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15 Nov 22:30

Big News: Supreme Court To Hear Google v. Oracle Case About API And Copyright

by Mike Masnick

Some big news out of the Supreme Court this morning, as it has agreed to hear the appeal in the never-ending Oracle v. Google lawsuit regarding whether or not copyright applies to APIs (the case is now captioned as Google v. Oracle, since it was Google asking the Supreme Court to hear the appeal). We've been covering the case and all its permutations for many years now, and it's notable that the Supreme Court is going to consider both of the questions that Google petitioned over. Specifically:

1. Whether copyright protection extends to a software interface.

2. Whether, as the jury found, petitioner’s use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitutes fair use.

As you may recall, the Supreme Court refused to hear Google's appeal back in 2015, which was just focused on the first question above, regarding whether or not an API was copyright-eligible. So it's quite interesting to see that it will now review that question. As you may recall, after the Supreme Court refused to review that point, the case went back to the district court where Google's use of some of the Java API was deemed to be fair use, which was a funky sort of way for the jury to recognize that there never should have been copyright on the API in the first place.

To me, as I always point out in this case, the key element will be getting the Supreme Court to recognize that an API is not software. Oracle and its supporters keep trying to insist that an API and executable code are one and the same, and I worry that the Supreme Court will not fully understand the differences, though I am sure that there will be compelling amici briefs trying to explain this point to them.

You never can tell how the Supreme Court will come down on these issues. The court has been tragically bad on copyright over the past few decades (with a few exceptions). But it's also repeatedly smacked down bad rulings from the Federal Circuit, which is where this case is coming from. So perhaps that additional skepticism over CAFC's nutty interpretation of the law will help them review this issue carefully.



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15 Nov 20:48

Gay employee says salary was halved to be even with 'females in the office'

A gay man working at a New York events company has claimed in a discrimination lawsuit that his pay was halved so he would be on a par with “other females in the office”.

In the lawsuit against Eventique, a company that stages promotional events for companies including Nike, Twitter and Amazon, Wesley Wernecke claims his employers sought to alienate and degrade him after they learned he was gay, NBC news reported.

Wernecke claims that a week after he was hired in June, co-workers began to make comments on his “girly” engagement ring. Asked if his wife wore a similar ring, Wernecke replied that his partner, Evan, did.

It was then, he claims, that a tense office environment began to develop between him, co-workers and the company’s chief executive, CEO Henry Liron David. He was then excluded from meetings and after-work drinks with “the fellas”, passed over for assignments and subjected to discriminatory remarks.

Wernecke was then called into David’s office and told his salary was being cut by more than 50%, from $145,000 to $70,000.

“I couldn’t sleep at night thinking that you were being paid so much more than the other females in the office,” David is alleged to have told Wernecke. The CEO, the complaint alleges, “simply could not bear the thought that Eventique would continue to be represented by a gay man”.

Not long after, Wernecke found his salary had been cut more drastically to $58,000.

“David took pains to mark Wernecke as different from the other employees through these physical demonstrations,” the complaint alleges. The pattern of discrimination taxed Wernecke’s mental health and he began taking anti-anxiety medication to cope, he said. By October, he had been fired.

“Wesley was personally recruited by this employer to be a senior producer, and once [David] learned he was gay, the employer began shutting him out of the business,” Wernecke’s lawyer Anthony Consiglio told NBC News.

A lawyer for David and Eventique described the allegations as “baseless”.

15 Nov 20:46

Disturbing video shows an Arizona sheriff’s deputy body slam a quadruple amputee

by Alexia Fernández Campbell
An attendee looks at a new iPhone X during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theatre on the Apple Park campus on September 12, 2017 in Cupertino, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It all happened in a group foster home.

There was screaming, cursing, and a head slammed against the wall. A public defender called it “egregious.” Another called it “horrific.”

In a video that aired Thursday on Tucson’s KOLD news station, a white sheriff’s deputy is seen tackling and wrestling a black teen in foster care. The teen — an amputee with no arms or legs — repeatedly screams at the police officer to get off of him.

The sheriff’s deputy holds the boy in a headlock on the ground and curses in his face before arresting him for disorderly conduct. The deputy then screams at the teenager who was recording the scene, handcuffs him, and slams his head against the wall.

It was an extraordinary amount of violence against two defenseless youths — all in the span of eight minutes. The incident happened in September, but KOLD didn’t get a hold of the footage until this week.

According to KOLD, the Pima County sheriff’s deputy was responding to a call at a Tucson group home about a disruptive teenager. Yet his angry and violent response was striking, especially because the teens seemed to be behaving like, well, teenagers.

The sheriff’s office told KOLD that it is investigating the officer’s conduct, and state prosecutors have since dropped charges against the two youths. The incident is all too similar to other videos that have gone viral, showing police officers use excessive force against black men. But there was something particularly disturbing about watching a deputy mistreat such vulnerable children. As if they hadn’t been through enough.

Children in group homes have already experienced enough trauma

One of the most remarkable things about the latest incident was where it happened: in a group home for boys in foster care. These residential facilities are supposed to be safe places for some of country’s most troubled youths.

More than 23,000 children in the foster care system live in group homes like the one in Tucson. And they are far more likely to have experienced multiple forms of trauma in their short lives, according to research by the Casey Family Programs. For example, 55 percent have been physically abused, 40 percent have been sexually abused, 68 percent have been emotionally abused, and 62 percent have suffered a traumatic loss. A majority have mental health problems or physical disabilities.

Few details about the Tucson teenager have been released to protect his privacy, but KOLD said he was in a group home because he was abandoned by his parents. Little is also known about the group home where the incident took place, and there is no reason to believe there was abuse or neglect by caregivers.

However, reports of abuse and neglect of children in group homes are common. In Illinois, for example, a 2016 investigation by the Chicago Tribune described state taxpayer-funded group homes as “a system where caregivers often failed to provide basic care while regulators cloaked harm and death with secrecy and silence.”

The newspaper uncovered 1,311 cases of documented injuries, hundreds of which were not reported by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Residents were often deprived of food, forced to wear dirty clothing and restrained with duct tape.

The investigation prompted Congress to request and audit of group homes by the US Department of Health and Human Services. In 2018, the agency released its report, which found that children in these settings “often experienced serious injuries and medical conditions that resulted in emergency room visits.” The audits also revealed that 99 percent of those critical injuries were not reported to the appropriate law enforcement or state agencies, as required by law.

Foster children who live in residential facilities are already traumatized and at high-risk of abuse. These are children that need police protection, not mistreatment. Black young people, in particular, are already overexposed to police violence.

Exposure to police violence can have harmful effects on black and brown children

Children of color, like the two teens in Tucson, often have traumatizing encounters with police officers from a young age.

In recent years, a number of media stories have called attention to the ways that black children in particular are exposed to police violence, whether they are directly confronted by police, live in communities where police violence has occurred, or witness excessive force from law enforcement.

And research has shown that adults often see both black boys and girls as older, more deserving of suspicion, and less innocent than white children. This suggests that when it comes to policing incidents where black children are present, authority figures may not see these children as bystanders needing protection. In some cases, black children may instead be seen as suspects themselves, and are denied the presumption of innocence given to other children.

Witnessing police violence also affects their ability to trust officers and very likely shifts how they perceive themselves in many cases.

In April, a Florida sheriff’s deputy was been placed on restricted duty after a video showing him slamming a black teenager’s head into the ground and punching him went viral, fueling calls for the officer to be fired. Deputy Christopher Krickovich and another officer had approached a large group of high school students in a shopping center in Tamarac, and one of the boys was arrested for trespassing, according to a report submitted by the officers. Video footage taken by students at the scene shows the boy in handcuffs and a nearby officer push another boy back. As the boy moves, he is pepper-sprayed in the face. When the teen begins to walk away, the officer pulls him to the ground.

This kind of police aggression is all too similar to the deputy’s response in Tucson. Viral videos like these have done a lot to raise public awareness of the violence that black boys and men deal with on a regular basis. It’s just not enough to stop it from happening again.

15 Nov 18:35

Rockville Pike reopens after gas station fire | WTOP

Part of Rockville Pike in Rockville, Maryland, were closed fo nearly three hours after a two-alarm fire at a gas station sent smoke into the air that was visible for miles.

The Sunoco gas station on Hungerford Drive (Route 355) in Rockville caught fire on Friday morning at about 10:15. The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Department said that 85 firefighters responded in all, and that all workers at the station were evacuated and accounted for.

The road was closed between Montgomery College and downtown Rockville Town Center.

The fire was out as of about 11:40, and the road gradually reopened in the early afternoon. It fully reopened shortly after 1 p.m.

The fire sent up plenty of smoke, as several people noted:

This photo by Kensington Volunteer Fire Department Chief Thomas Jones shows the Rockville gas station fire Nov. 15, 2019. (Courtesy Thomas Jones)
Rockville Pike is closed due to the gas station fire. (Montgomery County Fire and Rescue/Pete Piringer)

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© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

15 Nov 17:10

Making the most detailed map of auto emissions in America

by Nathan Yau

Using estimates from the Database of Road Transportation Emissions, Nadja Popovich and Denise Lu for The New York Times mapped auto emissions at high granularity. Popovich described their process on Storybench:

I want to make graphics that really resonate with people. If that is your goal as a visual journalist, something to think through is just how you can tie data back to a more human experience. To kind of go past the dataset as a dataset and reveal the humanity of it. I think one way that you can do that is by zooming into it in this way. You suddenly don’t just see, “Oh, this line of emissions has gone up.” We set out for a more personal view that says, “You know, you can actually see the roads that you might be driving on every day. That’s where the emissions are coming from.” It ties it back to a much more human experience and makes the data less abstract. Thinking a lot more through how to tie (the data) back to human-lived experiences is something that is really important and really we found resonates with readership.

Tags: climate, human, Nadja Popovich

15 Nov 17:09

Roger Stone was just found guilty on all counts

by Andrew Prokop
Roger Stone, former adviser to President Trump, and his wife Nydia Stone arrive at court in Washington, DC, on November 15, 2019. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Stone’s trial was the highest-profile loose end remaining from the Mueller investigation.

The verdict is in for Roger Stone’s trial — and a Washington, DC, jury found President Donald Trump’s longtime political adviser guilty on all counts Friday.

Stone was convicted of one count of obstructing an official proceeding, five counts of making false statements to Congress, and one count of witness tampering.

The verdict makes Stone the sixth former Trump adviser to be convicted of or plead guilty to charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The special counsel indicted Stone in January, before completing his work, and Stone’s trial was the highest-profile loose end remaining from the probe.

Prosecutors alleged that Stone tried to obstruct the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election by lying to the committee about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks, and by encouraging another witness to lie for him.

The trial featured testimony from two other former top Trump campaign aides — Steve Bannon and Rick Gates. Both said that Stone repeatedly suggested he had inside information on WikiLeaks’s plans to release material that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.

 Alex Wong/Getty Images
Former White House senior counselor to President Trump Steve Bannon leaves court after testifying in Stone’s trial on November 8, 2019.

Gates gave testimony suggesting that Stone shared this information with Donald Trump himself. And Trump’s name came up frequently in the trial — prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky argued that Stone’s motivation for his lies and obstruction was that “the truth looked bad for Donald Trump.”

But what wasn’t really cleared up in the trial was whether Stone in fact had legitimate inside information about WikiLeaks and its posting of Democratic emails that had been hacked by Russian intelligence officers. To an extent, that makes sense — the charges against Stone weren’t about anything he did in 2016, but rather the alleged cover-up he perpetrated the following year.

The government presented voluminous documentary evidence that the story Stone told Congress — that all his WikiLeaks information came from a single “intermediary,” radio host Randy Credico — was false. And they suggested Stone concocted this false story to hide his true WikiLeaks connection — conservative author Jerome Corsi. But what, exactly, Corsi learned, and how he learned it, remain murky.

Stone, however, has now been convicted, and will be sentenced at some point in the coming months by Judge Amy Berman Jackson. He will likely try to appeal his case — and hope President Trump pardons him — but, as of right now, it looks like the legendary dirty trickster may well serve prison time.

Who is Roger Stone?

Stone has had a reputation for political shenanigans since he was a 19-year-old volunteer carrying out dirty tricks to embarrass Richard Nixon’s 1972 Republican primary opponent — something that earned Stone a minor role in the Watergate hearings.

