2014-12-19

14:07

Oh Boy: Woman Who Started #IllRideWithYou Viral Meme Admits... It Pretty Much Didn't Happen, and Was Mostly Imagined [Ace of Spades HQ]

After the Sheik killed two people, the media turned to praising Islam and highlighting the plight of Muslims in the West, because that's what we always do after a Muslim kills people in the West: We praise Islam, and then...

Obama Holds a Press Conference In Order to Feel the Sustaining Adulation of His Devotees [Ace of Spades HQ]

I don't know what he'll be talking about, though I imagine he wants to be praised for his Cuba executive action....

Weird: Five Days After Alleged Rape, Jackie Seems to Have Sent a Romantic Email to Ryan [Ace of Spades HQ]

This is complicated, but the email sent on Oct 3, 2012 was sent by Jackie's Mystery Date, who had the unlikely name of "Haven Monaghan." "Haven" (ahem) was supposedly forwarding an email of Jackie's to Ryan, an email in which...

BREAKING: FBI Says North Korea Responsible For Sony Hack [Ace of Spades HQ]

Suspected, now confirmed. "The FBI has determined that the intrusion into SPE’s network consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information as well as employees’ personally identifiable information and confidential communications. The attacks also rendered...

Open Thread [Ace of Spades HQ]

P.S. Krøyer: "Fishermen Hauling the Net on Skagen's North Beach" (1883)...

Friday Morning News Dump [Ace of Spades HQ]

Why Liberals Really, Really Hate Us Second Amendment And People Who Had Been Committed To A Mental Institution 28 Years Ago Things Just Got A Lot Worse For Jackie Will Diversity Destroy The Left Leftists Mourn Possible End Of...

Morning Thread (12-19-2014) [Ace of Spades HQ]

Did you surrender to the Communists yet, daddy?...

Overnight Open Thread (12-18-2014) - Six Shopping Days Left Edition [Ace of Spades HQ]

Quote of the Day One Cuban young woman complains to another. "He lied to me! He told me that he was a luggage handler! It turns out, he's nothing but a neurosurgeon!" -- Cuban joke (explanation here) Comment of the...

What Exactly Has North Korea Done That Progressives Don't Do Every Single Day? [Ace of Spades HQ]

A professor blogged a criticism of a teaching assistant, who'd discussed gay marriage in her classroom, but then shut down all dissent, claiming dissent to be illegitimate (per his claim). Result? The university is "investigating" him and has suspended him...

The Year in Outrage [Ace of Spades HQ]

I just picked on Slate but this is pretty terrific: every social media outrage of 2014. Including some that weren't really outrages, because, like, they had to fill the whole calendar. Still, some of those are fun. To mock the...

Byron York: No, Ted Cruz Did Not Let Harry Reid Confirm Appointments That Otherwise Would Have Failed [Ace of Spades HQ]

A few weeks ago, I noted that if an "expert" is not on your side, he's not a benefit to you. In fact, he's a threat. What I mean by that is simple: An expert who's actually on your side...

Fall Out: New Regency Cancels Thriller Set in North Korea; Paramount Bans "Team America: World Police" From Theatrical Screening [Ace of Spades HQ]

And now, the corporate cowards are in full flight. The chilling effect of the Sony Pictures hack and terrorist threats against The Interview are reverberating. New Regency has scrapped another project that was to be set in North Korea. The...

As we all mourn for the end of The Colbert Report, we can also... [@midnight]



As we all mourn for the end of The Colbert Report, we can also rejoice because here is a special link to the uncensored extended version of tonight’s @midnight! 

Here’s who is on and what’s happening tonight atmidnightcc! Our... [@midnight]



Here’s who is on and what’s happening tonight atmidnightcc!

Our contestants: @DrewFromTV, @MargaretCho and @BlaineCapatch

Plus!

This video shows you how to massage a Possum. Our guess is VERY CAREFULLY. (via YouTube)

And!

How to take your shirt off with just one hand. Now you can impress everyone at the holiday party! (via YouTube)

Also!

Craigslist is overflowing with naughty Santa ads. And you won’t BELIEVE what’s on his list. Hint: It’s not socks. (via Salon)

And EVEN MORE holiday treats!!!

@MIDNIGHT’S INTERNETTY INTERNET THINGS (FROM THE... [@midnight]



@MIDNIGHT’S INTERNETTY INTERNET THINGS (FROM THE INTERNET)!  

Here’s some of the great stuff we found on the internet today that didn’t make it onto tonight’s show. Get your click on.

Printsnap is Instagram and a Polaroid at once. Also even the camera is made of wood, for that colonial era photography feel. (via Daily Dot)

US states have weird autocompletes. Yeah, why IS Pennsylvania so haunted? (via The Atlantic)

Explore the abyss of your empty stocking and see which one of... [@midnight]





















Explore the abyss of your empty stocking and see which one of these #NaughtyListBecause  tweets will be on tonight’s show!

PLASTIC REINDEER TRAUMA [Tim Blair]

Canberra’s famously sensitive public service community throws up yet another victim: A former Canberra public servant has told how his career…

THE HELP THEY NEED [Tim Blair]

Accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces court, with the backing of fans and supporters: In a preview of the bedlam that could…

THE POWERFUL, THE CELEBRATED AND THE SUCCESSFUL [Tim Blair]

One line leaps out from former High Court judge Dyson Heydon’s Royal Commission into Union Corruption: … there is virtually no evidence…

BEATING THE BLUDJAHIDEEN [Tim Blair]

“If we can stop the boats and the drownings, we can stop the undeserved free lunches, as well as the lawfare waged on civil society…

SUPER SMITH [Tim Blair]

An excellent century to Steve Smith in his first Test as Australian captain. Smith joins a remarkable list of first-up captaincy centurions: William Murdoch,…

EAT THEM SQUIRRELS, TENNESSEE BOY [Tim Blair]

Al Gore isn’t fat. He’s just storing carbon: Do you know where your body fat goes when you lose weight? …

CONFESSION TIME [Tim Blair]

The former Greens candidate whose touching tale of multicultural compassion inspired the #illridewithyou movement has now changed her story.

SHELF OF SHAME [Tim Blair]

Michelle Obama describes a recent “racist experience”: “I tell this story – I mean, even as the first lady – during that…

HOLLYWIMPS [Tim Blair]

Mark Steyn on Sony’s cancellation of The Interview following North Korean threats: Kim Jong-Un has just vaporized a Hollywood blockbuster as…

Friday Evening Lighten Up [Celestial Junk]

One of my favorite short film:

FriComedy: The News Quiz Series 85 Ep9 [Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4]

Barack, Bishops and Birmingham - Sandi and Jeremy are joined by Rebecca Front, Bob Mills and Mark Steel to take a comic look at the week's news. Everything from US-Cuba relationship thaws to English Votes For English Laws, Birmingham stars to life on Mars. The producer is Sam Michell

Tech Tent 49: Stranger than Fiction [Tech Tent: Business and Technology]

Sony Pictures pulls a major new movie because of a cyberattack and online threats, but who carried out the hacking that led them to cancel it? Microsoft reveals a real-time voice translation tool for Skype users, and we give it a try. Gavin Andresen from the Bitcoin Foundation tells us the real potential for the technology in the coming year. And researcher Antonio Espingardeiro on how toys are bringing robotics into the home. Presented by Rory Cellan-Jones, with Dave Lee and Jane Wakefield from the BBC Online tech desk.

Open source theory is rooted in evolutionary psychology [Armed and Dangerous]

Yesterday I realized, quite a few years after I should have, that I have never identified in public where I got the seed of the idea that I developed into the modern economic theory of open-source software – that is, how open-source “altruism” could be explained as an emergent result of selfish incentives felt by individuals. So here is some credit where credit is due.

Now, in general it should be obvious that I owed a huge debt to thinkers in the classical-liberal tradition, from Adam Smith down to F. A. Hayek and Ayn Rand. The really clueful might also notice some connection to Robert Trivers’s theory of reciprocal altruism under natural selection and Robert Axelrod’s work on tit-for-tat interactions and the evolution of cooperation.

These were all significant; they gave me the conceptual toolkit I could apply successfully once I’d had my initial insight. But there’s a missing piece – where my initial breakthrough insight came from, the moment when I realized I could apply all those tools.

The seed was in the seminal 1992 anthology The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. That was full of brilliant work; it laid the foundations of evolutionary psychology and is still worth a read.

(I note as an interesting aside that reading science fiction did an excellent job of preparing me for the central ideas of evolutionary psychology. What we might call “hard adaptationism” – the search for explanations of social behavior in evolution under selection – has been a central theme in SF since the 1940s, well before even the first wave of academic sociobiological thinking in the early 1970s and, I suspect, strongly influencing that wave. It is implicit in, as a leading example, much of Robert Heinlein’s work.)

The specific paper that changed my life was this one: Two Nonhuman Primate Models for the Evolution of Human Food Sharing: Chimpanzees and Callitrichids by W.C.McGrew and Anna T.C.Feistner.

In it, the authors explained food sharing as a hedge against variance. Basically, foods that can be gathered reliably were not shared; high-value food that could only be obtained unreliably was shared.

The authors went on to observe that in human hunter-gatherer cultures a similar pattern obtains: gathered foods (for which the calorie/nutrient value is a smooth function of effort invested) are not typically shared, whereas hunted foods (high variance of outcome in relation to effort) are shared. Reciprocal altruism is a hedge against uncertainty of outcomes.

I think I read this in 1993 or 1994. When I was casting about for a generative explanation of open-source commons behavior a few years later, what came to mind is that coding is like hunting rather than gathering – a high-variance activity (sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail spectacularly, and outcomes are uncertain) which thus evokes instinctive reciprocal gifting.

That idea – software cooperation as risk-hedging – would drive every other central theme in my analysis. Rapid release cycles? Process transparency? Open source itself? Check, check, and check – all ways to maximize the effectiveness of reciprocal altruism as a hedge against risk.

