30 July, 2019

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: Why I no longer want to be readmitted to Labour


We need to be honest about why he favours this path. He has boxed himself into a no deal Brexit by public promises that will not and cannot be met through negotiations with the EU. He rightly fears that if the people were given a straight choice in a referendum - 'no deal v no Brexit' - no Brexit would win, comfortably. But he is confident that in an election choice between him and you, he would win, and so get the mandate for the hardest form of Brexit he would otherwise not legitimately be able to claim. The Tories are deliberately conflating the two issues - Brexit and your leadership - using people's fears about the latter to get electoral backing for the hardest version of the former. In part because you have been so resistant to the democratic argument for a Final Say referendum, which is how an issue as big as this should be resolved, he has been able to get some momentum behind his strategy. It means we could be weeks from an election in which, on any current analysis, you are unlikely to be in a position to win a majority.

Election Fraud in North Carolina Leads to New Charges for Republican Operative

In an indictment announced on Tuesday, the operative, L. McCrae Dowless Jr., was accused of obstruction of justice and illegal possession of an absentee ballot, among other charges. Seven other people were also indicted in connection with the election fraud inquiry, but prosecutors said the charges against one person were inadvertent and would be dismissed.
In the indictment, prosecutors alleged that Mr. Dowless directed others in the criminal mishandling of absentee ballots and that “spoiled absentee ballots were counted.” Mr. Dowless’s crimes, the indictment said, “served to undermine the integrity of the absentee ballot process and the public’s confidence in the outcome of the electoral process.”

Ethiopia plants more than 350 million trees in 12 hours

(CNN)Ethiopia planted more than 353 million trees in 12 hours on Monday, which officials believe is a world record.
The burst of tree planting was part of a wider reforestation campaign named "Green Legacy," spearheaded by the country's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Millions of Ethiopians across the country were invited to take part in the challenge and within the first six hours, Ahmed tweeted that around 150 million trees had been planted.
"We're halfway to our goal," he said and encouraged Ethiopians to "build on the momentum in the remaining hours." After the 12-hour period ended, the Prime Minister took to Twitter again to announce that Ethiopia not only met its "collective #GreenLegacy goal," but exceeded it.
A total of 353,633,660 tree seedlings had been planted, the country's minster for innovation and technology, Getahun Mekuria, tweeted.

29 July, 2019

The Internet's Old Guard

When you consider the long-term future impact, computing is very new. Many of its pioneers are still around—that won't be the case in a few generations. It will be easier to see in retrospect, but this is also a pivotal period, and things done now will have ripple effects all the way down our future
light cone.

Utopian visions never work out. You can strive for them, but expect your expectations to be subverted. Perhaps it's more realistic to think in terms of shifting the range of possible futures available with what we introduce.

Encourage people to bring out the positive but build defenses against the negative for all possible outcomes of a new technology.

Jessica Walsh on gratitude, avoiding comfort and why career advancement shouldn't be a goal for everyone

What valuable advice would you share to those just starting out?

My parents taught me my values: to work my ass off, respect people, always be on time and meet deadlines, do whatever is needed to do to get the job done well and never to feel entitled to absolutely anything.

I found these values helped me tremendously in my career. I’ll caveat that by saying success in life comes in all forms, and career advancement doesn’t have to be a goal for everyone.

Parents Are Giving Up Custody of Their Kids to Get Need-Based College Financial Aid

ProPublica Illinois found more than 40 guardianship cases fitting this profile filed between January 2018 and June 2019 in the Chicago suburbs of Lake County alone. The parents involved in these cases include lawyers, a doctor and an assistant schools superintendent, as well as insurance and real estate agents. A number of the children are high-achieving scholars, athletes and musicians who attend or have been accepted to a range of universities, from large public institutions, including the University of Wisconsin, the University of Missouri and Indiana University, to smaller private colleges.

What Vote Leave leaders really said about no-deal Brexit

Raab’s comments provoked the People’s Vote campaign to accuse him of trying to rewrite history. It said: “The reality is that neither the official Vote Leave campaign or any of its prominent spokespeople – including Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab – promised anything other than a deal with Europe and a continuation of free trade.”