As a Republican campaign operative, he worked for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole; as a highly paid lobbyist, he worked alongside his friend Paul Manafort for a host of seedy clients. And he’s long been known as a colorful character who rejoices in the dark side of politics: scandals, smears, division, and negativity. Journalists have called him “the state of the art Washington sleazeball” and the “boastful black prince of Republican sleaze.”

 Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images
Ronald Reagan and Roger Stone at the Chrysler Plant in Detroit, Michigan, on September 20, 1980.

Stone also, incredibly enough, spent nearly three decades trying to get Donald Trump for president before Trump actually went through with it. The two met in the mid-1980s, as Trump hired Stone and Manafort’s firm to do lobbying and PR for him. After Trump released his book The Art of the Deal in 1987, Stone urged him to consider running for president the following year, but Trump demurred. In 1999, Stone ran a presidential exploratory committee for Trump — but Trump again ended up not officially running.

The two had their ups and downs over the years (“Roger is a stone-cold loser,” Trump told the New Yorker in 2008, arguing he “always tries taking credit for things he never did”). But by 2011, as Trump mused about challenging President Barack Obama, Stone was egging him on again, urging him to spread conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace.

So when Trump finally did launch his presidential campaign in June 2015, Stone was on board as an official campaign adviser. But he didn’t last long. After clashing with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, he left his official role in August 2015.

Yet Stone remained in contact with Trump himself to some extent and continued to try to support Trump’s candidacy from the outside. And some of those outside efforts landed him at the center of the Mueller investigation, leading to his arrest and indictment this January.

The timeline of Stone and WikiLeaks

It was all the way back in spring 2016 that Stone began saying he knew that WikiLeaks had information coming that would damage Clinton, according to both Bannon (testifying under subpoena) and Gates (testifying as part of a plea deal he struck with the government).

Back then, Gates was the deputy Trump campaign chair, serving under his longtime boss Paul Manafort. Gates testified that he and Manafort were initially skeptical that Stone really knew what he was talking about.

But then, on June 12, 2016, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced that he had pending releases related to Clinton. Two days later, on June 14, the Democratic National Committee announced it had been hacked by the Russian government.

At the trial, the government revealed that Stone had called and spoken with Trump that same day (though it’s unclear what they discussed). Gates also testified that, the following day, Stone told him that more information was coming soon.

 Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Rick Gates, former associate to Paul Manafort, leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse after a hearing on February 23, 2018 in Washington, DC.

A little over a month later, on July 22, WikiLeaks posted the hacked DNC emails online. Gates testified that Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort then instructed him to keep in touch with Stone and find out what else he knew about WikiLeaks’s plans — so Trump could be briefed on them. On July 25, Stone emailed his associate Jerome Corsi, telling him to “get to Assange” and “get the pending WL [WikiLeaks] emails.”

Gates also testified that he witnessed a phone call between Trump and Stone in late July, while Gates was in a car with Trump driving to LaGuardia Airport. Gates said that he could not hear exactly what was said on the call but that after the call ended, Trump told him that “more information would be coming.” About an hour after the call, Stone emailed Corsi again, to say a friend of theirs in London should see Assange.

A few days later, on August 2, Corsi emailed Stone about what he said were Assange’s plans, and vaguely mentioned “Podesta” — a reference to John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair. (Podesta’s emails had been hacked, but that was not public knowledge at this point.) The next day, Stone emailed Manafort saying he had an idea “to save Trump’s ass.”

 Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Paul Manafort (right), former campaign manager for President Trump, arrives at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, on February 28, 2018.

Manafort was ousted from the Trump campaign in mid-August, and replaced by Bannon. Stone then emailed Bannon on August 18, saying he knew a way to win the 2016 election, but that “it ain’t pretty.” Bannon testified that afterward, Stone continued to suggest privately that he had a “relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.” Bannon added that the Trump campaign didn’t really have an official access point to WikiLeaks — but that the closest thing to that would have been Roger Stone.

Still, despite all of Stone’s ominous predictions, no one at the trial testified that Stone ever offered specific knowledge of WikiLeaks’s plans on timing or that he specified what information, exactly, they had in advance.

In any case, none of that was actually the focus of the charges against Stone.

The charges were about Stone’s alleged cover up

The government alleged that when the House Intelligence Committee asked him to testify in their Russia investigation in 2017, Stone concocted a false cover story to hide whatever actually happened.

Specifically, Stone omitted Jerome Corsi from the story, and claimed all of his information about WikiLeaks came from comedian and radio host Randy Credico. But, as prosecutors argued and Credico himself testified, that didn’t make sense with the timeline.

Credico did get in touch with WikiLeaks to do a radio interview with Assange, but that wasn’t until late August 2016 — months after Stone started claiming to know about WikiLeaks, and weeks after his emails with Corsi.

 Alex Wong/Getty Images
Randy Credico (center) speaks to reporters outside the U.S. District Court, on September 7, 2018.

Stone was also charged with falsely telling Congress he had no emails or texts discussing WikiLeaks (he had a ton); with falsely saying he never asked for any requests to be communicated to Assange (he did); and with falsely saying he never discussed his conversations with his WikiLeaks intermediary with anyone in Trump’s campaign (Bannon and Gates said he did talk WikiLeaks with them).

The fuller story of what happened with Stone and WikiLeaks remains unclear — but Mueller’s own conclusions are already in his 448-page final report on the Russia investigation, hidden under black bars.

That’s because all material about Stone in the Mueller report was redacted, to avoid prejudicing this trial’s outcome. Now that it’s over, we’re finally getting closer to learning what the special counsel found — and whether he thought any Trump associates were involved in the dissemination of hacked emails.

 Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Roger Stone, former advisor to President Trump, depart from the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse with his wife Nydia Stone, on November 14, 2019.

15 Nov 17:04

Trump attacked Marie Yovanovitch on Twitter during her testimony. She responded in real time.

by Aaron Rupar
Former US Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on November 15, 2019. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Even Fox News thought Trump’s tweets strayed dangerously close to witness intimidation.

Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch delivered a powerful opening statement during her testimony before House impeachment investigators on Friday. She detailed her decades of service as a diplomat, and expressed concern that her sudden ouster due to a Trumpworld smear campaign this past spring could have a chilling effect on those who are sincerely committed to rooting out corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere.

“I remain disappointed that the department’s leadership and others have declined to acknowledge that the attacks against me and others are dangerously wrong,” she said, alluding to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “The policy process is visibly unraveling ... the State Department is being hollowed out.”

Shortly after Yovanovitch concluded her opening statement, President Donald Trump responded to it by attacking her, going so far as to blame her for decades of civil unrest in Somalia. (Yovanovitch began her posting in Mogadishu in 1986, when she was about 28 years old.)

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” Trump tweeted. “Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”

In a second tweet, Trump touted his own “very strong and powerful foreign policy” before taking a shot at former President Barack Obama. But the irony is that just hours earlier, at a rally in Louisiana, Trump mocked and ridiculed William Taylor — the State Department official who testified before impeachment investigators on Wednesday and is currently serving as the acting ambassador to Ukraine.

And with regard to Trump’s claim that Ukrainian President Zelensky “spoke unfavorably about [Yovanovitch] in my second phone call with him,” a call summary released by the White House indicates that Trump brought her up and criticized her as “bad news,” and that Zelensky mostly just went along with what he was saying.

“She’s going to go through some things,” Trump said during that call, in a comment that Yovanovitch said during her testimony that she regarded as a “threat.”

“I wondered what that meant. It concerned me,” she said.

Shortly after Trump posted his tweets, the Democrat leading the impeachment inquiry, Rep. Adam Schiff, asked Yovanovitch to respond to them.

“Well, I don’t think I have such powers — not in Mogadishu, Somalia, not in other places,” she began. “I actually think that where I served over the years, I and others have demonstrably made things better for the US as well as for the countries that I’ve served in.”

Schiff went on to characterize Trump’s tweets as a form of witness intimidation.

“I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” he said.

Even Fox News’s Bret Baier thought Trump’s tweets were ill-advised. After Yovanovitch’s hearing adjourned for a break, Baier said that “this whole hearing turned on a dime when the president tweeted about her [in] real time and during the questioning Adam Schiff stopped the Democratic questioning to read the president’s tweet to her and get her response.”

“Now that enabled Schiff to then characterize that tweet as intimidating the witness or tampering the witness, which is a crime — adding essentially an article of impeachment in real time as this hearing is going on,” Baier continued. “That changed this entire dynamic of this first part of this hearing, and Republicans now are going to have to take the rest of this hearing to probably clean that up.”

During another Fox News segment, former independent counsel Ken Staff said Trump’s tweet showed “extraordinarily poor judgment” and “was quite injurious.” But one of the Republicans partaking in the impeachment inquiry, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), defended the president, saying he “has been frustrated with this relentless attack on him by the Democrats that started even before he was president. I think the American people can relate to the frustration.”


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

15 Nov 17:03

Exclusive: 2 Democrats are introducing a bill to ban corporate PACs

by Ella Nilsen
Congressman-elect Max Rose New York’s 11th Congressional District Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) for the 116th Congress stands outside the Longworth House Office building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Rose is introducing a new bill to ban corporate PACs along with Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA). | Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

More Democrats are ditching corporate PACs. A new bill would make that mandatory.

Two moderate House Democrats are introducing a bill aiming to root out corporate influence where it currently thrives: Washington, DC.

On Friday, Reps. Max Rose (NY) and Josh Harder (CA) will introduce the “Ban Corporate PACs Act,” which would ban for-profit corporations from being allowed to sponsor, operate, or fund PACs. Vox was given an exclusive first look at the legislation.

The bill’s co-authors see it as a necessary addition to the HR 1 — also known as the “For the People Act” — the vast anti-corruption bill that was House Democrats’ first priority after taking back the majority in 2018. HR 1 passed the House way back in early March, but it has gone nowhere as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vehemently opposes it.

“We always said HR 1 was just the beginning,” Rose told Vox in an interview. Rose called corporate PACs “legalized bribery” that “should not have a place in this town.”

His co-author, Harder, agreed. Nodding to the 2020 election, the members of Congress noted that while nearly all Democratic candidates running for president have taken a no-corporate PAC pledge, and multiple Democrats running for House and Senate have done the same thing — the idea should be mandatory.

The two members want this bill to be part of the House’s end-of-year agenda, but if it is passed in the House, it likely won’t go anywhere in the Republican controlled Senate. Still, anti-corruption reforms are incredibly popular with the American public across party lines.

“I think the impression a lot of folks have around the country is that Washington is a town controlled by corporate interests — there’s a lot of truth to that,” Harder told Vox.

Banning corporate PACs is becoming increasingly popular among Democrats

Rose and Harder’s bill calls for an outright ban of corporate PACs, which saw a resurgence after the US Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.

That decision made it clear the Supreme Court viewed money and outside spending in elections as free speech. And it paved the way for outside groups to spend unlimited sums of money on elections.

That’s ushered in a new political era in the United States, one where each election tops the amount of spending in the last. The 2016 election is the most expensive to date, costing over $6.5 billion (including Senate, House, and presidential campaigns). And the 2018 midterms were the most expensive midterms thus far, weighing in at over $5.7 billion for just Senate and House races.

Forswearing corporate PACs has become somewhat of a trend in the Democratic Party. At the beginning of the race, all Democratic candidates pledged they would not take corporate PAC money. A smaller group said they would not take Super PAC money, but some have been more open about their reliance on Super PACs, including newly minted presidential candidate Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts.

It’s not just at the presidential level; in 2018, close to 200 candidates for US House pledged to not take corporate PAC money. Watchdog outlet OpenSecrets noted most of those Democrats not only followed through on their promise of not accepting money from corporate PACs, but also that many times that decision didn’t disadvantage their fundraising because individual donors were so willing to give in the 2018 cycle.

For many of the freshman Democrats, like Harder and Rose, who campaigned on a no corporate PAC pledge, the culture of Washington was a bit of a shock. As House Democrats were rolling out HR 1 this spring, some freshman told Vox they were being approached by more senior members and pressured to ditch their promise.

“Mostly from members who have been here a long time ... a few of whom have been very dismissive and said, ‘You’re going to have to get rid of that,’” Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) told Vox this spring.

