isn’t just an argument for the public interest, though perhaps that’s where it starts. Taxpayers in the United States currently fund almost $5 billion in cancer research annually, with an additional $800 million in the President’s Budget for fiscal year 2017 to support cancer research. Right now, the results of that research are overwhelmingly published in closed journals that can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars to access. When even Harvard can’t keep pace with the rising cost of journal subscriptions, just imagine what that means for everyone else.
Quoting an op-ed published on Monday in Wired by Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley, Biden asked the researchers assembled to imagine if, instead, we broke down these barriers to cancer research and made the findings of our public investment openly available to all. Establishing a system of open access—free, immediate access to research articles online, coupled with legal permissions to reuse it—holds the potential to address distorted priorities built into this closed system for publication."

Pennsylvania Announces Open Data Portal; Government Technology, 4/18/16

Colin Wood, Government Technology; Pennsylvania Announces Open Data Portal:
"Pennsylvania is renewing its commitment to transparency.
On April 18, Gov. Tom Wolf, who assumed office in January, signed an executive order to create an open data portal. The new portal is mandated to contain downloadable, machine-readable data, a feature not offered by the state’s existing transparency site called PennWATCH. The state Office of Administration is also mandated to help agencies find their most valuable data sets...
The commonwealth’s data portal efforts are to be led by Julie Snyder, director of the Office of Data and Digital Technology at the Office of Administration. By working closely with the state’s agencies, civic hacker community, universities and cities, she will identify which data sets are most useful to be unlocked first, said Sharon Minnich, secretary of the Office of Administration. To develop its plan, Minnich said, Pennsylvania not only looked around the nation to spot best practices, but also assessed plans closer to home, asking Pittsburgh for advice.
“There’s a lot of open data out there that doesn’t necessarily get downloaded, so we want to make sure we put out the most valuable information,” she said. “In speaking to the universities, there really were a broad spectrum of interests. It’s going to depend on what the use cases would be for those data sets we would publish.”"

Gov. Wolf signs open data executive order;, 4/18/16

Juliana Reyes,; Gov. Wolf signs open data executive order:
"Four years after Mayor Michael Nutter signed an open data executive order for the City of Philadelphia, Gov. Tom Wolf is signing one for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“Our goal,” Wolf said in a statement, “is to make data available in order to engage citizens, create economic opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs, and develop innovative policy solutions that improve program delivery and streamline operations.”
As part of the order, the state will form an advisory committee and launch an open data portal. The state aims to launch the portal in August, where it says it will post data in a machine-readable format. The first datasets slated for release will be focused on Wolf’s goals, said Office of Administration Secretary Sharon Minnich.
The order will be carried out by Julie Snyder, director of the Office of Data and Digital Technology. Snyder, the former chief information officer of the Department of Environmental Protection, reports to Minnich."

USPTO appeals to Supreme Court for ruling on racially tinged trademarks; Ars Technica, 4/22/16

Joe Mullin, Ars Technica; USPTO appeals to Supreme Court for ruling on racially tinged trademarks:
"In December, a court case brought by Portland-based Asian American rock band "The Slants" led to what could be a major change in US trademark law. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overruled the US Patent and Trademark Office, which had refused to give the band a trademark, citing a law barring "disparaging" marks.
The battle isn't quite over, though. Patent Office lawyers have appealed to the Supreme Court, asking them to consider the case. If the Supreme Court takes up the case and reverses the Federal Circuit—something the high court has not hesitated to do in recent patent cases—the USPTO will retain its ability to quash disparaging trademarks.
Either way, the results of the case will have repercussions for other owners of controversial trademarks—most notably, the Washington Redskins. The football team was stripped of its trademark rights after years of litigation but is continuing its fight at the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit."

A Tale of Two Chickens; Sustainable Food Trust, 4/22/16

Sustainable Food Trust; A Tale of Two Chickens:
"Debuting at The True Cost of American Food Conference last week in San Francisco, A Tale of Two Chickens is a short film which illustrates how we are paying a high price for food in hidden ways and why we need true cost accounting in our food and farming systems."

The ‘deep and disturbing decline’ in global press freedom; Washington Post, 4/20/16

Niraj Chokshi, Washington Post; The ‘deep and disturbing decline’ in global press freedom:
"For the first time in more than a decade, the press is freer in Africa than in the Americas. Yet a global "climate of fear and tension" continues to erode press freedom around the world, according to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.
The group's 2016 World Press Freedom Index reveals a "deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels." Global press freedom violations are up 14 percent since 2013, according to its scoring system.
“The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments, and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests," the group's secretary general, Christophe Deloire, said in a statement."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Google Case Ends, but Copyright Fight Goes On; Publishers Weekly, 4/22/16

Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly; Google Case Ends, but Copyright Fight Goes On:
"In a statement, Authors Guild officials called the Supreme Court’s denial a “colossal loss” for authors and bemoaned the “expansion of fair use” in the digital age. Executive director Mary Rasenberger suggested that the courts in the Google case were “blinded” by the “public-benefit arguments.” And Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson added that the Supreme Court’s denial was “further proof that we’re witnessing a vast redistribution of wealth from the creative sector to the tech sector.”
Others, however, including public advocacy group Public KnowIedge hailed the end of the litigation. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let the Second Circuit’s ruling stand reflects what we have long said, that fair use is a powerful and flexible doctrine that enables not only new works, but also innovative uses of existing works," said Raza Panjwani, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge. "This denial will hopefully lead to new efforts to expand our access to culture and knowledge through digital formats.”
Jonathan Band, an attorney for the library community agrees. "I don't know if anyone else will create another search database for books," he told PW, "but others will create search databases for other sorts of materials, to the benefit of public and the copyright owners."
But that theme—that the courts are enabling the tech sector to unfairly build its value off the backs of creators—has become an animating principle in a copyright policy fight that is slowly beginning to take shape. And while the Google case may have ended in the courts, the copyright fight in the policy arena is likely just getting started...
“I think it hurts them,” [Grimmelmann] said. “The way they lost this case, by litigating this through to four resounding fair-use decisions, the last of which was written by Pierre Leval [considered the nation’s foremost jurist on fair use], it’s hard to imagine any way to lay down stronger bricks for fair use than that.”"

How Officials Distorted Flint’s Water Testing; New York Times, 4/21/16

Josh Keller and Derek Watkins, New York Times; How Officials Distorted Flint’s Water Testing:
"Local and state officials claimed for months that tests showed that Flint’s water had safe levels of lead. But the officials used flawed testing methods, making the levels of lead in the water supply appear far less dangerous than they were.
Three of those officials were charged with crimes on Wednesday, accused of covering up glaring deficiencies in two rounds of lead testing conducted in 2014 and 2015."

