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20 Sep 23:59

A YouTuber made a glass topped combustion engine and recorded it working in slow-motion

by Leon Siciliano

YouTube channel Warped Perception added a glass head to a combustion engine and recorded it running with a super slow motion camera.

The footage captured shows the valves injecting fuel and air. A spark plug ignites the fuel which makes the combustion gases push the piston, to drive the crankshaft.

Watch the video to see it in action.

Produced by Leon Siciliano

 

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20 Sep 23:35

The Internet of Things is putting poachers on the endangered list

by Sponsor Post

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Harriet Green, General Manager, Watson Internet of Things, Customer Engagement, and Education

The Internet of Things (IoT) is dramatically changing the world around us. In fact, it’s safe to say the IoT is far more pervasive and impactful than just about any of us can imagine. Just ask the team at the Welgevonden Game Reserve.

Located in the Waterberg District of the Limpopo, province of South Africa, this 37,000-hectare game reserve is filled with plentiful birdlife and stunning wildlife. But under this beauty, a battle is taking place to save one of its most spectacular residents, the rhino. 

Today, South Africa is home to more than 80% of the world's rhinos — approximately 18,000 white rhinos and 2,000 black rhinos, numbers which are unfortunately dropping far too quickly. Consider that 1,054 rhinos were reported killed in 2016 in South Africa alone. If this pattern continues rhinos will become completely extinct by 2025.

It’s this daunting prospect that brought teams to IBM to see how IoT could help thwart an old threat — poachers who are killing these animals solely for their highly-prized horns.

Traditionally, this fight has been very costly, highly militarized, and, to make matter worse, very reactive because teams have not had access to the data needed to take preemptive action. Game reserve teams cannot afford to be one step behind these threats, and thanks to a new IoT-powered solution that harnesses cloud technology, embedded sensors, and predictive analytics, the days of reactionary responses are no more.

This fantastic new approach idea grew from a recent study done by Wageningen University and its Animal Sciences group. The study found that animals in the wild react in different ways depending on the type of threat they encounter and the perceived danger. The threat or danger could come from predators such as a lion or the presence of people, including a tourist or a poacher, in the vicinity.

Now this IoT solution is being put to the test at the Welgevonden Game Reserve, where animals have been fitted with collars featuring sensors. Through these collars and the power of IoT, teams can examine how the animals respond to specific scenarios including approaches from potential poachers versus tourists.

But what is extremely interesting is that the reserve team isn’t watching the rhinos, at least not directly. Protecting these beautiful animals is so vital that their location must remain secure to everyone. So rather than putting their whereabouts in jeopardy, the team has placed 135 collars on other prey animals including zebra, wildebeest, eland, and impala. As a result, these animals become the sentries or guardians of their endangered friends.

Now teams can monitor and collect information related to location, movement, direction, and the average speed of travel of these animals and use this data to create rule-based patterns built on the animal’s response to potential threat incidents from poachers.

For Welgevonden Game Reserve these patterns become the early warning system that has eluded them in the past. Just as a manufacturer uses IoT to enable predictive maintenance, where machines are repaired before they breakdown, Welgevonden will be able to determine when animals are reacting to threats from poachers so they can proactively deploy security personnel before attacks occur, protecting all the animals, including the rhinos.

What the Welgevonden Game Reserve is teaching all of us is just how truly impactful the IoT can be and how its effects can be seen and felt from just about anywhere, even on a 35,000-hectare expanse of the African bush that’s home to some of the most precious animals in the world, including the rhino.

And while we’re talking about our rhino friends, please be sure to show your support on World Rhino Day, on Friday, September 22.

Check here for more details.

This post is sponsor content from IBM and was created by IBM and BI Studios.

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20 Sep 23:27

Study: 44% Of College Students Think “Hate Speech” Is Not Protected Speech

by Fuzzy Slippers
They also believe that "hate speech" includes speech they find "offensive" and "hurtful"
20 Sep 22:54

Cracks in the Empire’s Armor Appear

by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Yesterday brought widespread news coverage of a new “study” published in Nature Geoscience which concludes that global warming has not been progressing as fast as expected, and that climate models might be a “little bit” wrong.

(That the “little bit” is a factor of 2 or 3 is a fine point upon which we won’t quibble here.)

I’m still trying to process my feelings about how the two authors, Myles Allen and Michael Grubb, might have been allowed to wander so far off the Empire’s (UN IPCC’s) reservation.

My initial reaction to the news was captured by my wife:

I’ve been thinking about what led to this turn of events. I’ve decided it was not some random realization by rogue elements of the Empire. It was not a tactical anomaly, but instead a strategic trial balloon of sorts.

Had John Christy or I tried to publish such a paper, Storm Troopers led by Darth Trenberth would have been quickly dispatched to put down the rebellion.

The realization by the authors that the climate models have produced too much warming since about 2000 has been out there for at least 5 years. It has been no secret, and Christy and I have been lambasted as “deniers” for repeatedly pointing it out.

The timing of the authors’ realization of the same seems not very believable. Quoting from the Independent article,

According to The Times, another of the papers authors, Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate change at University College London, admitted his earlier forecasting models had overplayed how temperatures would rise. At the Paris climate summit in 2015, Professor Grubb said: “All the evidence from the past 15 years leads me to conclude that actually delivering 1.5C is simply incompatible with democracy.” But speaking to The Times he said: “When the facts change, I change my mind, as [John Maynard] Keynes said.”

Now, I must ask, what did Grubb know, and when did he know it? What exactly has changed in the model forecasts since the Paris summit in December 2015?

Exactly nothing.

Allen and Grubb knew the models had a problem well before that.

I suspect there have been years of discussions in e-cigarette vapor-filled back rooms where Empire leaders have been discussing how the increasing disparity between models and observations should be handled. The resulting new paper is part of a grand scheme that Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich perfected decades ago. I believe the new narrative taking shape is this: “yes, we were wrong, but only in the timing of the coming global warming disaster. It is still going to happen… but now we have time to fix it, before it really, really is too late.”

I wonder if Allen and Grubb will also be called “deniers” for pointing out that the emperor’s models have no clothes?

Only time will tell. For now, all I can say is, welcome to the dark side.

Since it is card-carrying members of the climate establishment saying the models are wrong, though, they will probably be hailed as visionaries.

20 Sep 22:31

The Risks of Segregated Witness: Problems under Evidence Laws

by Jimmy Nguyen - Chief IP, Communications & Legal Officer

The bitcoin community still debates whether Segregated Witness will help the network’s scalability or will instead create more problems.  As I have previously written, SegWit raises legal questions because it would enable full digital signature (witness) data to be dropped from the transaction data; this would undermine the ability of bitcoin digital signatures to also be used as electronic contract signatures (for example, for smart contracts).  Another key legal issue is evidentiary authentication of blockchain transactions.  Ideally, we are moving to a world where the bitcoin network can power smart contracts and be used for numerous types of data transactions.  But in such a world, what happens if companies and consumers cannot easily authenticate and prove those transactions later when there are legal disputes?   In this piece, I’ll examine the problem under evidence laws.

How SegWit Changes Bitcoin

The original Bitcoin white paper (in section 2) by Satoshi Nakamoto defines “an electronic coin” as “a chain of digital signatures”.  Each owner transfers ownership control of the coin to the next owner by digitally signing a hash of the previous transaction and the public key of the next owner and adding these to the end of the coin.  A payee can verify the signatures to verify the chain of ownership.  The transaction data conveys the inputs and outputs of coins being spent, and could also carry additional data to be recorded in the bitcoin transaction.

A normal bitcoin transaction stores both transaction and signature (witness) data together in a block, with the signatures accounting for approximately 60% of the data size.  As described in my prior post, this means bitcoin transactions signatures could satisfy e-signature laws, which often require the electronic contract signature to be “attached to or logically associated” with the contract terms – which could, for example, be coded into bitcoin transaction data.   (Of course, all bitcoin digital signatures are not meant to also be electronic contract signatures; however, they were originally set up in a manner that could satisfy the requirements of electronic contract signature law if the parties wanted to use them for that purpose.  For example, Alice could sign her bitcoin transaction – or at a more advanced level, a smart contract whose terms are encoded with the transaction data – using her bitcoin digital signature which serves two purposes:  (1) to verify the transaction to be sent and validated to the bitcoin network, and also (2) to confirm her assent to the transaction or smart contract terms for purposes of electronic contract law.)

How does SegWit change the picture?  Rather than directly raising the 1MB block size, SegWit would indirectly increase a block’s capacity to store more transactions by separating the signature (witness) data from the transaction data.  It then creates two hashes: (1) a “regular” hash of just the transaction data, without the signatures; and (2) a “witness hash” consisting of a hash of both of the transaction data and the witness data.  For storage in a block, the bitcoin protocol already uses a Merkle tree (a hierarchical data structure composed of hashes of information) to efficiently store transaction data, and places the Merkle root into the block header of every mined block.  SegWit creates a second Merkle tree to separately store the witness hashes, but importantly does not require nodes to keep the signature data.

In fact, SegWit assumes that signature data is only needed when transactions are being validated, and can thereafter be discarded as unimportant.  As described by its original proponent Pieter Wuille, “[t]hese signatures are only needed at time of validation”; SegWit treats “signatures [as] not part of the transaction”, its “redesign would allow you to drop this [signature] data.”  (Mr. Wuille is a co-founder of Blockstream, a blockchain technology company which helps support Bitcoin Core and advocates for SegWit).

Moreover, bitcoin nodes would not be required to keep the signature data.  As Wuille further explained, “[SegWit] allows you to drop the signatures from relay whenever you are relaying to a node that is not actually doing full-validation at the time. It also allows us to effectively prune this data from history, maybe we’re fine with not all nodes in the network actually maintaining these gigabytes of signatures that are buried under years of proof-of-work now.”  This is a key point because SegWit opens up the likelihood that most bitcoin nodes do not keep the signature data, because it is simply less efficient and costs more to do so.

