Author Archives: binghamboatwright

About binghamboatwright

newshound, tech adventurist, with an interest in anything electricity goes into and out of.

EFF’s Street-Level Surveillance Project Dissects Police Technology

Step onto any city street and you may find yourself subject to numerous forms of police surveillance—many imperceptible to the human eye.

A cruiser equipped with automated license plate readers (also known as ALPRs) may have just logged where you parked your car. A cell-site simulator may be capturing your cell-phone data incidentally while detectives track a suspect nearby. That speck in the sky may be a drone capturing video of your commute. Police might use face recognition technology to identify you in security camera footage.

EFF first launched its Street-Level Surveillance project in 2015 to help inform the public about the advanced technologies that law enforcement are deploying in our communities, often without any transparency or public process.  We’ve scored key victories in state legislatures and city councils, limiting the adoption of these technologies and how they can be used, but the surveillance continues to spread, agency by agency. To combat the threat, EFF is proud to release the latest update to our work: a new mini-site that shines light on a wide range of surveillance technologies, including ALPRscell-site simulatorsdronesface recognition, and body-worn cameras.


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Thank you for not driving: Climate change requires anti-smoking tactics

Just before the delegates for the annual Conference of the Parties on climate change started meeting in Bonn this month, the Lancet, the leading British medical journal, published yet another major study showing that climate change is a growing health hazard.

The study revealed that hundreds of millions of people around the world are already suffering due to climate change. Infectious diseases are spreading faster due to warmer temperatures, hunger and malnourishment is worsening, allergy seasons are getting longer and sometimes it’s simply too hot for farmers to tend to their crops.

But what would happen if we treated climate change as a health problem rather than an environmental one?

As an expert in the political economy of climate change, I contend we can learn useful lessons from some relatively successful public health campaigns. Take smoking, for example.


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Why death may not be so final in the future


Every day, it seems, our lives become a bit less tangible. We’ve grown accustomed to photos, music and movies as things that exist only in digital form. But death? Strange as it sounds, the human corpse could be the next physical object to vanish from our lives.

Within a couple of decades, visiting deceased friends and relatives by traveling to a grassy gravesite may seem as quaint as popping a videotape into your VHS player. By then, our whole experience of death may be drastically different.

If you believe Ray Kurzweil, an outspoken futurist and the director of engineering at Google, computers will soon match the capabilities of the human brain. At that point, our consciousness will become intimately mingled with machine intelligence, leading to a kind of immortality.


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Making sense of the culture war over transgender identity

A BEAUTIFUL man with high cheekbones, fluttering eyelashes and a galaxy of silver glitter in his hair strides into the room. He is wearing a wedding dress and dirty trainers. The gender-bending at this club night in east London is not new: Shakespeare’s comedies are filled with cross-dressers; Gladys Bentley stomped the boards of 1920s Harlem in a tuxedo; Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie’s ambiguous interstellar alias, landed in the 1970s. What is new, though, is that convention-defying statements of gender identity are moving from stage and dance floor to everyday life.

The word “gender” is used by prudes to avoid saying “sex”, and restricted by purists (and, until recently, The Economist’s style guide) to speaking about grammar. In the 1970s feminists described the restricted behaviour regarded as proper to men and women as “gender roles”. But in recent years “gender identity” has come to mean how people feel or present themselves, as distinct from biological sex or sexual orientation. Growing numbers of young people describe themselves as “non-binary”. Others say gender is a spectrum, or that they have no gender at all. Facebook offers users a list of over 70 gender identities, from “agender” to “two-spirit”, as well as the option to write in their own.

New and old notions of gender identity collide most starkly in transgender people: those who do not identify with the sex on their birth certificates. They may transition from a male identity to a female one, or vice versa, perhaps taking sex hormones and having surgery to make their bodies match how they feel and want to be seen. Some have become celebrities. Laverne Cox, the transgender star of “Orange is the New Black”, appeared on the cover of Time in 2014. Vanity Fair profiled Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce, an Olympic gold-medallist, the following year. Last December National Geographic put transgender children on its cover.

This growing prominence is in some ways surprising. Though clinics that treat gender dysphoria—distress caused by a mismatch between felt and perceived gender identity—report a soaring caseload, transgender people are still rare. The Williams Institute, a think-tank in Los Angeles, recently came up with an estimate of 1.4m Americans—0.6% of those aged 16-65. Moreover, young people say that gender matters less than it used to, which sits oddly with the spreading belief that gender dysphoria can be severe enough to justify the upheaval and risks of transitioning.


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Minnesota Man Charged With Hiring Hackers to Bring Down Ex-Employer

Federal prosecutors in an ongoing Minnesota case involving cybercrime stated that a local business, and Monticello-based technology firm was a victim of cyber-attack which was instigated by a former worker.

The former worker who was also a state resident employed hackers-for-hire to sabotage the website of Monticello.

According to the FBI, this case is in relation to the growing form of cybercrime as professional hackers are contracted to ramp up attacks on individuals, businesses and other personal digital devices connected to the web.

