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18 Jan 13:16

Discworld fans are right to be nervous about the BBC's 'punk rock' The Watch

by Alison Flood

Terry Pratchett’s books about Ankh Morpork’s City Watch have been adapted into a ‘punk rock thriller’ – and some are not happy

We Terry Pratchett fans have been lucky in recent years. We were given Good Omens, which thanks to co-author Neil Gaiman’s shepherding and incredible performances from David Tennant and Michael Sheen, was a joy to watch. And we were told that BBC America was developing The Watch, a series based on Pratchett’s stories about Ankh Morpork’s City Watch. Yes, we were a little nervous to read that Pratchett’s fierce, dark, sardonic stories were to become a “startlingly reimagined … punk rock thriller” that was “inspired by” the books. But we stayed faithful, for it was promised that the show would “still cleav[e] to the humour, heart and ingenuity of Terry Pratchett’s incomparably original work”.

But nerves were jangling even more fiercely on Friday as the first glimpses of the forthcoming show were shared by the studio. They look … kind of cyberpunky? Is that electricity? Where is their ARMOUR? Should we have been more wary about that “inspired by”?

Continue reading...
18 Jan 13:14

The Virginia gun rights rally raising fears of violence, explained

by Jane Coaston
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) talks to the media at the Virginia Capitol on November 6, 2019, in Richmond. | Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Why an annual Lobby Day has resulted in a state of emergency and online calls for a civil war.

On Monday, thousands of gun rights supporters will descend on Richmond, Virginia, for the Virginia Citizens Defense League’s annual Lobby Day. And so will a host of militia groups, conspiracy theorists, and far-right extremists, some of whom believe the rally in Richmond will represent the first shot of a new civil war, or as some users of the /pol/ forum term it, “boogaloo.”

In response, the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, has declared a state of emergency for Monday due to intelligence he says shows “a threat of an armed militia groups storming our capital.” One member of the Virginia General Assembly was so beset by death threats that he is currently staying in a safe house. The organizer of the rally is concerned enough to emphasize on a popular gun site that Monday’s rally is supposed to be a “peaceful event about gun rights and NOTHING ELSE.”

On Thursday, the FBI announced the arrest of three white nationalists in Maryland, members of a neo-Nazi training network called the Base — the English translation of the Arabic term “al-Qaeda.” The three, including one former Canadian army reservist who went missing last summer, were allegedly heading to Richmond. According to the FBI, they had recently constructed a machine gun and obtained thousands of rounds of ammunition and body armor. Three more members of the network were arrested on Thursday in Georgia.

The Lobby Day was intended to be an opportunity for Virginia gun owners to voice their displeasure with proposed gun control measures. Instead, the event has raised fears of mass violence akin to — or worse than — Unite the Right.

How gun control legislation led to a gun rights rally

The Lobby Day is an annual event for the VCDL, a pro-gun rights group, normally attracting a few hundred gun rights advocates to Richmond to lobby members of the state government. (The National Rifle Association has a separate lobby day, which was held January 13.)

This year, though, Virginia is on the cusp of actually passing gun control laws. A host of gun control bills are winding their way through the Virginia legislature, which is newly under Democratic control. They include a bill requiring background checks on all firearms purchases and transfers, a bill limiting the number of handguns that can be purchased per month, a bill to permit localities to ban guns from specific events and venues, and “red flag” legislation that would permit law enforcement to take guns from people deemed risks to themselves or others.

Such a legislative push was almost inevitable as gun control groups, reacting in part to a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, dramatically outspent the NRA (which is based in Virginia) and other gun rights groups during the 2019 election. That helped Democrats gain control of the state legislature for the first time in more than two decades, as I wrote in November:

Democrats didn’t win either the House of Delegates or Senate seat for Virginia Beach, but across the state, gun control was the top issue for voters and for Democratic candidates, according to one poll, with several candidates running explicitly on vows to “take on the NRA” to pass gun control legislation. According to Everytown, that focus (and money) resulted in at least three flipped seats that helped Democrats take control of the legislature. Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that he now hopes to be able to pass a slate of gun control measures, and “because of that Virginia will be safer.”

Right now, Virginia has comparatively loose gun laws — the state permits open carry and does not require a permit to purchase or possess a rifle, shotgun, or handgun, but it does regulate gun shows. That means the four gun control bills mark a sea change for a state long noted as a gun rights haven.

And the commonwealth is closely divided on the issue of guns. Virginia’s recent political shift toward the Democratic Party elides just how divided the state is politically between Republican-leaning and less populated rural areas and Democratic-leaning urban and suburban regions in the north of the state and around Virginia’s flagship universities, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. The economic, cultural, and demographic differences between the two regional types are so extensive that, as the Virginia Mercury’s Bob Lewis put it last year, they make “Virginia feel more like two states than a commonwealth.”

As National Review writer Charles C.W. Cooke — who has written extensively on gun policy — told me in an interview: “Democrats run the legislature and the executive branch, but they don’t run the legislature by much.”

And for some gun owners, the bills constitute what gun rights advocate and Lobby Day speaker Cam Edwards called the “the most anti-gun legislative agenda in [state] history.”

“There are bills in the legislature that would turn the vast majority of the state’s gun owners into felons simply for maintaining possession of their ammunition magazines or legally purchased suppressors,” Edwards said. “We’ve seen legislation that would turn Virginia gun owners into felons for selling a shotgun to their brother without a background check, though gifting that same shotgun to that same brother would be legal.”

In response, gun rights advocates in Virginia have taken action. More than 80 counties in Virginia out of 95 have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” where proposed gun control legislation would not be enforced despite passage at the state level under the argument that those laws would be unconstitutional. (Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has argued that such resolutions have no legal force.)

Advocates for Second Amendment sanctuaries in Virginia are arguing that the Second Amendment trumps state law, Cooke told me. “Government officials who swear to uphold the Constitution cannot violate that Constitution,” he said. “If one believes that these laws would violate the Constitution, then one has no choice but to declare one’s opposition to them.” Hence, “sanctuary.”

Monday’s Lobby Day was intended to be another opportunity for gun rights advocates to speak out against the proposed legislation. But it has also attracted what Edwards called “bad actors” who were “seeking attention and a spotlight.” And some groups even claim to be seeking the beginnings of a race war.

Extremists hoping for violence have latched onto Lobby Day

The Lobby Day has attracted interest from Virginians legitimately interested in gun rights — and not just right-wing groups. According to an interview with Vice News, the Richmond-based Antifa Seven Hills is joining the protest because, as a spokesperson put it, “I think it’s been pretty important for us to focus on the fact that gun control in America has a legacy of racist enforcement.”

But the legislation being discussed has been heavily distorted online by far-right individuals and websites, with some claiming the proposed bills will result in full-scale gun confiscation by the government.

“There’s a great deal of fear and uncertainty surrounding some of these bills, which has been exacerbated in part by some on the pro-2A side for their own purposes, whether it’s to sell prepper products on their website or to generate clicks,” Edwards said. VCDL’s language has largely attempted to reflect caution, as the group says on its Lobby Day information page, “The eyes of the nation and the world are on Virginia and Virginia Citizens Defense League right now and we must show them that gun owners are not the problem.”

One Virginia legislator, Lee Carter, has been targeted with death threats. Carter, a democratic socialist who represents the state’s 50th District, has supported a bill that would permit teachers to go on strike but continue the longstanding practice of forbidding law enforcement from doing so — which some online (including a Virginia House of Delegates member) have twisted into an argument that Carter wants to punish sheriffs in “Second Amendment sanctuaries” for not obeying state gun laws.

As Gen’s Aaron Gell reported:

For Carter, the mischaracterization has become a matter of personal safety. “Now there’s a massive internet conspiracy theory that I’m working hand in hand with Gov. Northam, whom I can’t stand, the National Guard, and the UN, to go door-to-door taking people’s guns,” he explains. “It’s gotten to the point where people are openly discussing murder, and they want me and Governor Northam and Attorney General Herring to be the first ones dead.” The governor and AG have security details, he notes; state delegates do not.

Ironically, as Carter told Gell, though he supports some gun legislation being proposed (including universal background checks), he is a gun collector and a gun rights supporter who believes liberals and minorities should embrace gun ownership for their own safety. (He hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment from Vox.)

The Lobby Day is also receiving considerable attention from some groups connected with the violent Unite the Right rally held in Charlottesville in 2017; several groups and entities banned from armed protest in Charlottesville because of United the Right are expected to attend the rally in Richmond.

Unlike Unite the Right, which was planned and organized by explicit white nationalists, Lobby Day is a longstanding event, and VCDL is not a white nationalist organization. On the gun rights website Ammoland, VCDL president Philip Van Cleave attempted to tamp down tensions, discouraging attendees from carrying long guns at the rally for appearances’ sake, and (though arguing on the same site that Democrats may have invited extremist groups to turn the rally violent on purpose) making it clear that Lobby Day is not supposed to be a protest:

We are NOT there to have arguments with the other side. They lobby, we lobby, and never the two shall meet. Just ignore them.

And we are not there to push any other agenda. Our total focus is on protecting our right to keep and bear arms. Period. This is not about flags, statues, history, etc. Just guns.

If you somehow find yourself being harassed by the other side, don’t engage them. They could well be baiting you and recording what you do for propaganda purposes. If necessary, go find a police officer and let them take care of the person causing the disturbance. Otherwise, just ignore them and go about your business.

But the extremist rhetoric and explicit threats of violence online have raised real concerns from law enforcement, leading Virginia to declare a state of emergency and ban guns on state Capitol grounds. Those threats center on the idea that Richmond could be the site for the violent beginnings of a civil war, one sparked by restrictions on gun rights.

One far-right site falsely claimed in December that individuals attending Monday’s Lobby Day will have their guns confiscated at roadblocks across the state, that Virginia has “been chosen as the deliberate flashpoint to ignite the civil war that’s being engineered by globalists,” and that all of this will end with the United Nations occupation of America and nationwide gun confiscation.

“To all those who mocked our warnings about the coming civil war, you are about to find yourself in one,” the author, Mike Adams, wrote. “Sure hope you know how to run an AR platform and build a water filter. Things won’t go well for the unprepared, especially in the cities.”

This is common rhetoric for militia groups, said Sam Jackson, an assistant professor in the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at the University at Albany who studies the Oath Keepers, a militia group expected to attend the rally on Monday.

“The anticipation of violation of gun rights is common among militia groups more broadly — pretty easily seen in all the ‘molon labe’ patches worn by militia folks,” Jackson said. (“Molon labe” is a classical Greek phrase meaning “come and take them.”) “Several novels that are important for the group depict war between Americans and the American government that begins with attempts at gun control.”

But beyond civil war, others expected to attend Monday’s rally are explicitly calling for a race war, in which white Americans will kill nonwhite Americans and Jewish people to establish a white ethnostate. Using the term “boogaloo” — a sarcastic reference to the 1980s film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo that implies a “Civil War 2” of sorts — users of online forums like /pol/ are using Richmond as the impetus for the beginnings of a race war. They use phrases like “fuck all optics,” a reference to the last post shared on the social networking site Gab by the Tree of Life shooter, which has become a motto of sorts for white nationalists.

They’ve been encouraged by conspiracy theorists like Infowars’ Alex Jones, who said on January 8 that he and others from Infowars plan to attend the Richmond rally because “we’ve had two revolutionary wars basically start in Virginia, and it looks like one may start again.” He’s claimed that any violence that takes place at the rally will be a “false flag,” and in an interview with white nationalist Richard Spencer — who helped organize 2017’s Unite the Right rally — Jones invited Spencer to attend the rally.

The rally has also attracted attention from the ultra-violent neo-Nazi network the Base, an accelerationist white nationalist group that believes in using violence to overthrow the US government, foment a race war, and create a white ethnostate. The Base intends to operate internationally, with cells in multiple countries to evade detection by authorities. The group holds so-called “hate camps” where members receive paramilitary training and meet other members, including those from other countries.

One of the men arrested by the FBI earlier this week was a Canadian Army Reserve active combat engineer who, according to an investigation by the Winnipeg Free Press, “spoke on multiple occasions about committing acts of racially motivated violence and sabotage” in interviews with a reporter embedded in the terrorist group.

According to the criminal complaint, the Canadian reservist and two fellow Base members had manufactured a working machine gun, practiced using the gun at a range in Maryland, and purchased 1,500 rounds of ammunition.

Monday’s gun rights Lobby Day in Richmond was intended to be, according to its organizers, “a peaceful day to address our Legislature.” But some expected to attend hope otherwise. As one poster on the /pol/ online forum put it regarding Virginia’s proposed gun restrictions, “This is solid proof that voting accelerationism will work. Only such a civil conflict can bring about what we need.”

18 Jan 13:05

21 kids sued the government over climate change. A federal court dismissed the case. 

by Umair Irfan
Protesters attend a rally outside the US Supreme Court held by the group Our Children’s Trust on October 29, 2018. Their banner reads, “We demand a climate recovery plan #youthvgov.” The Juliana v. US climate change lawsuit has been dismissed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

Plaintiffs in the Juliana v. US lawsuit alleged the government violated the rights of young people to a safe climate.

A three-judge panel in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to dismiss the Juliana v. US lawsuit on Friday, a seminal case involving 21 young people who sued the federal government for violating their right to a safe climate. The decision is a blow to climate activists and shows the limits of the courts’ willingness to assign legal responsibility to the government for the harms caused by greenhouse gases.

The judges all agreed that climate change is an urgent, threatening problem, but ruled that the plaintiffs, who were between the ages of 8 and 19 when the suit was filed, didn’t have standing to sue. They also said that climate policies must come from the legislative branch. “The panel reluctantly concluded that the plaintiffs’ case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large,” according to the ruling.

Writing for the majority, Circuit Court Judge Andrew Hurwitz conceded that climate risks are growing and that young people stand to suffer the worst impacts of rising average temperatures, like increasingly destructive floods and fires.

“In the mid-1960s, a popular song warned that we were ‘on the eve of destruction,’” he wrote. “The plaintiffs in this case have presented compelling evidence that climate change has brought that eve nearer.”

Andrea Rodgers, a senior attorney at Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit backing the youth who filed the lawsuit, described the decision in an email as “unprecedented and contrary to American principles of justice.” Her organization has vowed to appeal the ruling in the coming weeks.

As politicians have failed to deliver adequate climate policies, courtrooms have emerged as a prominent venue for advancing an agenda to limit emissions, and the Juliana case was one of a number of climate change lawsuits working their way through various US courts. More than a dozen cities and counties have filed suit against companies like Exxon for the climate-related harms caused by their products. But the Juliana case stood out among climate lawsuits because it challenged the federal government rather than fossil fuel companies.

Despite proposing a novel legal theory — that a safe climate is a civil right and that the government has violated it through policies like leasing public lands for coal mining — the suit managed to get surprisingly far. It survived several motions to dismiss and intervention by the US Supreme Court.

But what the plaintiffs wanted — a government plan to phase out fossil fuels and pull greenhouse gases back out of the air — was not something the courts could provide. “Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power,” Hurwitz wrote.

However, District Court Judge Josephine Staton thought otherwise and did not mince words in her dissent. “It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses,” she wrote. “Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation.”

The Juliana case has been the highest-profile lawsuit filed by Our Children’s Trust, but the group has also filed similar climate change civil rights suits on behalf of young people in state courts.

Aji Piper, a plaintiff in the Juliana v. United States climate lawsuit speaks at the first hearing of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, on Capitol Hill April 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Aji Piper, 19, was a plaintiff in the Juliana v. United States climate lawsuit.

