Later On

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

Archive for March 18th, 2018

Walking: You’re almost certainly doing it wrong. Seriously.

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Self-taught practitioners tend to make common mistakes. Just correcting a few basic problems, with the help of a coach or other instruction, can drastically improve performance. Such improvements will not take you to the top levels—for that you need talent and a lot of time, thought, and work—but it will get to the 80th percentile: a C+, or maybe a B- if you’re good.
Self-taught swimmers tend to try to keep their head out of water; self-taught right-handed golf players tend to bend their left arm in the swing; self-taught decision-makers (i.e., most of us) tend to fall into ten basic traps, easily corrected (see “Decision Traps,” by Russo and Schoemaker); self-taught listeners tend lack a listening strategy, method, and discipline (there was a course on listening put out by Xerox years ago); self-taught fighters tend to draw back their fist before delivering a blow and not put their body behind the blow, driving it just from their shoulder; and even self-taught walkers tend to have common faults easily corrected. I imagine you can think of other examples. Common errors are, after all, common.
Now that I think about it, I taught myself how to tie my shoes (at a young age), but I fell into a common error: I made a granny knot instead of a square knot. It was only in college that I suddenly figured out (or was told) how to tie my shoes correctly. (I wondered why they were constantly coming undone.)

 

It was pretty easy to learn: I just tied the knot in the way that felt wrong.

I suppose this is a plea to respect and heed expertise. It will get you quickly past the common errors.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 8:57 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Slave labor in the US: These GOP lawmakers say it’s okay for imprisoned immigrants to work for a $1 a day

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Slave labor has always had a strong appeal in the US, and the modern GOP, with its Southern roots, resonates to the idea. Tracy Jan reports in the Washington Post:

A group of 18 Republican congressmen is urging the Trump administration to defend private prisons against lawsuits alleging immigrant detainees are forced to work for a wage of $1 a day.

The members say that Congress in 1978 had explicitly set the daily reimbursement rate for voluntary work by detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, and that the same rate should apply in government-contracted private prisons.

“Alien detainees should not be able to use immigration detention as a means of obtaining stable employment that will encourage them to pursue frivolous claims to remain in the country and in detention for as long as possible,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, and acting ICE director Thomas Homan.

In the March 7 letter, first reported by the Daily Beast, the congressmen argue that the detainees are not employees of private prisons, so they should not be able to file lawsuits seeking to be paid for their work.

“It is our expectation that you will soon get involved in this litigation and take the position that these lawsuits lack legal merit and should be dismissed,” they said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said Friday it has not yet confirmed that Sessions received the letter, and declined to respond to a Post request for comment. The letter was filed with a U.S. District Court in California by the GEO Group this week as part of a lawsuit against the company.

At least five lawsuits have been filed against private prisons, including GEO and CoreCivic, over detainee pay and other issues. The lawsuits allege that the private prison giants use voluntary work programs to violate state minimum wage laws, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, unjust enrichment and other labor statutes.

The state of Washington sued GEO last year for violating its minimum wage of $11 an hour and sought to force the company to give up profits made through detainee labor. The state argued that the wage floor should apply because GEO is a private company detaining people on civil, not criminal, charges.

In seeking to dismiss the case, the company asserted that the federal rate for work performed by detainees trumps that state’s minimum wage law.

“This is detention. It’s not a competitive work environment,” GEO attorney Joan Mell told a federal judge last November.

Inmates in Colorado and California have also sued the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company, alleging that they were forced to work for $1 per day to pay for necessities like food, water and hygiene products. Detainees performed janitorial work such as scrubbing floors and cleaning windows, as well as clerical work, washing laundry, even cutting hair. Detainees who objected were punished by “disciplinary segregation or solitary confinement” or referred for criminal prosecution, one suit alleged.

The company has repeatedly denied that detainees are forced to work against their will.

The government pays private prisons around $160 a day per immigrant detainee, money that human rights advocates say should go towards hiring staff to do the work that companies are instead forcing non-criminal detainees to perform for little or no pay.