Harder, who beat Republican incumbent Jeff Denham in California’s 10th Congressional District, remembered going to what he thought was going to be a policy discussion shortly after arriving in DC as a new member of Congress.

“All it is is a whole row of lobbyists really eager to have conversations, and that’s basically been every day since,” Harder told Vox. “The peeks into it I’ve seen are really frustrating. It’s not just this is a corrupting influence, this is also a huge impediment to the things we want to get passed.”

And of course, Republicans have no such qualms about accepting corporate PAC money, which drives the arguments of some older Democrats who say their party needs to take it to stay competitive. Republicans in the Senate have also been an impediment to Democrats’ attempts at reform. McConnell has refused to take up HR 1 and similar bills, arguing it infringes on constitutionally protected free speech.

Rose, a freshman member of Congress representing Staten Island with a penchant for being blunt, sees it differently.

“Mitch McConnell has never met a corporate PAC, federal lobbyist, dark money outfit that he doesn’t immediately fall in love with,” Rose said. “He is not a supporter of the swamp, Mitch McConnell is the swamp.”

Anti-corruption bills are politically popular

If there’s one thing Democratic and Republican voters can agree on, it’s that Washington is corrupt and dysfunctional.

The belief there’s too much money in Washington goes across party lines. A 2015 New York Times/CBS poll found 84 percent of Americans thought money had too much influence in politics, and 66 percent believed wealthier Americans had more political influence.

Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” and pledges not to run on outside money that wasn’t his own were hugely popular in 2016. Come 2018, House Democrats crushed Republicans in a wave election as they hammered a message about cleaning up a “culture of corruption” that had run rampant in the Trump White House.

And although McConnell and Republicans oppose Democrats’ HR 1, the sweeping bill was politically popular, including with Independent voters. A January poll by End Citizens United poll found 75 percent of 2018 voters in battleground House districts said cracking down on Washington corruption was their top priority, followed by 71 percent who wanted to protect Social Security and Medicare, and 70 percent who listed growing the economy and jobs.

Furthermore, 82 percent of all voters and 84 percent of independents said they support a bill of reforms.

Since HR 1 could not be passed, Rose and Harder are hoping this smaller provision will be politically harder for the Republican-controlled Senate to ignore.

“This bill is a response to a feeling out in the country about who has power in Washington and who should have power in Washington,” said Patrick Burgwinkle, communications director for End Citizens United.

15 Nov 14:20

TLC: How we made (and survived) CrazySexyCool

By Mark Savage BBC music reporter

The cover of TLC's Crazy Sexy Cool Image copyright Arista Records
Image caption TLC were the first girl-group to get a Diamond record, representing sales of more than 10m

Twenty-five years ago, on 15 November 1994, TLC released CrazySexyCool - a pioneering blend of rap, soul and R&B that made them the best-selling female band in US history.

The title supposedly referred to the band's personalities: Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes brought the crazy, having recorded her vocals on day release from court-mandated rehab, after burning down her boyfriend's house in a jealous rage. Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, with her no-damns-given demeanour and raspy vocals, was effortlessly cool; while Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas was, for the sake of this anecdote, "the sexy one" (she also had an incredible voice and no shortage of attitude).

Propelled by the hit singles Creep and Waterfalls, it became the first album by a girl group to reach diamond status (representing 10 million sales) in the US. Globally, only the Spice Girls' Spice has sold more.

To mark the record's anniversary, the band have announced a one-off show at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire next June; and Chilli jumped on the phone to the BBC to talk about the making of the album; and how they ended up filing for bankruptcy after its release.

They started with the title and worked from there

Image copyright Arista Records
Image caption TLC in 1994 (L-R): Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas

Although the song Kick Your Game incorporates the phrase "crazy sexy cool" in its lyrics, the album's title predates the whole project.

"We went in letting producers know that this was the name - and that's how the album should sound," explains Chilli.

"CrazySexyCool was our version of I'm Every Woman. Every woman has a crazy or a sexy or a cool side. You can be all three, but one is definitely more prominent than the other."

What's the dominant characteristic for her?

"A-ha!" she exclaims with a hearty laugh. "It depends on the day. The crazy might be the more dominant one at times. But cool or sexy? I don't know. It just depends."

Waterfalls changed their career

TLC's signature song is a socially conscious ballad that tackles drug addiction and the HIV epidemic (making it the first number one single to mention the disease). It changed people's perception of the band, and earned them two Grammy nominations and MTV's Video of the Year award.

With its intricately-woven harmonies and rubber-band bassline, the track was evidence of the band's growing confidence in the studio.

"We were just beginning to understand how our vocals meshed together, with T-Boz's scratchy voice, my high notes and Lisa's rapping," she says.

"It didn't matter what type of song it was, once our voices got on there, it became a TLC record."

And what does "don't go chasing waterfalls" actually mean?

"Anything that's self-destructive, that's chasing a waterfall."

TLC knew the record would be a hit

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The group won two Grammys - best R&B album and best R&B performance - in 1996

"Making the album was a lot of fun. We didn't feel the pressure of the second album jinx - we were just excited to be in the studio coming up with new material," says Chilli.

"And I remember when we were done, a guy at Arista records said, 'It's a great album and you guys will probably sell a couple of million'.

"We were like, 'A couple of million? We're going to sell five million. At least'.

"But we weren't looking at it like, 'We think we're great'. We just knew it was special. It was one of those albums where you didn't want to skip to the next song. It's rare to have a project like that."

The album received Prince's blessing

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption TLC had previously covered Prince's Get It Up for the soundtrack to House Party 3

The song If I Was Your Girlfriend is a cover of a Prince single - originally an ode to his girlfriend Susanna Melvoin, in which he fantasised about switching genders so he could have the same emotional intimacy she shared with her best friend.

TLC's version loses those psychosexual complexities, but otherwise sticks fairly closely to Prince's version. Chilli says they were careful to be respectful for one important reason: Prince wanted to hear the finished version before giving his approval.

"The fact that Prince even allowed it to happen was a big deal because he never approved anybody doing covers of his songs," she says.

"It was always, 'No, no, no,' and we felt like it'd probably still be a no for us. So when he gave us the green light we were like, 'Whaaaat?!!'

"After that, all we cared about was, 'Is he going to be OK with it?' And it's so crazy because, of course, we don't sound like Prince. Tionne's scratchy voice certainly doesn't sound like his.

"But he heard it and he loved it, so that's all that matters."

Their first magazine shoot got them in trouble

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lisa Lopes [L] was sentenced to five years' probation and therapy at a halfway house after setting fire to her boyfriend's mansion

To announce the album's arrival, TLC gave an interview to Vibe magazine - the first time they'd met the press since Lisa Lopes torched the house of her football-playing partner Andre Rison.

"I'm looking at wardrobe they'd provided and they had police uniforms and fireman uniforms," recalls Chilli.

"Everything Lisa had done was behind me. I wasn't even thinking about it. It didn't even dawn on me that they were being a little ratchet about having that type of attire for us to choose from.

"So I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, we've got to wear this fireman stuff! This is so dope!' And of course that was the cover - TLC: Burning Up The Charts and Burning Down The House!

"Lisa was on probation and of course the judge saw it, so it was like we were just some little bad girls being nonchalant about this huge situation.

"But I swear it didn't occur to us until the magazine hit the stands and I said, 'Oh my gosh, we're in so much trouble!'"

Then the band held their boss hostage...

Image caption The scene was recreated for the 2013 TV movie CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story

Famously, TLC filed for bankruptcy shortly after CrazySexyCool was released. According to T-Boz, the record might have made $75m for their record company, but the bandmates were paid only $50,000 each.

Frustrated with being given conflicting information about who controlled their payments, the trio decided to go straight to the top - marching into their record label and holding Clive Davis, then President of Arista Records, hostage.

When the scene was recreated in a 2013 movie about their career, many fans thought it had either been exaggerated or invented.

"Oh no, honey, that was not fiction at all," laughs Chilli. "As a matter of fact, it was a little toned down for TV."

"We were hot [angry], because we didn't understand how we were selling all these records with nothing to show for it. So it was like, 'Alright, let's just go to the source'.

"We brought along some girls Lisa met when she was in the Diversion Center. These were big girls, huge and scary, and we put two outside Clive's office and one girl inside. And unless we gave them the nod, no-one could come in or out, no matter who it was.

"It was like a real movie and, looking back, I'm like, 'What were we thinking?' But we didn't have anything to lose."

Their financial troubles are over now

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The band went on to sell millions of copies of their third album, Fanmail, with a more equitable record contract

After the New York Police Department intervened, the stand-off with Clive Davis ended; but the band won, and their contracts were re-negotiated (filing for bankruptcy was actually a key step towards restructuring their finances).

In recent years, they've also re-recorded all their old songs, giving them ownership of the masters, and a greater share of royalties.

"Now, if anyone wants to license any of those songs, they can come to us, instead of going somewhere else," says Chilli.

They're ready to celebrate CrazySexyCool's anniversary

How the album has reached its silver anniversary is a mystery, says Chilli.

"My great-grandmother used to tell me when I was little, 'When you become an adult, the years will go by super-fast'. I didn't know what she meant when I was a kid, but I get it now!"

But she and T-Boz are ready to take the record back out on the road in 2020.

"We have a bunch of beautiful visual surprises and we're very proud of the hard work we've put into putting the show together, so we're very anxious for you to see it," she says.

Is it hard to perform the songs without Left Eye, who died tragically young in a car accident 17 years ago.

"We felt [her absence] more obviously right after she passed, when we had to continue to work," says the singer. "But over the years you heal. And I don't think you can ever heal 100%, 'cos that's our sister and we love her. But her memory lives on through us, and we don't look at it as a sad thing any more."

And what does she make of the rumours that TLC will make their Glastonbury debut next summer?

"Is that what you heard? I heard that too. That's what I'm hearing," she giggles, slyly.

"I'm hoping. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, legs crossed. Everything that it's possible to cross, it's crossed."

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

15 Nov 12:55

Officers shot and killed a black teen. They won’t be charged because of a “fleeing felons” law.

by Samantha Grasso
De’Von Bailey Colorado police AP/Colorado Springs Police Department

A grand jury found the shooting death of De’Von Bailey was justified.

The Colorado Springs police officers who shot and killed a black 19-year-old will not face charges, a grand jury ruled Wednesday. The use of lethal force in the death of De’Von Bailey, which had sparked protests over what appeared to be another case of police brutality from white officers against a black teenager, was found to be justified.

On August 3, two officers shot and killed Bailey after they stopped him and another man on the street and questioned them about an alleged armed robbery. Body-cam footage recorded Bailey running away from officers during the stop, who then shot Bailey in the back three times. He later died in the hospital. Officers found a gun in his pants immediately after shooting him, though attorneys for Bailey’s family argued the footage showed he wasn’t a threat to the officers.

According to District Attorney Dan May, the grand jury found that Bailey’s fleeing justified the officers’ shooting, citing state laws that protect police who shoot fleeing suspects. However, these statues are controversial, because they conflict with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that determined such shootings to be unconstitutional.

In October, May announced that a grand jury would be investigating whether to charge the officers who shot Bailey. Prior to the grand jury, Bailey’s death was investigated by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, then the District Attorney’s Office for review. However, Bailey’s family has long called for an independent investigation of the teen’s death, arguing that the law enforcement entities were too close. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and other elected officials echoed those calls.

“Our nation is grappling with difficult challenges concerning race and how we treat one another,” Polis said at a news conference at the time. “It is more important now at this moment in time that our law enforcement agencies go above and beyond to maintain public trust and confidence.”

The grand jury’s decision was a “no true bill,” which dismisses the defendants when a grand jury finds not enough evidence to charge them, according to a statement from Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski via CNN.

“This is the exact result that the process was designed to yield,” Mari Newman, an attorney representing the Bailey family, told Vox on Thursday. “When a tainted investigation is presented by a biased prosecutor, a grand jury can only come out one way. This is the very reason why we have called for an independent investigation and an independent prosecution from the beginning.”

Body cam footage of the police shooting outraged the community

Calls for justice rang louder after the release of graphic body-cam footage of Bailey’s death.

In August, 12 days after the shooting, the Colorado Springs Police Department released video of the 911 call and footage. According to the transcript and recording of the call, a man told the dispatcher that he was walking down a street when he was approached by two men who demanded whatever was in his pockets and then hit him. He said one of the men pulled out a gun and then took his wallet. He then walked to a nearby office to call the police and report an armed robbery. He mentioned he had a history with them and knew who they were.