ESPN Finally Grows Tired of Curt Schilling’s Barbed Language; New York Times, 4/21/16

Richard Sandomir, New York Times; ESPN Finally Grows Tired of Curt Schilling’s Barbed Language:
"Andrew Shaw and Curt Schilling insulted the gay and transgender community in recent days. But how they responded afterward suggests that one of them (Shaw) comprehends the ramifications of what he did, and the other (Schilling) does not.
Shaw, a Chicago Blackhawks forward, was suspended for Game 5 of his team’s playoff series against St. Louis on Thursday night for shouting an anti-gay slur after being sent to the penalty box during Tuesday’s game.
“I get it,” he said after being disciplined by the N.H.L. “It’s 2016 now. It’s time that everyone is treated equally.”
Schilling did not choose the road to contrition after he shared a post on Facebook that was an apparent response to the North Carolina law that bars transgender people from using bathrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond with their birth genders. On his blog, he snarled at “all of you out there who are just dying to be offended so you can create some sort of faux cause to rally behind.”"

PNC pulls plug on coin-counting machines; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/22/16

Patricia Sabatini, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; PNC pulls plug on coin-counting machines:
"The move follows a report by NBC’s “Today” show early this month that found Penny Arcade brand coin-counting machines it tested at various TD Bank branches were cheating customers by up to 15 percent. After counting the coins, the machines spit out a receipt redeemable at the teller window.
Toronto-based TD Bank, with U.S. headquarters in Cherry Hill, N.J., quickly removed the machines from service...
On Tuesday, TD Bank was sued on behalf of hundreds of thousands of customers allegedly shortchanged by the machines.
The suit, filed in state court in Manhattan by Jeffrey Feinman, claims Mr. Feinman put in $26 worth of coins but got a receipt for $25.44. A second time he deposited $31 and received $30.05, the suit claimed.
TD Bank declined comment on pending litigation, which charges the bank with fraud, negligence, breach of contract and false advertising."

How to Explain Mansplaining; New York Times, 4/20/16

Julia Baird, New York Times; How to Explain Mansplaining:
"The manologue takes many forms, but is characterized by the proffering of words not asked for, of views not solicited and of arguments unsought. It is underwritten by the doubtful assumption that the audience will naturally be interested, and that this interest will not flag. And that when it comes to speeches or commentary, longer is better.
The prevalence of the manologue is deeply rooted in the fact that men take, and are allocated, more time to talk in almost every professional setting. Women self-censor, edit, apologize for speaking. Men expound.
Of course, some women can be equally long-winded, but it is far less common...
It is also clear that the more powerful men become, the more they speak. This would seem a natural correlation, but the same is not true for women. The reason for this, according to a Yale study, is that women worry about “negative consequences” — that is, a backlash — if they are more voluble. Troublingly, the study found that their fears were well founded, as both male and female listeners were quick to think these women were talking too much, too aggressively. In other words, men are rewarded for speaking, while women are punished."

Bystander Revolution: Take The Power Out Of Bullying

Bystander Revolution: Take The Power Out Of Bullying:
"What is Bystander Revolution?
Simple acts of kindness, courage, and inclusion anyone can use to take the power out of bullying.
Whether you're feeling afraid, ready to help, stuck, or inspired to change, you can find advice from someone who has dealt with a similar issue. Search by problem or solution to find tips from people who have been targets, people who have been bystanders, and people who have bullied.
Try one of the ideas. Share one of your own. You can be of real help right away. And if these ideas spread and become habits, it could change the dynamics forever.
Mission and History
Bystander Revolution was founded by author and parent MacKenzie Bezos to create a source of direct, peer-to-peer advice about practical things individuals can do to help defuse bullying. The ultimate goal is the discussion and spread of simple habits of leadership, kindness, and inclusion."

How do we make the Guardian a better place for conversation?; Guardian, 4/22/16

Katharine Viner, Guardian; How do we make the Guardian a better place for conversation? :
"Last year, a few weeks before I started as the new editor-in-chief of the Guardian, I read a review in the New York Times of Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. The book looks at the emergence of public humiliations on social media, and the review ended by saying that “the actual problem is that none of the men running those bazillion-dollar internet companies can think of one single thing to do about all the men who send women death threats”. Since I was about to become the first woman to run the Guardian (not, sad to say, a bazillion-dollar internet company), I decided that I had a responsibility to try to do something about it.
That’s why, over the past two weeks, the Guardian has published a series of articles looking at online abuse, with more to follow in the coming months. You might have read our interview with Monica Lewinsky in which she described the trauma of being subjected to what could be called the first great internet shaming, and how she still has to think of the consequences of talking about her past – whether by misspeaking, she could trigger a whole new round of abuse.
Lewinsky’s experience has prompted her to tackle online harassment head on: she is now a respected anti-bullying advocate. But as we’ve considered online abuse in all its forms – the rape and death threats, the sexist, racist and ad hominem attacks, the widespread lack of empathy – it has become clear that some of the institutions that most need to follow Lewinsky’s lead are not; that police and tech companies are failing to keep on top of the problem, and victims are being abandoned to their abusers.
We’ve called our series the Web We Want. It’s an attempt to imagine what the digital world could and should be: a public space that reflects our humanity, our civility and who we want to be. It asks big questions of all of us: as platform providers, as users and readers, as people who write things online that they would never say in real life."

Monica Lewinsky: ‘The shame sticks to you like tar’; Guardian, 4/22/16

Jon Ronson, Guardian; Monica Lewinsky: ‘The shame sticks to you like tar’ :
"The reason why she finally agreed to meet me, despite her anxieties, is that the Guardian is highlighting the issue of online harassment through its series The web we want – an endeavour she approves of. “Destigmatising the shame around online harassment is the first step,” she says. “Well, the first step is recognising there’s a problem.”
Lewinsky was once among the 20th century’s most humiliated people, ridiculed across the world. Now she’s a respected and perceptive anti-bullying advocate. She gives talks at Facebook, and at business conferences, on how to make the internet more compassionate. She helps out at anti-bullying organisations like Bystander Revolution, a site that offers video advice on what to do if you’re afraid to go to school, or if you’re a victim of cyberbullying...
Later, she emails to explain why she didn’t walk away in the school playground – and why we read the negative comments. “I guess I was in shock,” she writes. “Psychologists speak about freezing as a response to a traumatic event. I was probably more afraid of the imagined pain of being completely outcast than the pain I was experiencing in that moment. Maybe there’s a twisted need to read the comments as a form of self-preservation, to be prepared for what may come down the pike.”"