“This is a testament to their own greed,” said Paul Wright, executive director with the Human Rights Defense Center, a prisoner advocacy group. “Instead of hiring somebody at minimum wage to do these maintenance tasks and housekeeping jobs, they would rather enslave these prisoners.”

Wright, whose organization is not involved in any of the lawsuits, said as non-criminals, immigration detainees retain the right to fair wages.

David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said most states require convicted prisoners to work. Several states pay them nothing, but the bulk of states pay prisoners a trivial amount of between 8 and 25 cents an hour for jobs such as cooking and cleaning. Some states pay prisoners contracted to work for outside firms a few dollars an hour to staff call centers or manufacture clothing, Fathi said.

The arguments against paying the detainees outlined in the lawmakers’ letter is “entirely frivolous,” Fathi said, since the “13th Amendment makes clear that people who haven’t been convicted of a crime can’t be forced to work, period.”

But a dispute remains over whether the work is mandatory or voluntary.

The letter asserted that paying immigration detainees more than the $1 a day would “provide an unnecessary windfall to the detainees, and drain the federal government of limited taxpayer resources.”

They assert that immigrant advocates, including officials in “sanctuary cities,” which have a policy of protecting illegal immigrants and not cooperating with federal authorities to deport them, have filed the “nuisance lawsuits” to raise the overall costs of immigration detention to discourage its use.

The letter was signed by Steve King (R-Iowa), Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.), Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Scott W. Taylor (R-Va.), Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.), John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Brian Babin (R-Tex.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.) and Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.).

Private prisons have flourished under President Trump’s aggressive measures to detain and deport unauthorized immigrants. Sessions last year reversed an Obama-era directive to phase out the use of privately run federal prisons after officials deemed them to be less safe and effective than government-run detention facilities.

Sessions, in a memo last February, asserted that Obama’s directive impaired the Bureau of Prison’s ability to “meet the future needs of the federal correctional system,” even though the 2016 directive did not affect ICE detainees. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 7:10 pm

Trump brought the swamp with him: Report: Kushner Companies routinely filed false paperwork with New York officials

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Rebecca Savransky reports in The Hill:

The Kushner Cos. reportedly filed false paperwork with New York City officials regarding the apartment buildings it owned.

The Associated Press reported that the company in 2015 bought three apartment buildings in Queens.

The company, which was run at the time by White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, then pushed people out and raised rents in the buildings even though many of the tenants were protected by rules that said developers couldn’t raise rents or push them out to create a profit, according to the news service.

Kushner Cos. sold the buildings two years later for nearly double the price it paid to buy them, the AP reported.

The AP reported that the company often filed paperwork with New York City saying it didn’t have any rent-regulated tenants in the buildings it owned.

But, according to the AP, it had hundreds of rent-regulated tenants across the city.

“It’s bare-faced greed,” said Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative, a tenants’ rights watchdog that compiled the work permit documents and gave them to The Associated Press.

“The fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 5:35 pm

There’s no end to it: Facebook employs the psychologist whose firm sold data to Cambridge Analytica

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Paul Lewis and Julia Carrie Wong report in the Guardian:

The co-director of a company that harvested data from tens of millions of Facebook users before selling it to the controversial data analytics firms Cambridge Analytica is currently working for the tech giant as an in-house psychologist.

Joseph Chancellor was one of two founding directors of Global Science Research (GSR), the company that harvested Facebook data using a personality app under the guise of academic research and later shared the data with Cambridge Analytica.

He was hired to work at Facebook as a quantitative social psychologist around November 2015, roughly two months after leaving GSR, which had by then acquired data on millions of Facebook users.

Chancellor is still working as a researcher at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters in California, where psychologists frequently conduct research and experiments using the company’s vast trove of data on more than 2 billion users.

It is not known how much Chancellor knew of the operation to harvest the data of more than 50 million Facebook users and pass their information on to the company that went on to run data analytics for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Chancellor was a director of GSR along with Aleksandr Kogan, a more senior Cambridge University psychologist who is said to have devised the scheme to harvest Facebook data from people who used a personality app that was ostensibly acquiring data for academic research.