While the 9th Circuit ruling was a setback for climate activists, many are undeterred from using the courts to fight climate change and hold polluters accountable. Recently, some law students have also begun to protest against the law firms representing fossil fuel companies in these climate suits, pressuring firms to drop them as clients and urging classmates not to work for them.

Climate litigation has also emerged as an issue in the 2020 campaign for president. Many of the Democratic contenders have called for fossil fuel companies to be held liable for climate damages and for sowing disinformation. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has gone as far as to call for criminal prosecution of greenhouse gas emitters.

All the while, more suits and legal complaints are being filed. On Thursday, a group of four indigenous tribes in Louisiana filed a human rights claim at the United Nations. They argued that the US government, through its contributions to climate change and its failure to stop it, has violated the rights of these groups, who are seeing lands eroded by rising seas.

So climate change still has many more days in court to come.

18 Jan 13:03

The Sanders Campaign Researched Whether Warren Could Be Both Vice President and Treasury Secretary at Once

by Ryan Grim

The presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders has researched the question of whether the same person can serve as both vice president and treasury secretary, according to three sources on the campaign. The person the Sanders campaign had in mind with the inquiry was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, his rival for the nomination and the bane of Wall Street over the last decade.

The answer the lawyers came back with was yes: There is nothing in the Constitution that bars the vice president from also serving as treasury secretary. Sanders has made no final decisions on a potential running mate or cabinet officers, considering such questions premature and presumptuous, but the research into the question of Warren’s dual eligibility reflects the political affinity that has long existed between the two — an affinity that was dealt a setback over the past week, as the pair clashed over the contents of a year-old private conversation. The sources were not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations.

The research into the question of Warren’s dual eligibility reflects the political affinity that has long existed between the two.

Warren and Sanders have been allies since at least 2008, before she came to Washington to chair a panel with oversight of the Wall Street bailout. An author of books on the struggles of the middle class and an expert on bankruptcy law, she was invited by Sanders to a Vermont town hall, where the two talked about their shared agenda. Sanders was a strong supporter of her effort to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the financial crisis and privately lobbied President Barack Obama to name her the head of the new agency. Ideologically, Sanders and Warren are largely aligned when it comes to Wall Street, though Warren has concentrated more attention on bankers, meaning the two different skill sets could complement each other in the same administration.

Warren, after her election to the Senate in 2012, lobbied for and won a seat on the Banking Committee, where she continued to hammer away at Wall Street and its feckless regulators. Warren’s is the type of oversight and policymaking Sanders could envision leading from the perch at the Treasury Department, sources said, with the added power of being vice president, as well. Though no serious discussions have begun about a cabinet or running mate, the campaign wanted to know whether such a scenario was constitutionally permissible.

The news of the Sanders’s camp interest in a dual role for Warren comes after a week of tension between the longtime allies.

Not long after meeting with Sanders at the end of 2018 to discuss her impending presidential run, Warren hosted an off-the-record dinner with a number of journalists, according to sources with knowledge of it. At the dinner, Warren was asked about her meeting with Sanders, and in the course of the discussion, she relayed that Sanders had warned that he didn’t believe a woman could beat Trump in 2020. Different reporters recalled the comments differently, a mirror image of the dispute between Warren and Sanders over exactly what Sanders said — with Warren saying that Sanders argued a woman couldn’t beat Trump, while Sanders said that he only said Trump would weaponize misogyny against a woman, not that it would work. (The Intercept was not at the dinner. Most politicians hold informal, off-record dinners or meetings with journalists, though it’s not something Sanders is known to do. Occasionally details from those meetings leak, but it’s rare.)

From there, the piece of news entered the journalistic bloodstream, circulating among reporters as gossip but not finding its way into print. On Monday, it finally did, with CNN’s M.J. Lee reporting that according to four sources — described as “two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter, and two people familiar with the meeting” — Sanders had told Warren, according to CNN’s paraphrasing, that “he did not believe a woman could win.”

It was widely assumed in the immediate aftermath of the story that Warren’s campaign had planted the story. Indeed, CNN anchor Erin Burnett said as much on air. But Burnett was merely making an assumption, and had no inside knowledge of the sources, two CNN sources told The Intercept.

Since Warren told the story more broadly to a group of journalists, CNN’s sources could have come from outside the campaign.

On Monday, Warren told The Intercept that her campaign did not intentionally plant the CNN story. That Warren told a number of journalists about the meeting a year ago adds context to that statement. If Warren had only told her closest advisers about the meeting, then it would be logical to assume that her campaign dictated the timing of the story, dropping it just ahead of a debate, and just weeks before the primary, to undercut Sanders. But since Warren told the story more broadly to a group of journalists, CNN’s sources could have come from outside the campaign. The revelation does not rule out the possibility that someone in her campaign was a source, but it opens up other possibilities, as well.

In chat groups and in private conversations with people outside the campaign, Warren aides have insisted that they were not the source of the leak, and only learned about it in the midst of debate prep, contributing to the delayed response. The first time the campaign saw Sanders’s on-record denial was in print in the CNN story. “What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist, and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could,” Sanders said. After the story broke, the tension continued to escalate.

Neither camp took potential offroads. Sanders could have allowed that since he had said that “Trump is a sexist…who would weaponize whatever he could,” that he could understand how Warren may have inferred from that that he didn’t think a woman could overcome such obstacles. Warren could have said that she takes her friend at his word that he didn’t mean it, and the press could have moved on. Neither gave an inch, though, and Warren issued a blunt statement. “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed,” Warren said in her statement, that didn’t come until 7:30 in the evening, after the story had festered for much of the day.

At the debate the next night, Sanders said it was “incomprehensible” that he would have said such a thing. Warren was prepared with remarks about the ability of women to win elections. After the debate she confronted him on stage with cameras still running.

Since then, though, the camps have sought to de-escalate.

Kristen Orthman, a spokesperson for Warren, declined to comment on the dinner, but said in a statement, “Everyone in this primary is focused and must be focused on our shared goal: beating Donald Trump. That’s the message we are sending to our supporters and our staff so we can make big, structural change to improve people’s lives.”

Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s campaign manager, similarly declined to comment on the specifics of the story, but said that, “Our message internally and externally is to stay focused, stay positive, and keep the people who are struggling out there and need transformational change at the front of our minds.”

The post The Sanders Campaign Researched Whether Warren Could Be Both Vice President and Treasury Secretary at Once appeared first on The Intercept.

18 Jan 13:03

City Of Dallas Shuts Down Business Of Man Who Called Cops 414 Times In 20 Months To Deal With Criminals Near His Car Wash

by Tim Cushing

Let's talk about nuisance abatement laws. These are laws cities can use to shut down businesses that appear to draw more than their fair share of the criminal element.

If you're a fan of asset forfeiture, you'll love nuisance laws. By abdicating their law enforcement responsibilities, cities can have their lower cost cake and eat your property too. It's win-win for cities, who love to use laws like this to effectively seize property from citizens who have the misfortune to operate legitimate businesses in high crime areas.

Here's how it works in Dallas, Texas. The city says business owners must pay for their own security devices and personnel to keep their businesses free of criminals. No business will be compensated for these additional costs. All cops need to do is throw a couple of placards at the business and the city takes it from there. Criminal activity in the area is now the responsibility of businesses in the area. Can't get criminals to get off your property? Too bad. It's the city's property now.

The Dallas police chief has a new tool in her arsenal to force home and business owners to address crime on or near their properties: shame.

On Wednesday, the Dallas City Council passed a "nuisance abatement" ordinance allowing Police Chief U. Renee Hall to identify properties that tolerate criminal activity and try to get the owners to address it.

The new ordinance allows city officials to slap a sign on properties identified as sites of "habitual criminal activity."

The first efforts involve shaming the business owners for things they likely cannot control. This isn't the only step taken, though. The placards are the beginning. If the city feels the business owner isn't doing enough to control crime in the area (surely that's a law enforcement job?), it can shut the business down and keep fining it for anything and everything it can think of until the business owner is insolvent and has to sell the property.

A South Dallas car wash owner has been fighting the city on and off for most of three decades over its application of nuisance laws. The city has already shut down Dale Davenport's car wash. City council members claim Davenport is to blame for the crime that surrounds his business. It also claims he's done next to nothing to solve a problem he didn't create.

Davenport fought back. He demanded the city turn over 911 call records linked to his business in order to show the problem isn't his, but the Dallas Police Department's. After several months of being stonewalled, he has finally obtained the documents he needs to show the city it's not doing all it can to combat crime. Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer has been following this fight for years and has the details.

After a two-year tooth-and-nail battle with the city, Davenport’s lawyer, Warren Norred, recently forced City Hall to cough up the official record of 911 calls Davenport has been making all along, begging police to come to his place of business.

It's not just a few calls scattered over several months. Davenport called the cops constantly, asking them to come deal with the criminal element that seemed to feel it could just hang out at his place of business. The city says crime is Davenport's fault. The record(s) [PDF] show this is a failure of city agencies, most notably the Dallas PD.

On and on the 911 reports go for 414 single-spaced pages... And that covers only 20 months from 1/5/18 to 9/25/19. Dale Davenport and his father, Freddy Davenport, have been calling the cops to their property for 27 years.

Davenport is suing the city and the hundreds of pages of 911 calls are vital to his litigation. The city wants to take his property, claiming he hasn't fulfilled his obligations as a citizen and business owner. 414 pages of 911 calls says otherwise. Davenport (and his father before him) have been pleading for the city to clean up a crime-infested area filled with drug houses and the criminal element drawn to this area by the (apparently) unchecked drug trade.

The PD's newly-formed Nuisance Abatement Team doesn't appear to have made any impact here, other than posting placards on businesses it believes aren't doing enough to fight the crime the Dallas PD should be fighting. Paying taxes should entitle you to city services, but only thing Dallas wants to give Davenport in exchange for his involuntary contributions is all the blame for the crime that surrounds him.

Fourteen years ago, a state committee investigation [PDF] found Dallas' nuisance laws had been abused severely and regularly.

Sworn testimony before the house committee described specific cases of misuse of the statute by city officials such as:

• Targeting of a few, select businesses in high-crime areas, while ignoring more serious crimes occurring on surrounding properties;
• Directing businesses to hire certain security personnel with the clear suggestion that hiring these select individuals would diminish the city's threatened enforcement of nuisance abatement;
• Parking a large number of police cars in the parking lot of a business owner as a retaliatory act toward that owner, who had challenged the city's nuisance action against him and had testified in court on behalf of an individual who was acquitted of charges for resisting arrest while on the business' property;
• Using calls to police requesting assistance by the business as marks against that business in the city's criteria for evidence of nuisance abatement violations;
• Directing a hotel property owner to run criminal history checks on all guests, which is a possible violation of the guests' civil rights and could potentially subject the business to legal liability; and
• Sanctioning a local car wash owner because marihuana was found in the pants pocket of a person working on the property. It was suggested by the city legal department that the owner needed to conduct random pat-down searches of persons working on the property on a regular basis -- an act prohibited by law even for law enforcement officers.

To sum up:

[T]he committees are gravely concerned that the problems stemming from Dallas' use of the nuisance laws are the result of a unique and incorrect interpretation of those laws by city officials -- wrongly taking the laws to mean that fighting crime is no longer the city's responsibility but has instead now become primarily the responsibility of private citizens and businesses; and that private citizens can be held strictly liable for crimes that take place on or near their property even when they are not involved in that crime, have taken affirmative steps to prevent the crime, are themselves victims of that crime, and have reported the crime, requesting the assistance of law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the body of evidence available to the committees also strongly suggests that the city uses the nuisance laws to intimidate, promote cronyism, and inappropriately use law enforcement personnel, specifically uniformed police and code enforcement officers, to deliver not-too-subtle messages of coercion and retaliation to legitimate businesses and property owners who refuse to submit to such tactics.

It's 2020. Nothing has changed. The city continues to shrug off its responsibilities and put private business owners in the impossible position of clearing out nearby crime without relying on the law enforcement services the city is supposed to provide to taxpayers. I guess the city believes it's only obligation to business owners like Davenport is to staff 911 call centers. Other than that, they're on their own until the city shuts them down.

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17 Jan 19:19

Joe Biden Can't Tell The Difference Between The 1st Amendment & Section 230; Still Thinks Video Games Cause Violence

by Mike Masnick

Joe Biden is the latest Democratic candidate for President interviewed by the NY Times editorial board, and if you're interested in tech policy, well, it's a doozy. Biden seems confused, misinformed, or simply wrong about a lot of issues from free speech to Section 230 to copyright to video games. It's really bad. We already knew he was on an anti 230 kick when he gave a confused quote on it late last year, but for the NY Times he goes even further:

Charlie Warzel: Sure. Mr. Vice President, in October, your campaign sent a letter to Facebook regarding an ad that falsely claimed that you blackmailed Ukrainian officials to not investigate your son. I’m curious, did that experience, dealing with Facebook and their power, did that change the way that you see the power of tech platforms right now?

No, I’ve never been a fan of Facebook, as you probably know. I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he’s a real problem. I think ——

CW: Can you elaborate?

No, I can. He knows better. And you know, from my perspective, I’ve been in the view that not only should we be worrying about the concentration of power, we should be worried about the lack of privacy and them being exempt, which you’re not exempt. [The Times] can’t write something you know to be false and be exempt from being sued. But he can. The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms.

CW: That’s a pretty foundational laws of the modern internet.

That’s right. Exactly right. And it should be revoked. It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false, and we should be setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy. You guys still have editors. I’m sitting with them. Not a joke. There is no editorial impact at all on Facebook. None. None whatsoever. It’s irresponsible. It’s totally irresponsible.

There is so much to talk about here. First of all, Biden admits upfront that the reason he thinks CDA 230 should be repealed is because of his personal dislike of Facebook's founder and CEO. It's one thing to argue that the platform creates harms and therefore we need a different regulatory approach, but to start out by saying you just don't like the guy, and use that as the basis for punishing the entire internet is... really something.

Second, Biden seems to be (again) confusing the 1st Amendment with Section 230. It's not Section 230 that allows people to post false things on Facebook. It's the 1st Amendment. You know, the thing that Biden is supposed to "protect and defend" if he becomes President.

Third, the comparison with the NY Times is completely offbase. The NY Times is also protected by Section 230 if a third party says something on its platform, they cannot be sued. And, similarly, if Facebook itself said something that violated the law, it can be sued. All 230 does is put the liability in the right place: on the actual speaker. Facebook is not "exempt" from any law. Biden is just wrong.

Fourth, he's not even talking about reforming 230, he's talking about revoking it. That's insane and would lead to crippling litigation and vast silencing of the public. It's not even in the realm of reasonable discussion.

Fifth, notice at casual he is about lumping in the rest of the internet, just because he dislikes Facebook. Take away 230 for the entire internet, even as it's what enabled free speech to really flourish on the internet. And, again, it's amazing how confused he is thinking that 230 is the issue when it's actually the 1st Amendment.

Sixth, the point about "editors" is also completely nonsensical. Editors have nothing to do with it, unless he's saying that no one should be allowed to be posted on the internet unless it's been edited first.

And just to be clear here, a lot of what Biden says in this interview is factually false. Yet, here, he's arguing that the NY Times should be liable for posting his falsehoods. And Facebook should be liable if people repost them there. And I should be liable because I'm posting his nonsense here. This is not someone who understand even the first thing about Section 230, how the internet works, or free speech online.

He continued with more word salad:

CW: If there’s proven harm that Facebook has done, should someone like Mark Zuckerberg be submitted to criminal penalties, perhaps?