In the body-cam footage from the same day, an officer gets out of his car and stops two men, asking them about a possible assault. Bailey appears to take a water bottle out of his pocket, then is told by the officer to keep his hands out of his pockets. The officer then asks them their names and tells them to put their hands up. He said that they had a report about two people with similar descriptions having a gun on them, and that the officers were going to search them for a weapon.

As a second officer walks up behind Bailey, Bailey begins running away from the officers. They run after him and tell him to put his hands up before shooting him in the back multiple times. Bailey falls to the ground. After the officers cuff Bailey and call for medical assistance, the officers find a gun in his shorts and cut the shorts off him.

Following Bailey’s death, protesters in Colorado Springs came out to decry gun violence and police brutality, saying Bailey was murdered and criticizing the police department for putting the officers who shot Bailey back on active duty. At one protest two days after Bailey’s death, two white men were arrested after they approached protesters and drew their guns. In September, protesters interrupted Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers’s State of the City speech with chants of “justice for De’Von,” and were pushed out of the banquet hall, then later removed from outside of the room by the police.

Colorado’s “fleeing felons” statute runs up against a Supreme Court decision

Despite arguments from Bailey’s family’s attorneys that the teenager didn’t pose a threat to officers when he fled, Colorado law often protects police who shoot suspects who are running away, according to the Denver Post. The statue itself is often referred as “fleeing felons,” though Bailey was but a suspect.

”If the officer has a reasonable belief that the person has used a deadly weapon in a crime and is still armed, they can use deadly force to prevent that person from being a fleeing felon with that deadly weapon,” May, the district attorney, told BuzzFeed News.

Colorado law supports this, upholding that cops can use deadly force if they “reasonably believe that it is necessary” to defend themselves or someone else from imminent harm, but it also goes a step further to protect cops in shooting suspects who flee. Specifically, Colorado cops can use lethal force to “effect an arrest or to prevent the escape from custody, of a person whom he reasonably believes...has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon.”

While supporters of the law argue that the statute prevents “fleeing felons” from getting away and perhaps further endangering their community, the Post points out that a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court case already determined the general shooting of fleeing suspects to be unconstitutional. In Tennessee v. Garner, the court ruled that law enforcement is in violation of a person’s constitutional rights when they shoot a fleeing suspect who isn’t an imminent threat.

According to the Post report from August, the Supreme Court ruling was cited by attorneys representing Bailey’s family as possibly applying to Bailey’s case. However, applying the ruling to Bailey’s case would have been difficult, according to Nancy Leong, a professor of the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.

“How do we know that the officer willfully violated someone’s rights?” Leong told the Post in an email at the time. “It’s quite rare for officers to be convicted under this statute.”

Newman told the Post that Bailey’s family intends to pursue civil litigation.

15 Nov 12:26

Regigigas EX Raids last from November 18th 2019 until January 7th 2020

by Zeroghan

Serebii just shared the following information on their website: “The Pokémon Company have confirmed the end date for Regigigas in EX Raids. With the first EX Raids for Regigigas starting on Tuesday next week, it is now confirmed that the EX Raids for Regigigas will run until January 7th 2020. At present we have no further details on what will replace it following that”

With this piece of information, we finally know when and how long Regigigas will be available in EX Raids. According to a tweet from Niantic Support, “Trainers who received an EX Raid Pass on November 9th PT will encounter Regigigas in their scheduled EX Raid! If you received an EX Raid Pass prior to that date, you will encounter Mewtwo.”.

Combining these two sources gives us the following: Regigigas is available as an EX raid boss from November 18th /19th 2019 until January 7th 2020.

That makes a fairly shorter EX raid cycle, but at least we won’t get bored. Head over to our Regigigas Raid Counters Guide and prepare yourself.

Pokemon GO RegigigasRegigigas

The post Regigigas EX Raids last from November 18th 2019 until January 7th 2020 appeared first on Pokemon GO Hub.

14 Nov 23:35

Will Google's Stadia Game Streaming Platform Be A Dud?

by Karl Bode

On November 19, Google is expected to finally launch the company's long awaited game streaming platform, Google Stadia. Stadia is being heralded as the vanguard of a new push to eliminate your local game console, and shift all of the computing and processing power to the cloud. The shift to game streaming is likely inevitable, the only problem is that Stadia may be a little ahead of its time. And, like so many Google projects (like Google Fiber), game developers are apparently worried that Google may waffle on its commitment to the project:

"The biggest complaint most developers have with Stadia is the fear is Google is just going to cancel it. Nobody ever says, 'Oh, it's not going to work.' or 'Streaming isn't the future.' Everyone accepts that streaming is pretty much inevitable. The biggest concern with Stadia is that it might not exist.

Granted, that same developer then proceeds to point out there's plenty of projects Google hasn't waffled on:

"if you think about it like that, that's kind of silly. Working in tech, you have to be willing to make bold moves and try things that could fail. And yeah, Google's canceled a lot of projects. But I also have a Pixel in my pocket, I'm using Google Maps to get around, I only got here because my Google Calendar told me to get here by giving me a prompt in Gmail. It's not like Google cancels every fucking thing they make."

Having watched Google promise massive societal transformation with Google Fiber only to have Alphabet bean counters suddenly cripple the project without admitting as much, the worries still aren't entirely unfounded. But while Google's ability to stick with ambitious projects is a worry, there are more pressing concerns facing the project's success. For one the launch lineup is fairly pathetic. There are only going to be twelve titles at launch, most of which (including three games from the Tomb Raider series) have already been out for years. As such, many view this as more of a proof of concept and a paid beta than a serious commercial launch.

But the biggest problem for Stadia, as we've mentioned previously, is America's shitty broadband connections.

Thanks to limited competition and negligent regulators, ISPs have imposed monthly usage caps as low as 150 GB on the nation's broadband lines. Stadia, according to estimates, can consume upwards of 15 gigabytes per hour at 4K resolution. Yeah, you can scale back the service to lower resolutions, but that defeats the idea of Stadia as any kind of symmetrical replacement for traditional game consoles.

ISPs, for their part, have spent years pretending that these caps are a good idea, despite the fact that even the industry has admitted they serve no real technical purpose outside of charging you more money for the same service. They're glorified price hikes only made possible by a lack of competition and regulatory capture. To try and make the limits seem generous, ISPs love to measure them based on how many emails you can send or web pages you can browse. Here's AT&T's breakdown from the company's website:

Whether Google is the company that will dominate the space or not, one thing is clear: ISPs are going to need a new schtick, and a lot of consumers are going to be surprised by the fact game streaming burns through broadband caps like popcorn shrimp.

Maybe Google succeeds in the space, maybe it doesn't. Maybe Google sticks with the project, or maybe like Google Fiber Alphabet execs get cold feet and hang up on developers mid-stride in a year from now. Either way, game streaming is likely inevitable. From Sony and Microsoft to Verizon (net neutrality and zero rating should prove interesting in the case of the latter), there are any number of companies eyeballing this space. Who's going to come out on top is far from clear, though what is clear is we're going to need better broadband for the idea to gain widespread commercial appeal.



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14 Nov 21:24

Should Doxxing Be Illegal?

by Mike Masnick

There has been a debate over the past few years about the legality of "doxxing," which would loosely be defined as identifying individuals and/or their personal information which they'd prefer to remain secret. This is coming up in a variety of contexts, including effort to unveil the whistleblower who first called attention to President Trump's questionable call with Ukraine's President. However, we also noted in passing, last week, that the new privacy bill from Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo contained an anti-doxxing clause, which states:

Whoever uses a channel of interstate or foreign commerce to knowingly disclose an individual’s personal information—

(1) with the intent to threaten, intimidate, or harass any person, incite or facilitate the commission of a crime of violence against any person, or place any person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury; or

(2) with the intent that the information will be used to threaten, intimidate, or harass any person, incite or facilitate the commission of a crime of violence against any person, or place any person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury,

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

At a first pass, you can certainly understand the thinking here. If you're looking to disclose someone's personal information in order to "threaten, intimidate, or harass" someone, that feels problematic. But, then again, what is meant by "intimidate or harass" in this situation could matter quite a bit. What got me thinking about this again was another news report, about people doxxing members of a defunct neo-nazi online forum:

The metadata of a now-defunct neo-Nazi message board that is considered the birthplace of several militant organizations—among them the U.S.-based terror group Atomwaffen Division—was dumped onto the internet by what appears to be anti-fascist activists.

The site, IronMarch, is widely associated with the rise of the new wave of white supremacist accelerationst groups advocating for armed insurgency against society. The site ran from 2011 to 2017 and garnered more than 150,000 posts while active. The dump of its inner workings includes the login names of its former members and their associated emails and IP addresses.

For fairly obvious reasons, many would likely argue that we should want those people identified. And while the report notes that efforts are underway to try to track down the identities of people who were active on this forum, and it could be argued that the intent behind figuring out who was on this forum is to "intimidate or harass" those individuals (for being Nazis), I think many people who might otherwise support these kinds of privacy laws might take issue with the idea that revealing these individuals as Nazis and/or Nazi sympathizers should be illegal.

And that, again, gets at part of the issue with legislating privacy. Context matters quite a bit, and it's pretty difficult to write context into the law. Yes, doxxing is often used in negative ways to harm, intimidate or silence people. But it can also be used to reveal people who are doing crazy stuff hidden behind a shield of anonymity.



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14 Nov 20:50

FTC head asks Congress for real privacy laws he can enforce

by Kate Cox
A man in a suit speaks into a microphone.

Enlarge / FTC Chairman Joseph Simons testifying about antitrust matters before a Senate committee in September 2019. (credit: Alex Edelman | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

In testimony before a House subcommittee Wednesday, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons renewed his call for Congress to pass new privacy legislation, telling representatives, essentially, he can't enforce a law that doesn't exist.

Simons was on Capitol Hill testifying in a hearing on "Online Platforms and Market Power," the probe the House Antitrust subcommittee launched in June to dig into Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

At the highest level, the FTC is responsible for basically two things: protecting competition and protecting consumers. To that end, it's one of the two bodies with antitrust oversight, sharing responsibility with the Justice Department for reviewing mergers and challenging anticompetitive behavior.

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14 Nov 20:41

DIY Pap Smears: How Doctors Allowing Patients to Participate in Exams Eases Anxiety and Trauma

Nothing unites those of us with vaginas like the universal hatred of a Pap smear. We might put off visiting the gynecologist for varied reasons; it’s awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes traumatic. But shifts in gynecological practice are allowing vagina owners to take parts of the procedure into their own hands — quite literally.

I experienced this myself last May while visiting my local Planned Parenthood for an annual exam and Pap smear. Lying on the exam table, I could feel my heart racing as the practitioner assembled a range of plastic tools on a metal tray. Then, she asked: “Would you like to insert the speculum?”

I sat up, confused. The practitioner explained she had been offering all patients the option to insert speculums themselves, a gesture that conveyed her respect for their autonomy and self-knowledge. The offer, she continued, made an otherwise uncomfortable moment slightly more tolerable.

“It’s about as easy as inserting a tampon,” she said. “A cold, hard tampon.”

The speculum is a long, cylindrical piece of plastic or metal used to “open” the vagina. During a Pap smear, which is recommended for people with vaginas who are 21 and older, a healthcare professional collects cells from the cervix, the lower, narrow part of the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina; the speculum allows the doctor to access this piece of female anatomy and insert a brush and/or small spatula to collect cells, which are then tested for cervical cancer.

Doctors have a few methods for making the speculum insertion more comfortable. Many use lubricant, while others try to keep the instrument warmed to avoid the shock of cold at the exam’s beginning. Despite well-intentioned efforts, there is little a doctor can do to ease the discomfort of pushing a plastic tube into the vagina, an act that can be both physically and emotionally complex.

“OB/GYNs probably have one of the most invasive exams,” said Huma Farid, MD., an OB/GYN and instructor in obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School, who authored a blog post called, “When a pelvic exam is traumatic.” Farid said she has not traditionally offered patients the option to place the speculum themselves, but she does ask whether they want to insert transvaginal ultrasound probes. “I think control is the most important thing that we can give back to our patients... I think [patients inserting the speculum] might be slightly harder because ... they may be able to insert it, but it may not be far enough, and I have to still open the speculum, so I typically will say that I am going to insert the speculum but if they really have concerns about it, I will let them try."