On Friday, Facebook announced it had suspended both Kogan and Cambridge Analytica from using the platform, pending an investigation.

Facebook said in a statement Kogan “gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels” but “did not subsequently abide by our rules” because he passed the information on to third parties. Kogan maintains that he did nothing illegal and had a “close working relationship” with Facebook.

Facebook appears to have taken no action against Chancellor – Kogan’s business partner at the time their company acquired the data, using an app called thisisyourdigitallife.

Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used the data to build sophisticated psychological profiles of US voters.

Facebook’s deputy general counsel has described the data harvesting scheme as “a scam” and “a fraud”. He singled out Kogan, an assistant professor at Cambridge University, as having “lied to us and violated our platform policies” by passing the data on to Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook’s public statements have omitted any reference to GSR, the company Kogan incorporated in May 2014 with Chancellor, who was at the time was a postdoctoral research assistant. . .

Continue reading.

And having hired him, Facebook with make sure he doesn’t talk. See this Guardian article: “‘They’ll squash you like a bug’: how Silicon Valley keeps a lid on leakers.”

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 4:06 pm

More on the Facebook data rape

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 3:30 pm

An oddly detailed article on how to avoid sugar

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David Leonhardt has an odd article in the NY Times explaining how to avoid sugar in one’s diet. The article seems much ado about very little. It seems to me he’s making something simple become complicated. There are really just three things you need to do:

  1. Do not add any sugar to food as you cook (i.e., no granulated sugar, no syrup, etc.) or eat it.
  2. Look at the nutrition facts label of foods you buy. If the product contains sugar, don’t buy it.
  3. When you eat out, don’t eat anything that you know has sugar in it: desserts, sugared drinks, and so on.

I personally also avoid any foods made with flour, which has many of the same weaknesses as sugar: too quickly digested, too little food value. On Quora I summarized my dietary advice:

Sugar, along with other simple starches (white potatoes, rice, and foods made with flour—bread, bagels, pasta, pancakes, boxed cereals, etc.) disrupt the metabolism, as described in Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes.

I follow a diet that severely restricts carbohydrates and totally eliminates the simple carbohydrates mentioned above. Unlike fats and proteins, there are no “essential carbohydrates,” so minimizing their intake runs no risk of a deficiency disease. The calories lost by eliminating the carbs are replaced by calories from fat, which is digested more slowly and thus prolongs satiation, meaning that one tends to eat less and/or less often. See A low-carb diet for beginners – Diet Doctor and A Low Carb Diet Meal Plan and Menu That Can Save Your Life for an introduction. If you’re concerned about eating fats, I highly recommend the book The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. (Both book links are to inexpensive secondhand copies.)

update: I should note that I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is why I switched to a low-carb, high-fat diet. That did in fact put my diabetes in remission and I have maintained an HbA1C of 5.7%-5.8% for years now. /update

However, the LCHF diet is not intended as a weight-loss diet; its purpose is to address metabolic issues. Weight-loss diets require calorie restriction. Many do lose weight on the LCHF diet, but not everyone, and I was one who did not. However, when I combined that with the online Weight Watchers Freestyle program, the pounds are dropping away easily. I like that program because I can do it online (no meetings) and I have to do very little counting because an enormous number of foods have zero points (though obviously one should not be a glutton in any event).

Sugar is particularly bad. See The Startling Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s and watch this video:

Note that food cravings can be driven by the makeup of your gut microbiome. If you eat high starch food, the microbiome tilts strongly toward microbes that process such foods, and the microbiome can drive food cravings if those microbes become hungry: Why you’re still hungry: 6 obstacles to healthy eating

By sticking with the LCHF diet, in time your gut microbiome will change to favor other microbes, and carb cravings will dwindle. Dietary fiber is an important food source for gut microbes, so pay attention to it—see How probiotics and prebiotics team up in your gut. I take 1 tsp of inulin and 2 tablespoons of chia seed in a glass of water each morning. Chia seed has benefits beyond fiber, of course. (And BTW, in the LCHF diet, one counts net carbs: total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber. Chia seed has very low net carbs: 2 tablespoons has 13.1g carbohydrates and 11.2g dietary fiber, so only 1.9g net carbs.)

