Later On

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

Archive for November 19th, 2014

Wow! Great column carefully explaining what’s going on (and why) in Saudi Arabia

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You seldom see such a good summary. And it comes from a good source:

Toby Matthiesen is a research fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. He is the author of The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism, which outlines the history of political movements among the Shiites of Saudi Arabia and their relationship with the Saudi state. It will be published by Cambridge University Press in January 2015.

He writes in the Washington Post:

On Oct. 15, Nimr al-Nimr, a Saudi Arabian Shiite cleric, was sentenced to death by the Special Criminal Court in Riyadh. Since 2011, Nimr has become the figurehead of a protest movement centered in eastern Saudi Arabia that has been largely denied coverage by mainstream media. The sentencing has implications far beyond Nimr’s personal fate. The Saudi crackdown is important because it has set a precedent for how the kingdom deals with political dissent and not just because it is another example of Saudi anti-Shiism.

The timing of the sentence is puzzling. Saudi decision-making works in myriad ways. Some observers feel that Nimr’s death sentence is intended to show the Sunni population that alongside a number of long prison sentences issued against Sunnis who had supported Islamic State militants or al-Qaeda, the government is also being tough on Shiites. But this sectarian logic only further entrenches divisions and hostilities that have fueled the rise of extremist Islamic groups and the regional sectarian war.

The Saudi-sponsored doctrinal and strategic anti-Shiism has recently backfired at home, too. On Nov. 3, one day before Ashura, one of the holiest days in the Shiite Muslim calendar, Sunni militants opened fire on a crowd leaving a Shiite prayer hall in the al-Ahsa oasis in eastern Saudi Arabia. Several Shiites were killed, including a number of minors, and scores wounded. While the Shiites in Saudi Arabia experience institutional and religious discrimination, the state’s security forces had hitherto protected them against attacks by Sunni militants. Al-Qaeda and its various offshoots had for years planned attacks on Shiites in the Eastern Province, aiming to increase sectarian tensions in the kingdom and possibly provoke armed retaliation from the Shiites. Several such plots, including one believed to have been targeting senior Shiite cleric Hassan al-Saffar, were foiled in the past.

All official organs of the state, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2014 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Organizational learning in action: Barilla pays attention

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Quite a good turnaround. Sandhya Somashekhar reports in the Washington Post:

Not long ago, pasta-maker Barilla was just one more major company that had run afoul of the gay rights movement, a distinction it earned last year when its chairman said he would never feature a same-sex couple in an ad. If gays didn’t like it, he added, they could eat something else.

But in a sign of how toxic it has become for a company to be viewed as unfriendly toward gays, Barilla has made a dramatic turnaround in the space of one year, expanding health benefits for transgender workers and their families, contributing money to gay rights causes, and featuring a lesbian couple on a promotional Web site.

Barilla has journeyed from gay rights pariah to poster child — on Wednesday it received a perfect score from a prominent gay rights group that rates companies on their gay-friendliness. It is an about-face that highlights how companies, which typically shy away from controversy, are increasingly being forced to take sides in the cultural battle over gay rights and same-sex marriage — and how decisively pro-gay forces have gained the upper hand.

Other household-name brands have also found themselves in hot water over actions that were perceived to be anti-gay. Target, for example, strived to make amends after coming under fire in 2010 for political contributions that supported a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who opposed same-sex marriage. Chick-fil-A stopped giving to certain organizations in 2012 after earning the ire of gay rights groups that accused the fast-food chain of supporting anti-gay causes. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2014 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Wow! Uber apparently does track critics

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And if they’re tracking people, they’re looking for dirt. Emil Michael wasn’t just making idle conversation, he was (in effect) warning the journalist by telling him what Uber “could” do (i.e., has done). Ellen Cushing reports in San Francisco Magazine:

While I was reporting my recent cover story on Uber and its CEO Travis Kalanick, several current and former Uber employees warned me that company higher-ups might access my rider logs. Because I couldn’t independently verify these claims without sacrificing my sources’ anonymity, I didn’t include them in the final piece.

However, in light of Buzzfeed’s latest revelations about Uber executives discussing hiring opposition researchers to dig into the personal life of a reporter, Sarah Lacy, who had repeatedly criticized the company, these threats against my own privacy appear to be less of a paranoid possibility than I’d originally thought.