Whether a patient wants to insert the equipment on their own, having the option can help regain some control over the process. In the doctor’s office, even the acknowledgement of autonomy — that a patient knows their body and how it responds to stimuli — can change the trajectory of the appointment.

“I know how to get [the speculum] in there in a way that won’t shock or hurt me,” said Shelby Holte, 25. Last year, Holte spent 10 months hunting for a chronic illness diagnosis, and in the process, she realized the importance of autonomy in the doctor’s office. “If the option to insert the speculum were a standardized offer, it would give any patient the peace of mind that comes with knowing that, no matter who else in the room, she is in charge of what takes place.”

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Other women are finding strength in variations of this option. Breanna, 27, who asked that her last name be omitted, had a bad experience during a gynecological exam. She had been dealing with extreme pelvic pain, which was later diagnosed as endometriosis and adenomyosis. “I couldn’t use tampons because they were too painful, so I was nervous for the pelvic exam to begin with,” she said. “I just remember screaming, it was so painful, and [the doctor] coldly telling me to relax, which was extremely unhelpful. It felt like I wasn’t in control of what was happening to my own body.” Breanna eventually switched to a new practitioner, who used a smaller pediatric speculum upon Breanna’s request. It made a world of difference. “It felt like I was being listened to and respected,” said Breanna. “It still ended up being quite a painful procedure, but she checked in with me throughout and made sure if I needed to take a break, I could. She told me exactly what she was about to do, so I felt in control.”

Farid said that pelvic exams can be especially uncomfortable for trauma survivors. “Even a well-meaning gynecologist could still retraumatize a patient. I mean, you’re half naked, you’re in a cold room, you’re in these cold metal stirrups. If you’ve experienced trauma, it becomes even worse, even if the gynecologist is super kind and trying to do all the right things.”

Agnieszka Karoluk, 29, has experienced this first-hand. A survivor of sexual violence, Karoluk was afraid to let anyone touch her, especially doctors she didn’t know. The first pelvic exam she had after being assaulted was at Planned Parenthood, and she explained that the staff asked for consent before each step of the exam. “They were very professional and didn’t focus too much on my assault, but rather on finishing my tests with consent throughout,” she explained. “I have never experienced that before, and it felt very empowering.”

Courtney Benedict, associate director of medical standards implementation at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said all Planned Parenthood care is designed to empower rather than alienate, requiring practitioners to undergo cultural sensitivity and sexual violence training before having contact with patients. “Trauma-informed care centers the patient in all of the decision making that happens in the visit,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re as supportive as possible and that patients feel in control of the examination to whatever extent they can.”

Karoluk said that she would jump at the opportunity to insert a speculum herself. She compared the idea to using menstrual cups, which helped her feel in control of her body and menstrual cycle. “I can imagine that inserting a speculum myself would have a similar effect,” she said. “Sure, it’s easier to have the doctor insert it, but the feeling of empowerment I imagine I would get from this would outweigh the benefits of a quick, non-involved exam.”

Farid said this kind of reaction is typical of trauma survivors. “If you think about someone who has experienced trauma, a lot of their control has been wrestled away from them,” she said. “Once you give a woman control of her own body during the exam, you’re telling her that this is a safe space. I really emphasize their control over the exam rather than me doing something to them. It is something in which we are participating together.”

Whether a person has experienced sexual trauma, had a bad pelvic exam experience, or is scared to have their first Pap smear, Farid encourages them to ask about ways in which they can participate in the process. “There used to be this patriarchal culture of medicine. The doctor knew what was best, and they gave orders for patients to follow,” she said. “But now, there’s more of an attitude of reciprocity. This shared decision-making allows doctors and patients to arrive at conclusions together, allowing the patient to feel more actively involved in their healthcare and the doctor to better understand what the patient needs.”

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Not all OB/GYNs offer the opportunity to insert the speculum by default, but there are a few things patients can do to improve their own experiences.

Ask about who is going to be in the exam room.

“When you make any kind of medical appointment, it feels like there is always somebody new involved,” said Holte. “Hanging this level of uncertainty on a vulnerable type of appointment, such as with an OB/GYN, is fair cause for anxiety.” Farid noted that an easy way to address this anxiety is to have everybody in the room, including any residents in the room for training, introduce themselves and explain why they’re there. “It makes a huge difference,” she said.

Decide how much information and transparency you want within the exam.

“I always ask whether patients want me to tell them exactly what I’m doing, or if they prefer, I just do it and give a broad overview,” said Farid. She also mentioned that she has had patients who feel more comfortable when they can see her face and what she is doing.

If it is your first OB/GYN visit, or if you’ve had a bad prior experience, communicate that to your doctor.

This can indicate to the doctor that they should slow down and explain more steps to the process. Benedict explained an encounter she had with a patient in her 40’s, who scheduled an appointment for a well person check-up. The patient told Benedict she had never had a Pap test and that her only prior sexual experience was a rape she had experienced as a teenager. “We talked through the exam, looking at and having her hold the speculum and the swabs we use for the Pap test,” Benedict remembered. She offered the patient the opportunity to insert the speculum, but when she noticed she was having a hard time, Benedict suggested she take a plastic speculum home to practice. “She came back a few weeks later [after practicing] and was able to insert it herself. I then collected the Pap test successfully.”

Do what you need to do to relax.

“You can be on your phone, play some music, go on social media,” Farid said. “But women sometimes just want to be present. They want to be told exactly what’s happening, and I respect that either way, whether they want to be on their phones, to play music, or be told exactly what’s going on.”

Ask your doctor if you can dictate the exam.

“What’s often missing in these visits is that people feel like they’re not in control and that something is being done to them,” explains Farid. “You let me know when it’s okay for me to start the exam and when you need a break. We’ll remove everything from the vagina, and we can stop and take a break.”

Back in May, I decided to let my practitioner insert the speculum, but the exam still felt comfortable; for the first time in my reproductive health experience, I felt like a doctor respected what it was like to be on the other end of the speculum. While I may never look forward to pelvic exams, I now know I can dictate my level of comfort. That, in and of itself, is a relief.

14 Nov 20:40

This Algorithm Can Remove the Water from Underwater Photos, and the Results are Incredible

by DL Cade

An engineer has developed a computer program that can, in her words, “remove the water” from an underwater photograph. The result is a “physically accurate” image with all of the vibrance, saturation and color of a regular landscape photo.

The technology, called Sea-thru, was developed by oceanographer and engineer Derya Akkaynak while she was a post-doctoral fellow under Tali Treibitz at the University of Haifa, and it has the potential to revolutionize underwater photography. While “remove the water” isn’t the most scientific explanation for how the technology works, as you can see in the Scientific American feature above, that’s more or less what it does.

By automatically removing the color cast and backscatter caused by the way light moves through a body of water, she’s able to capture underwater landscapes as they would look to the human eye on dry land—in other words: if all the water were gone.

Akkaynak and Haifa created Sea-thru by capturing “more than 1,100 images from two optically different water bodies,” each of which include her color chart. These photos were then used to train a model that compensated for the way light is both scattered and absorbed by water.

“Every time I see a reef with large 3D structures, I place my color chart at the base of the reef, and I swim away about 15 meters,” explains Akkaynak. “Then I start swimming towards the reef, towards the color chart, and photograph it from slightly different angles until I get to the reef.”

Once trained, the color chart is no longer necessary. As Akkaynak helpfully explained on Reddit, “All you need is multiple images of the scene under natural light, no color chart necessary.”

This sample image, published alongside the research paper explaining this technique in detail, shows you just how incredible Sea-thru really is:

To be clear, this method is not the same as Photoshopping an image to add in contrast and artificially enhance the colors that are absorbed most quickly by the water. It’s a “physically accurate correction,” and the results truly speak for themselves. And while this technology was developed with an eye towards scientific uses, we can only imagine the results it would produce if shared with incredible National Geographic photographers like Paul Nicklen…

To see the algorithm in action and learn more about how Akkaynak was able to achieve this, watch the Scientific American feature up top. And if you want to dive into the nitty gritty of how this algorithm was developed and how it works, you can read the full research paper on Sea-thru here.

14 Nov 18:11

Google Maps translate feature will speak local place-names

by Ron Amadeo
This new speaker button in Google Maps will verbally speak the location's name and address.

Enlarge / This new speaker button in Google Maps will verbally speak the location's name and address.

Traveling the world but don't speak the local language? Google Maps should be a bit more useful soon, thanks to some new integration with Google Translate.

Typically if you're in a foreign-language country, Google Maps will show the English place-name followed by the name in the local language below it. Sometime this month, Google Maps will get a new speaker button next to the local place-name, which will fire up Google Translate's text-to-speech engine. Until now, if you needed to communicate with a driver or ask for directions, you might have handed over your smartphone and let them read the screen. Now, though, you'll be able to have your phone shout out the pronunciation in a synthesized Google Translate voice, or you can practice pronouncing the name yourself beforehand.

This all happens in a new pop-up window, which lets your phone speak the place-name or address in the local language.There's also a handy "get more translations" button at the bottom, which will kick you out to the full Google Translate app. The language selection is all based on the locale chosen in your system settings, which is then compared to the local language of the place you're looking up.

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14 Nov 18:09

Impeachment hearing reveals major White House phone security fail

by Sean Gallagher
US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland's phone conversation with President Trump in June was overheard by embassy staffers with Sondland at a Kiev restaurant (and probably by other countries' intelligence services).

Enlarge / US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland's phone conversation with President Trump in June was overheard by embassy staffers with Sondland at a Kiev restaurant (and probably by other countries' intelligence services). (credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

In testimony yesterday before the House Intelligence Committee, diplomat William Taylor said that he had recently learned of a phone call between George Sondland—the US ambassador to the European Union—and President Donald Trump. Taylor, the senior diplomat for the US in Ukraine, said that his staff overheard Trump during a call with Sondland while at dinner with the ambassador at a restaurant in Kiev.

The contents of that discussion—that Trump asked Sondland about "the investigations" Trump wanted Ukraine to conduct as an alleged condition of releasing military aid—may or may not be damaging to the president's case that he was not seeking foreign assistance for his 2020 presidential campaign. But as anyone in national or diplomatic security will attest to, an open phone call between the president and an ambassador regarding topics of diplomatic interest in a public place like a restaurant—a place where any foreign intelligence organization could be monitoring for collection purposes—would be a major breach of operational (and national) security.

This is not the first time that the administration has let issues of national security play out before a public audience. In February of 2017, President Trump consulted with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regarding a North Korean ballistic missile test and made phone calls from the restaurant of his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, in plain view and within earshot of other diners—some of whom essentially live-streamed the situation from their cell phones. A few months later, Trump shared intelligence data with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in an Oval Office meeting concerning an Islamic State plot to bring down passenger planes with laptops turned into bombs.

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14 Nov 16:31

Why Donald Trump Jr.’s bestselling book has a dagger beside it. Yes, a dagger.

by Jonny Diamond

Briefly, should you have to argue with a relative this Thanksgiving about the actual popularity of Donald Trump Jr.’s number one New York Times bestseller, Triggered, please note the dagger beside the listing. This dagger, you can tell cousin Jared, means that a significant number of the books sales are a result of “Institutional, special interest, group or bulk purchases,” which likely means (at least in the case of conservative titles) that a right-wing think tank of some variety has bought pallet-loads of the book; maybe they’ll stick them in gift bags, maybe they’ll sneak them into libraries, maybe they’ll just skip the middle man by having them pulped.

And this is how the publishing industry launders dark money. For more on the ways in which people goose bestseller lists, see this deep dive by Emily Temple.

14 Nov 15:16

Congress Says The FCC Is Trying To Run Out The Clock On Wireless Location Data Scandals

by Karl Bode

US wireless carriers have spent much of the last year under fire for hoovering up your location data, then selling that data to any nitwit with a nickel. More recently they've been busted even selling access to E-911 location data, which is increasingly even more accurate in tracking users than traditional GPS. We've noted repeatedly that lax ethical standards result in this data often being abused by dubious third parties, or used illegally by law enforcement or those pretending to be law enforcement.