Friday, April 22, 2016

Captain America: Civil War – conflicted heroes and a clash of philosophies; Guardian, 4/21/16

Mark D. White, Guardian; Captain America: Civil War – conflicted heroes and a clash of philosophies:
"These days the world feels precarious. It seems we face new threats every day from extremist forces both domestic and international. At the same time, we’re developing new ways to detect and predict these threats, using advanced surveillance and drone technology to enhance our safety and security – but at what cost to our liberties and freedoms? Must we choose which of these we value most and give up on the other?
Some of our favorite superheroes can help us think about this timeless conflict. In Marvel Comics’s Civil War storyline, the latest movie version of which is released on 6 May, Captain America, Iron Man and the rest of the Marvel heroes face off over the same issues of liberty and security that we face in the real world every day, and they find the answers neither easy nor simple.
As it happens, these very same issues are discussed by moral philosophers in terms of the work of classic figures such as Aristotle, Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant. This makes it irresistible for a philosophy professor who is also a lifelong comics fan to write a book drawing out the relationships between the fictional superhero battles in Civil War, the all-too-real conflicts we deal with in the real world, and the underlying philosophical ideas they share."

How to Be Good: Why you can’t teach human values to artificial intelligence; Slate, 4/20/16

Adam Elkus, Slate; How to Be Good: Why you can’t teach human values to artificial intelligence:
"As Collins pointed out, computers acquire human knowledge and abilities from the fact that they are embedded in human social contexts. A Japanese elder care personal robot, for example, is only able to act in a way acceptable to Japanese senior citizens because its programmers understand Japanese society. So talk of machines and human knowledge, values, and goals is frustratingly circular.
Which brings us back to Russell’s optimistic assumptions that computer scientists can sidestep these social questions through superior algorithms and engineering efforts. Russell is an engineer, not a humanities scholar. When he talks about “tradeoffs” and “value functions,” he assumes that a machine ought to be an artificial utilitarian. Russell also suggests that machines ought to learn a cross-section of human values from human cultural and media products. So does that mean a machine could learn about American race relations by watching the canonical pro-Ku Klux Klan and pro-Confederacy film The Birth of a Nation?
But Russell’s biggest problem lies in the very much “values”-based question of whose values ought to determine the values of the machine. One does not imagine too much overlap between hard-right Donald Trump supporters and hard-left Bernie Sanders supporters on some key social and political questions, for example. And the other (artificial) elephant in the room is the question of what gives Western, well-off, white male cisgender scientists such as Russell the right to determine how the machine encodes and develops human values, and whether or not everyone ought to have a say in determining the way that Russell’s hypothetical A.I. makes tradeoffs...
The harder problem is the thorny question of which humans ought to have the social, political, and economic power to make A.I. obey their values, and no amount of data-driven algorithms is going to solve it."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mitsubishi Motors Admits Falsifying Fuel Economy Tests To Make Emissions Levels Look More Favorable; Reuters via Huffington Post, 4/20/16

Reuters via Huffington Post; Mitsubishi Motors Admits Falsifying Fuel Economy Tests To Make Emissions Levels Look More Favorable:
"Mitsubishi Motors Corp said it falsified fuel economy test data to make emissions levels look more favorable, and its shares slumped more than 15 percent, wiping $1.2 billion from its market value on Wednesday.
Tetsuro Aikawa, president of Japan’s sixth-largest automaker by market value, bowed in apology at a news conference in Tokyo for what is the biggest scandal at Mitsubishi Motors since a defect cover-up over a decade ago."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Courage To Inform: Our mission requires brave librarians; Library Journal, 4/18/16

John N. Berry III, Library Journal; The Courage To Inform: Our mission requires brave librarians:
"In this election year, public libraries are being attacked. Robocalls to voters in Illinois’s Plainfield Public Library District were financed by Americans for Prosperity, the national conservative political action group founded by David Koch and contributed to by him and his brother Charles, co-owners of Koch Industries. The calls exaggerated the cost to the average homeowner of the $39 million bonds on the ballot for a new library building.
The library valiantly responded, “Here at the Library, helping people access accurate information is a critical part of what we do. For that reason, the planning process for the referenda included 22 public meetings over eight months, a telephone survey, and online feedback surveys. Every step of the process was documented on the Building & Expansion Planning web page, with supporting documentation available.” The library blog posts addressed all the questions about the bonds as well as the sources of misinformation, yet the robocalls continued, and the bond measure was defeated.
To those who have decided not to get too close to election issues and controversies, I understand, and in your situation I might make the same choice. I only wish the conditions and forces that prevent a library from informing the electorate didn’t exist. In America today, however, anyone who offers data that runs contrary to the views of voters energized by the current rhetoric of this campaign has to face the probability that the information will be challenged. Considering the damage to the library that it can cause, it will take a brave librarian to proceed.
To those who do choose to go forth, take strength from knowing that nearly two centuries of our professional history support your actions. You are carrying out the mission libraries were founded to accomplish."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Have Comment Sections on News Media Websites Failed?; New York Times, 4/18/16

[1000th post since blog started in 2010]
Room for Debate, New York Times; Have Comment Sections on News Media Websites Failed? :
"Many newspapers and online media companies have begun disabling comment sections because of widespread abuse and obscenity. Of course, that vitriol is not meted out equally: The Guardian analyzed its comments and found the 10 most abused writers of the past decade were female and/or black. (The Times moderates comments in an effort to keep them on-topic and not abusive.)
Have comment sections — once thought to be a democratizing force in the media — failed?"

