Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Russian Cyberwarfare Is Much Worse Than You Think. Donald Trump’s Indifference to It Is Much More Criminal Than You Think.

leave a comment »

Kevin Drum writes in Mother Jones:

Two important stories on the same topic have been published recently, and I strongly recommend that you read both of them all the way through. The subject is Russian cyber-warfare, and the first one is by Terrell Jermaine Starr from a recent issue of MoJo:

Oleh Derevianko was on the road to his parents’ village in Ukraine on a bright June day in 2017 when he got a call from the CEO of a telecommunications company….Across Ukraine that day, cash registers suddenly shut down. People trying to withdraw money saw ransom demands appear on ATM screens. Lawmakers in the country’s parliament could not access their laptops. Turnstiles in Kiev’s subway stopped working, and departure boards at the airport went down. Technicians at Chernobyl, the site of the deadly nuclear disaster in 1986, had to manually check radiation levels after their computers failed.

….This was no random malware. It was an act of cyberwar—the latest digital attack from Russia….In 2015, hackers went after the electrical grid and shut off power to 225,000 Ukrainians. Another attack, in 2016, blacked out one-fifth of Kiev. And last year came the multipronged offensive that would eventually be known as NotPetya (after the Petya ransomware that it partially mimicked).

Cyberwarfare has been a key part of Russia’s grinding, multi-pronged war against Ukraine for years. Starr tells this story and sets the stage for Andy Greenberg’s terrific Wired piece that focuses solely on last year’s NotPetya attack. It turns out that there’s a Ukrainian piece of software called M.E.Doc, sort of the the equivalent of Quicken in the US. It’s very widely used, and some bright bulb in Moscow discovered that it had a bug:

In 2015 and 2016, while the Kremlin-linked hackers known as Fancy Bear were busy breaking into the US Democratic National Committee’s servers, another group of agents known as Sandworm was hacking into dozens of Ukrainian governmental organizations and companies. They penetrated the networks of victims ranging from media outlets to railway firms, detonating logic bombs that destroyed terabytes of data….But those attacks still weren’t Sandworm’s grand finale. In the spring of 2017, unbeknownst to anyone at Linkos Group, Russian military hackers hijacked the company’s update servers to allow them a hidden back door into the thousands of PCs around the country and the world that have M.E.Doc installed. Then, in June 2017, the saboteurs used that back door to release a piece of malware called ­NotPetya, their most vicious cyberweapon yet.

Here’s the big question: was this simply another front in Russia’s cyberwar against Ukraine? Or did they know perfectly well what would happen next?

The code that the hackers pushed out was honed to spread automatically, rapidly, and indiscriminately. “To date, it was simply the fastest-propagating piece of malware we’ve ever seen,” says Craig Williams, director of outreach at Cisco’s Talos division, one of the first security companies to reverse engineer and analyze Not­Petya. “By the second you saw it, your data center was already gone.”

….The release of NotPetya was an act of cyberwar by almost any definition—one that was likely more explosive than even its creators intended. Within hours of its first appearance, the worm raced beyond Ukraine and out to countless machines around the world, from hospitals in Pennsylvania to a chocolate factory in Tasmania. It crippled multinational companies including Maersk, pharmaceutical giant Merck, FedEx’s European subsidiary TNT Express, French construction company Saint-Gobain, food producer Mondelēz, and manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser. In each case, it inflicted nine-figure costs. It even spread back to Russia, striking the state oil company Rosneft.

NotPetya broke out of Ukraine in seconds and spread throughout the world. Greenberg’s piece is mostly a portrait of how it affected Maersk, one of the world’s biggest shipping companies. Long story short, it destroyed the company’s entire IT infrastructure and shut down half its business for over a week. Only a lucky coincidence—a single backup of a critical module that miraculously happened to survive in Ghana—allowed them to eventually rebuild their systems. In all, it cost Maersk a billion dollars. The total cost of the attack is estimated at about $10 billion.

But that’s not the key aspect of this. The part we still don’t know for sure is whether this was deliberate. Was NotPetya just another attack on Ukraine that went disastrously awry? Or was it a deliberate pilot test of a devastating piece of malware that was fully expected to spread throughout the world?

Those of us who are critics of Russia—and Vladimir Putin in particular—are usually focused on Putin’s retrograde politics. Putin has shut down the press; murdered his opponents; jailed dissidents; used homophobic legislation to stoke bigotry and reactionary rage; co-opted the church to portray himself as the only reliable protector of Russian culture; killed off opposition parties; and just generally centralized authority in himself to a degree last matched in the post-Stalin Soviet era.

But there’s also his aggressive foreign policy: wars in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, and threats against the Baltic states and others. Regional hegemons usually engage in a fair amount of military activity, so perhaps much of this can be written off as nothing all that unusual. Your mileage may vary. But Russia’s cyberwarfare is something quite different: it is destructive, highly advanced, and very definitely not restricted to the ordinary kind of hegemonic military activity, which is typically targeted at either border states or very limited engagements in proxy wars that are temporarily deemed important for some reason. Russia has made it clear that cyberwar is something it takes very seriously and is willing to use against anyone, whether they’re at war or not. That obviously includes us. And just as obviously, our current president has decided to do almost nothing about it.

Read these two pieces. They’re . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2018 at 2:56 pm

Can Mark Zuckerberg Fix Facebook Before It Breaks Democracy?

leave a comment »

Evan Osnos has a disturbing article in the New Yorker:

At ten o’clock on a weekday morning in August, Mark Zuckerberg, the chairman and C.E.O. of Facebook, opened the front door of his house in Palo Alto, California, wearing the tight smile of obligation. He does not enjoy interviews, especially after two years of ceaseless controversy. Having got his start as a programmer with a nocturnal bent, he is also not a morning person. Walking toward the kitchen, which has a long farmhouse table and cabinets painted forest green, he said, “I haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Have you?”

Since 2011, Zuckerberg has lived in a century-old white clapboard Craftsman in the Crescent Park neighborhood, an enclave of giant oaks and historic homes not far from Stanford University. The house, which cost seven million dollars, affords him a sense of sanctuary. It’s set back from the road, shielded by hedges, a wall, and mature trees. Guests enter through an arched wooden gate and follow a long gravel path to a front lawn with a saltwater pool in the center. The year after Zuckerberg bought the house, he and his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, held their wedding in the back yard, which encompasses gardens, a pond, and a shaded pavilion. Since then, they have had two children, and acquired a seven-hundred-acre estate in Hawaii, a ski retreat in Montana, and a four-story town house on Liberty Hill, in San Francisco. But the family’s full-time residence is here, a ten-minute drive from Facebook’s headquarters.