Throughout these evolving scandals, the Trump FCC hasn't done anything to ensure the public this is being adequately looked into. There's been no critical statement about this practice issued by the FCC, and despite some early hints at a potential investigation, there's been zero public traction of any kind. Last week, some lawmakers wrote to the FCC boss Ajit Pai calling him out for doing nothing in response to the scandal:

"We write regarding our growing concern that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is failing in its duty to enforce the laws Congress passed to protect consumers’ privacy. This Committee has repeatedly urged you to act quickly to protect consumers’ privacy interests, and unfortunately you have failed to do so."

The apathy is particularly interesting given the Trump administration's frequent hyperventilation on privacy when it's Facebook or some other, large Silicon Valley giant in the crosshairs. Given the FCC hasn't done much of anything about other major scandals haunting the telecom sector (like SIM hijacking leading to cryptocurrency theft), this kind of apathy toward telecom misbehavior isn't surprising. But when it comes to the location data scandals, lawmakers suggest the FCC is trying to run out the clock so that wireless carriers can't be held accountable under FCC guidelines:

"Despite announcing that it began an investigation into the wireless carriers after being made aware of the allegations in 2018, the FCC has failed, to date, to take any action. And now time is running out since the statute of limitations gives the FCC one year to act.

We write regarding our growing concern that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is failing in its duty to enforce the laws Congress passed to protect consumers’ privacy. This Committee has repeatedly urged you to act quickly to protect consumers’ privacy interests, and unfortunately you have failed to do so."

While wireless carriers have insisted they've stopped collecting and selling this data, nobody has bothered to actually independently confirm that. Nobody's really been able to answer what happens to the troves of location data these companies have been collecting for the better part of the last decade, either. Have carriers really stopped monetizing your every waking movement? Are they still monetizing a decade's worth of your daily habits? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Like so many tech policy issues (net neutrality comes quickly to mind), this will be idiotically framed as a "he said, she said" partisan issue by lawmakers and many media outlets, resulting in the Republican FCC only doubling down on what they'll insist is "unfair partisan criticism." But that doesn't really address the fact that we're doing little to nothing about one of the biggest privacy scandals in the last decade. Nor does it really speak to the fact that when it comes to consumer privacy, the telecom sector is every bit as terrible as giants like Facebook -- which now enjoy a myopic level of consternation in the DC policy space to the exclusion of all else.



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14 Nov 14:23

How Donald Trump is using Facebook to amplify his fight against impeachment

by Emily Stewart
Left to right: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Vice President Mike Pence listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting of technology executives at Trump Tower in New York City on December 14, 2016. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook is making millions off of impeachment ads from Trump, his allies, and his adversaries.

Donald Trump is angry about impeachment and he wants his supporters to be, too — and he’s spending millions of dollars to make that happen.

Trump’s campaign is leaning heavily into Facebook advertising in his reelection bid, including when it comes to defending him against House Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry. Since his first Facebook ad on the subject in September, Trump has spent about $1.6 million on Facebook posts addressing impeachment — his most expensive topic besides himself.

And instead of trying to persuade voters who live in the states that will decide 2020, he appears to instead be trying to rile up his base (and get their information if he doesn’t already have it). His campaign is using Facebook ads as a way to reinforce the narrative cycle from the White House, Republican lawmakers, and conservative media that impeachment is a political plot against the president by Democrats. His ads, by and large, don’t deal with the substance of the allegations — that he and his administration tried to leverage US foreign policy to convince Ukraine to investigate a personal political rival — and instead push conspiracies. They are a way for the president’s reelection campaign to build voter lists, streamline in potential volunteers and donors, and keep public opinion from swinging too far out of Trump’s favor.

 Whitney Saleski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Trump held a “Keep America Great” rally at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky on November 4, 2019.

More broadly, Trump’s impeachment strategy on Facebook highlights the enormous amount of resources he has not only to fight back against Democrats in Congress but also his eventual 2020 Democratic presidential opponent.

“This is a battle over public opinion,” said David Gergen, an adviser to four presidents, including the two who most recently faced impeachment, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Facebook itself has grown into a formidable political platform in recent years, with campaigns and outside groups spending $284 million on the platform during the midterm elections, according to a report by Tech for Campaigns, a nonprofit that helps political campaigns with digital tools. While that’s just a small share of Facebook’s overall ad revenue, it’s a growing chunk of what campaigns are spending to reach constituents.

The site itself is a place of rampant political disinformation, providing a platform for fake news to flourish and even for foreign actors to actively try to impact a US election. More recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has doubled down on allowing politicians to circulate political ads with lies, with predictably disastrous results. In October, Facebook was criticized for refusing to take down a Trump ad that falsely accused former vice president Joe Biden of promising Ukraine money for firing a prosecutor investigating a company with ties to Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

Facebook has been firm in saying it will allow lies within political ads.

Recode used Facebook ad data collected by Democratic consultancy Bully Pulpit Interactive to decipher how much Trump is spending, who he’s talking to, and what kind of messaging he’s using when it comes to impeachment. We also looked at what some of the other big spenders on impeachment advertising are saying. On an already divisive issue, it seems Facebook users are seeing ads designed to divide them even more. This is how Facebook has always functioned, despite promises to improve, including after the 2016 election.

“The battle lines are pretty drawn here between Republicans and Democrats, particularly around impeachment,” said Daniel Kreiss, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism.

Trump is talking about impeachment to older voters in big states

Trump ran his first impeachment ad on Facebook on September 24, the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced a formal impeachment inquiry into the president, calling the proceedings a “WITCH HUNT.”

A version of the first impeachment ad Trump ran on Facebook on September 24, 2019.

The next day, Trump spent the most on a single impeachment-related Facebook ad buy, $335,430. The ad posed the impeachment as an effort to “take YOUR VOTE away.”

A version of an ad purchased as part of Trump’s largest impeachment-related ad buy.

Since running that first ad, Trump has spent a small fortune on impeachment ads — nearly 30 percent of his total Facebook ad spend in that time. He’s geared that spending toward the most populous — though not likely to flip — states: Texas, California, Florida, and New York.

The vast majority of that ad spending — 90 percent — was aimed at people over the age of 35, with nearly 30 percent of that spending geared toward people 65 and over. That’s even older than the demographic for Trump’s typical Facebook ads. Fifty-five percent of his impeachment ad spending was aimed at men, 45 percent women — more skewed toward men than the rest of Trump’s Facebook advertising.

When people click through on the ad, most of the time they’re asked to input their name, zip code, email address, and phone number — information that will get them into the Trump campaign’s database. It’s part of the Trump campaign’s “engagement ladder,” said Rory McShane, a Republican political consultant, for later sending emails asking for donations and potentially getting backers to volunteer for the campaign, knocking on doors or making phone calls, and later to ultimately vote.

Many of Trump’s impeachment ads on Facebook are meant to help the campaign expand its email list, which it will use later on to fundraise.

“He views the impeachment messaging as a way to fire up his supporters and mobilize his base,” Kreiss said. “Digital ads are huge mobilization and organizational tools, particularly at this stage in the race.”

What Trump is not doing is focusing impeachment ads — or Facebook ads in general — at the voters in the states that helped him win the electoral college in 2016 and will probably matter again in 2020, such as Wisconsin and Michigan. Part of the explanation is that it’s really early to be spending money on persuasion ads. But Trump is also testing out messaging that he might eventually use to target people in those states to see what resonates most with different demographics. Given how polarized an era we live in, campaigns such as Trump’s lean heavily into trying to get people who already like him engaged and out to vote, and getting them riled up helps that. And that’s what Facebook’s algorithm is built to do: keep people engaged, often with content that reinforces their views or prompts a strong reaction.

“This goes to the changing American electoral strategy” of motivating the base rather than targeting people who might be persuaded, McShane said. “The swing voter is dead.”

“It’s easier to rile up the bases than it used to be,” said Matt Grossmann, a political science professor at Michigan State University.

Trump wants to reinforce his narrative on impeachment — and keep the polls and Republican lawmakers in check

Trump has basically one strategy for his presidency: fight back all the time and cede no ground to his critics. On impeachment, it’s no different. His message has been that this is a political ploy by Democrats to undermine him and that he’s done nothing wrong, despite evidence, including witness testimony and a transcript released by the White House itself, that Trump withheld US military aid to Ukraine in an effort to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to open investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

According to a FiveThirtyEight average of impeachment polling, 48 percent of Americans support impeaching Trump and 44 percent oppose. When you break that down by party, 83 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of independents, and 10 percent of Republicans support impeachment. That support has grown in the almost two months since Pelosi announced the inquiry, and if public opinion swings more in favor of impeachment than it is currently, that could make it easier for Republicans to vote against the president and alleviate some of the pressure on moderate Democrats from their constituents.

 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Trump talks to journalists while departing the White House on November 4, 2019.

But Trump has an elaborate apparatus in the Republican Party and outlets such as Fox News to back him up. Facebook is just one more bulwark.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said that Trump’s strategy on impeachment puts pressure on Republicans to hold the line. The House, in which Democrats have a majority, ultimately decides whether to impeach Trump, and a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which Republicans control, would be required to convict him and remove him from office.

Politico reported in October that Trump is using the promise of fundraising help for Republican senators in the hope of keeping them in line.

Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster and columnist, pointed out that the states Trump is targeting are home to multiple congressional races that Cook Political Report currently rates as leans or toss-ups for 2020. And right now, there are basically just three Senate Republicans who aren’t wholeheartedly defending President Trump on impeachment: Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT).

“It’s not only about making sure that Republican base voters are motivated to vote in the general election but also to make sure that those voters will side with Trump over any dissident House or Senate Republicans who might cross the president,” Kondik said.

Trump has a lot of money to spend on impeachment and to get himself reelected

Incumbent presidents always have an advantage over their opponents. Barack Obama did in 2012 and Trump does now. And he is taking advantage of it.

Trump filed for reelection on the day of his inauguration in 2017 and has never really stopped running for president. He also has a vast campaign infrastructure and millions upon millions of dollars behind him. At the end of the third quarter of this year, his campaign had $83 million in cash on hand. The best-funded Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders, has $33 million.

By the time there is an actual Democratic nominee next summer, Trump will have been running for reelection for three-and-a-half years. With Facebook ads, his campaign is figuring out what does and doesn’t work with voters and supporters, including on impeachment.

Trump is also facing a different scenario from Nixon and Clinton. Neither was running for reelection during impeachment processes against them — and neither had so much cash with which to push back. “He’s had much more of a big-money, big-advertising campaign than we saw with either Nixon or Clinton,” Gergen said.

Lots of people are running Facebook ads on impeachment

Trump is hardly the only figure running impeachment-related ads on Facebook — multiple candidates, political groups, and even a spice store are doing the same. According to data from Bully Pulpit, the top 15 Facebook advertisers on impeachment have spent $6 million since Bully Pulpit began collecting this data in late March, with the top seven spenders beyond Trump being pro-impeachment group Need to Impeach, its billionaire founder and now 2020 presidential candidate Tom Steyer, spice company Penzeys, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), pro-Trump nonprofit America First Policies, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and progressive strategy group Acronym.

And much like Trump, each group’s messaging and targeting around impeachment reveals information about their broader strategies.

Need to Impeach is the biggest spender on Facebook impeachment ads at $1.8 million since March, (though its spending has slowed down since Steyer entered the presidential race and started directing his resources elsewhere). More than half of its ad spend is targeted at people under the age of 35.

A Facebook ad paid for by Need to Impeach asking people to sign a petition to call for Trump to be impeached.
Need to Impeach paid for ads run on Tom Steyer’s Facebook page. He’s now running for president.

Steyer himself has spent almost $700,000 on impeachment ads, starting soon after he announced he would run in July. Three of the four states he’s spending the most in are early primary states in the 2020 presidential race — South Carolina, Iowa, and Nevada — an indicator he’s trying to persuade Democratic voters there and remind them he’s been on the impeachment train for a long time. Warren, who called for Trump’s impeachment after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report this spring, is dedicating most of her Facebook impeachment spend to states with a lot of people. She’s list-building. And while her original messaging was around the Mueller report, she is now also running ads on the current impeachment inquiry in Congress.

An Elizabeth Warren Facebook ad calling on the House to vote on articles of impeachment.
Elizabeth Warren has been calling for Trump’s impeachment since the Mueller report’s release. Now, her Facebook ads are focused on the current inquiry.

