Later On

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

Archive for June 20th, 2017

How Jeff Sessions is wrong about drug sentencing

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Radley Balko counts the ways in the Washington Post:

So Attorney General Jeff Sessions took to the pages of The Washington Post to write an op-ed last weekend. Sessions is rescinding an Obama administration policy that instructed federal prosecutors to avoid seeking mandatory minimums in some drug cases.

In Sessions’s defense, he did get one thing right, although he seemed to utterly miss the significance of it. And then he got a lot of things wrong. So many, in fact, that only a line-by-line review will do the whole thing justice.

So let’s get to it. Sessions begins:

Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t, and don’t, file a lawsuit in court. You collect it by the barrel of a gun.

So this is the thing Sessions got right. Drug trafficking is violent. It is violent because courts and other traditional nonviolent means of settling disputes aren’t available to anyone involved. And it isn’t just debts. Where purveyors of legal products compete for customers by offering a better product, a cheaper product or better service, drug traffickers win customers, or “turf,” by killing one another. This has always been true — of drugs, and of every other product sold on the black market.

It’s encouraging that Sessions realizes this. What’s puzzling is how Sessions can (a) acknowledge that black markets cause violence, (b) claim to worry about said violence, and yet (c) work behind the scenes to expand black markets. Sessions not only opposes legalizing drugs, but he also wants to return states that have already legalized recreational marijuana — and who seem to be doing just fine — to the days when marijuana was available only on the black market. Or to put it as Sessions does: If pot retailers in Colorado, Washington and the other legalization states need to collect on a debt today, they do what any other retailer does. They use the legal system. If Sessions had his way, pot dealers in these states would to back to collecting debts “by the barrel of a gun.”

Why does Jeff Sessions want people in Washington, Colorado, and the other states that have legalized marijuana to experience increased violence — violence that he himself acknowledges would be inevitable if he were to get his way? Is it really that important to make it more difficult for people to get high? What for Sessions would be an appropriate “dead bodies”-to-“euphorias prevented” ratio?

For the approximately 52,000 Americans who died of a drug overdose in 2015, drug trafficking was a deadly business.

About 18,000 of those deaths involved prescription opioids, which are legally available. About 8,000 involved benzodiazepines, which are also available legally. Both of those types of drugs are made by pharmaceutical companies, prescribed by doctors and sold by pharmacies. Does Sessions believe those are all inherently violent industries? The Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related deaths. Does Sessions believe that Anheuser-Busch, Diageo and E & J Gallo run “deadly businesses”? What about the 480,000 people who die each year from smoking? Is tobacco a “deadly business”?

Moreover, there’s solid and mounting evidence that marijuana may be an effective substitute for opioids when it comes to treating pain. States that have legalized marijuana have seen a drop in hospitalizations for opioid addiction and overdose, suggesting that if it’s easily available, people prefer to treat pain with marijuana rather than with opioids. Which means that under Sessions’s preferred policy of pot prohibition, we’d almost certainly see much higher numbers of opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

Yet in 2013, subject to limited exceptions, the Justice Department ordered federal prosecutors not to include in charging documents the amount of drugs being dealt when the actual amount was large enough to trigger a mandatory minimum sentence. Prosecutors were required to leave out objective facts in order to achieve sentences lighter than required by law.

This isn’t an accurate characterization of the memo issued by former attorney general Eric Holder. The memo states only that in cases in which a defendant was in possession of enough drugs to trigger a mandatory minimum federal sentence, federal prosecutors should decline to charge the crime that would trigger that sentence if the defendant meets a number of criteria, including not having committed an act of violence in association with the crime, not being the leader or organizer of a trafficking organization, not having ties to cartels or major drug traffickers, and not having a significant criminal history.

I suppose in some sense the memo required prosecutors to “leave out” facts in that it asked them to charge less than what federal law permits. But prosecutors have always had the discretion to bring lighter chargers than what they could conceivably bring. Moreover, when you considerthe unfair, irrational way in which federal authorities measure drug quantities for the purpose of charging and sentencing, the Holder policy at best made the playing field slightly more level.

This was billed as an effort to curb mass incarceration of low-level offenders, but in reality it covered offenders apprehended with large quantities of dangerous drugs. The result was that federal drug prosecutions went down dramatically — from 2011 to 2016, federal prosecutions fell by 23 percent. Meanwhile, the average sentence length for a convicted federal drug offender decreased 18 percent from 2009 to 2016.