Occasionally, Zuckerberg records a Facebook video from the back yard or the dinner table, as is expected of a man who built his fortune exhorting employees to keep “pushing the world in the direction of making it a more open and transparent place.” But his appetite for personal openness is limited. Although Zuckerberg is the most famous entrepreneur of his generation, he remains elusive to everyone but a small circle of family and friends, and his efforts to protect his privacy inevitably attract attention. The local press has chronicled his feud with a developer who announced plans to build a mansion that would look into Zuckerberg’s master bedroom. After a legal fight, the developer gave up, and Zuckerberg spent forty-four million dollars to buy the houses surrounding his. Over the years, he has come to believe that he will always be the subject of criticism. “We’re not—pick your noncontroversial business—selling dog food, although I think that people who do that probably say there is controversy in that, too, but this is an inherently cultural thing,” he told me, of his business. “It’s at the intersection of technology and psychology, and it’s very personal.”

He carried a plate of banana bread and a carafe of water into the living room, and settled onto a navy-blue velvet sofa. Since co-founding Facebook, in 2004, his uniform has evolved from hoodies and flip-flops to his current outfit, a gray sweater, indigo jeans, and black Nikes. At thirty-four, Zuckerberg, who has very fair skin, a tall forehead, and large eyes, is leaner than when he first became a public figure, more than a decade ago. On the porch, next to the front door, he keeps a Peloton stationary bike, a favorite accessory in the tech world, which live-streams a personal trainer to your home. Zuckerberg uses the machine, but he does not love cycling. A few years ago, on his first attempt to use a road bike with racing pedals, he forgot to unclip, tipped over, and broke his arm. Except for cycling on his porch, he said, “I haven’t clipped in since.”

He and his wife prefer board games to television, and, within reach of the couch, I noticed a game called Ricochet Robots. “It gets extremely competitive,” Zuckerberg said. “We play with these friends, and one of them is a genius at this. Playing with him is just infuriating.” Dave Morin, a former Facebook employee who is the founder and C.E.O. of Sunrise Bio, a startup seeking cures for depression, used to play Risk with Zuckerberg at the office. “He’s not playing you in a game of Risk. He’s playing you in a game of games,” Morin told me. “The first game, he might amass all his armies on one property, and the next game he might spread them all over the place. He’s trying to figure out the psychological way to beat you in all the games.”

Across the tech industry, the depth of Zuckerberg’s desire to win is often remarked upon. Dick Costolo, the former C.E.O. of Twitter, told me, “He’s a ruthless execution machine, and if he has decided to come after you, you’re going to take a beating.” Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, said, “There are a number of people in the Valley who have a perception of Mark that he’s really aggressive and competitive. I think some people are a little hesitant about him from that perspective.” Hoffman has been an investor in Facebook since its early days, but for a long time he sensed that Zuckerberg kept his distance because they were both building social networks. “For many years, it was, like, ‘Your LinkedIn thing is going to be crushed, so even though we’re friendly, I don’t want to get too close to you personally, because I’m going to crush you.’ Now, of course, that’s behind us and we’re good friends.”

When I asked Zuckerberg about this reputation, he framed the dynamic differently. The survival of any social-media business rests on “network effects,” in which the value of the network grows only by finding new users. As a result, he said, “there’s a natural zero-sumness. If we’re going to achieve what we want to, it’s not just about building the best features. It’s about building the best community.” He added, “I care about succeeding. And, yes, sometimes you have to beat someone to something, in order to get to the next thing. But that’s not primarily the way that I think I roll.”

For many years, Zuckerberg ended Facebook meetings with the half-joking exhortation “Domination!” Although he eventually stopped doing this (in European legal systems, “dominance” refers to corporate monopoly), his discomfort with losing is undimmed. A few years ago, he played Scrabble on a corporate jet with a friend’s daughter, who was in high school at the time. She won. Before they played a second game, he wrote a simple computer program that would look up his letters in the dictionary so that he could choose from all possible words. Zuckerberg’s program had a narrow lead when the flight landed. The girl told me, “During the game in which I was playing the program, everyone around us was taking sides: Team Human and Team Machine.”

If Facebook were a country, it would have the largest population on earth. More than 2.2 billion people, about a third of humanity, log in at least once a month. That user base has no precedent in the history of American enterprise. Fourteen years after it was founded, in Zuckerberg’s dorm room, Facebook has as many adherents as Christianity.

A couple of years ago, the company was still revelling in its power. By collecting vast quantities of information about its users, it allows advertisers to target people with precision—a business model that earns Facebook more ad revenue in a year than all American newspapers combined. Zuckerberg was spending much of his time conferring with heads of state and unveiling plans of fantastical ambition, such as building giant drones that would beam free Internet (including Facebook) into developing countries. He enjoyed extraordinary control over his company; in addition to his positions as chairman and C.E.O., he controlled about sixty per cent of shareholder votes, thanks to a special class of stock with ten times the power of ordinary shares. His personal fortune had grown to more than sixty billion dollars. Facebook was one of four companies (along with Google, Amazon, and Apple) that dominated the Internet; the combined value of their stock is larger than the G.D.P. of France.

For years, Facebook had heard concerns about its use of private data and its ability to shape people’s behavior. The company’s troubles came to a head during the Presidential election of 2016, when propagandists used the site to spread misinformation that helped turn society against itself. Some of the culprits were profiteers who gamed Facebook’s automated systems with toxic political clickbait known as “fake news.” In a prime example, at least a hundred Web sites were traced to Veles, Macedonia, a small city where entrepreneurs, some still in high school, discovered that posting fabrications to pro-Donald Trump Facebook groups unleashed geysers of traffic. Fake-news sources also paid Facebook to “microtarget” ads at users who had proved susceptible in the past.

