Archive for June 2015
A movie with a complex and nuanced plot. Really intriguing in the moral trade-offs and balancing. Quite remarkable.
Netflix makes it extraordinarily difficult to find. I guess they really are trying to shut down the DVD line—like GM shut down public transit in LA, for example.
Kaleigh Rogers reports at Motherboard on a problem due totally to marijuana being illegal instead of being legal, taxed, and regulated:
It goes without saying that growing weed is a little different from growing other kinds of crops. I mean, I don’t suspect vegetable farmers lose much sleep worrying aboutmischievous teens sneaking into their fields at night to grab fistfuls of organic kale (maybe hipster teens). But there’s one area where the difference between marijuana and other crops is particularly stark: pesticides, and it has both growers and consumers concerned.
For every other crop grown in the US, the chemicals used on them (like pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides) are carefully monitored and restricted by the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. There are different limits setfor what kind of pesticides can be used and what is an acceptable level of chemicals that can be left behind on a crop (crops we eat, like tomatoes, are treated differently than crops we use for other purposes, like cotton).
But because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, there are no protocols for pesticides when it comes to growing weed. From the federal government’s point of view, you shouldn’t be using any pesticides on cannabis because you shouldn’t be growing cannabis in the first place.
This has left growers with limited resources for trying to determine the best way to keep their crops healthy and their customers safe.
“Until very recently, it was the wild west: everyone was using whatever they wanted to, whatever they heard about on the internet,” said Whitney Cranshaw, a professor of entomology at the University of Colorado who studies pest management for crops. “Some were appropriate, others were inappropriate, but there was no direction from the feds, no direction from the state, no direction from anybody. So they just did what they thought was right.”
Recently, states where it’s legal to grow and sell medical or recreational marijuana have started rolling out recommendations for growers. In May, Colorado’s Department of Agriculture released a list of pesticides and fungicides that cannabis growers can use. Washington state followed suit earlier this month. But the lists are limited—they mostly focus on natural pesticides like cinnamon oil and garlic—and don’t provide a lot of info about the potential long-term effects of synthetic pesticides on a crop that isn’t just ingested, but inhaled.
“You can consume a large amount of pesticides from the plant by smoking it,” said Jeffrey Raber, a chemistry PhD who has studied the effects of pesticides on cannabis with his lab The WercShop. In 2013, The WercShop published a peer-reviewed study on the effects of pesticides on marijuana and found that up to 70 percent of pesticide residues on pot could be ingested through smoking. Aside from the high rate, Raber pointed out that inhaling a chemical very different from eating it.
“Usually the safety limits for a chemical on an inhalable substance are about ten times greater because they feel it’s that much more sensitive,” Raber said. “You don’t have stomach acid and your liver coming at things first. When you inhale things, it goes directly into your bloodstream. That’s a very different beast.”
The easy solution would seem to be looking to the pesticide restrictions on tobacco. People inhale tobacco the same way they inhale marijuana, so if a pesticide is safe to use on tobacco it must be safe for growing weed, right? Not quite, Raber said. Turns out the EPA has never been all that strict with tobacco regulations: research has shown the tobacco industry lobbies hard to keep its favored pesticides legal, and the list of pesticides commonly used on tobacco is fairly lengthy. Raber said at the end of the day, tobacco is getting mixed up with dozens of other nasty chemicals before it’s rolled into a cigarette. If you’re getting sick from a cigarette, it’s probably not because of a little bit of residual pesticide on the tobacco leaf.
And besides, Raber pointed out that tobacco, though also smoked, is a pretty different product than marijuana. While pot is often prescribed for people going through cancer treatments like chemotherapy to help ease pain and curb nausea, cigarettes are pretty much universally considered a bad idea when you’re going through chemo.
So if growers can’t look to the government and they can’t look to other crops as an example, what’s a modern day grow-op to do? . . .
High time. When personal beliefs have a social cost that results in harm to the public, then it’s right that the government can act to protect the public. Kaleigh Rogers reports at Motherboard:
It’s official: California has passed a law prohibiting parents from using personal belief as an excuse to keep their kids unvaccinated.
Under the new law, parents can still choose not to vaccinate their children if they wish, but those kids won’t be allowed to attend public schools or daycares, and will have to either be homeschooled or enter a private school.
There are a few exceptions: kids who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons are exempt from the ruling, and only 10 specific vaccines are required, including the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella. Children who have special education needs will also still be guaranteed access to resources they need if they are booted from public school for being unvaccinated.
Last week, California’s State Assembly considered the bill, which had already been green-lit by the state senate, ultimately voting to approve it 46-30. This week, the senate approved the amendments that were added to the bill before passing it to the desk of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the bill this morning.
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” the governor wrote in a memo about his decision. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.” . . .
Darryl Greer published a vivid description of a young criminal (psychopath? cyber-terrorist?) recently in Motherboard:
It begins with a phone call to a police force that could be thousands of miles away, claiming wild threats of violence and mayhem or desperate pleas for help—and then, the sound of a doorbell or a hard knock at the door.