Prosecutors of this case stated that 46-year-old John Kelsey Gammell paid hackers to bring down Washburn Computer Group, a Monticello business where he previously worked, by inflicting “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks on them.

The DDoS attacks swamped a network with data, denied legitimate users access, and also knocking web services offline.

Gammell is also accused of making monthly payments between July 2015 and September 2016 of an amount of $19.99 to $199.99 to destroy web networks connected to the Minnesota Judicial Branch, Hennepin County, and several banks.

Point-of-sale system repair company Washburn, told prosecutors that Gammell’s attacks cost it about $15,000.

“As a society that is increasingly reliant on network-connected devices, these types of cyber-attacks pose a serious threat to individuals, businesses, and even our nation’s critical infrastructure,” Gregory Brooker, Acting U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis said, talking generally about the new form of crime.


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‘Stop saying Christmas’ Priest warns Christians to abandon the word

christmas-881201Father Desmond O’Donnell said Christians of all denominations should realise that Christmas and Easter no longer has any sacred meaning.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: “We’ve lost Christmas, just like we lost Easter, and should abandon the word completely. We need to let it go, it’s already been hijacked and we just need to recognise and accept that.

“I am simply asking that space be preserved for believers for whom Christmas has nothing to do with Santa and reindeer.

“My religious experience of true Christmas, like so many others, is very deep and real – like the air I breathe. But non-believers deserve and need their celebration too, it’s an essential human dynamic and we all need that in the toughness of life.


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A Georgia networking event wants to help white people ‘Come Meet a Black Person’


A networking event in Georgia offers an interesting twist: a chance to meet a black person. It may sound like a “Saturday Night Live” skit, but the “Come Meet a Black Person” event — set for Thursday in Lawrenceville, near Atlanta — is a real attempt to bridge the racial divide.

It’s the brainchild of Cheryle Moses, the founder of Urban MediaMakers, a group of independent black filmmakers and content creators. Moses dreamed up the networking event as a response of sorts to a 2013 study from the Public Religion Research Institute that showed about 75% of white people in America don’t have any nonwhite friends. The study also found that for most whites, their circle of friends is about 91% white.
Likewise, about 65% of black people don’t have any white friends, and the average social circle for a black American is about 83% black.
“In the black community we know of white people who don’t have a lot of black friends,” Moses told CNN. “But still, seeing a statistic about it just opened our eyes.”


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EXACTLY: Why Liberals Need to SHUT UP About “White Privilege”

From Calvin Freiburger: Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic … and racism.

That’s the vision Edina public schools in Minnesota has for core education, to be achieved by requiring an “English” course meant to eliminate the largely-fictional specter of “white privilege.”

Fox News has the story:

[Center of the American Experiment senior policy fellow Katherine] Kersten discovered a required 10th grade English course adopted in 2013 by Edina, focused on colonization, immigration, and social constructions of race, class, and gender. Kersten published a broader finding in a cover story titled: “Whose Values? Educational excellence threatened by ideology in Edina schools.”

Students, especially young, white males, said they constantly were humiliated.

One of the boys wrote on the “Rate My Professor” website that the class should be renamed, “Why White Males Are Bad, and How Oppressive They Are.”

Edina High School, located in an affluent suburb outside the Twin Cities, started experiencing lower test results and their ranking in the state started dropping since the race-based policies were implemented. For example, going from 5th to 29th in reading proficiency between 2014 and 2017.

For the English class, EHS claimed student assignments would be “carefully chosen” for “their rigor” because “we’re aiming for the top.”

While the school sold the course in one way, English teacher Jackie Roehl, one of the principal designers of the course, shared a more candid version in a book written for teachers called: “More Courageous Conversations About Race.”

“Understanding Critical race theory was a significant reason behind our school taking another step on our equity journey — incorporating a study of Critical race theory into our sophomore English classes,” Roehl wrote. “English teachers felt that our district’s mission to give all learners the ‘ethical values necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing, culturally diverse, global society’ could not be fully met without explicit discussions of race, racism, and Whiteness.”

Roehl added that they “encouraged students to examine the role that power has in the stories studied to get a sense of the ways Whiteness silences some voices and amplifies others.”

“Students are learning to parrot orthodoxy back to teachers and to look nervously over their shoulders in case the authorities catch them in a forbidden thought or a ‘microaggression,’” Kersten adds. “They are learning that, at school, a top priority must be to please those in power. Disturbingly, some parents say that their children appear to see nothing out of the ordinary in this.”

She tells Fox that parents digesting these new revelations are currently engaged in a “lively and intense debate,” giving hope to the possibility that someone might be held accountable for this, but disgracefully, the course has not been ended yet.

The school district delivered the following statement to Fox:

The curricula of Edina Public Schools are developed to align with the academic standards established by the State of Minnesota. Teachers are expected to teach the content, skills and knowledge necessary for students to master the standards and advance their learning.

As part of the District’s regular continuous improvement and curriculum review process, including the gathering of insights and input from students and parents, adjustments are made to curricula so that teachers can adapt instruction to provide more choices for students, reflect best practice and meet individual student needs.