The other culprits, according to U.S. intelligence, were Russian agents who wanted to sow political chaos and help Trump win. In February, Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s role in the election, charged thirteen Russians with an “interference operation” that made use of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The Internet Research Agency, a firm in St. Petersburg working for the Kremlin, drew hundreds of thousands of users to Facebook groups optimized to stoke outrage, including Secured Borders, Blacktivist, and Defend the 2nd. They used Facebook to organize offline rallies, and bought Facebook ads intended to hurt Hillary Clinton’s standing among Democratic voters. (One read “Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.”) With fewer than a hundred operatives, the I.R.A. achieved an astonishing impact: Facebook estimates that the content reached as many as a hundred and fifty million users.

At the same time, former Facebook executives, echoing a growing body of research, began to voice misgivings about the company’s role in exacerbating isolation, outrage, and addictive behaviors. One of the largest studies, published last year in the American Journal of Epidemiology, followed the Facebook use of more than five thousand people over three years and found that higher use correlated with self-reported declines in physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction. At an event in November, 2017, Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, called himself a “conscientious objector” to social media, saying, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” A few days later, Chamath Palihapitiya, the former vice-president of user growth, told an audience at Stanford, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works—no civil discourse, no coöperation, misinformation, mistruth.” Palihapitiya, a prominent Silicon Valley figure who worked at Facebook from 2007 to 2011, said, “I feel tremendous guilt. I think we all knew in the back of our minds.” Of his children, he added, “They’re not allowed to use this shit.” (Facebook replied to the remarks in a statement, noting that Palihapitiya had left six years earlier, and adding, “Facebook was a very different company back then.”)

In March, Facebook was confronted with an even larger scandal: the Times and the British newspaper the Observer reported that a researcher had gained access to the personal information of Facebook users and sold it to Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy hired by Trump and other Republicans which advertised using “psychographic” techniques to manipulate voter behavior. In all, the personal data of eighty-seven million people had been harvested. Moreover, Facebook had known of the problem since December of 2015 but had said nothing to users or regulators. The company acknowledged the breach only after the press discovered it.

The Cambridge Analytica revelations touched off the most serious crisis in Facebook’s history, and, with it, a public reckoning with the power of Big Tech. Facebook is now under investigation by the F.B.I., the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as by authorities abroad, from London to Brussels to Sydney. Facebook’s peers and rivals have expressed conspicuously little sympathy. Elon Muskdeleted his Facebook pages and those of his companies, Tesla and SpaceX. Tim Cook, the C.E.O. of Apple, told an interviewer, “We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer,” but “we’ve elected not to do that.” At Facebook’s annual shareholder meeting, in May, executives struggled to keep order. An investor who interrupted the agenda to argue against Zuckerberg’s renomination as chairman was removed. Outside, an airplane flew a banner that read “you broke democracy.” It was paid for by Freedom from Facebook, a coalition of progressive groups that have asked the F.T.C. to break up the company into smaller units.

On July 25th, Facebook’s stock price dropped nineteen per cent, cutting its market value by a hundred and nineteen billion dollars, the largest one-day drop in Wall Street history. Nick Bilton, a technology writer at Vanity Fair, tweeted that Zuckerberg was losing $2.7 million per second, “double what the average American makes in an entire lifetime.” Facebook’s user base had flatlined in the U.S. and Canada, and dropped slightly in Europe, and executives warned that revenue growth would decline further, in part because the scandals had led users to opt out of allowing Facebook to collect some data. Facebook depends on trust, and the events of the past two years had made people wonder whether the company deserved it.

Zuckerberg’s friends describe his travails as a by-product of his success. He is often compared to another Harvard dropout, Bill Gates, who has been his mentor in business and philanthropy. Gates told me, “Somebody who is smart, and rich, and ends up not acknowledging problems as quickly as they should will be attacked as arrogant. That comes with the territory.” He added, “I wouldn’t say that Mark’s an arrogant individual.” But, to critics, Facebook is guilty of a willful blindness driven by greed, naïveté, and contempt for oversight.

In a series of conversations over the summer, I talked to Zuckerberg about Facebook’s problems, and about his underlying views on technology and society. We spoke at his home, at his office, and by phone. I also interviewed four dozen people inside and outside the company about its culture, his performance, and his decision-making. I found Zuckerberg straining, not always coherently, to grasp problems for which he was plainly unprepared. These are not technical puzzles to be cracked in the middle of the night but some of the subtlest aspects of human affairs, including the meaning of truth, the limits of free speech, and the origins of violence.

Zuckerberg is now at the center of a full-fledged debate about the moral character of Silicon Valley and the conscience of its leaders. Leslie Berlin, a historian of technology at Stanford, told me, “For a long time, Silicon Valley enjoyed an unencumbered embrace in America. And now everyone says, Is this a trick? And the question Mark Zuckerberg is dealing with is: Should my company be the arbiter of truth and decency for two billion people? Nobody in the history of technology has dealt with that.”

Facebook’s headquarters, at 1 Hacker Way, in Menlo Park, overlooking the salt marshes south of San Francisco, has the feel of a small, prosperous dictatorship, akin to Kuwait or Brunei. The campus is a self-contained universe, with the full range of free Silicon Valley perks: dry cleaning, haircuts, music lessons, and food by the acre, including barbecue, biryani, and salad bars. (New arrivals are said to put on the “Facebook fifteen.”) Along with stock options and generous benefits, such trappings have roots in the nineteen-seventies, when, Leslie Berlin said, founders aspired to create pleasant workplaces and stave off the rise of labor unions. The campus, which was designed with the help of consultants from Disney, is arranged as an ersatz town that encircles a central plaza, with shops and restaurants and offices along a main street. From the air, the word “hack” is visible in gigantic letters on the plaza pavement.

On Zuckerberg’s campus, he is king. Executives offer fulsome praise. David Marcus, who runs Facebook’s blockchain project, told me recently, “When I see him portrayed in certain ways, it really hurts me personally, because it’s not the guy he is.” Even when colleagues speak more candidly, on the whole they like him. “He’s not an asshole,” a former senior executive told me. “That’s why people work there so long.”

Before I visited Zuckerberg for the first time, in June, members of his staff offered the kind of advice usually reserved for approaching a skittish bird: proceed gingerly, build a connection, avoid surprises. The advice, I discovered, wasn’t necessary. In person, he is warmer and more direct than his public pronouncements, which resemble a politician’s bland pablum, would suggest. The contrast between the public and the private Zuckerberg reminded me of Hillary Clinton. In both cases, friends complain that the popular image is divorced from the casual, funny, generous person they know. Yet neither Zuckerberg nor Clinton has found a way to publicly express a more genuine persona. In Zuckerberg’s case, moments of self-reflection are so rare that, last spring, following a CNN interview in which he said that he wanted to build a company that “my girls are going to grow up and be proud of me for,” the network framed the clip as a news event, with the title “Zuckerberg in rare emotional moment.”