Under the watchful eye of a webcam, victims can be seen lifting a headphone from one ear and momentarily pausing to listen. Some stand up from their computer screens to go investigate, while others go right back to gaming. Whatever the case, the outcome is always the same: well-armed police officers storm in and shout orders to get-the-fuck-on-the-floor.
The phenomenon, known as “swatting,” is not new. But some, hiding behind a shroud of internet anonymity, have taken the practice to new extremes. Such is the case of a 17-year-old teen with a knack for hacking and a penchant for terrorizing fellow gamers—mostly young women—whose fate will be decided in a courtroom in the Vancouver, British Columbia suburb of Port Coquitlam later this month.
In May, he plead guilty to 23 charges of extortion, public mischief and criminal harassment related to several swatting incidents in Canada and the US—out of 40 total charges—but as a young offender he cannot be named.
His guilty plea made international headlines, in part due to his association with a hacking group called Lizard Squad, known for its attacks on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live online gaming services, amongst other video gaming sites. In one eight-hour video, which has since been taken offline, Ars Technica reported that the teen identified himself as a member of the group, and has used the handles “obnoxious” and “internetjesusob” online (Lizard Squad denies the teen was a core member).
But, as local media has reported, the young hacker’s victims were not only the large networks and institutions that Lizard Squad targeted, but unsuspecting fans of the popular video game League of Legends, as well as other gamers who had the misfortune of crossing his path online.
Florida’s Polk County Sheriff’s Office first identified the teen after he placed several threatening calls to locations in the area in late 2014, including threats to shoot and blow up a high school where one of his targets attended. According to a report in The Province, “when [targets] would not acknowledge friend and follow requests or send him things that he wanted, such as photos, he would harass them and their families.”
There was a woman in Arizona, swatted repeatedly and terrorized to the point of dropping out of university for a semester, and the Minnesota parents whose credit was in shambles after the teen swatted their child and posted the parents’ personal information online. In other instances, the teen would call in hostage situations, murders, bomb threats, and threatened to kill police, The Province reported, and would then hack and harass targets and their families for months with “phone calls, texts and by spamming social media accounts.”
In the case of the Arizona woman, the teen even “cancelled utilities, phone and Internet accounts, called her parents in the middle of the night and released their financial information online.” . . .
He’s now gone to trial, and from this report I don’t think the system really has an effective approach. He will be sentenced on 9 July.
I am going to use the Mongoose steadily for the next couple of weeks so I can test various brands of blades. I’m thinking I’ll do three shaves with each brand. Today’s blade: Kamisori.
But first came prep. I do like my Omega 20102, which is now well broken in. And I like Eva Nestorova shaving soaps (evanestorova on Etsy), though I really do wish she’d sell the soaps in tubs rather than as pucks. But they’re good soaps, and having a goat-milk shaving soap is pleasant.
I used the polished Mongoose and I restored the handle. The Mongoose handle really does go well with—and balances—the head, though I continue to recommend the satin finish over the polished finish.
Kamisori blades seem very nice, at least in this first: no problems, easy shaving, good finish. I’m not sure they will best Feather Pro Super or Kai Captain Sharpblade, the other two contenders in this round. Still, a problem-free BBS is not to be sneezed at.
A good splash of D.R. Harris Pink, and I’m getting ready for the day.
The pursuit of profit often leads to results antithetical to the public interest (cf. for-profit hospitals). Jordan Pearson points out in how Google distorts search results to increase profits in this article at Motherboard:
Google uses its role as the internet’s chief information gatekeeper to boost its own products and undercut competitors, according to a new study—and users are worse off because of it.
The study, funded by Yelp, found that Google routinely filters its search results to favour results from Google+. This is because Google’s universal search algorithm mixes “organic” results from around the web with a select few plucked from Google’s own services.
Tim Wu, who coined the term “net neutrality” in 2003, and Harvard business professor Michael Luca conducted the study with members of Yelp’s Data Science Team. According to Wu and Luca, Google’s algorithm actually harms users by limiting the information they see to what resides in the Google ecosystem.
“By prominently displaying Google content in response to search queries, Google is able to leverage its dominance in search to gain customers for this content,” the study reads. “This yields serious concerns if the internal content is inferior to organic search results.”
Wu and Luca had 2,690 people first search Google normally, and then with an open source plug-in called Focus on the User, which automatically augments searches to fetch results from third party review sites instead of Google+. The results of the survey showed that users clicked through on search results 45 percent more often when using Focus on the User.
The researchers interpreted this finding as indicating that customers prefer when results come from outside of Google’s ecosystem, and demonstrates that Google is “intentionally degrading” the customer experience in order to undercut its competitors.
A Google representative declined to comment on the study. . .
After reading this, I immediately installed the Focus on the User plug-in in my Chrome browser.