There are any number of reasons the number of federal drug prosecutions might drop. But note the range of years Sessions chooses here. The Holder memo was in 2013. Why go back to 2011? Because that’s when federal drug prosecutions peaked. But there was a big drop between 2011 and 2012, which wouldn’t have been affected by the Holder memo at all. There’s also a big drop between 2013 and 2014. You might argue the Holder memo played a role there, but the memo wasn’t issued until August of 2013. And between 2014 and 2016, the number of prosecutions dropped, but only slightly. I don’t see a handy table for average sentence length by year, but I’ll guess that Sessions chose 2009 as his baseline for that statistic.

Of course, if the Holder memo did reduce drug sentences for nonviolent offenders, good. That’s exactly what it was supposed to do. The evidence for this isn’t overwhelming, but the Sentencing Commission did report in March of 2016 that federal prosecutors were focusing less on low-level offenders, and more on serious and violent offenders. One would think that this is a positive trend, too.

For Sessions to show that this was somehow detrimental to public safety, he needs to show a link between lenient sentences and crime. And here his argument falls to pieces.

Before that policy change, . . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 7:43 pm

Our first-ever drug epidemic with corporate backing and big marketing budgets

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Kevin Drum has some sobering charts. If Jeff Sessions truly does fire up the War on Drugs, our prisons are going to be overflowing—but there are big bucks to be made in building and running prisons as government contractors (i.e., private corporations). So I imagine the new War on Drugs will have strong corporate backing.

Do read Drum’s post.

And Drum points out “Donald Trump has no foreign policy” (except to be played for a sucker).

And do read, “Donald Trump, Classy as Always.”

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 6:02 pm

The GOP ignores its constituents and serves only its masters: Mitch McConnell flat out refuses to give Senate more than 10 hours to review healthcare bill

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Walter Einenkel writes at DailyKos:

As a small cabal of old impotent white men clandestinely put together an enormous tax break for the rich at the cost of millions of people’s lives, word has leaked that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans on bringing his Trumpcare bill to the floor for a vote sometime next week. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) questioned McConnell on the floor of the Senate Monday and tried to get something resembling “reason” out of a man and a political party that has long disappeared from democracy and into the funhouse of corruption. It led to this exchange:

Schumer: I’ll just renew my request for one more. Will we have time, more than ten hours since this is a complicated bill, to review the bill? Will it be available to us and the public more than ten hours before we have to vote for it? Since our leader has said—our Republican leader—that there will be plenty of time for a process where people can make amendments. You need time to prepare those amendments.

McConnell: I think we’ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.

Schumer: Will it be more than ten hours?

McConnell: I think we’ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.

Schumer: I rest my case.

There are not enough curses in the human family of languages to describe what I think of Mitch McConnell. You can watch the exchange here.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 5:22 pm

And Just Like That, Google Becomes The World’s Largest Job Board

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Mark Wilson writes in Co.Design:

Monster. CareerBuilder. GlassDoor. LinkedIn. When you’re looking for a new job, you’re required to dig through countless job boards, managing logins and apps. Or it did. Now you can just google it.

Starting today, when you search something like “jobs near me” or “restaurant jobs in Chicago,” you’ll be ushered to a new part of Google Search called Google for Jobs. Here, you can further specify the opportunity you’re looking for, and Google will list opportunities from some of the largest employer databases on the web (including every site mentioned at the top of this article).

The search tool should do a lot to streamline the job hunt. It can even give you a desktop alert or email notification as new jobs matching your criteria are posted.

But on a broader level, what’s so incredible about this feature is how swiftly and efficiently Google can disrupt an industry, just by adding some new capabilities to the Swiss army knife that is Search.

Google tells Co.Design that no money is exchanging hands to get partners using its new Cloud Jobs API–which is what powers this experience. The company has no plans for monetization of the platform at this time, aside from its standard ad practices. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 5:17 pm

How Two Common Medications Became One $455 Million Specialty Pill

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Marshall Allen reports for ProPublica:

Everything happened so fast as I walked out of the doctor’s exam room. I was tucking in my shirt and wondering if I’d asked all my questions about my injured shoulder when one of the doctor’s assistants handed me two small boxes of pills.

“These will hold you over until your prescription arrives in the mail,” she said, pointing to the drug samples.

Strange, I thought to myself, the doctor didn’t mention giving me any drugs.

I must have looked puzzled because she tried to reassure me.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “It won’t cost you any more than $10.”