He should be submitted to civil liability and his company to civil liability, just like you would be here at The New York Times. Whether he engaged in something and amounted to collusion that in fact caused harm that would in fact be equal to a criminal offense, that’s a different issue. That’s possible. That’s possible it could happen. Zuckerberg finally took down those ads that Russia was running. All those bots about me. They’re no longer being run. He was getting paid a lot of money to put them up. I learned three things. Number one, Putin doesn’t want me to be president. Number two, Kim Jong-un thinks I should be beaten to death like a rabid dog and three, this president of the United States is spending millions of dollars to try to keep me from being the nominee. I wonder why.

Civil liability for what? What exactly is the legal violation he's talking about? And notice, again, that he immediately resorts to a personal vendetta and stuff about Russia, ignoring that Facebook has a huge team constantly fighting and trying to take down Russian ads. Yet, Biden falsely states that Facebook was leaving them up to give Zuckerberg money. Does he not know how any of this works?

Of course, then he more or less admits the reason he hates Silicon Valley is because they opposed him on SOPA/PIPA. If you don't recall, for years, Biden was one of Hollywood's biggest friends in the Senate. Even once he became VP, he convened a "summit" about copyright in which he only invited maximalists. In the White House, he was the main voice pushing for SOPA/PIPA and apparently got quite upset when Obama eventually came out against the law. Here, he tries to rewrite history, pretending that SOPA/PIPA was just about "protecting" copyright and artists, when it was actually a massive tool for internet censorship -- and notice how he calls an internet exec "a little creep." He goes on to display near total ignorance and direct hatred for Silicon Valley and innovation.

There are places where [President Obama] and I have disagreed. About 30 percent of the time, I was able to convince him to my side of the equation. Seventy percent of the time I wasn’t when we disagreed, when he laid something out. And you may recall, the criticism I got for meeting with the leaders in Silicon Valley, when I was trying to work out an agreement dealing with them protecting intellectual property for artists in the United States of America. And at one point, one of the little creeps sitting around that table, who was a multi- — close to a billionaire — who told me he was an artist because he was able to come up with games to teach you how to kill people, you know the ——

CW: Like video games.

Yeah, video games. And I was lectured by one of the senior leaders there that by saying if I insisted on what Leahy’d put together and we were, I thought we were going to fully support, that they would blow up the network, figuratively speaking. Have everybody contact. They get out and go out and contact the switchboard, just blow it up.

And then one of these righteous people said to me that, you know, “We are the economic engine of America. We are the ones.” And fortunately I had done a little homework before I went and I said, you know, I find it fascinating. As I added up the seven outfits, everyone’s there but Microsoft. I said, you have fewer people on your payroll than all the losses that General Motors just faced in the last quarter, of employees. So don’t lecture me about how you’ve created all this employment.

The point is, there’s an arrogance about it, an overwhelming arrogance that we are, we are the ones. We can do what we want to do. I disagree. Every industrial revolution, every major technological breakthrough, every single one. We’re in the fourth one. The hardest speech I’ve ever had to make in my life, I was asked to speak at the World Economic Forum, to give an answer on, to speak to the fourth industrial revolution. Will there be a middle class? It’s not so clear there will be, and I’ve worked on it harder than any speech I’ve ever worked on.

The fact is, in every other revolution that we’ve had technologically, it’s taken somewhere between six years and a generation for a government to come in and level the playing field again. All of a sudden, remember the Luddites smashing the machinery in the Midlands? That was their answer when the culture was changing. Same thing with television. Same thing before that with radio. Same thing, but this is gigantic. And it’s a responsibility of government to make sure it is not abused. Not abused. And so this is one of those areas where I think it’s being abused. For example, the idea that he cooperates with knowing that Russia was engaged in dealing with using the internet, I mean using their platform, to try to undermine American elections. That’s close to criminal.

I can't even follow half of that word salad. It's nonsensical word spewing. The fact that the big tech companies don't employ so many people directly, completely misses the point that was being made: that the internet has enabled so many jobs around the world, not directly at those companies, but enabling so many people to start their own companies and businesses, and to create jobs at other companies because of the internet. Notice that Biden's world view is totally focused on how many jobs are created by single large companies. That's completely missing the point.

And that final paragraph is just bizarre. He's suggesting government has to "level the playing field" with each new technological revolution. But he can't explain when or how they did that. When or how did they do that with the Luddites? When or how did they do that with TV? When or how did they do that with radio? What is he even talking about?

At the end of this section he also insists that the internet is bad for children:

Well the tech industry, look, not everyone in the tech industry is a bad guy, and I’m not suggesting that. What I’m suggesting is that some of the things that are going on are simply wrong and require government regulation. And it’s happened every single time there’s been a major technological breakthrough in humanities since the 1800s, and this requires it. For example, you have children?

CW: No.

Well, when you do and you’ll watch them on the internet, it gets a little concerning. What in fact they can see and not see, and whether or not what they’re seeing is true or not true. It matters. It matters. It’s like — well, anyway.

It's like -- well, anyway. Yeah. Look, there is false information on the internet. There is false information elsewhere. Hell, much of this interview with Biden is him spewing false information. Perhaps children shouldn't be allowed to read it.

Or, perhaps, we teach our children how to be good information citizens, and teach them how to be skeptical and how to do more research. Perhaps, it's the job of parents and school teachers and other mentors to teach kids how to take in, filter, and understand information. Having politicians who don't know the first thing about the internet come in and tell them how to run things doesn't fix any of that. Indeed, it only makes the problem worse, by sweeping reality under the rug.

Not that any of the candidates running for President seem particularly good on tech policy, but Biden's outright hatred for the internet, and "creeps" in Silicon Valley seems to have completely clouded his thinking.

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17 Jan 19:17

Great British Sewing Bee 2020 Series 6

Picture Shows: Patrick Grant, Esme Young, Joe Lycett – (C) Love Productions – Photographer: Mark Boudillion

We are so excited that The Great British Sewing Bee TV show is back in 2020 for series 6 and will be returning to our screens on BBC Two. In this TV programme sewers take on garment challenges each week to crowned the best home sewer in Britain. We have been eagerly awaiting series 6 since the sewing bee was last broadcast in early 2019. We will be sharing all the news about the new contestants and each week a run down of the episodes with sewing patterns featured.

When will Sewing Bee series 6 be on TV in 2020?

We are currently waiting for the date to be confirmation for the start of series 6 in 2020 but it is likely to be a similar date to last year with the series launching in February or March. We will keep you updated with all the sewing bee news on our newsletter, social media and here on the website.

Is there a book to accompany the new Sewing Bee series?

Yes and it’s now available to pre-order on Amazon: The Great British Sewing Bee, Sustainable Style written by the lovely Alex and Caroline of Selkie Patterns! Including five full-sized pattern sheets with 27 projects for women (sizes 8-22) and men (sizes XS – XL), this book accompanies series 6. The book aims to encourage makers from beginners to advanced to reduce, reuse and recycle on their creative journey to sew a considered closet. The book will include lots of tips on looking after your clothes and sewing machine along with fitting tips, information on natural and sustainable fibres plus ideas on how to revamp existing clothes. The book will be published by Quadrille on 26th March 2020.

You can discover the sewing patterns designed by Selkie Patterns here and read our interview with Alex from Selkie Patterns here about her job as a costume designer.

Images: (Left) Quadrille, (Right) Selkie Patterns

Who are the sewing bee contestants for series 6?

We are eagerly awaiting news of who was successful in their application to be on series 6 of the sewing bee. Check back here soon for all the news!

Who are the sewing bee judges?

Esme Young

Esme Young studied at Central Saint Martins and also teaches pattern cutting there. She is co-founder of fashion label Swanky Modes and a costume designer, working on films such as Bridge Jones (the bunny outfit!) and Trainspotting.

Patrick Grant

Patrick Grant is a British Fashion designer and Saville Row working as a creative director for Norton & Sons, E. Tautz & Sons and Barbour. Patrick has been a judge on all series of the sewing bee. Patrick launched the social enterprise, Community Clothing to rejuvenate the British manufacturing industry, find out all about this exciting project here.

Joe Lycett

Joe Lycett is a British comedian and TV presenter. You may recognise him from TV shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks, QI, 8 out of 10 Cats and most recently on Channel 4, Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back. He replaced Claudia Winkleman in 2019 series 5 as the third presenter on the sewing bee.

Sewing Bee Episode guide – series 6 (2020)

As the sewing bee episodes are announced on BBC Two later this year we will be sharing the details here including projects sewn by the contestants and the sewing patterns featured, from independent and commercial pattern companies. In previous series contestants have faced three tasks per episode including a pattern challenge, upcycling challenge and to create their own garment for a theme.

Where can I talk about about the sewing bee TV show with other makers?

Each week during the series we chat about the episode in our friendly Facebook group after the show has aired on BBC Two. Come join the fun! Visit our blog to keep up with all the details of each sewing bee episode and subscribe to our YouTube channel for special vlogs and newsletters.

Great British Sewing Bee Series 5

What happened in each episode of The Great British Sewing Bee series 5?

Catch up with all the sewing bee news from series 5 with our ultimate guide to the show! Each week on the blog we shared all the details of each sewing bee episode along with pattern suggestions, you can find a list of episodes on our dedicated Sewing Bee series 5 guide here. Visit our blog to keep up with all the details of each sewing bee episode and subscribe to our YouTube channel for special vlogs and newsletters.

Who are the sewing bee contestants and judges in series 5?

We’ve shared all the details of the sewing bee contestants and judges over on our dedicated page for series 5, take a look here.

Sheila, Jen, Mercedes, Alexei, Joe Lycett, Riccardo, Tom, Janet, Ben, Leah, Juliet, Esme Young, Patrick Grant – (C) Love Productions – Photographer: Mark Boudillion

Great British Sewing Bee series 4

Sewing Bee Episode guide – series 4 (2016)

Did you get caught up in the excitement and now can’t remember which sewing patterns were featured? Have no fear, catch up at your leisure on our sewing blog where we will have lots of sewing inspiration from each episode of series 4. In each of the sewing bee eight episodes, the contestants will have to complete three tasks. The first is a surprise dressmaking pattern, the second a refashioners project and finally fit a sewing pattern to a model.

Sewing Bee Episode 1 Guide – Contestants will be sewing a panelled women’s top, women’s skirt and refashioning a maternity dress. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 2 Guide – Contestants will be sewing patterns for children and babies. In the first task contestants will make a baby gro, then refashion a bridesmaid dress into a child’s outfit before finally creating a child’s cape. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 3 Guide – Contestants will be sewing lingerie and nightwear patterns. In the first task they will make a soft cup bra, then refashion a silk scarf before fitting a luxury robe to a model. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 4 Guide – It’s International Week! Contestants will be sewing a Chinese inspired top, refashioning a Sari and making a garment using African wax prints to fit a model. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 5 Guide – This week was all about the 1960’s and according to Joyce, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Contestants made a colour block dress for the pattern challenge, refashioned a shower curtain for the second challenge and finally fitted a coat or jacket to a model. Have a read for some pattern inspiration (plus patterns used in the episode) and tutorials for how to make them.

Sewing Bee Episode 6 Guide – This week was all about sewing activewear. In the first task, contestants has to sew a men’s cycling top using Lycra® fabric. In the alterations challenge, contestants had to refashion a 1980s style ski suit into a children’s jacket. In the final challenge, contestants had to sew and fit a yoga outfit to a model.

Sewing Bee Episode 7 Guide (semi-final) – This week was all about puzzling patterns pattern cutting. The first task was to sew a asymmetric skirt inspired by Japanese pattern cutting. In the refashioning challenge, the contestants has to create a garment from a duvet and use all the fabric. In the final challenge, the contestants had to draft their own pattern and fit it to a model.

Sewing Bee Episode 8 Guide (final) – This week was the last episode in the series about focused on evening wear. The first task was to make a men’s shirt with collar and stand. In the refashioning challenge, the contestants had to create a little black dress from a men’s dinner suit. In the final ever challenge of the series, the contestants wowed the judges with fitting a gown to a model.

The Sewing Bee contestants – series 4 (2016)

There is always plenty of interest about who the sewing bee contestants will be each year, find out all about them on the BBC website.

From left to right: Rumana, Angeline, Duncan, Charlotte, Josh, Jade, Tracey, Joyce, Jamie and Ghislaine.

Jamie, 44 is from Exeter and is a member of The Fold Line community. Jamie likes to sew modern menswear and tailoring. Follow Jamie on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Rumana, 27 is a junior doctor and fellow Londoner. She likes to make garments for herself and babies clothes. Check out her blog, The Little Pomegranate and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Angeline, 30 works in public relations and is also a designer. She likes to sew vintage dresses and ball gowns. Discover more on her website, Angeline Murphy and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Duncan, 32 is a fellow Londoner and tutor. He likes to sew modern menswear. Follow Duncan on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.

Charlotte WINNER, 43 is also a fellow Londoner and medical science journal editor. She sews clothes for herself and her children and also quilts and knits. Find out more about Charlotte on her blog, Charlotte Newland, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

 Josh, 23 is from Cardiff and is an Entrepreneurship Engagement Manager. He likes to sew casual menswear and has his own label, Treatment Clothing. Follow Josh on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

 Jade, 18 is from Sussex and a student. She likes to sew clothes for all her family, including her pets. Follow Jade on Twitter.

Tracey, 53 is from Derbyshire and a retired primary school teacher. She likes to sew clothes for herself, her daughter and through her website Polkadot designs. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Joyce, 71 is from West Sussex and a retired school admissions officer. She likes to sew for herself and her family.

 Ghislaine, 43 is a fellow Londoner and likes to sew garments for herself

Great British Sew Bee book review – series 4 (2016)

Read our Great British Sewing Bee book review, From Stitch to Style by Wendy Gardiner, published by Quadrille.

Special Sewing bee Blog Series (2016)

We’ve some exciting special sewing bee blog posts from series 4 by some of your favourite bloggers and sewing celebrities.

Chinelo Bally’s Freehand Fashion sewing book

Read a review of Chinelo’s sewing book here, no patterns required!

Image copyright: Pavilion 

Interview: Chinelo Bally

Read an interview with Chinelo about her love of African print fabrics.

Image copyright: Vliseo

Interview: Jennifer Taylor

Read our interview with Jennifer Taylor about her career as a sewing ambassador.

Great British Sewing Bee book reviews

Check out our review all three sewing books from the previous series 1 – 3 of the sewing bee. Please note: there was no book to accompany series 5.

The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric by Claire-Louise Hardie – series 3 (2015)

The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe by Tessa Evelegh- series 2 (2014)

The Great British Sewing Bee by Tessa Evelegh – series 1 (2013)

Disclaimer: Please note that this page about The Great British Sewing Bee is not linked to or endorsed by the BBC programme/Love Productions. Where images are not our own they remain the copyright of the author. 

17 Jan 17:17

Steam support is in the pipeline for Chrome OS

by Sean Riley

In an interview with Android Police last week at CES, Google’s Director of Product Management for Chrome OS, Kan Liu indicated that the Chrome team has been working on Steam support.

Now before you get too excited, there was no talk of delivery dates, so don’t go looking for Steam support in the next Chrome OS update release notes. Liu did elaborate slightly on how the feature would be implemented though, it would rely on the Linux compatibility in Chrome OS. According to Android Police’s David Ruddock, there was a strong indication that the Chrome Team is working directly with Valve on this project, but Liu would not give official confirmation of this fact.

This could be viewed as a hedge for Google against Stadia and the idea of cloud gaming being the answer for gaming on Chrome OS. Yes, we did see Samsung announce some impressive Chrome OS hardware at CES 2020, but the Galaxy Chromebook is still a far cry from a gaming laptop.