It’s worth noting here that as far as I know, the company hasn’t looked into my logs. After talking to Uber staffers, it’s quite clear that the company stokes paranoia in its employees about talking to the press, so there’s a solid possibility that my sources’ fears were just the result of overzealous (and unfounded) precaution. But when I contacted a former employee last night about the news, this person told me that “it’s not very hard to access the travel log information they’re talking about. I have no idea who is ‘auditing’ this log or access information. At least when I was there, any employee could access rider rating information, as I was able to do it. How much deeper you could go with regular access, I’m not sure, as I didn’t try.” A second former employee told me something similar, saying “I never heard anything about execs digging into reporters’ travel logs, though it would be easy for them to do so.”

While I was conducting reporting, however, a current employee told me that he or she had access to my (and presumably other peoples’) rider logs. (Again, I can’t confirm whether or not this is true.) This summer, the venture capitalist turned author Peter Sims revealed in a post on Medium that the company had broadcast his real-time user data to a party in Chicago in 2012. And Smith’s post relayed an unrelated incident in which an Uber NYC staffer accessed Buzzfeed reporter Johana Bhuiyan’s personal data in the course of making a point about the company to her. . .

Continue reading.

One thing I notice is often omitted from the news reports of Emil Michael’s plan: the idea was to dig up dirt to damage the journalist AND HER FAMILY. They were going to go after family members. I think that is worth noting.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2014 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Business, Media

Interesting Israeli idea: Punish the parents of criminals

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I wonder if this will catch on in the US. Jodi Rudoren reports in the NY Times:

Moving ahead with a revival of a controversial policy suspended a decade ago, Israeli security forces early Wednesday demolished the East Jerusalem family home of a Palestinian man who plowed his car into pedestrians last month, killing a baby and a young woman.

Inas al-Shaloudy, the mother of the driver, Abdel Rahman al-Shaloudy, said border police officers arrived “in large numbers” on Wednesday at 1 a.m. and evacuated about 50 people from her five-story building and nearby structures. Huddled with the group in a protest tent, she said she heard an explosion at 4 a.m. and returned an hour later to find her apartment filled with broken glass, its inner walls destroyed, and those of her neighbors cracked.

“This is not only collective punishment, it is a call for a violent reaction,” said Ms. Shaloudy, 43, who teaches English.

Israel sealed or destroyed the homes this summer of four other Palestinians who killed Jews, and did so twice in 2009, after halting the widespread practice in 2005 when a commission found that it rarely worked as a deterrent and instead inflamed hostility.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel vowed to renew the policy as part of a wider crackdown following a wave of deadly attacks over the last month, the latest killing four worshipers and a police officer at a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday. . .

Continue reading.

Is Israel capable of not over-reacting? Destroying people’s homes—people who committed no crime other than being Palestinian—is not going to bring peace, but it is increasingly obvious that Israel is not interested in peace: it wants Palestinian lands, and it wants to get rid of the Palestinians.

I condemn the recent attacks by Palestinians—but in response to destroy the apartment of the man’s mother? What are they thinking? How is that just?

Maybe they think this sort of action will deter attacks. I would say it is more likely to encourage attacks.

UPDATE: OTOH, will Israel security forces will totally destroy the apartments of the mothers of the three Jews who burned a Palestinian boy alive? I somehow doubt it. In Israel, the line between Chosen People and Master Race grows increasingly blurred.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2014 at 10:29 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

You MUST hear Gov. Jay Nixon say who’s in charge of the police response to protests

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Ferguson is expecting (a) that there will be protests if officer Darrell Wilson is not indicted, and (b) that officer Wilson will not be indicted. So the county, municipal, and state governments have established a force to prevent any rioting. Gov. Jay Nixon was asked a simple question: “Who’s in charge of that response?” You absolutely must listen to his answer. (Hint: it’s not just title, first name, last name—he stumbles on for almost 3 minutes.)