I was glad whatever was coming wouldn’t break my budget, but I didn’t understand why I needed the drugs in the first place. And why wasn’t I picking them up at my local CVS?

At first I shrugged it off. This had been my first visit with an orthopedic specialist and he, Dr. Mohnish Ramani, hadn’t been the chatty type. He’d barely said a word as he examined me, tugging my arm this way and bending it that way before rotating it behind my back. The pain made me squirm and yelp, but he knew what he was doing. He promptly diagnosed me with frozen shoulder, a debilitating inflammation of the shoulder capsule.

But back to the drugs. As an investigative reporter who has covered health care for more than a decade, the interaction was just the sort of thing to pique my interest. One thing I’ve learned is that almost nothing in medicine — especially brand-name drugs — is ever really a deal. When I got home, I looked up the drug: Vimovo.

The drug has been controversial, to say the least. Vimovo was created using two readily and cheaply available generic, or over-the-counter, medicines: naproxen, also known by the brand Aleve, and esomeprazole magnesium, also known as Nexium. The Aleve handles your pain and the Nexium helps with the upset stomach that’s sometimes caused by the pain reliever. The key selling point of this new “convenience drug”? It’s easier to take one pill than two.

But only a minority of patients get an upset stomach, and there was no indication I’d be one of them. Did I even need the Nexium component?

Of course I also did the math. You can walk into your local drugstore and buy a month’s supply of Aleve and Nexium for about $40. For Vimovo, the pharmacy billed my insurance company $3,252. This doesn’t mean the drug company ultimately gets paid that much. The pharmaceutical world is rife with rebates and side deals — all designed to elbow ahead of the competition. But apparently the price of convenience comes at a steep mark-up.

Think about it another way. Let’s say you want to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for a month. You could buy a big jar of peanut butter and a jar of grape jelly for less than 10 bucks. Or you could buy some of that stuff where they combine the peanut butter and grape jelly into the same jar. Smucker’s makes it. It’s called Goober. Except in this scenario, instead of its usual $3.50 price tag, Smucker’s is charging $565 for the jar of Goober.

So if Vimovo is the Goober of drugs, then why have Americans been spending so much on it? My insurance company, smartly, rejected the pharmacy’s claim. But I knew Vimovo’s makers weren’t wooing doctors like mine for nothing. So I looked up the annual reports for the Ireland-based company, Horizon Pharma, which makes Vimovo. Since 2014, Vimovo’s net sales have been more than $455 million. That means a lot of insurers are paying way more than they should for their Goober.

And Vimovo wasn’t Horizon’s only such drug. . .

Continue reading.

And do read the whole thing. Later:

. . . With Vimovo, it seemed I stumbled on another waste stream: overpriced drugs whose actual costs are hidden from doctors and patients. In the case of Horizon, the brazenness of its approach was even more astounding because it had previously been called out in media reports and in a 2016 congressional hearing on out-of-control drug prices.

Health care economists also were wise to it.

“It’s a scam,” said Devon Herrick, a health care economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis. “It is just a way to gouge insurance companies or employer health care plans.” . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 3:37 pm

The Entire Truth of Dr. Mayim Bialik

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Michael Friedman writes in Psychology Today:

For years, Dr. Mayim Bialik has been challenging our notion of what it means to be a girl and woman.

In a world that has a clear bias against women in science, Dr. Bialik received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UCLA. And in a world that presents few and stereotypical roles for women in television and movies, Dr. Bialik has a long history of playing norm-challenging characters. From her portrayal of a young, outspoken and ambitious CC Bloom in the movie Beaches to her role as Blossom Russo in NBC’s Blossom – a teenage girl living in a house run by men after her mother left to pursue a new life and career – to neurobiologist Amy Farah Fowler in CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, Dr. Bialik has been presenting us with a different perspective on girls and women for 30 years.

And now with her new book, Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular, Dr. Bialik is continuing in this tradition – by challenging stereotypes and trying to tell the entire truth about what girls face while growing up.

There is a critical need for a different perspective. Too often, girls and women face cultural stereotypes that suggest what they can or should do, resulting in bias and discrimination, particularly in academic and work settings. And the effects are severe; not only does discrimination against girls and women result in worse physical and mental health, but also in lower pay and opportunity to be hired for jobs.