By the time I got this far, I realized that I already knew how to reason about the resulting cooperative equilibria. I could bring in the entire apparatus of neoclassical and Austrian economics! Applying it was a little tricky because the relevant markets weren’t monetized, but my long history as a libertarian helped – it meant I had actually been paying attention when people like Gary Becker and David D. Friedman explored reciprocal altruism in non-monetized markets.

Of course, the fact that I developed a model that made sense in the language of economics later became tremendously important. It made the pitch to the business mainstream intellectually almost trivial. Took a lot of hard work and propaganda to get the message across, but almost no serious thinking.

Part of the point of this explanation, though, is that the evolutionary-psych insight actually came first and the economics second. I never lost sight of the fact that none of the market mechanisms supporting open-source behavior would work quite the way they do if we weren’t genetically pre-adapted to feel reciprocally altruistic in the presence of high variance of outcomes.

There you have it, intellectual historians. You no longer have to speculate about the effect of evolutionary psych on my thinking. The connection was short, straight, and solid. I’ve sent email to McGrew (I couldn’t find an email address for Feistner) because he deserves to know too.

UPDATE: Dr. McGrew has sent me a surprised and pleased reply.

Truth-telling and wu-wei [Armed and Dangerous]

A Meditation on the Art of Not Trying is worth a read.

If you take nothing else from that article, believe this: wu-wei – effortlessness – is one of the secrets of effective truth-telling. It is an essential skill if you want to be a truly game-changing public advocate.

Ben Franklin said “Honesty is the best policy.” The full subtlety of that proverb is lost in modern English, because the word “policy” has shifted in meaning. In Franklin’s time the word had connotations of willed manipulation and deception that it has since lost. Translated into modern English it reads like “Honesty is the most effective way to manipulate people.”

And so, the wu-wei paradox of effective advocacy. To manipulate, speak truth. But it’s not enough to have the truth to speak; you need to be able to say it without strain, in a way that flows naturally from who you are. What is powerful is not just to speak truth but be made of truth clear inward to your bones.

I’m speaking lived experience here, not theory. I have spent decades becoming the kind of person to whom speaking the clearest truth I can formulate, even when it’s uncomfortable for me or socially frowned upon by others, comes as naturally as breathing. Audiences sense this naturalness and respond to it. This is why, when I speak difficult truths in public, I am much better than most people at inducing my listeners to actually grapple with them.

Sadly, there are other effective ways to manipulate people. The world is full of demagogues and sociopaths. But I believe wu-wei truthfulness has a tendency to win in the end, So: to persuade others of the truth, first uproot every lie from your own mind..

Obama thinks Sony “made a mistake” pulling The Interview after hack [Ars Technica]

At the president's end-of-year speech on Friday afternoon, Barak Obama acknowledged the FBI's report claiming that North Korea was behind the November hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and confirmed that the US would lay blame on the isolated nation for Sony's hack. The president promised a “proportional response,” but he did not give more details as to what that response would look like. “They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond,” Obama told the press. “It will be proportional, and it will be at the time and place that we choose; it's not something I'm going to announce at a press conference.”

The president continued, calling for the US government to help private interests shore up their security practices, although he was vague on details for that plan as well. “Part of the problem is you've got weak states that can engage in this kind of attack, you've got non-state actors, that's part of the reason we need to work with congress and get an actual bill passed to prevent these attacks from taking place.”

When asked whether he thought Sony did the right thing in pulling the movie The Interview from theaters, the president spoke remarkably candidly. “Sony is a corporation, it suffered significant damage... I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that ,yes, I think they made a mistake.”

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Republicans may have plan to save Internet providers from utility rules [Ars Technica]

Congressional Republicans are drafting an "industry-backed proposal" to enforce net neutrality rules while preventing the Federal Communications Commission from reclassifying Internet service as a utility, The Washington Post reported today. The Republicans "appear likely to introduce legislation next month," the report said.

If true, Internet providers and Republicans would be resigning themselves to some form of network neutrality rules being imposed on broadband service. But they would avoid the imposition of utility rules under Title II of the Communications Act, a scenario the industry fears even more.

The FCC is on track to issue network neutrality rules that prevent or limit the ability of Internet providers to block or discriminate against applications and websites. The rules would include restrictions on "fast lanes" in which online content providers could pay ISPs for preferred access. The FCC may need to use Title II to impose these rules because of a Verizon lawsuit that led to a court decision saying the FCC could not impose per se common carrier obligations without reclassifying broadband providers as common carriers.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

FBI claims North Korean involvement in Sony Pictures attack [Ars Technica]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Washington press office has issued an update on the investigation into the cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, including the conclusion that North Korea was behind it.

“As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other US government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” the office said in a statement.

However, the information cited by the FBI’s update may not be as conclusive as many would like. Other hints at the attribution were provided to news organizations off-the-record, but the FBI’s public statements are far from definitive.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

T-Mobile gives up fight over cramming fees, will pay $90M back to customers [Ars Technica]

T-Mobile US has given up its fight against a lawsuit filed by the US government, agreeing today to refund $90 million or more to customers who were charged premium text message fees without their consent.

The Federal Trade Commission alleged that T-Mobile made hundreds of millions of dollars off the practice of passing along third-party charges to customers without their authorization and taking a commission on each charge. T-Mobile could end up paying much more than $90 million. "The settlement requires that they provide full refunds to consumers, with a total of 'at least' $90 million," an FTC spokesperson explained. "The $90 million is a floor. If they receive refund requests of more than that, they have to provide them."

In addition to everything it pays back customers, T-Mobile will pay $18 million in fines and penalties to state attorneys general and $4.5 million to the Federal Communications Commission. If T-Mobile receives less than $90 million worth of refund requests, the extra fines can be counted toward the minimum payment of $90 million. If the payment is still under $90 million, "the balance must be remitted to the FTC for additional consumer redress, consumer education, or other uses," the FTC said.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google moves to halt investigation by Mississippi AG, cites MPAA lobbying [Ars Technica]

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has been a persistent critic of Google, complaining that the company's search engine leads consumers quickly to everything from pirated movies to illegal pharmaceuticals. In late October, Hood sent a broad subpoena to Google, which was recently published by The New York Times.

Now, Google has gone on the counterattack, asking a federal judge to throw out (PDF) Hood's subpoena. The search giant is quick to point out that Hood's entire investigation was undertaken "following a sustained lobbying effort from the Motion Picture Association of America."

Google says that Hood's efforts to force it to censor and rearrange its search results are barred by multiple laws. The first is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally makes websites immune from lawsuits over what's published by third parties. The company also argues search results are protected by the First Amendment, since "the state can no more tell a search engine what results to publish than it can tell a newspaper what editorials to run."

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

NASA just e-mailed a wrench to space [Ars Technica]

When International Space Station Commander Barry Wilmore needed a wrench, NASA knew just what to do. They "e-mailed" him one. This is the first time an object has been designed on Earth and then transmitted to space for manufacture.

Made In Space, the California company that designed the 3D printer aboard the ISS, overheard Wilmore mentioning the need for a ratcheting socket wrench and decided to create one. Previously, if an astronaut needed a specific tool it would have to be flown up on the next mission to the ISS, which could take months.

This isn't the first 3D-printed object made in space, but it is the first created to meet the needs of an astronaut. In November astronauts aboard the ISS printed a replacement part for the recently installed 3D printer. A total of 21 objects have now been printed in space, all of which will be brought back to Earth for testing.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

T-Mobile to offer LTE over 5GHz Wi-Fi airwaves to boost data rates [Ars Technica]

T-Mobile will expand its LTE network with the same 5GHz spectrum used by Wi-Fi starting next year. The deployment would help the company boost data throughput but work only over short distances, similar to Wi-Fi hotspots.

LTE over Wi-Fi airwaves is unusual in a couple of ways: T-Mobile will share unlicensed airwaves with other networks, rather than using spectrum to which it has an exclusive license, as wireless carriers typically do. And by using 5GHz for cellular, T-Mobile is going in a direction opposite of the coveted low-band frequencies below 1GHz that travel longer distances and more effectively penetrate building walls.

T-Mobile has acknowledged that its network has trouble over long distances and indoors because it has less low-band spectrum than AT&T and Verizon Wireless, hence T-Mobile's reliance on Wi-Fi calling to cover the gaps. But deploying LTE over 5GHz doesn't preclude further purchases of low-band licenses, which T-Mobile will likely do in an auction of 600MHz airwaves expected to occur in early 2016.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Hackers tell Sony “The Interview may release now”—with edits [Ars Technica]

In a message sent to company executives, someone claiming to represent the hacker group calling itself the Guardians of Peace has given Sony Pictures Entertainment the go-ahead to release the film The Interview—with some minor caveats. First of all, they want any death scene for Kim Jong-un dropped from the film.

"This is GOP. You have suffered through enough threats," the message, which was also posted to Pastebin, read. "The interview may release now. But be careful. September 11 may happen again if you don't comply with the rules: Rule #1: no death scene of Kim Jong Un being too happy;  Rule #2: do not test us again ; Rule #3: if you make anything else, we will be here ready to fight."

Sony dropped plans for the release of the film following the cancellation of screenings by major theater chains.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Minecraft creator outbids Jay-Z, buys priciest home in Beverly Hills [Ars Technica]

If you need yet another sign that the game industry is a serious business force and that game creators are the new entertainment moguls, look no further than the newest purchase by Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson. The Mojang cofounder, who cashed out of the company after a $2.5 billion Microsoft buyout in September, just set a record for a Beverly Hills real estate purchase by laying down $70 million on a mansion in the Trousdale Estates neighborhood.

As reported by Curbed LA, the 23,000-square-foot residence features "a candy room, a car showroom, vodka and tequila bars, a 54-foot curved glass door that opens onto the pool, eight bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, apartment-sized closets, and a movie theater." Oh, and let's not forget the "three high-definition 90-inch television screens [that] bring panoramic views of Los Angeles from the roof into the down stairs lounge." the $5,600 toilets in each bathroom, and the cases of Dom Perignon that were reportedly part of the deal. There are tons of pictures and video of the ridiculous residence over at its official listing website.

