Friday, 18 August 2017

Facebook Bans White Nationalist's Account Over Hate Speech

Facebook has joined other online platforms and has banned Christopher Cantwell's accounts. according to Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja who spoke to AP.

The platform also removed several pages connected to the white nationalist movement on grounds of violating the company's hate speech/organizations policies.

“I’m not surprised by almost any of this because the whole thing we are complaining about here is that we are trying to express our views, and everybody is going through extraordinary lengths to make sure we are not heard,” Cantwell told AP in a phone interview from an undisclosed location.

“Frankly, whatever you think of my views, that is very scary to me,” he said. “Facebook and Instagram is one thing but not being able to participate in the financial system because of your political opinions is something that, you know, people should worry about in America.”

Daily Stormer Kicked Off Godaddy and then Google ... Now Hosted in Russia

The white supremacist website was first dropped from Godaddy (who was the domain registrar), and they switched to Google for that service, but Google then dropped them too, all following the Charlottesville, Virginia riot this week.

The site then moved to the dark net briefly. And is now based in Russia

Google Announces Hate Crime News Index

Although the YouTube version of removing hate crime videos hasn't worked very well (they've accidentally flagged documentaries about war crimes, too), Google News is going to have a "hate crime" addition.

The News lab at the company is working with Pitch Interactive and ProPublica to use machine learning to track and report on hate crimes around the country.

This will make it easier for people to find stories about their hate crime of choice.

Spotify Pulling Racist Music from Site

The move came after a music blog called Digital Music News ran a story IDing 37 white supremacist bands available on Spotify, the site whose brand tagline is "Spotify: Music for everyone"

The company's press office then stated that they remove music "that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality" as soon as it is "brought to our attention."

OkCupid Just Banned a White Supremacist

Tweeting, "There is no room for hate" the internet dating site has banned a white supremicist.

"We were alerted by another dater on OkCupid who had been contacted by Cantwell recently," the company told Mashable.

This was followed shortly by OkCupid tweeting:

"We were alerted that white supremacist Chris Cantwell was on OkCupid. Within 10 minutes we banned him for life."

OkCupid CEO Elie Seidman told Mashable. "The formula for this one was easy: 'Nazi or supremacist == bad.'”

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Vintage Auto Prices Down and Down

Vintage cars, from luxury classics to more garden variety, are coming down in price.

The trend started in August 2015 (peak point for the collector car market) after a steady climb from the depths of the recession in 2009. 

Prices dropped 8% since last year; 15% since the peak 2 years ago, according to Hagerty (vintage car insurance specialists). 

Cars are still selling (the numbers of cars sold is still up), and no one is forced to sell. Owners aren't in a panic. It's just that prices are doing what real estate agents are referring to as "normalizing" -- ie not holding the higher value of recent times. 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Seltzers Pop Up in the US

According to the experts, Seltzer is more pop-ular than it's ever been.

Of the 170m gallons of pop (and rising) consumed in the States every year, millennials are increasingly buying seltzer as a healthier option.

Among the brands in the now: La Croix (featured in a popular hip hop song recently), Polar, and hard seltzers like White Claw and Truly.

Friday, 11 August 2017

They Can Grow New Body Parts from Cells ... Easily

Scientists recently published results that describe how they use TNT (not the explosive) to reprogram skin cells to make other types of cells they used in the body to fix problems.

The main things they did: make vascular cells to make blood flow again to test subjects (animals) with skin flaps and removed femoral arteries. They also made nerve cells to to help subjects recover from stroke.

The process has 2 parts: a chip (developed 6 years ago) that injects the "cargo," and the cargo itself -- plasmid, DNA, or even RNA. The cargo induces plasticity (it fires novel cell reprogramming factor genes into the skin cells) through tiny channels in the cell membranes (much smaller than the older process for doing this).

The researchers were "surprised how it worked so well" and don't completely understand it yet, but they've also achieved or see themselves achieving similar results in making insulin-producing cells that can sense glucose levels, changing white fat cells to brown, and working with eyes and ears.

They also explained that they see the technology going much further, relaying transfection to deeper than skin levels, since they can do this with almost any cell type. It requires no lab equipment, so they see it being done at point-of-care.

Fired: Google Employee Who Wrote About Gender Equality Practices and Culture of Suppressing Honest Discussion

James Damore, who published a memo that discusses differences between men and women and criticizes Google's internal efforts to increase "diversity" and "gender equality," was fired by CEO Sundar Pichai this week.