I asked Zuckerberg about his aversion to opening up.“I’m not the most polished person, and I will say something wrong, and you see the cost of that,” he said. “I don’t want to inflict that pain, or do something that’s going to not reflect well on the people around me.” In the most recent flap, a few weeks earlier, he had told Kara Swisher, the host of the “Recode Decode” podcast, that he permits Holocaust deniers on Facebook because he isn’t sure if they are “intentionally getting it wrong.” After a furor erupted, he issued a statement saying that he finds Holocaust denial “deeply offensive.” Zuckerberg told me, “In an alternate world where there weren’t the compounding experiences that I had, I probably would have gotten more comfortable being more personal, and out there, and I wouldn’t have felt pushback every time I did something. And maybe my persona, or at least how I felt comfortable acting publicly, would shift.”

The downside of Zuckerberg’s exalted status within his company is that it is difficult for him to get genuine, unexpurgated feedback. He has tried, at times, to puncture his own bubble. In 2013, as a New Year’s resolution, he pledged to meet someone new, outside Facebook, every day. In 2017, he travelled to more than thirty states on a “listening tour” that he hoped would better acquaint him with the outside world. David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign manager, who is now the head of policy and advocacy at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the family’s philanthropic investment company, attended some events on the tour. He told me, “When a politician goes to one of those, it’s an hour, and they’re talking for fifty of those minutes. He would talk for, like, five, and just ask questions.”

But the exercise came off as stilted and tone-deaf. Zuckerberg travelled with a professional photographer, who documented him feeding a calf in Wisconsin, ordering barbecue, and working on an assembly line at a Ford plant in Michigan. Online, people joked that the photos made him look like an extraterrestrial exploring the human race for the first time. A former Facebook executive who was involved in the tour told a friend, “No one wanted to tell Mark, and no one did tell Mark, that this really looks just dumb.”

Zuckerberg has spent nearly half his life inside a company of his own making, handpicking his lieutenants, and sculpting his environment to suit him. Even Facebook’s signature royal blue reflects his tastes. He is red-green color-blind, and he chose blue because he sees it most vividly. Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, told me, “Sometimes Mark will say, in front of the company, ‘Well, I’ve never worked anywhere else, but Sheryl tells me . . .’ ” She went on, “He acknowledges he doesn’t always have the most experience. He’s only had the experience he’s had, and being Mark Zuckerberg is pretty extraordinary.”

Long before it seemed inevitable or even plausible, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg had an outsized sense of his own potential. It was “a teleological frame of feeling almost chosen,” a longtime friend told me. “I think Mark has always seen himself as a man of history, someone who is destined to be great, and I mean that in the broadest sense of the term.” Zuckerberg has observed that more than a few giants of history grew up in bourgeois comfort near big cities and then channelled those advantages into transformative power.

In Zuckerberg’s case, the setting was Dobbs Ferry, New York, a Westchester County suburb twenty-five miles north of New York City. His mother, Karen Kempner, grew up in Queens; on a blind date, she met a mailman’s son, Edward Zuckerberg, of Flatbush, who was studying to be a dentist. They married and had four children. Mark, the only boy, was the second-oldest. His mother, who had become a psychiatrist, eventually gave up her career to take care of the kids and manage the dental office, which was connected to the family home. Of his father, Zuckerberg told me, “He was a dentist, but he was also a huge techie. So he always had not just a system for drilling teeth but, like, the laser system for drilling teeth that was controlled by the computer.” Ed Zuckerberg marketed himself as the Painless Dr. Z, and later drummed up dentistry business with a direct-mail solicitation that declared, “I am literally the Father of Facebook!” (Since 2013, Zuckerberg’s parents have lived in California, where Ed practices part time and lectures on using social media to attract patients.)

In the nineteen-eighties and nineties, Ed bought early personal computers—the Atari 800, the I.B.M. XT—and Mark learned to code. At twelve, he set up his first network, ZuckNet, on which messages and files could be shared between the house and his father’s dental office. Rabbi David Holtz, of Temple Beth Abraham, in Tarrytown, told me that he watched Zuckerberg with other kids and sensed that he was “beyond a lot of his peers. He was thinking about things that other people were not.” When I asked Zuckerberg where his drive came from, he traced it to his grandparents, who had immigrated from Europe in the early twentieth century. “They came over, went through the Great Depression, had very hard lives,” he said. “Their dream for their kids was that they would each become doctors, which they did, and my mom just always believed that we should have a bigger impact.” His eldest sister, Randi, an early Facebook spokesperson, has gone on to write books and host a radio show; Donna received her Ph.D. in classics from Princeton and edits an online classics journal; Arielle has worked at Google and as a venture capitalist.

When Zuckerberg was a junior in high school, he transferred to Phillips Exeter Academy, where he spent most of his time coding, fencing, and studying Latin. Ancient Rome became a lifelong fascination, first because of the language (“It’s very much like coding or math, and so I appreciated that”) and then because of the history. Zuckerberg told me, “You have all these good and bad and complex figures. I think Augustus is one of the most fascinating. Basically, through a really harsh approach, he established two hundred years of world peace.” For non-classics majors: Augustus Caesar, born in 63 B.C., staked his claim to power at the age of eighteen and turned Rome from a republic into an empire by conquering Egypt, northern Spain, and large parts of central Europe. He also eliminated political opponents, banished his daughter for promiscuity, and was suspected of arranging the execution of his grandson.

“What are the trade-offs in that?” Zuckerberg said, growing animated. “On the one hand, world peace is a long-term goal that people talk about today. Two hundred years feels unattainable.” On the other hand, he said, “that didn’t come for free, and he had to do certain things.” In 2012, Zuckerberg and Chan spent their honeymoon in Rome. He later said, “My wife was making fun of me, saying she thought there were three people on the honeymoon: me, her, and Augustus. All the photos were different sculptures of Augustus.” The couple named their second daughter August.

