Shared posts

07 Nov 20:54

Help Wanted

by Sanhita SinhaRoy

How you share news of a job opening at your organization can significantly affect the number—and quality—of applicants you see, regardless of the overall job market. Here are several tips to get the best possible people to notice your job post and apply for it.

  1. Focus on the job seeker, not just staffing needs. Many job announcements have become no more than a dry HR position description pasted into an email. Remember that this is an advertisement, and your goal is to attract the interest of terrific candidates. Save the laundry list of infrequent duties for later in the process, sticking only to major job functions. Spend time using the ad to persuade candidates to pursue your opportunity over others: What are some exceptional benefits you offer? Do you value professional development and provide support? What’s appealing about your institution’s unique vision and work culture? What makes your community great to live in? If your organization has a marketing and public relations department, ask them for help.
  2. Include a salary range. You’ll get a better response rate and unlock great applicants who otherwise wouldn’t waste time applying at organizations that aren’t upfront about compensation. Some also consider this a moral issue, believing that greater salary transparency can help narrow or eliminate wage gaps for women and underrepresented communities. If your library can’t do this because of HR policy restrictions, work to change the policy.
  3. Build your brand as an employer. When using a job board, add your company or institution logo and make sure to complete the employer profile section. Rather than repeat your organization’s standard boilerplate, describe your institution in a way that would appeal to prospects.
  4. Prioritize outreach. Go beyond your usual community. DIY efforts to spread the word might save a bit of money and time, but relying on email discussion lists and your Twitter circle often wind up reaching candidates similar to you, excluding fresh voices. Make an effort to diversify your candidate pool by posting to sources that are open and highly visible to all job seekers, such as ALA JobLIST.

For more advice on improving your job ads, look for resources from the Society for Human Resource Management and other associations for human resources.

The post Help Wanted appeared first on American Libraries Magazine.

07 Nov 19:51

An overworked US postal worker shares what life is like delivering Amazon packages

by Rusty Blazenhoff

In late 2013, the United States Postal Service entered into an agreement with Amazon to deliver its packages alongside the regular mail and, on Sundays, to deliver their packages exclusively. Because the USPS receives no federal funding and was operating in a multi-billion dollar loss, it was thought that this agreement would generate much-needed revenue for them, and it has.

However, not surprisingly, it's the USPS workers that are taking the brunt of this agreement for it to work. They are now often working Sundays, holidays, and not getting consistent days off.

In a new Medium article, writer Brendan O'Connor interviewed a rural New England mail carrier about their working conditions.

There were a few quotes that jumped out at me:

"It’s a network [Amazon] can tap into and just feed their packages through without having to establish their own network. It’s the dependability… There’s also just no limit to how much [USPS will] make us work. There’s no limit on days worked in a row with the Postal Service—for RCAs [rural carrier associates] and CCAs [city carrier assistants] at least."

I don’t know if the tendency to overwork the employees [happened] before Amazon, but the Postal Service just refuses to treat their employees like humans, and we deliver Amazon packages until we drop dead.

"We have a lot of instances of heat stroke. Every morning, when it’s gonna be hot, the postmaster walks around, reads his little spiel like, 'Stay hydrated. If you need to take a break, take a break in shade. Safety’s your responsibility.' But when they yell at you to your face about being faster and faster every single day—when the fuck are you supposed to take a break? So it’s like, 'Do you want me to be fast, or do you want me to not get heat stroke?' They just tell you these things so that the blame isn’t on them. No matter what, it’s your fault. You’re either slow, or you’re dead. It’s very dystopian. It’s kind of a nightmare right now.

"Customers demanding six-day-a-week mail delivery and Amazon demanding seven-day-a-week delivery. I feel like I work for Amazon because the physical toll that the job takes on my body is mostly related to packages, and my lack of time off is mostly due to Amazon because of the Amazon Sundays... I feel like my life depends on Amazon."

Ugh. We're better than this, aren't we?

Read the entire interview (and weep): Confessions of a U.S. Postal Worker: “We deliver Amazon packages until we drop dead.”

photo via Drew Stephens

07 Nov 19:43

Lyndon Johnson's dire warning is more important than ever

by Mark Frauenfelder

Two days before the 1966 midterms, President Lyndon B. Johnson warned Americans about the danger of catering to "white backlash." His comments at a news conference are as important today as they were 53 years ago:

"I can think of nothing more dangerous, more divisive, or more self-destructive than the effort to prey on what is called 'white backlash.' I thought it was a mistake to pump this issue up in the 1964 campaign, and I do not think it served the purpose of those who did. I think it is dangerous because it threatens to vest power in the hands of second-rate men whose only qualification is their ability to pander to other men's fears. I think it divides this nation at a very critical time -- and therefore it weakens us as a united country.

"I think that the so-called 'white backlash' is destructive, not only of the interests of Negro Americans, but of all those who stand to gain from humane and farsighted government. And those that stand to gain from humane and farsighted government is everybody. Nevertheless, there are those who try to stimulate suspicion into hatred, and to make fear and frustration their springboard into public office. Many of them do it openly. Some let their henchmen do it for them. Their responsibility is the same.

"Racism -- whether it comes packaged in the Nazi's brown shirt or a three-button suit -- destroys the moral fiber of a nation. It poisons public life. So I would urge every American to ask himself before he goes to the polls on Tuesday: Do I want to cast my vote on the basis of fear? Do I want to follow the merchants of bigotry?"

Via CNN

07 Nov 19:42

Europe's massive plan to require open access for all science gets two new backers: Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation

by Cory Doctorow

In September, a consortium of 11 of Europe's largest science funders announced, "Plan S," whereby they would no longer fund research unless the grantees promised that the results would be published in an open access journal, which anyone could read and copy for free. Two more funders quickly signed up after the announcements, bringing the total to 13.

Now, Europe's two largest science funders have joined the consortium: The Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation, and with these 15 funders backing Plan S, nearly all science research in Europe will be open access.

Plan S does not allow "hybrid" journals which mix open access and paywalled science, though Wellcome will continue to fund research for hybrid publication until 22, but only if the journal has a "transformative OA agreement" promising to transition away from its paywall.

Another exception to Plan S allows publication in paywalled journals provided this takes place simultaneous with deposit in an open repository such as PubMed Central.

Some publishers have bifurcated their journals, making them partially open access, but only for research funded under an open access mandate.

Open access has gone from a fringe issue to one of global import. In 2013, the young technologist and activist Aaron Swartz hanged himself while facing 13 felony counts for accessing scientific papers over MIT's network, and his death created a sense of urgency for the issue that has not faded.