“[Persson] fell in love with the house, its sleek contemporary design, and its spectacular panoramic views that sweep from downtown LA to the Pacific Ocean,” Aaroe Group agent Katia De Los Reyes, who helped represent Persson in the sale, said in a statement. “The fact that the house also was completely furnished in such great style was another major selling point for him.”

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Get an Asus 15.6-inch laptop for $199 [Ars Technica]

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, the Dealmaster is back with a whole bag of holiday deals for you and everyone on your list. The top deal this week is a 15.6-inch Asus laptop for just $199—that's $49 off the list price. For your two Benjamins you get a 1366×768 display, a 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2830 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive.

Featured

No junkware! ASUS X551MAV UB01 Dual-Core Celeron 15.6" Laptop with 4GB RAM and 500GB Hard Drive for $199 (list price $249).

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

GMO-free crop “refuges” limit bugs’ ability to develop resistance [Ars Technica]

One of the most successful forms of genetically modified crops are the species that have been engineered to express bacterial proteins that are lethal to insects that ingest them. These crops have picked up the name "Bt," for Bacillus thuringiensis, the bacteria that originally made the toxins. There are Bt versions of food crops such as corn and soy beans, as well as the commercial crop cotton.

The danger with these crops is that they'll do what every other insecticide has done throughout history: select for the evolution of resistance. In the US, government regulations require that Bt crops be planted along with some fields sown with their non-Bt versions, called refuges. This ensures that any rare resistant individuals will likely mate with non-resistant animals that fed on the insecticide free crops, diluting out the resistance genes.

But China, which grows lots of Bt cotton, has no such regulations. Instead, it relies on the fact that insect pests aren't always picky about the crops they feed on. Neighboring fields of non-Bt corn, peanuts, etc. are expected to provide the equivalent of refuges. Until now, however, that idea has never been tested. But the results of tracking Bt resistance over several years are now in, and they are somewhat mixed. Refuges of other crops do work, but they've only delayed the spread of resistance.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Computer intrusion inflicts massive damage on German steel factory [Ars Technica]

A German steel factory suffered significant damage after attackers gained unauthorized access to computerized systems that help control its blast furnace, according to a report published Friday by IDG News.

The attackers took control of the factory's production network through a spear phishing campaign, IDG said, citing a report published Wednesday by the German government's Federal Office for Information Security. Once the attackers compromised the network, individual components or possibly entire systems failed. IDG reporter Loek Essers wrote:

Due to these failures, one of the plant’s blast furnaces could not be shut down in a controlled manner, which resulted in “massive damage to plant,” the BSI said, describing the technical skills of the attacker as “very advanced.”

The attack involved the compromise of a variety of different internal systems and industrial components, BSI said, noting that not only was there evidence of a strong knowledge of IT security but also extended know-how of the industrial control and production process.

The incident is notable because it's one of the few computer intrusions to cause physical damage. The Stuxnet worm that targeted Iran's uranium enrichment program has been dubbed the world's first digital weapon, destroying an estimated 1,000 centrifuges. Last week, Bloomberg News reported that a fiery blast in 2008 that hit a Turkish oil pipeline was the result of hacking, although it's not clear if the attackers relied on physical access to computerized controllers to pull it off. The suspected sabotage of a Siberian pipeline in 1982 is believed to have used a logic bomb. Critics have long argued that much of the world's factories and critical infrastructure aren't properly protected against hackers.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

Viking women were most certainly not stay-at-home moms [Ars Technica]

The traditional picture of Vikings is one of boatloads of hairy men pillaging their way along the coasts of Europe. Though true to some degree, this stereotype has more recently been tempered with the appreciation of Vikings as explorers and settlers, founding colonies from the Black Sea to Canada.

Left out of this picture are Viking women, but with the results of state-of-the-art DNA sequencing techniques, geneticists from Norway and Sweden have provided a picture of the Viking world that reveals women traveled to settle in far-off places. This appears to be true of born-and-bred Norsewomen as well as those from the lands where vikings traveled.

Handed down the maternal line

The study, published by the Royal Society, sequenced DNA from 45 Viking-age skeletons. This was mitochondrial or mtDNA which, unlike most DNA, is passed down from mother to child with no input from the father. Unless there's a mutation, children have identical mtDNA to their mothers, their mother’s mothers, and so on. If you go back far enough, every person who has ever lived falls somewhere on a single, branching, maternal family tree.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Sony bets it all on indie at PlayStation’s Vegas expo [Ars Technica]

We recently recapped some of our time at the PlayStation Experience expo two weeks ago in Las Vegas, but that roundup only included the biggest first-party games coming to the PlayStation 4 in 2015. The showcase was also packed to the gills with some intriguing third-party titles, as well as ample evidence of Sony's commitment to putting some of the best indie games on its consoles.

In some cases, like From Software's Bloodborne and EA's Battlefield: Hardline, we saw playable demos with slightly new content but nothing largely different from what we'd seen at other expos. (A quick primer: we're stoked on Bloodborne as a next-gen followup to the brutally difficult Dark Souls, and we refuse to get jazzed about a snappy-looking Battlefield game until we see one without performance issues that take months to fix.)

In other PSX cases, we were vastly underwhelmed. We had few kind words for Tearaway: Unfolded, the PS4-exclusive follow-up to the touch-and-twist 2013 Vita platformer; the original game's charm felt diluted by its clunky transition to the DualShock 4 controller. Worse was Fat Princess Adventure, a four-player co-op adventure whose playable demo recalled the slow pacing and boring combat of Fable: Legends in all of the worst ways.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

After Silk Road takedowns, Dark Web drug sites still thriving [Ars Technica]

Over a year after the shuttering of the original Silk Road website and over a month after the seizure of Silk Road 2 and other similar sites, the sketchiest of Dark Web sites still persist.

According to a new report published Thursday from the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), an advocacy group, Evolution Marketplace has long passed Silk Road “as the largest illegal black market for drugs before the takedown." Others include Agora Marketplace, Nucleus Marketplace, and a number of smaller ones.

As of this week, Evolution has over 26,000 listings for drugs, weapons, pornography, and more.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

BMW i3 review: A city car for the future [Ars Technica]

Specs at a glance: 2014 BMW i3 (Range Extender)
Body type 5-door
Layout Rear engine, rear wheel drive
Powerplant AC synchronous electric motor, 2 cylinder inline internal combustion engine
Transmission Single speed reduction gear
Horsepower 170 bhp @ 4800 rpm
Torque 184 lb-ft @ 0 - 11400 rpm
Steering  rack & pinion (electronic)
Suspension Macpherson strut (front), 5-link (rear)
Tires Bridgestone Ecopia
155/70R19 front,
175/60R19 rear
Top speed 93 mph (150 km/h), software limited
Battery 22 kWh lithium ion
Rated max range 150 miles (241 km) (battery: 71 miles)
Combined fuel economy 117 mpg
Combined energy consumption 27 kWh/100miles
Internet connectivity Optional, not fitted to test car.
Weight 3130 lb (1420 kg)
Wheelbase 101.2 in (2570 mm)
Dimensions 157.8 in (4008 mm) x 69.9 in (1775 mm) x 62.1 in (1578 mm) (LWH)
Base price $45,200
Price as tested $47,050
Options added Heated front seats, Andesite silver paint.

With the new i3 electric vehicle (EV) city car, BMW is making a pretty clear statement—the company is serious about designing and building cars properly adapted for the 21st century. It’s a radical departure from the Bavarian automaker’s mainstream offerings, looking like little else on the road. In fact, its looks alone are polarizing enough for some people to dismiss it instantly (looking at you, Senior Reviews Editor Lee Hutchinson). But keep an open mind about the i3's appearance, and you too may discover that it’s actually a very impressive little machine.

The i3 is part of a two-car 'capsule collection' called Project i, the other half being the stunning i8 hybrid sports car (first seen as a concept car in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol). The Project i cars use a range of alternative and sustainable materials in their construction along with electric or hybrid powertrains, but the automobiles retain BMW’s traditional emphasis on driving dynamics. What’s more, like the Tesla Model S, they aim to do so without the hair shirt that can be all too common with EVs. We plan to take a closer look at the i8 in the coming months, but BMW was kind enough to supply us with an i3 for a few days recently. Of the two, the i3 is undoubtedly the more relevant, particularly since it doesn’t come with a six-figure price tag. But with its unusual aesthetic and the still-in-progress adoption of EV infrastructure, is the i3 the car for an efficiency-minded city dweller?

There’s no denying it, the i3’s exterior is radical and attracts some attention: not as much as a bright yellow Corvette perhaps, but over the course of a week several people approached us as we were parking or stopped in traffic wanting to know more about it. We got more than a few double takes from people in other cars while on the road as well. What’s certain is that the i3 clearly signals to people that you’re driving something different, an effect the Toyota Prius benefited from in the beginning as well.

Read 27 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Critical Git bug allows malicious code execution on client machines [Ars Technica]

Developers who use the official Git client and related software are being urged to install a security update that kills a bug that could allow attackers to hijack end-user computers.

The critical vulnerability affects all Windows- and Mac-based versions of the official Git client and related software that interacts with Git repositories, according to an advisory published Thursday. The bug can be exploited to give remote code execution when the client software accesses booby-trapped Git repositories.

"An attacker can craft a malicious Git tree that will cause Git to overwrite its own .git/config file when cloning or checking out a repository, leading to arbitrary command execution in the client machine," Thursday's advisory warned. "Git clients running on OS X (HFS+) or any version of Microsoft Windows (NTFS, FAT) are exploitable through this vulnerability. Linux clients are not affected if they run in a case-sensitive filesystem."

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft sues tech support scammers for trademark violation, false advertising [Ars Technica]

In the latest fight back against tech support scammers, Microsoft has sued firms in California and Florida complaining of trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, cybersquatting, and deceptive trading practices.