In 2002, Zuckerberg went to Harvard, where he embraced the hacker mystique, which celebrates brilliance in pursuit of disruption. “The ‘fuck you’ to those in power was very strong,” the longtime friend said. In 2004, as a sophomore, he embarked on the project whose origin story is now well known: the founding of Thefacebook.com with four fellow-students (“the” was dropped the following year); the legal battles over ownership, including a suit filed by twin brothers, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, accusing Zuckerberg of stealing their idea; the disclosure of embarrassing messages in which Zuckerberg mocked users for giving him so much data (“they ‘trust me.’ dumb fucks,” he wrote); his regrets about those remarks, and his efforts, in the years afterward, to convince the world that he has left that mind-set behind.

During Zuckerberg’s sophomore year, in line for the bathroom at a party, he met Priscilla Chan, who was a freshman. Her parents, who traced their roots to China, had grown up in Vietnam and arrived in the U.S. as refugees after the war, settling in Quincy, Massachusetts, where they washed dishes in a Chinese restaurant. Priscilla was the eldest of three daughters, and the first member of her family to go to college. “I suddenly go to Harvard, where there’s this world where people had real and meaningful intellectual pursuits,” she said. “Then I met Mark, who so exemplified that.” She was struck by how little Zuckerberg’s background had in common with her own. “Fifty per cent of people go to college from the high school I went to. You could learn how to be a carpenter or a mechanic,” she said. “I was just, like, ‘This person speaks a whole new language and lives in a framework that I’ve never seen before.’ ” She added, “Maybe there was some judgment on my part: ‘You don’t understand me because you went to Phillips Exeter,’ ” but, she said, “I had to realize early on that I was not going to change who Mark was.” After Harvard, Chan taught in a primary school and eventually became a pediatrician. In 2017, she stopped seeing patients to be the day-to-day head of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. When I asked Chan about how Zuckerberg had responded at home to the criticism of the past two years, she talked to me about Sitzfleisch, the German term for sitting and working for long periods of time. “He’d actually sit so long that he froze up his muscles and injured his hip,” she said.

After his sophomore year, Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto and never left. Even by the standards of Silicon Valley, Facebook’s first office had a youthful feel. Zuckerberg carried two sets of business cards. One said “I’m CEO . . . bitch!” Visitors encountered a graffiti mural of a scantily clad woman riding a Rottweiler. In Adam Fisher’s “Valley of Genius,” an oral history of Silicon Valley, an early employee named Ezra Callahan muses, “ ‘How much was the direction of the internet influenced by the perspective of nineteen-, twenty-, twenty-one-year-old well-off white boys?’ That’s a real question that sociologists will be studying forever.”

Facebook was fortunate to launch when it did: . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Later in the article:

To gain greater reach, Facebook had made the fateful decision to become a “platform” for outside developers, much as Windows had been in the realm of desktop computers, a generation before. The company had opened its trove of data to programmers who wanted to build Facebook games, personality tests, and other apps. After a few months at Facebook, Parakilas was put in charge of a team responsible for making sure that outsiders were not misusing the data, and he was unnerved by what he found. Some games were siphoning off users’ messages and photographs. In one case, he said, a developer was harvesting user information, including that of children, to create unauthorized profiles on its own Web site. Facebook had given away data before it had a system to check for abuse. Parakilas suggested that there be an audit to uncover the scale of the problem. But, according to Parakilas, an executive rejected the idea, telling him, “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?”

Parakilas told me, “It was very difficult to get the kind of resources that you needed to do a good job of insuring real compliance. Meanwhile, you looked at the Growth Team and they had engineers coming out of their ears. All the smartest minds are focused on doing whatever they can possibly do to get those growth numbers up.”

And later:

Sean Parker later described the company’s expertise as “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” The goal: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” Facebook engineers discovered that people find it nearly impossible not to log in after receiving an e-mail saying that someone has uploaded a picture of them. Facebook also discovered its power to affect people’s political behavior. Researchers found that, during the 2010 midterm elections, Facebook was able to prod users to vote simply by feeding them pictures of friends who had already voted, and by giving them the option to click on an “I Voted” button. The technique boosted turnout by three hundred and forty thousand people—more than four times the number of votes separating Trump and Clinton in key states in the 2016 race. It became a running joke among employees that Facebook could tilt an election just by choosing where to deploy its “I Voted” button.

These powers of social engineering could be put to dubious purposes. In 2012, Facebook data scientists used nearly seven hundred thousand people as guinea pigs, feeding them happy or sad posts to test whether emotion is contagious on social media. (They concluded that it is.) When the findings were published, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they caused an uproar among users, many of whom were horrified that their emotions may have been surreptitiously manipulated. In an apology, one of the scientists wrote, “In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”

Facebook was, in the words of Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, becoming a pioneer in “persuasive technology.” He explained, “A hammer, in your hand, is non-persuasive—it doesn’t have its own ways of manipulating the person that holds it. But Facebook and Snapchat, in their design features, are persuading a teen-ager to wake up and see photo after photo after photo of their friends having fun without them, even if it makes them feel worse.” In 2015, Harris delivered a talk at Facebook about his concern that social media was contributing to alienation. “I said, ‘You guys are in the best position in the world to deal with loneliness and see it as a thing that you are amplifying and a thing that you can help make go the other way,’ ” he told me. “They didn’t do anything about it.” He added, “My points were in their blind spot.”

As Facebook grew, Zuckerberg and his executives adopted a core belief: even if people criticized your decisions, they would eventually come around. In one of the first demonstrations of that idea, in 2006, Facebook introduced the . . .

And later:

As Facebook expanded, so did its blind spots. The company’s financial future relies partly on growth in developing countries, but the platform has been a powerful catalyst of violence in fragile parts of the globe. In India, the largest market for Facebook’s WhatsApp service, hoaxes have triggered riots, lynchings, and fatal beatings. Local officials resorted to shutting down the Internet sixty-five times last year. In Libya, people took to Facebook to trade weapons, and armed groups relayed the locations of targets for artillery strikes. In Sri Lanka, after a Buddhist mob attacked Muslims this spring over a false rumor, a Presidential adviser told the Times, “The germs are ours, but Facebook is the wind.”