Dietary fiber is not just for weight loss: it’s vital to our health. See Fiber Is Good for You. Now Scientists May Know Why.

The NY Times quotes a research study that is consistent with the above recommendations: The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity, a New Study Finds.

Plateaus: Plateaus are important in weight loss. They are a time when the body makes changes: shrinking the skin, rearranging things internally, etc. Those who get bariatric surgery achieve rapid and significant weight loss without plateaus, but then cosmetic surgery is generally required to remove the floppy skin that results. My daughter knows a woman who did have bariatric surgery and then had to have cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin on thighs, tummy, and arms.

Knowing that the plateaus serve a purpose makes them easier to endure. She also said that, in general, each plateau lasts twice as long as the previous one. In my current weight-loss regimen, I hit my first plateau at Day 47, and then for 11 days my weight stayed at 208.x, going up and down within that range, before resuming a steady loss. I expect my next plateau will last around 22 days.

Lately I’ve also been eating about an ounce of oyster mushrooms cooked with my breakfast egg, after reading this article.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 2:42 pm

The Secret Behind the Greatest Upset in College Basketball History

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In the Atlantic Freeman Hrabrowski, president of UMBC, explains the university culture that led to the upset victory:

People now know the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as the ultimate Cinderella, an overnight social media sensation, the team that magically emerged as the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. But our story is far less fairy tale than it is classic American dream. Our magic comes from questioning expectations, putting in the hard work, and staying focused.

The nation saw the results on the court Friday night. My colleagues, students, alumni, and their families came to the game knowing the team would give the game their all. Our men’s basketball team embodies our definition of grit. We knew the players were bringing both passion and preparation to the game. We knew that they would listen to the guidance of head coach Ryan Odom, support one another, give their individual best, and get tougher and tougher as the game went on.

Nevertheless, like the rest of the world, we were stunned—not only by the outcome but by their execution to the end. Everybody thought it couldn’t be done because it hadn’t been done. And then we did it.

I’m not embarrassed to say that I know much more about mathematics than basketball, and I continue to learn about the game from coach Odom, my mentee Jairus Lyles, and others. What impresses me about this team is its can-do attitude—one that said that even though they had lost 23 games in a row to Vermont, we could win the 24th and the America East Conference championship. An attitude that said that, despite the odds, they could beat Virginia, an outstanding team from one of the oldest, wealthiest, and most-respected public institutions in the country.

What makes our story so appealing is that the players not only have a strong sense of self, they have hope. It is not idle hope, and that showed on Friday, too. Even the few people who thought we had a chance to win never thought we would do so by 20 points. Our win wasn’t a fluke. We won convincingly because we had worked hard to be ready. Rigorous preparation can lead people to reach goals they didn’t think were possible.

We’ve defied the odds before. Three decades ago, nobody believed you could close the achievement gap between white and underrepresented minority students, who were disproportionately likely to be lower-income and to be less academically prepared, without adjusting academic standards. But UMBC and the philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff didn’t believe it had to be that way. We believed you could set high expectations and, with appropriate support, not only help minority students succeed but also excel in some of the toughest fields. We started the Meyerhoff Scholars Program to support, challenge, and mentor underrepresented minority students in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Today, the university is a top producer of African-American graduates who go on to earn PhDs in the sciences, and is the leading producer of ones who go on to earn MD-PhDs. The lessons learned have spread across the campus and across disciplines, and we are now graduating students of all races and of all socioeconomic backgrounds who go on to earn PhDs and join the faculties of some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, from Harvard to Duke. In fact, in the audience Friday were three alumni who are on the Duke medical faculty, two of whom were UMBC athletes. In just the past two years, we produced a Rhodes Scholar, and we saw a researcher and exemplary mentor to students elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Even as a young research university, we’re in the top 20 in funding from NASA, and numerous humanities faculty are receiving prestigious national and international awards. Everybody thought it couldn’t be done because it hadn’t been done. And then we did it.