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2014 at 9:57 am

Uber allegedly tracked journalist with internal tool called ‘God View’

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So Uber is all set up to track their customers and see every trip they’ve made: from origin to destination with dates and times. And they’ve given the app a cool name and undoubtedly it’s being used (as I noted yesterday) by low-level employees to stalk love interests and celebrities—after all, NSA found that some of its analysts were using NSA capabilities for such purposes, and it’s perfectly clear that Uber has a much more free-swinging, anything-goes culture than the NSA.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2014 at 9:53 am

Posted in Business

Best healthcare system in the world

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Canadian mother finds what US medicine is like when she gets a $1 million bill for a childbirth. (Had she been in Canada, her bill would have been $0: socialized medicine.) You’ll note that the insurance company found a way to avoid paying anything: that’s what insurance companies try to do. They’re in business to make money, not help the insured. They will help if there’s no way around it, but if there is a way, you won’t see them for dust.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2014 at 9:42 am

Posted in Business, Healthcare

The Mafia and Wall Street: Parallels and possible partnership

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Pam Martens in Wall Street on Parade notes:

Every now and then, someone raises the question of Mafia infiltration on Wall Street or suggests that Wall Street has become an Ivy-league educated, better tailored version of the mob. Now, two lawyers, Helen Davis Chaitman and Lance Gotthoffer have dramatically ratcheted up the debate, suggesting boldly in the latest chapter of their free on-line book that there are stark parallels between the Gambino crime family and JPMorgan Chase – the nation’s largest bank.

Writer Matt Taibbi had a similar epiphany back in 2012 in an article for Rolling Stone titled The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafiathe story of how major Wall Street firms conspired together to rig bidding in the municipal bond market. Taibbi writes: “In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business.”

In 2009, the book, Nothing but Money by New York Daily News reporter Greg B. Smith was released, detailing actual Mafia infiltration in stock pump and dump schemes on Wall Street, albeit at small firms. That was preceded in 2003 by Born to Steal: When the Mafia Hit Wall Street by long-time business writer and author, Gary Weiss.  The Weiss book took an in-depth look at Mob-run stock brokerage firms selling phantom stocks by following the career of one of the stock swindlers, Louis Pasciuto, who eventually turned state witness.

But what attorneys Chaitman and Gotthoffer are doing is extraordinary and unprecedented. They are asking the public to seriously look at the parallels between the Mafia and JPMorgan Chase, a bank holding over $1.7 trillion in Federal Reserve assetsand more than $1.3 trillion in deposits, the bulk of which are insured by the FDIC and ultimately backstopped by the U.S. taxpayer.

Chaitman is a nationally recognized litigator and author of The Law of Lender Liability. She is also a Bernie Madoff victim who lost a large part of her life savings to his Ponzi scheme and then tenaciously represented other victims of his fraud in district and appellate courts. Chaitman has teamed up with fellow attorney, Lance Gotthoffer, to conduct an exhaustive investigation of the intersection of the Madoff fraud with the bank that was criminally charged by the U.S. Justice Department in the matter – JPMorgan Chase. (The bank signed a deferred prosecution agreement and paid $1.7 billion to the Madoff victims’ fund to avoid prosecution.)

The book is titled JPMadoff: The Unholy Alliance Between America’s Biggest Bank and America’s Biggest Crook. The authors are releasing a new chapter of the book each month as well as a quick means of contacting your legislator in Washington to urge Congress toact in the interests of the American people, not in the interests of the financial institutions that are rich enough to make significant contributions.”

The latest chapter looks at the culture inside JPMorgan and provides a detailed portrait of some of the main insiders: among them, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2014 at 9:37 am

Very nice shave with very good soap

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SOTD 19 Nov 2014

A very fine shave today. I do like Strop Shoppe shaving soaps a lot, and not simply because she (unlike most artisan soapmakers) actually sell full tubs of the soap rather than tubs that are half empty. Wasted space becomes an issue when you happen to own a lot of soaps, and the reason for using tubs that are too large for the amount of soap to be sold is unclear to me, except that it looks as though you’re getting more soap than in fact is delivered. As I’ve mentioned, the fine English shaving soap makers (Truefitt & Hill, Trumper, TOBS, D.R. Harris, et al.) all sell containers (wooden tubs, typically) in which the soap comes up to the brim of the container.

So does Strop Shoppe—and the soap in the container is also superb: very easy to lather, very protective, slick, and thick. I used the Simpson Emperor 2 Super shaving brush.

Then an easy 3-pass shave with the Gillette President—it looks extra-spiffy because it is rhodium plated rather than nickel plated, something I did a few years back. The shave was super nice, and I checked to see whether I was using one of my last remaining Astra Keramik Platinum blades, but in fact it was an Astra Superior Platinum.

A good splash of Paul Sebastian, and the day is launched.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2014 at 9:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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