However, I think this is more likely just a way to augment casual gaming on Chrome OS, which at the moment is left to Android support and the Play Store. Liu cited gaming as the most popular category of Play Store downloads on Chromebooks and Steam would certainly open up a whole host of additional options even if AAA titles were beyond the scope of most Chromebooks.

While I do believe that a higher-end Chromebook market can and will exist, I find it more plausible that AAA on-device gaming will be ceded to high-end gaming laptops or consoles, cloud gaming is simply a cleaner solution to this problem for Chrome OS. However, this would make for a solid one-two punch with Steam covering casual titles and Stadia there for the high end when your actual hardware isn’t up to the task.

Speculating is fun, but Google was unwilling to provide any further comment on these efforts after the interview, so it seems a safe bet that we are quite a ways off from seeing this functionality hit our Chrome OS devices, but it’s an interesting potential sign of things to come for Chrome OS regardless.

Can you imagine yourself buying a gaming Chromebook if the hardware and Steam support were to arrive someday?

Source: Android Police

17 Jan 13:31

Maryland Gov. Hogan proposes tax break for some retirees to keep them in state | WTOP

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday a plan to give 230,000 retirees in the state $1 billion in tax relief over five years.

Hogan’s plan would eliminate state income tax for those earning $50,000 or less, and it would slash state income tax for those earning $100,000 or less by 50-100%.

If adopted, the plan would be the biggest tax reduction in Maryland in more than 20 years.

Hogan, a Republican, said he’s proposing the legislation because he frequently hears from retirees who say they don’t want to leave their grandchildren in the state that they’ve made their home, but that it’s too costly to stay in Maryland.

“They keep telling me that retirement taxes are too high, and they’re moving to Delaware, or South Carolina, or Florida, where they won’t take so much out of their retirement checks,” Hogan said.

He added that he’d like to do more in the future.

“When I first ran for governor, I said that once we solved our budget crisis and turned our economy around, I wanted to eventually reach the point where we could eliminate all our retirement taxes just as other states have done,” Hogan said. “And this is still our goal.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

17 Jan 12:52

A federal judge stopped Texas from ending its refugee program

A girl holds a baby amid tents at Kaibe refugee camp in Aleppo, Syria, on October 21, 2019. 
Esra Hacioglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Refugee resettlement agencies breathed a sigh of relief after a federal court ruling prevented Texas from shutting its doors to refugees under an executive order from President Donald Trump that allows state and local authorities to block refugees from settling in their areas.

A Maryland federal judge blocked the executive order on Wednesday, meaning that states will no longer be able to veto refugee resettlement. Had the court not intervened, Texas would have abdicated its position as the state that has historically accepted the highest number of refugees nationwide and likely emboldened eight other states to consider turning away refugees.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision not to accept refugees, announced last Friday, came as a surprise to local refugee resettlement agencies and conflicted with the positions of cities including Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth, which have been major destinations for refugees in Texas.

The ruling could be overturned if the Trump administration appeals, setting up another potential battle over Trump’s immigration policy in the courts — a prospect that most refugee advocates are bracing for. But at least for now, the court’s ruling means that Texas will continue to resettle refugees as normal in 2020, averting adverse impacts not only on refugees themselves, but also on refugee resettlement resources and infrastructure.

Abbott’s decision came as a surprise

It’s not entirely shocking that Texas would decide not to accept refugees, given its previous attempt to reject Syrian refugees.

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks in late 2015, Texas and 30 other states declared they no longer wanted to take in some of the 5.6 million Syrians who have been displaced since 2011 by the ongoing civil war. But at that time, states didn’t have the legal authority to simply refuse refugees; that was the prerogative of the federal government.

Texas has nevertheless been a leader on refugee resettlement: From October 2018 to October 2019, the states took in 2,457, or about 8 percent, of the 30,000 total refugees resettled in the US, according to the US Refugee Admissions Program. By comparison, the three other states that resettle the highest number of refugees — California, New York, and Washington — resettled 1,841, 1,845 and 1,947 refugees respectively over that period.

That’s why refugee advocates had lobbied Abbott as well as other Texas political leaders at all levels of government to express support for resettling refugees after Trump announced his executive order in September.

Chris Kelley, a spokesperson for Refugee Services of Texas, which helps resettle hundreds of refugees across the state annually, said that the governor was expected to accept refugees in light of the fact that 42 of 50 states, including many with Republican governors, had already announced they would do so. A number of Texas mayors had also urged Abbott to accept refugees, including Republican Betsy Price of Fort Worth.

“As Mayor, I’ve witnessed the mutually beneficial impact of resettling almost 2,600 refugees in Fort Worth since 2016, I don’t want to risk fixing anything that is not broken,” Price wrote in a December 2 letter. “Their stories and path to the United States are now an important part of our own story in Fort Worth.”

Advocates also had positive conversations with a number of Texas officials about resettling refugees, making the governor’s decision to reject them all the more unexpected, Kelley said.

“We were optimistic, in fact, that the governor would announce his support for accepting refugees given what other governors, particularly Republican governors, were doing to accept refugees,” he said. “All of us were caught off guard and surprised and deeply disappointed.”

Texas’s decision to reject refugees would have created a resource problem

Had Texas been allowed to go through with its plan to reject refugees, refugee agencies would have had to redistribute refugees to other states throughout the US. Capacity wasn’t an issue — Trump has slashed the national refugee admissions cap from 110,000 to 18,000 during his time in office, meaning that states are accepting fewer refugees than they are able to support.

But that redistribution could have created other problems: Many refugees already have family in the US, particularly in Texas, and sending them to another state could leave them with little choice but to be separated from their families.

Once refugees are assigned to be resettled in a particular state, that state agrees to provide them with critical social services, including health care, affordable housing, and help finding a job. Refugees are free to move to other states in the US after they’ve been resettled, but doing so means they would no longer be able to access the services that help them assimilate.

“They would have to face an impossible choice of choosing to be nearby family or forgoing some very basic support services,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said.

If refugee families choose to move to another state soon after arriving, that could also overwhelm local resources to support them. That would undermine one of the goals of refugee resettlement agencies, which is to create an orderly process to ensure no one location is taking on too many refugees at once, O’Mara Vignarajah said.

Local resources to resettle refugees also might have shrunk had Texas decided not to accept them in 2020. Refugee agencies depend on federal funds to administer their resettlement programs and have used those resources to build up substantial infrastructure for those programs in Texas for decades — losing those funds would be devastating to those agencies.

“All of the support services that are designed around the initial welcome and integration of refugees would start to corrode,” Cindy Huang, vice president of strategic outreach at the refugee resettlement agency Refugees International, said.

That’s already started to happen since Trump lowered the refugee cap. The Trump administration restricted organizations that resettle under 100 refugees annually from obtaining federal funding. And according to a June report by Refugee Council USA, refugee resettlement agencies have had to suspend 51 programs in 41 offices across 23 states, including three offices in Texas.

In other states that considered rejecting refugees — including Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, which all have large resettlement programs — that has also been a concern.

Now that states can’t just reject refugees, refugee resettlement agencies will be able to stay afloat. But one (perhaps unintended) consequence of Trump’s executive order remains: It has galvanized bipartisan state and local support for resettling refugees.

“The silver lining is that it’s made refugee resettlement a state and local issue,” Huang said. “It’s creating this opportunity for people to be directly confronted with this, and what people are responding is, ‘I don’t think that’s what being an American means.’”

17 Jan 12:47

Fetching With Wolves: What It Means That A Wolf Puppy Will Retrieve A Ball

Scientists put several litters of wolf puppies through a standard battery of tests. Many pups, such as this one named Flea, wouldn't fetch a ball. But then something surprising happened.

Christina Hansen Wheat

Some wolf puppies are unexpectedly willing to play fetch, according to scientists who saw young wolves retrieve a ball thrown by a stranger and bring it back at that person's urging.

This behavior wouldn't be surprising in a dog. But wolves are thought to be less responsive to human cues because they haven't gone through thousands of years of domestication.

Exactly how dogs emerged from a now-extinct population of ancient wolves is a mystery. Wolves are large, dangerous carnivores, and yet they were the first animals that humans tamed. More than 15,000 years ago, when humans were still hunter-gatherers, this large predator somehow began cozying up to people, eventually becoming their "best friend."

To try to get clues about how that happened, scientists such as Christina Hansen Wheat of Stockholm University in Sweden have been studying the differences between dogs and modern wolves. As part of her work, she raised litters of wolf puppies, feeding them and acclimating them to her presence but not playing with them or training them.

At the age of 8 weeks, the wolf pups were put through a series of standard behavior tests that were administered by a person the wolves had never met.

One researcher says that the willingness to fetch might not be a dog trait, but a trait that existed in ancestral wolf populations.

Christina Hansen Wheat

This set of tests is normally used by dog breeders, says Hansen Wheat, to assess how their puppies act in social situations. "The fetching test just happened to be part of this test battery. It wasn't something we were targeting at all," she says.

The person conducting the test threw a tennis ball and urged the wolf puppy to bring it back. Two litters of puppies utterly failed to do this, surprising the scientists not at all.

"There's some hypotheses out there that the ability to understand human social cues is a unique dog trait, a trait that arose after domestication had been initiated," Hansen Wheat explains, so fetching on command is not a behavior expected in wolves.

But then a third litter went through the tests. And as she watched through a window, one of the wolf puppies went for the ball and returned it to the tester, according to a report in the journal iScience.

"When I saw the first puppy fetch — I still get goosebumps when I talk about this — it was such a surprise," Hansen Wheat says. "It wasn't just one puppy, it was actually three of them. That was very exciting."

Because three of the 13 tested wolf puppies spontaneously did this, a willingness to fetch might not be a dog trait, she says. Instead, it might be a wolf trait that existed in the ancestral wolf populations.

"It might have been something that we have tried to select upon during early domestication," Hansen Wheat says. "Wolf puppies doing this during early stages of domestication might have had a selective advantage, if they managed to establish a connection to our forefathers."

She notes that researchers who work with wolves typically have few animals to test. That means scientists simply might not have enough wolves to detect rare traits, making it hard to see variations as they attempt to compare wolves with dogs.

"I think it will surprise dog owners as much as it surprised me that wolves actually can fetch a ball, or retrieve a ball for a person," she says.

Evan MacLean, who studies dog cognition at the University of Arizona, says this is an interesting observation that no one has made before.

"To my knowledge, this is actually the first test ever to look at whether wolves do something like this," he says.

Watching the video, MacLean sees two discrete behaviors: first, chasing the ball and biting it, and then later coming back to the person while carrying the ball. To him, it doesn't appear to be exactly the same kind of goal-oriented game of "fetch" that a dog would play with its owner.

"But I think it's an intriguing observation," he says. "I think it opens up a series of interesting questions and other studies you could do to try to look at this in a more controlled and systematic way."

Would the wolves behave this way if there were distractions in the room, for example, or if the ball were thrown by a machine instead of a person?

There's no agreement on how dog domestication happened — whether some brave wolves started hanging around human camps to get scraps or whether humans actively kidnapped wolf puppies to raise them.

In recent times, MacLean notes, wolves have been extensively hunted by humans, so today's wolves might be more skittish around people than past wolf populations were. "It's possible that the modern populations are quite different than the population that actually gave rise to dogs," he says.

Dogs do seem to be sensitive to human gestures, such as pointing, in ways that other species are not, including our closest relatives, chimpanzees.

"Dogs have become special in that regard," MacLean says, "and some people, myself included, have made claims that maybe this is something really unusual about dogs, and something that changed during dog domestication."

Three of the 13 wolf puppies tested spontaneously fetched a ball.

Christina Hansen Wheat
17 Jan 12:47

Neutrogena's Free Skincare App Actually Works...Mostly

An extremely small sample of my skincare products. Also me humblebragging about my score.
Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

The worst part about skincare is all of the trial and error. There’s the researching of ingredients, torturing yourself listening to YouTubers review products, draining your bank account to buy said products, and then finally, trying them. All that effort usually ends up with me cocking my head to the side as I stare at my reflection, unsure if my investment did anything or if it’s all in my head. Last week, I met up with Neutrogena at CES 2020 to talk about their app, Skin360. I walked into the meeting a bit skeptical—after all, their last CES announcement, MaskID, still hasn’t seen the light of day. But after a week of playing around with the Skin360 app, I think Neutrogena might be on to something.

The idea behind the app is simple. You take a selfie, the app then analyzes your skin and gives you a score out of 10 across five parameters: wrinkles, fine lines, dark circles, smoothness, and dark spots. You then set a skincare goal—something you want to improve, like getting rid of your fine lines. Depending on what your goal is, you’ll get different recommendations. Once that’s set, the app will then ask how dedicated you are to a skincare routine, and then poof. You get a personalized routine. Through it all, there’s a chatbot called NAIA who will check in every few days about your goals, your stress levels, how often you exercise, and sleep quality. You can also read articles about specific issues, like how to minimize the size of your pores or an explainer on exfoliation.

Neutrogena's relaunched app that tracks your skincare progress

Participation is flexible! You only really need to interact once per week. Can input your own products.

Can be slow. Some features are finicky.

Skin360 itself isn’t new. A version of the app has been around for a couple of years, but previously you had to buy a separate scanner. It only cost $50, but that’s enough to make someone on a budget pause. After all, you’d still have to pay for your entire skincare regimen and a piece of hardware that takes up additional counter space. With the app relaunch, Neutrogena smartly decided to nix the additional hardware entirely, meaning the only thing you need to use the app is your smartphone.

Sometimes things sound good on paper but don’t live up your expectations. When I wrote up the…

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The other smart thing Neutrogena did was allow users to input their own products within the app for recommended skincare routines. Previously, you were limited to Neutrogena products only. That makes sense because, well, capitalism. It’s also just not realistic—something Neutrogena admitted to me in person. For example, the app might suggest you cleanse, moisturize, and put on sunscreen in the morning. The default product recommendations will be, as you might expect, Neutrogena products. However, let’s say you already have a cleanser you like. In that case, you can manually add your own.

One thing I appreciated about using the Skin360 app was it wasn’t something I had to interact with every day. I could if I wanted, but it wasn’t necessary. If you’re really lazy about tracking your daily habits, you can simply log into the Skin360 app once a week. You get prompted by NAIA every 7 days to take a new scan and voilá. You can see if you’ve made any progress based that week. If you enable notifications, you might even get a prompt to rate your sleep, stress, and exercise levels for that week. Alternatively, you could be that person who scans their face and logs morning and evening routine every daily.

Me in Vegas, a dry crusty bitch, versus me at home four days later, moisturized as hell.
Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

While the app is well-designed, it isn’t quite as polished as I’d like. I found it to be somewhat laggy when interacting with NAIA. The bot would ask me to rate my week, and unless I moved the rating slider around beforehand, I couldn’t submit my answer. Sometimes replies from NAIA were also slow. Other features, like side-by-side selfie comparisons, were finicky. By default, the app would show me the same two pictures despite saying they were from two different dates. It took me a second to realize I had to go into the menu and manually pick dates to get the photos to refresh.

The most annoying quirk was adding my own products to routines. While there was an impressive number of brands to choose from, it doesn’t have every single one out there. For instance, I use a few Nature Republic products but that brand happens to not be included. This would’ve been fine if I could’ve just typed it in manually, but that wasn’t an option. I had to opt for the neutral “brand” from a dropdown menu, and skipping that field wasn’t possible. While entering products, you also have to note what skincare concern that product might be addressing. That’s fine for some products but doesn’t necessarily apply to say, a makeup remover.