Well, that’s entirely evasive and non-committal. Exactly what one should expect from one of America’s most accountability-averse institutions.

What do you think should be done about all of this, and do you think there’s any chance that it actually will be? Sound off below!


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Lenny Letter Writer Accuses Lena Dunham of “Hipster Racism,” Exits Publication


“It is time for women of color — black women in particular — to divest from Lena Dunham,” Zinzi Clemmons tweeted, saying she’s known the actress-writer-producer since college.

A writer for Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s Lenny Letter has accused the former of “hipster racism” in a lengthy statement posted on Twitter. She also announced she’s exiting the publication.

“It is time for women of color — black women in particular — to divest from Lena Dunham,” Zinzi Clemmons tweeted, followed by a long statement in which she revealed that she has known Dunham since the two “ran in the same circles in college.” She said they had mutual acquaintances.

“Back in college, I avoided those people like the plague because of their well-known racism,” she wrote. “I’d call their strain ‘hipster racism,’ which typically uses sarcasm as a cover, and in the end, it looks a lot like gaslighting — ‘It’s just a joke. Why are you overreacting?’ is a comment response to these kinds of statements.”


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Conversion Therapy Against LGBT People in China

The psychiatrist told my mom: ‘Homosexuality is just like all the other mental diseases, like depression, anxiety, or bipolar. It can be cured…. Trust me, leave him here, he is in good hands.’

— Wen Qi (pseudonym), March 16, 2017

Homosexuality is neither a crime nor officially regarded as an illness in China. For decades, the legal status of consensual same-sex activity between men was ambiguous, but that was cleared up in the revised criminal code of 1997. In 2001, the Chinese Society of Psychiatry removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. This is consistent with the consensus of global medical associations that homosexuality is not a medical condition.

However, public hospitals and private clinics in China continue to offer so-called “conversion therapy,” which aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual, based on the false assumption that homosexuality is a disorder that needs to be remedied. Despite a legal framework that requires that the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders comply with diagnostic standards and standards on the categorizations of mental disorders, Chinese authorities have not taken the necessary steps to stop public hospitals or private clinics from offering conversion therapy. The steps should include: issuing clear guidelines to all public and private hospitals and clinics indicating that conversion therapy contravenes existing law; closely monitoring medical facilities to determine whether conversion therapy is taking place; and, where it is, holding such facilities accountable, including by suspending the licenses of errant facilities or practitioners.


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Wake Up and Smell the Traffic? London Tries Coffee to Power Buses


LONDON — It was part of the imagery of much earlier times: a red double-decker bus nudging through London streets shrouded in smog created in part by its own exhaust fumes.

Such was the vehicle’s lumbering notoriety that a musical duo popular in the 1950s and ’60s, Flanders and Swann, composed a tongue-in-cheek panegyric to the “London Transport diesel-engined 97-horsepower omnibus.” They called their song “A Transport of Delight.”

On Monday, though, the city’s 9,500 buses — still mostly painted red — laid claim to a fresher narrative.

While the worst smogs, or “pea soupers,” have long dispersed, London still chokes on heavy pollution. Seeking to curb toxic diesel fumes, transport officials and companies are hunting for new sources of energy for the buses.


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No, you’re not being paranoid. Sites really are watching your every move

If you have the uncomfortable sense someone is looking over your shoulder as you surf the Web, you’re not being paranoid. A new study finds hundreds of sites—including,, and—employ scripts that record visitors’ keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behavior in real time, even before the input is submitted or is later deleted.

Session replay scripts are provided by third-party analytics services that are designed to help site operators better understand how visitors interact with their Web properties and identify specific pages that are confusing or broken. As their name implies, the scripts allow the operators to re-enact individual browsing sessions. Each click, input, and scroll can be recorded and later played back.

A study published last week reported that 482 of the 50,000 most trafficked websites employ such scripts, usually with no clear disclosure. It’s not always easy to detect sites that employ such scripts. The actual number is almost certainly much higher, particularly among sites outside the top 50,000 that were studied.


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Amazon Web Services Announces Secret Cloud Region For CIA


Amazon Web Services unveiled a cloud computing region for the CIA and other intelligence community agencies developed specifically to host secret classified data.

The AWS Secret Region will allow the 17 intelligence agencies to host, analyze and run applications on government data classified at the secret level through the company’s $600 million C2S contract, brokered several years ago with the CIA. AWS already provides a region for the intelligence community’s top secret data.

“Today we mark an important milestone as we launch the AWS Secret Region,” said Teresa Carlson, vice president of AWS Worldwide Public Sector. “AWS now provides the U.S. intelligence community a commercial cloud capability across all classification levels: unclassified, sensitive, secret and top secret. “The U.S. intelligence community can now execute their missions with a common set of tools, a constant flow of the latest technology and the flexibility to rapidly scale with the mission.”


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The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act Restricts Congress, Not Surveillance

The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017—legislation meant to extend government surveillance powers—squanders several opportunities for meaningful reform and, astonishingly, manages to push civil liberties backwards. The bill is a gift to the intelligence community, restricting surveillance reforms, not surveillance itself.

