Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 1st, 2014

Important story on privacy protections of your on-line data

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Once it was just emails, but now with cloud computing and storage, a ton of important stuff is kept on-line—unprotected by an obsolete law.

Read this important article.

And here’s a good breakdown on what it means if you have a smartphone.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 7:25 pm

I thought I because I froze my ice “cubes” as spheres, …

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And then I saw this. I am so amateur it’s embarrassing.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Clever camera tricks

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Explained here.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 6:59 pm

Posted in Techie toys, Video

National flags done in national foods

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For example:

national-flag-made-food-normal

For others, look here.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Food

A good sign: Tech companies defying orders to keep government snooping secret

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Craig Timberg reports in the Washington Post:

Major U.S. technology companies have largely ended the practice of quietly complying with investigators’ demands for e-mail records and other online data, saying that users have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.

This increasingly defiant industry stand is giving some of the tens of thousands of Americans whose Internet data gets swept into criminal investigations each year the opportunity to fight in court to prevent disclosures. Prosecutors, however, warn that tech companies may undermine cases by tipping off criminals, giving them time to destroy vital electronic evidence before it can be gathered.

Fueling the shift is the industry’s eagerness to distance itself from the government after last year’s disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance of online services. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority, officials at all four companies said. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.

As this position becomes uniform across the industry, U.S. tech companies will ignore the instructions stamped on the fronts of subpoenas urging them not to alert subjects about data requests, industry lawyers say. Companies that already routinely notify users have found that investigators often drop data demands to avoid having suspects learn of inquiries.

“It serves to chill the unbridled, cost-free collection of data,” said Albert Gidari Jr., a partner at Perkins Coie who represents several technology companies. “And I think that’s a good thing.”

The Justice Department disagrees, saying in a statement that new industry policies threaten investigations and put potential crime victims in greater peril.

“These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine,” department spokesman Peter Carr said, citing a case in which early disclosure put at risk a cooperative witness in a case. He declined to offer details because the case was under seal.

The changing tech company policies do not affect data requests approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which are automatically kept secret by law. National security letters, which are administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI for national security investigations, also carry binding gag orders.

The government traditionally has notified people directly affected by searches and seizures — though often not immediately — when investigators entered a home or tapped a phone line. But that practice has not survived the transition into the digital world. Cellular carriers such as AT&T and Verizon typically do not tell customers when investigators collect their call data.

Many tech companies once followed a similar model of quietly cooperating with law enforcement. Courts, meanwhile, ruled that it was sufficient for the government to notify the providers of Internet services of data requests, rather than the affected customers.

Twitter, founded in 2006, became perhaps the first major tech company to routinely notify users when investigators collected data, yet few others followed at first. . .

Continue reading.

It’s a long article and worth reading. From later in the article:

The changing legal standards of technology companies most directly affect federal, state and local criminal investigators, who have found that companies increasingly balk at data requests once considered routine. Most now refuse to disclose the contents of e-mails or social media posts when presented with subpoenas, insisting that the government instead seek search warrants, which are issued only by judges and require the stricter legal standard of probable cause.

Subpoenas, by contrast, can be issued by a broader range of authorities and require only that the information sought be deemed “relevant” to an investigation. A 2010 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit backed the industry’s contention that search warrants should be required for digital content, a standard now widely accepted.

For data other than content — such as records showing the senders and recipients of e-mails, the phone numbers registered with accounts or identifying information about the computers used to access services — companies have continued accepting subpoenas but warn investigators that users will be notified before disclosure occurs.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 4:39 pm

Big Pharma fights low-cost cancer treatments

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Sure, people will die unnecessarily, but profits will be much better with expensive treatments. And profit is the name of the game.

Jake Bernstein writes in Pacific Standard:

Michael Retsky awoke from surgery to bad news. The tumor in his colon had spread to four of his lymph nodes and penetrated the bowel wall. When Retsky showed the pathology report to William Hrushesky, his treating oncologist, the doctor exclaimed, “Mamma mia.”