Nowhere has the damage been starker than in Myanmar, where the Rohingya Muslim minority has been subject to brutal killings, gang rapes, and torture. In 2012, around one per cent of the country’s population had access to the Internet. Three years later, that figure had reached twenty-five per cent. Phones often came preloaded with the Facebook app, and Buddhist extremists seeking to inflame ethnic tensions with the Rohingya mastered the art of misinformation. Wirathu, a monk with a large Facebook following, sparked a deadly riot against Muslims in 2014 when he shared a fake report of a rape and warned of a “Jihad against us.” Others gamed Facebook’s rules against hate speech by fanning paranoia about demographic change. Although Muslims make up no more than five per cent of the country, a popular graphic appearing on Facebook cautioned that “when Muslims become the most powerful” they will offer “Islam or the sword.”

Beginning in 2013, a series of experts on Myanmar met with Facebook officials to warn them that it was fuelling attacks on the Rohingya. David Madden, an entrepreneur based in Myanmar, delivered a presentation to officials at the Menlo Park headquarters, pointing out that the company was playing a role akin to that of the radio broadcasts that spread hatred during the Rwandan genocide. In 2016, C4ADS, a Washington-based nonprofit, published a detailed analysis of Facebook usage in Myanmar, and described a “campaign of hate speech that actively dehumanizes Muslims.” Facebook officials said that they were hiring more Burmese-language reviewers to take down dangerous content, but the company repeatedly declined to say how many had actually been hired. By last March, the situation had become dire: almost a million Rohingya had fled the country, and more than a hundred thousand were confined to internal camps. The United Nations investigator in charge of examining the crisis, which the U.N. has deemed a genocide, said, “I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it was originally intended.” Afterward, when pressed, Zuckerberg repeated the claim that Facebook was “hiring dozens” of additional Burmese-language content reviewers.

More than three months later, I asked Jes Kaliebe Petersen, the C.E.O. of Phandeeyar, a tech hub in Myanmar, if there had been any progress. “We haven’t seen any tangible change from Facebook,” he told me. “We don’t know how much content is being reported. We don’t know how many people at Facebook speak Burmese. The situation is getting worse and worse here.”

And later:

Over the years, Zuckerberg had come to see his ability to reject complaints as a virtue. But, by 2016, that stance had primed the company for a crisis. Tristan Harris, the design ethicist, said, “When you’re running anything like Facebook, you get criticized all the time, and you just stop paying attention to criticism if a lot of it is not well founded. You learn to treat it as naïve and uninformed.” He went on, “The problem is it also puts you out of touch with genuine criticism from people who actually understand the issues.”

The 2016 election was supposed to be good for Facebook. That January, Sheryl Sandberg told investors that the election would be “a big deal in terms of ad spend,” comparable to the Super Bowl and the World Cup. According to Borrell Associates, a research and consulting firm, candidates and other political groups were on track to spend $1.4 billion online in the election, up ninefold from four years earlier.

Facebook offered to “embed” employees, for free, in Presidential campaign offices to help them use the platform effectively. Clinton’s campaign said no. Trump’s said yes, and Facebook employees helped his campaign craft messages. Although Trump’s language was openly hostile to ethnic minorities, inside Facebook his behavior felt, to some executives, like just part of the distant cesspool of Washington. Americans always seemed to be choosing between a hated Republican and a hated Democrat, and Trump’s descriptions of Mexicans as rapists was simply an extension of that.

During the campaign, Trump used Facebook to raise two hundred and eighty million dollars. Just days before the election, his team paid for a voter-suppression effort on the platform. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, it targeted three Democratic constituencies—“idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans”—sending them videos precisely tailored to discourage them from turning out for Clinton. Theresa Hong, the Trump campaign’s digital-content director, later told an interviewer, “Without Facebook we wouldn’t have won.”

Osnos concludes:

The caricature of Zuckerberg is that of an automaton with little regard for the human dimensions of his work. The truth is something else: he decided long ago that no historical change is painless. Like Augustus, he is at peace with his trade-offs. Between speech and truth, he chose speech. Between speed and perfection, he chose speed. Between scale and safety, he chose scale. His life thus far has convinced him that he can solve “problem after problem after problem,” no matter the howling from the public it may cause.

At a certain point, the habits of mind that served Zuckerberg well on his ascent will start to work against him. To avoid further crises, he will have to embrace the fact that he’s now a protector of the peace, not a disrupter of it. Facebook’s colossal power of persuasion has delivered fortune but also peril. Like it or not, Zuckerberg is a gatekeeper. The era when Facebook could learn by doing, and fix the mistakes later, is over. The costs are too high, and idealism is not a defense against negligence.

In some sense, the “Mark Zuckerberg production”—as he called Facebook in its early years—has only just begun. Zuckerberg is not yet thirty-five, and the ambition with which he built his empire could well be directed toward shoring up his company, his country, and his name. The question is not whether Zuckerberg has the power to fix Facebook but whether he has the will; whether he will kick people out of his office—with the gusto that he once mustered for the pivot to mobile—if they don’t bring him ideas for preventing violence in Myanmar, or protecting privacy, or mitigating the toxicity of social media. He succeeded, long ago, in making Facebook great. The challenge before him now is to make it good. ♦

UPDATE: From Brian Stelter’s newsletter tonight:

Oliver Darcy emails: Should Facebook allow partisan media outlets to participate in its fact-checking program? That debate erupted on social media Tuesday after The Weekly Standard fact-checked a Think Progress piece on Brett Kavanaugh that asserted the SCOTUS nominee “said he would kill Roe v. Wade last week.”

The Weekly Standard explained that Kavanaugh never stated he would overturn the decision, but noted the Think Progress author “engaged in an argument to suggest how Kavanaugh might vote in a Roe v. Wade redo.” The Weekly Standard’s fact-check resulted in Facebook alerting others that “additional reporting” existed on the matter. While the fact-check was accurate, former Think Progress editor Judd Legum took issue with it in a viral thread of tweets. “Now because a hack at a right-wing magazine has decided he doesn’t like this article, Facebook is telling every user who encounters it that it is ‘false,'” Legum wrote.

Others defended The Weekly Standard, noting that the fact-check was fair. Weekly Standard EIC Steve Hayes told me that the Think Progress claim was “indisputably false” and added, “Our fact-check is accurate. We stand by it.”