The open access portal Sci-Hub makes the entire corpus of scientific literature available for free, without permission, and has been the subject of widespread internet censorship orders, as giant science publishers like Elsevier seek to block it on the national level. Sci-Hub's founder, Alexandra Elbakyan, has explicitly cited Swartz as her inspiration for starting the site. (You can access Sci-Hub through its unblocked Taiwanese mirror)

Paywalled journal publishers argue that the very high prices they charge for access to their publications are necessary to maintain quality standards, but a peer-reviewed study of the publishers' contributions to scientific papers has found these to be negligible. The major publishers have contributed to the case for putting them out of business by publishing fake, for-pay journals filled with junk science defending the propositions of controversial corporate funders, who used the fake journals as evidence to support legal lobbying that would enhance their profits.

Many fields of scientific and scholarly endeavor are essentially held hostage to the paywalled journals: the journals have the highest "impact factor" (that is, papers published with them are most likely to be cited in other papers), which is critical to academic progress and tenure. Because of this, the journals attract the best papers that everyone in the field needs to read, and so institutions are pressured to pay sky-high access fees (which often only guarantee access for so long as a recurring fee is paid, and when the institution drops its subscription, it loses that access), so researchers can read the papers they need to do their work, which they submit back to the journals, making the lock-in stronger.

So the journals get papers for free, from researchers whose work is funded by public money, and then more public money is spent to subscribe to the journals at the researchers' own institutions. More publicly funded scientists and scholars edit the journals, review the papers, and sit on their boards -- all for free. The journals make millions, almost all public money earmarked for science, but diverted to the journals' shareholders.

Plan S also states that scientists can’t publish in ‘hybrid’ journals, which collect subscriptions and charge for some papers to be made OA. Wellcome says that it will stop paying OA fees for articles published in hybrid journals. But it will not bar papers resulting from research it has funded from hybrid journals if the authors can find another way to pay, or if a journal agrees to let authors also post their accepted manuscripts elsewhere at the time of publication under OA terms.

Kiley adds that until 2022, Wellcome will also support hybrid journals if their publishers have made ‘transformative OA agreements’ and are en route to becoming OA. These might include, for instance, ‘read and publish’ deals in which an institution’s subscription fees also cover the costs of their researchers publishing openly in a hybrid journal.

Essentially, this follows the spirit of statement by the backers of Plan S that some hybrid-journal publishing would be allowed for a transitional time.

Wellcome and Gates join bold European open-access plan [Richard Van Noorden/Nature]

(via /.)

30 Oct 19:57

Italy may kill the EU's copyright filter plans

by Cory Doctorow

When the EU voted for mandatory copyright censorship of the internet in September, Italy had a different government; the ensuing Italian elections empowered a new government, who oppose the filters.

Once states totalling 35% of the EU's population oppose the new Copyright Directive, they can form a "blocking minority" and kill it or cause it to be substantially refactored. With the Italians opposing the Directive because of its draconian new internet rules (rules introduced at the last moment, which have been hugely controversial), the reputed opponents of the Directive have now crossed the 35% threshold, thanks to Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Belgium and Hungary.

Unfortunately, the opponents of Article 11 (the "link tax") and Article 13 (the copyright filters) are not united on their opposition -- they have different ideas about what they would like to see done with these provisions. If they pull together, that could be the end of these provisions.

If you're a European this form will let you contact your MEP quickly and painlessly and let them know how you feel about the proposals.

That’s where matters stand now: a growing set of countries who think copyright filters and link taxes go too far, but no agreement yet on rejecting or fixing them.

The trilogues are not a process designed to resolve such large rifts when both the EU states and the parliament are so deeply divided.

What happens now depends entirely on how the members states decide to go forward: and how hard they push for real reform of Articles 13 and 11. The balance in that discussion has changed, because Italy changed its position. Italy changed its position because Italians spoke up. If you reach out to your countries’ ministry in charge of copyright, and tell them that these Articles are a concern to you, they’ll start paying attention too. And we’ll have a chance to stop this terrible directive from becoming terrible law across Europe.

Italy Steps Up To Defend EU Internet Users Against Copyright Filters – Who Will Be Next? [Danny O'Brien/EFF Deeplinks]

30 Oct 19:56

Street artists leave 'Please Clean Up After Your Democracy' signs to encourage voting

by Rusty Blazenhoff

A street art collective known as ArtBitch, currently operating as VoteBitch, has been droplifting humorous pro-voting signs up in a bunch of public Bay Area locations.

Each sign shows a figure holding up a dog poop bag in one hand and a leash attached to the United States in the other, with the word "VOTE" and the hashtag #itactuallymatters underneath it.

The group has made the sign's art a free download on their site.

You pick up your mess – why should the neighbors sit home watching football while you rock the whole civic duty thing? Tell folks to get with the program with this chipper yet irony-laden “Vote” sign.

Vote! It does actually matter.

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

photo by Rusty Blazenhoff (VoteBitch tipped me off on a few of the locations so I could photograph the signs. The lead image was captured at the bus stop on Webster Street near the corner of Atlantic Avenue in Alameda.)

30 Oct 19:53

Public domain scores a huge appeals court victory: the law cannot be copyrighted (UPDATED)

by Cory Doctorow

For years we have chronicled the tireless fight of rogue archivist Carl Malamud (previously) whose Public.Resource.org has devoted itself to publishing the world's laws, for free, where anyone can see and share them.

The principal that the law must be both readable and writable is as old as the idea of the rule of law itself, dating back to the Magna Carta and beyond. But in recent years, governments have begun to integrate commercially developed standards into their laws as their official safety code ("The plumbing code of East Dingleberry County shall be version xyz of the Unified Plumbing Standards Body's Master Code"), and thereafter, people who want to read the law -- to make sure they're obeying it, to investigate whether someone else has violated it -- has to pay (often thousands of dollars) to get a copy of their own laws.

Malamud's position is that once a standard is part of the law, it is no longer copyrightable and he can publish it. Despite the obvious justice of this position and its long precedent, he often finds himself on the receiving end of dire legal threats and even lawsuits.

Last week, Malamud and EFF his lawyers, Alston & Bird and Elizabeth Rader scored a massive victory in this fight: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit struck down the state of Georgia's bid to suppress the publication of its laws, upholding Malamud's right to publish them. The appeals court's decision was unequivocal in its support for the position that the law is free for all to read and write -- and that Georgia's bid to make its laws pay-to-read was unconstitutional and illegitimate.

Friday’s decision means that Malamud and PRO can continue with the project, as no part of the OCGA is covered by copyright. The opinion throws out the specious notion that official copies of the law can be privatized by adding annotations, when those annotations were themselves dictated by the legislature and were widely considered to be “part and parcel” of the state’s legal code.

More importantly, it makes clear that Georgia’s annotated laws “are attributable to the constructive authorship of the People.” The opinion recognizes that when it comes to accessing the work of lawmakers, the debate must be grounded in our notions of democratic rights. It isn’t simply an argument about dividing up a market for published items.