The memo Damore wrote questions whether these policies are correct, and it argues men and women are naturally different and so differences in how they fit in in the economy or a business shouldn't all be put down to "sexism." He also argues that a Left-leaning culture at Google stifles honest discussion and debate.

The reply from Google came from new Diversity, Integrity and Governance CEO Danielle Brown, in which she wrote about the memo, which she described as "... expressing views on the natural abilities and characteristics of different genders, as well as whether one can speak freely of these things at Google ... . I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. 

"Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws."

The decision to fire Damore was made after a serious discussion at Google. “Just like all of Google is struggling with this, we were not unanimous at first about whether what he wrote merited firing, although we all came around to it,” one top exec told Gizmodo. “But Sundar had to make a call about what kind of Google he wanted to stress and he did.”

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki was quoted, “While people may have a right to express their beliefs in public, that does not mean companies cannot take action when women are subjected to comments that perpetuate negative stereotypes about them based on their gender. Every day, companies take action against employees who make unlawful statements about co-workers, or create hostile work environments.”

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Israel to Close Al Jazeera, Ban Journalists - AJ

According to AJ themselves, Israel's communication minister has announced Israel has plans to revoke media credentials and close AJ in Jerusalem

"We have based our decision on the move by Sunni Arab states to close the Al Jazeera offices and prohibiting their work," Ayoub Kara said, adding that the channel is being used by groups to "incite" violence - an accusation AJ has denied. 

In response, AJ wrote: "Al Jazeera stresses that it will closely watch the developments that may result from the Israeli decision, and will take the necessary legal measures towards it."

Israel has repeatedly claimed to be "the only democracy in the Middle East" but AJ's coverage of "the occupied Palestinian territories" doesn't make things easier for it. Other Middle Eastern countries also don't like AJ because it is based in Qatar, with which Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and other neighbors are currently in a kind of "cold war." (Read more about that: Qatar's Neighbors Deliver List of Demands)

Dershowitz: Being Black Doesn't Give You a License to Call People Racist

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) called Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz's comments "absolutely racist" this week.

Dershowitz was being interviewed by Fox News and was giving analysis on which regions would be most favorable to the Trump side in a possible future trial (in terms of juries) when he noted that between a couple of options, "[Washington] has an ethnic and racial composition that would be somewhat less favorable to Donald Trump."

But Waters characterized Dershowitz comments as saying:

"What he's simply saying [is that] all of those black people are there and they don't like Trump, so he's not going to get a fair trial. And so they should take it out of that jurisdiction. It shouldn't be there to begin with. I don't like that. And I'm surprised that Alan Dershowitz is talking like that. And we will not stand for it. We will push back against that. Because that is absolutely racist."

Dershowitz replied later to Fox that Waters "should know better and does know better ... If I had said that race didn't matter, she would have called me a racist. She throws the term around so loosely and so inappropriately, and it weakens her credibility, because by calling everybody a racist, by calling me a racist, when she calls real racists racist nobody is going to believe her. Would she have called Johnny Cochran racist? ... Being black doesn't give you a licence to call people racist any more than being Jewish gives you a licence to call people anti-Semitic."

Chinese Tourists Arrested for Making Hitler Salute in Germany

According to police, a fine or a prison sentence up to 3 years is possible for a pair of Chinese tourists who made a particular gesture outside the Parliament building this week.

Germany has strict laws on "hate speech" and symbols linked to Hitler and the Nazis. The Nazi organization is "banned" in Germany.

The law is more commonly used to prosecute Germans who have far right political ideas.

The two men were released on a bail of around $600 each and are allowed to leave the country, and when the sentence is finally decided (in their absence), the bail money will probably be enough to cover it.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Throwing Acid Can Now Result in a Life Sentence, Even If They Miss

Recently in the UK, there has been a sharp rise in thugs throwing acid. There have been public protests due to widespread concern about this type of crime.

Now, prosecutors will seek "possession of an offensive weapon" charges for people who just carry the substances (usually bleach, ammonia and acid), and if someone throws it at someone, even if they miss and no harm is inflicted, they will likely bring a tougher charge that can mean a life sentence.

In the UK this year there have been already 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks officially recorded. They often are revenge or hate attacks or accompany other crimes like muggings.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

NAACP Issues 'Travel Advisory'

The group has issued what they are calling a "travel advisory" for women, minorities an LGBT, advising them to use 'extreme caution' when travelling to the state of Missouri.

According to the president of the Missouri NAACP, the "advisory" was issued to to "widespread civil rights violations" that he believed were "not being properly addressed" by authorities and these would "affect people in the workplace, searching for housing, as well as just in the general experience."

