Fascinating animation, song, and story. Do check it out.
Jordan Pearson reports at Motherboard:
Thanks to President Donald Trump’s abhorrent stances on immigration and science, a new AI research hub in Canada stands to gain the brainpower that the US is now repelling.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that artificial intelligence as we know it was largely developed in Canada. For years, a core group of computer scientists like Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio worked in relative obscurity at Canadian universities, until US-based giants like Facebook and Google took notice and hired them.
Now, Canada is committing $150 million to fund an AI research hub that will bring that ingenuity back home. The Toronto-based Vector Institute will serve as a research and commercialization hub for artificial intelligence tech, and has already convinced Hinton to move back to the city. But tech is global, unconstrained by nationality, and so Vector will also look for talent in the places targeted by US travel restrictions.
“I’ve spoken to a few people while gauging interest in who we want to hire, asking why they’re interested, and one of the things they’ve mentioned is the political climate in the US,” said Richard Zemel, a computer scientist at the University of Toronto and Vector’s director of research, in an interview. “That’s to our benefit right now. It could change, but the long-term thing is they’ll have the flexibility to both work on research and with companies.”
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Hinton also suggested that Trump’s intolerance will help Vector attract top global talent. Two members of his team are Iranian. . .
So Trump is driving away talent that could help the U.S. develop AI, which is the next big thing, so far as I can see. And by pulling out of the TPP, it does create a business-relationships vacuum that China will happily fill. And killing off all the clean energy initiatives in effect withdraws the US from the Paris agreement and from the nations that are fighting climate change (and China is a player here as well). Trump is single-handedly removing the US from its former position as a global leader.
This is very weird, and it seems highly inappropriate for Apple to be blocking certain types of news, particularly news that is routinely reported by the press. Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones:
Over at the Intercept, Josh Begley has a story that’s disturbing—but not in the usualIntercept way:
Five years ago, I made a simple iPhone app. It would send you a push notification every time a U.S. drone strike was reported in the news. Apple rejected the app three times, calling it “excessively objectionable or crude content.”
….In 2014, after five rejections, Apple accepted the app….But the following September, Apple decided to delete the app entirely. They claimed that the content, once again, was “excessively objectionable or crude.”…Well, Apple’s position has evolved. Today, after 12 attempts, the Metadata app is back in the App Store.
….Update: 2:32pm. Apple has removed Metadata from the App Store.
There is, needless to say, nothing objectionable or crude about this app. It merely aggregates news on a particular subject. Drone strikes themselves may be objectionable and crude—opinions differ, obviously—but reporting on them isn’t.
This matters. Upwards of half of all Americans get some or most of their news from their mobile devices, and for all practical purposes there are only two options in the mobile device world: iOS and Android. If you can’t get an app accepted on either platform, then no one will ever see your app. Apple and Google are the sole gateways to what we can and can’t see. . .
The GOP House and Senate both voted to remove privacy protection so that ISPs can track your browsing history (and, presumably, your on-line purchases) and sell that information on the open market. So this initiative, to purchase the browsing history of those voting in favor, is very interesting.
Tom Cahill reports in Resistance Report:
Republicans in Congress just voted to allow Americans’ browser history to be bought and sold. A genius crowdfunding campaign wants to use that against them.
The website searchinternethistory.com is attempting to raise $1 million in order to put in bids to purchase the internet history of leading Republicans and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) members. The first histories the site aims to buy are those of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
“If it takes a million dollars to get real change, I am sure a million people are willing to donate $1 to help ensure their private data stays private,” wrote Adam McElhaney, who launched a GoFundMe campaign for the endeavor.
McElhaney clarified on the GoFundMe campaign’s site that while he understands the privacy risks of using social media, the privacy rules Congress just eliminated goes far beyond what he feels is acceptable.
“I understand that what I put on the Internet is out there and not private. Those are the risks you assume. I’m not ashamed of what I put out on the Internet,” he wrote. “However, I don’t think that what I lookup on the Internet, what sites I visit, my browsing habits, should be bought and sold to whoever. Without my consent.”