We will look back at cyber-harassment as a disgrace – if we act now; Guardian, 4/15/16

Danielle Citron, Guardian; We will look back at cyber-harassment as a disgrace – if we act now:
"Attitudes towards online abuse have undergone a sea change over the last decade. In the past, cyber-harassment – often a perfect storm of threats, impersonations, defamation, and privacy invasions directed at an individual – was routinely dismissed as “no big deal”.
So it was for one Yale law student. Starting in 2007, on an online discussion board, a cyber-mob falsely accused her of having herpes and sleeping with her dean. Anonymous posters described how they would rape her; they chronicled her daily whereabouts and prior jobs. Yet law enforcement told the student to ignore the attacks because “boys will be boys”. Officers advised her to “clean up” her cyber-reputation, as if she could control what appeared about her. Trivialising online abuse and blaming victims was the norm.
Today, the public has a deeper appreciation of victims’ suffering. As advocacy groups like the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative have shown, and as society has come to recognise, the costs of cyber-harassment are steep. Because searches of victims’ names prominently display the abuse, victims have lost their jobs. They have had difficulty finding employment. Employers do not interview victims because hiring people with damaged online reputations is risky. Victims struggle with anxiety and depression. They withdraw from online engagement to avoid further abuse. Women, especially younger women, are more often targeted than men, but in either case, the abuse often has a sexually demeaning and sexually threatening cast.
Legal developments reflect a growing understanding of cyber-harassment’s harms. In the US, 27 states have criminalised revenge porn – also known as non-consensual pornography."

The terror of swatting: how the law is tracking down high-tech prank callers; Guardian, 4/15/16

Dan Tynan, Guardian; The terror of swatting: how the law is tracking down high-tech prank callers:
"The first 911 call came at 4.30pm. The caller told dispatchers that a man, woman, and boy had been shot and another child was being held hostage. Police responded in force, sending more than half a dozen cruisers and emergency vehicles to a sprawling house in the affluent Atlanta suburb of Johns Creek.
But when they arrived there were no signs of a shooting; inside, police found a nanny with two small children. When the mother returned from shopping she found her home surrounded by emergency vehicles. The father, who had been on a plane, landed at Atlanta’s international airport to see his house on TV, with news reports declaring that his wife and children had been shot.
They were victims of a swatting attack, a malicious form of hoax where special weapons and tactics (Swat) teams are called to a victim’s home under false pretenses, with potentially deadly results...
In November 2015, around the same time that reports about Obnoxious became public, congresswoman Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts, introduced a bill that made swatting a federal crime. (The bill has been referred to the House subcommittee on crime, terrorism, homeland security, and investigations.)...
In March, Clark addressed the second part of the problem – the lack of law enforcement expertise – by introducing the Cybercrime Enforcement Training Assistance Act, which would allocate $20m a year to train local police departments on how to investigate and prosecute cybercrime."

UC Davis Tries to Scrub Pepper-Spray Incident From Web, Which Means It’s Now the First Result on Google; New York Magazine, 4/15/16

Brian Feldman, New York Magazine; UC Davis Tries to Scrub Pepper-Spray Incident From Web, Which Means It’s Now the First Result on Google:
"An incredibly effective way to get people to talk about something online is to say that you don’t want people to talk about it. This is known as the Streisand Effect, so called after Barbra Streisand, in 2003, tried to get outlets to stop publishing pictures of her house.
The latest very expensive and profoundly funny example of this phenomenon comes from UC Davis, which spent a whopping $175,000 trying to bury posts about the infamous 2011 incident in which a campus police officer pepper-sprayed protesting students. According to the Sacramento Bee, the university was very concerned about the search-engine results that were being served up following the event, as well as social media posts, and so they hired a number of consultants to try and improve the situation."

Hardly Anyone Trusts The Media Anymore; Huffington Post, 4/18/16

Nick Visser, Huffington Post; Hardly Anyone Trusts The Media Anymore:
"Only 6 percent of people say they have a great deal of confidence in the press, about the same level of trust Americans have in Congress, according to a new survey released on Sunday.
The study mirrors past reports that found the public’s trust in mass media has reached historic lows, according to data gathered by the Media Insight Project, a partnership between The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute. The report found faith in the press was just slightly higher than the 4 percent of people who said they trusted Congress.
Alongside the dire findings, the report found respondents valued accuracy above all else, with 85 percent of people saying it was extremely important to avoid errors in coverage. Timeliness and clarity followed closely, with 76 percent and 72 percent respectively saying those attributes were imperative among media sources."

Obama’s Secrecy Problem; Slate, 4/15/16

Fred Kaplan, Slate; Obama’s Secrecy Problem:
"Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, told me Thursday, “This is a time of particularly promising ferment over secrecy policy. There is a recognition, even within the national-security apparatus, that the classification system has overreached and needs to be pruned back.” Yet by all measures, the bureaucracies persist in resisting this pruning, Congress won’t allocate the money for the shears, and the president hasn’t mustered the full attention and commitment that the task requires. Information may want to be free, but Washington has it wrapped in a tangle."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Oxford professor calls for European ethical codes on patient data; Guardian, 4/12/16

Paul Hill, Guardian; Oxford professor calls for European ethical codes on patient data:
"Prof Luciano Floridi, director of research at Oxford University’s Internet Institute believes the time has come for new European ethical codes to govern “data donation” and its use for medical research.
He says debate in Europe over individual privacy versus societal benefits of shared data has been “swinging like a pendulum between two extremes”. Medical research with big data should be part of the future of Europe, according to Floridi, “not something we need to export to other countries because it is not do-able here”.
“The patient has to be informed and willing to share the information that researchers are collecting – for the benefit of the patient and anyone else affected by the same problems,” said Floridi, who is also chair of the Ethics Advisory Board of the European Medical Information Framework, the largest EU project on the unification of biomedical databases...
Floridi, who has advised Google on the ethics of information and the right to be forgotten, proposes the creation of two new ethical codes.
The first would govern the use and re-use of biomedical data in Europe – an ethical code from the practitioners’ perspective.
The second would relate to “data donation” and the informed choice of an individual to share personal information for research."

Panama Papers: inside the Guardian's investigation into offshore secrets; Guardian, 4/16/16

Juliette Garside, Guardian; Panama Papers: inside the Guardian's investigation into offshore secrets:
"The security guard handed over a key with a small yellow label. The Guardian’s secure room had housed the team that in 2013 worked through data leaked by Edward Snowden to expose unchecked surveillance by British and American spy agencies.
Now it was to be home to a small group of journalists gathered from all corners of the newsroom to work on a project code-named Prometheus. Our investigation into the murky world of tax havens, underpinned by the biggest leak in history, would eventually surface eight months later with the publication of the Panama Papers."