This is a major step forward in a larger fight to free the law from copyright. EFF represents PRO in a separate litigation, in which Malamud and PRO are fighting to publish codes and standards that have been incorporated by reference into law. Those standards, which relate to building and product safety, energy efficiency, and educational testing, were incorporated by reference into regulations by state and federal agencies, after heavy lobbying by the standards development organizations that created them. Yet those same groups have fought PRO’s efforts to publish the standards. That case is headed back to district court for further proceedings, after EFF and PRO scored a win this summer when an appeals court ordered the district court to re-consider the issue of fair use.

Appeals Court Tells Georgia: State Code Can’t be Copyrighted [Joe Mullin/EFF]

30 Oct 19:52

In America, the young find distinguishing fact from opinion easier than their elders

by Cory Doctorow

A recent Pew poll challenged subjects to distinguish between factual statements and statements of opinion in news articles; it found that there is a large gap in accuracy between 18- to 49-year-olds (32% of whom correctly labeled 100% of the facts, and 44% of whom correct labeled 100% of the opinions) and those aged 50 and up (20% correctly labeled all facts; 26% correctly labeled all opinions).

Young people performed well regardless of the ideological nature of the facts and opinions, while older subjects' ability to sort fact from opinion was more likely to struggle when such sorting cut against their ideological bias.

For example, 63% of 18- to 49-year-olds correctly identified the following factual statement, one which was deemed to appeal more to the right: “Spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. federal budget.” About half of those ages 50 and older (51%) correctly classified the same statement. Additionally, 18- to 49-year-olds were 12 percentage points more likely than those at least 50 years of age (60% vs. 48%, respectively) to correctly categorize the following factual statement, which was deemed to be more appealing to the ideological left: “Immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have some rights under the Constitution.”

Among the opinion statements, roughly three-quarters of 18- to 49-year-olds (77%) correctly identified the following opinion statement, one that appeals more to the ideological right – “Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient” – compared with about two-thirds of older Americans (65%). And younger Americans were slightly more likely than older adults (82% vs. 78%, respectively) to correctly categorize this opinion statement, one appealing more to the left: “Abortion should be legal in most cases.”

Younger Americans are better than older Americans at telling factual news statements from opinions [Jeffrey Gottfried and Elizabeth Grieco/Pew]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

30 Oct 19:35

The Copyright Office just greenlit a suite of DRM-breaking exemptions to the DMCA

by Cory Doctorow

Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act bans bypassing "access controls" for copyrighted works -- that is, breaking DRM.

This was stupid when the DMCA passed in 1998, and it only got stupider since: back in 1998, DMCA 1201 was used to punish people who made region-free DVD players or homebrew Sega Dreamcast games. Today, every gadget has thousands of lines of copyrighted code, putting any "access control" on the gadget within reach of the DMCA, which has led manufacturers to claim that the DMCA gives them the right to decide who can make software for your stuff, how you can use your stuff, and who can fix your stuff. DMCA 1201 has been used to intimidate and even jail security researchers who found defects in products with DRM, which means that the people who want to warn you about problems with the gadgets you trust can't come forward without permission from the companies that stand to lose money if the news gets out.

Every three years, the Copyright Office hears petitions for "use exemptions" to the DMCA: these exemptions let you break DRM to engage in some kind of legit activity, like jailbreaking a phone or conducting security research.

This year, many groups petitioned the Copyright Office for a wide variety of exemptions and the Copyright Office just published its detailed conclusions setting out which exemptions were granted, which ones were denied, and which ones were partially granted.

It's an extremely encouraging document! The Copyright Office granted the majority of exemptions, including key exemptions around the right to repair and legal protection for security research. They did partially or completely deny some vital petitions, unfortunately, including ones related to jailbreaking media to make fair uses, and some related to preserving old video games.

Encouraging as this all is, there is one important and infuriating element to keep in mind: while the Copyright Office grants "use exemptions," it does not believe it has the right to make "tools exemptions" -- exemptions that would allow an expert to make a tool for disabling DRM so that you can make the uses they've permitted you to make. In other words, the Copyright Office says, "You're allowed to jailbreak your Iphone, but no one is allowed to give you an Iphone jailbreaking tool, and if you make a tool for your own use you can't share it or even tell people how it works."

That's pretty weird, but the infuriating part is when you bring this up with DRM advocates and the Copyright Office: they say, "Well, once the law is out of the way, people will just figure it out." In other words: "DRM is actually kinda bullshit and people who want to get around it will." But if that's the case, what is DRM supposed to be for? If any "bad guy" (someone who doesn't care about permission from the Copyright Office) who wants to get around DRM can do so, who is the DRM supposed to restrict?

That's right: honest people. People who want to do legitimate things, like fix their stuff, or format-shift their stuff, or just buy some third-party ink and have it work with their printer. These are the only people DRM works against (otherwise, granting "use exemptions" would be pointless). If these people wanted to do things that broke the law -- like making infringing copies of Bluray movies -- the law already allows companies to punish them. DRM doesn't exist to protect companies' rights, it exists to let them invent new rights (the right to decide which screen you can watch a movie on, for example), and then make those rights legally enforceable, by adding illegal-to-remove DRM to their products.

The Copyright Office decision also does nothing to address the many ways that manufacturers have monopolized repair that have nothing to do with copyright or software. Companies have made it difficult to acquire parts or repair tools needed to fix the things you own, and many companies have weaponized the Department of Homeland Security to crack down on grey market and aftermarket parts that are imported from places like China. Two prominent right to repair activists, Louis Rossmann and Jessa Jones, have had their Apple repair parts seized by customs in recent months.

The win demonstrates that right to repair advocates are making progress, but there’s still a long way to go until repair becomes easier for everyone.

"Companies use the anti-piracy rules in copyright laws to cover things that are nowhere near copying music or video games,” Proctor said. “We just want to fix our stuff. We're pleased with the progress being made, and ultimately we want to settle this by establishing Right to Repair."

In Groundbreaking Decision, Feds Say Hacking DRM to Fix Your Electronics Is Legal [Jason Koebler/Motherboard]

30 Oct 19:12

US Copyright Office: locking hardware with DRM is no longer cool

by Seamus Bellamy

Every year, the companies we rely on to make our computers, televisions, smartphones and other high tech marvels make it more difficult for us to repair their products. This dickery is accomplished through various methods: specialized screws that require a fancy screwdriver to remove, the creation of hardware that's designed in such a way that taking it apart to repair would do more harm than good, and through Digital Rights Management (DRM) to keep folks from futzing with their device's firmware. While right-to-repair advocates continue to fight for our right to unreservedly tinker with the stuff we own, The US Copyright Office gave them a wee taste of victory to hold them over until all of the fighting's done.

From Motherboard:

The Librarian of Congress and US Copyright Office just proposed new rules that will give consumers and independent repair experts wide latitude to legally hack embedded software on their devices in order to repair or maintain them. This exemption to copyright law will apply to smartphones, tractors, cars, smart home appliances, and many other devices.