The "advisory" states that people should "exercise extreme caution" and they "may not be safe" in the state.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

France, Soft Power Darling of the Year

The 2017 Soft Power Index upranked France 4 spots to first this year, just barely beating the UK and the US.

"France has emerged as the overall world leader when it comes to soft power," according to the Portland report, although it was only first in 1 of the 6 domains measured: Engagement.

Why? A rebound from a bad year in 2016 (Hollande's low popularity, big terrorist attacks, growing far-right populism); the election of a young pro-Europe Macron over the Front National and a near-future outlook of pro-business, pro-EU reforms and an energized, EU-leader France; Macron's social media engagement; and France's traditional diplomacy:

"Once again, France’s greatest strength lies in its vast diplomatic network. It is unrivalled in terms of membership to multilateral and international organisations, as well as in its diplomatic cultural missions. And with Macron having long campaigned for cooperation and integration, it is not unreasonable to expect France’s global engagement and influence to grow. Culturally, France also puts in a strong performance. The threat of terrorism has not stopped tourists flocking to France and enjoying its rich cultural offering, cuisine, and lifestyle – France’s restaurant scene is unrivalled, its film sector continues to flourish, and its museums and galleries are some of the most visited in the world."

Combine those factors with a UK losing some popularity after Brexit and a Trump US.

It should be noted that of the 6 domains, the US still took first in Education, Culture, and Digital. Singapore got Enterprise. Norway got Government.

Canada? Third in Education, fifth in Digital, ninth in Culture and Government. It didn't place in Enterprise or Engagement.

Japan's Soccer Robots Wear Cleats This Year

This was the main improvement demonstrated by the kid-sized humanoid robots playing at this year's RoboCup in Nagoya.

According to the first place U of Bordeaux team, Rhoban Football Club,

"The main innovation of the robot is located in its feet. The feet are no longer flat but are put on the ground on top of 4 cleats at each foot corner. Only these cleats are in contact with the ground and 'sink' into the artificial grass. This greatly improve the stability of the robot walking on the ”soft” turf."

89% of Newspaper Reading is Still in Print, Researchers Find

That's compared with 7% of the news-reading time spent on mobile devices and 4% on computers, even though online publishers reach 2 or 3 times the amount of people print publishers do. The study used UK data, but it's likely not far off what North Americans do.

The time-spent-reading numbers also reflect revenues for the publishers. The brands studied took in 88% of their revenues from print, 12% from digital.

The research was the first ever done to comprehensively account for the time spent reading news.

According to the scientist, "My research shows that while print newspapers are read for an average of 40 minutes per day, online visitors to the websites and apps of those same newspapers spend an average of just 30 seconds per day. Scale those numbers up and you can see why newspapers still rely on print for the vast majority of the attention they receive."

One Limited Run Newspaper Pop-up Is Doing So Well, They're Continuing Indefinitely

Print is dead? Nope.

The New European was originally printed a few months ago as a 4-week newspaper aimed at the 48% of Britons who voted against Brexit.

But it didn't end. Readers are still interested and buying. As the editor, Matt Kelly, told Nieman Lab:

"Readers are very passionate about the product. They take photographs of themselves reading it and post them on Twitter. They leave copies once they’re finished with them in doctors’ waiting rooms and bus stops for other people to read. Writers are very keen to engage with the project for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s a newspaper and the truth is that a lot of journalists and writers feel that there’s something special about print. Secondly, it’s a visible articulation of their values. If you’re associating yourself with The New European, you’re making it very clear that you’re pro-European and there’s no ambiguity about that position."

Kelly said that they haven't run out of content ("something fabulous to write about" each week), and they're selling on newsstands for 2 pounds, and have a 20k subscription base that pays 20 pounds for 13 weeks.

They're seen as the "voice for that community," Kelly said, and buyers can demonstrate their interest visibly with the paper in a way they can't with a website (although they do now have a website, too).

Another benefit of print, he said, was that print means money (unlike a paywall website), so they can pay writers, and they have had a lot of interest from writers who are interested in anti-Brexit association, and also in being printed.

They're currently planning to continue until at least the end of the year, which will help with advertising -- one of the flaws of the pop-up publishing model is advertisers aren't that interested in something so short-term. They're now getting ad revenue especially from companies and people interested in Brexit issues and demonstration organizers.

Part of the continued interest has to do with the larger trend toward nationalism, and they have featured Donald Trump many times in recent issues. They're also thinking of starting other pop-ups, including one for people who want to leave Europe, "the complete opposite of The New European."