26 July, 2019

A theory on how youtube can be "hacked" by nationstates

Russia is gaming Youtube's algorithms by intentionally generating response data that links disparate videos. Whenever a user views a set of videos in a single session, those videos become linked as a chain of behavioral responses. If you want extreme propaganda to show up when people watch cat videos, just run a bunch of bots (or cheap human workers) to surf Youtube with a list of videos. The list would be something like this:
  1. Cat video #1
  2. Extremist propaganda video #1
  3. Cat video #2
  4. Extremist propaganda video #2
  5. Cat video #3
  6. Extremist propaganda video #3
Now you've got a session of 6 watched videos that link cat videos to extremist propaganda videos. Youtube's behavioral targeting algorithms form a link between the two, so that when you go watch Cat video #2, you'll see extremist propaganda videos in your feed.
This is part of what Mueller is talking about when he says Russia is hacking our Democracy. They are gaming social media and using it against us.

25 July, 2019

Alumnus goes from playing doctor to being one

Oluyinka Olutoye, M.D., Ph.D., wanted to be a doctor from an early age. As he recalls, the desire stemmed from a childhood experience in his native Nigeria.
“I had a sick family member, and a doctor made a house call to see them,” Olutoye said. “I remember following him around our home, trying to see as much as I could. After he left, I would play doctor around the house.”
In October, Olutoye co-led a team of 21 doctors that removed a sacrococcygeal teratoma, a large tumor that grows on the tailbone of a fetus, and then returned the 23-week-old fetus to the mother’s womb.
“What happened in this case was the fetal heart tries to pump blood not only through the child’s body but the tumor as well, which can cause the heart to fail,” Olutoye said. “We monitored the mother throughout pregnancy, and when the growth got too large, we discussed our options and decided surgery would be the best method to save the child.”

24 July, 2019

Apollo and Dionysus

Ultimately, I want to see permanent human habitation in space and on other planets. Beyond the romantic notions, there are some simple economic drivers that ought to push us in that direction. Any economic model that assumes growth, on a finite planet, is going to run into trouble eventually — and considering some of the anticipated resource shortages connected to the climate crisis, that point may come sooner than we think. (For another thing, with the world’s most powerful militaries blindly chasing “capabilities” in a way that brings us ever closer to nuclear war, I’d feel a lot more comfortable for the future of humanity if some of us were outside their reach.) No place that we’ve yet discovered will be as amenable to human life as the Earth, even in the face of climate crisis or asteroid impact, but that fact does not mean that we won’t eventually need to have humans off the Earth’s surface.

On Controversy

This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.
And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?

19 July, 2019

Joey Rosskopf put in an impressive ride against the clock on the Tour de France stage 13 time trial, finishing in tenth place, 1’01” behind winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step).

Rosskopf, who is almost two weeks into his debut Tour de France, quickly settled into a good rhythm on the punchy 27.2-kilometer course and set the provisional fastest time at the second intermediate checkpoint after 15.5 kilometers.

17 July, 2019

Notre-Dame came far closer to collapsing than people knew. This is how it was saved.

All the sensitive technology at the heart of system had been undone by a cascade of oversights and erroneous assumptions built into the overall design, said Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
“You have a system that is known for its ability to detect very small quantities of smoke,” Mr. Corbett said. “Yet the whole outcome of it is this clumsy human response. You can spend a lot to detect a fire, but it all goes down the drain when you don’t move on it.”

A good death

I didn’t feel panic or fear. I felt grace. I had spent days, weeks, months with Dad as his disease progressed. We had said everything we wanted or needed to say to each other. Now he couldn’t talk and he could only see me if I stood next to his bed. So I did. We looked into each others’ eyes and I had the uncanny, déjà vu feeling of looking into my newborn sons’ eyes. Caring for someone in this end-state is very much like caring for someone in the beginning-state. Dad’s eyes searched mine, much like my babies’ eyes searched mine. And I met their gaze with love, reassurance, warmth, and strength. I said with my eyes and, to Dad, with words: I love you. You are safe. You are not alone. I am here. Other people love you, too. We are with you.

16 July, 2019

For Apollo 11 He Wasn’t on the Moon. But His Coffee Was Warm.

But it is the view of Earth from 230,000 miles away, blue and white with a smudge of tan, that made more of a mark on him. “The thing that really surprised me was that it projected an air of fragility,” he said. “And why, I don’t know. I don’t know to this day. I had a feeling it’s tiny, it’s shiny, it’s beautiful, it’s home, and it’s fragile.”