McElhaney, who describes himself as “a privacy activist & net neutrality Advocate,” argues that since both houses of Congress have passed bills allowing anyone’s browser history to be sold and purchased by major telecom giants like Verizon, that the American people should be able to buy the browser records for their elected officials. If successful, the site aims to publish a searchable database of browser history for every member of Congress who voted to gut former President Barack Obama’s regulations prohibiting corporations from viewing Americans’ browser histories.
“Everything from their medical, pornographic, to their financial and infidelity. Anything they have looked at, searched for, or visited on the Internet will now be available for everyone to comb through,” the site promises, next to a survey of which public official’s browser history should be published first. “Since we didn’t get an opportunity to vote on whether our private and personal browsing history should be bought and sold, I wanted to show our legislators what a democracy is like. So, I’m giving you the opportunity to vote on whose history gets bought first.”
“Help me raise money to buy the histories of those who took away your right to privacy,” McElhaney adds. . .
They are also looking for contributions of legal talent. I contributed money.
See also: I Spent A Week Trying To Make The Broadband Lobby Answer A Simple Question About Selling Your Data, by Sam Biddle, which appears in The Intercept:
House Republicans last night voted to overturn an FCC rule that bars your internet provider from telling advertisers which websites you visit and what you search for in exchange for money; the Senate voted along the same lines last week. The decisions were immediately praised by lobbying groups like the NCTA, which represents broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast — and which for some reason framed the gutting of federal privacy regulations as good for privacy, a choice that the organization seemingly cannot explain, no matter how many times you ask.
The NCTA’s statement after last week’s vote read as follows:
“We appreciate today’s Senate action to repeal unwarranted FCC rules that deny consumers consistent privacy protection online and violate competitive neutrality. … Our industry remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers. We support this step towards reversing the FCC’s misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve.”
Emphasis added. It should be immediately puzzling to anyone reading that statement how the broadband industry “remains committed” to personal privacy while also encouraging (and celebrating) a regulatory change that would allow your ISP to make a buck by telling a third party which websites you visit so that they can try to sell you things. Privacy is generally understood as a state defined by offering less disclosure about oneself, not more. Seeking clarity, I asked the NCTA to explain how it squares this commitment with its apparent antithesis. What’s ensued has been a week-long semantic maze navigated by myself and Joy Sims, a (very patient) spokesperson for the NCTA, reproduced below: . . .
This asymmetric (bar guard on one side, comb guard on the other) two-piece iKon razor is now listed on eBay.
As I’ve been going through my soap collection, I come across soaps I forgot I had, and today I discovered that I in fact had a Cavendish soap from How To Grow A Moustache (now Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements) that matches the fragrance of the Phoenix Artisan Cavendish aftershave that I like so much.
As I’ve mentioned, a 5″ puck makes loading the brush a breeze, and I was quite pleased with the lather, both fragrance and performance. This soap made a very nice lather indeed with the Maggard 22mm synthetic brush shown.
Three trouble-free passes with the Above the Tie R1 (here on a UFO handle), then a splash of Cavendish aftershave. Great way to start the day.
Ahmed Rashid writes in the NY Review of Books:
In the opening months of the Donald Trump administration, there has been little sign of a coherent foreign policy taking shape. What is happening, however, is a dramatic militarization of US policy in the Middle East—one that is occurring largely without the consultation of American allies, and with hardly any public scrutiny. In the case of the war in Yemen and the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, these developments could have extraordinary consequences for US security and even the stability of the Middle East itself.
The disastrous January raid on an al-Qaeda target in central Yemen, just days after Trump took office, resulting in the death of a Navy SEAL and two dozen civilians, has been widely discussed. But since then, US actions have, if anything, escalated. In early March, US aircraft and drones carried out over thirty strikes against Islamic militants across central Yemen, almost equaling the total number of air strikes that were carried out in the whole of 2016. Many civilians were also killed. In Iraq and Syria, meanwhile, there have been numerous reports of civilian casualties in US bombing raids. On Friday, it was reported that as many as two hundred civilians were killed in US airstrikes in Mosul.