If most nodes drop the signatures (which is the likely result), the blockchain can only reliably serve as a ledger for worldwide business transactions if:

  • Some nodes choose to specialize in storing all signature data. This gives those nodes special weight (as a trusted source) to verify and authenticate bitcoin transactions and signatures.  But this is antithetical to the idea of bitcoin as a decentralized, trustless system, with no central authority; or
  • Companies and consumers operating on the blockchain must keep their own copy of transaction records (or their own nodes storing all blockchain transactions with signature data), so they have access to the signature data later if needed for legal proceedings or audits. But this requires massive data duplication and eliminates the efficiencies of using the blockchain as a decentralized ledger.

Evidence Authentication

Under courtroom evidence law, SegWit would make it more difficult for businesses and consumers to authenticate blockchain-recorded transactions.  In civil and criminal court proceedings, evidence must be authenticated before it can be admitted.  Under U.S. Federal Rule of Evidence 901, “[t]o satisfy the requirement of authenticating or identifying an item of evidence, the proponent must produce evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is what the proponent claims it is.”  This requirement is important to ensure litigants do not try to introduce falsified or tampered evidence.

How does this work in practice?  Consider a lawsuit over an automobile accident.  Drivers often seek to introduce pictures of the accident scene.  They could testify from personal knowledge that they used their smartphones to take pictures immediately after the accident and confirm the images are authentic.  Similarly, transaction and other business records can be admitted into court proceedings, but a witness typically must testify to authenticate the records.  For example, if you are involved in a dispute with your stock exchange over a stock trade, the stock exchange could introduce its electronic records of your account and trades, but one of its employees needs to testify about the authenticity of the data.  Likewise, you could produce your own printed copies of your stock trade history and testify about those printouts.  Thus, transaction records generally require a witness to explain what the transaction record is, how it is kept or was generated, and what it represents.

How Can Blockchain Receipts Be Authenticated Without Signature Data?

How would this work in the blockchain world?  If signature data is kept, it is easier to later authenticate the transaction record by referring to the bitcoin digital signature used to validate the transaction.  This helps meet the evidentiary requirement that the blockchain record “is what the proponent claims it is” – in other words, the blockchain receipt for the specific transaction.

But SegWit allows signature data to be dropped from the transaction data, making the task of evidentiary authentication more difficult.  If all nodes do not maintain signature data, who can testify as to the authenticity of signature data to match it to the relevant transaction data?  While the direct parties to a transaction could hopefully do so, what happens if they relied upon bitcoin nodes to maintain the signature and transaction data and did not keep (or lost) their own records?  Would that place nodes who opt to keep full signature data in a special “trusted” position to verify bitcoin transactions for legal proceedings (such as a government-approved service provider)?  Or would mere evidence that a signature was necessary at the time of the bitcoin transaction satisfy a court, if no such signature can now be produced?

These evidence issues will also play out at the U.S. state level. As more blockchain technology enthusiasm grows, U.S. state legislatures are beginning to examine what is sufficient proof of blockchain business transactions. In 2016, the state of Vermont enacted H.868; it adds a statute to Vermont’s evidence rules (12 V.S.A. §1913) stating that a blockchain-based digital record is now considered a business record and thus admissible over hearsay objections – but importantly, only if the blockchain record is authenticated by the written declaration of a qualified person.  One wonders, however, whether other states will follow suit, if SegWit reveals that key components of bitcoin transactions (such as signature data) can be dropped or altered from blockchain records.  In order to pass statutes like the Vermont evidence law, blockchain advocates need to champion the reliability and immutability of blockchain records.  But would legislators be so quick to recognize blockchain records if they knew the basic signature data that has always been saved with bitcoin transaction data could be dropped?

Need for a Witness

If signature data is not kept by any bitcoin nodes or only some of them, it creates a serious question of what witness (if any) can adequately authenticate bitcoin transactions from the blockchain.  While it was not dealing with blockchain, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit decided an immigration case – U.S. v. Lizarraga-Tirado – which addressed questions about the admissibility of machine-generated evidence.  (U.S. v. Lizarraga-Tirado, 789 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir. 2015)).  The case led James Ching, a Law.com contributor, to write a January 2016 blog asking Is Blockchain Evidence Inadmissible Hearsay? and triggered other online articles questioning whether blockchain evidence is admissible in court.  As Ching describes, a blockchain verification “receipt must be introducible in litigation in order to be of any value as a verifier of a transaction.  Because a receipt obviously is asserting the existence of the transaction, it must qualify as a business record or it is inadmissible hearsay under the Federal Rules of Evidence.”   (These blockchain evidence issues were further examined in a June 2017 law review article entitled Blockchain Receipts:  Patentability and Admissibility in Court.)

The Lizarraga case involved the deportation of a defendant who was found improperly entering (again) the United States through the Mexico border.  The defendant claimed he had not actually crossed over the border to the U.S. side.  However, the government sought to introduce the evidence of a Google Earth satellite view of the scene where the defendant was arrested, including a tack marker to reflect the border agent’s notation (on a mobile device) of where the arrest occurred (on the U.S. side of the border, according to the agent).  But that pin marker was manually added to the machine-generated satellite image to record the agent’s contemporaneous impressions of where the arrest occurred.

To evaluate the admissibility of the Google Earth map image and the tack marker indicating whether the defendant crossed the U.S. border, the 9th Circuit decided that machine-generated evidence can be admissible in court (and is not hearsay because it is a machine, rather than a person, making an assertion); however, the evidence still requires that some witness authenticate it.  The party offering the machine evidence must show that the “machine is reliable and correctly calibrated, and that the data put into the machine (here, the GPS coordinates) is accurate.”  (Lizarraga-Tirado, 789 F.3d at 1110.)  The court noted that the rules of evidence allow for authentication of a “process or system” with evidence “describing the process or system and showing that it produces an accurate result.”  In the case of Google Maps, its satellite mapping and GPS coordinates could be authenticated by a Google employee or other witness who works with the program frequently, if they can testify about how the Google Earth system works.  The key is “to establish Google Earth’s reliability and accuracy.”

How would this authentication requirement be applied to a blockchain receipt offered as evidence in court? A witness would have to testify about the bitcoin network and its “reliability and accuracy” as a mechanism for maintaining business records.  The Blockchain Receipts law review article noted above (at pp. 447-448) gives examples of what types of witnesses could serve this function to explain the blockchain and its transaction record system: “an exchange programmer, an avid Bitcoin user, a programmer attempting to replicate the blockchain, a digital currency expert, or an investor could all be brought in at trial.”  That is certainly possible with respect to the original form of bitcoin transactions (which retain both transaction and signature data).   But the task is more difficult with SegWit, which allows nodes to drop the signature data, and could lead to complex evidentiary battles about the “reliability and accuracy” of the blockchain-stored data.

Thought Experiments About the Legal Risks

At the 2017 Future of Bitcoin conference in Arnhem, Netherlands, Bitcoin Unlimited’s Chief Scientist Peter Rizun gave a presentation about why bitcoins with SegWit are not real bitcoins.  To illustrate his point, he offered this thought experiment:

Imagine that you have 100 BTC in a segwit address and a few days later you notice that they’ve been transferred to an address that you do NOT control. You try to find the signature that authorized the transfer to prove the theft (you’re sure your private keys were secure so you think the signature must be bogus) but conveniently nobody seems to have it saved.

Can you prove that your funds were stolen?

In Rizun’s thought experiment, assume you sue your bitcoin wallet provider over the 100 BTC that you believe were stolen from your wallet.  As Rizun points out, you need to find the signature associated with the transaction in order to prove it was fake and not authorized by you.  But of course, you would not have kept it because you did not initiate the transaction.  And if your wallet provider and no node has kept the signature for the disputed transaction, you are out of luck.  At most, you or your wallet provider may only be able prove:  (a) a transaction occurred on a particular date and time for the 100 BTC; and (b) there is string of hashes that indicate the transaction was authorized at that time.  Is that enough to authenticate that transaction record for evidence purposes?  And more importantly, even if that limited transaction record is authenticated and admissible in court, the signature data is missing and a key question in the case cannot be answered from the evidence.

I take Peter Rizun’s example a step further and offer this thought experiment based upon potential smart contracts that could be recorded on the blockchain, and electronically signed by one party using a bitcoin digital signature.

Alice enters into a smart contract to pay you 5 BTC to buy your used automobile.  The contract’s terms are recorded on the blockchain as part of a transaction sending the 5 BTC to a SegWit address.   Alice’s digital signature to validate the bitcoin transaction is also the means Alice uses to digitally sign to signify acceptance of the smart contract (for purposes of e-contract law).  [In other words, Alice does not manually sign a paper contract, does not affix a digital copy of her handwritten signature to any document, and does not electronically sign a document using other means.]

Alice later disputes the smart contract, claiming that she did not authorize the transaction. You have a legal dispute over whether she in fact digitally signed the smart contract.   But Alice’s signature data was pruned after the transaction was validated onto the blockchain, and she claims she did not digitally sign the transaction.  You have no record of Alice’s private key used for the digital signature.

Can you prove that Alice digitally signed the smart contract?

This thought experiment illustrates the potential proof challenges of a SegWit world.  It can be more difficult to prove that Alice digitally signed the disputed smart contract if you have no record of Alice’s private key used for the digital signature, and no node has kept the signature data.

As with electronic contract issues, legal systems can find ways to address these evidentiary proof problems.  But SegWit makes the challenges harder by creating additional hurdles for authenticating blockchain records as evidence in legal proceedings.  These risks could deter businesses from operating more on the blockchain, and impede the greater vision of a Bitcoin 2.0 network powering smart contracts and greater functionality in the future.  The bitcoin community needs to demonstrate to courts, regulators and legislators that bitcoin records – and in particular signatures – are reliable and authentic; this effort is just getting started and should not be undermined by proposals such as SegWit which fundamentally change the nature of bitcoin.