Putin Tightening Internet Restrictions with Law

Two new laws were signed by Putin this week: one ordered internet providers to block websites that offer VPNs; the other orders instant messaging services to establish user IDs by using phone numbers, and also allows the government to order operators to restrict internet users if the government decides the users are disseminating illegal content.

The Russian government wants less anonymity on the internet. It says the steps are taken in order to prevent extremist materials and ideas.

However, there are questions about how these laws are used: Already, a Russian blogger was given 3 1/2 years (later reduced to 1 year) suspended sentence for posting videos deemed by the Russian courts to incite hatred and insult religious believers' feelings. He was seen playing Pokemon Go in a church in one of his videos. He was also added to the "terrorists and extremists" list.

Discovery Buying Scripps

The trend of consolidation in the telecom and media industry continues as Discovery is making a deal to buy Scripps (Food Network and HGTV home improvement) for $11.9b (value of $90 per share), beating out rival Viacom who also wanted Scripps.

To own Scripps would mean Discovery will control 20% of the ad-supported pay-TV audience in the US and would take Scripps' content to 220 countries and territories. Discovery will also gain leverage in negotiating with advertisers and distributors.

There is analysis, however, that both are making the deal from positions of weakness after showing lower-than-predicted revenues.

Discovery has made attempts to buy Scripps occasionally over the past 9 years, but they couldn't agree on a price.

The industry is tending toward making big cuts in costs and increasing scale in the face of the current media consumption environment.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

China Climbing in Soft Power

China is up from from 28 to 25 on this year's "Soft Power Ranking" due to its entertainment and sports appeal, as well as its recent positive participation as peace keepers for the UN and anti-piracy security services off the African coast, and its growing capacity for providing disaster relief.

China is now positioned above Russia's 27 and the Czech Republic's 29 (although both of these also rose in 2017). Below these countries were Hungary, Brazil, and Turkey, all of which dropped several spots.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

34 Criminal Cases Dismissed After Bodycam Footage Shows Police Planting Drugs

Dozens of cases have been dropped after a court reviewed footage recorded by a police body cam that appears to show an officer accidentally recording himself planting drugs while other officers look on.

The body cams used by these officers record video footage from 30 seconds before the officer presses the record button.

123 cases in total are under review with regards to this scandal.

One of the cases that was dismissed included a person who was the target of the drug plant and who has been in jail since January under $50k bail he could not post.

The video on YouTube

Babies Are Being Killed with Benadryl... by Parents and Daycares

Antihistamines are not sleep medication, and should not be used as a sleep aid by anyone, according to doctors. But they are being given to make children sleepy by parents, babysitters and daycares in the U.S.

In fact, Benadryl should not even be given to children under the age of 2 at all, according to the FDA. From age 2-12, it must be appropriately dosed based on body weight.

People seem to be mistakenly thinking that the medicine is safe because it's not a prescription drug. There have been involuntary manslaughter charges for those responsible for the deaths.

Fingerprints, Eyescans, Photos Mandatory in All of India

A fingerprint scan, an eyescan, and a headshot photo are being taken for every Indian right now. The database started out as a voluntary program before becoming mandatory.

The "biometric identification program" called "AADHAR" now has 1.15b people in its database -- 99% of all Indian adults are documented.

Many Indians don't otherwise have birth certificates or other documentation. There is also a lot of fraud and theft related to identity (not just with crossing borders and regular crime, but also with the government's attempts to send money to assist the poor) in the country of many uneducated people.

Now in India every bank account and tax return must be linked to a person's biometric ID, and an AADHAR is required to receive any government benefits. According to the government, this is expected to save India around $11b per year.

The project cost the equivalent of $1.5b dollars, and was undertaken in the name of security as well as order, including monitoring border-crossers between Indian and Pakistan and Bangladesh.

There is criticism. Rights groups say the savings are not as great as the government claims, and fraud can still go on because a middle man whose role it is to confirm AADHAR and distribute government welfare can still deny resources or engage in corrupt behavior. There have already been leaks of personal data as well.

The country's supreme court has confirmed the right of the government to link AADHAR to social benefits and tax returns, but hasn't yet ruled on whether the state can force Indians to register without violating his right to privacy.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Trump Replaces Chief of Staff

Reince Priebus was replaced by General John Kelly, who was already serving Trump as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Priebus was hoped to be a bridge between the Trump White House and Congress, along with Sessions, but things between the two groups are not going very smoothly.

Facebook Bans White Nationalist's Account Over Hate Speech

Facebook has joined other online platforms and has banned Christopher Cantwell's accounts. according to Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Bud...