The move is a landmark win for the “right to repair” movement; essentially, the federal government has ruled that consumers and repair professionals have the right to legally hack the firmware of “lawfully acquired” devices for the “maintenance” and “repair” of that device. Previously, it was legal to hack tractor firmware for the purposes of repair; it is now legal to hack many consumer electronics.

Thanks to this ruling, those inclined to do so will now be able to break the DRM on a device's firmware, provided they own it, for the sake of repairing it. The only stipulation is that doing so must not make it possible to acquire or copy other copyrighted material on the device.

As Motherboard points out, a great example of what's possible now can be found in the way that Apple's been handling third-party laptop repairs. In newer MacBooks, there's a software killswitch that'll bork the laptop if anyone that's not authorized to make the repair goes tinkering with the laptop's guts. Thanks to the Copyright Office's ruling, it's now perfectly legal for anyone that cares to do so to bypass this lockout and get their repair on.

Image: by U.S. Library of Congress - Extracted from PDF version of the Copyright Office 2003 Annual Report (direct PDF URL here)., Public Domain, Link

30 Oct 19:10

Legal threats force retraction of peer-reviewed article about the problems with private-equity-backed dermatologists

by Cory Doctorow

On October 5, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published a peer-reviewed article by Drs Sailesh Konda and Joseph Francis, enumerating the problems with the burgeoning field of "corporatized," private-equity-backed dermatology practices, often affiliated with private-equity-backed pathology labs, showing data to support the conclusion that private equity investment flowed to dermatology practices that were "outliers" in performing rare, high-cost procedures, including some that generated outsized Medicare billings.

The article sparked a flood of complaints from private-equity-affiliated dermatologists, including legal threats. Journal editor Dr. Dirk Elston caved and removed the paper, citing "concerns about the accuracy of a few parts" of the article.

The editors told the authors that they would have to correct "factual errors" to have the article reinstated, but the authors said that the requested corrections were not related to factual errors, but rather to true facts that put the leaders of the American Academy of Dermatology in a bad light.

Dermatologists represent 1% of US medical practices and 15% of medical private-equity acquisitions.

Among those who objected to the article was Dr. George Hruza, the incoming president of the American Academy of Dermatology. Dr. Hruza, whose one-year term as president begins in March, is a dermatologist in Chesterfield, Mo. In 2016 he sold his own dermatology practice to United Skin Specialists, a firm that manages dermatology practices and is backed by private equity. He currently serves on the board of directors of United Skin Specialists, which he said is an unpaid position.

Dr. Hruza is not named in the journal article, but he said he is easily identified by the authors’ reference to his pending presidency of the academy, and to United Skin Specialists.

In an interview, Dr. Hruza said he did not ask that the paper be taken down. He did, however, confirm that he expressed his concerns to Dr. Elston, the editor, after it was posted. Two days later, Dr. Elston removed the paper. A flurry of intense conversations ensued among Dr. Elston; Dr. Hruza; the current academy president, Dr. Suzanne Olbricht; a lawyer for the dermatology academy; and the paper’s authors.

Why Private Equity Is Furious Over a Paper in a Dermatology Journal [Katie Hafner/New York Times]

(via Naked Capitalism)

30 Oct 19:09

Old dentists' office walls are full of thousands of "buried teeth"

by Cory Doctorow

For at least the third time, construction workers in Georgia have opened up the walls of a former dentist's office only to discover thousands of teeth in the wall cavity.

The latest discovery was made at Valdosta, Georgia's TB Converse Building, built in 1900, in a dental office occupied by Dr Clarence Whittington and then Dr Lester G Youmans, from 1900 until the 1930s.

Previous troves of entombed teeth have been discovered in old dentists' offices n Greensboro and Carrolton.

“I’m not sure if it was a common practice between dentists at that time, but it’s very strange that there were two other people that said, ‘Hey, we’ve had that happen, too,’” she said.

It’s been suggested that the Lowndes County Historical Society receive the teeth though Donald Davis, Historical Society executive director, couldn’t confirm this.

"The museum would be pleased to receive the teeth; however, it has not been officially confirmed to us that they would be offered," he said.

VPD Lt. Adam Bembry said nothing has been reported to the police department as of press time.

Hundreds of teeth found in Downtown Valdosta wall [Amanda M. Usher/Valdosta Daily Times]

(via JWZ)

30 Oct 19:05

Jewish leaders to Trump: until you denounce white supremacy, stay out of Pittsburgh

by Cory Doctorow

After this weekend's anti-Semitic mass-shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, President Donald Trump blamed the victims, implying that if they didn't want to get murdered, they should have paid for armed guards.

What Trump has notably not said is that the white supremacist movement he has legitimized and fueled with his anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, anti-disabled, anti-LBGT statements, is connected to anti-Semitic violence -- from the "good people" who marched in Charlottesville chanting "Jews will not replace us" to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style demonization of George Soros.

Trump's omission is not subtle. People have noticed. Among them is a coalition of Pittsburgh's Jewish leaders who have published an open letter to the President telling him that he is "not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism," "not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities," "not welcome in Pittsburgh until you cease your assault on immigrants and refugees" and "not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us."

(Image: Dllu, CC-BY-SA)

23 Oct 19:39

"Free is not fair" won't make authors richer, but fixing publishers' contracts will

by Cory Doctorow

Australia is about to radically expand its copyright and the publishing industry has forged an unholy alliance with authors' groups to rail against fair use being formalised in Australia, rallying under the banner of "Free is not fair."

Rebecca Giblin (previously), one of Australia's leading copyright scholars and the founder of a project to examine the way that authors' interests diverge from their publishers' interests.

She points out that giving Australian authors more copyright won't do them any good if the highly concentrated publishing industry simply demands that all that copyright be transferred to corporate balance sheets as part of their standard contracts. It's like giving your bullied kid extra lunch money: the bullies will simply mug them for the extra money you've handed over.

Because even though writers' median incomes have fallen, publishing's profitability has risen. The publishing industry does not have a profitability crisis: it has a fair distribution crisis, and additional copyrights that make publishing more profitable just make them bigger and better situated to win contract negotiations with publishers.

Instead of giving writers more lunch money for the publishers to take off them, Giblin talks about measures that will gives authors negotiating leverage, like rights reversions and European-style "bestseller clauses," as well as more accountability from the collecting societies that take in money on behalf of writers.

Canada is going through a similarly backwards process to "fix copyright" that is headed on a collision course with the same bad outcomes that the Australian process is creating.