Captain America: Civil War reaction: 7 non-spoilery thoughts; Entertainment Weekly, 4/15/16

Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly; Captain America: Civil War reaction: 7 non-spoilery thoughts:
"Captain America: Civil War won’t open in theaters in the U.S. until May 6, but after the Marvel film’s official world premiere on Tuesday, the internet erupted with reactions that seemed to range from favorable to euphoric. Here are seven non-spoilery observations about the movie, which pits Captain America against Iron Man, introduces Black Panther, and finally finds a reason for Scarlet Witch to exist.
1. Civil War does Batman v Superman better than Batman v Superman.
Superhero Ethical Debates: So hot right now! Where Batman v Superman used the destruction of Metropolis in Man of Steel to pit its two heroes against each other, Civil War sees the world reacting against the Avengers, partially because of the calamitous final battle in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But while Batman v Superman mostly kept its characters apart in the long lead-up to their showdown, Civil War takes time to let Captain America and Iron Man argue their respective cases. It really is an ethical debate."

Tweaking Genes to Save Species; New York Times, 4/16/16

Hillary Rosner, New York Times; Tweaking Genes to Save Species:
"This kind of genetic meddling makes many environmentalists deeply uncomfortable. Manipulating nature’s DNA seems a hugely risky and ethically fraught way to help save the natural world. And yet, we may need to accept the risks...
But many people — and many conservation biologists — argue that it is hubris to think that we can plan how this interference will unfold. History is full of examples of good intentions gone awry...
We can’t save every species, of course. The planet is losing its biodiversity at an alarming rate, and there are too many species circling the drain. Conservation professionals acknowledge that we will need to perform a sort of conservation triage, a painful process of deciding which species to try to rescue and which to let go. As an increasing number slip away, we will face ever more difficult ethical decisions — not just about which species we want to save, but how far we are willing to go to save them, and even what “saving” them really means."

The Right to Privacy for Children Online; New York Times, 4/15/16

Teddy Wayne, New York Time; The Right to Privacy for Children Online:
"Nevertheless, it is striking that both famous billionaires, aware of how staunchly they must defend their own privacy (Beyoncé, for instance, rarely gives interviews), seemingly have few qualms about sacrificing their children’s."

Cirque Du Soleil Scraps Shows In Protest Over North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law; Huffington Post, 4/15/16

Ryan Grenoble, Huffington Post; Cirque Du Soleil Scraps Shows In Protest Over North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law:
"In a statement published Friday on Facebook, Cirque du Soleil announced three separate tours of two different shows would be canceled, and called HB 2 a “regression to ensuring human rights for all.”
#CirqueduSoleil is opposed to discrimination in any form. Due to #HB2, we are canceling shows in #NorthCarolina:
“Cirque du Soleil believes in equality for all,” the statement added. “It is a principle that guides us with both our employees and our customers. We behave as change agents to reach our ultimate goal of making a better world with our actions and our productions.”"

Couple Threatened With Jail For Overdue Library Books; Huffington Post, 4/15/16

Michael McLaughlin, Huffington Post; Couple Threatened With Jail For Overdue Library Books:
"A Michigan couple faces more than three months in jail and hundreds of dollars in penalties for two overdue library books.
Catherine and Melvin Duren were arraigned Thursday in Lenawee County Court on a misdemeanor charge of failure to return rental property. If convicted, they could be sentenced to 93 days in jail and fined $500 for a Dr. Seuss title that’s missing and for a novel that they returned late.
The county prosecutor said the case is necessary to protect taxpayers’ money. The Durens said they’re being unfairly harassed over a small mistake."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Documents Show Oil Industry Even More Evil Than We Thought; Huffington Post, 4/14/16

Chris D'Angelo, Huffington Post; New Documents Show Oil Industry Even More Evil Than We Thought:
"In 1968, a pair of scientists from Stanford Research Institute wrote a report for the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association for America’s oil and natural gas industry. They warned that “man is now engaged in a vast geophysical experiment with his environment, the earth” — one that “may be the cause of serious world-wide environmental changes.”
The scientists went on: “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis.”
That 48-year-old report, which accurately foreshadowed what’s now happening, is among a trove of public documents uncovered and released Wednesday by the Washington-based Center for International Environmental Law. Taken together, documents that the organization has assembled show that oil executives were well aware of the serious climate risks associated with carbon dioxide emissions decades earlier than previously documented — and they covered it up...
The Center for International Environmental Law, or CIEL, a nonprofit legal organization, said it traced the industry’s coordinated, decades-long cover-up back to a 1946 meeting in Los Angeles by combing through scientific articles, industry histories and other documents.
It was during that meeting that the oil executives decided to form a group — the Smoke and Fumes Committee — to “fund scientific research into smog and other air pollution issues and, significantly, use that research to inform and shape public opinion about environmental issues,” CIEL says on a new website devoted to the documents."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

‘The Trump Effect’: Hatred, Fear And Bullying On The Rise In Schools; Huffington Post, 4/13/16

Christina Wilkie, Huffington Post; ‘The Trump Effect’: Hatred, Fear And Bullying On The Rise In Schools:
"It was only a matter of time before kids started picking up the aggressive, divisive language that’s become a hallmark of the 2016 presidential campaign.
According to a new report by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center titled “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on our Nation’s Schools,” the race is stoking fears and racial tensions in America’s classrooms...
The report identified two troubling trends: more openly racist and vicious bullying of minorities, and more fear and anxiety among immigrants and minorities about what would happen to them if certain candidates for president are elected.
The survey did not name specific candidates, but teachers named Trump, the Republican front-runner, in more than 1,000 comments — five times more often than they mentioned any of the other candidates."

Intel chief weighs trimming of classification system; CNN, 4/13/16

Laura Koran, CNN; Intel chief weighs trimming of classification system:
"The top U.S. intelligence official is considering eliminating the lowest tier of classification for government information.
The possible change comes amid a heated controversy over the so-called over-classification of materials and an FBI probe into whether classified information on Clinton's private email server was mishandled.
In a recent memo, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asked the heads of the country's intelligence agencies "whether the CONFIDENTIAL classification level can be eliminated" from agency guides as well as "the negative impacts this might have on mission success."
In his memo, Clapper said the change "could promote transparency," specifically noting how the United Kingdom "successfully eliminated CONFIDENTIAL without impact in April 2014.""

Lifting the Patent Barrier to New Drugs and Energy Sources; New York Times, 4/12/16

Eduardo Porter, New York Times; Lifting the Patent Barrier to New Drugs and Energy Sources:
"Malaria has preyed on humans for centuries. Hundreds of thousands of children die each year from the disease. Considering the market’s size, why haven’t pharmaceutical companies rushed to develop a vaccine against the deadly parasite that causes it?
The answer is easy: There is no money to be made from a vaccine for poor children who could not possibly pay for inoculation.
Last year, GlaxoSmithKline finally introduced the world’s first malaria vaccine for large pilot tests among African children. The move, however, is not an endorsement of the profit motive as a spur for innovation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation picked up much of the tab. And Glaxo does not expect to make money on its investment.
The lack of interest of the pharmaceutical industry, which generates huge profits protected by a web of patents enforced around the world, raises an important question.
Do we need a different way to spur innovation and disseminate new technologies quickly around the world? Are patents, which reward inventors by providing them with a government-guaranteed monopoly over their inventions for many years, the best way to encourage new inventions?"