None of these annoyances were what I’d call dealbreakers, but it’s definitely something Neutrogena ought to fix via app updates.

As for who this app is for, the obvious answer is skincare dweebs. For Skin360 to be valuable, you need to have the kind of personality that likes experimenting, recording results and reviewing data. If you hate that, this isn’t the thing for you. You also have to enjoy skincare or at least have the desire to improve the quality of your skin. If you’re the sort of person who just splashes cold water on your face in the morning, this also won’t be your cup of tea. But, if you’re lurking in the r/SkincareAddicts subreddit or have more moisturizer samples than you know what to do with, Skin360 offers a more convenient way of logging your trial-and-error. Though, I will say its scoring system may catapult your neuroticism to new heights. Am I vain for taking multiple selfies to see if my dark spots score improves? Absolutely, but that’s a quality I know about myself.

That said, if you suffer from body dysmorphia, then this app—and others like it—should be avoided. Sure, assessing your skin quality is an important factor in improving it. If you want to be generous, it’s a metric skincare companies offer to help people. Cynically, it’s something that ramps up insecurity so you buy whatever it is they’re hocking. In fairness, the Skin360 app will never describe your skin as bad. It breaks down overall scores from 1-4.9 as ‘Okay’, 5-7.9 as ‘Good’ and 8-10 as ‘Great.’ That’s nice, but it bears reminding that no company is truly altruistic and self-quantification isn’t something you have to volunteer yourself for.

If you like self-quantifying, you can choose to log whether you did your morning and evening routines each day.
Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

The main selling point for me is that it doesn’t cost anything to try. There’s no downside. If you hate it, you can just delete it. If you like it, ay! You spent zero for a useful resource and tool. For the past week, I’ve been “working” on improving my skin’s smoothness. A week isn’t enough time to have definitive results. However, after spending all of CES neglecting any sort of healthy routine, using this app did get me regularly slathering on sunscreen again.

Personally, what I’ve been looking for is a more convenient way to figure out if a specific moisturizer or serum is working the way I want it to. The fact I can use Skin360 to track whether a product is effective, beyond whatever my eyeballs perceive, appeals to me. I’m not sure whether I’ll continue logging every day—there’s only so much self-quantifying I can do before I burn out. (See: the Oral-B Genius X smart toothbrush. After I reviewed the thing, I quickly tired of having my phone out while brushing every day. I deleted the app a few weeks later.) That said, I’m more likely to stick with this experiment for a while, simply because my participation is flexible. It won’t completely eliminate trial-and-error in my quest for better skin, but it will make the whole process easier to visualize. And I’m all for that.


  • Neutrogena’s relaunched Skin360 app now requires no hardware and is free for download.
  • Also features a chatbot called NAIA who checks in with you each week.
  • Works on iOS and Android
  • You take a selfie, get a score, and then a recommended skincare routine based on your goals.
  • While it’s mostly a good app, it can be a bit slow or finicky.
  • If you’re lazy, you only have to use the app about once a week.
17 Jan 12:46

Watchmen Season Two Is Never Going to Happen Now

Goodbye, Lube Man. Goodbye, eggs. Goodbye, glass masks. Most importantly, goodbye Yahya Abdul-Mateen in his most thirst-inducing, godlike performance yet. Watchmen, despite earning serious critical acclaim and ending its season one finale on a major cliff-hanger, isn’t coming back to HBO for a second season after all.

HBO programming chief Casey Bloys revealed as much to USA Today on Wednesday, telling the outlet that creator Damon Lindelof really, truly doesn’t want to make a second season. And without Lindelof at the helm, Bloys continued, the network isn’t interested in pursuing a second season either.

“It’s really in Damon’s thinking about what he wants to do,” Bloys said. “If there’s an idea that excited him about another season, another installment, maybe like a Fargo, True Detective [anthology] take on it, or if he wants to do something different altogether. We’re very proud of Watchmen, but what I’m most interested in what Damon wants to do.”

However, Lindelof confirmed to USA Today that, again, he has no interest in a second season, but has “given my blessing” to HBO if they wanted to take a crack at it anyway. However, Bloys said that without Lindelof, that’s a no-go. “It would be hard to imagine doing it without Damon involved in some way.” Lindelof, for his part, left at least a little bit of room open when speaking to Vanity Fair in December: “When I show back up in January, hopefully the antenna will be back up again. If it receives something that feels like it could be another season of Watchmen, I would definitely be inclined to pursue it. There is no guarantee of if and when that’ll happen.” But for now, it seems like a permanent exit.

So, that’s that. Hope you liked it while you had it. Remember way back when, when the main concern was how the show would move forward if star Regina King, who only signed on for one season, decided to go elsewhere? Simpler times. Besides, those fears were ultimately dashed back in December, when King said she would “absolutely” do a second season.

“Yes, I would absolutely,” she said when asked by Vulture about starring in more Watchmen. But then she continued, foreshadowing this very predicament that Watchmen fans find themselves in: “I know that Damon doesn’t even kinda have an idea of an entry point and an ending for a second season. And I know he wouldn’t come onboard for a second season unless he did. I don’t want there to be a second season if it’s not going to at least be comparable to this first season, which is going to be really hard to do.”

Perhaps the only person soothed by this news is Watchmen author Alan Moore, who has been famously ornery about adaptations of his watershed graphic novel. As such, he’s not involved with the HBO series at all. “My book is a comic book,” he said in a 2005 interview. “Not a movie, not a novel. A comic book. It’s been made in a certain way, and designed to be read a certain way: in an armchair, nice and cozy next to a fire, with a steaming cup of coffee.” Well, that certainly sounds like a nice way to mourn the death of the series.

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Photograph by Ethan James Green.


Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

16 Jan 23:04

Bad Ideas: Raising The Arbitrarily Age Of Internet Service 'Consent' To 16

by Mike Masnick

We all know various ideas for "protecting privacy online" are floating around Congress, but must all of them be so incredibly bad? Nearly all of them assume a world that doesn't exist. Nearly all of them assume an understanding of "privacy" that is not accurate. The latest dumb idea is to expand COPPA -- the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act -- that was put in place two decades ago and has been a complete joke. COPPA's sole success is in getting everyone to think that anyone under the age of 13 isn't supposed to be online. COPPA's backers have admitted that they used no data in creating and have done no research into the effectiveness of the law. Indeed, actual studies have shown that COPPA's real impact is in having parents teach their kids its okay to lie about their age online in order to access the kinds of useful services they want to use.

The "age of consent" within COPPA is 13 -- and that's why a bunch of sites claim you shouldn't use their site if you're under that age. Because if a site is targeting people under that age, then it has to go through extensive COPPA compliance, which most sites don't want to do. The end result: sites say "don't sign up if you're under 13" and then lots of parents (and kids) lie about ages in order to let kids access those sites. It doesn't actually protect anyone's privacy.

So... along comes Congress and they decide the way to better protect privacy online is to raise that "age of consent" to 16.

The "Preventing Real Online Threats Endangering Children Today Act" is sponsored by Republican Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois.

The legislation would also require parental consent before companies can collect personal data like names, addresses and selfies from children under 16 years old. That's up from 13 years old under the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Because we all know that teenagers are always truthful online and, dang, are they going to totally love the idea that they need their parents' permission to use 99% of the internet. That's really going to solve the problems now, right?

Of course not. It's just going to teach more kids to lie about their birth dates when they sign up for internet accounts. Or, alternatively, it will overly punish the few honest kids who refuse to sign up for accounts until they're 16. But, hey, why should Congress care about that when they're "protecting the children."

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16 Jan 22:58

A Campaign Finance Rule Makes Life Much Harder for Working-Class Challengers

by Rachel M. Cohen

The odds are long for any candidate seeking to take on an entrenched incumbent, but the path to being financially competitive in a primary is particularly tough for those who dare run without an already built-in network of wealthy family, friends, and co-workers. Though some new companies and organizations have entered the fray over the last few years to help working-class candidates more effectively compete — including a new political action committee launched this month by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — the path to victory can be even harder for those candidates who can’t afford to dedicate all of their time to campaigning.

Under federal campaign guidelines, candidates running in a general election are permitted to use some of their campaign contributions to pay themselves salaries. The rule, approved in 2002 by the Federal Election Commission, was intended specifically to make it easier for people who don’t come from vast wealth to quit their jobs and campaign.

“Candidates of modest means too often have been crowded out of running for office,” said Michael Toner, a Republican FEC commissioner who sponsored the measure. He argued the new rule “could help people like blue-collar workers, school teachers, and others who don’t make six-figure salaries to run for office.”

“Candidates of modest means too often have been crowded out of running for office.”

As the New York Times reported at the time, the idea of letting candidates pay themselves a salary was actually originally put forth by Republicans, who resented Democrats’ 40-year grip on the House of Representatives. The GOP saw a salary as a way to enable people to challenge incumbents, who were largely Democrats. It took years for the FEC to actually approve the measure though, as commissioners long worried that candidates would just game the system and run for office effectively to make a living. A compromise was reached 18 years ago by putting limits on how much candidates could ultimately take: Candidates can pay themselves at a per-diem rate equal to the salary of the job they had before jumping in the race, or the salary of the office they are seeking — whichever is less. (Today, members of Congress have starting salaries of $174,000.)

These changes have made it easier for working and middle-class candidates to run for office. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a freshman congresswoman representing Michigan’s 13th District, paid herself $4,000 a month while campaigning in 2018 so that she could afford to work just seven hours a week as an attorney at her day job. Jess King, a former Lancaster, Pennsylvania, nonprofit director, likewise paid herself a salary of about $3,800 a month so she could run for Congress full-time; she was the only Pennsylvanian congressional candidate to do so. 

Despite these rules, Congress has come nowhere near reflecting the socioeconomic diversity of the American public, a problem especially acute as affluent Americans hold far more fiscally conservative views than the average American. The average net worth of a member of Congress is over $500,000, or approximately five times the median U.S. household net worth. After Ocasio-Cortez was elected, the fact that she was working as a bartender for much of her campaign was treated as a huge novelty in Washington, and it is something conservatives frequently point to when lodging attacks.

Another FEC restriction on candidates who draw salaries makes campaigning particularly tough for primary challengers. Under the rules, a candidate running for office can only start taking a salary once the filing deadline for entering the primary has passed. These deadlines vary by state, but typically come just 2-4 months before the primary election. This type of rule made more sense before the surge of money in politics that has taken place over the last 15 years, which has led to campaign seasons starting earlier and earlier. 

Mckayla Wilkes, a 29-year-old primary challenger taking on House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in Maryland’s 5th District, is anxiously awaiting January 24, the date of Maryland’s primary ballot access deadline. Wilkes — a mother of two, a part-time student, and a full-time federal contractor — has been running for Congress since late March. But due to her inability to work without pay and the FEC rules, Wilkes has had to campaign all year while still working her 9-to-5 job.

“I don’t have a choice but to work my regular job too, because I am a regular person running for Congress and so I have to provide for my family while also fighting for the future.”

A typical day for Wilkes looks like this: She shows up every morning to her job as an administrative assistant for the Department of Defense. She steps away from her desk during her lunch break to do campaign interviews, and takes more calls and interviews on her way to pick up her kids from school and day care. She drives her children home, cooks dinner, and does call time to raise money from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. She’s not allowed to talk about her campaign with co-workers at the office and outside of her lunch break, she’s not allowed to leave her desk to deal with any campaign-related emergencies.

“It’s really tough; it’s basically like having two or three jobs, if you count me being a parent,” she said. “But I don’t have a choice but to work my regular job too, because I am a regular person running for Congress and so I have to provide for my family while also fighting for the future.”

To start drawing a salary on January 24, Wilkes will have to first prove her income from last year, which means filing her taxes months ahead of the April deadline. “I have been just hammering people trying to get my W-2s, my 1099s, which has been a hassle because most times employers don’t even send those out until the end of January,” she said.

Wilkes will quit her day job once she can start taking a salary. Once she has the ability to campaign full-time, she said, she’ll be able to run more effectively. “It will change things drastically for me,” she said. “It will also hopefully give me a little bit more of a work-life balance.” 

She does not have much time: Maryland’s Democratic primary is on April 28. Her campaign has raised approximately $130,000 so far, though December was their biggest fundraising month yet where they pulled in about $25,000. Hoyer, who has been in Congress since 1981, has already raised over $2 million.

Other working-class candidates, also facing the financial squeeze of campaigning, are finding other ways to scrape by during the primary.

Jamaal Bowman, who’s endorsed by the progressive group Justice Democrats, is challenging House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel in the primary for New York’s 16th Congressional District. Bowman announced he was running in June, and for the first six months of his campaign, he also continued to work full-time at a Bronx-based middle school where he’s long served as principal.

During that time, Bowman would try to make both jobs work. He’d canvass at a train station from 6:30-7 in the morning, then go to work from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. After school, he’d leave to do call time for a few hours until 6:30 or 7:30 p.m., and then go to a house party or a meet-and-greet at someone’s home until 9:30. On weekends, he would spend 6-12 hours doing campaign work, meaning he never really got a day off. 

Bowman resigned from his principal position on January 1, but he does not plan to take a salary from his campaign coffers, saying he wants to keep the money he’s able to raise going toward staff and other campaign expenses. Even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to draw a salary until April 2, which is New York’s candidate filing deadline. (The state’s congressional primary is on June 23.) To make it work, Bowman has opted instead to drain some of his retirement savings and to take out a personal loan.

“I have a son in college, a daughter in day care, I have a mortgage, and both my wife and I have student loans,” he told The Intercept. “So it is a huge, huge sacrifice to run. But when you work 20 years in public schools, and when you see the systematic oppression the kids you serve face on a daily basis, and when you yourself come from that oppression, it gets to the point where enough is enough.” Bowman said he hopes the few extra hours in the day he has now will give him more time to spend with his family, which “keeps me fulfilled, inspired, and going.”

Jessica Cisneros, the 26-year-old progressive challenger taking on Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas’s 28th Congressional District, is also figuring out how to navigate these financial challenges.

“I can only imagine how many amazing candidates there are out there with potential who just financially are not in a position to run.”

When she was deciding whether to run, Cisneros was working as an attorney at a legal nonprofit. “I knew I’d have to quit my job if I ran because there was just no way I could do right by my clients and do right by the people supporting my campaign,” she told The Intercept. She said the first thing she worried about was her student loan payments, followed closely by the fact that quitting would mean losing her health insurance.

Cisneros lives at home with her parents, had a couple thousand dollars in savings, and decided this risk was one she was willing to take. “I didn’t save a ton, but it’s been enough for me to avoid having to take a stipend from the campaign,” she said. To this day, Cisneros has no health insurance.

Although she could be drawing a campaign salary at this point — Texas’s candidate filing deadline is December 9, and their primary is on March 3 — she’s made the decision to direct all her money to campaign expenses. Her campaign raised $513,000 in the last fundraising quarter, bringing her campaign’s total haul to nearly $1 million. Cuellar has not yet posted his latest fundraising figures, but had raised just over $1 million by the end of September. 

Cisneros acknowledges that as tough as everything is, there are some advantages to being a single young woman with no dependents. “If it’s difficult for me as someone who just has to worry about her own expenses, I can only imagine how many amazing candidates there are out there with potential who just financially are not in a position to run.”

These and other candidates, who have all also sworn off corporate PAC money, say there’s a reason Congress has been so slow to enact campaign finance reform.

“The rich have built an economic system to maintain their wealth and power, and there’s a reason why 50 percent of Congress are millionaires,” said Bowman. “This system is rigged, and that’s what we’re fighting to change.”