The post The Risks of Segregated Witness: Problems under Evidence Laws appeared first on nChain.

20 Sep 22:13

New Video : “Fifty Years Of Ridiculous Predictions By Climate Experts”

by tonyheller
20 Sep 21:57

Dad Teaches his Kids to Ride the Bus. Then CPS Tells Him They Can’t Even Go Outside Alone till Age 10

by lskenazy

Adrian Crook, the dad behind the blog 5Kids1Condo, taught his four oldest kids — 7, 8, 9 and 11 — how to ride the city bus to and from school for the past two years in Vancouver.

The result? Fantastic. The kids love it, and became friends with the bus drivers. Once Adrian even received an email from a random bus passenger saying what a pleasure his well-behaved kids were.

BUT (you knew there had to be a BUT) recently someone reported these “unsupervised” kids to the Ministry of Children and Family Development — the Canadian equivalent of Child Protective Services — and the agency opened an inquiry. They came to Adrian’s house and interviewed each child separately. Aware of the stakes, Adrian tried to be cordial. He provided character references. And, adds Adrian:

I even suggested the Ministry shadow the kids on a bus ride, but they declined.

While the Ministry conducted their weeks-long investigation, they had me sign a “Safety Plan” stating that the kids wouldn’t take the bus alone until the investigation was completed.* I returned to spending several hours a day transiting the kids back and forth from school, a reduction in freedom the kids didn’t understand.

Then decision day finally came.

Can you guess? My guess is you can.

It started off in a favourable way, with the supervisor insisting that I’d gone “above and beyond” what any parent should have to do to train their kids to be responsible and conscious transit riders….

Ultimately, however, the Ministry had checked with their lawyers “across the country” and the Attorney General, and determined that children under 10 years old could not be unsupervised in or outside the home, for any amount of time. That included not just the bus, but even trips across the street to our corner store, a route I can survey in its entirety from my living room window.

 

That bizarre and benighted decision was based on a British Columbia case we’ve discussed here, when a judge ruled that no child under 10 can stay home alone. As terrible as that decision was, it didn’t even relate. That was about one 8-year-old, home alone, not four kids together, on the bus.

So what?

The Ministry also said that in other provinces, the legal age to be unsupervised is much higher. In fact, only three provinces have legislated minimum ages at which kids can be left home alone (and BC isn’t one of them): Ontario (16), New Brunswick (12) and Manitoba (12). Only Quebec has a statutory minimum age for being left alone in a vehicle, and that’s 7 years old.

 

Does anyone really think there are no children under 16 being left unsupervised in Ontario?

Of course not. But does anyone really think common sense is what we’re talking about here? The social workers gave every made-up reason for grounding the kids:

 

[They] stated that the comparatively wide-ranging freedoms we enjoyed in our childhood were, “before we knew better” – despite widely available crime statistics that demonstrate our kids live in a safer world today than the one we grew up in. ….

Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m a firm believer in evidence-based policy-making, so this fear-driven assertion rung hollow for me.

What’s more, the kids already had been taking the bus for two years — safely! So clearly this investigation “safety” plan was only in reaction to the busybody’s call, for that is all it takes:

It’s a “Cover Your Ass” culture, where even if a trivial issue is reported the Ministry cannot condone it, lest they be responsible for future issues. The Ministry has no incentive or ability to dismiss a report or allow a situation to continue – regardless of how many steps a parent has taken to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.

 

Unt so?

Our family’s freedom of mobility has been dramatically restricted for little reason beyond the complaint of an anonymous person.

The dad is running a GoFundMe page to pay for the legal case he hopes to make against the government. In the meantime, he reminds us all that when the state insists that the only acceptable parenting is helicopter parenting, it is committing a serious crime of its own: Robbery. It “robs our children of agency, independence, and responsibility.”

*The Meitiv family in Maryland had to do the same thing.

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Adrian Cooks kids where they are no longer allowed to be without an adult.

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20 Sep 21:56

The Time Fox TV’s Kennedy Almost Had Her Baby Taken Away by the State

by lskenazy

Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor of Reason Magazine (where I am a contributor) interviewed the Fox Business Network host Kennedy. I’ve been on Kennedy’s show, she is fantastic and funny and Free-Range, but I never knew this had happened to her:

 

REASON: What keeps you awake at night? Obviously you have a chance to talk about that on your Fox Business show every day, but the bad news of today doesn’t necessarily reflect the kind of macro stuff that makes me either happy or unhappy about where we are in the world right now.

KENNEDY: My thing is slow-burning statist mission creep and seeing all forms of government move at a glacial pace towards the full extinction of our rights and civil liberties.

When my youngest daughter was 6 months old, we went to dinner at a neighbor’s house, and when we came back she was crying. She was with two good friends of ours who had a 5-month-old. One was a former cop and one was a former medic in the Army so we knew that the girls were well taken care of. But they had let her roll off the couch and she broke her clavicle. I didn’t know that because they didn’t tell me.

So I had to take her to the E.R. the next morning because she had been crying all night long. And the doctor looked at me with such disdain. He pinched her shoulder and realized that that’s where her injury was and they X-rayed her and realized that it was broken. And the doctor told me that they were going to X-ray every bone in her body and if any other bones were broken they were going to call a social worker, and they were going to take her from us and that it would be at least a month before we got her back. Fortunately none of her other bones were broken, but I realized how quickly and how easily, even though I had done nothing wrong, the state would not allow me to establish my innocence to keep my child if something else had, God forbid, been wrong. This is a child who had only been breastfed up to that point. The thought of them taking her away from us was beyond comprehension.

They called a social worker down to meet with us and then we went home, and about an hour later, [the Los Angeles Police Department] showed up at our door and wanted to inspect our house to make sure that we weren’t abusing our children. One of the worst feelings on Earth is being accused of something that you haven’t done wrong. And that is such a common thing for parents nowadays. The inability to establish your innocence and the presumption of guilt, especially with parents, is so overwhelming and so terrifying and so pervasive, whether it’s in the pediatrician’s office or at school.

I think that’s why free-range parenting resonates with me so much. Parenting styles for the last 15 to 20 years have really gravitated towards this hyper-controlling, authoritarian helicopter parenting which is doing such a great disservice, not only to families but to individualism as a whole in society. Some of the hardest things you can go through as a parent are interfacing with oppressive institutions, whether it’s school or law enforcement or the medical community or cliquish parents.

Read the rest of the interview here.

I am appalled that Kennedy had to go through that, and have heard several stories from the Family Defense Center in Chicago, where the kids WERE taken away. (See, for example, this story.)

That’s in addition to the hundreds of other parents and caregivers have even been thrown in prison for what sounds like an increasingly, well, shaky diagnosis, Shaken Baby Syndrome. (For a chilling documentary about this, I highly recommend The Syndrome.)

We all want safe kids. We all want abuse to stop. But when our culture’s first assumption is that any parent with a kid in any kind of distress is an abuser until proven otherwise, our kids are NOT safe. They are in grave danger from over-zealous authorities. – L

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Her baby broke her clavicle. The doctor assumed it was abuse.

 

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20 Sep 21:41

“A Stranger Looking to Kidnap and Sex Traffic a Child Is Highly Unlikely” – Roseville, California Police

by lskenazy

Looks like the Roseville, California, police department got a little fed up with social media posts going on about local “sex trafficking kidnappers” and “suspicious people.” And so it came out with this amazing document on its Facebook page: True facts about the fears its citizens feel and perpetuate.

Kudos to a department that seems determined to do its job. If called, it will investigate. If not called, it will not conjecture about non crimes. And in the meantime, it will do what it can to counter a culture determined to freak out over fake danger.

City of Roseville, California Police Department

This week an account about a man acting suspiciously in a grocery store parking lot in Roseville has been widely shared on social media. We have a few thoughts about this and similar accounts of scary situations that are posted and shared on social media in our area from time to time.

First, anytime you see something suspicious, or you’re worried about safety, please call the police department immediately. An officer will be dispatched to the area as soon as possible to check it out. There might be an innocent explanation for the suspicious person’s presence, or the person might indeed be “creepy”—but we’ll never know unless you call. There are investigative steps officers can take if they’re called promptly, like interviewing the suspicious person if they can be found, interviewing other people in the area, and checking surveillance video systems in the area to see if they captured any images of the suspicious person or their vehicle. It doesn’t appear that police were ever called about any of the suspicious incidents mentioned in the recent widely-shared post.

Second, the post mentions that the suspicious man was probably a human trafficker looking to kidnap children.This is highly unlikely, as kidnapping by strangers is a rare crime in the United States. Stranger abductions of children are so frightening and so unusual that when they do happen, they make national news. According to national research, children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only one-hundredth of 1 percent (.01%) of all missing children.

Here are some facts about human/sex trafficking in our area:

1. Does sex trafficking happen in our area? Yes, as it does in most populated areas. The Roseville Police Department actively investigates and conducts proactive operations to address prostitution activity and to discourage it in our city. Pimps, johns and “free-agent” adult prostitutes are arrested. Juvenile prostitutes, or any adult found to have been forced into prostitution activity by a trafficker are treated as victims. We work closely with Stand Up Placer to connect potential victims with confidential services and support.

2. Are adults and children kidnapped by traffickers and forced into sex work? It would be rare, and we haven’t encountered it here. The Roseville Police Department has never taken a report of anyone being kidnapped by a stranger and forced into the sex trade. Our vice officers have interviewed numerous prostitutes and exploited victims over the years, and asked them how they got into their situations. None have said they were originally kidnapped. In our experience, most human traffickers recruit vulnerable people through a grooming/courtship process, developing a relationship, promising love, shelter or security, and then coercing them into prostitution. Often drug dependency is involved in keeping the victim attached to the pimp/trafficker.