Whatever Happened to Ethics?; Huffington Post, 4/13/16

Tom Allon, Huffington Post; Whatever Happened to Ethics? :
"It’s the underpinning of all knowledge and behavior, yet no one teaches ethics anymore. For the last five decades we have seen the waning of civics classes in high schools and ethics classes in colleges. In the corporate world, learning ethics has become an anachronistic notion...
Ethics is something that was taught in ancient Greece and was once neatly woven into our secondary education system. Ethics classes, like civics classes, are now rarely found on the high school level in this country. Isn’t it time to resurrect this again?...
So where do we go from here? I am a firm believer that mandatory ethics classes for all professions are one smart route. All those involved in government - from staffers to lobbyists to consultants to elected leaders - need to take continuing ethical education each year. Lawyers and doctors must do ongoing training to keep their licenses, so why not those in the political world?...
It’s time for ethics classes for our leaders.
And for our children. Perhaps as early as pre-K so we can ensure the next generation behaves better than this one."

The dark side of Guardian comments; Guardian, 4/12/16

Becky Gardiner, Mahana Mansfield, Ian Anderson, Josh Holder, Daan Louter and Monica Ulmanu, Guardian; The dark side of Guardian comments:
"Comments allow readers to respond to an article instantly, asking questions, pointing out errors, giving new leads. At their best, comment threads are thoughtful, enlightening, funny: online communities where readers interact with journalists and others in ways that enrich the Guardian’s journalism.
But at their worst, they are something else entirely.
The Guardian was not the only news site to turn comments on, nor has it been the only one to find that some of what is written “below the line” is crude, bigoted or just vile. On all news sites where comments appear, too often things are said to journalists and other readers that would be unimaginable face to face – the Guardian is no exception.
New research into our own comment threads provides the first quantitative evidence for what female journalists have long suspected: that articles written by women attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men, regardless of what the article is about.
Although the majority of our regular opinion writers are white men, we found that those who experienced the highest levels of abuse and dismissive trolling were not. The 10 regular writers who got the most abuse were eight women (four white and four non-white) and two black men. Two of the women and one of the men were gay. And of the eight women in the “top 10”, one was Muslim and one Jewish.
And the 10 regular writers who got the least abuse? All men...
At the Guardian, we felt it was high time to examine the problem rather than turn away.
We decided to treat the 70m comments that have been left on the Guardian – and in particular the comments that have been blocked by our moderators – as a huge data set to be explored rather than a problem to be brushed under the carpet.
This is what we discovered."

Making the Most of Clinical Trial Data; New York Times, 4/12/16

Editorial Board, New York Times; Making the Most of Clinical Trial Data:
"Some researchers may oppose sharing data they have worked hard to gather, or worry that others will analyze it incorrectly. Creating opportunities for collaboration on subsequent analysis may help alleviate these concerns.
Of course, any data sharing must take patients’ privacy into account; patients must be informed before joining a clinical trial that their data may be shared and researchers must ensure that the data cannot be used to identify individuals.
By making data available and supporting analysis, foundations, research institutions and drug companies can increase the benefit of clinical trials and pave the way for new findings that could help patients."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ALA Releases State of America’s Libraries Report 2016 (Includes List of Most Challenged Books of 2015); Library Journal, 4/11/16

Gary Price, Library Journal; ALA Releases State of America’s Libraries Report 2016 (Includes List of Most Challenged Books of 2015) :
"Out of 275 challenges recorded by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, the “Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2015” are:
Looking for Alaska, by John Green Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
The Holy Bible Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
Habibi, by Craig Thompson Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”)."

Monday, April 11, 2016

Panama Papers Leak Signals a Shift in Mainstream Journalism; New York Times, 4/10/16

Jim Rutenberg, New York Times; Panama Papers Leak Signals a Shift in Mainstream Journalism:
"But the leak signaled something else that was a big deal but went unheralded: The official WikiLeaks-ization of mainstream journalism; the next step in the tentative merger between the Fourth Estate, with its relatively restrained conventional journalists, and the Fifth Estate, with the push-the-limits ethos of its blogger, hacker and journo-activist cohort, in the era of gargantuan data breaches.
Back at the dawn of this new, Big Breach journalism, The Times’s then-executive editor, Bill Keller, wondered aloud in the paper’s Sunday magazine whether “The War Logs,” a huge cache of confidential war records and diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks in conjunction with The Times, Der Spiegel, The Guardian and others, represented “some kind of cosmic triumph of transparency.” He concluded, “I suspect we have not reached a state of information anarchy, at least not yet.” That was in 2011.
Five years later, it is safe to say that we are getting much closer. This is changing the course of world history, fast. It is also changing the rules for mainstream journalists in the fierce business of unearthing secrets, and for the government and corporate officials in the fiercer business of keeping them."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Reddit Steps Up Anti-Harassment Measures With New Blocking Tool; New York Times, 4/6/16

Mike Isaac, New York Times; Reddit Steps Up Anti-Harassment Measures With New Blocking Tool:
"Reddit has in recent months started to address online abuse, and on Wednesday it took one of its bigger steps toward helping individuals gain some control over tormentors: The company said it would give people a blocking feature to shield themselves against harassment on the site, moving to prohibit abusive users from sending messages to others.
The blocking feature will build on the concept that the less exposed to negative speech users are on Reddit, the more they will want to engage with the community. That is important for the company, based in San Francisco, which aims to spread far beyond the 243 million unique monthly visitors it currently serves and break into the mainstream consciousness, much like a Facebook or a Twitter — with a similar ability to command online advertising.
The blocking tool could also serve to curtail the spread of online abuse beyond Reddit’s walls. Vitriol on the site can sometimes erupt into larger memes, spilling over into social media and other avenues and creating further repercussions. That behavior is also stoked by other digital haunts that are the favorite of trolls, including sites like 4chan and 8chan."