The post A Campaign Finance Rule Makes Life Much Harder for Working-Class Challengers appeared first on The Intercept.

16 Jan 22:54

The PinePhone starts shipping—a Linux-powered smartphone for $150

by Ron Amadeo
  • The front and back of the PinePhone. [credit: Pine64 ]

Pine64 has announced that it is finally shipping the PinePhone, a smartphone that takes the rare step outside the Android/iOS duopoly and is designed to run mainline Linux distributions. The PinePhone starts shipping January 17 in the "Braveheart" developer edition.

This initial "Braveheart" batch of devices is meant for "developer and early adopter" users, according to the Pine64 Store. The phone doesn't come with an end-user OS pre-installed and instead only comes with a factory test image that allows for easy verification that the hardware works. Users are expected to flash their own OS to the device. There are several available, from Ubuntu Touch to Sailfish OS, but they are all currently in an unfinished alpha state. Pine64 says that only enthusiasts with "extensive Linux experience" are the intended customers here—this isn't (yet?) a mainstream product.

It's hard to mention PinePhone without mentioning that other Linux smartphone, the Purism Librem 5. They could both end up running the same software one day, but the two companies are taking totally different approaches to hardware. Purism has a hardline requirement for the hardware: it needs to be as open and freedom-focused as possible, which means the company couldn't use the typical supply chain that exists for Android phones. Purism has only a limited amount of open source-compatible vendors to choose from, and it uses M.2 socketed chips for the closed-source Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and Cell modem. The result is a device that is very thick (16mm), hot, and expensive, at $750. The PinePhone is less averse to binary blobs and is a lot closer to a normal smartphone. It's a more reasonable thickness (9mm) and a more reasonable price: $150.

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16 Jan 16:40

Trump’s hold of Ukraine aid was illegal, according to the US government’s top watchdog

by Alex Ward
President Donald Trump prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship game between the Clemson Tigers and the LSU Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 13, 2020, in New Orleans. | Chris Graythen/Getty Images

This could bolster Democrats’ case to convict Trump in the impeachment trial.

The US government’s top internal watchdog has determined that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld military aid to Ukraine last year after Congress had approved its disbursal.

Coming on the very day the Senate is swearing in the judge in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, the finding could potentially bolster Democrats’ case that the president should be convicted in its impeachment trial next week.

In a legal opinion released Thursday, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) decision to keep $400 million in Pentagon assistance to Ukraine for a “policy reason” in violation of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

That law was designed to “prevent the President and other government officials from unilaterally substituting their own funding decisions for those of the Congress,” according to the House Budget Committee.

Trump has admitted to putting a hold on the money, but his reasoning has changed. Initially he said he didn’t want to give Ukraine the funds until it dealt with its corruption problem, even though the Pentagon said Kyiv had made enough reforms to warrant the money. Then he said he wanted to wait until European nations also contributed to Ukraine so it wasn’t just the US footing the bill.

But Bill Taylor, the former top US diplomat in Ukraine, said during the House Democrat-led impeachment inquiry last year that the president likely paused the money to compel Ukraine to open an investigation into Joe Biden’s family. That’s the center of the now-infamous quid pro quo: Kyiv helps damage Trump’s political opponent, and then Ukraine gets the money.

The administration did eventually release the money last September, after the outlines of the scandal had become public.

Taking all of this into account, the watchdog concluded that “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” Therefore, the report notes, the OMB violated the law.

This decision has angered and animated Senate Democrats who will now push harder for more documents and witnesses in the impeachment trial. The “opinion is forceful and it is unambiguous: When President Trump froze congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine, he did so in violation of the law and the Constitution,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the vice chair of the chamber’s appropriations committee.

Which means that Senate Democrats likely feel their case is stronger headed into the impeachment trial next week. The question, though, is if it will actually change anything.

The report may change the tenor of the Senate’s impeachment trial

The White House has already refuted the report’s conclusions, accusing the GAO of “overreach.” And OMB spokesperson Rachel Semmel said her agency “uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.”

The anger in these statements makes sense, especially since both the White House and OMB are being accused of something serious. But they also have the space to be indignant because they can be confident the report isn’t likely to change anything.

Importantly, nothing major will likely happen on the legal front. Some ethics group will probably sue the administration over this, and the GAO might even do so as it has before, but it’s unlikely to lead to much. It’s possible, though, that the White House will fire staff at OMB or even acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who also heads that office.

The White House may still not change its procedures. Last November, an OMB lawyer said the executive branch didn’t have to abide by GAO rulings. “When an agency of the legislative branch interprets a law differently than the executive branch, the executive branch is not bound by its views,” Mark Paoletta, the OMB’s general counsel, wrote in a memo last November.

The most probable outcome, then, is that this report will serve as fodder for the president’s opponents who want to see him removed. It bolsters the case against him that he did something illegal — for his own political gain — and therefore must be booted from office. But the Senate is controlled by Republicans, which means even this new information is unlikely to lead to the president’s conviction.

So the GAO report is another good data point to support the case that the president’s actions were corrupt and illegal, but in the grand scheme of things, nothing will change.

If that’s not a depressing state of affairs about America’s democracy, I don’t know what is.

16 Jan 16:37

Study Shows The Internet Is Hugely Vulnerable To SIM Hijacking Attacks

U.S. Wireless carriers are coming under heavy fire for failing to protect their users from the practice of SIM hijacking. The practice usually involves conning or bribing a wireless employee to port a victim's cell phone number right out from underneath them, letting the attacker then pose as the customer to potentially devastating effect. Carriers are facing numerous lawsuits from victims who say attackers used the trick to first steal their identity, then millions in cryptocurrency, or even popular social media accounts.

Last week, six lawmakers, including Ron Wyden, wrote to the FCC to complain the agency isn't doing enough (read: anything) to pressure carriers into shoring up their flimsy security. This week, a group of Princeton researchers released a study showcasing how both traditional and prepaid wireless carriers remain incredibly vulnerable to such attacks despite several years worth of headlines. In the full study (pdf, hat tip ZDNet), the researchers showed how it was relatively easy to trick wireless company support employees into turning over far more private data than they should, helping to facilitate the illicit SIM swap:

"When providing incorrect answers to personal questions such as date of birth or billing ZIP code, [research assistants] would explain that they had been careless at signup, possibly having provided incorrect information, and could not recall the information they had used," researchers said, explaining the motives they provided to call center staff."

After failing the first two steps in confirming a caller's identity, wireless carriers then move on to a third confirmation option -- verifying the last two numbers called from the account. But researchers note that was easy to game as well:

"The research team says that an attacker could trick a victim into placing calls to specific numbers. For example, a scenario of "you won a prize; call here; sorry, wrong number; call here instead." After the attacker has tricked the SIM card owner into placing those two calls, they can use these details to call the telco's call center and carry out a SIM swap. Princeton researchers said they were able to trick all five US prepaid wireless carriers using this scenario."

Despite warning all five of the carriers they tested this trick on, four of the five still hadn't fixed their security gaps as of the study's publication. After showcasing how vulnerable mobile carriers are, the researchers took a closer look at what could be done once they had taken over a user's wireless accounts. As such they tested the multi-factor-authentication practices of 140 of the most popular services and sites, and found that 17 of those services had no systems in place to protect users from SIM hijacking (such as emailing users a one time password to confirm identity and verify the changes were actually requested).

Here's where, in a functional market with a functioning government, regulators would step in to pressure carriers to do more to actually protect consumers. Instead, the Trump FCC has spent the last three years rubber stamping every fleeting whim of the sector, including gutting most meaningful oversight of the sector, and rubber stamping massive mergers the majority of objective experts say will harm the market.

Filed Under: ajit pai, fcc, ron wyden, scams, sim hijacking, sim swap, social engineering, wireless carriers

16 Jan 16:33

Google Phone app could soon support call recording

by Tyler Lee

If you like the idea of being able to record your phone calls, you might be interested to learn that according to an APK teardown by the folks at XDA Developers, they have found evidence within the Google Phone app that call recording could soon be coming to the app.

For those unfamiliar, the Google Phone app is the default dialer application for the Google Pixel phones and phones under the Android One program. It is also preinstalled on Xiaomi phones sold in Europe, which means that these changes could be a pretty big deal for quite a number of users.

Call recording on Android devices isn’t exactly new. Previously, there were apps on Android that allowed users to record phone calls, but Google closed those workarounds. These changes suggest that Google could be bringing the feature back in a more official capacity. Google has yet to officially confirm anything, but XDA speculates that this feature could be aimed more towards Xiaomi users.

This is because call recording was available with the stock MIUI dialer application, at least until it was replaced by the Google Phone app. Xiaomi later promised that the feature would be coming back, and it looks like this is how the feature will be returning. We have no word on when the feature will be rolled out, but we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for more information.

Source: XDA Developers

16 Jan 14:55

Amazon lifts ban on FedEx for third-party marketplace sellers

FedEx and Amazon, friends once more.
Enlarge / FedEx and Amazon, friends once more.

Internet giant Amazon is doing an about-face on its earlier ban and will now let third-party vendors using its marketplace ship items using FedEx.

The company lifted its ban as of 5pm eastern time yesterday, reports Bloomberg, which obtained a copy of the email Amazon sent to sellers.

Amazon in December abruptly prohibited third-party vendors on its website from using FedEx ground delivery services. In a communication to third-party merchants sent at the time, Amazon said the ban on FedEx Ground and Home services would persist "until the delivery performance of these ship methods improves."

Whether FedEx has gotten better or Amazon simply doesn't care anymore now that the busy holiday season is over is an open question. "The number of items delivered with Prime free one-day and Prime free same-day delivery nearly quadrupled" in the 2019 holiday shopping season, Amazon bragged in a December 26 press release, adding that its in-house logistics business delivered more than 3.5 billion packages in 2019.

What Amazon did not mention in its seasonal round-up was that vendors have accused the company of strong-arming them into using its in-house logistics service, occasionally to their own detriment. At least one merchant using the Amazon platform complained to Congress that Amazon's behavior is anticompetitive.

"Merchants using Amazon logistics services aren't penalized when customer orders arrive late, even though they frequently do, since that’s Amazon’s responsibility. Those who handle their own logistics face stiff penalties for even minor delivery mishaps, including being suspended from selling on the platform," the vendor alleged. Meanwhile, the merchant said, fees for using Amazon logistics have increased by 20% over the past four years and now cost as much as 35% more than competing services. Vendors are forced into paying the higher fees and using Amazon anyway, the complaint said, because Amazon promotes discovery for products it can mark as "fulfilled by Amazon" and demotes those that are not.

The relationship between FedEx and Amazon was soured long before the Christmas ban. FedEx did not renew its air shipping contract with Amazon when that agreement expired in June, and it ended its ground shipping agreement with Amazon in August.

Since Amazon launched its Prime-branded delivery service in 2016, the operation has grown at a staggering pace. Analytics firm Rakuten Intelligence reported in July that Amazon handles about half of all last-mile shipments on its own. By Rakuten's reckoning, Amazon's 90,000 logistics employees have 50 planes, 300 freight trucks, and 20,000 local delivery vans at their disposal—an estimate that may not even include all the rented vans and personnel working for the sprawling network of third-party contractors that handle the bulk of Prime deliveries.

16 Jan 14:54

How much does sexism matter for female candidates?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a campaign stop on November 25, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

During Tuesday’s Democratic debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed back on CNN reporter Abby Phillip when she asked why he said he “did not believe that a woman could win the election,” comments Sen. Elizabeth Warren says he made in a private conversation.

“How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States?” Sanders asked, while denying he ever made this statement.

As it turns out, a lot of people seem to. (And Warren maintains Sanders said so.)

While polling has shown that Democrats are overwhelmingly open to a female president, voters remain concerned that others — including a subset of swing voters — are not. A common refrain? People want to support a woman, but they don’t know if other voters can get past their gender bias to do it.

This dynamic is evident in a 2019 Ipsos/Daily Beast poll. The poll found 74 percent of Democrats and independents said they would be comfortable with a female president, but 33 percent believed their neighbors wouldn’t be quite as accepting.

Earlier this month, former Vice President Joe Biden expressed a similar sentiment, noting that Hillary Clinton encountered sexism when she ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016. “That’s not going to happen with me,” he said, seeming to imply that he’d have a leg up over a female contender. (His campaign has since said his remarks weren’t intended to question a woman’s electability.)

On one level, it’s understandable there’s a perception that sexist attitudes hold back female candidates. Sexism does impose additional barriers on women: Studies show that women have to demonstrate their qualifications in a way that men simply don’t, that they have to calibrate the way they show ambition, and that they’re still judged on tenets like “likability” in a way that male candidates are not.

Clinton and her campaign have said sexism was a major factor in the outcome of 2016. In her book, Clinton communications director Jen Palmieri wrote that the campaign “encountered an unconscious but pervasive gender bias that held Hillary back in many ways.”

Palmieri, however, includes an important caveat. “I want to be clear that while misogyny and sexism were a problem on the campaign trail, I don’t believe everyone who voted against Hillary did so for sexist reasons,” she wrote.

It’s this point that’s sometimes lost in the discussion about sexism — and it’s one that’s further corroborated by data. While women certainly face sexism as candidates, research has found that it’s far from the only factor at play.

Time and again, political scientists have determined that when women run for office, they perform just as well as their male counterparts. And in the last national election in 2018, Democratic women outperformed men. Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota on Tuesday night pointed to their own success as proof: “When you look at what I have done, I have won every race, every place, every time,” Klobuchar said.

In perhaps the most notable line of the evening, Warren called out the men onstage for losing past elections, contrasting their record with hers. “Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections,” she quipped, adding that she and Klobuchar hadn’t lost any.

Electability has become a central question among Democrats in 2020. Understandably, they want to pick the strongest contender to take on President Trump, even if the knocks against a candidate (like her gender) aren’t fair. But these concerns aren’t rooted in what the research shows, which is that sexism is real but isn’t the force Democrats fear.

Female candidates deal with sexism

Biden’s remarks (and Sanders’s alleged remarks) point to a concern many voters have raised: that sexism will be so damning to a woman’s candidacy in 2020 that there’s little chance she’ll be able to beat Trump.

For many of these voters, the concern they’ve expressed isn’t so much about their preferences but about those of other voters, who they worry won’t vote for a woman nominee.

It’s an assumption that emerged following the 2016 election and Clinton’s loss to Trump, in part because the campaign made it an issue. Clinton referenced the obstacles raised by gender bias in her book What Happened:

The moment a woman steps forward and says, ‘I’m running for office’, it begins. The analysis of her face, her body, her voice, her demeanor; the diminishment of her stature, her ideas, her accomplishments, her integrity.

In a 2017 interview, Clinton pointed to the effect of misogyny on the election. “Certainly, misogyny played a role. I mean, that just has to be admitted,” she said. “And why and what the underlying reasons were is what I’m trying to parse out myself.”

A Tufts University study from political science professor Brian Schaffner also found that sexist and racist attitudes were tied to Trump support in 2016.

The question is whether sexism against the candidate can be seen as the deciding factor in the election — a conclusion that researchers have repeatedly pushed back on both because it’s tough to pinpoint this exact relationship and because there is evidence suggesting otherwise.

The 2016 race ultimately came down to less than a few percentage points in several states. In Michigan, for example, Clinton lost by roughly 11,000 votes, a margin so thin that any single factor could be pointed to as a reason for her loss. Solely blaming sexism obscures many of the unique challenges she faced, including her heavy political baggage, and ignores other campaign missteps.