“Michael had a mean looking cancer,” Hrushesky remembers.

Retsky didn’t need anyone to tell him his prognosis. Although trained as a physicist, he had switched careers to cancer research in the early 1980s and spent more than a decade modeling the growth of breast cancer tumors. During his treatment, he joined the staff of one of the most prestigious cancer research labs in the country.

In the absence of chemotherapy, there was an 80 percent chance of relapse. Even with therapy, there was a 50 percent chance the cancer would return. The standard treatment was brutal. Six months of the highest dose of chemotherapy his body could withstand and, after that, nothing but hope.

Like many cancer patients, Retsky didn’t much like the odds. Unlike most cancer patients, however, he had the knowledge to question them. His own research had sown doubts that standard chemotherapy, as used the world over to treat colon and some breast cancers, was always the best approach. In collaboration with Hrushesky, the two devised an inexpensive, low-impact chemo treatment following surgery that dripped smaller doses of the drug into his body over a longer period of time.

Seventeen years later and cancer free, Retsky cannot be entirely sure the treatment cured him, but he believes it likely did. Numerous laboratory, animal, and small human studies suggest that low-dose, continuous chemotherapy holds promise in shrinking tumors and preventing cancer’s recurrence. But the next step—testing what Retsky did in a large-scale clinical trial—is a longshot given the way cancer treatments are developed today.

Take Michelle Holmes, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. She’s been trying for years to raise money for trials on the effects of aspirin on breast cancer. Animal studies, in vitro experiments, and analysis of patient outcomes suggest that aspirin might help inhibit breast cancer from spreading. Yet even her peers on scientific advisory boards appear uninterested, she says.

“For some reason a drug that could be patented would get a randomized trial, but aspirin, which has amazing properties, goes unexplored because it’s 99 cents at CVS,” says Holmes.

Increasingly, Big Pharma is betting on new blockbuster cancer drugs that cost billions to develop and can be sold for thousands of dollars a dose. In 2010, each of the top 10 cancer drugs topped more than $1 billion in sales, according to Campbell Alliance, a health-care consulting firm. A decade earlier, only two of them did. Left behind are low-cost alternatives—therapies like Retsky’s or existing off-label medications, including generics—that have shown some merit but don’t have enough profit potential for drug companies to invest in researching them. . .

Continue reading.

It’s a lengthy article and well worth reading in its entirety.

This is why government-funded research is so important: the government can tackle things that benefit the general public without have to make a profit. The government could readily study the effects of aspirin on cancer. But the GOP continues to cut back on funding Federal agencies so that the 1% can keep more of their wealth—another sign of the decline of America.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 4:34 pm

America, an empire in decline

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TomDispatch.com has an interesting column by Peter Van Buren:

As America’s new economy starts to look more like the old economy of the Great Depression, the divide between rich and poor, those who have made it and those who never will, seems to grow ever starker. I know. I’ve seen it firsthand.

Once upon a time, I worked as a State Department officer, helping to carry out the occupation of Iraq, where Washington’s goal was regime change. It was there that, in a way, I had my first taste of the life of the 1%. Unlike most Iraqis, I had more food and amenities than I could squander, nearly unlimited funds to spend as I wished (as long as the spending supported us one-percenters), and plenty of U.S. Army muscle around to keep the other 99% at bay. However, my subsequent whistleblowing about State Department waste and mismanagement in Iraq ended my 24-year career abroad and, after a two-decade absence, deposited me back in “the homeland.”