This comes after similar FTC action against scammers in Florida.

In its complaint, Microsoft notes that tech support scamming is a big money-maker. It estimates that it costs Americans $1.5 billion a year, with $179 million from 390,000 victims being taken in California alone. Over a six month period this year, the company also received some 65,000 complaints relating to the scams.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

T-Mobile wins fight against AT&T and Verizon over data roaming charges [Ars Technica]

T-Mobile US has won a declaratory ruling that could force AT&T and Verizon Wireless to charge lower prices for data roaming.

T-Mobile argued in a petition to the Federal Communications Commission that the biggest carriers charge their smaller competitors artificially high prices. The petition asked the commission to offer specific guidance and enforcement criteria for determining whether any given data roaming agreement is commercially reasonable.

The FCC granted T-Mobile’s request today, rejecting arguments made by AT&T and Verizon. The ruling by itself doesn’t lower the rates that T-Mobile has to pay AT&T and Verizon. However, T-Mobile could now challenge the rates it pays those companies and have a better shot at winning because the commission largely accepted T-Mobile’s proposed guidance. The greater possibility of FCC intervention could also improve T-Mobile's leverage in negotiations.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

12 million home and business routers vulnerable to critical hijacking hack [Ars Technica]

More than 12 million routers in homes and small offices are vulnerable to attacks that allow hackers anywhere in the world to monitor user traffic and take administrative control over the devices, researchers said.

The vulnerability resides in "RomPager" software, embedded into the residential gateway devices, made by a company known as AllegroSoft. Versions of RomPager prior to 4.34 contain a critical bug that allows attackers to send simple HTTP cookie files that corrupt device memory and hand over administrative control. Attackers can use that control to read plaintext traffic traveling over the device and possibly take other actions, including changing sensitive DNS settings and monitoring or controling Web cams, computers, or other connected devices. Researchers from Check Point's malware and vulnerability group have dubbed the bug Misfortune Cookie, because it allows hackers to determine the "fortune" of an HTTP request by manipulating cookies. They wrote:

If your gateway device is vulnerable, then any device connected to your network—including computers, phones, tablets, printers, security cameras, refrigerators, toasters or any other networked device in your home or office network—may have increased risk of compromise. An attacker exploiting the Misfortune Cookie vulnerability can easily monitor your Internet connection, steal your credentials and personal or business data, attempt to infect your machines with malware, and over-crisp your toast.

Determining precisely what routers are vulnerable is a vexing undertaking. Devices frequently don't display identifying banners when unauthenticated users access them, and when such banners are presented, they often don't include information about the underlying software components. Beyond that, some device manufacturers manually patch the bug without upgrading the RomPager version, a practice that may generate false positives when automatically flagging all devices running versions prior to 4.34. To work around the challenges, Check Point researchers performed a comprehensive scan of Internet addresses that probed for vulnerable RomPager services. The results showed 12 million unique devices spanning 200 different models contained the bug. Manufacturers affected included Linksys, D-Link, Edimax, Huawei, TP-Link, ZTE, and ZyXEL.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

PSA: Prepare your wallets for the Steam Holiday Sale [Ars Technica]

It's the most wonderful time of the year for PC gamers looking for deals on cheap software. Well, probably the second most wonderful, after you take the annual Steam Summer Sale into account. Anyway, it's still a pretty wonderful time to get discounted games through Steam's annual Holiday Sale, running today through January 2.

As in years past, this year's sale includes a handful of "featured" daily discounts, updated with new offers every 12 hours, as well as daily "community choice" votes on which of a few select games will go on sale next, and thousands of titles that have just had their prices slashed for the duration of the event. Among the more intriguing featured deals right now: Dark Souls II for a very reasonable $14.79, State of Decay for a cheap $4.99, and SpeedRunners for a bargain basement $2.49.

SteamDB has a good roundup of everything that's come down in price during the sale so far, including some games discounted as much as 98 percent! Remember, if history is any guide, some games listed for sale today may actually come down further in price on the last day of the sale, so you may want to wait if the current deal doesn't seem too hot.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Evolve open beta comes exclusively to Xbox One next month [Ars Technica]

When 2K Games let invited players try out Evolve as part of its "Big Alpha" event a few months ago, those players could put the game through its paces on the Xbox One, PS4, or PC. When the publisher opens up the game for a public beta test next month, only Xbox One players will be able to get in on the full extent of the action.

2K Games announced today that the Xbox One open beta will be open to anyone with an Xbox Live Gold account from January 15 through January 19. The beta will include new playable characters, monsters, and maps in the previously shown 4-hunters-vs-1-monster Hunt mode and, starting January 17, will also introduce a new "Evacuation" campaign mode that mixes up different gameplay types in a five-round series. Progress from the beta will carry over to the game's full release, which is now expected February 10, after being pushed back from an original October launch earlier this year.

On the PC and PS4, access will be limited to "smaller closed technical tests" available to those who already participated in the Big Alpha, as well as players who own Left 4 Dead 2 or Bioshock Infinite on PC. These tests will be limited to Hunt mode and won't let players carry progress to the final release. These will start January 16 on the PC and January 17 on the PS4.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Skype Translator is the most futuristic thing I’ve ever used [Ars Technica]

We have become blasé about technology.

The modern smartphone, for example, is in so many ways a remarkable feat of engineering: computing power that not so long ago would have cost millions of dollars and filled entire rooms is now available to fit in your hand for a few hundred bucks. But smartphones are so widespread and normal that they no longer have the power to astonish us. Of course they're tremendously powerful pocket computers. So what?

This phenomenon is perhaps even more acute for those of us who work in the field in some capacity. A steady stream of new gadgets and gizmos passes across our desks, we get briefed and pitched all manner of new "cutting edge" pieces of hardware and software, and they all start to seem a little bit the same and a little bit boring.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Blizzard considering gold-for-game-time trades in World of Warcraft [Ars Technica]

For its more-than-10-year existence, World of Warcraft has operated in two parallel economies: the in-game economy of gold exchanged for items, and the real-world economy of dollars (or others hard currencies) exchanged for monthly game time subscriptions. Now, Blizzard says it's considering bringing those two economies together through some sort of exchange in 2015.

"We’re exploring the possibility of giving players a way to buy tradable game-time tokens for the purpose of exchanging them in-game with other players for gold," Blizzard writes in a preview of next year's World of Warcraft plans. "Our current thought on this is that it would give players a way to use their surplus gold to cover some of their subscription cost, while giving players who might have less play time an option for acquiring gold from other players through a legit and secure system." Blizzard goes on to say that many players have expressed interest in the feature and that the developers "agree it could be a good fit for the game."

As Blizzard points out, some other MMOs have a similar option. EVE Online might be the prototypical example, where the relationship between in-game Aurum and game-time-granting Pilot License Extensions helps create a robust economy where virtual items have real world value. On the other end of the spectrum, many free-to-play games simply let players buy in-game perks and currency directly with real money, a phenomenon that has turned the term "pay-to-win" into an epithet in most game design circles.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Photo - Wreaths Across America at Arlington [BLACKFIVE]

Holiday wreaths adorn the graves of fallen service members across Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Dec. 13, 2014. Volunteers placed about 700,000 remembrance wreaths on National Wreaths Across America Day. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

OPERATIONS IN SOMALIA CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT [BLACKFIVE]

Just saw this posted elsewhere...may pertain to some who frequent this site: OPERATIONS IN SOMALIA CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT. Announcement is made confirming campaign participation credit for the following units for operations involving Somalia under the provisions of AR 600–8–22, paragraph 7–18: 1. Designated Area of Operations: Limited to units deployed abroad to Somalia in support of Operations RESTORE HOPE and UNITED SHIELD http://www.apd.army.mil/pdffiles/go1473.pdf

LIVE AT FIVESEVEN: 12.19.14 [The Other McCain]

– compiled by Wombat-socho TOP NEWS Evidence In Sony Hack Suggests Possible Involvement By Iran, Chicoms, Russia No evidence of forced entry – an inside job? Sony execs say The Interview “desperately unfunny” Norks’ long term target may be telecoms, utility grid So what’s Obama going to do about it? Obama Bets On More Cigars […]

Christmas…Christmas Never Changes. [The Other McCain]

– by Wombat-socho Between Obama sucking the Castro brothers’ toes and the pathetic behavior of Sony and Paramount, this has been a pretty miserable day. Yet, all is not lost – there are still a few brave (and funny) souls out there mocking the idiocies of the left for your entertainment. One of them, of […]

Two weeks in: a quick update [Walt at Random]

Cites & Insights 15.1, January 2015, was published two weeks ago, featuring the “third half” of my vast-but-incomplete survey of gold OA in 2011-2014, along with some additional notes related to gold OA.

“Going for the gold: OA journals in 2014: any interest?”–asking whether a coherent, well-organized look at the overall state of OA journals in 2014 (or, really, 2011-2014), based on an even larger survey of the journals, done as a paperback book, would be of any interest–appeared the next day, December 3, 2014. Essentially the same text appeared as one of the shorter pieces in the “third half” essay.

As of this morning (at 5 a.m., when the daily statistics run for month-to-day happens), December 16, 2014, C&I 15.1 is doing OK in terms of readership: 1,355 downloads to date (1,168 of the print-oriented two-column version, 187 of the 6×9″ single-column version). Those are strong numbers; I’d like to think the issue’s having some mild impact.

As of this morning, total non-spam responses to the other post (and to the piece in C&I) are a little less strong. 1,355 less strong, to be exact. (Lots of spamments, but that happens any time I turn comments on.)

That’s a shame, but it’s also reality.

Meanwhile, I’m now a little more than halfway in scanning the remaining 2,200-odd journals, which are now down to 1,800-odd as I remove journals where there’s not enough English in the interface for me to determine whether they have article processing charges and how their issue archives work. That is: I have 1,010 journals that I’ve been able to record information on, with 800-odd to go, but I imagine another 100+ will disappear in that process.