Acronym, which is planning on a $75 million digital ad campaign to counter Trump this election cycle, is targeting the states Democrats most need to win if they want to defeat him next year: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin. They’re trying to head off some of Trump’s incumbent advantage while the 2020 candidates duke it out in the primary. “We can’t afford not to do this work right now,” Acronym CEO Tara McGowan recently told the New York Times. Their ads are largely advancing Democratic arguments on impeachment — that Trump asked the Ukrainian president to interfere in US elections and there is support for an inquiry.

A Facebook ad asking if Trump crossed the line on impeachment run by Project Sunshine, an Acronym campaign.
Acronym has paid for impeachment ads run under a campaign called Project Sunshine.

On the Republican end of things, America First Policies has been running Facebook ads aimed at many Democratic members of Congress whose seats Republicans are trying to flip in 2020. It has also run ads telling people in Florida, which Trump won in 2016, to “help stop the impeachment plot” and register to vote. McConnell, like Warren and Trump, seems to be more list-building and base-riling than he is voter-persuading — he’s spending the most on ads in Texas, Florida, California, New York, and Ohio (his home state of Kentucky, where he’s up for reelection in 2020, is his ninth-biggest spend), and his ads are attacking House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and hyping up the importance of keeping the Republican majority in the Senate to stop Democrats.

A version of an impeachment ad taken out as part of Penzeys Spices biggest ad buy.

And then there’s Penzeys, the Wisconsin-based spice company that has raised eyebrows with its heavy spending on Facebook ads on impeachment. The ads are a mix of product offerings, email list sign-ups, and swipes at Trump. And owner Bill Penzey says the messages are playing with customers. “The reason we spent so much is that this ad has worked better than any ad we’ve ever placed,” he told Fox Business in October.

It appears Facebook impeachment ads are a winning game for a lot of people — or at least they’re hoping so.

14 Nov 13:40

Gather round for a feast of November events!

Pokémon GO

Trainers,

As the year draws to a close, we’re excited to let you know about the Pokémon GO events on the horizon! Look forward to in-game festivities that will explore Pokémon types, introduce you to Legendary Pokémon, and celebrate friendship during this joyful time!

Supereffective Week

Did you know that Fairy-type moves are super effective in battle against Fighting-type Pokémon? Or that Psychic-type Pokémon are weak to Bug-type moves? Take part in Supereffective Week to learn more about Pokémon types, and you might discover an exciting Pokémon to partner up with in battle against Team GO Rocket!

Date + Time

Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at 1 p.m. PST to Tuesday, November 26, 2019, at 1 p.m. PST (GMT −8)

Features

  • Pokémon that might be strong partners in battle against Team GO Rocket and other Trainers will be appearing more often in the wild, in raids, and in Field Research!
  • If you’re lucky, you might encounter a Shiny Tentacool.

Bonuses

  • 2× Stardust from Trainer Battles
  • More Potions and Revives from PokéStops
  • Guaranteed Charged TM from three-star raids

Terrakion charges into five-star raids!

Terrakion, the Cavern Pokémon, is coming to five-star raids! This Rock- and Fighting-type Legendary Pokémon is said to be strong enough to destroy an entire castle! It’ll be in your favor to challenge it with Water-, Grass-, Fighting-, Ground-, Psychic-, Steel-, and Fairy-type Pokémon.

Date + Time

Tuesday, November 26, 2019, at 1 p.m. PST to Tuesday, December 17, 2019, at 1 p.m. PST (GMT −8)

Features

  • Terrakion will make its debut in five-star raids.

Friend Fest

Celebrate the spirit of family and friendship with the first-ever Friend Fest!

Date + Time

Wednesday, November 27, 2019, at 1 p.m. PST to Monday, December 2, 2019, at 1 p.m. PST (GMT −8)

Features

  • Encounter family-themed Pokémon—such as Nidoran♀, Nidoran♂, their Evolutions, and more—in the wild and in research tasks.

Bonuses

  • 1/2 Stardust trade cost
  • You can make two special trades per day
  • Attack boost when you raid with friends

—The Pokémon GO team

14 Nov 12:55

Federal Court Says ICE, CBP's Suspicionless Searches Of Electronic Devices Is Unconstitutional

by Tim Cushing

There's a bit more Constitution in the "Constitution-free zone." A federal court in Massachusetts has ruled [PDF] border agents can no longer perform suspicionless device searches. This ruling aligns itself with the decision handed down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year. If the government wants to dig into travelers' phones and laptops without a warrant, it needs to show it believes contraband will be located on the seized device.

It's not quite a warrant requirement, which would align it with the Supreme Court's Riley decision. No court has been willing to apply this decision at the border, but requiring reasonable suspicion is a step in the right direction.

The lawsuit was filed by 11 travelers whose devices were seized and searched by CBP and ICE agents. For some of the plaintiffs -- represented by the ACLU -- this happened multiple times. The court provides a snapshot of the intrusions central to the group complaint.

Without recounting the nature and circumstances of all of the Plaintiffs’ searches, a sample of them is illustrative. Nadia Alasaad has twice had her iPhones searched at the border over her religious objections to having CBP officers, especially male officers, view photos of her and her daughters without their headscarves as required in public by their religious beliefs. During the second search, which was of her daughter’s phone, Alasaad alleges, and Defendants have not disputed, that a CBP officer mentioned a photograph that had been on Alasaad’s phone during her earlier search but was not present in the second search.

[Plaintiff Zainab] Merchant is the founder and editor of a media website and has had her phones searched multiple times despite her concerns about officers seeing pictures of her without her headscarf on the phones and, on one occasion, her declining to give consent to search her phone since it contained attorney-client communications. Merchant observed a CBP officer viewing communications between her and her lawyer. [Jeremie] Dupin’s phone contained information from his work as a journalist, while [Sidd] Bikkannavar’s phone was a work phone officially owned by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and containing information from his work there.

The government tried to get out of this lawsuit by claiming the plaintiffs couldn't show they had suffered harm or would continue to suffer harm if these agencies weren't prevented from performing suspicionless searches. The court says it really can't take the government's word for this because the government continued to search the plaintiffs' devices after this litigation commenced.

That such search of electronic devices continues for Plaintiffs, even in the midst of their ongoing legal challenges to same, serves as further, undisputed indication of the sufficient likelihood that, unremedied, such alleged harm will continue in the future, particularly given the Plaintiffs’ future plans for international travel.

The court agrees the government has a compelling interest to secure our borders. That's why there's no warrant requirement for device searches, despite the Riley decision. But, while the expectation of privacy may be reduced near the nation's borders, it doesn't disappear completely.

Agencies that patrol the borders are there to prevent illegal immigration and the transport of contraband into the country. That's where the line is drawn by this federal court: if the government wants to search someone's device, it needs to show it will find that contraband on the searched device. Searching for evidence of criminal activity simply isn't allowed -- not without a warrant.

Undisputedly, interdiction of inadmissible persons and goods are legitimate governmental interests at the border. Plaintiffs do not dispute that CBP and ICE officers have the unenviable task of screening “[o]ver one million travelers per day [who] go through U.S. ports of entry,” and although they have some information about travelers (particularly those traveling by air and otherwise through agency databases), they have little time to process it. Even so, the record that recites “searches of electronic devices at the border have successfully uncovered threats to national security, information pertaining to terrorism, illegal activities, contraband, and the inadmissibility of people and things,” without explanation of the frequency, nature of same or the manner of the discovery of same, is not a strong counterweight to the intrusion on personal privacy evidenced by such searches.

The court quotes from Riley to drive home the point about the privacy expectations of today's laptops, tablets, and cellphones -- all of which contain far more than the contents of a car trunk or luggage.

Defendants… point to the broad latitude border officials have to search physical items, but comparisons between searches for digital evidence or contraband and searches of other physical items or travelers themselves are inapposite. Riley recognized as much in responding to the government’s argument that officers could search a cell phone if there were a sufficiently similar non-digital analogue that officers could have searched by noting that “the fact that a search in the pre-digital era could have turned up a photograph or two in a wallet does not justify a search of thousands of photos in a digital gallery. The fact that someone could have tucked a paper bank statement in a pocket does not justify a search of every bank statement from the last five years.

[...]

Unlike a vehicle, vessel or even a home at the border, see 19 U.S.C. §§ 482, 1582, 1595(a)(2) (regarding inspections of vessels and homes), “the data stored on a cell phone is distinguished from physical records by quantity alone, [but] certain types of data are also qualitatively different.” It can “reveal an individual's private interests or concerns” as evidenced by internet search and browsing history, “reveal where a person has been” through historic location information, and reveal which files a person created, accessed and when he or she did so through metadata. The potential level of intrusion from a search of a person’s electronic devices simply has no easy comparison to non-digital searches.

The court says any search of a device beyond "a brief look reserved to determining whether the device is owned by the person carrying it across the border" requires reasonable suspicion. It does not give a free pass to "basic" searches (i.e.,non-forensic searches). As the court notes, CBP and ICE's definition of a "basic" search includes asking a person about their photos, emails, and contacts, asking one of the plaintiffs about their blog posts, and routinely removing the devices to perform "basic" device searches out of view of the plaintiffs. There's nothing "basic" about these searches and the government will need reasonable suspicion to engage in them in the future.

The court's ruling says ICE and CBP's border device search policies are unconstitutional as presently defined and deployed. Reasonable suspicion is the new standard for device searches in this jurisdiction.



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14 Nov 12:54

American millennials' mental and physical health is on the decline — and they're on track to die faster than Gen X, a new report says

American millennials aren't exactly the picture of health.

They're seeing their physical and mental health decline at a faster rate than Gen X did as they age, a new Blue Cross Blue Shield report found.

The report used a baseline projection representing historical outcomes of "health shocks" and an adverse projection of current trends. It's possible this decline could be rectified with proper management and treatment, but without intervention, millennials could see a 40% increase in mortality compared with Gen Xers of the same age, the adverse projection showed.

In this scenario, millennials could end up shelling out a third more in treatment costs than Gen Xers of the same age, because of a greater need for treatment and rising healthcare costs.

Healthcare is one of four key costs plaguing millennials. In 1960, the average annual cost of healthcare per person was $146 — in 2016, it hit $10,345. When adjusted for inflation, that's a ninefold increase. Costs are expected to further increase to $14,944 in 2023.

Poorer health could also make millennials less likely to participate in the US labor market, resulting in higher unemployment and a loss of annual income by more than $4,500 per person, the Blue Cross report said.

The report attributed this millennial health decline to both physical conditions, such as hypertension and high cholesterol, and behavioral health — particularly rises in rates of depression, hyperactivity (such as anxiety or ADHD), and substance abuse.

Rises in depression and 'deaths of despair'

The report found that rates of depression and hyperactivity among American millennials increased by about 30% from 2014 to 2017.

These findings are underscored by previous reports that analyzed data from Blue Cross Blue Shield's Health Index. One found that major-depression diagnoses were rising at a faster rate for millennials and teens than they were for any other age group.

There has also been a rise in accidental deaths, which overall make up a larger share of mortality among millennials than they did for Gen Xers at the same age, the latest Blue Cross report found. It's worth noting that accidental deaths from heroin and other opioid overdoses specifically have increased by 1,400% among all generations from 2010 to 2017.

A report by the public-health groups Trust for America's Health and Well Being Trust yielded similar findings earlier this year. It found that more millennials were dying "deaths of despair," or deaths related to drugs, alcohol, and suicide, Jamie Ducharme reported for Time in June.

While these deaths have increased across all age groups in the past 10 years, they've increased the most among younger Americans, accounting for the deaths of about 36,000 American millennials in 2017 alone, the report said. Drug overdoses were the most common cause of death.

Millennials struggle to afford the help they need

There are several reasons for the upticks in "deaths of despair," according to the Trust for America's Health and Well Being Trust report. Young adults are more inclined to engage in risk-taking behaviors, represent the highest percentage of enrolled military personnel, and disproportionately live in "high-stress environments" like correctional facilities.

But there are other structural factors at play, the report said — namely the myriad financial problems millennials are facing, like student-loan debt, healthcare, childcare, and an expensive housing market.