>> The bottom line: Facebook allowing media organizations with ideological bents to fact check other media organizations with ideological bents seems like it could be a recipe for disaster. One can easily see future scenarios where a liberal website fact-checks a conservative website and neither side can decide on what the truth of the matter is…

Written by LeisureGuy

11 September 2018 at 4:43 pm

The US as a hostile country: Authorities Can Now Deny Visa and Green Card Applications Without Giving Applicants a Chance to Fix Errors

leave a comment »

Kavitha Surana reports in ProPublica:

As President Donald Trump wages a vocal battle against illegal immigration, his administration has been working more quietly to cut down on legal pathways to immigrate to the U.S.

On Tuesday, a new policy kicks in, allowing officers with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to outright deny any visa or green card application that is missing evidence or contains an error. Around 7 million people apply every year.

Previously, officers were required by an Obama-era policy to send notices, giving applicants a chance to correct such problems instead of closing the process. Officers can still choose to do so, but they can also opt to skip that step if the application is deemed frivolous.

Without the notices, applicants won’t have the opportunity to intervene before a decision is made, potentially adding months or years of extra paperwork and thousands of dollars in fees to the already lengthy process. In the case of those trying to renew their visas while they’re still in the U.S., they could be placed in deportation proceedings the moment their visas expire.

USCIS spokesman Michael Bars said the policy was changed to cut down on frivolous applications. The agency has said applicants sometimes file substantially incomplete placeholder applications, knowing the back-and-forth with the USCIS will buy them time. “Under the law, the burden of proof is on the applicant,” Bars said, “not the other way around.”

But immigration lawyers worry that there is not enough oversight or clear standards to ensure fair handling. USCIS officers will now have near-complete discretion to make complex judgments behind closed doors.

“They can deny you on the fact that, subjectively, they feel in their mind [the application] is not approvable,” Pierre Bonnefil, an immigration attorney in New York, said.

One reason the lawyers are worried is that they’ve seen a barrage of scrutiny directed at once-standard immigration applications since Trump took office. ProPublica spoke with a dozen lawyers and reviewed documentation for several of these cases.

Many responses cited technicalities: One application was not accepted because the seventh page, usually left blank, was not attached. Another was rejected because it did not have a table of contents and exhibit numbers, even though it had other forms of organization.

“It seems like they are just making every single submission difficult,” Bonnefil said. “Even the most standard, run-of-the-mill” application.

The lawyers call this minefield of onerous paperwork an “invisible wall,” designed to make legal immigration as difficult as possible.

“People who are here legally, doing everything through proper channels, now feel as unsettled and unwelcome and uncertain about the future as people who don’t have documents,” Sandra Feist, an immigration attorney in Minnesota, said.

Under Trump, this has meant that cases drag on for weeks or months as lawyers scramble to address notices. Some lawyers have noticed an uptick in denials recently, but most say that strong cases still eventually make it through.

It remains to be seen how broadly the new policy will be used to outright deny even strong applications. The memo said the new policy is “not intended to penalize filers for innocent mistakes or misunderstandings of evidentiary requirements.”

Apart from technicalities, lawyers have noted an increase in detailed requests for evidence. Some of the new questions fit with Trump’s 2017 Executive Order called “Buy American and Hire American,” which directed the Department of Homeland Security to find ways to make sure specialty work visas are awarded only to the most highly skilled and highest-paid foreign workers, to fill jobs that couldn’t be filled by an American.

To some, the increased scrutiny of work visas is welcome.

In particular, the H-1B visa category has often been the subject of controversy. Intended for high-level workers with specialized skills, it has been used to outsource ordinary jobs. In 2014, for example, Disney laid offabout 250 long-time workers in computer jobs so that they could replace them with workers flown in from India. The Americans were required to train their replacements before they left. A federal court found that Disney did not violate any laws and the case was eventually dropped, but Republicans have often pointed to similar cases to call for tougher oversight of foreign worker programs. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 September 2018 at 12:25 pm

Your presentation should be a story—but avoid these 7 serious errors

leave a comment »

Neil Stevenson and Annette Ferrara, both of Ideo, write:

Everyone in business and design is talking about storytelling these days, and this seems like a good thing: if we can replace the dreary powerpoint decks with tales that win hearts and minds, then life for everyone will be better. But before you jump on the storytelling bus, make sure you’re aware of the seven deadly sins.

DEADLY SIN #1: Excessive Throat Clearing 

The first thirty seconds of a story are your opportunity to grab an audience. Which is why it’s a bad idea to waste that time on “Throat clearing”: laying out the agenda, defining your terms, introducing yourself, and so on. Find a strong opener, and stick to it.

DEADLY SIN #2: Professional Boring Mode

Some people think that, within a professional context, they shouldn’t display emotion. So they remove all the feelings and replace them with business jargon and data, entering the state we call “professional boring mode.” But emotion is what makes a storymemorable and incites people to act. It might seem counterintuitive, but speaking naturally and informally, with genuine emotion, will make you sound confident and engage an audience.

DEADLY SIN #3: Reading the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 September 2018 at 11:13 am

The Resistance Inside the Obama Administration

leave a comment »

David Dayen writes in the New Republic:

Last week, in an anonymous New York Times op-ed, a senior Trump official attempted to reassure the public that members of the administration were actively impeding their boss’s wishes. One member of the public wasn’t soothed: Trump’s predecessor. “The claim that everything will turn out okay because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, that is not a check,” Barack Obama said in a speech. “That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They’re not accountable.”

It was interesting timing for Obama to condemn executive branch defiance. This week marks the tenth anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers, seen as the emblematic event of the financial crisis. And early in Obama’s first term, as he struggled to prevent further collapse, he faced similar insubordination from a key official: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

According to credible accounts, Geithner slow-walked a direct presidential order to prepare the breakup of Citigroup, instead undertaking other measures to nurse the insolvent bank back to health. This resistance to accountability for those who perpetrated the crisis, consistent with Geithner’s demonstrated worldview, had catastrophic effects—including the Trump presidency itself.

Ron Suskind was the first journalist to dig out this history, which has been largely forgotten, in his 2011 book Confidence Men. On March 15, 2009, Obama’s economic team met to discuss Citigroup, which had seen its stock price plummet after reporting $8.29 billion in losses for the fourth quarter of 2008. Toxic mortgage securities still cluttered Citi’s balance sheet, and two government bailouts totaling $45 billion, plus $306 billion in loan guarantees, had failed to stop the bleeding.