A word to OA publishers who are trying to offer an English interface without actually doing any work: Having an English flag (either literally a flag or a pull-down list option) is really sort of pointless if all it does is change the OJS menu headings to English, with all the text linked from them still in the primary language of the journal. Cute, but pointless.

But at least better than the journals hosting malware…and I think I have one of you to “thank” for spending most of a day last week recovering from a nasty little Trojan disguised as a Flash update. I saw a second attempt this week, but the combination of anti-crap software I’m running flagged it immediately.

Oh, just as a sidebar, here are some year-to-November-30* figures for OA-related essays in Volume 14:

  • April 2014, 14:4 (The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall and another essay): 2,781 two-column plus 3,393 single-column (a rare case in which the single-column outdid the two-column), for a total of 6,174, a big number for C&I: by far the largest 2014 download count for any issue of C&I (that’s out of some 176,000 total downloads through November 30, although as noted in the footnote below that’s missing 11 days, the last day of each month).
  • May 2014, 14:5 (The So-Called Sting and another essay): 1,690 two-column plus 1,283 single-column, for a total of 2,973, also a very good number.
  • July 2014, 14:7 (Journals, “Journals” and Wannabes): 1,839 two-column plus 1,042 single column, for a total of 2,881, which is very good, especially noting that the window is getting smaller.
  • October/November 2014, 14:10 (Journals and “Journals”: Taking a Deeper Look): 817 two-column plus 239 single-column for a total of 1,056. Not bad for a relatively brief period.
  • December 2014, 14:11 (Journals and “Journals” Part 2): 998 two-column plus 456 single-column, for a total of 1,454, which is pretty good given that it came out on November 2, so that’s one month’s readership.

The three Journals and “Journals” issues show 96, 27, and 88 additional downloads for December 1-15, respectively.


*Technically, November 29: because of how the statistics run, I never actually see the figures for the final day of a given month.


Update December 18, 2014: Comments now turned off. The question of whether or not to write a Publish-on-Demand paperback based on all of this has been rendered moot, in a way that will serve libraries quite well, I believe.

Going for the Gold: OA Journals in 2014: any interest? [Walt at Random]

[Adapted and slightly updated from the January 2015 C&I, partly so you can comment directly at the end.]

I’m toying with the idea of doing an updated, expanded, coherent version of Journals and “Journals”: A Look at Gold OA. Current working title: Going for the Gold: OA Journals in 2014.

The book would use a very large subset of DOAJ as it existed in May 2014 as the basis for examining gold OA—with sidebars for the rest of Beall (most of which is “journals” rather than journals) and the rest of OASPA (which doesn’t amount to much). It would assume a four-part model for some of the discussion (megajournals, bio/med, STEM other than biology, and HSS).

But it would also add even more DOAJ journals, drawn from around 2,200 that have English as one language but not the first one (and a few hundred that were somehow missed in the latest pass). Based on a sampling of 200-300 or so, I’d guess that this would yield 500 to 1,000 more journals (that are reachable, actually OA, and have enough English for me to verify the APC, if any, verify that it’s actually peer-reviewed scholarship, and cope with the archives), possibly fewer, possibly more.

Update: At this point, I’ve recorded information for 200—well, 199—additional journals, but in the process I see that the last row in the spreadsheet has gone from something over 2,200 to a current 2,107, as I delete journals where there isn’t enough English available for me to determine the APC or that there isn’t one, determine that the journal appears to be scholarly research articles, and navigate the archives. Since close to 30% of the 200 journals are either unreachable, aren’t OA as I’m defining it, or are set up so that I find it impossible to count the number of articles, that suggests—and suggests is the right word—that I might get something like 1,400 journals of which something like 1,000 provide useful additional information. But journals are wildly heterogeneous: the actual numbers could be anywhere from 250 to 1,900 or so. Best guess: around 800-1,200 useful additions.

There would still be a portion of DOAJ as of May 2014 not included: journals that don’t include English as one of their possible languages and those that don’t have enough English for a monolingual person to make sense of them. That group includes at least 1,800 journals.

The paperback might also include the three existing pieces of Journals and “Journals,” depending on the length and final nature of the new portion. If so, the old material would follow the new. The paperback would cost $45 (I think), and a PDF ebook would be the same price.

Update: More likely, the paperback would not include the three existing pieces but would add some additional analysis—e.g., proportion of free and APC-charging journals by country of origin.

Since curiosity hasn’t quite killed me off yet, I may do this in any case, but it would be a lot more likely if I thought that a few people (or libraries or institutions or groups involved with OA) would actually buy it. If you’re interested—without making a commitment—drop me a line at waltcrawford@gmail.com saying so (or leave a comment on this post).

Of course, if some group wanted this to be freely available in electronic form, I’d be delighted, for the price of one PLOS One accepted article without waivers: $1,350. With that funding, I’d also reduce the paperback price to Lulu production cost plus $2.

If some group was really interested in an updated look at all this—including full-year 2014 numbers for DOAJ and the rest of OASPA (but not the rest of Beall: life really is too short)—I’d be willing to consider doing that, which would be a lot more work, possibly for, say, the amount of the APC for Cell Reports: $5,000. I don’t plan to hold my breath for either offer, although the first doesn’t seem entirely out of the question.

You know where to find me.

[Updated 9:35 a.m.: Comments turned on. Oops.]


Updated December 18, 2014: Comments turned off again. This possibility–a print-on-demand self-published paperback based on all of this research–has been rendered moot by developments. There will, in fact, be a coherent overview with additional material, available some time in 2015, aimed at library needs. It will not be a Cites & Insights Book.

On the left’s dream of turning America into Scandinavia [AEI » Pethokoukis]

Many left-liberals have a real thing about the social democracies of Scandinavia. As University of Arizona sociologist Lane Kenworthy has put it, “Over the course of the next half century, the array of social programs offered by the federal government of the United States will increasingly come to resemble the ones offered by [the Nordic welfare states].” And he might be right, if Democrats have their way. No sooner the arrival of universal healthcare did Democrats move into their next project: universal preschool. And next perhaps a universal basic income. (Hey, where is the VAT to pay for all this stuff?) There are fans in the media, too. Again, here is New York Times reporter Neil Irwin on what lessons America can learn from Scandinavia’s high labor force participation rates  in creating a pro-work safety net:

In short, more people may work when countries offer public services that directly make working easier, such as subsidized care for children and the old; generous sick leave policies; and cheap and accessible transportation. If the goal is to get more people working, what’s important about a social welfare plan may be more about what the money is spent on than how much is spent. If correct, it could have broad implications for how the United States might better use its social safety net to encourage Americans to work. In particular, it could mean that more direct aid to the working poor could help coax Americans into the labor force more effectively than the tax credits that have been a mainstay for compromise between Republicans and Democrats for the last generation.

AEI’s Mike Strain, quoted in the Irwin piece, has a response here. So too does AEI’s Stan Veuger. Let me pull out a few of their insights. First, Strain:

I’m quoted in an article in the New York Times on the paper, and as the article reports I do think that we can learn some things from Scandinavia — better transportation, better public education — and I oppose expanding the government’s role in child care (we have enough middle-class entitlements, thank you very much). … I would make two other points as well. Americans might be willing to fork over more of their hard-earned cash to the government if they had more confidence that the government would spend the money in a productive way. … And, as I have written, very high marginal income tax rates would likely be very damaging to the long-term future of the United States. Why would a young person want to be a surgeon or an entrepreneur if the government will take seventy cents of her top dollars of income? Like Scandinavian culture, the longer-term reactions to high top rates — skill acquisition, occupational choice, general attitudes about work — are much harder to measure. And it is fine for economists to focus on what they can measure when writing their papers. But it is not fine for the public debate to assume that these effects are zero just because economists can’t measure them.

And Veuger:

But might policy and politics be downstream from culture? Well, that certainly appears to be the case once we look at Scandinavian culture. Scandinavians trust their fellow citizens. They think poor people have typically been unlucky instead of lazy. They vote actively and participate in civil society. They respect the rule of law, and they donate to charity. Professor Kleven recognizes all of these things, and ultimately chooses not to guess what causes what. Yet for the ambitions of American progressives, that distinction matters very much. If all of these things are so precisely because the Scandinavian countries are small and homogeneous and have been that way for quite some time, then there is not much to be learned from this Scandinavian business. The Scandinavians themselves seem quite confident that they know the answer: culture matters and that their countries are small and homogeneous matters. They are the most Euroskeptic peoples of the continent. Norway is not a member of the European Union, Sweden joined only recently, and none of the three adopted the eurozone’s common currency. They seem to like their small, homogeneous countries just fine. And perhaps that’s what Scandinavia ultimately teaches us: the value of subsidiarity, not of subsidies.

Other economists wonder if Nordic-style capitalism is as conducive to innovation. Certainly they file fewer patents and generate fewer superrich entrepreneurs. (Recall Strain’s remarks on taxes.) As economists Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson, and Thierry Verdier explain in their paper “Can’t We All Be More Like Scandinavians?”: “We cannot all be like the Scandinavians, because Scandinavian capitalism depends in part on the knowledge spillovers created by the more cutthroat American capitalism. … Some countries will opt for a type of cutthroat capitalism that generates greater inequality and more innovation and will become the technology leaders, while others will free-ride on the cutthroat incentives of the leaders and choose a more cuddly form of capitalism.”

The post On the left’s dream of turning America into Scandinavia appeared first on AEI.

"Boston.com wanted to paint me as a bad guy, and in general it’s their right to tell the story as they see fit." [Althouse]

"But my emails, right there for all to see, specifically indicated that I wanted the restaurant to refund all customers who had been overcharged. Somehow that key fact ended up totally missing from almost all the media coverage.... From my perspective, the most distressing aspect of the media coverage was how little attention the articles paid to my true motivations."

Said Ben Edelman, the Harvard professor whose email to a restaurant made so many people think he was a world-class asshole.