For Dr. Bialik, stereotypes against women are not an abstract concept, but rather they are hurdles that she personally faced early on both as an aspiring neuroscientist and actress. “The roles for women, especially in television and movies, have been fairly narrow for most of entertainment history. I grew up watching the sitcoms of the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and females were either the slut or the nerd – and there was nothing in between,” Dr. Bialik said. “We’ve come a long way, but our perception of women is pretty narrow. And women have been historically underrepresented in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field for a lot of reasons.”

At the same time that girls and women face bias and discrimination in work and school, our culture over-emphasizes physical appearance. In particular, throughout history, random body ideals for women have been presented in culture, contributing to body image dissatisfaction among girls and women. In fact, negative views of one’s body are so pervasive among women that this is often referred to as “normative discontent.”

Dr. Bialik reflected on how she experienced having to compare herself to conventional societal norms of female attractiveness. “As an adult, I don’t look like a lot of women. I have ethnic features. I’m several dress sizes larger than your average actress in Hollywood … being a non-traditional looking female can be a challenge in a culture that really celebrates conventional leading ladies and attractiveness,” Dr. Bialik described. “I think part of that is having a broad understanding of how significant culture is. And how much notions of what is considered attractive varies by culture … One of the most confusing things, especially for young children, and for teenagers as well, is when their reality is not reflected by the adults around them.

“We’re not seeing entire truths presented to them.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 1:54 pm

“I believe Bill Cosby”

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Ezra Klein writes in Vox:

Bill Cosby, let me say this: I believe you.

I believe you when you say in a 2005 deposition that “yes,” you give women Quaaludes.

I believe you when you say you knew it was illegal to get the prescriptions. (I also believe that the gynecologist who gave them to you knew you really shouldn’t be his patient in the first place.)

I believe you when you describe your version of what consent means, one that isn’t so much based on “yes.”

“I don’t hear her say anything,” you say during the deposition, describing your encounter with the plaintiff. “I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue, and I go into that area between permission and rejection. I am not stopped.”

I believe you when you say you’ve done this many, many times, giving young, slim women strong sedatives before these encounters.

I believe you when you say you first started to think the idea of drugging and sexually assaulting women was funny when you were 13 years old. You’d heard about a mythical drug, “Spanish Fly,” that could make women do things they didn’t want to do.

I believe you when you said decades later that you still thought it was funny, so funny that you included it in your comedy routine.

“Go to a party and see five girls standing alone, boy, if I had a whole jug of Spanish Fly I’d light that corner up over there. Hahaha,” you joked in 1969 about your younger days. You made the same joke for years and years after.

A jury couldn’t decide this week if you were guilty of three charges of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, with whom you settled a civil case in 2006. That case involved an incident at your house where she said you tricked her into taking pills that left her dipping in and out of consciousness, while you assaulted her. This incident is the reason you sat for a deposition in 2005.

I believe you made a good decision when you decided it was best to settle that civil case with Constand. It wasn’t frivolous.

There are many people who don’t take you at your word, like I do. And to those people I say, you don’t have to just take Cosby’s word for it. Here are 35 women who told New York magazine about their own experiences with him. They use different words, but they paint a similar picture of strong sedatives and a man who doesn’t look for an affirmative yes. You don’t have to believe Cosby; you can chose to believe these women instead.

And look, Cosby, it’s not just you. There’s an epidemic in this country of not believing men.

Take Brock Allen Turner, a swimmer at Stanford who was sentenced to just six months in jail after two bystanders caught him violently attacking an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

I believe Turner when he testified in court that he laughed as the two men restrained him while waiting for the police to arrive. Turner said he laughed because he found the situation “ridiculous.”

Or look at our president. When a tape surfaced last year of him joking at length about how he likes to treat women, I believed him. Here’s the full transcript. Here’s a key passage:

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them,” Donald Trump says on tape. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

“Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

A lot of people rushed to say that Trump was lying — it was all a bunch of “locker room talk.” Trump himself even tried to push that line, that we shouldn’t believe him. But I still do. . .

Continue reading.

It seems pretty clear that the reason they are not punished is because they are men, just as police are not punished because they are police. Privilege = no punishment. Good example, with two privilege steps: white privileged over black, cop privileged over civilian—so, white cop v. black civilian = two privilege steps, enough to be able to gun down a person and suffer no punishent whatsoever, and to do it in front of witnesses and be recorded in the act. Two privilege steps is quite difficult to overcome.


Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 1:35 pm

Cuba’s Harvest of Surprises

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Christopher Cook reports in Craftsmanship Quarterly:

In the fall of 1989, a full quarter-century before President Obama normalized US relations with Cuba, the Berlin Wall came tumbling to the ground in a flurry of sledgehammers and concrete dust. Meanwhile, an economic tsunami was brewing on the small Caribbean island. The Soviet Bloc was crumbling fast, sending shock waves across the globe that would plunge Cuba’s food and farming into years of austerity, hunger, and radical overhaul.

Earlier that year, the international socialist market terminated Cuba’s favorable trade rates—abruptly curtailing 85 percent of the tiny nation’s trade. Imports of wheat and other grains dropped by more than half; food rationing set in, and hunger widened. Soviet aid, a pillar of Cuba’s economy, evaporated as U.S. economic sanctions tightened.

Economic collapse led swiftly to agricultural crisis. Cuba’s industrialized farming system, fueled, literally, by Soviet tractors and petrochemicals, ground to a halt. Oil imports fell by 53 percent, and the supply of pesticides and fertilizers fell by 80 percent. Launching an era of austerity and reform known as the “Special Period in Time of Peace,” the Castro government “instituted drastic measures such as planned blackouts, the use of bicycles for mass transportation, and the use of animals in the place of tractors” to meet the unfolding crisis, according to a report by Food First, a U.S.-based think tank focused on food justice issues.

Cuba took a step back in time, transforming itself from an industrial farming machine into a traditional agrarian society. Soviet tractors, once ubiquitous on Cuba’s farmlands, were replaced by animal traction—oxen, horses, and cows. In just the first year of this change, the nation put 280,888 domesticated animals to work, according to a detailed study of Cuba’s agricultural transformation called “Agroecology Revolution,” referring to an agricultural science developed in Latin America.

Out of sheer necessity, an entire nation went largely local and organic. By 1990, Cuba began breaking up its big state-run farms. Much like its American counterparts, these industrial operations produced monoculture harvests, which were accomplished primarily with heavy machinery and fossil fuels. Now the government was issuing land use-rights, seeds, and marketing incentives to peasant farmers by the thousands. Over the next decade, according to “Agroecology Revolution,” Cuba’s farmers shifted to organic fertilizers, traditional crops and animal breeds, diversified farming with crop rotations, and non-toxic pest controls emphasizing the use of beneficial plants and insects. This blend of measures is part of a sustainable-agriculture approach known as agroecology. It’s often described as a promising innovation—which is a little ironic given that it draws on age-old peasant farming practices.

And in this case, the revolution was not born out of idealism. It was simply the only option on hand for a nation with no money to keep buying tractors, oil, and petrochemicals. “Necessity gave birth to a new consciousness,” explains Orlando Lugo Fonte, president of Cuba’s National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP).

Agroecology’s Big Harvest

Cuba’s agricultural de-tox represents “the largest conversion from conventional agriculture to organic and semi-organic farming that the world has ever known,” according to Food First. Across the countryside, a “campesino-a-campesino” (farmer-to-farmer) movement, growing more than 100,000 strong, shared techniques to stimulate production. Among the farmers’ guiding principles: “start slow, and start small;” “limit the introduction of technologies;” and “develop a multiplier effect” of farmer knowledge.

Great concepts, but what about results on the ground? By 2007, ANAP found, Cuba had stabilized and in some areas expanded food production even as farmers dramatically reduced pesticide use. While scaling back pesticides anywhere from 55-85 percent across a range of crops, peasant farmers produced 85 percent more tubers, 83 percent more vegetables, and 351 percent more beans.

Cuba’s farming revolution propelled the island from the lowest per capita food producer in Latin America and the Caribbean to its most prolific, says Miguel Altieri, UC Berkeley professor of agroecology. Writing in The Monthly Review, Altieri and Fernando Funes-Monzote, a founding member of the Cuban Organic Agriculture Movement, came to a dramatic conclusion: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 12:10 pm

Smart doll fitted with AI chip can read your child’s emotions

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The next step, of course, is for the doll to manipulate your child’s emotions—for example, if it finds that the child is sad, it might sing happy songs or tell amusing stories to cheer the child. Timothy Revell reports in New Scientist:

Feeling sad? Soon your dolls will be able to tell. To demonstrate the power of a new chip that can run artificially intelligent algorithms, researchers have put it in a doll and programmed it to recognise emotions in facial images captured by a small camera.

The doll can recognise eight emotions in total, including surprise and happiness, all while running on a small battery and without doing any processing in the cloud. The total cost of putting the new chip together is just €115 – an indicator of how easy it is becoming to give devices basic AI abilities.