We should also be demanding greater transparency around the distribution of revenue from the statutory licences that pay for uses in schools and universities. Those are the revenues that, in Australia, are collected by the Copyright Agency. Australia’s schools pay far more to use copyrighted works than their overseas counterparts – almost $17 per student, compared to around $3 in the UK and NZ. This would be laudable if that money went to supporting authors, but as far as we can tell from the Copyright Agency’s reporting, publishers again take the lion’s share. The Macquarie University report cited above found that authors averaged just $400 in earnings from the Copyright Agency in the 2014–15 financial year – a similar amount to the year before – compared to $1,100 earned through public lending rights. To put those figures in context, the Copyright Agency, according to its annual report, paid out a total of $103 million to copyright owners, while the combined payout to authors and publishers for public and educational lending rights in the same period was barely a fifth of that.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, including in a recent submission to the Department of Communications and the Arts, it’s impossible to tell from the Copyright Agency’s reporting how the $103 million paid out to rightsholders is divided up between creators and investors. But it’s clear that these revenue flows are very different to those in the UK, where a bargain between authors and publishers sees revenues split pretty evenly between the two. It’s time to ask serious questions about how we want this public money accounted for and spent.

Mechanisms outside of copyright also have a big role to play. It’s a no brainer that publishers should be obliged to provide regular royalty statements that give meaningful earnings data, and that authors should have the right to an independent audit of their accounts. More provocatively, we might ask: how might things change if we required ‘fair trade’ labels disclosing whether or not an author was ethically paid?

Fat horses & starving sparrows [Rebecca Giblin/Overland]

19 Oct 19:55

Disney heiress condemns Trump for lowering her taxes: vote out the Republicans on Nov 6!

by Cory Doctorow

Abigail Disney is Walt Disney's grand-niece; she is an activist and documentarian and being the grand-daughter of Roy Disney, she is rich as hell.

Despite her personal stake in Trump's tax cuts, she made this amazing call to action to vote the Republicans out and end the raging movement of money to the super-rich from everyone else in America.

It's a fantastic video.

19 Oct 19:51

Anyone can speed read. Learn how now and save precious time.

by Boing Boing's Shop

Speed reading isn't just an innate skill possessed by a lucky few. Anyone can learn to speed read, and the benefits are endless. The brain can process more information than most people have time to soak up, but you can make that time now with the 2018 Award-Winning Speed Reading Bundle.

The first half of the bundle, 7 Speed Reading EX, does more than just show you how to become an effective speed reader. With video tutorials, eye/ body training exercises and progress reports, you'll be breezing through novels and documents alike more than 3 times faster - with no loss in comprehension. The platform even comes with access to 20,477 eBooks free.

When you're ready, the Spreeder CX 2018 tool will allow you to put your newfound talent to practice, with a text-display app that will guide you at an increasing pace through any document you can upload or paste.

Before you crack open another book, grab a lifetime subscription to the 2018 Award-Winning Speed Reading Bundle for a $19.

19 Oct 19:48

The first trailer for Good Omens makes the apocalypse look delightful

by Seamus Bellamy

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens is a book that I've revisited many times over the years. Each time that I do, it feels like I'm spending time with an old friend: nothing much has changed since the last time that we saw each other, but I enjoy the book's presence in my life, nonetheless.

The first trailer for Amazon's Good Omens doesn't give me those feels. That's not a bad thing. The mini-series, staring Michael Sheen and David Tennant as Aziraphale and Crowley, feels vital and expansive compared to the cozy confines of the novel I've enjoyed so often over the past few decades. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the production interprets the work.

And hey, if it sucks, I still have the wonderful written iteration to fall back on.

19 Oct 19:34

Chow Yun-fat lives so modestly, he can give away $700M+ when he passes away

by Seamus Bellamy

Indicating in your will that you want to leave some money to a charity that reflects the values you were passionate about is a fine gesture.

Living a life of frugality so that you can leave a ridiculous amount of money to charity once you're gone: that's next level philanthropy.

Chow Yun-fat, the bad ass star of such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hard Boiled is very into this latter, hardcore-level of giving. Despite the wealth that his career in film has brought him, the 63-year old icon has spent years in Hong Kong, one of the world's most expensive cities, enjoying a simple life on around $100 U.S. dollars per month. Thanks to this monk-like level of frugality, it's estimated that when he passes, Chow will be leaving behind close to $714 million to charity.

From Shanghaist:

Chow’s wife, Jasmine Tan, says that her husband manages to live so frugally in one of the world’s most expensive cities by frequenting street food stalls and rarely buying new things, according to an Oriental Daily report from last week. For example, for 17 years, Chow stuck with his trusty Nokia flip phone, only recently purchasing a new smartphone when his old device finally stopped working.

The 63-year-old Chow is often seen riding public transportation where he rocks a simple wardrobe — a shirt costing him 98 yuan ($14) and sandals costing another 15 yuan ($2). When asked why he likes to shop at discount shops despite his tremendous net worth, Chow replies, “I don’t wear clothes for other people. I just wear whatever I find comfortable.”

I don't know about you, but I find it very encouraging, given our current social and economic climate, that not every crazy-rich soul in the world is a self-serving lunatic.

Image: by Sliceof - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

19 Oct 19:08

How to make your own distraction-free digital typewriter

by Mark Frauenfelder

Ninjatrappeur built his own Raspberry Pi-based digital typewriter with an E-ink screen and a cheap keyboard. Total cost was about $180. He generously posted his build notes, and is seeking collaborators to help him improve on his prototype.

Images: Ninjatrappeur

12 Oct 19:37

Trump supporter berates black Lyft driver with racial slurs and calls cops because he wouldn't put the radio on

by Rob Beschizza

A great night for a Trump supporter in Brooklyn: hail a Lyft, demand the radio be put on, then harass the driver with the N-word while calling the police.

Lyft driver Shawn Pepas Lettman of Brooklyn, N.Y., calmly filmed the 16-minute tirade by passenger Robert Ortiz and his two friends, who called the New York City police after Lettman refused to turn on the radio. “I feel racially profiled … because I’m not black,” Ortiz tells the 911 operator. He later adds, “If this guy does anything to threaten my life, I have to defend myself. … I’m a little fearful.”

It's very much a thing of the moment: blithely calling the police to threaten the black dude you're slinging racial slurs at, all the while slathering everything with free-ranging sociopathic drivel talk that pinballs between giggling insincerity, "wait till the police get here" rage, and constant amateur-lawyer bullshit.

Driver Shaun Pepas:

When my mother died she taught me a very important lesson, which was always useful but more now than ever. She taught patience, humble and calm will get you through anything. As a father of 2 my single means of providing for my wife and children is driving a rideshare, accommodating people from all walks of life, All of which i treat with the utmost respect, after all I must provide for my family.

There's something about his expression here that I'll remember for a long time.

12 Oct 17:04

EU Internet Censorship Will Censor the Whole World's Internet

by Cory Doctorow

As the EU advances the new Copyright Directive towards becoming law in its 28 member-states, it's important to realise that the EU's plan will end up censoring the Internet for everyone, not just Europeans.

A quick refresher: Under Article 13 of the new Copyright Directive, anyone who operates a (sufficiently large) platform where people can post works that might be copyrighted (like text, pictures, videos, code, games, audio etc) will have to crowdsource a database of "copyrighted works" that users aren't allowed to post, and block anything that seems to match one of the database entries.