Can Oklahoma and Nebraska get the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Colorado from facilitating the commerce in marijuana? [Althouse]

States suing states can file their case directly in the Supreme Court, as you may know. Here's the NYT article about the lawsuit:

“Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states,” the suit says, undermining their marijuana bans, “draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems.”...

Nebraska and Oklahoma’s challenge is aimed more at the commercial side of marijuana legalization, which created new systems of regulations and taxes as well as recreational stores, dispensaries and production facilities that are monitored and licensed by state officials. The suit does not specifically seek to overturn the portion of Amendment 64 that made marijuana legal for personal use and possession, meaning that portions of legalization could survive even if Nebraska and Oklahoma prevail.
States are not obligated to help the federal government enforce its laws, and clearly Colorado can decide to do nothing and let the feds enforce their own law. That's why Nebraska and Oklahoma has focused on the active things Colorado is doing to facilitate the commerce in marijuana.
The lawsuit... accused Colorado officials of participating in a “scheme” that cultivates, packages and distributes marijuana in direct violation of controlled-substances laws while “ignoring every objective embodied in the federal drug control regulation.” ...

While it is against the law to take legally purchased marijuana across state lines, Nebraska and Oklahoma said that Colorado does not require consumers to smoke or eat their marijuana where they buy it, and said that despite purchasing and possession limits, anyone can easily visit several dispensaries and stock up. Some sheriffs in bordering states say they have pulled over drivers and found edibles and marijuana from multiple Colorado retail outlets.
You can read the state's Motion for Leave to File Complain, Complaint, and Brief here.

The Justice Department makes a big move on transgender rights. [Althouse]

"Attorney General Holder announced today that the Department of Justice will take the position in litigation that the protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to claims of discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity, including transgender status."

Attorney General Holder informed all Department of Justice component heads and United States Attorneys in a memo that the department will no longer assert that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex excludes discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender discrimination, reversing a previous Department of Justice position.  Title VII makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate in the employment of an individual “because of such individual’s…sex,” among other protected characteristics.

“This important shift will ensure that the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extended to those who suffer discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” said Attorney General Holder.  “This will help to foster fair and consistent treatment for all claimants.  And it reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Americans.”

"I believe that the international motion picture audience is racist — in general pictures with an African American lead don’t play well overseas." [Althouse]

"But Sony sometimes seems to disregard that a picture must work well internationally to both maximize returns and reduce risk, especially pics with decent size budgets."

From the leaked Sony email, the remarks of an unnamed producer. This was in the context of explaining why a particular film didn't do well in foreign countries, but the analysis extends to future planning:

"No, I am not saying ‘The Equalizer’ should not have been made or that African American actors should not have been used (I personally think Denzel is the best actor of his generation).... Casting him is saying we’re ok with a double if the picture works.... He’s reliable at the domestic (box office), safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe whenever possible the non event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside and be made for the right price. Here there isn’t a large inherent upside."
"Double" isn't some movie-industry term, apparently. It's "double" as opposed to "home run." A baseball analogy. That baseball analogy gives way to a gambling analogy, and we can see that the people channeling the money are trying to make money. It's a money-making business, not a lofty art project or a social-change movement.

But let's take a hard look at the old argument: I'm free of racial bias, but my customers are not. That's the argument restaurants used to defend a whites-only policy half a century ago, before Congress made it illegal. Movies, of course, are a form of expression and not places of public accommodation. There can't be any laws relieving movie-makers of the urge to cater to the racial bias of the audiences. That's true even if we think the producers have nothing sincere to say to us and only use expression as a means to an end to get us to hand over our money.

We can withhold our money. The movie business seems to notice when people avoid a movie. That's what the unnamed producer was doing in that leaked email. And yet it's difficult to imagine people staying away from movies they want to see in an effort to contribute to some inchoate message to the film industry that it should treat black actors the same as white actors.

But to see the leaked emails is to get a clearer picture of the decision-making that underlies the product that we are invited to purchase. We don't buy food when we know the factory is squalid.

The death of a 300-year-old tree. [Althouse]

Goodbye to the President's Tree, the oldest tree on the University of Wisconsin campus:

Long before the tract of land next to Lake Mendota became the University of Wisconsin, an acorn embedded itself in the soil not far from some burial mounds created by the original occupants of the land....

“We wanted to keep it as long as we could,” said Daniel Einstein, UW-Madison historic and cultural resources manager. “But in the past few years with the drought and harsh winter, the tree has declined pretty rapidly.”

"My thriftiness overwhelmed my modesty, and I removed my T-shirt, stripped off my briefs and marched back to the store." [Althouse]

"If it was hard to buy produce without clothing and with a poor command of the language, it was more difficult to return it. Perhaps the poignant sight of a flat-chested, middle-aged American woman seeking to buy a voluptuous French melon melted the icy heart of the clerk. She found me another watermelon."

From "Vacationing in the Nude, With Mom" (in the NYT).

Development Release: Elive 2.5.0 (Beta) [DistroWatch.com: News]

Samuel Baggen has announced the release of Elive 2.5.0, the latest build in the long line of development releases that characterise this Debian-based distribution with Enlightenment 17: "The Elive team is proud to announce the release of beta version 2.5.0. This new version includes: Linux kernel optimizations -....

Development Release: Kubuntu 15.04 Alpha 1 [DistroWatch.com: News]

Jonathan Riddell has announced the availability of the initial development release of "Vivid Vervet", a family of Ubuntu distribution that will eventually bear the version number 15.04. This first alpha build is available for Kubuntu (now with Plasma 5 as the default KDE), Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME and Ubuntu....

Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering? [hogewash]

I think so, Brain … but why should we put off until tomorrow what we can avoid all together?


A Comet in Color … [hogewash]

ESA_Rosetta_OSIRIS_Color… but not a very much color. Rosetta’s OSIRIS team have produced a color image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it would be seen by the human eye. The comet turns out to be very grey indeed, with only subtle color variations across its surface.

This picture was assembled from three images taken with the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the scientific imaging system OSIRIS in red (744 nm wavelength), green (536 nm), and blue (481 nm) filters on 6 August 2014, from a distance of 120 kilometres. The image area is roughly 4 km square.

Image Credit: ESA


Are You Pondering What I’m Pondering? [hogewash]

I rhimk so, Btaim … but I rhimk soneome has swirched sone keycaps atoumd.


Team Kimberlin Post of the Day [hogewash]

This another one of the improperly pleaded allegations that The Dread Pro-Se Kimberlin has been throwing around in his Kimberlin v. The Universe, et al. RICO Madness.ECF 231-22

In order to be well-pleaded an allegation needs to specify the who, what, when, where, and how of the act in question. In order to recover for damages, the damages must be specified. Simply alleging John Doe hit me isn’t well-pleaded. That’s only who and what. A proper allegation would be something like this: John Doe hit me in the ribs with a baseball bat in City Park at around 10:15 am last Fourth of July; he broke two of my ribs, causing severe pain; and as a result of that injury, I sustained medical expenses of $2,369.14 and lost $752.00 in wages because I was unable to work.

Oh, and when you get to court, you better have witnesses and/or evidence to back up your story.

Just saying that I falsely called TDPK a “swatter” doesn’t cut it. He needs to say when, where, and how I did it. Of course, he can’t because I have never called him a “swatter.” I have noted that people have been SWATted after run-ins with Brett Kimberlin, but I also have noted that there is no proof of whodunit. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but I can understand why some folks are suspicious.

It is true that I do try to raise money via this blog. The Gullible Victim Gentle Reader will find the Tip Jar here.

There’s also a fund set up to help defray some of the costs of defending bloggers from Brett Kimberlin’s Anti-First-Amendment lawfare. Go to Bomber Sues Blogger to find out more.


Quote of the Day [hogewash]

Wherever smart people work, doors are unlocked.

—Steve Wozniak


Predatory Fining and Mass Surveillance [Marginal REVOLUTION]

In Ferguson and the Modern Debtor’s Prison I noted that Ferguson raises an unusually high rate of revenues from fines.

You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant “low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”

It doesn’t inspire confidence, therefore, when we learn that Ferguson plans to increase its reliance on police fines as a source of revenue.

Ferguson, Missouri, which is recovering from riots following the August shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman, plans to close a budget gap by boosting revenue from public-safety fines and tapping reserves.

Missouri’s attorney general, however, wants to enforce limits on predatory fining:

Missouri’s attorney general announced lawsuits against 13 of this city’s suburbs on Thursday, accusing them of ignoring a law that sets limits on revenue derived from traffic fines. The move comes after widespread allegations of harassment and profiteering by small municipal governments against the poor and minorities.

…demonstrators have frequently complained about a perceived hypervigilance to minor traffic violations in St. Louis County’s patchwork of 90 municipalities. Many of those cities have their own courts and police departments, but some are only a few square blocks in size and have populations smaller than some high schools.

“When traffic ticketing is used to promote public safety, that’s appropriate,” Mr. Koster said. “When traffic tickets are used to promote revenue, that’s inappropriate.” Such practices, he said, are “predatory.”

(Technically Ferguson isn’t one of the smaller governments being sued but the battle lines are being drawn.)

The current focus on predatory fining and minorities is well justified but these issues are also the spearhead for important changes being brought about by the intersection of policing and mass surveillance. We all commit multiple felonies regularly, no one is innocent. Today most of our violations are simply ignored, never discovered nor prosecuted, but when the eye turns to us we won’t have a defense. As a result, as Stephen Carter wrote in a superb editorial, technological change and the law puts us all in the same danger as Eric Garner.

Hat tip: Michael Cohen.

Printing Cancer Killing Viruses [Marginal REVOLUTION]

Cell biologist Andrew Hessel of Autodesk is designing viruses in software to attack a specific individual’s cancer and then using DNA Printers to create the viruses as a drug. Here from an interview with New Scientist (gated).