The bill (S. 2010) was introduced October 25 by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) as an attempt to reauthorize Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. That law authorizes surveillance that ensnares the communications of countless Americans, and it is the justification used by agencies like the FBI to search through those collected American communications without first obtaining a warrant. Section 702 will expire at the end of this year unless Congress reauthorizes it.

Other proposed legislation in the House and Senate has used Section 702’s sunset as a moment to move surveillance reform forward, demanding at least minor protections to how 702-collected American communications are accessed. In contrast, Senator Burr’s bill uses Section 702’s sunset as an opportunity codify some of the intelligence community’s more contentious practices while also neglecting the refined conversations on surveillance happening in Congress today.

Here is a breakdown of the bill.


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Curved Penis May Increase Cancer Risk

Peyronie’s disease causes the penis to develop a significant curve. Recent research shows that the total cancer risk in these men may be increased.

Peyronie’s disease is a disorder of the connective tissue in the penis. Also referred to as penile fibrosis, it causes fibrous plaques to grow in the soft tissue. This scar tissue can cause painful erections and erectile dysfunction. It also shortens and curves the penis.

It is difficult to know exactly how many people are affected by Peyronie’s, but estimates range from 1–23 percent of men aged 40–70.

The plaques that develop as part of Peyronie’s are not contagious or cancerous, and the exact causes are still not understood. Some cases seem to be linked to an injury to the penis or a series of injuries over time, but this is not always the case. There may also be an autoimmune component to Peyronie’s.


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new euthanasia machine with detachable coffin

Australia’s best-known euthanasia activist, Dr Philip Nitschke, is back in the news with another machine for committing suicide, the Sarco capsule.

The machine will allow anyone who has the access key to end their life by simply pressing a button. Developed in the Netherlands by Nitschke and an engineer, the machine can be 3D printed and assembled in any location. Access to the Sarco capsule will be by an on-line mental questionnaire which will provide a four-digit access code.

When the person lies in the capsule, he can activate it and liquid nitrogen will rapidly drop the oxygen level, leading to death a few minutes.

The novel feature is that the capsule can be detached from the Sarco machine and used as a sleek and shiny coffin. The machine base can be re-used.


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Cremated Remains of the ‘Buddha’ Discovered in Chinese Village

Cremated human remains were found inside this ceramic box. An inscription found nearby says that they were buried Jun. 22, 1013 and belong to the Buddha. It is not certain if the statues were buried along with the remains.

Credit: Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics

The cremated remains of what an inscription says is the Buddha, also called Siddhārtha Gautama, have been discovered in a box in Jingchuan County, China, along with more than 260 Buddhist statues.

The translated inscription on the box reads: “The monks Yunjiang and Zhiming of the Lotus School, who belonged to the Mañjuśrī Temple of the Longxing Monastery in Jingzhou Prefecture, gathered more than 2,000 pieces of śarīra [cremated remains of the Buddha], as well as the Buddha’s teeth and bones, and buried them in the Mañjuśrī Hall of this temple,” on June 22, 1013. At the site where the statues and Buddha remains were buried, archaeologists also found the remains of a structure that could be from the Mañjuśrī Hall. [See Photos of the Buddhist Statues and Cremated Remains of Buddha]

Yunjiang and Zhiming spent more than 20 years gathering the remains of the Buddha, who is also sometimes referred to as Gautama Buddha, the inscription notes. “In order to promote Buddhism, they wanted to collect śarīra [Buddhist relics]. To reach this goal, both of them practiced the instruction of Buddhism during every moment of their lives for more than 20 years,” the inscription says. “Sometimes they received the śarīra from others’ donations; sometimes they found them by chance; sometimes they bought them from other places; and sometimes others gave them the śarīra to demonstrate their wholeheartedness.”


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A paleoclimatology tool is shown to give false positives

A popular tool to trace Earth’s oxygen history can give false positives From the GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY and the “settled science” department: For researchers pursuing the primordial history of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere, a new study might sour some “Eureka!” moments. A contemporary tool used to trace oxygen by examining ancient rock strata can […]

via A paleoclimatology tool is shown to give false positives — Watts Up With That?

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TV stations are about to track you and sell targeted ads, just like Google and Facebook

(dailyinvention / Flickr)

The same, weirdly specific ads you see online that are tailored to your behavior could soon appear on your local television network, thanks to looming policy changes by federal regulators.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote Thursday on rules designed to promote the spread of what it calls Next Gen TV, a new technology that, among other things, will enable television broadcasters to collect data about your viewing habits.

That information will give broadcasters the ability to sell targeted advertising against their programming, something that’s become common practice among ad giants such as Google and Facebook. Other industries have also been racing to adopt data-driven ad targeting, too, including Internet providers such as Verizon and AT&T.


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Chinese company offers single people a lifetime supply of alcohol for £1,275


A Chinese company may have found the recipe for a happy single life: a never-ending supply of alcohol to keep customers warm on those long and lonely nights.