This week has been a mountaintop experience for the UMBC community. On Monday, I accepted a lifetime achievement award on behalf of the university from the American Council on Education. The award honored the careers of so many people on campus who have transformed the lives of thousands of students. I reflected on my TED talk on the four pillars of college success in STEM and how my thinking over the years has evolved. I’ve come to appreciate that the pillars are true not only for science, but also across academic disciplines and in other aspects of education: setting high expectations; building community; having experts draw people into the work and building relationships; and evaluating results and revising strategies. We saw Coach Odom and the team demonstrate that on Friday—and throughout the year. It’s no coincidence that two of our strongest players, Jairus Lyles and Joe Sherburne, earned 4.0 GPAs this fall, or that Joe was just named a First-Team Academic All-American.

In other arenas, we continue to tackle seemingly intractable problems. Our Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program trains . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Education, Games

Gun laws: How the US embraced anarchy in its gun regulations

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It comes down to money, of course. Watch the video at the link below. Very interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Guns

And this is what the US is sliding toward…

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Click the link and watch the video. Stunning.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 1:44 pm

The Cambridge Analytica Files – ‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower

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Carole Cadwalladr reports in the Guardian:

The first time I met Christopher Wylie, he didn’t yet have pink hair. That comes later. As does his mission to rewind time. To put the genie back in the bottle.

By the time I met him in person, I’d already been talking to him on a daily basis for hours at a time. On the phone, he was clever, funny, bitchy, profound, intellectually ravenous, compelling. A master storyteller. A politicker. A data science nerd.

Two months later, when he arrived in London from Canada, he was all those things in the flesh. And yet the flesh was impossibly young. He was 27 then (he’s 28 now), a fact that has always seemed glaringly at odds with what he has done. He may have played a pivotal role in the momentous political upheavals of 2016. At the very least, he played a consequential role. At 24, he came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britain’s EU membership referendum, and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Or, as Wylie describes it, he was the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindfuck tool”.

In 2014, Steve Bannon – then executive chairman of the “alt-right” news network Breitbart – was Wylie’s boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analytica’s investor. And the idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology – “information operations” – then turn it on the US electorate.

It was Wylie who came up with that idea and oversaw its realisation. And it was Wylie who, last spring, became my source. In May 2017, I wrote an article headlined “The great British Brexit robbery”, which set out a skein of threads that linked Brexit to Trump to Russia. Wylie was one of a handful of individuals who provided the evidence behind it. I found him, via another Cambridge Analytica ex-employee, lying low in Canada: guilty, brooding, indignant, confused. “I haven’t talked about this to anyone,” he said at the time. And then he couldn’t stop talking.

By that time, Steve Bannon had become Trump’s chief strategist. Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL, had won contracts with the US State Department and was pitching to the Pentagon, and Wylie was genuinely freaked out. “It’s insane,” he told me one night. “The company has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? It’s like Nixon on steroids.”

He ended up showing me a tranche of documents that laid out the secret workings behind Cambridge Analytica. And in the months following publication of my article in May, it was revealed that the company had “reached out” to WikiLeaks to help distribute Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails in 2016. And then we watched as it became a subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion in the US election.

The Observer also received the first of three letters from Cambridge Analytica threatening to sue Guardian News and Media for defamation. We are still only just starting to understand the maelstrom of forces that came together to create the conditions for what Mueller confirmed last month was “information warfare”. But Wylie offers a unique, worm’s-eye view of the events of 2016. Of how Facebook was hijacked, repurposed to become a theatre of war: how it became a launchpad for what seems to be an extraordinary attack on the US’s democratic process.

Wylie oversaw what may have been the first critical breach. Aged 24, while studying for a PhD in fashion trend forecasting, he came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.

“We ‘broke’ Facebook,” he says.

And he did it on behalf of his new boss, Steve Bannon.