Meanwhile, four hundred US troops are on their way to Syria to set up an artillery base for the retaking of the ISIS capital Raqqa; another one thousand troops may soon be sent to Kuwait to act as a reserve force. More troops will soon go to Iraq in addition to the five thousand already there. And the Pentagon has demanded more troops for Afghanistan in addition to the 8,400 already there.
The most startling example may be occurring in Yemen, where the US is intervening with almost no public discussion, debate in Congress, or even—as Western diplomats told me—coordination with NATO allies. The violent civil war in Yemen between the government and Houthi rebels who are Shia Muslims is now a regional conflict involving Iran on the side of the Houthis and the Arab Gulf states backing the government. Yemen is facing the “largest humanitarian crisis” in the world, with two thirds of its eighteen million people in need of aid, according to Stephen O’Brien, a senior UN official.
But the new US military deployments are taking place without any sign of US diplomatic initiatives or discussion of the future of peace talks in conflict zones, or a more rounded strategy and narrative to woo Muslims hearts and minds in order to defeat the Islamic State. The only discussion appears to revolve around how to escalate military action—something that is deeply disheartening to allies around the world.
On March 26, The Washington Post reported that the Defense Department is asking the White House to remove restrictions on providing military aid to Gulf allies who are fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Already, unspecified US Special Operations Forces (SOF) are operating not only in Yemen, but also in dozens of other countries in Africa and Central Asia.
The most disturbing discussion to date revolves around the US military being allowed to create free-fire zones in which US forces could target and bomb potential enemies without regard to civilian casualties or damage to economic infrastructure—a stark repudiation of counter-terrorism rules set down by the Obama and Bush administrations. The New York Times has reported that three provinces in Yemen have been declared ”an area of active hostilities”—in other words a free-fire zone—and that parts of Somalia will soon be added the list. Western diplomats in Brussels say areas of Afghanistan where the Taliban are strongest may also be added. Such a policy, encouraging indiscriminate strikes, will undoubtedly produce thousands more Muslim radicals, undermine humanitarian relief and destroy hopes of economic reconstruction.
Instead of pursuing a comprehensive approach that involves diplomacy, economic aid, conflict resolution and alliance building, Trump has reverted to a dangerous dependence on the military while undermining all other US state institutions that deal with the wider world. Apart from bombing, what exactly is the Trump strategy for Yemen? Does the administration support continuing UN efforts to mediate between the Yemeni government and the Houthis? Now that the Defense Department wants to remove the arms embargo in Yemen, what will that mean for the conflict itself? What diplomacy does the administration plan for dealing with the escalating regional rivalry? And who, in fact, is in charge of Yemen policy at the State Department or the National Security Council? None of these questions are being answered or even addressed.
Yet Yemen is still a minor issue compared to what the US plans next in Syria. Here too civilians are dying from US air strikes—thirty-three civilians were killed on March 22, when US led coalition bombers hit a school.) Will Trump support the Russian-dominated, UN-led peace process in Geneva? Is the US interested in forming a stronger Arab-Western alliance against the Islamic State, while also trying to broker a political solution? Is the US prepared to let President Bashar al-Assad stay in place? Who will pay for the flood of refugees still coming out of Syria or its future reconstruction? None of these questions appear even to be being asked by the White House.
Clear answers become even more unlikely when the Trump administration is considering a possible one third cut in the $50 billion budget of the State Department and the Agency for International Development in order to fund a $54 billion increase in the Defense budget. Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management Budget said on March 4 that the cuts would see “fairly dramatic reductions in foreign aid.” There has been widespread opposition from Congress, aid groups, and the media to these proposals. . .
. . . Trump’s growing dependence on a military strategy around the world will reduce US influence with its allies and all major powers. It also makes it less likely that they will join what Trump hopes will be a crusade against the Islamic State. Autocrats around the world will follow the American example and be encouraged to abandon diplomacy and politics and use force to get their way. We will be left with a US that is set on inflaming conflicts rather than ending them, a US that abandons any sense of global responsibility and pays no regard to international agreements. A new global era has begun in which American allies can no longer rely on American leadership. It may be the most dangerous period we have seen in our lifetimes.