As part of Alibaba’s annual Singles Day shopping holiday, the world’s biggest, one online retailer is offering a lifetime supply of baijiu liquor for a single payment of 11,111 yuan (£1,275). The price refers to the date of the retail event, where online shops slash prices on 11 November each year, a date chosen for its collection of lonely number ones.


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DHS Team remotely took control of a Boeing 757


A team of cybersecurity experts working with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had reportedly hacked a Boeing 757 aircraft on the runway at Atlantic City airport, New Jersey in a controlled experiment carried out as a part of the test in September 2016. The team comprising of academicians and industry experts were able to remotely crack the IT systems of the 757 and take control of the aircraft, with the pilots unaware of the experiment taking place.

During a keynote speech at the CyberSat Summit 2017 in Virginia last week, Robert Hickey, the aviation program manager within the Cyber Security Division of the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, revealed the chilling details of the hack.

“We got the airplane on Sept. 19, 2016. Two days later, I was successful in accomplishing a remote, non-cooperative, penetration,” said Hickey. “[Which] means I didn’t have anybody touching the airplane, I didn’t have an insider threat. I stood off using typical stuff that could get through security and we were able to establish a presence on the systems of the aircraft.”

Hickey said the details of the hack were classified but the researchers exploited the plane’s own radio frequency communications to penetrate its internal network. The classified test was reportedly carried out by the DHS “artificial environment and risk reduction measures were already in place”. Also, a Boeing official was present during the hacking of the aircraft


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$15 Million in Taxpayer Money Has Been Paid Out to Settle Congressional Sexual Harassment Suits

“We do know there is about $15 million that has been paid out by the House on behalf of harassers in the last 10 to 15 years,” Speier revealed, on Tuesday.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) informed NBC’s Chuck Todd on Tuesday that $15 million in taxpayer money had been paid out over the years to settle sexual harassment suits filed against members of Congress.

Earlier in the day, Speier testified in front of the House Administration Committee that two members of Congress, a Republican and a Democrat, have engaged in sexual harassment in the past.

Todd asked Speier about her allegations of sexual harassment and what she believes her responsibility is in going public with that information.


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UC Berkeley professor’s eerie lethal drone video goes viral

UC Berkeley professor Stuart Russell and the Future of Life Institute have created an eerie viral video titled “Slaughterbots” that depicts a future in which humans develop small, hand-sized drones that are programmed to identify and eliminate designated targets.

In the video above, the technology is initially developed with the intention of combating crime and terrorism, but the drones are taken over by an unknown forces who use the powerful weapons to murder a group of senators and college students. The video does contain some graphic content, and was originally uploaded to YouTube.

Russell, an expert on artificial intelligence, appears at the end of the video and warns against humanity’s development of autonomous weapons.


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Twitter CEO reacts to alleged serial killings

Twitter’s CEO is reacting to a grisly case in Japan where a suspected serial killer allegedly found his victims through their suicidal posts on the social media platform.

In an interview with NHK, Jack Dorsey said it is unrealistic and impossible to remove suicidal tweets.
But he said he hoped Twitter could become a tool for prevention.

Dorsey said, “It’s very unfortunate, extremely sad. We need to take our responsibility and make sure that our tool is being used in positive and healthy ways.”

Last month, the dismembered bodies of 9 people were found in 27-year-old Takahiro Shiraishi’s apartment near Tokyo. Police say he admitted to the killings.

They believe he preyed on people who posted about wanting to kill themselves on Twitter.


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Duckweed Helps Remove Contaminants from Lakes

rd1711_duckweedDuckweed might hold the key to removing contaminants from ponds and other bodies of water that could be harvested into animal feed.

Researchers from South Dakota State University believe the small aquatic plant could be a viable option to help remove several contaminants from lakes, ponds and streams including phosphorus, nitrates, nitrites and heavy metals that eventually could be incorporated into animal feed.

Roger Foote, coordinator for the Upper Big Sioux River Watershed Project, first encountered duckweed when he was operating a water treatment plant as a phosphorus removal facility.

“My intent was to use algae to remove phosphorus, but the processing plant became contaminated with duckweed,” Foote said in a statement. “I was removing hundreds of pounds of duckweed every week.


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ISIS snipers using US thermal devices


ISIS fighters are using sophisticated U.S. thermal devices, according to a new propaganda video by terror group.


ISIS uploaded its latest propaganda video on Nov. 10, titled “Snipers of the South – Wilāyat al-Janūb.” The nearly six-minute video details ISIS sniper operations.

In one scene, an ISIS fighter can be seen firing what appears to be a homemade high caliber anti-material gun. The video later focuses on an ISIS sniper and his spotter. The spotter is carrying a FLIR BHM thermal camera, and the shooter is operating a U.S. M4 with an unknown scope.

The FLIR BHM retails for over $5,000, and was originally designed as a maritime thermal camera to help maritime vessels see debris, rocks, other boats and landmarks in pitch-black conditions.

FLIR also makes a monocular handheld FLIR Scout for hunters and hikers. The smaller thermal device sells between $600 and $1,300.