A Runaway Train Explosion Killed 47, but Deadly Cargo Still Rides the Rails

The fuel explosion that took 47 lives also destroyed 40 buildings in Lac-Mégantic, a resort and industrial town abutting a scenic lake.
A $150 million decontamination program led to the demolition of another 37 buildings and the removal of 294,000 tons of rubble and soil. Adding to the pain of many survivors, the first thing to be rebuilt at the disaster site were the rail tracks themselves, an important lifeline for the town’s factories.
While new roads now run through the former disaster zone, most of it is barren, filled with underused parking lots.
Driving through the wound that was once downtown remains too painful for many in Lac-Mégantic. In a disaster that killed nearly 1 percent of the town, it’s not a question of if residents knew someone who died, but how many.

Philip Morris Angers Czechs With Tobacco Toll Report

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2001-aug-05-mn-30831-story.htmlIn its most provocative calculation, the report said that by dying early, smokers saved the Czech government $30 million in 1999 because of reduced costs for health care, pensions and housing for the elderly. That figure reflected “5.23 years of life lost for the average smoker,” it said.
These “indirect positive effects” of smoking on public finances helped ease the much higher costs of smoking, according to the report, which Philip Morris used in a lobbying effort to influence Czech politicians and officials. In 1999, those costs included $296 million in additional health care for smokers and $29.6 million in additional health care for people sickened by secondhand smoke, the report said.

12 July, 2019

Rick Perry: Now that Ross Perot is gone, I can tell this story

This week, the nation remembers Ross Perot for his success in business, his two independent White House bids and his no-nonsense, straight Texas talk. His love of country, larger-than-life personality and generosity are all part of his legacy that will live on. But there is another little-known part of the life of Ross Perot that should be told now that he is gone. He was a tireless, but private, supporter of our wounded veterans.
During my time as governor of this great state, I had the honor and privilege of knowing countless warriors who stepped forward to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned home with horrific wounds of war. U.S. Army Cpl. Alan Babin Jr. is one such hero.

11 July, 2019

I was wrong about spreadsheets, and I’m sorry

I ridiculed the spreadsheet jockey. I dismissed their power. I was an asshole about spreadsheets. I just didn’t get it. I asked why people didn’t “learn to program,” and all the while, I was using tools which were clearly less sophisticated than Excel.
When you want to solve a problem with Excel, here’s what you do:
  1. Open up Excel
That’s it. From there, you can calculate literally anything, and transmit not only the results of those calculations, but the actual environment itself, to anyone in the world, and expect that if they have a computer, they can replicate your results.
There I was, solving problems with a pile of functional but precarious software, glued together by the trends of the day … and I was judging Excel.

Programming should be more like Excel

10 July, 2019

Some of Putin’s Top Cops Are Mobsters. Even KGB Vets Are Ashamed.

There are no checks and balances at FSB management, Gudkov pointed out. “The Soviet KGB was massively repressive, you can blame that service for anything, but not for corruption. The worst we could hear about was a colleague sleeping with somebody’s wife or some secret agent bringing a pair of sneakers for a colleague from abroad—that was already a big enough scandal to write a report,” Gudkov remembered. “Even in our worst nightmare we could not imagine officers stealing millions of dollars, robbing banks. What will we hear next? The Russian Federal Security Service robbing the Kremlin’s treasury or the Central Bank’s reserves?” 

08 July, 2019

Destroyer of worlds: the 8chan story

It’s mostly lonely people who find themselves in a febrile information ecosystem without precedent in human history. Chan sites like 8chan are something entirely new: organic communities of anonymous participants that have started to behave almost like a new consciousness, separate and more powerful and dangerous than the sum of its parts.

The anger and hate that spews from 8chan is not a conscious extension of the anger and hate of its creator – though he had plenty – but an inevitable byproduct of the dark structure he built. The story of 8chan’s founder, Fredrick Brennan, is a perfect expression of this: born with a profound disability and shuttled in and out of foster care, his creation of the site was born not out of cold calculation or political ambition, but from a need to find community in loneliness.

8chan is a monster, but its creator had no idea what it would become. He was just a kid.

Kris Kobach, who claimed misspelled names indicated voter fraud, misspells own name in Senate race registration

One might expect the more well-known Kris Kobach, who failed in his Republican bid for Kansas governor last year, to hop in the race to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) And sure enough, an hour after registration for "Chris" popped up on the Federal Election Commissions' website, the campaign amended its candidate's name to Kris Kobach, The Daily Beast reports.
The mixup was especially ironic for Kobach, who once headed President Trump's so-called voter fraud commission and dedicated his political career to demanding stricter identification for voters. As part of that fight, Kobach has tried to purgevoter rolls of names that don't match registrants' state IDs, which would've included names that were misspelled during registration.