These blacklist databases will be open to all comers (after all, anyone can create a copyrighted work): that means that billions of people around the world will be able to submit anything to the blacklists, without having to prove that they hold the copyright to their submissions (or, for that matter, that their submissions are copyrighted). The Directive does not specify any punishment for making false claims to a copyright, and a platform that decided to block someone for making repeated fake claims would run the risk of being liable to the abuser if a user posts a work to which the abuser does own the rights.

The major targets of this censorship plan are the social media platforms, and it's the "social" that should give us all pause.

That's because the currency of social media is social interaction between users. I post something, you reply, a third person chimes in, I reply again, and so on.

Now, let's take a hypothetical Twitter discussion between three users: Alice (an American), Bob (a Bulgarian) and Carol (a Canadian).

Alice posts a picture of a political march: thousands of protesters and counterprotesters, waving signs. As is common around the world, these signs include copyrighted images, whose use is permitted under US "fair use" rules that permit parody. Because Twitter enables users to communicate significant amounts of user-generated content, they’ll fall within the ambit of Article 13.

Bob lives in Bulgaria, an EU member-state whose copyright law does not permit parody. He might want to reply to Alice with a quote from the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, whose works were translated into English in the late 1970s and are still in copyright.

Carol, a Canadian who met Bob and Alice through their shared love of Doctor Who, decides to post a witty meme from "The Mark of the Rani," a 1985 episode in which Colin Baker travels back to witness the Luddite protests of the 19th Century.

Alice, Bob and Carol are all expressing themselves through use of copyrighted cultural works, in ways that might not be lawful in the EU’s most speech-restrictive copyright jurisdictions. But because (under today's system) the platform typically is only required to to respond to copyright complaints when a rightsholder objects to the use, everyone can see everyone else's posts and carry on a discussion using tools and modes that have become the norm in all our modern, digital discourse.

But once Article 13 is in effect, Twitter faces an impossible conundrum. The Article 13 filter will be tripped by Alice's lulzy protest signs, by Bob's political quotes, and by Carol's Doctor Who meme, but suppose that Twitter is only required to block Bob from seeing these infringing materials.

Should Twitter hide Alice and Carol's messages from Bob? If Bob's quote is censored in Bulgaria, should Twitter go ahead and show it to Alice and Carol (but hide it from Bob, who posted it?). What about when Bob travels outside of the EU and looks back on his timeline? Or when Alice goes to visit Bob in Bulgaria for a Doctor Who convention and tries to call up the thread? Bear in mind that there's no way to be certain where a user is visiting from, either.

The dangerous but simple option is to subject all Twitter messages to European copyright censorship, a disaster for online speech.

And it’s not just Twitter, of course: any platform with EU users will have to solve this problem. Google, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, Flickr, Tumblr -- every network will have to contend with this.

With Article 13, the EU would create a system where copyright complainants get a huge stick to beat the internet with, where people who abuse this power face no penalties, and where platforms that err on the side of free speech will get that stick right in the face.

As the EU's censorship plan works its way through the next steps on the way to becoming bindin g across the EU, the whole world has a stake -- but only a handful of appointed negotiators get a say.

If you are a European, the rest of the world would be very grateful indeed if you would take a moment to contact your MEP and urge them to protect us all in the new Copyright Directive.

(Image: The World Flag, CC-BY-SA)

12 Oct 16:51

Meet Helen, 5, detained by Trump, forced to sign away her rights in court.

by Xeni Jardin

“On Helen’s form, which was filled out with assistance from officials, there is a checked box next to a line that says, “I withdraw my previous request for a Flores bond hearing.” Beneath that line, the five-year-old signed her name in wobbly letters.”

What the Trump administration is doing to these thousands of children is morally repulsive. We have to stop it.

Here's an excerpt from a New Yorker feature on Helen, “a smart, cheerful five-year-old girl” seeking asylum from Honduras. She ends up in court, separated from her parents. The organization helping her is lupenet.org, and you should support their work.

Helen reunited with her mother.

They managed to get Helen reunited with her mother, and out of Trump's brown kid prisons. But here's what happened to her:

In July, Helen fled Honduras with her grandmother, Noehmi, and several other relatives; gangs had threatened Noehmi’s teen-age son, Christian, and the family no longer felt safe. Helen’s mother, Jeny, had migrated to Texas four years earlier, and Noehmi planned to seek legal refuge there. With Noehmi’s help, Helen travelled thousands of miles, sometimes on foot, and frequently fell behind the group. While crossing the Rio Grande in the journey’s final stretch, Helen slipped from their raft and risked drowning. Her grandmother grabbed her hand and cried, “Hang on, Helen!” When the family reached the scrubland of southern Texas, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended them and moved them through a series of detention centers. A month earlier, the Trump Administration had announced, amid public outcry over its systemic separation of migrant families at the border, that it would halt the practice. But, at a packed processing hub, Christian was taken from Noehmi and placed in a cage with toddlers. Noehmi remained in a cold holding cell, clutching Helen. Soon, she recalled, a plainclothes official arrived and informed her that she and Helen would be separated. “No!” Noehmi cried. “The girl is under my care! Please!”

Noehmi said that the official told her, “Don’t make things too difficult,” and pulled Helen from her arms. “The girl will stay here,” he said, “and you’ll be deported.” Helen cried as he escorted her from the room and out of sight. Noehmi remembers the authorities explaining that Helen’s mother would be able to retrieve her, soon, from wherever they were taking her.

Later that day, Noehmi and Christian were reunited. The adults in the family were fitted with electronic ankle bracelets and all were released, pending court dates. They left the detention center and rushed to Jeny’s house, in McAllen, hoping to find Helen there. When they didn’t, Noehmi began to shake, struggling to explain the situation. “Immigration took your daughter,” she told Jeny.

“But where did they take her?” Jeny asked.

“I don’t know,” Noehmi replied.

The details from the sham legal process are nauseating.

Excerpt:

According to a long-standing legal precedent known as the Flores settlement, which established guidelines for keeping children in immigration detention, Helen had a right to a bond hearing before a judge; that hearing would have likely hastened her release from government custody and her return to her family. At the time of her apprehension, in fact, Helen checked a box on a line that read, “I do request an immigration judge,” asserting her legal right to have her custody reviewed. But, in early August, an unknown official handed Helen a legal document, a “Request for a Flores Bond Hearing,” which described a set of legal proceedings and rights that would have been difficult for Helen to comprehend. (“In a Flores bond hearing, an immigration judge reviews your case to determine whether you pose a danger to the community,” the document began.) On Helen’s form, which was filled out with assistance from officials, there is a checked box next to a line that says, “I withdraw my previous request for a Flores bond hearing.” Beneath that line, the five-year-old signed her name in wobbly letters.

Summer went on, with no sign of Helen’s return. Noehmi and Jeny contacted LUPE (La Unión Del Pueblo Entero), a nonprofit community union based in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, to ask for help getting Helen released.