Obama claimed to want transparency. His actions suggest the opposite; Guardian, 3/9/16

Trevor Timm, Guardian; Obama claimed to want transparency. His actions suggest the opposite:
"The Obama administration has taken a lot of well-deserved criticism over the years for claiming to be the most transparent presidency ever while actually being remarkably opaque, but they’ve now reached a new low: newly released documents show they aggressively lobbied Congress to kill bipartisan transparency reform that was based on the administration’s own policy.
In a move open government advocates are calling “ludicrous”, the administration “strongly opposed” the passage of bipartisan Freedom of Information Act (Foia) reform behind closed doors in 2014. The bill was a modest and uncontroversial piece of legislation which attempted to modernize the law for the internet age and codify President Obama’s 2009 memo directing federal agencies to adopt a “presumption of openness”.
Through a Foia lawsuit, the Freedom of the Press Foundation (the organization I work for) obtained a six-page talking points memo that the Justice Department distributed to House members protesting virtually every aspect of the proposed legislation in incredibly harsh language – despite the fact that some of the provisions were based almost word-for-word on the Justice Department’s own supposed policy (you can see a side-by-side comparison here).
Worse, Vice’s Jason Leopold is also reporting that the administration is conducting similar lobbying efforts around this year’s attempt to reform Foia in time for the law’s 50th anniversary this summer.
This is a shameful move by an administration that is constantly touting its open government and transparency bona fides despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary."

Swim. Bike. Cheat?; New York Times, 4/8/16

Sarah Lyall, New York Times; Swim. Bike. Cheat? :
"The winners were announced: Julie Miller first, Susanne Davis second. “She didn’t come down and shake our hands,” Davis said, referring to Miller. “In my entire 20 years of racing, I’ve never had that happen. That’s when I looked at her and said: ‘Gosh, I didn’t see you. Where did you pass me?’ ”
Miller replied that she had been easily recognizable in her bright green socks and then all but ran off the awards stage, Davis said, telling Davis that she would see her at the world championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Davis compared notes with the third- and fourth-place finishers. They, too, were mystified. They had not seen Miller on the course, either.
This odd series of events eventually touched off an extraordinary feat of forensic detective work by a group of athletes who were convinced that Miller had committed what they consider the triathlon’s worst possible transgression. They believed she had deliberately cut the course and then lied about it.
Dissatisfied with the response of race officials, they methodically gathered evidence from the minutiae of her record: official race photographs, timing data, photographs from spectators along the routes, the accounts of other competitors and volunteers who saw, or did not see, Miller at various points. Much of it suggested that Miller simply could not have completed some segments of the race in the times she claimed, and all of it raised grave questions about the integrity of her results at Whistler and other races."

Exclusive: X-Men's Chris Claremont talks through five key storylines; Empire, 4/6/16

Dorian Lynskey, Empire; Exclusive: X-Men's Chris Claremont talks through five key storylines:
"A major theme of your X-Men stories was using mutants as a metaphor for other persecuted groups. Where did that idea come from?
I went to Israel for two months in 1970 and worked on a kibbutz. It affected me on levels that I hadn’t anticipated, working on a daily basis with people who were actual survivors of the Holocaust. You’d see military patrols going by every day. We would have armed volunteers walking around the property all night. It brought home international conflicts on a very personal level.
With the X-Men, were you thinking only of antisemitism or racism and homophobia as well?
It was blended in. There’s a lot of talk online now that Magneto stands in for Malcolm X and Xavier stands in for Martin Luther King, which is totally valid but for me, being an immigrant white (Claremont was born in England), to make that analogy felt incredibly presumptuous. An equivalent analogy could be made to [Israeli prime minister] Menachem Begin as Magneto, evolving through his life from a terrorist in 1947 to a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 30 years later. That evolution was something I wanted to apply to the relationship between Xavier and Magneto. It’s an evolving 150-issue arc: Magneto’s resurrection as an angry, anti-human, pro-mutant terrorist. In #150 he lashes out and the person that gets hit is Kitty Pryde, a 13-year-old kid. His shattering realisation is: "What kind of monster have I become? Has what the Nazis did to me in the Shoah made me a Nazi?" Ultimately, my goal for the character was that he would come full circle and become Xavier’s heir, as headmaster of the school and leader of team. For me he was a much more fascinating character because of his flaws and there was always a risk that he might fall from grace...
Of course, you took the idea of mutants facing genocidal hatred to extremes with Days of Future Past (X-Men #141-142), where mutants are outlawed and murdered by the Sentinels
The idea was to show our heroes why their fight is so necessary. There is a tragic cost to failure. The line we always used to describe these characters was ‘feared and hated by the world they are sworn to protect’. Their struggle is not simply to defeat the bad guys; it is to establish themselves as credible, honourable fellow citizens of the planet. The idea with Days Of Future Past was this is what’s lying in wait if you falter. If you ever needed a reason to try and try again, this is it."

Leading businesses take stand against states' new anti-LGBT laws; Guardian, 4/10/16

Edward Helmore and Matt Kessler, Guardian; Leading businesses take stand against states' new anti-LGBT laws:
"Local business leaders and educators warned that the legislation could harm the state’s competitiveness in attracting business and investment. “These assholes talk about gay women and gay men using the exact same language they were using in the 50s and 60s for segregationist purposes,” said the award-winning chef John Currence, owner of several restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi. He warned that Mississippi’s HB1523, known as the Religious Liberty Accommodation Act, would put businesses off from setting up in the state.
“When people see this kind of regressive social politics going on, it affects the quality of life”, he said. The new laws, he added, “could not be any more vile or regressive”.
Ivo Kamps, a University of Mississippi English professor, warned the law “will have a chilling effect on our ability to recruit students and faculty”, despite the university chancellor’s assurance that nothing would change...
Academics say the current legislation, combined with the Citizens United bill of 2010 that in effect gave corporations the rights of citizens, has placed corporations at the forefront of efforts to contain the spread of ideologically extreme legislation."

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Panama Papers reveal offshore secrets of China’s red nobility; Guardian, 4/6/16

Juliette Garside and David Pegg, Guardian; Panama Papers reveal offshore secrets of China’s red nobility:
"Since Monday, China’s censors have been blocking access to the unfolding revelations about its most senior political families. There are now reports of censors deleting hundreds of posts on the social networks Sina Weibo and Wechat, and some media organisations including CNN say parts of their websites have been blocked."