I returned to America to find another sort of regime change underway, only I wasn’t among the 1% for this one. Instead, I ended up working in the new minimum-wage economy and saw firsthand what a life of lousy pay and barely adequate food benefits adds up to. For the version of regime change that found me working in a big box store, no cruise missiles had been deployed and there had been no shock-and-awe demonstrations. Nonetheless, the cumulative effects of years of deindustrialization, declining salaries, absent benefits, and weakened unions, along with a rise in meth and alcohol abuse, a broad-based loss of good jobs, and soaring inequality seemed similar enough to me. The destruction of a way of life in the service of the goals of the 1%, whether in Iraq or at home, was hard to miss. Still, I had the urge to see more. Unlike in Iraq, where my movements were limited, here at home I could hit the road, so I set off for a look at some of America’s iconic places as part of the research for my book, Ghosts of Tom Joad.

Here, then, are snapshots of four of the spots I visited in an empire in decline, places you might pass through if you wanted to know where we’ve been, where we are now, and (heaven help us) where we’re going.

On the Boardwalk: Atlantic City, New Jersey

Drive in to Atlantic City on the old roads, and you’re sure to pass Lucy the Elephant.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 4:28 pm

What Minecraft Teaches Kids

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Some good things.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Games, Software, Technology

State laws that ban municipal Internet will be invalidated, FCC chair says

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Good news. The telecom industry (and ALEC) have been making a big push to make it illegal for municipalities to offer free public wi-fi, and in particular to halt communities building high-speed fiber networks for their citizens. But the FCC is on the case.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 1:23 pm

The contradiction between capitalism and the free market

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Paul Rosenberg has an interesting article in Salon. From the article:

“Free markets” and capitalism are actually quite contrary in their foundations. The essence of free markets are competition, driving down prices to nearly the cost of production. The essence of capitalism is the accumulation of capital, which depends on hefty profits, and thus limited competition. Hence, “free markets” are mostly mythical, sometimes fleetingly appearing here or there, only to be quickly contained, if possible. If not, the results can be massive ruination, as happened with successive mass railroad bankruptcies in both Britain and America in the 19th century, a subject explored in depth in Michael Perelman’s 2006 book, “Railroading Economics: The Creation of the Free Market Mythology.”

As Perelman’s subtitle suggests, the mythology was actually created against the backdrop of certain knowledge that it spelled ruin, if taken seriously. But nothing works better to suppress contradictions than having an outside enemy. So long as there was Marxism to kick around, the contradictions of “free market capitalism” were relatively easy to contain. With Piketty’s data exposing the downside of capitalist accumulation from a different angle, it’s hardly surprising to hear the “Marxism” charge raised again, in a desperate attempt to suppress critical inquiry. Now, however, too many people have been hurt to be so easily scared off by baseless name-calling.

I’ve long observed that businesses want the free market—constant competition, driving prices lower—among their suppliers, while for themselves they want either a monopoly or monopoly powers (through protective regulation). Businesses basically do not want competition, however much lip service they give to it. Competition frightens them because it threatens profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

The corporate takeover: Removing your legal rights division

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Binding arbitration is something corporations love, and in part it’s because they choose the arbitrators and pay their fees and, perhaps only by coincidence, arbitrators find in favor of the company and against the consumer about 99.9% of the time. (Arbitrators who find for consumers tend to find themselves no longer selected.)

And you will find you constantly must agree to binding arbitration of any disputes and forfeit any chance of legal action in order simply to sign up for a service. Paul Gordon writes at Other Words:

Buying a cell phone plan could make you powerless to sue your phone company if it defrauds you. Using a coupon to buy a box of cereal may mean you give up your right to sue if the food is tainted. Checking your grandmother into a nursing home could prevent you from holding the facility accountable for negligence. “Liking” something on Facebook could sign you on to a legally binding contract that you’ve never read.

American consumers are quietly being forced into contracts with giant corporations that they often don’t understand or even know about and are nearly always powerless to change.

These contracts are hidden in long, unwieldy terms-and-conditions documents. Even people who can decipher the legalese can’t change them. You either agree to sign your rights away to a cell phone service provider, or go without cell phone service at all.

The agreements prevent consumers from taking the corporations to court or joining with others in class actions. We’re increasingly being forced to take disputes into private arbitration when something goes wrong. This David-and-Goliath arrangement is often conducted by arbitrators who rely on major corporations for repeat business, and usually offers no process for appealing decisions.