“In the near future, we will see a myriad of eyes everywhere that will not just be watching us, but trying to help us,” says project leader Oscar Deniz at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Ciudad Real, Spain.

Recent advances in AI mean we already have algorithms that can recognise objects, lip-read, make basic decisions and more. It’s only a matter of time before these abilities make their way on to little cheap chips like this one, and then put into consumer devices.

“We will have wearable devices, toys, drones, small robots, and things we can’t even imagine yet that will all have basic artificial intelligence,” says Deniz.

One of the advantages of Deniz’s chip not needing the internet to function is privacy. Last year, a smart doll called My Friend Cayla attracted a lot of controversy because it couldn’t do its processing locally. To recognise what children were saying, it sent audio clips to the cloud and then worked out an appropriate response. “Can I tell you a secret,” a child might ask. “Sure go ahead,” the doll would reply.

Children could share intimate details about their lives with their new friend only for that conversation to be recorded and sent to a data centre. Clearly, that’s not how many parents want smart toys. Privacy advocates also raised concerns over the Hello Barbie doll, which used speech recognition to interact with children’s requests – but also passed the data to third-party servers for storage and processing. . .

Continue reading.

Of course, whether a doll is sending information to the cloud or not will not be apparent in looking at the doll. It occurs to me that smart toys offer a handy vehicle for private or public surveillance. Even if the toy does its AI processing within the doll, it would seem easy to add an internet connection as well for surveillance.

But companies would not do that, would they? Companies are honorable and respect our privacy. Those ads that how up on Facebook after I do an Amazon search: coincidence, right?


Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 11:18 am

Is secrecy in government compatible with democracy?: In Trump’s Washington, public business increasingly handled behind closed doors

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The US is moving toward having a secret (and increasingly authoritarian) government. These trends are ominous, but the citizenry is not yet aroused enough to vote in any great numbers (David Leonhardt in his NY Times column today: “A mere 17 percent — 17 percent! — of Americans between 18 and 24 voted in 2014, compared with 59 percent of seniors.”), and Congress, particularly the GOP members of Congress, have no longer even pretend their job of oversight (Congress can subpoena administration officials and reports, but Congress doesn’t bother), so I expect things will continue to worsen. Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe report in the Washington Post:

The Senate bill to scale back the health-care law known as Obamacare is being written in secret by a single senator, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a clutch of his senior aides.

Officials at numerous agencies of the Trump administration have stonewalled friendly Republicans in Congress — not to mention Democrats — by declining to share internal documents on sensitive matters or refusing to answer questions.

President Trump, meanwhile, is still forbidding the release of his tax returns, his aides have stopped releasing logs of visitors to the White House and his media aides have started banning cameras at otherwise routine news briefings, as happened Monday.

Trump even refuses to acknowledge to the public that he plays golf during his frequent weekend visits to his private golf courses.

More and more in the Trump era, business in Washington is happening behind closed doors. The federal government’s leaders are hiding from public scrutiny — and their penchant for secrecy represents a stark departure from the campaign promises of Trump and his fellow Republicans to usher in newfound transparency.

“I was very frustrated the Obama administration held things so close to the vest . . . but I quite frankly haven’t seen any change with the Trump administration. In some ways I find it worse,” said outgoing Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chaired the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform before announcing his retirement this spring.

In an interview Monday, Chaffetz ticked through several controversies, including the transfer of whistleblowers at the Transportation Security Administration, about which he said Trump administration officials have declined to provide key documents to his committee.

“I see a bureaucracy that doesn’t want documents and the truth out the door . . . and just flipping the middle finger at Congress,” Chaffetz said.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats are furious with federal agencies and White House offices that have not answered their requests for information on a wide range of subjects — from the role of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to specific policy changes being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and other agencies.

By early June, House and Senate Democratic aides had compiled lists of more than 400 written requests that they said had been ignored by the White House or federal agencies. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 10:16 am

Mr Pomp, Meißner Tremonia Pink Grapefruit, Maggard V3A, and Floris JF

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Meißner Tremonia’s Pink Grapefruit shaving paste has a fantastic fragrance, thanks in large part to the inclusion of eucalyptus, which provides discipline to the fragrance. Mr Pomp is quite a good brush and did a fine job.

Maggard’s V3A provides a lot of blade feel but for me shows no inclination to nick. It’s riding on a UFO handle. Three passes, no nicks, fine job.

A splash of Floris JF aftershave, and the day begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in Shaving

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