As Vox’s Matt Yglesias writes, it’s very difficult to draw a causal connection between sexism and Clinton’s loss given all the variables involved, and even more so, to project that conclusion onto a future nominee:

Regardless of what exact role you think misogyny played in the coverage Clinton received and the reactions people had to her, the outcome of the 2016 campaign should not make you think a woman can’t beat Trump. Clinton would’ve won if she’d had slightly better luck. She would’ve won if the state boundaries were drawn slightly differently. She would’ve won if she’d made a couple of smarter decisions in the past. And most important, she would’ve won if the underlying fundamentals were narrowly in her favor rather than narrowly against her.

Nobody knows how promising the fundamentals will be for Democrats in 2020. But if they’re favorable, there’s every reason to think a woman nominee will win, and if they’re not, there’s every reason to think a man will lose.

To suggest that gender was the deciding aspect of Clinton’s loss also fuels dangerous assumptions, effectively enabling people to argue that no other woman should be considered for the job. It’s a flawed conclusion that some people could take from 2016, simply because the sample size of women who have been major-party nominees is so small.

“When people say it shouldn’t be a woman this time because a woman lost last time, well, men have been losing the presidency for hundreds of years,” said Amanda Hunter, a policy director at the Barbara Lee Family Foundation.

Data shows that women do just as well as men

Research on the 2016 election and other races further counters the assumptions about the role of sexism in campaign outcomes.

When it comes to running for public office, women win at the same rates as men, according to a number of studies, including one from political scientists Richard Seltzer, Jody Newman, and Melissa Voorhees Leighton, who examined patterns in House, Senate, and state legislature races in the 1980s and ’90s.

Another from UC Berkeley’s Lefteris Anastasopoulos looked at whether the nomination of a female candidate for the House affected the likelihood of victory between 1982 and 2012. He did not find that gender had any negative association with the candidate’s probability of winning.

Instead, researchers have determined that the barriers that have prevented women from even deciding to run are larger deterrents than the discrimination they may face once they’re a candidate.

“When women run for political office, they are just as likely as men to be elected,” the New York Times’s Claire Cain Miller wrote. “The main reason they are so underrepresented is that they don’t run in the first place.”

Data from the recent midterm elections further highlights the strength of women candidates. In 2018, Democratic women were among some of the strongest performers, including in competitive swing districts, driving the lion’s share of red-to-blue wins the party experienced in the House. Non-incumbent Democratic women had the highest win rates of any congressional candidates in both parties, according to an analysis by Rutgers University political science professor Kelly Dittmar.

Historically, too, researchers have determined that party affiliations hold more sway than a candidate’s gender, though some studies suggest sexism was at the very least a factor for some voters across party lines in 2016.

Even if that were the case, though, researchers have found that attitudes toward gender could ultimately work more in favor of women candidates and the Democratic Party than it does against them.

“Experiencing the first two years of Trump’s presidency pushed less sexist Americans toward the Democratic Party in 2018,” Tufts’ Schaffner and YouGov’s Sam Luks wrote in the Washington Post. Their research, as well as that of the University of Texas’s Harold Clarke and Marianne Stewart, notes that while voters who may hold more sexist viewpoints could move away from Democrats overall, the party could have more to gain from those with less sexist viewpoints crossing over.

The focus on sexism hurting women candidates creates a self-fulfilling feedback loop

Calling out sexism is important. But doing so can feel like a double-edged sword: If women acknowledge that sexism is a problem, opponents can use their gender against them to question their electability.

As the 2018 elections demonstrated, women have no problem winning in spite of sexism. That year, female candidates across the ideological spectrum flipped the majority of House seats that Democrats retook, and flipped both Senate seats the party won as well as the majority of gubernatorial seats.

Of course, a presidential election is different from congressional and gubernatorial races, but this pattern underscores a track record of a range of female candidates winning.

Citing sexism as the main reason for passing on a female candidate also implies that there are no differences in the qualifications, ideas, and strategy that different female candidates are bringing to their campaign.

This cycle, alone, six women from different ideological perspectives and backgrounds have campaigned for the Democratic nomination. While several of them have already dropped out, the three who are left — Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — are running on radically different policy proposals across a wide range of issues including health care, student debt, and climate change.

When sexism is used to discount female candidates, such arguments don’t take into account that every woman, including Clinton, Warren, and Klobuchar, is unique, with her own respective strengths and weaknesses.

Electability is a flawed construct

No one knows how the 2020 election will play out, which means any assumptions that people have about the role gender will play are just that — assumptions.

“There’s no empirical evidence that you could lump in a whole region and say that women have not, or will not, fare well there,” said Dittmar, who is a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics.

For one, turnout is a major variable that could wind up swaying the outcome, and it won’t be evident until after the election. In a recent example, Andrew Gillum surprised pollsters when he won the Democratic nomination for the Florida gubernatorial race in 2018, because he was able to turn out a higher proportion of young and black voters than previously anticipated. State-level polls have also missed the outcome of past races, including the 2016 election, because the turnout that day did not align with previous expectations.

In the case of 2020, a Pew poll has found that a segment of voters could be even more energized for a female candidate, though that survey did not include analysis about the types of policies voters favored from their top candidates.

Because there’s so much we don’t know about the election, to rule out an entire group of candidates solely because there are biased notions of who has won the presidency in the past is to give those biases disproportionate weight.

Simply put, there is only one true measure of a person’s electability.

“Is this person going to win the general election?” UCLA political science professor Lynn Vavreck told Vox. “The only way to know that is if they win the general election.”

16 Jan 14:54

Talking about the Warren and Sanders handshake keeps us from having to talk about sexism

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak after the January Democratic presidential debate, with Tom Steyer looking on.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

One of the most discussed moments at Tuesday’s seventh Democratic primary debate happened after it was over, when Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders met for a post-debate discussion.

Sanders appeared to extend his hand for a handshake as Warren walked over, but no handshake took place.

A gif shows Sanders extending and retracting his hand as Warren approaches him with her hands clasped.
The Warren and Sanders handshake that didn’t happen.

Many viewers on social media — and post-debate analysts — described the moment as a snub, with Warren refusing to shake Sanders’s hand.

Perhaps it was an intentional snub and Warren didn’t want to shake his hand. It could also have been an awkward oversight akin to not noticing someone trying to give you a high-five or waving to someone only to realize they weren’t waving at you. It’s even less clear what they discussed.

Nevertheless, CNN’s post-debate commentary featured a lengthy discussion of the moment, and online Sanders supporters attacked Warren, calling her names and declaring themselves members of a new #NeverWarren movement.

In some ways, all the attention heaped on this one moment was unsurprising, coming after several days of escalating tension between the two progressive leaders — all while the Iowa caucuses that are effectively any of the top four candidates’ to take loom.

But it also is an example of a media — and human — tendency to allow the minor to obscure the major. Making a handshake the biggest moment of January’s debate has drawn attention away from important things that informed it: narrowly, Sanders and Warren working hard to bury the hatchet in the name of advancing the progressivism they share, and broadly, conversations around the sexism inherent to questions of whether a woman can be president.

Why everyone was so interested in the Liz-Bernie dynamic, briefly explained

Reading the post-debate exchange as a snub stems largely from a point of tension that emerged between the senators’ campaigns ahead of the debate. Warren and Sanders have had a nonaggression pact throughout the campaign, but that truce was broken following a report from Politico’s Alex Thompson and Holly Otterbein that the Sanders campaign had given volunteers a script that attacked other candidates, including Warren.

The Warren campaign responded to this by saying Sanders told Warren during a private meeting that he didn’t think a woman could win the White House in 2020. Sanders and his surrogates said the Vermont senator said no such thing. Warren and her surrogates said he did.

The issue came to a head on the debate stage, with each candidate sticking to their side of the story. And they appeared to have settled the issue, with both using a question about the disagreement to boost their candidacies and champion their support of women candidates: Sanders argued he’d waited to launch his candidacy in 2016 out of respect for Warren in case she wanted to run; Warren pointed out that the women on the stage had far better electoral records — particularly when facing populist Republicans — than the men.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren addresses Sen. Bernie Sanders at January’s Democratic debate.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

In so answering, the progressives seemed to lay to rest an issue that threatened to distract from their pitches to voters weeks before the Iowa caucuses and that — given the rancor the disagreement inspired online — seemed poised to pettily divide progressives at a moment at which they are struggling to defend against the national popularity of moderate Joe Biden.

But the peace and goodwill engendered by the debate itself was largely derailed — among the senators’ bases, at least — by the moment CNN captured after, when no handshake occurred.

It is important to remember, however, that while everyone saw the same thing, we don’t actually know what happened.

We also have little idea what was said in the conversation that followed. The only information we have about the chat comes from entrepreneur Tom Steyer, who moved away to give the senators space to talk. Steyer told CNN the two lawmakers were discussing “getting together.” But that could mean anything, from a meeting to squash the beef once and for all to a double brunch date. And the conversation could have gone anywhere from there.

Obviously, this little moment is getting so much attention because the Iowa caucuses are now about two weeks away. Voting in New Hampshire comes directly after that, then contests in Nevada and South Carolina. In other words, time is running out.

Candidates are under enormous pressure to differentiate themselves and to win over undecided voters. And their supporters, particularly those who have put in countless volunteer hours, are under just as much strain.

But in a rush to cast their particular candidate as the one true good — and some members of the media’s desire to add fuel to a potent narrative — we have become distracted from what is really important about the moment: that it is rooted in very real concerns over whether a woman can be president, and a sexism that lies at the heart of those concerns that very much needs to be addressed.

Democrats need to overcome doubts about the viability of women candidates

Concerns about the viability of a woman candidate were prevalent when Hillary Clinton challenged Donald Trump in 2016 and have not been resolved since.

“There’s a sense that there was backlash about the Obama presidency, and Hillary Clinton didn’t win,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Rutgers Center, told the New York Times. “So the conventional wisdom, which starts to feed on itself, is, ‘Well, we’d better just elect the thing we’ve always had,’ which is white men.”

That hesitancy is reflected in polls on the issue, many of which show that individuals want — or at the very least have no problem with — a woman nominee, but that they don’t believe other voters feel the same.

For instance, a July Daily Beast/Ipsos national poll found 74 percent of voters said they’d be comfortable with a woman as president, but only 33 percent said their neighbors would be fine with that. More broadly, this dynamic has been framed in terms of “electability” — more than anything, voters tell pollsters, they want a Democratic nominee who can beat Donald Trump.

It’s a conversation the candidates onstage were ready to wade into.

“Back in the 1960s, people asked could a Catholic could win. Back in 2008, people asked if an African American could win,” Warren said. “In both times, the Democratic Party stepped up and said yes, got behind their candidate, and we changed America. That is who we are.”

And Sen. Amy Klobuchar has routinely made the case she is the candidate with the most electability based on her record: She has never lost an election, and she performs well in traditionally Republican districts in her home state of Minnesota. She has also outperformed both President Barack Obama and Clinton. In 2012, when Obama carried Minnesota with 53 percent of the vote, Klobuchar got 65 percent in her Senate bid. Clinton won only nine of Minnesota’s counties in 2016; in 2018, Klobuchar won 51.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar addresses the press following the January Democratic presidential debate.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

She also pointed to the victories women have had over Republicans in recent years, beyond the wins she and Warren accomplished, saying Tuesday, “When you look at the facts, Michigan has a woman governor right now and she beat a Republican, Gretchen Whitmer. Kansas has a woman governor right now and she beat Kris Kobach.”

As Vox’s Li Zhou noted, “Women also flipped the lion’s share of House seats that Democrats retook in 2018, as well as both Senate seats — and research has long shown that women candidates win at the same rate as men when they run for elected office.”

But that — and Klobuchar’s other arguments — haven’t swayed voters in favor of the Minnesota senator. Instead, Biden, who has lost elections, and who does not have as strong a record of winning in Republican areas, is seen as Democrats’ best chance to beat Trump, according to recent polls. And it is Biden who leads nationally.

Christina Reynolds, a spokesperson for Emily’s List, told Vox this dynamic reflects what the term “electability” actually means: “Metrics like authenticity and likability and electability are just code that we use against candidates who are not like what we are used to.”

Or as Zhou has explained, “The expectation of who can win is inextricably wrapped up in the knowledge of who has won.”

In 2020, anything could happen: Trump enjoys the advantages of incumbency and the Electoral College system, but experts have said the Democratic base is incredibly energized and is expected to show a strong turnout. Respondents to polls may believe Biden has the best chance against Trump, but experts have told Vox that no research argues a woman would be destined to lose in November because of her gender.

Democrats need to face these facts, but they also need to understand and work to undo the thinking that causes voters to pause when it comes to caucusing or voting for a woman.

Instead, they’re debating whether one candidate snubbed another’s proffered hand.

16 Jan 14:52

Chrome's Move To Stomp Out Third Party Cookies? Good For Privacy, Good For Google's Ad Business... Or Both?

We've talked in the past how efforts solely focused on "protecting privacy" without looking at the wider tech ecosystem and the challenges its facing may result in unintended consequences, and now we've got another example. Google has announced that it's beginning a process to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome. Looking at this solely through the lens of privacy, many privacy advocates are celebrating this move, saying that it will better protect user privacy. But... if you viewed it from a more competitive standpoint, it also does much to give Google significantly more power over the ad market and could harm many other companies. Former Facebook CSO, Alex Stamos' take is pretty dead on here:

A win for privacy may be a loss for competition -- and nearly every big regulatory effort to "deal with" big internet companies is going to play right into those companies' hands.

For years I've been talking about how we need to view privacy as a series of tradeoffs, or any attempt to regulate privacy will go badly. Here, this is even pre-regulation, but just based on the nature of the public narrative that third party cookies must obviously be bad. They can be, but not always. And the end result here is that the "trade off" for protecting more privacy is giving more of the ad market to Google. I'm guessing that most privacy advocates would argue that they don't want to do that. But if you look solely through the lens of 3rd party cookies and no further -- that's what you get.

Filed Under: 3rd party cookies, chrome, competition, cookies, privacy, tradeoffs
Companies: google

16 Jan 14:51

The Russian government’s dramatic shake-up, briefly explained

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses Federal Assembly in Moscow
Russian president Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly in Moscow on January 15, 2020.
Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

It’s not every day an entire government resigns, but that’s what happened in Russia on Wednesday as President Vladimir Putin announced plans for major constitutional reforms that could extend his grip on power long after his term in office is supposed to end.

Because Putin’s power is really what this surprise announcement is all about. Putin’s tenure as president is up in 2024, but because authoritarian strongmen don’t tend to just quietly retire, the Russian leader is trying to secure his position long after those term limits.

Putin’s plan for staying in power past 2024 “has been in the works for years,” Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, told me. “It’s not a power grab, it’s a plan to ensure that Putin de facto remains in power for life.”

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his entire cabinet resigned abruptly Wednesday, right as Putin announced the new constitutional reforms. It’s still unclear if Medvedev and the other officials were surprised by Putin’s move or whether they were part of the plan all along.

But Medvedev, a longtime Putin ally, will still have a role in government, as Putin has placed him as the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, a powerful body that advises the president on national security decisions.

Just a few hours after Medvedev’s resignation, Putin appointed a new prime minister to take his place: Mikhail Mishustin, a technocrat who’s been in charge of Russia’s tax services for a decade.

Experts told me that Mishustin is not a well-known or influential figure even within Russia, so Putin likely sees him as a placeholder — a loyalist type who isn’t looking to accumulate too much power for himself.

Which all kind of works out as Putin prepares for his future.