Continued:

Founded by the famed activists César Chávez and Dolores Huerta in 1989, lupe fights deportations, provides social services, and organizes civil mobilizations on behalf of more than eight thousand low-income members across south Texas; Jeny, employed as an office cleaner, was one such member. Tania Chavez, a strategy leader for the organization, met with the family to hear their story.

You need to read the entire story.

There's a positive update to share. Helen made it back to her mom. LUPE and the community of people online who read about her case took action. Other kids need help, too.

Click Here to Support LUPE’s Immigration Legal Defense Work.
If you're a registered voter, you need to vote in November. Stop this racist atrocity.

[A photo taken of Helen during her time in custody. Photograph via The New Yorker, Courtesy Eugene Delgado]

12 Oct 16:47

Voting rights groups sue Georgia & Brian Kemp to reinstate 53,000 blocked registrations, 70% are Black

by Xeni Jardin

Voting rights advocacy groups are suing the state of Georgia to reinstate 53,000 blocked voter registrations, 70% of which are from African American voters, saying the current policy violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act and The National Voter Registration Act.

The Lawyer's Committee For Human Rights tweeted this afternoon, “We have just filed a lawsuit against Brian Kemp to end #Georgia’s exact match law, which has put as many as 53K voter registrations on hold ahead of the #MidtermElections.”

Here's the lawsuit [PDF].

[via]

12 Oct 16:42

Teal pumpkins indicate that you have safe, allergy-free goodies to give trick-or-treaters

by Rusty Blazenhoff

Today I learned that by placing a teal pumpkin out on Halloween, you are signaling that you are offering non-food (read: non-allergen) treats to children. It's a secret code that you have safe goodies like stickers, stencils, and glow sticks to give out instead of candy. Clever!

The Teal Pumpkin Project was started in 2014 by non-profit advocacy group Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). They write:

The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages people to raise awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season. The nationwide movement offers an alternative for kids with food allergies, as well as other children for whom candy is not an option.

The steps to participate are:

Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.
Place a teal pumpkin – the color of food allergy awareness –in front of your home to indicate you have non-food treats available.
Add your home to the Teal Pumpkin Project map.
Spread the word! Share the Teal Pumpkin Project with your friends and family.

Thanks, Phoebe!

images via FARE

11 Oct 18:05

Interactive sea level viewer shows what will happen to America's beaches

by Rob Beschizza

Gone, obviously. Tom Scocca:

Using our advanced technology, it is possible to look up the beaches in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Level Rise Viewer, and to imagine what will happen if we visit them, or try to visit them, in the future—when the sea levels have risen three feet, or six feet, or more, if you want. You can use your pocket phone-computer to watch them move ahead through time below.

10 Oct 19:35

Toxic workplaces are feeding the impostor phenomenon – here's why

by Amina Aitsi-Selmi, Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, Epidemiology and Public Health Department, University College London, UCL
Impostor feelings include fear of failure, fear of success, a sometimes-obsessive need for perfection, and an inability to accept praise. KieferPix / Shutterstock

Research suggests that around 70% of people will experience an illogical sense of being a phoney at work at some point in their careers. It’s called the impostor phenomenon (also known, erroneously, as a syndrome). These impostor feelings typically manifest as a fear of failure, fear of success, a sometimes obsessive need for perfection, and an inability to accept praise and achievement. The phenomenon is also characterised by a genuine belief that at some point you, as the “impostor”, are going to be found out for being a fake in your role.

The phenomenon has been researched for more than 40 years and recent research into women working in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), suggests that there is a much higher incidence of it in women in these non-traditional roles.

Despite being something that affects people at an individual level, the relationship between toxic workplaces and well-being is well established. It seems that the impostor phenomenon breeds from a mix of genuine personal doubt over work abilities and the collective experience of a toxic work culture.

Simply put, our modern workplaces are feeding a sense of inadequacy in the face of a track record of achievement and success of individuals. The “impostor’s” internal drive for perfection and their constant expectation of external criticism pushes them to underestimate their abilities, while striving to exhaustion for advancement to avoid perceived failure and exposure to criticism.

Where this meets an ever-increasing demand to do more with fewer resources and a barrage of evaluation in risk-averse workplaces, impostor tendencies will thrive.

An unhealthy marriage

Toxic workplaces are often characterised by an environment that diminishes or manages out the humanity of the place and its people, as well as promoting competition. A focus on profit, process and minimising resources is pronounced. Bullying is normalised and embedded in managerial and colleague behaviour, while leadership is inert and ineffectual against it.

In toxic workplaces, work is often seen as drudgery, the motivating elements sucked out of the environment. Unmoderated criticism and punitive measures stifle original thinking, thus reducing the intrinsic rewards of work, such as having an outlet for expressing one’s unique talents and creative thinking.

The unhealthy marriage between the impostor phenomenon and toxic work cultures is sustained at an individual level by the basic human need for safety and belonging. This interferes with “rational” decision making and supersedes the entrepreneurialism and risk taking that would challenge the status quo. This is detrimental to both a person and their employer who might otherwise benefit from new ideas.

While technology continues to transform the nature of work, organisations are lagging behind in how they manage people. Corporate performance management practices are often little more than thinly disguised carrot and stick approaches. Employees are goaded along by financial and status incentives that glorify overwork and toeing the line. Toxic workplaces force people to jump through endless hoops on the way to an elusive, future state of success and happiness. Intellectual honesty, unorthodox thinking and self-care, meanwhile, are penalised.

Overwork is glorified in too many organisations. Elnur/Shutterstock

Dysfunctional competition

A rampant competitiveness in certain workplaces often provides a breeding ground for anxiety, depression and self-degradation. The finance sector is especially prone to this. Here constant winning is the cultural norm, even though it’s just not possible to win all the time.

This breeds perfectionism, which also fuels people’s need to micromanage. Dysfunctional competition gets prioritised over collaboration. People who feel like they are impostors will often fail to delegate for fear that others won’t meet their own exacting standards and that this will reflect badly on them. As a result, they take on more than they can realistically manage.

The imbalance this produces between effort and rewards exacerbates the feeling of inadequacy and creates a negative feedback loop, which leads to mental exhaustion. And if both the person and the organisation implicitly fail to recognise the toxic combination of impostor tendencies and an unhealthy work culture, they both passively endorse this social contract.

Sadly, as the digital revolution progresses, it is becoming clearer that our contemporary workplaces are demanding productivity outcomes to match. But they are using antiquated managerial structures. Workplace processes – such as poorly constructed performance management, a lack of diversity in succession planning and limited understanding of inclusion initiatives beyond box ticking exercises – fuel the very behaviour and thought patterns that these workplace structures aim to manage out.

Addressing these toxic work cultures and organisational structures could create a less fertile ground for the impostor phenomenon. Healthier workplaces and more satisfied people are likely to deliver more positive and productive outcomes.

