Showing posts from February 13, 2016

DNC rolls back Obama ban on contributions from federal lobbyists

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[A move made on the down-low to ensure that all those crispy new bankster bucks continue to flow into Hillary's pocket. Understatement of the year: "It is a major step in the wrong direction." *RON*]

By Tom Hamburger and Paul Kane, Washington Post, 12 February 2016.

The Democratic National Committee has rolled back restrictions introduced by presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that banned donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees.

The decision was viewed with disappointment Friday morning by good government activists who saw it as a step backward in the effort to limit special interest influence in Washington. Some suggested it could provide an advantage to Hillary Clinton’s fundraising efforts.

“It is a major step in the wrong direction,” said longtime reform advocate Fred Wertheimer. “And it is completely out of touch with the clear public rejection of the role of political money in Washington,” express…

Robotic Vessel Could Clean Trash from the Oceans

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[A wee bit of good news for once! Yet, meanwhile, see also: The Koch Brothers' Dirty War on Solar Power*RON*]
Mike Farish, IHS Engineering 360, 2 February 2016

Sail into the middle of any of the world's oceans and you will not necessarily find clear blue water. Instead you may well encounter a “gyre” or concentration of floating plastic refuse. Indeed, anywhere from 8-12 million tonnes of the material is currently estimated to be out there with potentially serious environmental consequences, including degradation of the foodchain if it is ingested by marine life. The financial damage this causes has been estimated by the United Nations to be the equivalent of $13 billion per year.

A small UK company has come up with a possible solution – the design for a highly innovative and completely autonomous type of vessel that could patrol the seas for lengthy periods of time collecting the waste material like a gigantic “seaborne vacuum cleaner…

The Sharing Economy Is Not Your Friend

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[On how Airbnb hides the fact that a high proportion of its users are large landlords illegally posting their accommodations as temporary housing, and how Uber pretends to empower the little guy while dodging the lion's share of their responsibilities as employers. "If there's one thing that pisses me off, it's companies that take values and language that I and a lot of leftists really identify with, ideas of community and democracy, and delivering entirely the opposite. They're taking these ideals and twisting them so that they can inject free-market capitalism into every aspect of our lives." *RON*]

By Drew Millard,, 11 February 2016

Yesterday, a report revealed that Airbnb had removed over 1,000 New York City listings as a way to alter the data in a public report on its user base. The mass removal, the report's authors Murray Cox and Tom Slee alleged, was a "one-time targeted purge" meant to he…

Women considered better coders – but only if they hide their gender

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[Researchers find software repository GitHub approved code written by women at a higher rate than code written by men, but only if the gender was not disclosed. Meanwhile, when the men are in charge: Hacker calls FBI's IT Department, gains access to network. *RON*]
Julia Carrie Wong, The Guardian, 12 February 2016

When a group of computer science students decided to study the way that gender bias plays out in software development communities, they assumed that coders would be prejudiced against code written by women.

After all, women make up a very small percentage of software developers – 11.2% according to one 2013 survey – and the presence of sexism in all corners of the overwhelmingly male tech industry has been well documented.

So the student researchers were surprised when their hypothesis proved false – code written by women was in fact more likely to be approved by their peers than code written by men. But that wasn’t the end of the sto…

Syria: Russian PM warns of world war if troops sent in

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[Dmitry Medvedev says the proposal to send Arab ground forces to fight ISIL "draws everyone" into war. Meanwhile, emboldened by Russian support: Syria conflict: Bashar Assad vows to retake whole country. And, if you haven't seen it, this Al Jazeera interview with Noam Chomsky on the war against ISIL is very good. *RON*]

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies, Al Jazeera, 12 February 2016

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the deployment of foreign ground troops in the Syrian conflict could result in a world war.

Medvedev was quoted as saying in an interview published late on Thursday by the German newspaper Handelsblatt that "a ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war".

When asked about a recent proposal from Saudi Arabia to send ground troops into Syria, the Russian prime minister answered that "the Americans and our Arab partners must consider whether or not they want a permanent wa…

Traveling Through Venezuela, a Country Teetering on the Brink

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[If you haven't been following the news on Venezuela, things have devolved to a miserable state since the death of Hugo Chávez and the crash in oil prices. Even basic foodstuffs are nearly impossible to find and terrifically expensive. *RON*]

By Nicholas Casey, New York Times, 9 February 2016

PUERTO CABELLO, Venezuela — In the capital, water is so expensive and scarce that residents wait for hours with bottles at the side of a mountain where it trickles out onto the highway.

In the countryside, sugar cane fields rot, and milk factories stand idle, even as people carry bags of money around to buy food on the black market in every city and town.

And here in this port that once fed a nation, everything looks bare. Where a dozen ships once waited to enter, only four could be seen from a hilltop fort built long ago to guard against raids from the sea.

No one would pillage Puerto Cabello today. There is nothing to take anymore.

And it is all about to g…

GOP Candidates Compete Over Who Will Commit Most War Crimes Once Elected

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[Sadly true: "The spectacle of one Republican presidential candidate being identified by another as a 'pussy' for failing to sufficiently endorse an archetypal form of torture exemplifies the moral state of the current race for the GOP nomination." I think this sort of behaviour is encouraged by the polarization inherent to a two-party system; it promotes escalation. But as Byrne explores in the previous post, social media has to share some of the blame for creating airtight communities of 'friends.' *RON*]

Murtaza HussainDan Froomkin, The Intercept, 9 February 2016

At a rally in New Hampshire on Monday night, Donald Trump was criticizing Ted Cruz for having insufficiently endorsed torture — Cruz had said two nights earlier that he would bring back waterboarding, but not “in any sort of widespread use” — when someone in the audience yelled out that Cruz was a “pussy.” Trump, in faux outrage, reprimanded the supporter, …

The Echo Chamber

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[David Byrne, formerly of the Talking Heads, on social media, the political system, economic strife, the "end of the American dream," and other social factors, as he explores how "Trump supporters [are] so seemingly unaware of his lies and bullshit." See also: The phony in American politics: how voters turn into suckers. *RON*]

By David Byrne, David Bryne's Journal, 1 February 2016

Not too long ago some friends were asking each other, “How are Trump supporters so seemingly unaware of his lies and bullshit, and the ridiculousness of many of his positions and ideas?” (His claim that he “watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering” on 9/11 comes immediately to mind.) Lately it seems that anything that contradicts a passionate belief has become invisible.

The avoidance of a “reality-based community”—as the Bush advisors derisively called it—is truly puzzling, but the other reasons…