3. Are Roseville’s retail areas prime spots for sex trafficking recruiters? We recently conducted undercover operations in retail areas, and found no evidence that human traffickers were there recruiting strangers.We recently conducted undercover operations in retail areas, and found no evidence that human traffickers were there recruiting strangers. It’s more accurate to say that lots of people go to public places like shopping centers and entertainment venues to meet people, network for business, or find dates (or, as we all know, to steal stuff!) Sometimes those contacts are welcome, and sometimes they’re not. If someone is making unwelcome advances to you and not getting the message to back off, walk away. If someone is making you feel unsafe, give us a call immediately, and we’ll send an officer to check them out.

In other words: Quit calling wolf, especially when you are looking at a cat.

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This is a MOVIE, not your local MALL.

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20 Sep 21:24

Why This Mom Can’t Go to the Playground With Her Kids

by lskenazy

In this 9-minute video  you’ll meet Shawna, an Oklahoma mom not allowed to play with her kids on the playground because of a “sex offense” she committed at age 19: She had consensual sex with a boy, 14. That was 15 years ago. She is on the registry for life, and registrants are banned from playgrounds.

This short was made by David Feige, a public defender and documentarian. Below it I have excerpted some of what he wrote about Shawna and another “offender” you’d probably be proud to have as your son. Don’t read it if you can’t stand feeling rage at the way we have taken the decent, human desire to protect our kids and twisted it to justify sadism.

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Feige met Shawn at a group therapy session for sex offenders he was attending to gather information for his documentary, Untouchable. As he writes at The Marshall Project:

Listening to Shawna’s story, it became immediately clear that she was far from the kind of person we imagine when we think about sexual predators. She wasn’t some serial rapist or violent pedophile, but rather a young woman who happened to hook up with the wrong guy on her birthday. And as we continued to work on the film, we consistently found others consigned to the margins of society and slapped with a “sex offender” label that didn’t quite seem to fit.

In a desolate parking lot a few months later, I met Adrian. And while his story ultimately didn’t become part of the film, it stuck with me. Adrian was a junior at North Dakota State majoring in business management, when he travelled to Miami for spring break. There, he met a girl at an 18-and-over club. They flirted and danced, then walked to the beach where they had sex. They spent about five days together, hanging out on and off and occasionally hooking up.

Adrian returned to college after the trip and all seemed well, until seven months later when he got a call from a detective with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As it turns out, the girl had used a fake ID to get into the club. She was actually 15 years old at the time. Her mom filed a complaint when she found out what had happened.

Asked to return to Miami to answer some questions, Adrian took a bus back to Florida. He explained to the detective that everything was consensual, and that he’d assumed the girl must have been 18 or older since she was in the club. Officers recorded his statement, thanked him for his co-operation, handcuffed him and placed him under arrest. Unable to post the $40,000 bond set by a judge, Adrian remained in jail for nearly eight months. It was the first and only time he’d ever been arrested.

In Florida, as in most other states, the fact that the girl was a willing participant was not a defense. Having admitted to the affair and facing some twenty years in prison, Adrian had no choice but to plead guilty to four counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a person under 16. That guilty plea guaranteed he’d spend the rest of his life listed on Florida’s sex offender registry.

Is there any silver lining to these cases? Some evidence that our sex offender laws are at least making children safer?

Study after study has shown that our sex offender registries are utterly ineffective at reducing sexual violence, and that public notification about sex offenders may actually increase recidivism by making reintegration into society nearly impossible. But what Adrian and Shawna’s stories highlight is a more general problem with our approach to sex offenders: In our zeal to protect children and get tough on crime, we have allowed our criminal justice system to run amok — expanding categories and exacting punishments that upon closer inspection few of us would really condone.

Five years after his guilty plea, Adrian had been rejected from more jobs than he could count. Unable to find housing that complied with a Miami ordinance that prevents registrants from living within 2,500 feet of any public or private school, daycare center or playground, Adrian was was forced into homelessness. He slept in a car parked in a lot — one of the few places sex offenders are actually allowed to reside. His college career was over, as was any hope he ever harbored of having a productive life. Then, two years ago, almost a decade after his conviction, Adrian failed to properly register his whereabouts with the police. As a result, he was sentenced to three years in prison.

There are more than 800,000 Americans who are now required to register as sex offenders. And contrary to popular belief, violent serial pedophiles do not fill the ranks of the registered. Rather, a wide swath of sexual thoughts and actions can lead to the lifetime of stigmatization that being on the sex offender registry entails.

Read the rest here. As for what we can do to turn our country away from ineffective, cruel punishment toward policies that actually make kids safer?

My suggestion for today is: Share this video. – L

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Shawna had consensual sex on her 19th birthday with a boy, 14. For this she is on the Sex Offender Registry for life and not allowed on playgrounds.

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20 Sep 21:05

Reenacting the Battle of the Brandywine: Sep 11, 1777

--- ##### *All original photos, videos, and descriptions from a reenactment of the Battle of the Brandywine, which occurred during the American Revolutionary War. Videos include West Chester's Bayard Rustin High School Concert Choir, and a fife and drum corps from New Jersey.* --- Today, @cmp2020 and @cmac performed with their high school choir at an event to reenact the Battle of the Brandywine, in Brandywine Township, near West Chester, Pennsylvania. I had some time to kill between drop-off time and the performance, so I wandered around taking photos, and thought I'd post them here. ######
https://steemitimages.com/DQmYmoCXt1FysaNKctcYj4Jis4KU6p2ZpjqVesjaeY8xx33/20170917_104922_HDR.jpg Gadsden Flag, Viewed from behind
The reenactment is described at [brandywine2017.org](https://www.brandywine2017.org/). I drive past the [Brandywine Battlefield](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandywine_Battlefield) all the time, and I was told that one of my family members from an earlier generation was even involved in getting the battlefield recognized as a historic landmark, presumably in the 1940s, but it's still easy for me to forget about the historical significance of the place. So today was a nice reminder of the rich history that's associated with so many of the places we encounter in south-eastern Pennsylvania. According to a speaker this morning, there were around 800 reenactors from places as far away as Ontario and Florida! The wikipedia page for the battle itself reads like a "Who's Who of the American Revolution," including names like Cornwallis, Howe, Washington, and Wayne. According to speakers at the event today, Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis De Lafayette were also there. La Fayette even took a bullet in the left leg. ### The Battle of the Brandywine - Yet another September 11 The battle took place on September 11, 1777 early in the American Revolution, when the British were marching on Philadelphia from the Chesapeake Bay, in Maryland. According to a speaker today, General George Washington and Lafayette scouted out the Brandywine creek in order to intercept the British. Unfortunately, they suffered from an immature military intelligence apparatus, and they were outdone by British scouts and local informants. Wikipedia informs that Washington set up his defenses in Chadds Ford, hoping to catch the British in a natural bottleneck when they attempted to ford the creek. Most of the British forces, however, declined to cross the creek in Chadds Ford, crossing instead to the north of the Americans at Jefferis' Ford, which Washington's scouting had missed. Having done so, they were able to engage the Americans on their flanks and overwhelm them with superior position and numbers. So many of the American artillery horses were killed that the Americans were forced to leave behind most of their cannons when retreating. The loss of this battle allowed the British to continue on and capture Philadelphia, but valiant efforts protecting the exposed flank from Generals Sullivan and Greene (who arrived with reinforcements) prevented the outcome from being worse, and as a result the colonial forces were not demoralized. ### Pictures and Videos from today Unfortunately, I couldn't stay around for the actual battle reenactment, but I was able to wander around and get some photos before the crowds got heavy. All photos and videos in this section were taken by me. --- #### Videos I didn't catch the name of the performing organization, but I did hear that they came from New Jersey. This fife and drum corps opened up the day's "official" proceedings. https://youtu.be/zHXnnMqkuSE And here is the Rustin High School Concert Choir singing the British, French, and American national anthems. No idea who the lady singing along for the French anthem was - maybe she's one of the kid's parents, too? - she sure enjoyed herself, though! I didn't even notice her until @cmp2020 and I watched the video afterwards. By the way, I hope he doesn't mind being called out, but @cmac is up there too. You can't really see either of them very clearly from this camera angle, though. https://youtu.be/1853VHGZAVo --- #### Photos: ###### This is @cmp2020 with the camp and battlefield behind him


https://steemitimages.com/DQmV3RJAmvMTigcMiqd4Yy6ycvYeyZWAnLsyx6itvaVstgP/20170917_102008_HDR.jpg ###### And this is the flag of the Sixth Pennsylvania Regiment (with some British reenactors marching past)


https://steemitimages.com/DQmWyvKxuNSCsk1F8Tw73uZPgh6tzvyXSrfdTnehP2Bq6C6/20170917_104537_HDR.jpg ###### A close up of one of the camp sites


https://steemitimages.com/DQmRfk4MbvsG1xrJ3p9FBhG7rrfsgr1q5PY82fTm4fLeiz7/20170917_102434_HDR.jpg ###### No idea what this flag was, but I thought it looked pretty cool


https://steemitimages.com/DQmYjD9ZXMh5FQ4HN5nT599b2i1CXCgN7PmwK4zT8dFPCzV/20170917_103022_HDR.jpg ###### Another generation of colonials taking up the drum


https://steemitimages.com/DQmYWegRFCqmSTaNnVNdyXkRsxxPY6xdorkA7k2x6S5mmTL/20170917_103141_HDR.jpg ###### Starting the day with safety checks


https://steemitimages.com/DQmSYZnjRdeidLnLZSBsexQZwfcykXKWqs4AenUuBznun3f/20170917_103739_HDR.jpg ###### Soldiers, soldiers, and more soldiers https://steemitimages.com/DQmV83hKnXycvRusz4n84wewtkydoxoxxgxFGoWLB77cy3M/20170917_102628_HDR.jpg

https://steemitimages.com/DQmXxt7Bk7qe2czdt5kngXpp4jcw5HcohEo1FeDpojHT6MF/20170917_102830_HDR.jpg

https://steemitimages.com/DQmPrYCXU4msRnWB5KmBVcugGQrvRTnH2zFMLGaHhhV2QnC/20170917_103609_HDR.jpg

https://steemitimages.com/DQmVGb8QUcUVZ61u8Sa1CvD6qcvmWhaNk7U4yppZt641kK6/20170917_104512_HDR.jpg

###### Musket storage


https://steemitimages.com/DQmYs7a2CTqWkkMLg5zh6UnXd7Hppv97cc18Pqww8EcNmWk/20170917_103322_HDR.jpg

https://steemitimages.com/DQmZa9Ddm9ar5RKzXeJChrG7VUw5YubqERxxJsZPQMBifRT/20170917_104828_HDR.jpg

###### The view from the top of the hill


https://steemitimages.com/DQmddpk1smRCYznC99hxcSN6MhDAW7ajV5moaP2TM3apWBy/20170917_105043_HDR.jpg

###### Another consequence of this defeat was the nearby Paoli Massacre, a week and a half later.


https://steemitimages.com/DQmbNqCsSddqdDebHGzwK3Ru8Pvp8KxoqzSds2PpQmdqB3X/20170917_105007_HDR.jpg ### Conclusion So if you're looking for something to do around September 11 next year, check and see if they're holding another reenactment. It's a fun way to mix education and entertainment.