“Is it fair to say you ‘hacked’ Facebook?” I ask him one night.

He hesitates. “I’ll point out that I assumed it was entirely legal and above board.”

Last month, Facebook’s UK director of policy, Simon Milner, told British MPs on a select committee inquiry into fake news, chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins, that Cambridge Analytica did not have Facebook data. The official Hansard extract reads:

Christian Matheson (MP for Chester): “Have you ever passed any user information over to Cambridge Analytica or any of its associated companies?”

Simon Milner: “No.”

Matheson: “But they do hold a large chunk of Facebook’s user data, don’t they?”

Milner: “No. They may have lots of data, but it will not be Facebook user data. It may be data about people who are on Facebook that they have gathered themselves, but it is not data that we have provided.”

Two weeks later, on 27 February, as part of the same parliamentary inquiry, Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane, asked Cambridge Analytica’s CEO, Alexander Nix: “Does any of the data come from Facebook?” Nix replied: “We do not work with Facebook data and we do not have Facebook data.”

And through it all, Wylie and I, plus a handful of editors and a small, international group of academics and researchers, have known that – at least in 2014 – that certainly wasn’t the case, because Wylie has the paper trail. In our first phone call, he told me he had the receipts, invoices, emails, legal letters – records that showed how, between June and August 2014, the profiles of more than 50 million Facebook users had been harvested. Most damning of all, he had a letter from Facebook’s own lawyers admitting that Cambridge Analytica had acquired the data illegitimately.

Going public involves an enormous amount of risk. Wylie is breaking a non-disclosure agreement and risks being sued. He is breaking the confidence of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.

It’s taken a rollercoaster of a year to help get Wylie to a place where it’s possible for him to finally come forward. A year in which Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of investigations on both sides of the Atlantic – Robert Mueller’s in the US, and separate inquiries by the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK, both triggered in February 2017, after theObserver’s first article in this investigation.

It has been a year, too, in which Wylie has been trying his best to rewind – to undo events that he set in motion. Earlier this month, he submitted a dossier of evidence to the Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Crime Agency’s cybercrime unit. He is now in a position to go on the record: the data nerd who came in from the cold.

There are many points where this story could begin. One is in 2012, when Wylie was 21 and working for the Liberal Democrats in the UK, then in government as junior coalition partners. His career trajectory has been, like most aspects of his life so far, extraordinary, preposterous, implausible. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

There’s a video at the link, and this sidebar:

What are the Cambridge Analytica Files?

Working with a whistleblower who helped set up Cambridge Analytica, the Observer and Guardian have seen documents and gathered eyewitness reports that lift the lid on the data analytics firm that helped Donald Trump to victory. The company is currently being investigated on both sides of the Atlantic. It is a key subject in two inquiries in the UK – by the Electoral Commission, into the firm’s possible role in the EU referendum and the Information Commissioner’s Office, into data analytics for political purposes – and one in the US, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump-Russia collusion.

Read more from this series

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 12:28 pm

Meet The Activist Who Uncovered The Russian Troll Factory Named In The Mueller Probe

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Jolie Myers reports for NPR:

The building at 55 Savushkina St. on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Russia, is unremarkable. It’s four stories high, made of concrete and shares a small parking lot with the apartment building next door.

But if you look a little closer, a few details stick out. For instance, the building is covered in windows, but each one is blocked by heavy drapes. And there are security cameras all over the building.

That’s what you can see from the outside. But what went on inside this building in 2015 has attracted a lot of attention in both U.S. and Russian media. The company that operated inside 55 Savushkina was called the Internet Research Agency. But unofficially, and more commonly, it was known as the “troll factory.”

Hundreds worked here, and 13 people, including a man with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, were recently named in an indictment connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. for providing support to the Russian Defense Ministry as it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, is alleged to be the man who funded the troll factory.

Internet activist Lyudmila Savchuk spent two months working undercover at the troll factory in 2015, creating fake social media accounts and writing blog posts meant to sow divisions in the U.S. and turn Russians against Americans.