07 July, 2019

How the Other Fukushima Plant Survived

Less well known is the crisis at Fukushima Daini, a sister plant about 10 kilometers to the south, which also suffered severe damage but escaped Daiichi’s fate. To shed light on how leadership shaped the outcome, we’ve reconstructed that story here—from several firsthand interviews; detailed reports by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the utility that owns both plants; the Nuclear Energy Institute; and a number of public sources. In so volatile an environment, none of the usual rules for decision making and organizational behavior applied. But the site superintendent, Naohiro Masuda, and the rest of Daini’s 400 employees charted their way through the chaos, and the plant survived without a meltdown or an explosion.

04 July, 2019

u/FatSputnik on the situation for some of those detained at the border

Imagine being 9, your parents giving you willingly to border patrol because ICE told you it'd be 15 minutes, then not seeing them for endless days that stretch on because you have no concept of time in a windowless jail house. They yell at you, wake you up at 2am(but you don't know what time it is, they just switch the lights on after you fall asleep), they give you frozen blocks of microwave meals, and you've been wearing the exact same clothes you've been wearing for the last 2 weeks. You aren't given water outside of your meals and are only allowed to use the washroom once a day- but when you do you swab yourself with toilet paper, to try to clean yourself a bit within 15 minutes. You're freezing cold at every moment, because they keep your cells freezing cold to limit your movement and stop you from moving/making noise, as you try to conserve warmth by holding still, a tactic that's a war crime- illegal to use ever against prisoners of war. Imagine being surrouneded by 100 other children, at every moment. No privacy, and everyone's yelling, crying, screaming, talking, coughing, puking. Everyone smells so bad because nobody else can use the washrooms, change clothes, or bathe. Rotting frozen food is left out if nobody eats it. Imagine being a little 12 year old girl, who gets her period during this time, surrounded by dozens of other kids. Imagine that hell.
Imagine being a mom, thinking of your child going through all of this, while you're in a cell as well.

03 July, 2019

No Kings: How Do You Make Good Decisions Efficiently in a Flat Organization?

If you’re the one raising objections to a solution:
  • Before you object, weigh whether or not your objection reveals a serious issue. It’s okay to make a remark like “I believe there is a better decision and it’s this, but I’m also okay with the current choice.” It’s also okay to suggest improvements to the idea (or the implementation, if you’re discussing a pull request for example) without vetoing the current choice. Make clear what type of objection you’re raising.
  • If you believe the choice has a blocking flaw, try to make your feedback as clear as possible so that the decision-maker can address it properly.
  • If you believe the choice has a blocking flaw, try to find enough time and energy to convince opponents. When you differentiate between non-critical feedback and a fundamental flaw and prioritize the latter, you’re able to conserve the time and mental energy for the most important discussions.
If you’re the one deciding:
  • Be vigilant and make sure the discussion doesn’t stall on non-critical, “not the best solution” feedback.
  • If there is a discussion which cannot converge, ask participants to clarify if objections to a proposal address fundamental flaws or remarks which should be taken in consideration.
  • If there is a good enough solution X, don’t ask people what they think about it. Instead, ask everyone if they can live with it and if not, why.
  • Don’t feel like you have to default to majority rule.

02 July, 2019

I have never met antisemitism in Britain... until now

I’ll call my publicist John as he prefers to remain anonymous. He has also asked me to refrain from identifying the organisations that reacted negatively to my being Jewish. John told me that the final conversations he had with the two event co-ordinators convinced him that they weren’t antisemitic themselves but they feared a backlash – protests by their members and others – if they extended an invitation to a Jewish writer.
After our phone conversation, I was deeply shocked and upset. Facing discrimination is always unpleasant and infuriating and I never expected that my career in the UK would be prejudiced by my being Jewish. It made Britain seem like a place I didn’t know and maybe never knew. Even just asking about my religious affiliation struck me as outrageous. The situation seemed particularly ironic because I have long endeavoured in my novels to give voice to people who have been systematically silenced by prejudice and bigotry.

Never Forget: Life After the Khmer Rouge Genocide

Once upon a time—1975, actually, in Cambodia—there was a regime so evil that it created an antisociety where torture was currency and music, books, and love were abolished. This regime ruled for four years and murdered nearly 2 million of its citizens, a quarter of the population. The perversion was so extreme, the acts so savage, that three decades later, the country still finds itself reeling.