“A remarkable feat of collaboration”: The incredible story of how the Panama Papers came to be; The Conversation via Salon, 4/6/16

Richard Sambrook, The Conversation via Salon; “A remarkable feat of collaboration”: The incredible story of how the Panama Papers came to be:
"The ICIJ has been criticised by some on social media for not putting all the material into the open for anyone to look through. For open media evangelists this would be the most transparent action to take. However, with such a huge trove of documents, any media organisation will want to ensure they act legally and responsibly – putting the material through an editorial and legal filter before publishing.
This is one of the defining differences between professional media and open data activists. In broad terms these are literally stolen documents – can news organisations justify publishing them in the greater public interest? Will undue harm to innocent figures be caused by open publication? The public interest seems clear in this case – but without knowing what else the documents contain it is hard to make a judgement about whether they should all be placed online.
The Panama Papers – like The Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, like Wikileaks Iraq War logs and like the Snowden revelations – lifts the lid on the activities of political and business elites in ways which will be discussed for many years to come.
They are also a rich example of how investigative journalism increasingly works in the age of big data and global media. We can expect to see more leaks, more international media collaborations and more reaction from governments trying to clamp down on embarrassing revelations."

In San Jose, Poor Find Doors to Library Closed; New York Times, 3/30/16

Carol Pogash, New York Times; In San Jose, Poor Find Doors to Library Closed:
"The concept of free public libraries gained support in the 1830s and was popularized by the industrialist Andrew Carnegie , who helped build 1,689 libraries around the country in the late 1800s and early 1900s on the notion that all people should have an opportunity to improve themselves. But public libraries like San Jose’s are struggling to find money to pay for books and services.
In San Jose, libraries began charging 50 cents a day for an overdue book, and what Jill Bourne, who become director of libraries in 2013, called “an exorbitant processing fee” of $20 for lost materials. Those high fines have come at a cost.
In impoverished neighborhoods, where few residents have broadband connections or computers, nearly a third of cardholders are barred from borrowing or using library computers. Half of the children and teenagers with library cards in the city owe fines. Around 187,000 accounts, or 39 percent of all cardholders, owe the library money, Ms. Bourne said.
Outsiders might think that “everyone in Silicon Valley is affluent and hyperconnected,” said Mayor Samuel T. Liccardo. He represents San Jose’s one million residents, 40 percent of whom are immigrants. “We still have a digital divide.”"

The Panama Papers’ Sprawling Web of Corruption; New York Times, 4/5/16

Editorial Board, New York Times; The Panama Papers’ Sprawling Web of Corruption:
"The first reaction to the leaked documents dubbed the Panama Papers is simply awe at the scope of the trove and the ingenuity of the anonymous source who provided the press with 11.5 million documents — 2.6 terabytes of data — revealing in extraordinary detail how offshore bank accounts and tax havens are used by the world’s rich and powerful to conceal their wealth or avoid taxes.
Then comes the disgust. With more than 14,000 clients around the world and more than 214,000 offshore entities involved, Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based law firm whose internal documents were exposed, piously insists it violated no laws or ethics. But the questions remain: How did all these politicians, dictators, criminals, billionaires and celebrities amass vast wealth and then benefit from elaborate webs of shell companies to disguise their identities and their assets? Would there have been no reckoning had the leak not occurred?
And then the core question: After these revelations, will anything change? Many formal denials and pledges of official investigations have been made. But to what degree do the law and public shaming still have dominion over this global elite? A public scarred by repeated revelations of corruption in government, sports and finance will demand to know."

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Joe Biden gives charged speech on campus sexual assault: 'It is a crime, period'; Guardian, 4/5/16

Ciara McCarthy, Guardian; Joe Biden gives charged speech on campus sexual assault: 'It is a crime, period' :
"US vice-president Joe Biden spoke emphatically about the need to address sexual assault on college campuses on Tuesday as part of multi-campus tour to highlight the issue.
“The legal system and the court of public opinion still allowed [sic] prosecutors to ask victims of rape: ‘What were you wearing?’” he told nearly 1,000 students at the University of Pittsburgh. “What difference does it make, what a woman was wearing?”
The city was his first stop in a series of events to discuss sexual assault and promote the It’s On Us initiative, launched by the White House in 2014. The campaign promotes a pledge to keep women and men safe from sexual assault, and focuses in particular on campus sexual assault. Some estimates show that as many as one in five women are assaulted during their college years. Biden implored students to intervene and prevent sexual violence."

Transparency International

Transparency International:
"From villages in rural India to the corridors of power in Brussels, Transparency International gives voice to the victims and witnesses of corruption. We work together with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals.
As a global movement with one vision, we want a world free of corruption. Through chapters in more than 100 countries and an international secretariat in Berlin, we are leading the fight against corruption to turn this vision into reality."

Obama calls for international tax reform amid Panama Papers revelations; Guardian, 4/5/16

Rupert Neate and David Smith, Guardian; Obama calls for international tax reform amid Panama Papers revelations:
"Barack Obama has called for international tax reform in the wake of the revelations contained in the Panama Papers.
“There is no doubt that the problem of global tax avoidance generally is a huge problem,” he told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “The problem is that a lot of this stuff is legal, not illegal.”
The US president said the leak from Panama illustrated the scale of tax avoidance involving Fortune 500 companies and running into trillions of dollars worldwide.
“We shouldn’t make it legal to engage in transactions just to avoid taxes,” he added, praising instead “the basic principle of making sure everyone pays their fair share”.
Obama described the Panama revelations as “important stuff” and highlighted the impact upon ordinary citizens, adding that “a lot of these loopholes come at the expense of middle-class families, because that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere.
“Alternatively, it means that we’re not investing as much as we should in schools, in making college more affordable, in putting people back to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our infrastructure, creating more opportunities for our children.”"

What are the Panama Papers? A guide to history's biggest data leak; Guardian, 4/5/16

Luke Harding, Guardian; What are the Panama Papers? A guide to history's biggest data leak:
"The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC.
What do they reveal?
The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens."

Unpacking The Panama Papers; NPR, On Point, 4/5/16

[Podcast 45 min. 48 sec.] Tom Ashbrook, NPR, On Point; Unpacking The Panama Papers:
"A massive leak of more than 11 million documents reveals a global web of corruption and tax hidden wealth. What we’re learning about the Panama Papers.
Everybody’s talking about the Panama Papers. The biggest leak of financial data in history, and it’s all about the shadowy world of hidden offshore money. Wealth. Terabytes of data lighting up the hidden finances of presidents and prime ministers. Celebrities. Soccer stars. FIFA. A cellist who is the best friend of Vladimir Putin and two billion offshore dollars. The prime minister of Iceland has resigned. This hour On Point, hidden wealth, and the story told by the Panama Papers."