However, ISIS snipers are using the thermal camera as a spotting scope to track targets and to film propaganda shots.

FLIR is a private company based in Portland, Oregon, that makes optics, thermal sights, night vision scopes, and a whole host of other government, military and law enforcement equipment. They also make commercial products.

But, the all FLIR night vision and thermal devices are U.S. restricted export items regulated under International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Export outside the U.S. is prohibited without a license from the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls.

How ISIS got the thermal device is unknown, but Iraq and Syria are known for illicit arms markets. ISIS has also seized sophisticated equipment in the past by raiding armories and bases of Iraqi and Syrian troops.


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The End of White Celebrity

Whiteness is a birth defect.


For the mainstream media, it was a bona fide crisis. Blake Shelton, a European-American country singer and a host of The Voice, whom I had never heard of until yesterday morning, was named People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man In The World.” The result was outrage. Marlow Stern at the Daily Beast declared grandly that “people” are in a “justifiable uproar given Mr. Shelton’s history of homophobic and racist comments.” “Many on social media are blasting the magazine’s decision, calling upon Mr. Shelton’s past tweets that have been labeled as racist, misogynistic and homophobic,” sniffed Fox News. “Some are disheartened by Mr. Shelton’s history of making jokes at the expense of gays, lesbians, women and minorities,” wrote Libby Hill at the Los Angeles Times, in one of the more restrained reactions.

The decision by journalists to broadcast random leftists complaining about the decision of a supermarket tabloid is idiotic, but not surprising. Isn’t People telling us who’s sexy; not who’s slavishly conformist? But what was truly remarkable was how criticism of Mr. Shleton focused on his race. Gabriel Bell at Salon called it a “problematic pick” because it was a “reinforcement and celebration of sometimes-toxic cisgender male sexuality, the elevation of an underwhelming white man to a position of popular acclaim, the ignoring of people of color” and various other perceived sins. Fast Company echoed the complaints of many others when it wrote that Mr. Shelton was an “uninspired choice” because “in its 32-year history, the list has largely been dominated by white men.” Vox, being Vox, also complained about Mr. Shelton being white and his supposed support for Donald Trump.

Like many other outlets, Vox wanted to know why Idris Elba, last seen starring in the monumental bomb, The Dark Tower, was not given the title. (The same kind of article crops up every few years when Mr. Elba fails to become the new affirmative-action James Bond.)

Such a bizarre campaign wouldn’t be worth much notice except it coincides with yet another attempt to shame Taylor Swift for not joining the #Resistance against President Trump. Marie Claire is condemning Miss Swift for not making her last album about politics and remaining silent about the presidential election. Miss Swift is also accused of being “racist” because she doesn’t spend all her time protesting against people on the internet who make memes of her as a fascist. She does take legal action in order to get them to stop claiming she’s a fascist—but then she is accused of violating free speech. The only thing she could do, it seems, is follow Katy Perry down the hole into madness by endlessly talking about feminism and white privilege.

The real problem leftists seem to have with Taylor Swift is the fact that she is white and blonde, with Camille Paglia’s condemnation of her as “Nazi Barbie” serving as shorthand for how she is usually criticized. It’s probably no coincidence Miss Swift, for once, won no MTV VMA awards despite being nominated for five, given how MTV has become entirely dedicated to championing the #Resistance and shaming white people.

To be white and a celebrity is to be inherently controversial. Every several months, there is a predictable controversy about “whitewashing,” when a white actor plays a part that could plausibly go to a person of color. The resulting media frenzy has doomed films such as Gods of Egypt and Ghost in the Shell. Even historical dramas are not exempt from affirmative-action demands; Dunkirk was criticized for not having enough black people in it.

In contrast, transforming white characters into blacks is widely applauded. Examples include how Nick Fury suddenly became a black man in the wildly lucrative Avengers movies, or the push to put more non-whites in productions of Shakespeare or other classic stage plays. Sometimes, this is taken to ludicrous extremes, with the popular show “Dr. Who” featuring the doctor and an African-American touring England in the 19th century and seeing the streets filled with blacks. “History is a whitewash,” explains the doctor.

Is this a parody, a subtle mockery of political correctness? If it is, the joke is clearly going over the heads of most people. Consider the nothing-less-than rapturous reception given to the upcoming film, Black Panther.


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NBC: “having a child … is one of the worst things you can do for the environment”

Guest essay by Eric Worrall h/t Breitbart – Climate Philosopher and parent Travis Rieder is back, demanding that other people refrain from having children for the sake of the planet. Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them. We need to stop pretending kids don’t have environmental and ethical consequences. […]

via NBC: “having a child … is one of the worst things you can do for the environment” — Watts Up With That?

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FBI Informant Has Video Of Russian Agents With Briefcases Of Bribe Money In Clinton-Uranium Scandal

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What if Ken Starr Was Right?

In the longstanding liberal narrative about Bill Clinton and his scandals, the one pushed by Clinton courtiers and ratified in media coverage of his post-presidency, our 42nd president was only guilty of being a horndog, his affairs were nobody’s business but his family’s, and oral sex with Monica Lewinsky was a small thing that should never have put his presidency in peril.