The Conversation

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

10 Oct 19:03

Dystopia watch: American schools are installing anti-shooter smoke cannons and bulletproof doors

by Cory Doctorow

America has a gun problem: the proliferation of guns in American homes has led to a largely silent epidemic of accidental shootings, intimate partner murders, and suicides.

While the sky-high fatalities from these everyday shootings are personal, quiet tragedies, the extremely public tragedies of mass shootings are both statistical outliers and rallying points for sensible gun policies in line with the rest of the world.

As welcome as the attention from high-profile atrocities is, there is danger that they will shift our focus to the extremely low likelihood that you will be shot by a deranged stranger in a public place and away from the much higher likelihood that someone you know (possibly you, yourself) will shoot you in your home.

One way this manifests is in an emphasis on "protecting" schools from mass shootings. At first, this was a minor hustle, with some petty grifters picking up small-money contracts designing "active shooter lockdown drills" for schools.

But after the Parkland shooting, the gun lobby and its purchased lawmakers came up with a new talking point: the solution to gun violence was to flood our schools with heavily armed mercenaries (or, worse yet, teachers!) who would execute would-be shooters. This strategy could be backstopped by buying all kinds of "anti-shooter" fixes, like bulletproof doors, bulletproof coffins that children could cower inside of, and Batman utility-belt gadgets like smoke cannons that could flood a school with choking, blinding clouds as a countermeasure against shooters.

This was a evilly brilliant move: by creating a "solution" that was tied to high-ticket procurements, the gun lobby created a self-perpetuating lobby machine for tooling up the schools of America -- hucksters who would divert some of their profits to pressuring governments to diverting more education dollars to weapons and armor, generating new profits and thus new lobbying dollars -- lather, rinse, repeat.

The hive of scum and villainy that is the tooled-up school industry is the sort of thing to make you vomit in your mouth: it is an unholy alliance of lying dickheads like "Joe the Plumber" (yes, that fucking guy is back) and a former US Army Ranger whose sales patter includes warnings that ISIS terrorists might start hurling molotov cocktails inside of schools. These military-industrial grifters are in a weird alliance with one of the Parkland parents, whose response to the tragic loss of his son is to advocate for massive school expenditures on these gadgets and guns.

It's working. Across America, the cash-starved schools are spending money they can't find for books, computers, desks, black mold remediation, art class, and other fripperies on armored doors, armed school guards, and yeah, actual literal smoke cannons.

“Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher is working with a company that incorporated two months after Parkland to sell a $139.99 “SwiftShield” that slides around a classroom door handle so a shooter cannot enter.

The company began sponsoring panels at school security conferences that featured the one-time political star. Wurzelbacher acknowledged skepticism at those conferences but said his concern is genuine: His adult son is a teacher, and he has three children ages 5 and under.

The SwiftShield barricade device, invented by a roofer, offers schools “unparalleled” safety, the company claims. It sells for one-twentieth the cost of some bullet-resistant doors or high-tech locking systems — and about 200 districts have expressed interest, Wurzelbacher said. Companies selling higher-priced security alternatives are protecting their turf when they argue barricade-style devices violate safety codes in many states, he said.

“There’s going to be a lot of money to be made here,” Wurzelbacher said. “I think there’s a lot of people who are offering school systems an illusion of security, as opposed to real security.”

AP: Lawmakers buy industry fix to protect schools from guns [Reese Dunklin and Justin Pritchard/AP]

(via Naked Capitalism)

10 Oct 18:56

Company tries four-day work-week, discovers only upsides

by Cory Doctorow

Perpetual Guardian is a 250-person New Zealand investment company specialized in trusts, wills and estate planning; this March and April, the company experimented with a four-day work-week, and based on independent academic assessment of the program, they've decided to make it permanent.

The trial was prompted by the company founder's observation that workers were struggling to balance work and family commitments; this was borne out by academic assessment prior to the experiment, which found that only 54% of the staff felt they were managing to balance work and family. After the experiment, the figure was 78% (job satisfaction also rose).

The company reported no drop in productivity and has moved to make the program permanent, but not mandatory. Employees who opt for a five-day work-week will be able to work flexible, traffic-beating hours that will also accommodate childcare logistics.

Data was collected by two New Zealand academics before and after the trial period. In November last year just over half of staff (54%) felt they could balance their work and home commitments, while after the trial this number jumped to 78%.

Staff stress levels decreased by seven percentage points across the board as a result of the trial, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all improved significantly, with overall life satisfaction increasing by five percentage points.

'No downside': New Zealand firm adopts four-day week after successful trial [Eleanor Ainge Roy/The Guardian]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

(Image: A Wiseman, CC-BY-SA)

08 Oct 18:08

Democrats unveil "Internet Bill of Rights": transparency, privacy, control, notification, Net Neutrality, competition, accountability

by Cory Doctorow

The Democrats' newly unveiled "Internet Bill of Rights" enumerates ten rights that the party says it will enshrine in law, ranging from Net Neutrality to data portability to timely notification of breaches to opt-in for data collection, the right to see the data held on you by surveillance capitalists, rights to privacy and to be free from surveillance-driven discrimination, pro-competitive measures and so forth.

The Bill was drafted by Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna, who has real bona fides as a progressive Democrat, unafraid to call out the party establishment.

But as Kara Swisher points out in the New York Times, the devil is in the details: as statements of principle, the Internet Bill of Rights is an admirable document. Its implementation in law, however, will require enormous care to prevent both loopholes and overreach (see, for example, how a well-intentioned California anti-bot bill posed real free expression risks until it was called out and cleaned up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation).

Below, I have reproduced the Bill in full.

Set of Principles for an Internet Bill of Rights

The internet age and digital revolution have changed Americans’ way of life. As our lives and the U.S. economy are more tied to the internet, it is essential to provide Americans with basic protections online.

You should have the right:

(1) to have access to and knowledge of all collection and uses of personal data by companies;

(2) to opt-in consent to the collection of personal data by any party and to the sharing of personal data with a third party;

(3) where context appropriate and with a fair process, to obtain, correct or delete personal data controlled by any company and to have those requests honored by third parties;

(4) to have personal data secured and to be notified in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered;

(5) to move all personal data from one network to the next;

(6) to access and use the internet without internet service providers blocking, throttling, engaging in paid prioritization or otherwise unfairly favoring content, applications, services or devices;

(7) to internet service without the collection of data that is unnecessary for providing the requested service absent opt-in consent;

(8) to have access to multiple viable, affordable internet platforms, services and providers with clear and transparent pricing;

(9) not to be unfairly discriminated against or exploited based on your personal data; and

(10) to have an entity that collects your personal data have reasonable business practices and accountability to protect your privacy.

Introducing the Internet Bill of Rights [Kara Swisher/New York Times]

(via /.)

08 Oct 18:01

Venus flytrap devours wasps

by Rob Beschizza

Lothar Lenz videotaped Dionaea muscipula making short work of Vespula germanica.