How to be in power for life, Putin edition

Putin’s proposed constitutional reforms broadly seek to limit the power of the presidency and give more responsibilities to the Parliament, including the job of choosing the country’s prime minister. He also intends to give more power to the State Council, an advisory body to the head of state that doesn’t have a ton of authority right now.

On paper, this all doesn’t sound too bad; vesting more authority in the Parliament and checking some of the president’s powers might not be a bad move, and Putin is a perfect example why.

The problem is that Putin’s constitutional changes intend to limit the power of a president who is not him, thus ensuring his successor is far weaker than he was.

And what Putin hasn’t quite revealed yet is where he’ll, personally, end up. There’s speculation he may become prime minister again (a role he held in 2008, when Medvedev took over as president), who will have more power under the reforms, or he may put himself atop this newly elevated State Council as a sort of shadow figure running the show behind the scenes.

But Brian D. Taylor, a professor of political science at Syracuse University, said all of these constitutional tweaks are clearly designed to give him “multiple options” for how to maintain control of Russia beyond 2024.

“I’m not sure his plan is fully worked out from A to Z,” Taylor added. “He might only know A to E — and we’re at about A to C right now.”

Putin was always going to find a way to stay in power. The question was how.

Nobody really expected Putin — who has effectively been in power since 2000 — to quietly retire after his tenure ended in 2024. Putin served as president between 2000 and 2008, then stepped into the role of prime minister when his term limits were up, from 2008 to 2012. His close ally Medvedev took over as president, where many saw him as a placeholder for Putin. Then, Medvedev let Putin come back as president in 2012.

Putin, then, has attempted this kind of power reshuffle before. The question was how exactly he would orchestrate it this time.

The first, and most obvious, option was to extend or eliminate presidential term limits again, buying him more time in the role. Putin is almost certainly not choosing this route, as his proposed constitutional changes include limiting the president to two consecutive terms.

Another option he apparently considered: creating a brand-new country and becoming president of that place instead.

This is not a joke — it just doesn’t look like it will pan out for Putin. The country in question is Belarus, a former Soviet Republic in Eastern Europe that borders Russia. Belarus declared its independence in 1991, but in 1999 Belarus and Russia signed a union pact that outlined, albeit vaguely, closer integration between the two countries. The Moscow Times likened the agreement to trying to replicate something like the European Union’s Schengen zone, with no customs checks and the same currency.

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the pact, which jump-started talks between Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko over what a union between the two could look like — and whether it would ultimately lead to Belarus being absorbed by Russia.

This led to some speculation that Putin would try to become president of a united Russia-Belarus and basically get around term limits that way. The talks haven’t been going all that well, though, and a lot of opposition exists, so the prospects for that avenue looked pretty grim.

That brings us to option three, which seems to be the one Putin chose — what Taylor dubbed the “half leave” scenario: Putin won’t be president anymore, but he’ll still be Putin-ing.

“He’s leaving the presidency, but he’s almost certainly going to take some other position and try and stay on,” Taylor told me. “But we still don’t know what this position is, or when this is going to happen.”

“There were multiple options under consideration,” Polyakova told me. “This was always the most straightforward one.”

Right now, the two most likely options, experts say, are the prime minister or the head of the State Council, which Putin said would be getting new powers. But it’s still not clear what his ultimate move will be.

Putin has said that he will seek these constitutional changes through a national referendum — something that isn’t actually required to change the constitution but which he said would give the reforms legitimacy. Or, at least give Putin’s initiative the veneer of consent.

Putin’s proposal isn’t a done deal, though. Far from it.

Putin has faced pressure in recent months, including massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Moscow this summer.

Putin and the ruling United Russia party (from which Putin keeps his distance) have been slipping in popularity as more Russians become disillusioned with the state of the Russian economy, including rising inequality and falling incomes. Declining oil prices and sanctions have squeezed the Kremlin, and the government had to push through unpopular measures in previous years, including increasing the retirement age.

Experts told me this resistance is partly why Putin is making this announcement now. The Kremlin is under pressure, and what better than a shake-up to help distract from those issues. Polyakova told me it helps give Putin an “image of stability and strength.”

Putin’s future, though, is still not decided, and obstacles remain. Challenges with the economy and questions of corruption can’t totally be ignored. David Szakonyi, a professor of political science at George Washington University, told me that reforms and other changes will need to accompany these tweaks to the power.

Russia also has parliamentary elections in 2021, which means Putin has to make sure he retains overwhelming support there.

“I think it would be a mistake to assume that he’s got this all under control and everything’s going to go smoothly,” Taylor said. “We’re at the early stages of a multi-process, multiplayer game and lots of things can still go wrong.”

16 Jan 14:07

Missouri could jail librarians for lending 'age-inappropriate' books

by Alison Flood

Bill would allow parents to decide whether children should have access to controversial books, with heavy penalties if libraries disobey

A Missouri bill intended to bar libraries in the US state from stocking “age-inappropriate sexual material” for children has been described by critics as “a shockingly transparent attempt to legalise book banning” that could land librarians who refuse to comply with it in jail.

Under the parental oversight of public libraries bill, which has been proposed by Missouri Republican Ben Baker, panels of parents would be elected to evaluate whether books are appropriate for children. Public hearings would then be held by the boards to ask for suggestions of potentially inappropriate books, with public libraries that allow minors access to such titles to have their funding stripped. Librarians who refuse to comply could be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

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16 Jan 13:38

Am I

by Reza
15 Jan 16:37

NPR’s sanitizing of Trump’s Milwaukee rally shows how he’s broken the media

by Aaron Rupar
U.S President Donald Trump’s Rally in Milwaukee Trump at his rally in Milwaukee on Tuesday. | Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In trying to be above taking sides, the mainstream media does Trump a favor by making order out of his chaos.

By almost any standard, President Donald Trump’s rally on Tuesday evening in Milwaukee was a bizarre affair. The president went on a lengthy tirade about lightbulbs, toilets, and showers; touted war crimes; joked about a former president being in hell; and said he’d like to see one of his domestic political foes locked up.

I tried to capture some of the speech’s disconcerting oddness in my write-up of the event. In many ways, the remarks the president made were typical of him. And that provides the media with a challenge: Describing Trump as he really is can make it seem as if a report is “anti-Trump” and that the reporter is trying to make the president look foolish.

But for media outlets that view themselves as above taking sides, attempts to provide a sober, “balanced” look at presidential speeches often end up normalizing things that are decidedly not normal.

A brief report about Trump’s Milwaukee speech that aired Wednesday morning on NPR illustrates this phenomenon. It presented Trump’s at times disjointed ramblings as a normal political speech that “ranged widely,” and characterized it as one in which he “snapped back at Democrats for bringing impeachment proceedings.”

“Trump was taking on Democrats on their own territory,” the reporter said, when in reality Trump heaped abuse on them, for instance, suggesting former Vice President Joe Biden is experiencing memory loss.

Listen for yourself:

On Twitter, Georgetown University public affairs professor Don Moynihan noted that NPR’s report about the rally “mentioned specific topics like Iran and impeachment but carefully omit the insane stuff. This is one way the media strives to present Trump as a normal president.”

NPR is far from alone in struggling to cover Trump.

As I wrote following a previous Trump rally in Wisconsin last April, outlets including CBS, USA Today, the Associated Press, and the Hill failed to so much as mention in their reporting that Trump pushed dozens of lies and incendiary smears during his speech.

The irony is that the media is one of Trump’s foremost targets of abuse. He calls the press the “enemy of the people,” yet the very outlets he demeans regularly bend over backward to cover him in the most favorable possible light.

The disconnect between the real Trump and the whitewashed version that emerges from mainstream reporting was captured nicely by Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor in a piece she wrote last September headlined, “As a foreign reporter visiting the US I was stunned by Trump’s press conference”:

I’ve read so many stories about his bluster and boasting and ill-founded attacks, I’ve listened to speeches and hours of analysis, and yet I was still taken back by just how disjointed and meandering the unedited president could sound.


I’d understood the dilemma of normalizing Trump’s ideas and policies – the racism, misogyny and demonization of the free press. But watching just one press conference [in real time] helped me understand how the process of reporting about this president can mask and normalize his full and alarming incoherence.

It is difficult to cover Trump, and it is important to honor the public’s trust in the press by providing fair and balanced coverage. But we also have to pay attention to how much more alarming the unfiltered Trump is when compared to the sanitized version that often emerges in mainstream media reporting.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

15 Jan 16:31

Letting slower passengers board airplane first really is faster, study finds

by Jennifer Ouellette
Physicists demonstrated that there really is an optimal boarding process for airplanes.

Enlarge / Physicists demonstrated that there really is an optimal boarding process for airplanes. (credit: izusek/Getty Images)

Commercial airlines often prioritize boarding for passengers traveling with small children, or for those who need extra assistance—in other words, those likely to be slower to stow their bags and take their seats—before starting to board the faster passengers. It's counter-intuitive, but it turns out that letting slower passengers board first actually results in a more efficient process and less time before takeoff, according to a new paper in Physical Review E.

Physicists have been puzzling over this particular optimization problem for several years now. While passengers all have reserved seats, they arrive at the gate in arbitrary order, and over the years, airlines have tried any number of boarding strategies to make the process as efficient and timely as possible. Flight delays have a ripple effect on the complex interconnected network of air travel and often result in extra costs and disgruntled passengers.

Back in 2011, Jason Steffen, now a physicist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, became intrigued by the problem and applied the same optimization routine used to solve the famous traveling salesman problem to airline boarding strategies. Steffen fully expected that boarding from the back to the front would be the most efficient strategy and was surprised when his results showed that strategy was actually the least efficient. The most efficient, aka the "Steffen method," has the passengers board in a series of waves. "Adjacent passengers in line will be seated two rows apart from each other," Steffen wrote at The Conversation in 2014. "The first wave of passengers would be, in order, 30A, 28A, 26A, 24A, and so on, starting from the back."

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15 Jan 14:43

Some FCC Subsidized Low Income Phones Are A Chinese Malware Shitshow

by Karl Bode

We've long talked about the problems with the FCC's Lifeline program, which was created by Reagan and expanded by Bush Junior (yet somehow earned the nickname "Obamaphone"). The $2 billion program doles out a measly $9.25 per month subsidy that low-income homes can use to help pay a tiny fraction of their wireless, phone, or broadband bills (enrolled participants have to choose one). But for years, the FCC has struggled to police fraud within the program, with big and small carriers alike frequently caught "accidentally" getting millions in taxpayer dollars they didn't deserve.

Late last week another issue popped up with the government program, albeit of a different variety. Researchers over at MalwareBytes discovered that one-such government-subsidized low income wireless carrier, Assurance Wireless by Virgin Mobile, has been selling devices to low-income customers that are riddled with malware. One of the questionable apps pre-loaded on the device is dubbed "wireless update," and opens the door to malicious apps being installed without user awareness or consent:

"Thus, we detect this app as Android/PUP.Riskware.Autoins.Fota.fbcvd, a detection name that should sound familiar to Malwarebytes for Android customers. That’s because the app is actually a variant of Adups, a China-based company caught collecting user data, creating backdoors for mobile devices and, yes, developing auto-installers."

Neat! Another malware app actually poses as the device's settings app, and can't be removed at all:

"It’s with great frustration that I must write about another unremovable pre-installed app found on the UMX U683CL phone: the mobile device’s own Settings app functions as a heavily-obfuscated malware we detect as Android/Trojan.Dropper.Agent.UMX. Because the app serves as the dashboard from which settings are changed, removing it would leave the device unusable."

When notified by journalists and lawmakers (Wyden) of the problem, the Ajit Pai FCC did what it's now infamous for, nothing:

Sure, Lifeline doesn't fund handsets, but it does fund this particular carrier, which would quickly take action if it meant losing taxpayer money. This is technically part of a broader problem the FCC/FTC don't seem too concerned about: the market, left to its own devices, is slowly turning things like privacy and security into luxury features exclusive to those who can afford it. A recent study by Privacy International found that the low-income budget phones we throw at the poor with pride routinely come with outdated OS', malware, and other issues we don't seem to care much about.

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15 Jan 14:11

'I thought I was losing my mind after miscarriage'

By Philippa Roxby Health reporter

Toni and her baby, Willow Image copyright Toni Edwards
Image caption Toni with her daughter, Willow

One in six women who lose a baby in early pregnancy experiences long-term symptoms of post-traumatic stress, a UK study suggests.

Women need more sensitive and specific care after a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, researchers say.

Toni Edwards-Beighton, 36, says she felt she was losing her mind after a miscarriage in 2016.

"I felt my grief was wrong because it wasn't a real baby - but I was in complete shock," she says.

Warning: Some readers may find part of this article distressing

Toni and husband Matt, from Leicester, had been told their baby had no heartbeat at 12 weeks, before she miscarried naturally at home in the bathroom.

But she didn't expect to bleed heavily for eight days and then have to go through painful contractions.

"I thought I was going mad," she says.

"I had no information about what what would happen to me or what I could expect to see."

Panic and anxiety

In the end, something "recognisable and the size of a palm" fell between her legs in the middle of the night.

When she called the hospital the following day, they told her to "bring the pregnancy tissue in and we'll get rid of it".

"It wasn't 'tissue' to me, it was our baby," Toni says.

In the weeks that followed, she started to panic about everything, especially their daughter who was four at the time.

Image copyright Getty Images

"I worried she was going to die - I could see her falling to the ground."

Months later, Toni's GP diagnosed her with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and offered her counselling - but she didn't go because by that time she was pregnant again.

"The following nine months were awful - I was convinced I'd lose my baby again," she says.

Toni and Matt now have two daughters, Phoebe who is eight and Willow who is two.

In the study of 650 women, by Imperial College London and KU Leuven in Belgium, 29% showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress one month after pregnancy loss, declining to 18% after nine months.

Most had been through an early miscarriage before 12 weeks - while the rest had had an ectopic pregnancy.

The women, who attended three London hospitals - Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea, St Mary's, and Chelsea and Westminster, completed questionnaires about their feelings over the course of a year.

One month following their loss, 24% had symptoms of anxiety and 11% of depression.

This reduced to 17% and 6% after nine months, the study found.

Facts about early pregnancy loss

  • One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage in the UK - with most happening early before 12 weeks
  • There are 250,000 miscarriages every year and 10,000 ectopic pregnancies
  • Miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks
  • An ectopic pregnancy is one that develops outside the uterus, or womb

Get information and support at BBC Action Line

Dr Jessica Farren, specialist registrar and clinical fellow at Imperial College London, said miscarriage could be a very traumatic experience.

"For some women, it's the first time they have experienced anything beyond their control.

"These can be profound events which stay with you."

Even though these losses are at a very early stage, "women are looking for validation for them", Dr Farren says.

Being told it's "only a bag of cells" is not always helpful.

Among a control group of women who had healthy pregnancies, 13% had symptoms of anxiety and 2% of depression one month after giving birth.

'Need for change'

The study recommends that women who have miscarried are screened to find out who is most at risk of psychological problems.

Counselling and support will help many women, but those with symptoms of PTS need specific treatment if they are going to recover, the research says.

This can range from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to medication, and should be given by a qualified professional.

An earlier, smaller study from 2016 found that early pregnancy loss could trigger symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

"For too long, women have not received the care they need following a miscarriage and this research shows the scale of the problem," says Jane Brewin, chief executive of miscarriage and stillbirth charity Tommy's.

"Miscarriage services need to be changed to ensure they are available to everyone and women are followed up to assess their mental wellbeing with support being offered to those who need it, and advice is routinely given to prepare for a subsequent pregnancy."