That narrative could not survive the current wave of outrage over male sexual misconduct.

So now a new one may be forming for the age of Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. In this story, Kenneth Starr and the Republicans are still dismissed as partisan witch hunters. But liberals might be willing to concede that the Lewinsky affair was a pretty big deal morally, a clear abuse of sexual power, for which Clinton probably should have been pressured to resign.

This new narrative lines up with what’s often been my own assessment of the Clinton scandals. I have never been a Clinton hater; indeed, I’ve always been a little mystified by the scale of Republican dislike for the most centrist of recent Democratic leaders. So I’ve generally held what I’ve considered a sensible middle-ground position on his sins — that he should have stepped down when the Lewinsky affair came to light, but that the Republican effort to impeach him was a hopeless attempt to legislate against dishonor.


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Votes in 18 nations ‘hacked’ in last year

Elections in 18 separate nations were influenced by online disinformation campaigns last year, suggests research.

Independent watchdog Freedom House looked at how online discourse was influenced by governments, bots and paid opinion formers.

In total, 30 governments were actively engaged in using social media to stifle dissent, said the report.

Educating users to spot fake news and making tech firms police their networks could combat the manipulation, it said.

Devastating impact

The annual report studied the state of internet freedom across 65 nations – covering about 87% of the world’s net-using population.

For the seventh year running, it said, net freedom had declined as governments stepped up efforts to control what citizens said, did and shared online.

The different tactics used to influence online speech included:

  • automated bots that echoed official messages
  • armies of paid commentators that swamped discussions with pro-government views
  • false news sites that spread misleading information
  • trolling that soaked up critics’ time with personal attacks

Used alongside more overt technical controls such as firewalls, content filters and blocks on technical tools such as virtual private networks, the manipulation of social media had become a key tool for repressive regimes, it said.


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French police use tear gas to disperse protest against slave auctions in Libya (VIDEO)

Hundreds of activists flocked to the Libyan Embassy in Paris on Saturday, outraged with the government’s failure to tackle people smuggling after a CCN report unveiled a network of migrant slave auctions in Libya.

About a thousand people turned up to the protest following calls by several prominent anti-slavery groups and a number of celebrities of African origin, including soccer star Didier Drogba and former Miss France Sonia Rolland.

Carrying signs reading “No to slavery in Libya,” the demonstrators gathered in front of the Libyan Embassy on Saturday afternoon before marching towards the Champs-Elysees, where they were stopped by riot police cordons.


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Kratom, a substitute for opiates, may cause addiction and death, FDA warns


Kratom, a Southeast Asian plant known for its opiate-like effects, may put users at risk of addiction and even death, the US Food and Drug Administration said in a public health advisory today. The drug has been rising in popularity as an opioid alternative.

Kratom, which has been consumed in Southeast Asia for centuries, binds to the same opioid receptor as morphine — so it can treat pain. Some chemists figure it’s a promising starting point for new, less addictive painkillers. But it’s currently taken as a recreational drug, with its users saying it treats anxiety, depression and opioid withdrawal. These anecdotal reports aren’t the same as real medical research — and more is needed to determine the plant’s medical benefits. “At a time when we have hit a critical point in the opioid epidemic,” the FDA statement said, “the increasing use of kratom as an alternative or adjunct to opioid use is extremely concerning.”


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Transgender service member gets gender reassignment surgery

 An active-duty service member has received gender-reassignment surgery, the Pentagon said Tuesday, amid ongoing debate over whether transgender troops should be allowed to continue to serve in the military,

Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said the surgery was done Tuesday in a private hospital and was paid for by the military’s health coverage because the doctor deemed it was medically necessary.

“”Military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery, therefore it was conducted in a private hospital,” White said, adding that because this service member “had already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment, and the treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary, a waiver was approved by the director of the Defense Health Agency.”

Army Maj. Dave Eastburn said that waivers are required and routinely approved for medical procedures that military facilities don’t have the expertise to perform.

The surgery was first reported by NBC News.


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History Is Bunk, Indeed

by Steven Hayward

Henry Ford is reported to have once said, “History is bunk.” Upon Ford’s death, the eminent historian Arnold Toynbee remarked, “Henry Ford is history.” Touché!

But I wonder if Henry Ford isn’t having the last laugh on this question, at least when it comes to academic history. I’ve been making mischief for the last few years among academic historians by asking the simple question, “Why is it that nearly all of the best-selling histories and biographies these days are being written by journalists and other non-academic writers [i.e. Ron Chernow’s Hamilton, etc.]?” There is huge demand among readers for narratives and biographies about America’s founders and especially our conflicts, both internal and external. Academic historians will sometimes candidly admit that writing a popular book will actually hurt your academic career. And then they wonder why student enrollment in history has been in a long-term decline.

For my sins this year I enrolled as an adjunct member of the American Historical Association, and just received the program for their annual meeting in Washington DC coming up in early January. The first thing I notice is how thin the program is compared to the annual program of the American Political Science Association. The next thing you notice is how narrow and politicized so much of the program is.