In the latest example of how far giant corporations are willing to go to prevent Americans from accessing our court system to protect our rights, The New York Times recently reported that the food giant General Mills had added language to its website informing consumers that if they so much as downloaded a coupon or “liked” the company on Facebook, they gave up their right to sue.

General Mills quickly backed off once its tactic came to light. But the incident shows just how far some corporations are willing to take this strategy. Arbitration agreements are quite common in a number of industries, including car dealerships, home construction, and even nursing homes.

And they’re spreading, thanks to the judicial and legislative failure to protect consumers’ rights.

In a series of recent rulings, the conservative Supreme Court majority has given giant corporations the green light to continue this deceptive racket.

One recent case involved Liza and Vincent Concepcion, a California couple who sued AT&T when it turned out that a “free phone” the company had offered wasn’t at all free: The company charged them sales taxes on the undiscounted price of the phone, about $30.

The Concepcions filed a class-action lawsuit to hold the company accountable not just to them but to everyone they’d bilked out of $30 — many of whom had never even noticed the charge.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the arbitration agreement that the Concepcions had signed when they bought their phone plan meant they would have to go to private arbitration to recover their $30…and so would every single person who had bought the same plan.

This essentially left AT&T off the hook because, as Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissent, “only a lunatic or a fanatic sues for $30.”

And in a decision last year, the Roberts Court made it easier for giant corporations to bypass antitrust laws and impose similar unfair conditions on small businesses. In this case,

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

If you doubt the critical role our nation’s courts can play in protecting individual rights, just ask why large corporations are working so hard to keep you out of them. That’s why Democrats Sen. Al Franken, of Minnesota, and Rep. Hank Johnson, of Georgia, have introduced a bill to ban such forced arbitration clauses.

I just emailed the following message to both my US Senators and also my US Representative:

Corporations are eagerly removing the consumer’s right to legal redress by REQUIRING binding arbitration, with the corporation selecting and paying the arbitrators, who (to no one’s surprise) find in favor of the corporation 99.9% of the time. (The few who find against the corporation stop getting hired.)

Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Hank Johnson have introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act to stop this scam.

Please support that bill vigorously.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 11:23 am

Parker 92R and Tabula Rasa

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SOTD 1 May 2014

I have in the past been leery of Parker razors. The first imports had some serious quality problems (“shoddy” is the word that came to my mind), but as they have grown, they have focused on improving quality control and the quality of the products has substantially improved. (I also recall the first Japanese auto imports were also of shaky quality, but they, too, focused on quality control, which is the first step in quality improvement: as Deming exhorts, the first step is to minimize variation—his Out of the Crisis is a wonderful read. Deming is a god in Japan. Joseph Juran, who focus on managing for quality, was also highly influential there. American manufacturing at the time had no interest in ensuring quality—recall the American autos of the era, some specifically designed to rust out, with pockets to catch salty road ice.)

So I got this 92R to try it out, and it seemed good to take a break from using the Stealth to let the learning settle and connect. As William James remarks in the chapter on Habit in his book Psychology, “We learn to swim during the winter and to skate during the summer.” (“Skate” means “ice-skate”: James wrote prior to roller skates.) The time off allows us to consolidate the skills.

So first an excellent lather from my Tabula Rasa Patchouli, using the WSP Monarch. Then I set to work with the 92R holding a Personna Lab Blue blade. The 92R is a TTO razor, and the black part of the handle turns to open the doors. The handle is textured with a kind of rounded-point chequering that gives a secure grip, and the razor is quite hefty: it feels “heavy-duty”.

The shave went very well: BBS result, no nicks, and at the price ($31 from BullgooseShaving.com) it’s a good buy. I’m going to have to start mentioning Parker as a starter razor.

A good splash of Alt Innsbruck, and soon I’ll have to buy a bottle of that.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2014 at 8:59 am

Posted in Shaving

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