It’s really about making a specific medicine tailored to one person–”N-of-1″ medicine–rather than try to make it a best fit for a whole population. My vision is to create a personalized treatment that can be made in a day by printing bespoke cancer-fighting viruses.

I’m not fully convinced by his economic model but it may be useful as a vision-goal:

I see the business model shifting away from the blockbuster-drug model of the pharma industry–getting the best product for the most people and charging the most for it–to more of a Netflix model, in which you might purchase a subscription for all-that-you-need medicine to manage your cancer.

…I’m pretty sure I can get the virus printing costs down to a dollar a dose. The virus itself is designed by algorithms using diagnostic data from the patient. That info is put into a program that will design the cancer-fighting virus, so the cost of design is cheap. Then there’s testing, and there is no simpler test than on the patient’s own cancer cells in a dish. So that whole process should cost less than $100 end-to-end. If you are on a cancer subscription model paying $100 a month, I see that as ultimately profitable.

Hessel is also far too sanguine about the FDA who he thinks will allow this under “compassionate use.” No way – not today when the FDA prohibits 23andMe from even providing information about DNA and its probable consequences, see my post Our DNA, Our Selves. To make this a reality we will need scientific breakthroughs and also A New FDA for the Age of Personalized Medicine.

Testing peer review by running submissions through the process twice [Marginal REVOLUTION]

In particular, about 57% of the papers accepted by the first committee were rejected by the second one and vice versa. In other words, most papers at NIPS would be rejected if one reran the conference review process (with a 95% confidence interval of 40-75%)

Here is another framing:

If the committees were purely random, at a 22.5% acceptance rate they would disagree on 77.5% of their acceptance lists on average.

That is from Eric Price on the NIPS experiment, there is more here.

For the pointer I thank a loyal MR reader.

Why is tipping for service assistance spreading? [Marginal REVOLUTION]

I now regularly find that when I buy something from a cashier — especially small ticket items — that I have the option of tipping the salesperson.  There will be a cup for tips, or the space to write a tip into the credit card transaction.  If I buy a gelato, or a newspaper in the airport, these tipping chances present themselves.

I take it there are a few classes of customer:

1. Those who are looking for chances to tip more, to feel good about themselves.

2. Those who are uncertain about when they should be tipping, and who will now enter a tip to avoid feeling bad, out of fear that the social default has shifted toward tipping in some additional arena.  They don’t prefer to tip, but they figure they are supposed to, and do not therefore hold a grudge.

3. Those who are indifferent to this new possibility, or perhaps who actively resent it, and who will leave no tip at all and do not feel guilty about that.

4. Those who aren’t sure what they should be doing, ultimately decide against the tip, feel bad about this, identify the establishment which made them feel bad, and avoid that establishment in the future.

If the share of individuals described by #4 is sufficiently large, suppliers will be reluctant to create new tipping opportunities, but it seems that is not the case.  And so the practice of tipping is spreading.  Note that as new tipping opportunities spread, uncertainty about the true social defaults increases (“hmm…maybe coffee servers do deserve a tip…”) and that increases the share of individuals who fall into #2.  Which in turn raises the profitability of creating new tipping opportunities, which in turn muddies the understanding of social defaults, and so on.  That is indeed the Dantean inferno we live in these days.

As a good Coasian, I feel tipping makes most sense when the quality of service potentially varies, and is elastic to the effort of the server.  Those are not the boosts in tipping opportunities which I am observing.  I’ve never had anyone scoop me a bad gelato, but service quality at the supermarket checkout varies a good deal, mostly depending on whether the cashier knows not to engage the (other) customers in too much chatter.

How bad are currency mismatches these days? [Marginal REVOLUTION]

The words of Gillian Tett are worth a ponder:

…corporate leverage in regions such as Asia is considerably higher today, relative to gross domestic product, than it was before the 1998 Asian financial crisis, as Frank Neumann of HSBC notes. What is even more alarming is that these numbers might understate the risk since many emerging market companies have been using offshore vehicles to raise funds — and those flows are not well tracked.

The BIS reckons that about half of the debt securities sold between 2009 and 2013 by emerging market entities, along with a large chunk of loans, were channelled via offshore entities, not onshore parent companies. These offshore entities typically swap this money from dollars into domestic currency and repatriate it to the head office.

Brazilian, Russian and Chinese firms, for example, are thought to have created some $35bn of these internal intra-company flows in the first quarter of 2013 alone. But these flows are often recorded in the data as a “foreign direct investment flow”, not debt. The risk, then, is that companies are exposed to currency mismatches that will only become clear at a later date.

The full FT article is here.  Here is a related article, focusing on Claudio Borio.  Here are Borio and Hyum Shin from the BIS.

What Part of Keeping Cuba Isolated Has Not ‘Worked’? [Ordered Liberty]

The Obama talking point being repeated by the administration’s note-takers in the media is that it makes sense for the president to try a different approach on Cuba because the policy of isolating the dictatorship has not “worked.” Naturally, what is meant by “worked” is not stated.

I’m trying to figure out what exactly the supposed flaw has been in the policy of isolating a brutal regime diplomatically and imposing a trade embargo on it – one that is a lot more like a screen than a wall – in order to pressure it to reform.

American presidents have vast foreign policy powers and plenary control over which regimes the United States recognizes and conducts diplomatic relations with. The Cuban embargo, by contrast, was established by statute and can only be repealed by Congress. Thus, it has many times been repeated over the last 24 hours that, in reestablishing diplomatic relations, President Obama has gone as far as he can on his own – the rest being up to lawmakers.

Wrong.

Several laws control the embargo. Among the most recent is the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act (codified in Chapter 69 of Title 22, U.S. Code). Section 6005 of the law outlines sanctions imposed against Cuba – the qualified blockade, prohibition on some financial transactions, and limitation on remittances.

But then there is Section 6007, the waiver provision. This tells us that, while it is true that it would require an act of Congress to repeal the restrictions on Cuba, no legislation is necessary to ignore the restrictions. The act empowers the president to do that on his own. All he needs to do is represent to Congress that the Cuban government

(1) has held free and fair elections conducted under internationally recognized observers;

(2) has permitted opposition parties ample time to organize and campaign for such elections, and has permitted full access to the media to all candidates in the elections;

(3) is showing respect for the basic civil liberties and human rights of the citizens of Cuba;

(4) is moving toward establishing a free market economic system; and

(5) has committed itself to constitutional change that would ensure regular free and fair elections that meet the requirements of paragraph (2).

Similarly, Section 6006 enables the president to provide humanitarian aid (food, medicine, and medical supplies) to Cuba … provided he represents to Congress that the Cuban government

(1) has made a public commitment to hold free and fair elections for a new government within 6 months and is proceeding to implement that decision;

(2) has made a public commitment to respect, and is respecting, internationally recognized human rights and basic democratic freedoms; and

(3) is not providing weapons or funds to any group, in any other country, that seeks the violent overthrow of the government of that country.

In other words, it has been American policy for decades – the policy Obama says does not “work” – that the United States may and should provide significant aid as long as Cuba, in return, stops terrorizing its citizens, respects basic human and civil rights, respects democratic freedoms, refrains from arming terrorists and insurrectionists, liberalizes its economy, establishes a free press, and lays the groundwork for free and fair elections.

So, if that hasn’t “worked” to encourage Cuban reform, what is the president suggesting will “work”? Giving Cuba aid and legitimacy without requiring the regime to change? Why would we want to give an American taxpayer dime to, or help legitimize in any way, a regime that rejects these basic elements of a civilized society?

Obama Says His Job Is Assuring Equal Protection Under the Law … Really? [Ordered Liberty]

Continuing to politicize tragedy, our community organizer-in-chief reacted to the grand jury’s refusal to indict a New York City police officer in the killing of Eric Garner by complaining that this decision and the one in Ferguson, Mo., “highlighted the frustrations that many African-Americans have harbored about a legal system that has a long history of discrimination against black people.” Obama is quoted by the New York Times proclaiming:

“When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that is a problem, and it’s my job as president to help solve it.”

Really?

Perhaps the president could start with Dinesh D’Souza. He should be able to get up to speed on it quickly since, unlike the state cases he is bloviating about, the D’Souza case was prosecuted by Obama’s own Justice Department. Even though his offense involved a comparatively trifling among of money ($15,000), D’Souza, unlike the overwhelming majority of people who violate the campaign finance laws, was not permitted to settle his case by paying an administrative fine. Instead, Obama’s Justice Department not only prosecuted him for a campaign finance felony, but gratuitously threw in an additional felony false-statements charge that turned Congress’s two-year maximum into a seven-year potential sentence.

By comparison, the Obama 2008 campaign, which committed over $2 million in campaign finance infractions, was permitted to pay a fine — indeed, a fine that was substantially less than the $500,000 bond D’Souza was forced to post just to get out on bail. Fortunately, a federal judge declined the Obama Justice Department’s push to send D’Souza to jail for 16 months. But he is absurdly being forced to spend six months in a halfway house — which is supposed to be the transition stage back into the community after a long prison sentence.

D’Souza is a conservative writer and film producer who has portrayed the president in an unflattering light.

Or maybe Obama could look into the matter of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, another prosecution by the president’s own Justice Department. In a blatant departure from equal protection principles, Nakoula was imprisoned for a violation of supervised release (the federal version of parole) that experienced probation officers and prosecutors would not even have brought to court, much less sought re-imprisonment over. Turns out Nakoula was the producer of a video that portrayed Islam in a very unflattering light. Having falsely claimed to have defeated al Qaeda, Obama needed a scapegoat when al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists attacked a U.S. compound in Benghazi, killing our ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. So Nakoula was singled out and prosecuted, even though his production of the video was protected by the First Amendment. He spent many months in prison.

Nakoula’s incarceration enabled the president and his underlings to pretend that the video, not the terrorists, caused the Benghazi Massacre.