This affordability crisis has become so bad that some millennials can't afford treatment. One in five millennials diagnosed with major depression doesn't seek treatment, a Blue Cross report published earlier this year found, and it's likely because they can't afford to do so.

It's a vicious cycle: Money struggles aren't only hurting millennials' health, but preventing them from seeking help for those very issues.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7 free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as the best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

14 Nov 01:04

House Democrats took a big step to get the Equal Rights Amendment moving again

by Li Zhou
Rep. Jackie Speier testifies during the House Judiciary Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment on April 30, 2019. | Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The House Judiciary Committee passed a resolution that eliminates the deadline for ratifying the ERA.

The House on Wednesday took a major step in clearing the way for the advancement of the Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment to the Constitution that would offer all Americans equal legal protections regardless of sex. A resolution passed by the Judiciary Committee this week could bring the measure significantly closer to fruition.

It might seem like odd timing to take a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment. It was first passed by the House and Senate in 1972 and after an initial flurry of states approving it (the next step needed to amend the Constitution), momentum died down for over three decades. But there’s recently been new energy, and Democrats retaking the Virginia state legislature earlier this month means it’s closer to becoming a reality than ever.

The amendment still needs two things to happen in order to move forward: It requires ratification by three-fourths — or 38 — states. And it requires Congress to change the deadline for ratification, which was previously set as 1982.

With Democrats now in control in Virginia, the state is poised to become the 38th state to ratify the ERA. In light of that momentum, House lawmakers are now trying to remove the prior ratification deadline. The Judiciary Committee this week approved a resolution that would do just that and it’s now up for a vote by the full House, where it’s likely to pass with the Democratic majority.

If this resolution is ultimately approved by the House and the Senate, the measure could potentially become an amendment to the Constitution. What that would guarantee is equal protection under the law for all individuals, a change that could lead to wide-ranging updates to existing policies, according to the New York Times’s Maggie Astor:

For women, it would bolster pay equity, domestic violence laws and pregnancy discrimination protections, among many other things. It could also affect men, such as by guaranteeing paid paternity leave equal to maternity leave.

The momentum behind the ERA has lagged since its congressional passage several decades ago, but interest in it has been rekindled in recent years — a product, in part, of a growing focus on gender equity, as Vox’s Emily Stewart noted:

Activists point to a number of factors contributing to the amendment’s revival, including the #MeToo movement, the backlash to Donald Trump’s presidency and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, and the number of women who have entered into the political arena as of late. During the 2019 State of the Union address, many Democratic women in Congress wore pins that read “ERA Yes.”

The Senate, too, has its own resolution that would eliminate the deadline needed for its ratification, but it’s currently unclear how the upper chamber plans to handle the measure.

13 Nov 21:09

Twitter And Instagram Both Begin Experiments In Decreasing The More Socially Questionable Incentives Of Their Platforms

by Mike Masnick

Two separate news reports last week highlighted how both Twitter and Instagram appear to be taking to heart arguments made about how both of those platforms may (inadvertently) encourage questionable behavior. Instagram will begin hiding "likes" from users in the US to cut down on the dopamine rush of trying to maximize those bits of pointless social validation:

Months after the company tested hiding "like" counts in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand, CEO Adam Mosseri announced today at WIRED25 that some Instagram users in America can expect their like counts to vanish from public view.

The company will begin testing next week, at first rolling out the change to a limited number of accounts.

Meanwhile, Twitter is going to begin experimenting with some small nudges to not rush in to attack people as a first response. The moves here are a lot more subtle than Insgram's hiding of likes and involve encouraging the use of emoji.

In a meeting at its San Francisco headquarters in late October, Gasca and Suzanne Xie, director of product management at Twitter, showed off two experiments among several that will go live in the coming weeks: In the first, Twitter will add an emoji to a retweet, giving people a chance to quote-tweet without going into the compose field. Gasca and Xie want to find out if this feature might encourage people to express more nuanced emotions, putting a damper on dunking and mindless retweeting.

In the second experiment, Twitter will automatically suggest people use an emoji in their replies. If you like something, you could use the heart-eyes emoji. If you don’t, you could use the red circle with a line going through it. But if you pick a negative emoji, Twitter will ask, “Why do you disagree?” — which it hopes will prompt a more thoughtful reply, rather than a flame war.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how or why this would work to decrease negative responses -- though at least popping up the interstitial question of "why do you disagree" (as per the second experiment) might drive at least some people to think twice before rushing to dunk on someone.

I'm not sure either of these moves will really change the overall incentives or how these platforms are used, but I find both fascinating for different reasons: a much more clear acknowledgement from both platforms that overall incentives matter, and that small design choices can have outsized influence on how the platforms are used. Given that, it's fascinating to see both platforms then choose to experiment with the little nudges built into the design of their platforms to see how it will play out in terms of usage -- especially regarding socially questionable activities on both platforms.

Of course, I can imagine how their could be some pushback as well, concerning how these are the kinds of subtle paternalistic moves that some people fear will be used to influence behavior in manners that some might not like. I think it's pretty clear that, in both cases above, the sites are aiming to improve the overall "user health" levels on their platform, but I can see how some might (or absolutely will!) claim that they're being used to tamp down on certain viewpoints or ideas -- which, to some extent, highlights why there are no "win" conditions for platforms making these decisions. Every move will be criticized in one way or another.

If you can get past that, however, I think it's a good thing that the platforms are moving to explore how these kinds of tweaks can improve their platforms and how people interact with them.



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13 Nov 21:06

With Climate Neutral Certified, Companies Take Leaps and Bounds Toward Lighter Footprints

by Kickstarter Design & Tech


Carbon offsets looked, at first, like an easy way to atone for our environmental sins—an indulgence payment for the climate crisis. But they're not so simple. It has historically been hard to measure and verify their restorative impact; that impact isn't necessarily maintained long-term; and they haven't pushed offset customers to reduce their original pollution output.

Peak Design founder Peter Dering and BioLite founder Jonathan Cedar were frustrated by those limitations—and hearing from other frustrated, environment-minded founders—when they got the idea for Climate Neutral Certified. Like organic and Fair Trade labels, it helps creators show they're taking verified steps toward making their products in a more conscious way. And with the experienced leadership of their executive director Austin Whitman, a veteran of climate-conscious enterprises, their initiative is pushing carbon offsetting into what looks like a more sustainable future. After launching on Kickstarter hoping to sign on a few dozen companies, they've been heartened to exceed that goal with several weeks left to go in their campaign.

The lost decade of carbon offsets

Dering and Cedar tapped Whitman to run Climate Neutral Certified because he's been working in or adjacent to the carbon offset market for nearly 15 years.

He first bought carbon credits in 2005, when he launched a program to offset his grad school classmates' airline travel for study-abroad programs. In 2009 he went on to work for a London-based asset manager that invested in carbon development projects around the world.

Then he noticed an eerie cooling of interest. "There's sort of a lost decade between 2009 and 2019 in terms of carbon offsetting and carbon markets development," Whitman says. "The total voluntary market demand stayed relatively flat—it's felt locked in time."

He saw the cause as twofold: Early carbon offset models were failing to deliver the results they promised, and politicians were shrugging off responsibility for moving climate conversations forward.

"The U.S. was obviously an incredibly large missing player at the table in global climate negotiations," Whitman says. "The Waxman-Markey bill in the House and the Kerry-Boxer bill in the Senate essentially would have set up a national carbon policy for the U.S.—it would have made us the largest carbon market in the world. So there was a lot of disappointment when the talks broke down and political priorities shifted.

"The Clean Power Plan under Obama would not have produced a carbon market in the way we [typically] think about it, but it would have made meaningful progress on climate change," he says. "The current administration has reversed all that, most notably promising to pull out of our commitment to the Paris Agreement. So I guess if you chart the course, there were tremendously high hopes that fell apart."

Disappointed, Whitman spent 2011 to 2019 working in cleantech and environmental consulting, not seeing much opportunity for carbon offset credits.

What's changed since that lost decade

The market dissatisfaction with carbon credits didn't fall on deaf ears. The technology plodded along over that decade of low adoption rates, and by the time Whitman became involved with Climate Neutral, he saw technical filters becoming more robust and rules more rigorous. Carbon offsetting projects now needed to go through multiple verification cycles and validate the promised amount of carbon offset over time.

"These days, forestry projects, for example, use a lot of remote sensing technology—satellites that can count individual trees," Whitman says. "Whereas 10 years ago it would have been impossible to count every single tree in a forest, you can actually do that pretty quickly now with a satellite. We've also learned [many] more practical, on-the-ground lessons, like that if you decide you're going to protect an acre of forest, you'll have a real problem if that displaces an indigenous community or interferes with local ways of life."

The progress in carbon offsets is exciting, but what will really move the needle is scaling it. "We'll only continue to get more quality in the market as more and more corporate buyers realize that carbon offsetting really does need to be part of any kind of responsible carbon management strategy," Whitman says.

Keeping the momentum going

That's what he's doing with Climate Neutral: funneling more money toward a larger range of offsetting projects, diversifying decarbonization.

Companies from Allbirds to Klean Kanteen have signed on to open up their operations to climate assessments, commit to paying for carbon offsets, and display the Climate Neutral Certified label on their packaging.

Some, like Klean Kanteen, "had basically felt like they had already exhausted everything that they could possibly do" for operational sustainability, Whitman says; buying offsets was the last step. Others are signing on because they see competitors doing it. And some are using it as a way to commit to sustainability before their operations are even up and running. There are more than 60 committed so far, including Kickstarter.

"In the past 18 months, the public discourse has turned to climate in the loudest and clearest way I've ever seen working on these issues for 15-plus years," Whitman says. "The climate is a real problem, and we've got to do something about it. The U.S. federal government isn't doing anything about it. There's no conceivable path to an effective global policy on carbon. And at the same time, we're being told that we have 12 years to enact any meaningful changes, [and] 30 years to get to a net-zero global economy if we actually want to maintain a livable climate. And that's one of the things that many of the companies we work with actually recognize—that now it's their turn."

Climate Neutral Certified is live on Kickstarter through December 13, 2019.


13 Nov 20:43

How the FCC solves consumer problems—well, it doesn’t, really

by Jon Brodkin
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at a meeting, sitting in front of the FCC seal.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Federal Communications Commission's extremely hands-off approach to broadband-customer complaints has alarmed a member of Congress.

US Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in August after learning of a Frontier customer who was forced to pay a $10-per-month rental fee for a router despite buying his own router.

As we wrote at the time, Frontier charges customers a $10 monthly fee for routers even when the company doesn't provide one at all, saying that non-Frontier routers cause "increased complaints and more difficulty with troubleshooting." But Frontier also said it "cannot support or repair the non-Frontier equipment," so it's charging $10 a month without providing a router or providing support for non-Frontier routers.

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13 Nov 20:25

Google will offer checking accounts, says it won’t sell the data

by Kate Cox
Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019.

Enlarge / Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019. (credit: Lyu Liang | VCG | Getty Images)

The Google empire is enormous and ubiquitous, covering basically the entire Internet in one way or another. There is, however, one lucrative business the company does not yet have a foothold in: banking. And now it has plans to change that.

Google is working to launch consumer checking accounts next year, The Wall Street Journal first reported this morning. The project, code-named Cache because apparently nobody can resist a pun, is expected to launch next year, sources told the Journal. CNBC, also citing "sources familiar," confirmed the WSJ's reporting.

Google: Not a bank

The accounts will be run in partnership with Citibank and a credit union based out of Stanford University. Google executive Caesar Sengupta told the WSJ that the accounts will carry branding from the banks, not from Google, which will also "leave the financial plumbing and compliance" to the banks.

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13 Nov 17:39

Scandal of kids posing as researchers continues to grow in South Korea

by Beth Mole
Not one of the young alleged science-wizzes involved here.

Enlarge / Not one of the young alleged science-wizzes involved here. (credit: Getty | H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock )

More South Korean researchers are accused of fraudulently adding the names of children and teens to their published scientific manuscripts as part of an ongoing college admissions scandal, according to a report by Nature.

The kids—middle and high school students—are listed as co-authors on scientific findings that they allegedly had no hand in. Many of these claimed science-wizzes are researchers’ own children or children of their friends. The authorships, in some cases, are thought to give the children a leg-up in the country’s fiercely competitive college admissions.

As in the US, there is currently intense scrutiny in South Korea over how the country’s elite get their children into colleges.

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