Savchuk, a slight woman in her mid-30s, carries around a laptop with a campaign sticker for Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader in Russia who has been barred from running in the presidential election this weekend.

She sips a latte in a cafe outside St. Petersburg after dropping her kids off at day care for the afternoon.

“The factory worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There was a day shift, a night shift, and even shifts over the holidays. The factory worked every single second,” Savchuk says.

In the early days of her investigation into how fake social media accounts and trolls were affecting society, she was looking for a way in. It was late 2014 and she kept seeing advertisements in her social media feed geared to young, educated Russians looking to work in a creative field. A friend who worked at the troll factory tipped her off to what the ads were for. That same friend put in a good word for Savchuk with her bosses.

“My friend taught me the ropes. She told me that I had to write posts that were natural — like, for example, ‘I am cooking or I am walking down the street and I had this thought about how bad the [pro-Western] Ukrainian president is.’ ”

According to Savchuk, there were a few hundred people in the building at any given time, and the average pay started at $400 a month. The trolls were divided into groups. Those with the best English skills posed as Americans and created accounts on Facebook and Twitter. They’d use those troll accounts to stir up trouble on subjects such as U.S. elections or race relations.

Savchuk, who considers herself a freelance investigative journalist and activist for free and fair elections, spent most of her time at the troll farm writing as an imaginary Russian woman on the LiveJournal blogging platform, widely used in Russia today. Her posts were meant for Russian readers and were intended to inflame anti-American feelings.

“We made up a post about a new computer game created in the States — that even kids loved to play — and the theme of the game was slavery,” she says. “And this was to stir negative tensions towards Americans, as the creators of this game.”

That game never existed. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 12:20 pm

Rapid evolution of salmon size

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Take a look at this photo:

The caption: “A photo taken in Astoria, Ore., circa 1910. It was stated that the chinook on the left weighed 116 pounds and the one on the right weighed 121 pounds.”

Why did Chinook salmon so rapidly evolve to a smaller size? The usual reason: strong selection against large Chinook, and not just from people. John Ryan reports at NPR:

While the orcas of Puget Sound are sliding toward extinction, orcas farther north have been expanding their numbers. Their burgeoning hunger for big fish may be causing the killer whales’ main prey, chinook salmon, to shrink up and down the West Coast.

Chinook salmon are also known as kings: the biggest of all salmon. They used to grow so enormous that it’s hard now to believe the old photos in which fishermen stand next to chinooks almost as tall as they are, sometimes weighing 100 pounds or more.

“This has been a season of unusually large fish, and many weighing from 60 to 70 pounds have been taken,” The Oregonian reported in 1895.

Now, more than a century later, “it’s not impossible that we see individuals of that size today, but it’s much, much rarer,” University of Washington research scientist Jan Ohlberger says.

Ohlberger has been tracking the downsizing of salmon in recent decades, but salmon have been shrinking in numbers and in size for a long time. A century’s worth of dam-building, overfishing, habitat loss and replacement by hatchery fish cut the size of the average chinook in half, studies in the 1980s and 1990s found.

Dam-building and fishing have tailed off, but chinooks have been shrinking even faster in the past 15 years, according to a new paper by Ohlberger and colleagues in the journal Fish and Fisheries. Older and bigger fish are mostly gone.

Few fish are making it to old age, which for a chinook salmon means spending five or six years in the ocean after a year or two in fresh water.

“The older fish, which normally come back after five years in the ocean, they come back earlier and earlier,” Ohlberger said.

The trend is clear; the reasons, less so.

Two species eat more chinook salmon than any others: orcas and humans.

The 2,300 or more resident killer whales in the Northeast Pacific Ocean eat about 20 million pounds of chinook salmon per year — roughly equal to the annual commercial catch of chinook in recent years, according to the new study.

“There is a large number of resident killer whales out there that really target chinook, and they target the large chinook,” Ohlberger says. [Selection pressure. – LG]

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

Balcomb points to overfishing, habitat loss and salmon hatcheries that have diluted the gene pool of wild chinooks.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2018 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Evolution, Food, Science

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