Herewith some panel titles:

The #NoDAPL and Water Is Life Movement and Historians [because the Dakota Access Pipeline, just barely completed, is an important historical subject already]

Teaching Queer Themes and Experiences in World History

Race, Sport, Spectatorship

Dancing Reformers or Reformed Dancers? Dance, Religion, and Gender in the Reformation

Sex, Gender, Intimacy, and Race and Lingering Questions of Justice in World War II’s Southwest Pacific Theater

Queer Contortions: New Directions in the History of Race, Sexuality, and the Body

Race and Empire in Global Music History, 1500-1800

Insects Histories: Contested Boundaries in Human-Insect Interfaces, 17002-1950s [Not sponsored by Terminix or Raid, for some reason]

Total War and the Genesis of Industrial-Scale Recycling

Here is it worth taking in some of the individual papers on this panel:

“Skimming Off the Fat: Industrial-Scale Recycling in Nazi-Occupied Europe,” by Anne Kristina Berg

“Toward a Zero Waste Economy: Scope and Impact of the Nazi ‘Recycling Regime,’” by Heike Weber, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Good to know the Nazis were concerned about sustainable warfare. Funny, though, how sensitive environmentalists are when you observe that the Nazis were the first 20th century environmentalists.

A few other individual papers deserve notice:

“Sex and the Colonial City: Mapping Masculinity, Whiteness, and Desire in French Hanoi,” by Michael Vann, California State University, Sacramento

“You Are What You Eat: The Gendered Politics of Francoist Nutrition,” by Suzanne Dunai, UC San Diego

Almost nothing on the entire program about history in any sensible way—almost nothing on presidents or the presidency, very little on war in any direct way, nothing on legal history, nothing on traditional literature in history, etc.—but strangely, there are several organizational meetings about what to do to increase enrollment in history courses. Here’s a novel idea: how about teaching history instead of trendy ideology?


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Kevlar-Based Material Mimics Real Cartilage

rd1711_kevalrWhile cartilage is one of the strongest materials in the human body, making an artificial cartilage with the same properties has often proven to be challenging.

However, researchers from the University of Michigan and Jiangnan University in China have developed “Kevlartilage”—an artificial Kevlar-based cartilage that mimics the strength of actual cartilage.

“We know that we consist mostly of water—all life does—and yet our bodies have a lot of structural stability,” Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering at Michigan, who led the study, said in a statement. “Understanding cartilage is understanding how life forms can combine properties that are sometimes unthinkable together.”


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MY BAD :Senator apologizes, unwelcome kiss, grope

U.S. Sen. Al Franken is facing an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee after a Los Angeles radio host revealed on Thursday that Franken kissed and groped her against her will in 2006.

The Minnesota Democrat did not deny the account by Leeann Tweeden that he kissed her without consent while they were rehearsing a comedy skit during a 2006 USO tour of the Middle East and Afghanistan, about two years before Franken was elected to the U.S. Senate. She also posted a photograph — which she learned about after the fact — of a grinning Franken, his hands reaching at her breasts as she slept.

“I’m still angry at what Al Franken did to me,” Tweeden wrote on the website for KABC Radio in Los Angeles, where she hosts a morning show. “Every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry.”


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World’s first human head transplant ‘imminent’ – Italian surgeon

Controversial Italian doctor Sergio Canavero claims he’s carried out the world’s first successful human head transplant, albeit on a corpse. Canavero says a transplant on a live subject is now imminent.

Canavero made his extraordinary announcement Friday, at a press conference in the Austrian capital, Vienna. The Italian neurologist said he carried out the posthumous operation in China and that his newly developed techniques for re-connecting the spine, nerves and blood vessels, allowing the head and body to work in tandem, were a success.

“The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done,” he said. “A full head swap between brain dead organ donors is the next stage. And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent,” he added.


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Federal extreme vetting plan castigated by tech experts

Leading researchers castigated a federal plan that would use artificial intelligence methods to scrutinize immigrants and visa applicants, saying it is unworkable as written and likely to be “inaccurate and biased” if deployed.

The experts, a group of more than 50 computer and data scientists, mathematicians and other specialists in automated decision-making, urged the Department of Homeland Security to abandon the project, dubbed the “Extreme Vetting Initiative.”

That plan has its roots in President Donald Trump’s repeated pledge during the 2016 campaign to subject immigrants seeking admission to the United States to more intense ideological scrutiny — or, as he put it, “extreme vetting .”

Over the summer, DHS published a “statement of objectives ” for a system that would use computer algorithms to scan social media and other material in order to automatically flag undesirable entrants — and to continuously scan the activities of those allowed into the U.S.

The goal, that document stated, was to let computers help determine whether an immigrant “intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts,” as well as their likelihood of becoming a “positively contributing member of society.”


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[Play Video] Democrats Join Payday Lenders To Screw Poor People

via Democrats Join Payday Lenders To Screw Poor People — American Everyman

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