12 Sep 14:57

John Stossel vs. Noam Chomsky on Venezuela

by ReasonTV

Stossel has an exchange with famed M.I.T. linguist Noam Chomsky, who once praised former President Hugo Chávez socialist policies.

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Venezuela used to be the richest country in Latin America. Today, its economy and civil society are disintegrating. The country is experiencing widespread hunger and out-of-control violence—a result of former President Hugo Chávez' move, starting in 2002, to nationalize industries, establish price controls, and block foreign capital from entering the country.

Back when Chávez was still in power (and still alive), U.S. celebrities, including Danny Glover, Naomi Campbell, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, and Sean Penn, praised the former president and his brand of "Bolivarian" socialism. As did left-wing intellectuals, including the famed M.I.T. linguist Noam Chomsky.

What do they have to say now?

In an exchange with John Stossel, Chomsky said that he never described Chavez's "state-capitalist government "as 'socialist,'" and that capitalists "undermine the economy" in all sorts of ways.

Which brings to mind the phrase "useful idiots" (attributed to Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin), which means a person who champions a cause they don't fully understand.

Produced by Naomi Brockwell. Edited by Joshua Swain.
12 Sep 00:35

The brain is a Peirce engine

by Eric Raymond

There comes from Scott Alexander’s blog news of a new unified theory of neural cognition called the “predictive processing model”. Read his review of the book “Surfing Uncertainty” before proceeding further.

This model seems to solve a whole raft of longstanding problems about how the brain does what it does, offer insight into how various neurotransmitters work in cognition, and even into how disorders such as autism can be understood as consequences of very specific processing failures with testable consequences.

Now excuse me while I spike a ball in the end zone and yell “YEEHAA!”. Because, although its framers seem still unaware, the predictive-processing model tends strongly to confirm a set of philosophical positions I’ve been taking (and taking flak for) for many years.

Specifically, under the predictive processing model, the brain is a Peirce engine. “Mind” is what we observe as the epiphenomenon of that engine running – its operating noise, more or less.

The Peirce I’m referring to is Charles Sanders Peirce. In his seminal 1878 paper On Making Our Ideas Clear he recast “truth” as predictive accuracy, asserting that our only (but sufficient warrant) for believing any theory is the extent to which it successfully anticipates future observations.

This insight was half-buried and corrupted by later analytic philosophy, notably when William James and John Dewey vulgarized “what is predictive” into “what is useful to believe” and invented the whole sorry mess called Pragmatism.

As a result, the incisiveness of Peirce’s insight was largely forgotten for most of a century except by specialists in the philosophy of science who used it to construct the new commonly accepted explanation of what we mean when we assert that a scientific theory is true, Or false; Karl Popper’s falsifiability criterion is another not-quite-right approximation of Peirce.

What Peirce tells us perhaps best expressed in an antinomious way: There is no “Truth”, only prediction and test.

And now it turns out this is what the brain is doing, all the time, at the neural-circuitry level. Endless waves of top-down expectations crashing against endless waves of bottom up sense data, interpreting predictive failure as unwelcome surprise. Knowledge emerging as a constant Bayesian update of priors at the collision face.

OK, that oversimplifies. What PP actually tells us is that there isn’t any one collision face but many, scattered all through the nervous system. feeding each other. Some in the retina of the eye, for example, where first-stage visual processing is done.

PP boldly says this collision-and-update is not a metaphor and not an approximation of lower-level neural processing of a different kind – it’s the actual computation that the actual meat substrate of your mind is doing in hardware.

I think this is right. It explains so much – and it’s Peirce having the last laugh.

11 Sep 23:01

Yes, the number of nude people on 'Game of Thrones' dropped a lot in season 7 — here are the stats

by Carrie Wittmer

Tryion on the boat sad day

Season seven of "Game of Thrones" had its issues, but in the end it was satisfying.

But you might've noticed that it didn't feel like other seasons of the show. And that might have to do with its lack of nudity. There was nudity, of course, especially with Jon Snow's behind being the star of the finale. But compared to the other seasons, the nudity dropped substantially.

Broadly noticed, and did a deep dive into the amount of nudity in season seven, among other topics.

Here's what they found:

  • Season one: 33 naked people (88% women, 12% men)
  • Season two: 16 naked people (100% women, 0% men)
  • Season three: 19 naked people (79%, 21% men)
  • Season four: 23 naked people (91% women, 9% men)
  • Season five: 28 naked people (68% women, 32% men)
  • Season six: 22 naked people (91% women, 9% men)
  • Season seven: 6 naked people (50%, 50% men)

Notice anything different about season seven? It has around a quarter of last season's number of nude people, though it does have gender parity in its nudity for the first time. 

Broadly also put all their research into this very handy chart that measures the amount of nudity in season one through seven:

Game of Thrones nudity

SEE ALSO: All the best moments from 'Game of Thrones' season 7

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 6 details you might have missed on the season 7 finale of 'Game of Thrones'

11 Sep 22:40

Pennsylvania Bill Would Expand Healthcare Freedom

by Shane Trejo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Sept. 6, 2017) – A bill introduced in the Pennsylvania House would help facilitate healthcare freedom outside of government regulatory schemes.

Rep. Matthew Baker (R-Wellsboro) introduced House Bill 1739 (HB1739) along with 12 co-sponsors on Aug. 24. The legislation specifies that direct primary care agreements (sometimes called medical retainer agreements) do not constitute insurance, thereby freeing doctors and patients from the onerous requirements and regulations under the state insurance code. The bill also stipulates that a primary care provider or an agent of a primary care provider is not required to obtain a certificate of authority or license under the Pennsylvania Insurance Code to market, sell, or offer to sell a direct primary care agreement.

HB1739 also includes provisions defining direct primary care agreements and establishing modest requirements. Similar pieces of legislation are being passed rapidly throughout the country as states look for solutions to rising costs and other problems related to Obamacare.

Direct primary care offers an easy, cost-free, market-based solution to federally-driven healthcare woes. According to Michigan Capitol Confidential, by removing a third party payer from the equation, medical retainer agreements help both physicians and patients minimize costs. Jack Spencer writes:

“Under medical retainer agreements, patients make monthly payments to a physician who in return agrees to provide a menu of routine services at no extra charge. Because no insurance company stands between patient and doctor, the hassles and expense of bureaucratic red tape are eliminated, which have resulted in dramatic cost reductions. Routine primary care services (and the bureaucracy required to reimburse them) are estimated to consume 40 cents out of every dollar spent on insurance policies, so lower premiums for a given amount of coverage are another potential benefit.”

This represents the kind of cost control Obamacare promised, but failed to deliver. Last fall, Tom Woods interviewed a Kansas doctor who utilizes the direct primary care model. Dr. Josh Umbehr’s practice demonstrates the cost savings possible when doctor’s are unfettered from the bureaucratic health insurance system.

Under Obamacare, regulations define such programs as a primary care service and not a health insurance plan, and current IRS policy treats these monthly fee arrangements just like another health plan.

A FIRST STEP TOWARD NULLIFYING

At this point, it doesn’t look like Republicans will repeal or even reform Obamacare, and the changes to the ACA proposed by the the GOP would have arguably made things worse. Regardless, state actions can help completely bring down the Affordable Care Act, or any national healthcare plan the Congress comes up with in the future.

Oftentimes, supporters of Obamacare criticize opponents for not having any alternative. Direct primary care offers one.

These direct patient/doctor agreements allow a system uncontrolled by government regulations to develop. It makes doctors responsive to patients, not insurance company bureaucrats or government rule-makers. Allowing patients to contract directly with doctors via medical retainer agreements opens the market. Under such agreements, market forces will set price for services based on both demand instead of relying on central planners with a political agenda. The end-result will be better care delivered at a lower cost.

By incentivizing creative healthcare solutions, the market will naturally provide better options, such as the Surgery Center of Oklahoma. This facility operates completely outside of the insurance system, providing a low-cost alternative for many surgical procedures.

A more open healthcare marketplace within a state will help spur de facto nullification the federal program by providing an affordable alternative. As patients flock to these arrangements and others spurred by ingenuity and market forces, the old system will begin to crumble.

Passage of this legislation would take a first step toward healthcare freedom in Pennsylvania, and would create a stepping stone to further action to nullify the onerous Affordable Care act. Once in place, Pennsylvanians could take further steps to fully extricate themselves from Obamacare for good.

For more information on a plan to nullify the PPACA, click HERE.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB1739 was referred to the House Health Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

11 Sep 22:34

But Nullification Isn’t in the Constitution!

by Mike Maharrey

Every once in awhile, somebody tells me, “The Constitution doesn’t say anything about nullification. Since the power isn’t there, the states can’t do it.” When I try to explain that states have the authority to do anything not specifically prohibited by the Constitution, they accuse me of being a hypocrite. “I thought you said the government only has limited powers.”

This reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution.

In the constitutional system, the federal government has limited powers. It can only do the things specifically enumerated in the document. As James Madison put it in Federalist #45, “the powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the federal government are few and defined.” If a power isn’t listed, the federal government can’t do it.

On the other hand, states have reserved powers. In other words, state governments can constitutionally do anything unless it is specifically delegated to the general government, or if there’s an express constitutional prohibition against it. As Madison put it, “Those [powers] which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Here’s the simple way to think of it. If a power is listed, the feds can do it. If a power is not prohibited, the states can do it.

Of course, states don’t have unlimited power. State constitutions limit what state governments can do. But by-and-large, the Constitution places very few limits on state power.

So, what does the Constitution prohibit the states from doing? You find restrictions on state power in Article 1 Sec. 10.

“No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.”

Notice it’s not a very long list. And it doesn’t include nullification.

11 Sep 22:30

Typing Notifications

Remlaps

h/t PheliX

Over the years I've decided I'd rather have them on than not, but I'm glad there aren't "has opened a blank note to compose a reply to you" notifications.
11 Sep 22:22

Photo of the day: If only there were some market mechanism to discourage this type of over-buying…. - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry
Remlaps

h/t Jts5665

AEI
Photo of the day: If only there were some market mechanism to discourage this type of over-buying….

The photo above from a Tampa Walmart was originally posted on Reddit with the caption “I need it for my family.” It was re-posted on Reddit’s Libertarian website with the caption “If only there was some mechanism to discourage over-buying while simultaneously encouraging extra production and availability during a disaster.” When I posted the photo on Twitter, the best comment I got was “This lady loves anti-price-gouging laws.”

Photo of the day: If only there were some market mechanism to discourage this type of over-buying….
Mark Perry

11 Sep 21:55

Sprint and SoftBank Back New Blockchain Consortium for Telecoms

by Nik De
A group of telecom carriers including Sprint have formed a new blockchain consortium.
11 Sep 21:14

Bitcoin's Academic Pedigree

We've seen repeatedly that ideas in the research literature can be gradually forgotten or lie unappreciated, especially if they are ahead of their time, even in popular areas of research. Both practitioners and academics would do well to revisit old ideas to glean insights for present systems. Bitcoin was unusual and successful not because it was on the cutting edge of research on any of its components, but because it combined old ideas from many previously unrelated fields. This is not easy to do, as it requires bridging disparate terminology, assumptions, etc., but it is a valuable blueprint for innovation.
11 Sep 15:52

Linux Phone Crowdfunder Hits $200k, Is ‘Ahead of Trend Line to Succeed’

by Joey Sneddon
Remlaps

h/t PheliX

purism librem 5Crowdfunding for the Purism 5 Linux phone has soared past $200,000 — and is on course to succeed.

This post, Linux Phone Crowdfunder Hits $200k, Is ‘Ahead of Trend Line to Succeed’, was written by Joey Sneddon and first appeared on OMG! Ubuntu!.

08 Sep 19:51

Broken Hash Crash? IOTA's Price Keeps Dropping on Tech Critique

by Daniel Palmer
IOTA's price has tanked since an MIT researcher revealed that code vulnerabilities had led to a patch for the widely-touted cryptocurrency.
08 Sep 19:15

Don Boudreaux: If you haven’t personally supplied water to Harvey’s victims, you’ve contributed to higher prices - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
Don Boudreaux: If you haven’t personally supplied water to Harvey’s victims, you’ve contributed to higher prices

Tim Worstall (in Forbes), Don Boudreaux (at Cafe Hayek), and I (on CD) have all recently (and Matt Yglesias in Slate in 2005) defended the practice of what is called “price gouging” following disasters like Hurricane Harvey as an efficient way to allocate (and attract) scarce resources. As desperate as shortages currently are in the Houston area for water, gasoline and hotel rooms, those shortages are worsened, not improved, by anti-price-gouging laws. Further the recovery process in the Houston area will be greatly impeded in the comings weeks, not improved, by anti-price-gouging laws. As Tim Worstall pointed, the economics of price controls is terribly, terribly simple and easy to understand, and I pointed out the economics of price ceilings like anti-price-gouging laws is also terribly, terribly non-controversial to anybody who understands even the most basic economics.

Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times wrote an article in response to Tim and me titled “Memo to economists defending price gouging in a disaster: It’s still wrong, morally and economically,” and then Don Boudreaux responded to Hiltzik here and here.

Then Forbes suddenly removed Worstall’s column defending price gouging from its website, even though the archived version of his article still appears here. Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times responded to that controversial removal of a published Forbes article in an article titled “Why did Forbes kill a column advocating price-gouging in Houston — after it was published?” and I responsed in a blog post on CD titled “Will ECON 101 professors now have to issue ‘trigger warnings’ when discussing the economics of price controls?

Now in the latest development in what should be a terribly, non-emotional, rational, logical, simple and non-controversial analysis of the economics of price controls following a natural disaster, Paul Constant of Civic Skunk Works responded to Tim Worstall in an article titled “Hurricane Harvey and the Failure of the Free Market” and wrote that “When you argue that selling $99 cases of bottled water in a disaster area is a good thing, you need to reinvestigate your humanity.”

In response, Don Boudreaux demonstrated his complete economic badassery with a humilating take-down of Constant, here’s Don’s response (my emphasis):

You write in your recent essay criticizing columnist Tim Worstall (“Hurricane Harvey and the Failure of the Free Market”) that “When you argue that selling $99 cases of bottled water in a disaster area is a good thing, you need to reinvestigate your humanity.” I’ve got a question for you: How much bottled water have you personally delivered this past week to the people of south Texas? I suspect that the answer is “none.”

You, like many of us, perhaps contribute money to relief efforts. But you also, like most of us, remain comfortably at home, far from the devastation. A handful of people, though, actually are on site and actually are exerting the effort to actually supply bottled water and other desperately needed goods to Harvey’s victims. Your failure actually to make available bottles of water at prices lower than $99 per case to people who are paying $99 per case means that you, in effect, are charging those people prices higher than $99 per case for bottled water.

What is the minimum price-per-case that would entice you to spend the time and suffer the trouble actually to bring bottled water to Harvey’s victims? $100? $199? $1,999? $10,999? Whatever that price is, if you haven’t personally undertaken or directed efforts actually to supply bottled water to Harvey’s victims at some price lower than $99 per case, then, again, you are effectively charging Harvey’s victims a price for bottled water that is higher than is the $99 price that leads you to fling your moral condemnation at people who are doing what you are not doing – namely, actually making bottled water and other needed goods actually available.

If it is, as you suggest, inhuman for someone to charge $99 per case for bottled water, then what word shall we use to describe your practice of charging a price even higher?

Below are some of the Twitter responses from those long on indignation and short on economics who “just don’t get it.” I’ll give all of them letter grades of F for failing the section of ECON 101 on the “Ecomomics of Price Controls.”

Bottom Line: Don Boudreaux makes a legitmate point by suggesting that those price gougers entrepreneurs who are actually bringing critical supplies like water to desperate and willing buyers in the Houston area, often at great personal expense and great personal risk, are doing more to alleviate suffering and speed the recovery process than those “armchair observers” like Paul Constant who “cheaply fling moral indignation” at those who are actually making a real contribution to the situation. For all the criticism leveled against “price gougers” for attempting to cover their expenses and maybe make a profit, you certainly can’t criticize them for bringing the most-needed supplies to the areas that are most desperate for those supplies. And it’s also important to remember that those “price gougers” can only make a profit if and when others haven’t already provided those critical supplies at lower prices, like the “armchair observers,” other entrepreneurs, retailers like Walmart, government agencies like FEMA or charitable organizations like the Red Cross. As soon as those other providers get the needed supplies like water to the disaster victims, the “price gougers” are out of business. But until that happens, the “price gougers” are often providing a life-line of critical supplies that nobody else is providing, and that life-line could actually be saving lives.

Don Boudreaux: If you haven’t personally supplied water to Harvey’s victims, you’ve contributed to higher prices
Mark Perry

08 Sep 19:04

Announcing the Steem Bluepaper!

Remlaps

Looks like Steemit's marketing effort is finally catching up with the technology. Better late than never.
"...Steem provides a scalable blockchain protocol for publicly accessible and immutable content,along with a fast and fee-less digital token (called STEEM) which enables people to earn the currency by using their brain (what can be called “Proof-of-Brain”). The two building blocks of this protocol, both blockchain and token, depend on each other for security, immutability and longevity, and are therefore integral to each others’ existence. Steem has been successfully operating for over a year, and has now exceeded both Bitcoin and Ethereum in number of transactions processed. Compared to other blockchains, Steem stands out as the first publicly accessible database for immutably stored content in the form of plain text, along with an in-built incentivization mechanism. This makes Steem a public publishing platform from which any Internet application may pull and share data while rewarding those who contribute the most valuable content..."

https://i.imgur.com/1QoqIaj.jpg Hello Steemians! Last week we released an updated version of our Whitepaper. We are currently in the process of converting that document into a format that can be updated through github so that it may become a living document which can be easily updated over time by the Steem community. The Steem Whitepaper is a part of Steem history, so we don’t want to change it too much - but we do want to keep it up to date with the technical details that change through hardforks.

Everything Has Changed

A lot more has changed over the last year than the technical details of the Steem protocol. The entire blockchain sector has undergone a seismic shift and the Bluepaper is our response to that shift. People of all walks of life now turn to these documents to learn about our technologies. This is especially the case for Steem which is an open and decentralized database designed to power applications which serve the needs of ordinary people; not just those who already know and love cryptocurrencies and blockchains.

Designed for Everyone

The Bluepaper is designed to be a helpful guide to our protocol that is comprehensible to the widest range of people. It integrates the feedback we’ve gathered since launch about what people felt was missing from the original Whitepaper, features that have been added, and links to more technical documents for those who want to dive deeper into particular aspects of the protocol. It too will be hosted on github and become a living document that can be updated and improved over time. It is our hope that this Bluepaper will be a useful aid to anyone seeking not just to understand our protocol, but our mission as well. To read the Bluepaper please visit: https://steem.io/steem-bluepaper.pdf

One More Thing

https://i.imgur.com/bfeGKfF.png We’re happy to announce that Steemit has partnered with a team of e-commerce professionals to launch an online store full of Steem-brand merchandise available for purchase with your hard-earned STEEM and Steem Dollars! The team handling this project has years of experience running successful online merchandise stores in addition to being long time members of the blockchain community. For more information, check out their announcement on @thesteemitshop and you can peruse the store at www.thesteemitshop.com. *Team Steemit*
08 Sep 19:04

SteemConnect 2.0: Easy, Fast, Efficient Access to the Steem Blockchain

https://i.imgur.com/QAvwtNO.jpg

We’re Partnering With Busy!

We are happy to announce a formal partnership between the Busy Team and Steemit Inc. to further develop SteemConnect. The Steemit Team has been assisting @ekitcho and @fabien, founders of Busy, for months in an effort to take SteemConnect to the next level, and we’re now happy to announce that they are close to launching a major upgrade to SteemConnect with our official support! *The goal of SteemConnect is to make signing into any application that leverages a Steem Account as easy and intuitive as signing into any ordinary website.* SteemConnect is the ideal solution for making it easy and *safe* for users to sign in to 3rd party Steem applications and for developers to build and scale these applications. It’s a layer built on top of the Steem blockchain that allows you to connect to authorized apps and transact in a secure and convenient way. And it's about to get even better.

A Brief History of SteemConnect

It has been more than a year since Steem and Steemit have launched and a whole ecosystem of applications is forming on the Steem blockchain. These new projects show the enthusiasm and dynamism of Steemians but raise the issue of data security for both users, developers, and entrepreneurs of our ecosystem. Security is key for the Steem ecosystem. After identifying the security challenges, we started working with the Busy team. SteemConnect will be the infrastructure that lets any developer or entrepreneur build on Steem without having to worry about security or the signup process, making it that much easier. And rest assured, SteemConnect is a community project. That’s why it’s open source under MIT license, for anyone to use (and contribute to) as they see fit!

What SteemConnect 2.0 Will Offer Users

The next version of SteemConnect will let you secure your private keys while interacting with any service on the Steem blockchain. Through SteemConnect you will be able to trust these domains with your credentials, reputation and eventually money. SteemConnect will make it easier than ever to handle delegations, signing transactions, exploring Steem applications, and authentication. SteemConnect will also serve as a hub for your Steem account. Not only will you be able to sign in and transact in one place, SteemConnect will give you access to the full suite of Steem services and apps at your fingertips. This ‘app store for Steem’ will be explored in a future post.

What SteemConnect 2.0 Offers Developers

For developers, SteemConnect dramatically simplifies authentication for users. It lets you focus on your app development without having to manage user private key security. This makes dealing with Steem apps much safer. As a dev, you no longer have to blindly trust the code of Steem apps you integrate with, where reviewing app code multiple times is a challenge. SteemConnect handles all that in a trustworthy, transparent way and the next version of SteemConnect will be even safer.

Closed Applications

Even if you’re not looking to create an open source application, SteemConnect will add security to your service, as Steemians will never have to give you their private keys.

What SteemConnect 2.0 Will Offer ANY Website

SteemConnect won’t *just* be a layer that streamlines the user sign up and sign in processes, it will also enable developers to add Steem features to their *existing* websites. Using SteemConnect, web developers with no history of blockchain development will be able to conveniently and securely add features like: tipping, voting, and comments. We are happy to announce both our progress as well as our official partnership with the Busy Team and are working as hard as we can to help deliver the next iteration of SteemConnect as soon as possible, while guaranteeing the highest security standards. You can join the mailing list by going to https://v2.steemconnect.com if you would like to be an alpha tester or receive progress updates. Follow up posts on the project details will be handled by the excellent Busy Team (@busy.org), so please follow along @steemconnect and resteem this post! Thanks for reading! *Team Steemit + Busy Team*
06 Sep 22:05

Slavery, Sovereignty, Nullification, and the Civil War

by Mike Maharrey

The recent controversy over Confederate monuments has reignited debate about the very nature of the War Between the States, also known as the “Civil War.” Union apologists tend to argue that it was all about slavery. Confederate sympathizers claim it wasn’t about slavery at all, but about the power and sovereignty of the states.

As with most things, the truth is much more complex. The Civil War was about slavery. And it was about state sovereignty. And at various times, the North and the South defended and supported both slavery and “states’ rights.”

In a recent article, Paul Craig Roberts asked a poignant question: “How come the South is said to have fought for slavery when the North wasn’t fighting against slavery?”

Roberts correctly unveils some hard truths. Lincoln was not fighting to free the slaves. He had every intention of maintaining the institution of slavery – as long as it would preserve the Union. Lincoln made his stand on slavery perfectly clear in an August 1862 letter to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley.

“If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save Slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy Slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union, and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

Congress was also all for maintaining slavery, as evidenced by passage of the Corwin Amendment to provide constitutional protection to to the institution where it existed.

In fact, the federal government consistently acted in ways to protect the institution of slavery. For instance, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a powerful tool to support southern slaveholders.

But while the federal government supported slavery, and even acted in ways meant to sustain the institution, individual northern states did not. And this is where Paul Craig Roberts’ analysis goes off the rails.

Roberts wants to frame the war this way: The South fought for its devotion to state sovereignty and the Tenth Amendment, and the North fought for its commitment to the Union and a centralized national government. To support his case, Roberts turns to a document issued by South Carolina to justify its secession formally titled the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. Roberts wrote:

“South Carolina saw slavery as the issue being used by the North to violate the sovereignty of states and to further centralize power in Washington. The secession document makes the case that the North, which controlled the US government, had broken the compact on which the Union rested and, therefore, had made the Union null and void…

“The secession document reads as a defense of the powers of states and not as a defense of slavery”

But Roberts’ analysis misses South Carolina’s primary grievance in a significant way: South Carolina was actually angry about too much northern state sovereignty.

What exactly was South Carolina’s primary complaint?

Nullification.

Southern states were frustrated that northern states had implemented and enforced policies that effectively nullified the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This is what South Carolina’s leaders said, in their own words.

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. [emphasis added]

So, while the federal government supported the South and its institution of slavery, and passed the Fugitive Slave Act to that end, individual northern states defied the centralized authority and were successfully nullifying the federal law.

What the mainstream historians never tell you is that northern states justified their nullification efforts based on “states’ rights” arguments.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was enacted to aid southern slavers in their efforts to reclaim their “property.” It allowed a slave owner, or his representative, to haul a black person back South into slavery merely on his world. It denied an accused runaway any semblance of due process.

In no trial or hearing under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive be admitted in evidence; and the certificates in this and the first [fourth] section mentioned, shall be conclusive of the right of the person or persons in whose favor granted, to remove such fugitive to the State or Territory from which he escaped, and shall prevent all molestation of such person or persons by any process issued by any court, judge, magistrate, or other person whomsoever.

It also compelled citizens to assist in fugitive slave rendition if ordered to do so and made assisting suspected runaways a federal crime with stiff penalties.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 vigorously applied federal power for the benefit of slavers to preserve their institution and protect their ‘property.’ Ardent nationalists in the North had no problem with this application of federal authority. For instance, outspoken northern nationalist Daniel Webster supported the act.

But at the state level, northerners rebelled. They asserted state sovereignty and passed aggressive personal liberty laws to thwart execution of the act. In support of their stand, apologists appealed to the notion of “states’ rights,” sometimes directly quoting arguments advanced by John C. Calhoun during the “Nullification Crisis” over tariffs decades earlier.

This wasn’t just a political temper tantrum. Northern states based their nullification efforts on constitutional grounds. Northern lawyers argued that the Fugitive Slave Act was unconstitutional because it denied Fifth Amendment rights of due process.

A second constitutional argument revolved around vesting commissioners and magistrates with judicial power to issue certificates of removal – essentially the authority to judge cases and render verdicts. The Fugitive Slave Act vested judicial power in court appointed commissioners. These officers generally handled arrests and bail, and were not judges. Northern legal experts argued they were never intended to wield actual judicial authority and that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 violated Art. 3 Sec. 1 of the Constitution.

Northern states also asserted that they had the authority to direct their resources as they saw fit and were under no obligation to assist with fugitive slave rendition.

In an 1854 fugitive slave case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 unconstitutional. Justice Abram Smith wrote, “Every jot and tittle of power delegated to the Federal Government will be acquiesced in, but every jot and tittle of power reserved to the States will be rigidly asserted.”

So what does this mean?

It was about slavery.

South Carolina wanted to keep the institution of slavery intact. Northern states were using nullification to resist slavery. South Carolina wrote: “For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing.”

South Carolina’s political class believed some people could be property, and it wanted centralized control to keep that in place. The northern states opposed this practice and were using states rights, the 10th Amendment – and most importantly – nullification – to reject slavery. It couldn’t be much more straightforward than that.

Was the Civil War about slavery? Sure. Was it about state sovereignty? As South Carolina tells us – absolutely. But which side supported what when – that gets a little more complex.

Before the war, northern states fiercely defended state power. They nullified. They undermined the central authority. But after southern states asserted their own authority and seceded, northern support for state sovereignty melted like a Popsicle on a hot summer day.

On the other side of the coin, slavery was clearly the major factor in southern secession. But the war itself was not fought over slavery. Lincoln waged war to keep southern states in the Union, whether they wanted to remain in it or not.