Larry Summers, then the National Economic Council director, was intrigued by the concept of nationalizing the sickest commercial banks, similar to what Sweden had done a decade earlier. Summers had discussed the mechanics of it with FDIC chairwoman Sheila Bair, as she recounted in her 2012 book Bull by the Horns. Obama had already publicly rejected nationalization in an interview with ABC News, but his economic team had differing viewpoints, which they hashed out in the March 2009 meeting.

They decided that the remaining bailout funds would be used to support a “resolution” of Citi. The worst assets would be put into a “bad bank,” with shareholders wiped out and the rest of the firm downsized and restructured. Obama wasn’t exactly gunning for bank retribution, as his dismissal of the Swedish option showed, but he approved the order that night and tasked the Treasury Department with nailing down the details.

Geithner simply didn’t follow the request, failing to produce any proposal for the unwinding of Citi, according to Suskind. It was a classic Washington move: When your boss asks for something you don’t like, just ignore it and hope that the request isn’t necessary when the boss follows up.

Geithner and his bank regulator colleagues made sure a breakup wouldn’t be needed by using Federal Reserve loans, guarantees, and a third bailout to save Citi. Little was asked from the company in return. Geithner had devised “stress tests” to judge how large banks would handle another downturn, and Citi’s initial test estimated that the bank would need $35 billion in additional capital to reassure markets that it was safe. But Citi haggled with regulators, dropping their capital requirement to $5.5 billion, about the same as what the bank paid out in bonuses that year.

In Confidence Men, Geithner rejected Suskind’s account of the March 2009 meeting, saying, “I don’t slow-walk the president on anything.” But Obama didn’t deny it. Describing how he felt about Geithner’s response to his order, he said, “Agitated may be too strong a word.” He later added that “the speed with which the bureaucracy could exercise my decision was slower than I wanted.” As Suskind would conclude, “The Citibank incident, and others like it, reflected a more pernicious and personal dilemma emerging from inside the administration: that the young president’s authority was being systematically undermined or hedged by his seasoned advisers.”

Any objective look at Geithner’s actions in response to the financial crisis confirms that he would maximize his power on behalf of big banks, even if it meant going around his colleagues and his president. That included paying off AIG’s investment bank counter-parties at 100 percent instead of forcing a discount, or blocking Bair, the FDIC chair, from forcing higher capital rules on banks. Every action fit Geithner’s worldview: The financial system must be stabilized at all costs, as the only way to heal the economy so real people benefit. “We do not need to imagine that he was in the pocket of any one bank,” Adam Tooze wrote in the new book Crashed. “It was his commitment to the system that dictated that Citigroup should not be broken up.”

But this neglects the political implications of deploying massive resources to save Citigroup and Wall Street more broadly. Failing to hold anyone accountable for causing the Great Recession as the economy struggled to regain its footing generated significant public resentment, from the Tea Party on the right to Occupy Wall Street on the left. The same urgency and ingenuity was simply not adopted to save homeowners drowning in mortgage debt, which weighed down the overall recovery. Obama fired the CEO of GM, but no bank executive suffered for a moment. And people noticed.

The statistics of the era speak to this inequity. In Obama’s first term, the top one percent took more than all of the gains from the economy after the crisis. Meanwhile, at least 9.3 million families lost their homes to foreclosure due to the mortgage meltdown. For many Americans, the financial and psychological damage will be lifelong. But banks weathered the storm well, and this year posted record profits.

Propping up the existing system instead of overhauling it made it easier for Big Finance to pull off its comeback. Geithner’s stress tests are now seen as weak and easily gamed; Summers recently called them “comically absurd.” Banks like Wells Fargo continue to break the law with impunity, because virtually nothing is done to them when they get caught. A shocking number of those who wrote the Dodd-Frank financial reform now work for the financial firms succeeding at chipping away at it, including Geithner himself, who now runs a private equity firm that owns a predatory lender. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 September 2018 at 10:58 am

Former Interior energy adviser heads to offshore drilling job after pushing for offshore drilling

leave a comment »

It’s just so overt any more. E.A. Crunden reports in ThinkProgress:

A former energy adviser with the Interior Department is joining an oil and gas firm operating in the Gulf of Mexico, the latest in a string of Trump administration officials to migrate between federal agencies and the industries they regulate and monitor.

Vincent DeVito, who served as an energy adviser to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is joining Cox Oil Offshore LLC as executive vice president and general counsel, E&E reported Tuesday.

During his tenure with the Interior Department, DeVito pushed for “energy dominance” and sought to expand oil and gas leases on public lands, as well as within federal waters, where companies have lobbied for relaxed offshore drilling opportunities.

The former official announced at the end of August that he would be returning to the private sector after his stint with the Interior Department. As E&E notes, DeVito previously served as a partner with the law firm Bowditch & Dewey LLP and as treasurer of Zinke’s political action committee. He also served under President George W. Bush at the Energy Department, where he focused on issues relating to climate change and renewable energy.

“I am honored to have had the opportunity to work under Secretary Zinke and to have met a tremendous amount of new friends along the way,” DeVito said last month, announcing his return to the private sector. “I am most grateful to my family for allowing me to embark upon this remarkable journey; and, now, excitedly look forward to returning to private practice.”

Not named at the time, that private practice is now revealed to be the position with Cox Oil Offshore. Company chairman Brad Cox said in a statement that DeVito will “guide us through this next phase of growth” as the company looks to the future.

“As we continue to expand our market position within the Gulf of Mexico, it is imperative that Cox Oil have strong legal counsel with a comprehensive knowledge of public policy and experience working with global private and publicly-held companies,” said Cox.

According to public records obtained by watchdog groups and both the Guardian and Pacific Standard, last summer DeVito took credit for the federal delay of endangered species protections during a speech to the conservative political group Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the Koch brothers.

Emails indicate the industry trade group Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) reached out to DeVito for his assistance in delaying protections for the Texas hornshell, a mussel whose habitat overlaps with oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Mexico. DeVito sought a six-month delay on the protections, meriting a “THANK YOU” email from the group’s public relations director.

While the mussel was granted protections in February 2018, DeVito’s role in the process sparked questions pertaining to both ethics and legality,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2018 at 5:32 pm

Why should I use DuckDuckGo instead of Google?

leave a comment »

Gabriel Weinberg, CEO & Founder at DuckDuckGo (2008-present), answers the question on Quora. He offers ten reasons.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2018 at 9:08 am

%d bloggers like this: