Shared posts

07 Jan 20:15

Mom Places Ad for Daughter, Almost 10, as a “Mother’s Helper.” Sheriff Comes Knocking

by Lenore Skenazy

This mom's letter should spark some discussion of what we lose when we treat kids as incompetent or endangered, even though they're quite ready to take on some responsibility in "the real world." As that New York Times piece on the relentless demands of modern parenting made clear: Many of us, wealthy or not, spend a

The post Mom Places Ad for Daughter, Almost 10, as a “Mother’s Helper.” Sheriff Comes Knocking appeared first on Let Grow.

04 Jan 19:10

Top 12 Debunked Climate Scares of 2018

by charles the moderator
Reposted from The GWPF January 2018:  Worst-case global warming scenarios not credible: Study PARIS (AFP) – Earth’s surface will almost certainly not warm up four or five degrees Celsius by 2100, according to a study released Wednesday (Jan 17) which, if correct, voids worst-case UN climate change predictions. A revised calculation of how greenhouse gases…
04 Jan 15:03

Crypto Is Down, So Why Am I Smiling?

by W. Scott Stornetta
One of the cryptographers most often cited in Satoshi Nakamoto's white paper has reason to think the industry's future is bright.
03 Jan 16:57

Bitcoin Exchange Paxful Sees 20% 2018 Growth, Driven by Africa

by Leigh Cuen
Despite bitcoin's price volatility in 2018, P2P exchanges Paxful and LocalBitcoins each saw significant user growth in Africa.
02 Jan 16:07

Blockchain Analysis Is About to Get Harder as P2EP Enters Testing Phase

by Aaron van Wirdum
Blockchain Analysis Is About to Get Harder as P2EP Enters Testing Phase

Yet another tool is being added to Bitcoin’s growing number of privacy solutions.

Thought up at a brainstorming event attended by Bitcoin developers and privacy researchers last summer, Pay to Endpoint (P2EP) is a relatively new trick that utilizes the well-known CoinJoin mixing technique to make blockchain analysis much harder. An early version of it, called “Bustapay,” was quickly implemented by independent Bitcoin developer Ryan Havar and is being tested as of now. Meanwhile, the privacy-focused Samourai Wallet as well as JoinMarket developer Adam Gibson are working on two P2EP projects of their own, which are getting closer to deployment too.

“Privacy is essential for Bitcoin,” Havar told Bitcoin Magazine. “Ideally we want to screw up [blockchain] analysis so badly, that they can't even make it.”

CoinJoin

To understand P2EP, let’s first recap what CoinJoin transactions look like, and why they are (and aren’t) useful.

Many normal Bitcoin transactions send coins from several addresses (inputs), because the sender’s addresses individually don’t contain enough coins needed for the payment. This is very helpful for blockchain spies, as it usually means that all inputs in a transaction belong to the same entity. It allows for address clustering.

But by combining several transactions into one big transaction, CoinJoin — a privacy solution first proposed by Bitcoin Core contributor Gregory Maxwell — has the potential to break this assumption. If multiple senders cooperate to create a single transaction that sends coins from all of their inputs to the different receiving addresses (outputs) they’re paying, blockchain spies would be wrong to assume all inputs belong to the same entity. As such, they can’t just assume it, even if it is a regular transaction. It would make address clustering, and thus blockchain analysis, significantly harder.

However, CoinJoin also has its limitations. If all CoinJoin participants don’t use equal amounts, it’s easy to puzzle together which inputs are paying which outputs. As such, it doesn’t really prevent address clustering after all.

CoinJoin is still useful for mixing, which can easily be done with equal amounts. Users don’t pay other users, but rather, themselves. This is effective in breaking the trail of coins, but it does give away that a mixing session took place.

“While it ‘clears your history,’ it is not as useful as people imagine,” Havar argued. “Your coins are obviously and intentionally washed. That makes it problematic to use. Try depositing your post-mixed coins into an exchange, for example, and watch when they lock your account and ask you a lot of questions.”

CoinJoin’s potential to break the assumptions used for addresses clustering had not really been realized yet. But this may be about to change.

P2EP

P2EP is a relatively new idea, first proposed by participants of a brainstorming event for Bitcoin developers and privacy researchers last summer, who published the idea in several blogs. It cleverly works around CoinJoin’s “equal amount” limitation, opening up the possibility to use CoinJoin for regular payments — not just mixing specifically.

The central concept behind P2EP is simple yet effective: the receiving party in a payment takes part in the CoinJoin. If Alice pays Bob, Bob participates in Alice’s CoinJoin transaction to him, so he also pays himself.

Say, for example, that Alice wants to send Bob 1.2 BTC. She may send it from two inputs: one that contains 1 BTC and one that contains 0.5 BTC. This adds up to 1.5 BTC, which means she also sends 0.3 BTC back to herself as change in the same transaction.

With P2EP, Bob adds one input of his own in the mix: let’s say it contains 0.9 BTC. As such, the transaction now has three inputs worth 1, 0.9 and 0.5 BTC, for a total of 2.4 BTC. The transaction also has two receiving addresses, worth 2.1 and 0.3 BTC. The 0.3 BTC is still the same change going back to Alice, while the 2.1 BTC really consist of the original payment of 1.2, plus the 0.9 that Bob is sending himself. While the transaction has some padding, Alice still just paid a total of 1.2 BTC to Bob.

Importantly, not all inputs in this transaction belong to Alice, and it’s no longer obvious that a CoinJoin took place: there are no matching “sending” and “receiving” amounts to link addresses together.

“The on-chain structure of a P2EP payment is exactly like a normal transaction. So, at certain points, spies know their analysis is corrupted, but they don't exactly know how. Ideally, we want to screw up the analysis so badly, that they can't even make it,” said Havar.

Bustapay

Havar is the previous owner of Bustabit, an online gambling game, and has plenty of experience in the Bitcoin casino space in general. This is how he got a firsthand taste of Bitcoin’s privacy and fungibility issues: Several exchanges blacklist coins that are associated with gambling sites.

“As a casino operator, you want to help protect the privacy of your players,” Havar explained. “So I implemented a huge amount of privacy oriented features, but each time I was kind of surprised how ineffective it was. Bitcoin truly leaks a lot more information than you'd expect.”

Havar sold Bustabit earlier this year and got interested in P2EP when he read about it last summer. He got to work and first announced the Bustapay implementation in late August 2018: a basic version of P2EP.

While intentionally keeping it simple, Havar believes he has improved on initial P2EP proposals in particular when it comes to denial-of-service prevention (where someone indicates an intention to make a payment but doesn’t) and privacy (spies can use the denial-of-service trick to learn which addresses belong to the payee). In both cases, Havar’s solution lets the payee claim a regular payment if the payer bails on the P2EP payment. This makes the attacks expensive — perhaps too expensive to be worthwhile.

Havar hopes the implementation will be adopted by wallets and services, but he did note interest has been limited so far.

“I tried to reach out to most wallets — but there's largely apathy,” Havar said, realizing Bustapay suffers from a “chicken-and-egg” problem. “For any wallet developer, there's a million things to do, and who wants to implement a protocol no one supports? Meanwhile, when I talk to several big bitcoin businesses, no one wanted to implement a protocol that no wallets support.”

Still, one service has now implemented Bustapay: Bustabit, the casino game Havar used to own, and which he himself believes might even be the biggest one on the internet. To keep things moving forward, Havar put out a call for testers and even offered a small reward last week, while also proposing wallet developers should get a piece of a five-year-old “CoinJoin bounty fund.”

With these tests, Havar hopes to learn how effective the implementation really is.

“Someone with Chainalysis access is giving me information about its effectiveness,” he told Bitcoin Magazine, “so I can kind of see how well it works, and how confused it gets.”

Stowaway and Payjoin

It turns out Bustapay is not the only P2EP project.

Inspired by a much earlier idea by Maxwell to disrupt blockchain analysis, privacy-focused Samourai Wallet revealed in September it has been working on a P2EP-type of solution, too. Based on guidelines by data analyst LaurentMT, the wallet had started working on the solution even before last summer's privacy brainstorming event and has been running private tests since. Dubbed “Stowaway,” the feature will enter a public testnet phase within weeks.

Samourai Wallet’s implementation does have one big difference from Havar’s implementation, however, and will, therefore, be incompatible.

“I'm happy to see Bustapay move forward, but personally I'm a bit put off by the the lack of ‘permissions’: It grants anyone the right to obtain knowledge about part of my UTXO [Bitcoin address] set,” pseudonymous Samourai Wallet developer “Samouraidev” told Bitcoin Magazine.

Stowaway will, therefore, only work between Samourai Wallet users that have indicated through the application that they have a trust relationship with each other.

“Users have to ‘follow’ one another and, in addition to that, provide that extra ‘permission’ to allow their UTXO set to be exposed,” said Samouraidev. “For example, I might have a basic two-way relation with my employer to receive [a] salary, but I do not want my employer to solicit me for collaborative spends, which would expose my UTXO set to him.”

And just a couple of days ago, a third P2EP project was revealed. Privacy-focused Bitcoin developer Adam Gibson is implementing a solution called “Payjoin” for another CoinJoin-based privacy project: JoinMarket.

Like Stowaway, Payjoin is specifically designed to be used between users’ wallets. Where Bustapay is developed with online merchants in mind and is available for anyone that wishes to make a payment, Payjoin would only be used when two users specifically choose to do so.

“With Payjoin you're not passively waiting for arbitrary people to ping your server, so you don't have to worry about snooping attacks,” Gibson explained. “You exchange payment details and you end up with a transaction that looks like an ordinary payment.”

Having been part of the brainstorming session where P2EP was formalized, Gibson has been aware of the solution for a little while; in August, he was even among the first to explain it publicly in a podcast. But he said he’d only recently realized the full potential benefit of the trick. Besides privacy, P2EP also positively impacts Bitcoin’s UTXO set, as more unspent coins end up held by fewer addresses.

Gibson, therefore, started working on PayJoin about a week ago and said that implementing it is relatively easy, as JoinMarket wallets already communicate with one another anyway. He thinks he could have a working implementation ready to be integrated into JoinMarket within a few weeks.

“I initially kind of dismissed this idea offhand as not getting enough usage,” he said. “That's, of course, still likely true. But the main reason I decided to devote a bit of time to it in JoinMarket is everything is set up for that already: anonymised Tor connections between counterparties, encrypted messaging, etcetera. So, even if hardly anybody uses it, it acts as a showcase for other wallets and systems in Bitcoin to let them think about it.”

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

02 Jan 05:30

Major American Magazine Time Column Reports About Bitcoin’s Liberating Potential

by Cointelegraph By Adrian Zmudzinski

Bitcoin has a substantial liberating potential, particularly important to people living under oppressive regimes, mainstream newspaper Time reported

31 Dec 22:51

Massive Ad Fraud Scheme Relied on BGP Hijacking

by Bruce Schneier

This is a really interesting story of an ad fraud scheme that relied on hijacking the Border Gateway Protocol:

Members of 3ve (pronounced "eve") used their large reservoir of trusted IP addresses to conceal a fraud that otherwise would have been easy for advertisers to detect. The scheme employed a thousand servers hosted inside data centers to impersonate real human beings who purportedly "viewed" ads that were hosted on bogus pages run by the scammers themselves­ -- who then received a check from ad networks for these billions of fake ad impressions. Normally, a scam of this magnitude coming from such a small pool of server-hosted bots would have stuck out to defrauded advertisers. To camouflage the scam, 3ve operators funneled the servers' fraudulent page requests through millions of compromised IP addresses.

About one million of those IP addresses belonged to computers, primarily based in the US and the UK, that attackers had infected with botnet software strains known as Boaxxe and Kovter. But at the scale employed by 3ve, not even that number of IP addresses was enough. And that's where the BGP hijacking came in. The hijacking gave 3ve a nearly limitless supply of high-value IP addresses. Combined with the botnets, the ruse made it seem like millions of real people from some of the most affluent parts of the world were viewing the ads.

Lots of details in the article.

An aphorism I often use in my talks is "expertise flows downhill: today's top-secret NSA programs become tomorrow's PhD theses and the next day's hacking tools." This is an example of that. BGP hacking -- known as "traffic shaping" inside the NSA -- has long been a tool of national intelligence agencies. Now it is being used by cybercriminals.

EDITED TO ADD (1/2): Classified NSA presentation on "network shaping." I don't know if there is a difference inside the NSA between the two terms.

31 Dec 14:21

The Hendy Wind Farm Scandal

by Guest Blogger
Guest post by Robert Owens (where ‘saving the planet’ from climate change trumps  democracy and the protection of the environment) A brief summary of the history of this national scandal, involving the brushing aside of local democracy and the blatant flaunting of planning law: 1. In 2014 Hendy Wind Farm Ltd. applied for planning permission…
31 Dec 00:30

It Sure Looks Like This Obamacare Program Has Led to More People Dying

by Peter Suderman

To determine whether a government program is successful, it's often necessary to look not only at how well it does what it's supposed to do, but what it's doing that it isn't supposed to. For example, killing people.

Take the hospital readmissions program built into Obamacare. The program derived from a simple observation that hospitals were treating lots of people who would then return for more treatment within the month. Unnecessary readmissions cost Medicare an estimated $17.5 billion a year. If hospitals were treating people effectively, the thinking went, those people shouldn't need to return so soon.

So the health law instituted a Medicare payment penalty for hospitals with too many readmissions for pneumonia, heart failure, and heart attack. Since 2012, Medicare has assessed about $2 billion in penalties on hospitals with too-high readmissions rates.

Hospital groups have argued that these payments are punitive and unfair, particularly to so-called safety net hospitals that serve the poorest, sickest patients. These patients tend to have higher readmissions rates, and the hospitals that treat them were more likely to be hit with payment reductions. (Earlier this year, the Trump administration changed the penalty structure for safety net hospitals.)

But the program has often been labeled a success because it accomplished its primary goal. Readmissions dropped between 2.3 and 3.6 percentage points for the conditions targeted. Readmissions associated with other maladies dropped by 1.4 percent. The authors of one 2016 study suggested that the lower readmission rates "point to how Medicare can improve the care that patients receive through innovative payment models." It offered proof, and hope, that with the right incentives, Medicare could save money and provide better care.

A new study appears to dash that hope, at least as far as readmissions are concerned.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and conducted by by researchers associated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical and Harvard Medical School, looked at hospitalizations between 2005 and 2015. It found that "30-day post-discharge mortality"—the number of people who died within a month of leaving the hospital—increased for heart failure patients after the readmissions penalty program was implemented.

Although heart failure mortality was already on the rise, the rate of increase became more rapid after Medicare started penalizing readmissions. In addition, mortality rates amongst pneumonia patients, which had been stable, increased.

Fewer people were being readmitted to hospitals, but more people were dying.

This is not the first study to conclude that the program increased mortality. A separate JAMA study last year looked at about 115,000 Medicare patients and also found that although readmissions for heart failure were down, mortality had increased, with about 5,400 more people dying annually.

It is possible that this effect is merely a correlation rather than a direct causation; there may be other factors at play, and the new study does not definitively conclude that the payment program is causing the deaths, although the authors worry that it is a possibility.

The point of the program is to change the practices of medical providers; it seems likely, if not quite certain, that the documented change in results, in terms of both readmissions and mortality, was linked to the change in payment structure. The new study notes that "the increase in mortality for heart failure and pneumonia were driven mainly by patients who were not readmitted within 30 days of discharge." It is reasonable to assume that this program is causing more people with the targeted medical conditions to die.

The program, then, was a success by one measure—but not the most important one.

30 Dec 19:35

The True Crypto Alternative to Government Money

by Evan Kuo
The denationalization of money is finally unfolding organically in the form of digital assets.
28 Dec 18:41

What Makes Billy Joel's Style Unique? An Original Essay

by cmp2020
Hello everyone! Several days ago, an essay was due for English class in which we had to discuss an American artist's style, and what makes it unique. At first, I was intent on doing John Williams, but I could not find an adequate score in time, so I decided to look at the style of Billy Joel. I apologize for not including any pictures of Billy Joel, but I don't want to risk copyright infringement. Here is the essay which I wrote about Joel's style: ### American Composer Billy Joel’s Style The style of American composer Billy Joel is something which almost anybody can immediately decipher amongst the millions of notable modern styles. This essay will discuss the aspects of that style that make it so recognizable: the elaborate deeper meaning behind the lyrics, the complex rhythmic and harmonic ideas, and the familiar melodies. It was once said that four generations could be in a room listening to Billy Joel’s music, and each would relate to the lyrics in a different way. One of the hallmarks of Joel’s style is that it incorporates an elaborate deeper meaning amongst the lyrics, which almost anyone can relate to. Take for instance, the song “[The Stranger](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnlvPoDU5LY) (1),” released in 1977. This song talks about the metaphorical masks which we wear throughout life in trying to achieve certain goals. It holds the meaning that we all do things that would seem completely contrary to our moral values in order to fulfill some form of desire. This is embodied in this quote from the song >“Why were you so surprised That you never saw the stranger Did you ever let your lover See the stranger in yourself(?). . .” Joel’s songs are also known for the stories they tell. For example, “[Miami 2017](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coYwBvysy3Q) (2)” tells the story of a disaster that occurs in New York City that forced all of its citizens to move to Miami. This song was extremely relatable when it was released in 1976 because it was written in response to the Great Default Crisis of 1975. During this crisis, it was widely believed that New York City would go bankrupt. As a result of this, Joel turned it into a fictional scenario and put it in a song, making it extremely relatable for audiences. Another unique facet of Joel’s works is its appeal to younger generations’ sense of rebellion as well as breaking free of former ideals. Though this was something common amongst previous artists, Joel did it with the approach of a balladeer, utilizing story-telling through music, as well as traditional and logical harmonic progression, to get these ideals across. For example, “[Ain’t No Crime](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccddnwWq-ZM) (3),” which tells the story of a narrator who stayed out late and had a little too much to drink, causing him to wake up late for work. Joel responds to this by saying that it “Ain’t no crime.” This rebellious nature can be found throughout Joel’s works. It can also be observed that Joel writes what he experiences based on the fact that as his situation changes, so too do his songs. For example, when he became a father, he wrote several pieces for his daughter, one of which is called “[Lullabye](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcnd55tLCv8) (4)” This piece holds a different sound than Joel’s other pieces as it sounds delicate and gentle, and much more fatherly than some of his other works. This piece has a very deep meaning, stating >“Someday we'll all be gone But lullabies go on and on They never die That's how you and I will be.” Ideas such as this touch us all in different ways, but they will always touch us. The next idea which is within Joel’s style is a complex use of rhythm and harmony. Though, Joel is no Beethoven, he certainly understood the way which certain chords function, allowing him to be logical in his harmonic progressions as well as his voice leading. This advanced harmony can quite clearly be seen in “[New York State of Mind](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol0dPJdzm1M) (5)” In this piece, the use of several secondary dominants can quite clearly be noticed, and their eventual (though not textbook) resolution. This piece is quite clearly Jazz based like something you would hear in a New York Jazz bar, and shows off Joel’s talent as a singer, pianist, and a composer. It can also be noted that, as mentioned previously, certain traditional harmonic ideas sometimes occur within Joel’s work. For example, the piece “[Scenes From An Italian Restaurant](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUz48xw_OiM) (6)” (Which will be discussed several times in this paper). Something quite similar (in function and notation) to a neapolitan sixth is utilized in the string transition from C major to G major (just before the second section). In a similar regard to a classical progression, Joel pivots to G major through this Neopolitan sixth, utilizing a cadence over a dominant pedal point. As you can imagine, this has a unique effect that can’t be noticed in a lot of other rock/pop music of the period. In the same way, Joel utilizes complex rhythmic ideas in many of his pieces. For instance, “[Prelude of an Angry Young Man](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2iNLt_hUZg) (7)” which utilizes a quite complex piano introduction, which Joel based off of a drumming rudiment. This song can also be seen as an example of the rebellious teen angst which was previously mentioned. ######
https://files.steempeak.com/file/steempeak/cmp2020/0bQMLHGs-image.png Image Source: Pixabay.com, License CC0, Public Domain
Joel is also unique because of his reflection on the styles of other composers, as well as many different genres in his writing. For instance, “[Nocturne](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGZygankv-w) (8)” in his first album can quite clearly be seen to be based in a classical style, and likely draws on the style of Chopin. While pieces such as “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (6)” can be seen to draw an influence from the Beatles. It is Joel’s admiration and mixture of these styles that helps to give him such a unique style. One specific instance where Joel quite clearly drew influence from classical music is in “[This Night](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNOXu_yoDYI) (9),” in which he utilizes a melody originally in the slow movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique sonata. This idea of drawing from classical influences can be directly compared to the Renaissance humanist movement in which artists, such as Michelangelo, drew from classical Greek and Roman influences in forming their art. In the same way that Michelangelo’s work stands (and stood) out, so too does Joel’s. In this piece, Joel also quite clearly utilizes a 60’s doo-opp style, demonstrating his diverse taste for styles and his unique ability in mixing them together. Finally, Joel’s use of memorable melodies helps him in creating his own unique style. Almost every Billy Joel song has a melody that sounds as though it has already been written and known. It is this skill that truly helps him in creating such memorable music. It has often been said “do not judge a book by its cover,” but the cover is what everyone remembers the most. In similar regards, no matter what, if the melody is memorable, so too is the song. An example of a song which uses memorable melodies is Joel’s “[Scenes from an Italian Restaurant](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUz48xw_OiM) (6),” which really is an example of every idea stated in this essay. This piece is really like a combination of three songs, but every section has catchy melodies that listeners could not forget if they tried. This idea of memorable themes really is something notable from Mozart’s music as well. Often, it is almost as if Mozart can’t help but use as many melodies as possible, and each melody is something which listeners find themselves humming later. This is one of the reasons why Mozart’s style is so recognizable, and, in similar regards, this is one of the reason why Joel’s style is so recognizable. Billy Joel has an undoubtedly unique style due to his use of elaborate deeper meanings amidst the lyrics, the complex rhythmic and harmonic ideas, and the familiar melodies. Joel’s style has been instrumental in demonstrating the capabilities of American artists. **Works Cited** Joel, Billy, “The Stranger.” The Stranger, Columbia Records. 1977. Joel, Billy, “Miami 2017.” Turnstiles, Columbia Records. 1976. Joel, Billy, “Ain’t No Crime.” Piano Man, Columbia Records. 1973. Joel, Billy, “Lullabye.” River of Dreams, Columbia Records. 1993. Joel, Billy, “New York State of Mind.” Turnstiles, Columbia Records. 1976 Joel, Billy, “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.” The Stranger, Columbia Records. 1977 Joel, Billy, “Prelude of an Angry Young Man.” Turnstiles, Columbia Records. 1976 Joel, Billy, “Nocturne.” Cold Spring Harbor, Family Productions. 1971 Joel, Billy, “This Night.” An Innocent Man, Columbia Records. 1983 Thanks for reading this! Today, the marching band leaves for Disney World, so hopefully I will be posting some pictures from Disney world in my Steemit shirt. In case I don't see you before the new year, cheers! https://s1.postimg.org/2bf9vv0mhr/CMP2020_verified.png (Note) In order to encourage meaningful feedback on the platform, I will check comment trails of users who leave superficial comments (ie "Awesome post," or "Upvoted.") and will mute any users who exhibit a pattern of leaving "spammy" comments.
28 Dec 00:11

If Spreading Fake News on Facebook Is a Crime in Ohio, They Will Need More Jails

by Jacob Sullum

Social media are teeming with people who like to publicly worry about imaginary risks. That's not a good thing. But is it a crime? According to an Ohio jury and judge, it is, at least when someone's worries are echoed by others, resulting in irritating phone calls and emails to government officials.

Last week Barberton Municipal Judge David Fish sentenced Erin Croghan to three days in jail, a month of house arrest, and a year without social media for "inducing panic" by using Facebook to repeat an unfounded rumor about a pellet gun found at a local school. It could have been worse. Inducing panic is a first-degree misdemeanor in Ohio, meaning it is punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Then again, some might question whether saying dumb stuff on Facebook should be a crime at all, given that the First Amendment is supposed to protect even ill-informed and misleading commentary.

Croghan's journey to jail began on November 2, 2017, when she was at her daughter's school bus stop and heard that another student had seen a gun at school the day before. Croghan asked her daughter's teacher at Coventry Elementary School about the rumor and eventually heard from Coventry Local Schools Superintendent Lisa Blough, who said kids riding a bus had seen a middle school student with a pellet gun in his front yard as they passed by his house. Blough assured Croghan that no gun had been found at any of the schools she oversees.

Croghan evidently did not believe Blough, because she revived the rumor several months later, following the February 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. "A student brought a gun to school a few months ago," she claimed on the "Portage Lakes Rocks!" Facebook page. (Portage Lakes is a town south of Akron that apparently aspires to be as cool as Cleveland.) Croghan said the weapon was a pellet gun but "still could've caused harm," adding that she was "just curious if parents were made aware of this past incident."

Croghan's post prompted other parents to contact Tina Marie Norris, the Coventry Middle School principal. At Croghan's trial, the Akron Beacon Journal reports, Norris testified that "the assistant principal was off the day after Croghan's post," so Norris "spent her entire day fielding phone calls and emails from concerned parents." She said parents were "significantly worried." Norris responded on Facebook at the time, saying no guns had been found at any Coventry schools. "This type of post is why social media is dangerous," she wrote.

Croghan refused to back down. Instead she speculated that Norris and other school officials were lying about the purported incident so as not to endanger voter approval of funding for the school district. "The posts kept getting more outrageous and, frankly, very attacking," Norris testified.

It's not clear whether Croghan knowingly spread fake news or was just confused and stubborn. "It simply was a false report that Erin Croghan put out there for attention-seeking behavior," Assistant Barberton Prosecutor Michelle Banbury said during her opening statement. "I wish I could explain why she did what she did. I don't have a motive."

To convict Croghan, Banbury was supposed to prove that she knew the pellet gun rumor was false, and there seems to be reasonable doubt on that point. It also seems like a stretch to claim that annoying Norris qualifies as "serious public inconvenience or alarm," another element of the crime that Croghan supposedly committed.

"You heard there was no robocall, no evacuation, no lockdown," Croghan's lawyer, Jeff Laybourne, told the jury. "If it had been 'serious,' those things would have occurred." He said the "serious public inconvenience or alarm" alleged by the prosecution amounted to "phone calls from parents to administrators who are paid by taxpayers as part of their job to answer phone calls."

Laybourne also noted the First Amendment implications of the case. "They have criminalized freedom of speech on Facebook," he said, arguing that convicting Croghan could have a "chilling effect" on "concerned parents and their ability to ask questions."

This precedent might make people think twice before passing along unsubstantiated rumors, but it also could deter people from questioning the government's position on any number of issues where the facts are unclear. Could strongly worded Facebook posts about a controversial police shooting be construed as "inducing panic" by convincing young black men that cops pose a deadly danger to them? What about tweets alleging that the government's preparations for an impending natural disaster are woefully inadequate?

Croghan's sentence is particularly troubling because it includes a prior restraint on her speech, banning her from social media during her year of probation. Last year the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a North Carolina law banning registered sex offenders from social media was inconsistent with the First Amendment. This case involves a probation condition rather than a statute, and the ban lasts a year rather than decades. Then again, Croghan's crime pales in comparison to those of many people covered by the North Carolina law.

Croghan, who is appealing her conviction, asked Judge Fish to at least let her use Facebook to coordinate her volunteer work for a local program that provides food to needy families. He said she would have to get someone else to fill that role or find another method of identifying recipients.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Fish "said Croghan is the 'ultimate contradiction' because she does so much good in the community but also made these erroneous posts." Alluding to the "counseling" that Croghan is undergoing, the judge told her, "I think you're going to get there. You're a good person, Erin."

Fish nevertheless thought Croghan's reckless disregard for the truth justified a jail sentence and one year of enforced silence on social media. Myriad good but misguided people commit similar crimes every day. "If we're going to charge every person who puts misinformation on Facebook," Laybourne told the jury, "this place will be inundated."

[Thanks to Braden McConnell for the tip.]

27 Dec 15:30

The Professions with Highest (and Lowest) Suicide Rates

Remlaps

h/t Whig Zhou

For every single major occupation, men have a much higher suicide rate than women.
26 Dec 05:06

Documents Reveal More Details About Massive Federal Telephone Surveillance Program

by Mike Maharrey

Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reveal more about a super-secretive partnership between federal agents and AT&T to run a massive telephone surveillance program.

Hemisphere was first publicly disclosed in a New York Times article back in 2013 after a citizen activist in Seattle discovered the program through an open records request.

Here’s how the EFF describes Hemisphere.

Through the Hemisphere program, AT&T assists federal and local law enforcement in accessing and analyzing its massive database of call detail records (CDRs)—information on phone numbers dialed and received, as well as the time, date, and length of call and in some instances location information. More specifically, Hemisphere has access to telecommunication “switches” operated by AT&T that guide telephone calls. Because other providers use AT&T “switches” for their calls, the database contains call detail records regardless of carrier. The database has records concerning local, long distance, cellular, and international calls. Official government presentations estimate 4 billion call detail records populate the Hemisphere database on a daily basis. That includes records dating as far back as 1987, which is much further back than the records most telcos store.

AT&T employees help run the program, working within law enforcement agencies in LA, Houston and Atlanta. The feds pay their salaries through the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) through its High Intensity Drug Traffic Areas (HIDTA) program.

The federal government wrapped the program in secrecy. This includes intentionally leaving the detail of its use out of arrest reports and court proceedings. Federal agencies used data collected from Hemisphere for parallel construction – a practice former NSA Chief Technical Director William Binney called the country’s “greatest threat since the Civil War.”

Here’s how EFF explained it.

After using Hemisphere, cops devise a second, more conventional way to obtain the information, and put that reverse-engineered method down on paper. The result is that law enforcement lies about the origins of its investigative methods, which also prevents individuals they target from knowing about, much less challenging, the surveillance.

EFF pierced the veil of secrecy through a lawsuit and recently released documents it obtained. EFF attorney Aaron Mackey outlined the scope of the program in an interview with Courthouse News Services.

“The government has worked with AT&T to create this database where there are almost no barriers to law enforcement’s ability to access the information. Retention is forever.”

To access phone records through Hemisphere, DEA agents had to follow two steps.

  1. Fill out a form
  2. Obtain an administrative subpoena.

The agency seeking the information issues administrative subpoenas. In other words, the DEA issues a subpoena on its own behalf with no judicial input. Mackey called this an inherent conflict of interest.

“There’s no third party overseeing the initial request,” Mackey said. He also told Courthouse News Service that he found no indication that DEA agents were required to state a justification for obtaining phone records in Hemisphere request forms.

According to EFF, the government can also use pattern analysis of data to track people’s social networks, physical locations and movements.

Unsurprisingly, government officials defended the unconstitutional program and the secrecy surrounding it. In an email obtained by EFF, an official referred to the program as nothing more than a “Super Search Engine” and a “Google on Steroids.” As the EFF wrote shortly after discovering the email:

Such descriptions confirm EFF’s worst fears that Hemisphere is a mass surveillance program that threatens core civil liberties.

The program poses severe Fourth Amendment concerns because police are obtaining detailed private information from the call records and learning even more about people’s social connections and physical movements based on pattern analysis. Federal officials do all of this without a warrant or any judicial oversight.

But beyond the Fourth Amendment problems, Hemisphere also poses acute risks to the First Amendment rights of callers caught in the program’s dragnet. Specifically, Hemisphere allows police to see a person’s associations, shedding light on their personal connections and political and social networks. It’s not hard to see such a tool being trained on activists and others critical of law enforcement, or being used by the government to identify entire organizations.

You can read more about what the documents uncovered by EFF revealed HERE.

This is just one of many federal government spy programs that operate outside of the Fourth Amendment with the support of state and local governments, and corporations like AT&T.

States can end cooperation with warrantless spying by prohibiting “material support or resources” to assist federal agencies in their actions. Michigan enacted a law doing just that earlier this year. They can also disincentivize corporations by passing the CHOICE ACT. This law penalizes corporations that work with federal spies by denying them access to state contracts.  This forces companies to chose: do business with the NSA and support its rights violating operation, or refuse to provide such support and do business with the state.

26 Dec 05:03

Don Boudreaux: Trade has no losers - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
Don Boudreaux: Trade has no losers

We hear incessant claims that international trade creates “losers” (e.g., job losses in some industries), and those losses thereby justify US protectionist trade measures that restrict trade with foreigners to protect the American “losers.” Not so fast. In his latest article for the American Institute for Economic Research Don Boudreaux argues persuasively that trade has no losers here’s an excerpt:

This “loser” language, however, is completely mistaken. Saying that trade has losers suggests that stopping trade would eliminate such losses. Yet, jobs and businesses in market economies are routinely destroyed even when international trade plays no role. Therefore, even if (contrary to fact) people who lose jobs in market economies are appropriately described as “losers,” blaming such losses on trade conveys the impression that trade’s role in inflicting such losses is unique and, hence, that such losses could and would be eliminated if trade were stopped. But this impression is false. Trade is not unique in causing such “losses.”

Trade with people classified according to where they live differs in no ethically or economically relevant way from trade with people classified according to other criteria. This important point is almost totally ignored in both popular and academic discussions of trade. And that’s a shame, for avowing that trade among people who live in different political jurisdictions creates losers is akin to avowing, say, that trade among people with different genitalia — trade of men with women — creates losers.

To recognize that international trade is merely one of many channels through which competition occurs is to recognize the flaw in the assertion that trade has losers. The assertion that trade has losers possesses no more meaning or relevance for policy than does the assertion that trade with women — or trade with blue-eyed people, or trade with teetotalers, or trade with baseball fans, or trade with men who wear bowties, or trade with people whose first names begin with the letter V — has losers. If each of these assertions about trade makes no sense, what sense is there in the assertion that trade with foreigners has losers? Answer: none at all.

The fact is that all competition and economic changes cause some workers and firms to have to adjust. Trade with foreigners is not remotely unique on this front. Yet trade with foreigners is nevertheless uniquely described as a manifestation of competition that has “losers” — a description that unjustifiably fuels demands for government to restrict trade with foreigners in order to protect its “losers.” And so to recognize that international trade, as such, in fact does not have losers beyond those that are caused by any and all manifestations of economic competition is to recognize the folly of falling for the assertion “Trade has losers” as a justification for protectionism.

MP: Amen to that.

Don Boudreaux: Trade has no losers
Mark Perry

25 Dec 22:48

This Is How Civilization Is Lost

by Mike McDaniel

Not long ago, there be Ebonics.  You remember that gentle readers?  “Dey be, dem be, dat ho be?”  It was the idea that slovenly, inarticulate, grammatically incorrect speech and writing were as valuable as–hell, superior to–standard academic English, even standard American English.  Therefore, anyone using the unique and unimaginably valuable “language” of Ebonics dare not be held to the same standards of speech and writing as those not so blessed.

That was an earlier time when the Left was not quite so ubiquitous and powerful, Ebonics died a well-deserved death.  But in academia circa 2018, Leftism rules.  I’ve explored math–it’s racist,  and also proper grammar, spelling and punctuation–they’re racist too.  

Fortunately, the brilliant scholars of American University are working tirelessly for diversity, inclusion, and the language skills of illiterate 8-year olds.  Powerline reports:

Like our coveted Green Weenie Award, we could cover academic absurdities on an hourly basis these days. To paraphrase Will Rogers, there’s no trouble exposing the rot of our universities when so many faculty are working full time for you. So we limit ourselves to the most extraordinary or novel expressions of academic rot.

Like the idea that conventions in writing are—wait for it, you know what’s coming—raaaacccist!

American University has just what we need—a writing workshop in February:

Grading Ain’t Just Grading: Rethinking Writing Assessment—Ecologies Towards Antiracist Ends

With
Asao B. Inoue
February 1st, 2019

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

PLENARY SESSION: THE LANGUAGE STANDARDS THAT KILL OUR STUDENTS: GRADING AIN’T JUST GRADING

9:45 AM -11:00 AM
MGC 3-5

Open to all faculty who preregister

This plenary will argue against the use of conventional standards in college courses that grade student writing by single standards. Inoue will discuss the ways that White language supremacy is perpetuated in college classrooms despite the better intentions of faculty, particularly through the practices of grading writing.

BREAKOUT SESSION: CREATING ANITRACIST WRITING ASSESSMENT ECOLOGIES IN WRITING COURSES

You see what’s coming, don’t you gentle readers?

This interactive workshop will focus on redesigning writing courses’ assessment ecologies in ways that reduce the negative effects of a single standard of writing used in conventional grading practices. It will offer an alternative to such grading practices, labor-based grading contracts, and a comprehensive theory of assessment that may lead participants to other ways of redesigning their courses’ assessments.

In other words, minority students are incapable of college-level writing.  We must therefore adjust “assessment ecologies” to prevent them from feeling microaggressed against and unsafe when competent professors actually take points for the kinds of mistakes one sees in a second grade class.

“Oh, you can’t write a simple sentence?  You have no idea what capitalization and punctuation are? There isn’t a single sentence in this paper that actually makes sense?  No problem!  I’ll just adjust my assessment ecology because your unique culture is invaluable and a beacon unto the nations.  100%, and don’t bother to come to class the rest of the semester; you’ve already passed with an “A.”

This is how civilization is lost.

Regular readers know I am losing hope in the future of education.  At one time in the golden past, school districts hired administrators charged with hiring the best possible teachers.  Thereafter, their job was to ensure those teachers had everything they needed to do their jobs as well as possible.  They, and all principals, understood their primary job was to run schools, to ensure a safe and proper academic atmosphere where effort and excellence were expected and rewarded, and where disruptions, crime and sloth were not.  Teachers were the experts, and everyone else was in a support role.

That system worked, and built the wealthiest, most technologically advanced society in history.  So of course, it had to be destroyed, and we are well on the way to total destruction.

In far too many American schools, teachers accomplish good things not because of, but in spite of, their principals and administrators, people who would not think of asking a teacher what they need or how they can make their jobs easier and more effective.  Instead, teachers are barraged from above with demands for data production, “classroom systems,” and a wide variety of other nonsensical retreads of failed ideas that continue to make a great deal of money for various consultant/hucksters selling their shabby wares to gullible educrats far more interested in pumping up their resumes than in helping teachers educate every student.

Why do teachers do it?  Because they believe in what they do.  Because they believe they have experience and knowledge to share that others don’t.  Despite what many think, not everyone can teach, and truly excellent teachers, like excellence in every field, are rare.  But mostly, they do it because they love the kids, and thanks to Fox News, just in time for Christmas, we have a shining example:

One elementary school teacher in Washington state is feeling especially thankful for one unexpected gift from a thoughtful student, as the youngster with ‘nothing to give’ creatively presented her class instructor with the marshmallows from her subsidized school breakfast of Lucky Charms. [skip]

Today I received some chocolates, sweet handmade notes, some jewelry, but these Lucky Charm marshmallows stood out to me the most,’ the 24-year-old teacher in Kennewick wrote on social media, USA Today reports.

‘You see, 100% of my school is on free/reduced lunch. They also get free breakfast at school every day of the school week. This kiddo wanted to get my something so badly, but had nothing to give,’ she continued. ‘So rather than give me nothing, this student opened up her free breakfast cereal this morning, took the packaging of her spork, straw, and napkin, and finally took the time to take every marshmallow out of her cereal to put in a bag – for me.

‘Be grateful for what you have, and what others give you. It all truly comes from the deepest parts of their hearts,’ she concluded.

Honest emotion is always touching, and I bawled my eyes out when I read this one.  We do it because the kids are worth it, and because we can never tell where our influence ends.  We will never know how much of a difference we made in their lives, but we have to believe we will.

So we put up with the stupidity and cruelty and the insults to our intelligence and professionalism.  When the bell rings, we shut the doors and teach as well and as fast as we can.  And we cherish the children anxious to learn, who have next to nothing, but freely give it all.

Merry Christmas everyone, and join me in praying for the survival of civilization, for that child, for all those children, and for the teachers who do it anyway.

25 Dec 01:02

THIS MUST END: Active Shooter Drill that the Kids and Teachers Thought Was REAL

by Lenore Skenazy

This, to us, is the definition of child abuse.  Allison Slater Tate at Today.com reports: An unannounced active-threat drill at a Florida high school caused panic this week — and raised questions about how far authorities should go to try to protect children from school shootings. The 2,800 students at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs,

The post THIS MUST END: Active Shooter Drill that the Kids and Teachers Thought Was REAL appeared first on Let Grow.

25 Dec 00:59

[World Premiere] of My Original Christmas Carol "A Merry Christmas"

by cmp2020
Hello everyone! Over the summer, I was asked to write a Christmas carol for the church Youth Choir to perform, and so I did. Several days ago, it was premiered. As a result, I am posting a video of that premiere here, as well as a little bit about the piece. Here is the video: https://youtu.be/aGbbNK1yOAM I utilized two poems for this, both of which are in the public domain. The first poem, which I used for the A section, is called "A Merry Christmas" and was written by Frances Ridley Havergal. I first found this poem online, and felt that it was quite inspirational, and almost immediately thought of the accompanying theme. However, it took me a while to harmonically develop, as is in the nature of a procrastinator. The second poem which I utilized is called "An Old Christmas Carol," and, as far as I know, its author is not known. I found it in an edition of Everybody's Magazine which was online. I also thought this poem was nice, and as a result, made some revisions and created a theme for it. This became the B section. Overall, I am extremely pleased with this performance! Thank you to Bob Morris and the Westminster Youth Choir for making this possible. Thank you also to the soloists (who I will not name in order to maintain privacy) as well as the Pianist Glenn Kinckner. Thank you also to Mrs. Kim Russell for working with the soloists as well as giving me compositional advice. Thank you also to Marcantonio Barone and Andrew Desiderio for their compositional advice. >Here are the lyrics: A Merry Christmas to you! For we serve the Lord with mirth, And we carol forth glad tidings Of our holy Savior's birth. So we keep the olden greeting With its meaning deep and true, And wish a Merry Christmas And a Happy New Year to You! >O wake ye, little children, And be of lofty cheer. Yon sun so high along the sky Hath shone two thousand years. And once it saw a little child In manger lying undefiled, And all about the cattle mild Did lovingly draw near. So wake ye little children, and be of lofty cheer. >A Merry Christmas to you! For we serve the Lord with mirth, And we carol forth glad tidings Of our holy Savior's birth. So we keep the olden greeting With its meaning deep and true, And wish a Merry Christmas And a Happy New Year to You! Thanks for reading/listening to this! I will be posting the Christmas eve performance as well as the sheet music version later this week. Thank you to this community for providing a method of sharing my progress. Merry Christmas! https://s1.postimg.org/2bf9vv0mhr/CMP2020_verified.png (Note) In order to encourage meaningful feedback on the platform, I will check comment trails of users who leave superficial comments (ie "Awesome post," or "Upvoted.") and will mute any users who exhibit a pattern of leaving "spammy" comments.
25 Dec 00:49

Left-Wing Rapper Gives Me Early Christmas Present

by Tom Woods

The latest issue of the Tom Woods Letter, which all the influential people read. Subscribe for free and receive my eBook Our Enemy, the Fed as a gift.

I just got an early Christmas present from, of all people, rapper Talib Kweli.

This is the guy who tried to have what I guess he thought was a conversation with me about state nullification. I pointed out the ways the abolitionists used states’ rights to fight against slavery. He had obviously never heard this before.

You’ll be shocked to learn that he didn’t exactly respond with, “That’s really interesting. Hey, whatever works to fight slavery, I’m on board with!”

Anyway, here is his gift to me:

After a thousand people pointed out his error, he fell back on the old Soviet line, which I don’t think anyone has seriously advanced since the 1960s: why, the Wall was an “anti-fascist barrier”!

Now a few readers will try to spoil my fun by saying, “Woods, who cares about this guy? Why bother?”

Well, (1) because it’s innocent fun.

And (2), as any of you who have seen him interacting with our folks on Twitter well know, the guy is certifiable, accusing people of all races of being “white supremacists” and “Nazi lovers.” So this couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

Now I’ll grant: Talib’s is a special case of educational malpractice.

But we’ve all suffered from it.

The fact that grown flower children are now in effect demanding the foreign-policy advice of Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton likewise suggests something is seriously wrong.

How about learning from me, and from other professors I trust?

That’s the solution to educational malpractice.

Plus: all membership levels 35% off for the next two days.

Treat yourself, or give the gift of knowledge.

It’s my dashboard university for normal people:

http://www.LibertyClassroom.com

Download Audio

Read the original article at TomWoods.com. http://tomwoods.com/left-wing-rapper-gives-me-early-christmas-present/
25 Dec 00:16

A Very Libertarian Christmas: New at Reason

by Andrew Heaton

Deck the halls and spread some Yuletide cheer. Or don't. You're your own person.

Click here for credits and downloadable versions.

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View this article.

24 Dec 19:33

The Space Race Could Become a Violent Land Grab

by Ben Lamm, Wired UK
Ben Lamm, Wired UK
The new space race is under way, but unlike the original two-state heat of the 1960s, today's space race is a veritable tournament, with Europe, India, China and Japan competing with Russia and the US to colonise pieces of our extraterrestrial world for profit. Add to them an increasing number of private space ventures, and space is starting to look like a potential Wild West.
24 Dec 06:24

The World Has A New Largest-Known Prime Number

by Joe Palca, NPR
Joe Palca, NPR
There's a new behemoth in the ongoing search for ever-larger prime numbers and it's nearly 25 million digits long.A prime is a number that can be divided only by two other whole numbers: itself and 1. The newly discovered number is what's known as a Mersenne prime, named for a French monk named Marin Mersenne who studied primes some 350 years ago.
22 Dec 04:45

50 years ago, 'the mother of all demos' foretold our tech future

by Steve Dent
Remlaps

h/t Roumen.ganeff

Innovation usually happens in slow, measured steps over many years, but a demo in 1968 transformed the world of personal computers in just 90 minutes. In a presentation dubbed "the mother of all demos," Douglas Engelbart showed off technology t...
21 Dec 22:47

Facebook to Develop its Own Stablecoin for Remittances: Report

by Yogita Khatri
Social media giant Facebook is reportedly working to launch its own stablecoin for money transfers through its popular messaging app WhatsApp.
21 Dec 20:15

Despite Slump in Crypto Prices, Bitcoin ATMs More Than Doubled in 2018

by Jimmy Aki
bitcoin atm 2018

Despite the market downturn in digital asset values, cryptocurrency automated teller machines (ATMs) are still in vogue. According to a tweet from cryptocurrency analytics firm DataLight, the number of crypto ATMs doubled in 2018 from 2,025 ATMs in 2017 to 4,051 ATMs, signaling an increase in the adoption of cryptocurrencies in general, despite the slump in price.

November will go down as a month investors won’t forget in a hurry, as bitcoin, along with the rest of the cryptocurrency market, experienced a massive slump in prices. Bitcoin, the dominant cryptocurrency, fell to $3,750 in November, as the market witnessed massive selloffs that would have bitcoin touch nearly $3,000 in December.

Data from Coin ATM Radar shows that while 68 bitcoin ATMs were closed in November, 209 new machines were also installed by operators all across the world. Bitcoin of America led the way, introducing 16 new ATMs, followed closely by CoinFlip Bitcoin ATMs and Localcoin, who installed 10 and 7 new ATMs, respectively.

While the U.S. remains the dominant country with 70 new installations, Peru, Albania and South Korea had their first bitcoin ATMs installed in November, the data from Coin ATM Radar revealed.

Bitcoin ATMs have also been a target of criminals. Security researchers at Trend Micro discovered malware that targets a service vulnerability in bitcoin ATMs, selling for $25,000, in an underground forum.

A senior researcher at Trend Micro, Fernando Mercês, commented on the vulnerability in his report, criticizing bitcoin ATMs for their lack of security standards, which make them easy to hack.

“Unlike regular ATMs, there is no single set of verification or security standards for Bitcoin ATMs. For example, instead of requiring an ATM, credit, or debit card for transactions, a Bitcoin ATM involves the use of mobile numbers and ID cards for user identity verification.”

They might not be as secure as traditional ATMs, but they are still finding meaningful uses cases across the world.

Bitcoin ATMs and Cannabis

While providing an easy avenue to trade bitcoin, these crypto ATMs have also created a channel for pot companies that are experiencing banking restrictions.

Bitcoin ATMs have made it easier for pot companies to receive payments from customers, thereby reducing their dependencies on cash. Cannabis cryptocurrency PotCoin also partnered with bitcoin ATM provider GENERAL BYTES (GB), making use of GB’s network of crypto ATMs to ease the transaction process for cannabis vendors.

Virtual Crypto Technologies also developed a proprietary crypto payment solution for cannabis dispensaries that enables them to exchange pot for bitcoin using a QR code placed on the shop’s point-of-sale interface.


This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

21 Dec 19:53

2018 6th Warmest Year Globally of Last 40

by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Even before our December numbers are in, we can now say that 2018 will be the 6th warmest year in the UAH satellite measurements of global-average lower atmospheric temperatures, at +0.23 deg. C (+0.41 deg. F) above the thirty-year (1981-2010) average.

(Jan. 2, 2019 update confirms this.)

The following plot ranks all of the years from warmest to coolest, with the ten warmest and ten coolest years indicated:

The first (1979) and last (2018) years in the record are indicated in purple.

2018 is also the 40th year of satellite data for monitoring global atmospheric temperatures.

We are currently working on Version 6.1 of the dataset, which will have new diurnal drift corrections. Preliminary results suggest that the resulting linear warming trend over the 40 years (+0.13 C/decade) will not change substantially, and thus will remain considerably cooler than the average rate of warming across the IPCC climate models used for energy policy, CO2 emissions reductions, and the Paris Agreement.

21 Dec 19:43

‘Equal Pay Day’ this year was April 10 — the next ‘Equal Occupational Fatality Day’ will be on May 3, 2029 - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
‘Equal Pay Day’ this year was April 10 — the next ‘Equal Occupational Fatality Day’ will be on May 3, 2029

Every year the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) publicizes “Equal Pay Day” to bring public attention to the gender earnings gap. According to the NCPE, “Equal Pay Day” fell this year on April 10, and allegedly represents how far into 2018 women will have to continue working to earn the same income that the men earned in 2017, supposedly for doing the same job. Inspired by Equal Pay Day, I introduced “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” in 2010 to bring public attention to the huge gender disparity in work-related deaths every year in the United States. “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” tells us how many years into the future women will be able to continue to work before they will experience the same number of occupational fatalities that occurred for men in the previous year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released data this week on workplace fatalities for 2017, and a new “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” can now be calculated. As in previous years, the graphic above shows the significant gender disparity in workplace fatalities in 2017: 4,761 men died on the job (92.5% of the total) compared to only 386 women (7.5% of the total). The “gender occupational fatality gap” in 2017 was again considerable — more than 12 men died on the job last year for every woman who died while working.

Based on the BLS data for 2017, the next “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” will occur more than 10 years from now ­­– on May 3, 2029. That date symbolizes how far into the future women will be able to continue working before they experience the same loss of life that men experienced in 2017 from work-related deaths. Because women tend to work in safer occupations than men on average, they have the advantage of being able to work for more than a decade longer than men before they experience the same number of male occupational fatalities in a single year.

Economic theory tells us that the “gender occupational fatality gap” explains part of the “gender earnings gap” because a disproportionate number of men work in higher-risk, but higher-paid occupations like commercial fishing (99.9% male), logging (98% male), pilots (94.0%), and roofers (99.4% male); see 2017 BLS data here. The table above shows that for the ten most dangerous US occupations based on fatality rates per 100,000 workers occupation in 2017 men represented more than 90% of the workers in eight of those ten occupations, and more than 88% of the workers in nine of the ten occupations (see Chart 3 here).

On the other hand, women far outnumber men in relatively low-risk industries, often with lower pay to partially compensate for the safer, more comfortable indoor office environments in occupations like office and administrative support (72.2% female), education, training, and library occupations (73.0% female), and healthcare (75.0% female). The higher concentrations of men in riskier occupations with greater occurrences of workplace injuries and fatalities suggest that more men than women are willing to expose themselves to work-related injury or death in exchange for higher wages. In contrast, women, more than men, prefer lower risk occupations with greater workplace safety, and are frequently willing to accept lower wages for the reduced probability of work-related injury or death. The reality is that men and women demonstrate clear gender differences when they voluntarily select the careers, occupations, and industries that suit them best, and those voluntary choices contribute to differences in pay that have nothing to do with gender discrimination.

Related: Here’s a quote from Camile Paglia in 2013 writing in TIME (“It’s a Man’s World and It Always Will Be“) about men’s important, but mostly underappreciated role in the labor market and the importance of their willingness to do the dangerous work that makes us all better off:

Indeed, men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.

Every day along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, one can watch the passage of vast oil tankers and towering cargo ships arriving from all over the world. These stately colossi are loaded, steered and off-loaded by men. The modern economy, with its vast production and distribution network, is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role — but women were not its author. Surely, modern women are strong enough now to give credit where credit is due!

Bottom Line: Groups like the NCPE use “Equal Pay Day” to promote a goal of perfect gender pay equity, probably not realizing that they are simultaneously advocating an increase in the number of women working in higher-paying, but higher-risk jobs like logging, roofing, iron and steel work, and electric power line work. The reality is that a reduction in the gender pay gap would come at a huge cost: several thousand more women will be killed each year working in dangerous occupations as occupational fatalities by gender are equalized.

Further, the proponents of “Equal Pay Day” are promoting a statistical falsehood by suggesting that women working side-by-side with men in the same occupation for the same company are making something like 25% less than their male counterparts, which causes them to have to work an additional 14 weeks to achieve “equal pay.” The NCPE’s statement that “because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work [25%] longer for the same amount of pay,” implies that gender wage discrimination is behind the gender pay gap. Of course that would imply that some corrective action by government is necessary to address the gender pay gap, even though most studies find that there is no gender earnings gap after factors like hours worked, child-birth and child care, career interruptions, and individual choices about industry and occupation are considered. For example, a 2009 study by the Department of Labor concluded:

This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.

Conclusion: I hereby suggest, that after adjusting for all factors that contribute to gender differences, Equal Pay Day actually occurred maybe the first week of January…. but NOT the second week of April. Women especially should be embarrassed by the statistical falsehood that is annually promoted by NCPE’s Equal Pay Day that suggests that gender discrimination in the labor market burdens them with 13.5 additional weeks of work to earn the same as their male counterparts – when that’s not even remotely true.

Finally, here’s a question I pose for the NCPE every year: Closing the “gender earnings gap” can really only be achieved by closing the “occupational fatality gap” to achieve “occupational death parity.” Would achieving the goal of perfect pay equity really be worth the loss of life for thousands of additional women each year who would die in work-related accidents?

‘Equal Pay Day’ this year was April 10 — the next ‘Equal Occupational Fatality Day’ will be on May 3, 2029
Mark Perry

21 Dec 16:04

Venezuela Didn't Need High Oil Prices to Prosper before Chavismo

by José Niño

The images of Venezuela’s economic collapse — long lines, shortages, and street protests — have quickly become a cliché of our increasingly connected internet experience. Even more played out are the simplistic arguments of why Venezuela is in ruins. In his late night TV show, leftist comedian John Oliver famously alluded to declining oil prices and other vague factors such as “mismanagement” as the main factors behind Venezuela’s collapse.

Many leftist commentators have repeated these same talking points ad infinitum as a way to downplay the Venezuelan state’s blatant disregard of basic economics. But the declining oil price rationalization takes the cake as the biggest myth in explaining Venezuela’s economic crisis. For that reason, a study of Venezuelan economic history is necessary to refute these myths.

Oil Was Not the Only Reason Venezuela Became Rich

While it’s true that oil played a substantial role in the development of the modern-day Venezuelan state, it’s misleading to attribute the country’s past prosperity solely based on its large endowment of oil reserves.

Economist Hugo Faria provides an excellent appraisal of Venezuela’s economic institutions in Hugo Chavez Against the Backdrop of Venezuelan Economic and Political History. Faria explained how Venezuela had a smaller state presence in the economy during Venezuela’s boom period from the 1920s to the 1970s. Property rights were stable, the regulatory state was light, and sound money was a fixture of the political economy (Venezuela was late to the central-banking party when it established its central bank in 1939).

Venezuela would be placed in an enviable position post-World War II. Not only was Venezuela an attractive spot for foreign investment, it also became a magnet for skilled immigrant labor from countries such as Italy, Portugal, and Spain. These factors helped bring Venezuela to the promised land of economic prosperity. According to some estimates, Venezuela found itself in the top 10 richest countries in the world — a far cry from its current economic state.

A Closer Look at Venezuela’s Oil Prices

What role did oil prices play in Venezuela’s previous era of economic prosperity? Contrary to popular belief, oil prices were not even sky-high throughout the early half of the 20th century.

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According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, oil prices from 1914 to 1960 were nothing to write home about. On average, crude oil prices were $19.35 per barrel — a number that would freak out any petro-state bureaucrat these days. From 1950 to 1960, oil prices were about $17 per barrel. According to conventional wisdom on Venezuela, this would have been a recipe for economic disaster. Hugo Faria proved otherwise in another article Venezuela: Without Liberals, There is No Liberalism. Faria highlights how Venezuelan economic growth did not miss a beat in an era of low oil prices:

According to Adrubal Baptista, Venezuela’s GDP growth rate during the 1940s averaged 12 percent, and the central bank puts the average growth rate during the 1950–57 period at 9.4 percent. Andreski provides a table reporting economic growth of 20 Latin American countries over the period 1945–1958, and Venezuela tops the list quite handily.

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When Venezuela started to enjoy favorable world oil prices during the 1970s, the game started to change. Beginning in 1974, the world underwent a significant energy crisis which caused oil prices to skyrocket. From 1974 to 1980, the average crude oil price per barrel was $70.07, with a peak of $109.56 per barrel in 1980.

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Then president Carlos Andrés Pérez took advantage of these favorable oil prices to finance his extravagant government programs. He started by nationalizing Venezuela’s oil industry. Venezuela’s oil nationalization made for popular politics, but it would have deleterious implications in the long term. Extreme centralization of political power, bureaucratic overreach, and crony capitalism became the order of the day in Venezuela.

Pérez’s spending party came to an abrupt end in the 1980s. Economic stagnation and mounting debt from the previous decade’s spending spree put the Venezuelan government in an awkward position. On the fateful day of February 18, 1983 (most infamously known as Black Friday in Venezuela), the Venezuelan government undertook the largest devaluation of the national currency, the Bolívar, at the time. This initiated Venezuela’s own “lost decade” of economic unraveling.

Venezuela trudged along the path of economic malaise until Carlos Andrés Pérez came back into the political scene in the late 1980s. This time around, Perez recognized that Venezuela’s petro-state model was unsustainable and proposed a series of sensible, market-based reforms. Sadly, Pérez’s reformist vision was derailed when he was impeached by his own political party in 1993.

High Oil Prices Couldn’t Even Save Hugo Chávez

When the former Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez threw his hat into the political ring, the country was his for the taking. With a sub-optimal economic performance of -0.13 percent per capita GDP growth from 1958 to 1998, Venezuelans were rightfully frustrated with the previous political order. Naturally, they turned to a charismatic demagogue like Chávez.

During Chávez’s time in power, Venezuela enjoyed an unprecedented oil boom. From 2005 to 2014, the average price per barrel was $96.10, topping out at $121.24 per barrel in 2011. Like Pérez, Chávez took advantage of high oil prices to fund generous spending programs and consolidate his political power. Unlike Pérez, however, Chávez sought to break every law of economics by carrying out currency controls, expropriations, and price controls.

Even with high oil prices, Venezuela could not escape the harsh consequences of its destructive economic interventionism. In 2014, when the average crude oil price per barrel was at $102.45, Venezuela started to experience widespread shortages.

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Institutions Matter

If resources were the be-all and end-all of economic growth and stability, countries like Hong Kong and Singapore — both some of the most prosperous countries on the planet — would be relegated to the soup kitchen of economic underdevelopment. Institutions that respect property rights and make foreign investment attractive are keys for economic growth.

Commentators can continue to deny socialism’s impact in Venezuela, but even with the highest oil prices in recent history, the country could barely eek out economic growth. Now the country is in complete shambles. In Venezuela, there is no “resource curse”. What the country is going through is part of a larger government curse which places the State as the ultimate driver of economic affairs.

Sadly, the Venezuelan people are paying dearly because of this interventionist vision. No lucrative commodity can outrun bad economic policy.

20 Dec 18:45

Earn cryptocurrency while learning about new digital assets

by Coinbase

We’re launching Coinbase Earn in invite-only mode today

Coinbase’s mission is to create an open financial system, where anyone in the world can participate on equal terms from their computer or smartphone. To bring this vision about, we’ll need to make blockchain technology more accessible, both in the sense of making cryptocurrencies easier to obtain and easier to understand.

That’s where Coinbase Earn comes in.

https://medium.com/media/429975fa9f4b286ac7d9223f4af84dd6/href

Coinbase Earn allows users to earn cryptocurrencies, while learning about them in a simple and engaging way. The idea is for users to understand more about an asset’s utility and its underlying technology, while getting a bit of the asset to try out. To manage demand, we’re launching Coinbase Earn today in invite-only mode with a single asset: ZRX. Over time, we plan to add more educational content as well as the ability to earn other cryptocurrencies.

If you’ve received an invite to Coinbase Earn by email, you can go to the Coinbase Earn ZRX page to earn small amounts of cryptocurrency by completing educational tasks like short video lessons and quizzes. But if you haven’t received an invite yet, don’t worry — you can still view all educational content on the Coinbase Earn page for free, and can sign up on the waitlist to be notified as more educational tasks are available.

Learn: simple and engaging cryptocurrency education

In a survey of Coinbase customers and non-customers alike, we found that one of the biggest barriers preventing people from exploring a new digital asset was a lack of knowledge about that asset. Many of the people we surveyed expressed a strong desire to begin learning about new and different crypto assets beyond Bitcoin, but didn’t know where to begin.

That’s why we’re launching Coinbase Earn with tasks related to asset education. The educational content will be publicly available for any curious party to learn more about an asset, even if they haven’t yet received an invite to begin earning.

Earn: a new way to access cryptocurrency

Traditionally, the two ways people have obtained cryptocurrency are through mining or buying. Mining cryptocurrency typically requires technical knowledge and high upfront costs, while buying cryptocurrency can require disposable income to exchange for cryptocurrencies.

Earning cryptocurrency is a third option. It has the potential to expand the blockchain user base from the tens of millions of people with the resources to mine or buy crypto to the billions of people who now have smartphones. This is because one can — in theory — earn crypto simply by clicking buttons on a phone or laptop.

Coinbase Earn solves many of the practical issues required to turn this theory into practice. We give verified, invited users a series of useful tasks to complete from anywhere to earn digital currency. For this first set of tasks, funding is coming from the 0x external development pool, with 100% of the funds going directly to users. In the future, we may experiment with other kinds of tasks from different types of senders, not necessarily always created by asset developers themselves. For example, there may be tasks paid in Bitcoin that aren’t sent by Satoshi Nakamoto!

We think Coinbase Earn could help open up blockchain access to a new group of users: people who are curious about digital assets, but who’d like to try them out for free just like a normal web or mobile app. By serving that need, we hope to make blockchain more accessible in the process. Please check out the Coinbase Earn page for ZRX today.


Earn cryptocurrency while learning about new digital assets was originally published in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

19 Dec 23:29

Where Did The Money Go?

by Willis Eschenbach
Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach Here’s what we, the US taxpayers, have spent on climate since 1993 … can anyone tell me what we bought that is worth ~ $180 BILLION dollars? Next week we’ll be spending another hundred and forty megabucks or so on this nonsense … where is it going, and what are…