06 Sep 01:13

Oracle kills Solaris

by donotreply@osnews.com (Thom Holwerda)
Remember, back in December 2016, when there were rumours Oracle was killing Solaris? And how a month later, Solaris effectively switched to maintenance mode, and then to a "continuous deliver model"? The news from the ex-Sun community jungle drums is that the January rumours were true and Oracle laid off the core talent of the Solaris and SPARC teams on Friday. That surely has to mean a maintenance-only future for the product range, especially with Solaris 12 cancelled. A classic Oracle "silent EOL", no matter what they claim. With the hardware deprecated, my guess is that's the last of the Sun assets Oracle acquired written off. Just how good were Oracle's decisions on buying Sun? Sun's Solaris is dead. Bryan Cantrill on this news (this Bryan Cantrill): As had been rumored for a while, Oracle effectively killed Solaris on Friday. When I first saw this, I had assumed that this was merely a deep cut, but in talking to Solaris engineers still at Oracle, it is clearly much more than that. It is a cut so deep as to be fatal: the core Solaris engineering organization lost on the order of 90% of its people, including essentially all management. [...] Judging merely by its tombstone, the life of Solaris can be viewed as tragic: born out of wedlock between Sun and AT&T and dying at the hands of a remorseless corporate sociopath a quarter century later. And even that may be overstating its longevity: Solaris may not have been truly born until it was made open source, and - certainly to me, anyway - it died the moment it was again made proprietary. But in that shorter life, Solaris achieved the singular: immortality for its revolutionary technologies. So while we can mourn the loss of the proprietary embodiment of Solaris (and we can certainly lament the coarse way in which its technologists were treated!), we can rejoice in the eternal life of its technologies - in illumos and beyond!
06 Sep 01:10

Fixed-wing drone lands on vertical surfaces like a bug

by Rachel England
Remlaps

h/t Roumen.ganeff

Scientists have borrowed a few tricks from Mother Nature in order to create a drone capable of landing flush against a wall. The Multimodal Autonomous Drone (S-MAD) looks like a small airplane and flies like a glider, but on approaching a flat surfac...
05 Sep 20:46

Email Dates in the Wikileaks DNC Archive

by Steve McIntyre

Yesterday, Scott Ritter published a savage and thorough critique of the role of Dmitri Alperovitch and Crowdstrike, who are uniquely responsible for the attribution of the DNC hack to Russia. Ritter calls it “one of the greatest cons in modern American history”.  Ritter’s article gives a fascinating account of an earlier questionable incident in which Alperovitch first rose to prominence – his attribution of the “Shady Rat” malware to the Chinese government at a time when there was a political appetite for such an attribution. Ritter portrays the DNC incident as Shady Rat 2.  Read the article.

My post today is a riff on a single point in the Ritter article, using analysis that I had in inventory but not written up.  I’ve analysed the dates of the emails in the Wikileaks DNC email archive: the pattern (to my knowledge) has never been analysed. The results are a surprise – standard descriptions of the incident are misleading.

On April 29, DNC IT staff noticed anomalous activity and brought it to the attention of senior DNC officials: Chairwoman of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, DNC’s Chief Executive, Amy Dacey, the DNC’s Technology Director, Andrew Brown, and Michael Sussman, a lawyer for Perkins Coie, a Washington, DC law firm that represented the DNC. After dithering for a few days, on May 4, the DNC (Sussman) contacted Crowdstrike (Shawn Henry), who installed their software on May 5.

According to a hagiography of Crowdstrike’s detection by Thomas Rid last year, Crowdstrike detected “Russia” in  the network in the early morning of May 6:

At six o’clock on the morning of May 6, Dmitri Alperovitch woke up in a Los Angeles hotel to an alarming email. Alperovitch is the thirty-six-year-old cofounder of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, and late the previous night, his company had been asked by the Democratic National Committee to investigate a possible breach of its network. A CrowdStrike security expert had sent the DNC a proprietary software package, called Falcon, that monitors the networks of its clients in real time. Falcon “lit up,” the email said, within ten seconds of being installed at the DNC: Russia was in the network.

In many accounts of the incident (e.g. Wikipedia here), it’s been reported that “both groups of intruders were successfully expelled from the  systems within hours after detection”. This was not the case, as Ritter pointed out: data continued to be exfiltrated AFTER the installation of Crowdstrike software, including the emails that ultimately brought down Wasserman-Schultz:

Moreover, the performance of CrowdStrike’s other premier product, Overwatch, in the DNC breach leaves much to be desired. Was CrowdStrike aware that the hackers continued to exfiltrate data (some of which ultimately proved to be the undoing of the DNC Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the entire DNC staff) throughout the month of May 2016, while Overwatch was engaged?

This is an important and essentially undiscussed question.

Distribution of Dates

The DNC Leak emails are generally said to commence in January 2015 (e.g. CNN here) and continue until the Crowdstrike expulsion. In other email leak archives (e.g Podesta emails; Climategate), the number of emails per month tends to be relatively uniform (at least to one order of magnitude).  However, this is not the case for the DNC Leak as shown in the below graphic of the number of emails per day:

Figure 1. Number of emails per day in Wikileaks DNC archive from Jan 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. Calculated from monthly data through March 31, 2016, then weekly until April 15, then daily. No emails after May 25, 2016.

There are only a couple of emails per month (~1/day) through 2015 and up to April 18, 2016. Nearly all of these early emails were non-confidential emails involving DNCPress or innocuous emails to/from Jordan Kaplan of the DNC.  There is a sudden change on April 19, 2016 when 425 emails in the archive. This is also the first day on which emails from hillaryclinton.com occur in the archive – a point that is undiscussed, but relevant given the ongoing controversy about security of the Clinton server (the current version of which was never examined by the FBI)The following week, the number of daily emails in the archive exceeded 1000, reaching a maximum daily rate of nearly 1500 in the third week of May. There is a pronounced weekly cycle to the archive (quieter on the week-ends).

Rid’s Esquire hagiography described a belated cleansing of the DNC computer system on June 10-12, following which Crowdstrike celebrated:

Ultimately, the teams decided it was necessary to replace the software on every computer at the DNC. Until the network was clean, secrecy was vital. On the afternoon of Friday, June 10, all DNC employees were instructed to leave their laptops in the office. Alperovitch told me that a few people worried that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, was clearing house. “Those poor people thought they were getting fired,” he says. For the next two days, three CrowdStrike employees worked inside DNC headquarters, replacing the software and setting up new login credentials using what Alperovitch considers to be the most secure means of choosing a password: flipping through the dictionary at random. (After this article was posted online, Alperovitch noted that the passwords included random characters in addition to the words.) The Overwatch team kept an eye on Falcon to ensure there were no new intrusions. On Sunday night, once the operation was complete, Alperovitch took his team to celebrate at the Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão.

Curiously, the last email in the archive was noon, May 25 – about 14 days before Crowdstrike changed all the passwords on the week-end of June 10-12. Two days later (June 14), the DNC arranged for a self-serving article in the Washington Post in which they announced the hack and blamed it on the Russians. Crowdstrike published a technical report purporting to support the analysis and the story went viral.

There were no fewer than 14409 emails in the Wikileaks archive dating after Crowdstrike’s installation of its security software. In fact, more emails were hacked after Crowdstrike’s discovery on May 6 than before. Whatever actions were taken by Crowdstrike on May 6, they did nothing to stem the exfiltration of emails from the DNC.

Discussion

The lack of emails prior to April 19 is something that I don’t understand. This is more or less the date on which Fancy Bear was said to have entered the system, but, in other hacks (e.g. Podesta, Climategate), all emails in the account as of the penetration date were exfiltrated.  Was it an editorial decision on the part of the DNC hacker to exclude emails prior to April 19? If so, why were there any at all?

Nor does the razor-sharp end-date of noon May 25 tie into reported dates of Crowdstrike security measures?  Does this reflect an editorial decision during the curation of the hacked emails or something else?

Hiring Crowdstrike to watch the exfiltration of data can hardly be what the DNC had in mind.It’s a bit reminiscent of the uniformed official in the (Lifelock) commercial who explains “I’m not a security guard, I’m a security monitor. I only notify people if there’s a robbery… There’s a robbery.”  As Ritter observed, some of the most embarrassing emails were after Crowdstrike’s May 6 discovery of the hacks – an obvious point that has not been made in media discussion.

Recent articles about Crowdstrike  continue to falsely claim that Crowdstrike “quickly closed” the leak but “damage already done” eg Wired in March 2017:

The vulnerabilities were quickly closed, but the damage had already been done.

As discussed above, the opposite was the case.  Most of the damage was done after Crowdstrike installed its software.  Ritter further asked: “Did Overwatch detect the spread of malware into the servers of the DCCC? If the answer is yes, one must question the competence of a cyber security company whose job is to prevent just that kind of activity.”

Overall, the most serious question is the validity of Crowdstrike’s attribution of the DNC hack to the “Russians”. Alperovitch is an Atlantic Council associate who is vituperatively anti-Russian, with questionable attribution history.  Before being baked into government policy, any Alperovitch findings ought to be cross-checked in the most minute detail. However (unlike Climategate), the police (FBI here) never took possession of the hacked server and were thus unable to carry out their own forensic analysis. The intel assessments provided to the public consist of little more than assertions, repeated over and over, louder and louder, rather than objective evidence. The intel community hides behind a supposed need to protect “sources and methods”, but I seriously wonder whether these caveats nothing more than a figleaf to prevent exposure of their own shortcomings (h/t David Niven).

 


01 Sep 17:22

Lawyer at Firm Advising Winklevoss Twins Tapped as SEC’s ETF Regulator

by CoinTelegraph By David Dinkins

The Winklevoss twins’ proposed Bitcoin ETF that was rejected by the SEC earlier this year might get a second chance, as an attorney from their law firm tapped for a top SEC position.