A Criminal Organization Masquerading As… [The PJ Tatler]

… a political party — Democrats, doing what they do best: suing to beggar people and profiting from it. Now with even more kickbacks! What scum:

When they met at the J. W. Marriott Hotel two blocks from the White House, Linda Singer, a former attorney general turned plaintiffs’ lawyer, approached Attorney General Gary King of New Mexico with an unusual proposition.

Ms. Singer wanted him to sue the owner of a nursing home in rural New Mexico that Mr. King had never heard of and Ms. Singer had never set foot in. She later presented him with a proposed lawsuit that did not cite any specific complaints about care. What she shared with him were numbers on staffing levels gleaned from records suggesting that residents were being mistreated there and at other facilities…

The casual nature of the exchange between the two Democrats, which was among thousands of pages of emails obtained by The New York Times, belied the enormous potential payoff for Ms. Singer’s firm if she could persuade Mr. King to hire her and use his state powers to investigate and sue, which he did.

The partnership is part of a flourishing industry that pairs plaintiffs’ lawyers with state attorneys general to sue companies, a collaboration that has set off a furious competition between trial lawyers and corporate lobbyists to influence these officials.

As the old saying goes, it’s not what’s illegal that’s the real crime — it’s what’s legal. Good for the New York Times for reporting this, even though it makes their beloved Democrats look as bad as they really are. Here’s how the scam works:

The lawsuits follow a pattern: Private lawyers, who scour the news media and public records looking for potential cases in which a state or its consumers have been harmed, approach attorneys general. The attorneys general hire the private firms to do the necessary work, with the understanding that the firms will front most of the cost of the investigation and the litigation. The firms take a fee, typically 20 percent, and the state takes the rest of any money won from the defendants…

In no place has the contingency-fee practice flourished more than in Mississippi, where lawyers hired by Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, have collected $57.5 million in fees during the last two years — three times as much as Mr. Hood has spent on running his state office during the same period.

Mr. Hood has taken in $395,000 in campaign contributions from trial law firms over the last decade, more than any other attorney general.

To be sure, it’s an equal-opportunity racket, but some players are more equal than others:

Over all, plaintiffs’ firms have donated at least $9.8 million directly to state attorneys general and political groups related to attorneys general over the last decade, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by The Times, with more than 76 percent of that money going to Democrats…

The boom in the contingency law business has been driven in part by former attorneys general like Ms. Singer who have capitalized on personal relationships with former colleagues that they have nurtured since leaving office, often at resort destination conferences where they pay to gain access…

“Farming out the police powers of the state to a private firm with a profit incentive is a very, very bad thing,” said Attorney General John Suthers of Colorado, a Republican and a former United States attorney.

Ya think? It’s a long story but well worth your time, unless you’re on your lunch hour, in which case — unless you’re a trial lawyer or a Democrat — it will make you hurl.

Put Back That Bottle of Booze You’re Thinking of Buying as a Christmas Present [The PJ Tatler]

So your exhausting search for the ideal Christmas present for that hard-to-shop-for friend has taken you to the package store. You browse the aisles looking for the perfect bottle — something that reflects good taste at the best price — when suddenly you’ve found what you’re looking for.

Not so fast. A new Consumer Reports poll has found that a quarter of Americans surveyed see hard liquor as the least desirable holiday gift.

One in four Americans surveyed cited whiskey, vodka, brandy, rum, and other spirits as the least desirable gift to receive; 23 percent identified flowers and plants as the biggest buzzkill, while 13 percent singled out candles, picture frames, and other home décor items as the most unwanted presents. Even socks would be a better choice.

The same poll showed that consumers are much more comfortable with the idea of receiving wine as a present.

Wine, however, proved a different story. It was far more acceptable—and desirable. Only 6 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t want to receive a bottle for the holidays.

Just outside of Charleston, SC, the assistant manager of package store Bottles says she doesn’t see the aversion to the giving of booze that the poll reflects.

“I was like, ‘hmm, I guess they’re not in South Carolina’,” Sara Capparelli says of her initial reaction to the finding. “We’re selling out of gift sets.”

[...]

…liquor remains popular with Christmas shoppers in Charleston. More than 100 gift givers this weekend attended a bottle-engraving that Capparelli called the most successful such event in the Mt. Pleasant store’s three-year history.

However, Capparelli says she does understand why many people might prefer wine to liquor as a gift.

The gulf between wine and liquor makes sense to Capparelli, who points out that most Cabernet drinkers could probably be coaxed into trying Merlot. But it’s significantly harder to persuade a whiskey drinker to sip vodka, no matter how nicely the bottle is wrapped. Additionally, Capparelli says, wine offers a better value for the gift giver.

“You don’t want to give someone a $5 bottle of value liquor,” she says, whereas many well-made wines are relatively inexpensive.

So the bottom line is this: unless you really need to buy the liquor for yourself, put it back and walk over to the wine section for a better gift-giving experience.

This article contains an image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Hackers Release New Demands: Pull Online Trailers & Don’t Allow The Interview to Be Leaked [The PJ Tatler]

From CNN: “Source: Hackers send new message to Sony”:

The hacker message is effectively a victory lap, telling the studio, “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”

The message also says, “And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.”

It warns the studio executives that “we still have your private and sensitive data” and claims that they will “ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”

The email was titled “Message from GOP.” The anonymous hackers have called themselves “Guardians of Peace.”

So how long will these trailers and clips remain up? It’s already become tricky to find online the final sequence of Kim Jong-un’s exploding head.

Yesterday I highlighted a report about Korean activists seeking bootleg copies of The Interview and predicted that the effect of North Korea bullying Sony into burying Seth Rogen and James Franco’s new film would be that it would leak all around the world and the internet, becoming unstoppable and much more damaging. But if the blackmailing goes a step further, if now Sony must start pulling the material they’ve already released in addition to legally threatening anyone who might be so bold as to share the film illegally, then I’m now not so sure.

It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that soon The Interview trailers will be pulled and an army of recently-recruited Sony lawyers will even start sending notices to websites that have written movie promotions or stories covering the controversy, asking them to delete pieces, lest more embarrassing emails be released.

The question will be: how far backwards could this go? Already the screenings of Team America: World Police announced to replace The Interview have been cancelled. Will this go further or will American companies fight back?

Obviously, it’s hard to expect them to want to fight when the example set by the Jarrett-Obama administration, per Cuba and Iran, has been to bend over backwards and embrace illiberal tyrannies.

Some have suggested the fantasy of the federal government buying the movie, endorsing it, and spreading the film around for free. My prescription goes several miles further in hawkishness, of course…

Happy Ending: Vin Scully, the Ribs, and THE Ring [The PJ Tatler]

Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all the saints: for the greatest baseball announcer in the history of the planet, a recent trip to Costco in Westlake Village, Calif., might have been a disaster, but it wasn’t:

Vin Scully can find his way into our hearts even during the gloomiest winter afternoons, as he proved again Thursday when he unwittingly starred in his own holiday movie. The Ribs That Saved Christmas.

“I feel like such a dummy,” Scully said with a laugh. “Only Scully could lose a ring while putting meat in a bag.”

Seems that the legendary Dodgers announcer, 87, enjoys his outings to Costco, but on a recent trip he lost his 1988 World Series ring while piling some packaged ribs onto his cart. You remember the 1988 World Series:

Click here to view the embedded video.

One of the most memorable calls in baseball history, especially noteworthy for the more than one minute of announcer silence that precedes Scully’s great line, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”

Meanwhile, back in Costco:

“I went into a panic, I assured him we’d do everything to help find the ring, Vin is like family to us,” said Rahhal, who printed out Scully’s receipt and began a painstaking retracing of Scully’s steps through the tower stacks and free food samples. Meanwhile, Vin called the Dodgers publicity sage Steve Brener, who immediately sent out a tweet informing the nation that Scully had lost the ring and asking anybody with information to call the Dodger Stadium switchboard. Then Vin and Sandi drove home while Vin continued to remind himself it was only jewelry and paled in comparison to the large and loving family that awaited his 88th holiday celebration.

“You know, maybe God heard me say that,” he said. Sure enough, while Vin was unloading the stacks of items, he heard a cry from inside the house. While emptying the ribs, Sandi found the ring at the bottom of the bag.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

 

The Chocolate of the Future Is in 3D: Hershey’s Has a 3D Chocolate Printer [The PJ Tatler]

Retailing Today reports that Hershey’s has collaborated with 3D Systems to create a 3D chocolate printer for an exhibit at Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA.  The 3D chocolate exhibit opens today.

Visitors can design, “print” and purchase their own chocolate creations.

People will also be able to see what they look like in 3D chocolate … because who wouldn’t want to see that?

The 3D printing business is projected to become a $13M industry, so it’s no surprise that the chocolate kingpin would want a chocolatey piece of that action.

“This exhibit is a great example of co-creation with consumers. They will be instrumental in shaping the future of commercially available 3-D chocolate printing,” Hershey Co.’s chief research and development officer, Will Papa, said in a news release.

If you can’t make it to Hershey’s in PA anytime soon, you can watch the 3D printer in action:

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

[WATCH] CNN: Hackers Sent Message to Sony Thanking Them for Obeying Demands [The PJ Tatler]

CNN is reporting that the people responsible for hacking into Sony sent them a message, thanking them for acquiescing to their demands.

The message reads:

“It’s very wise you have made a decision to cancel the release of ‘The Interview.’ It will be very useful for you. We ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”

Brian Stelter described it as a “victory lap.” Both hosts opined on what President Obama would say about this later today in his press conference.

Click here to view the embedded video.

George Clooney to Li’l Kim: Drop Dead [The PJ Tatler]

George Clooney gets it right. Via Deadline Hollywood:

The most powerful people in Hollywood were so fearful to place themselves in the cross hairs of hackers that they all refused to sign a simple petition of support that Clooney and his agent, CAA’s Bryan Lourd, circulated to the top people in film, TV, records and other areas. Not a single person would sign. Here, Clooney discusses the petition and how it is just part of many frightening ramifications that we are all just coming to grips with.

DEADLINE: I’ve been chasing the story of the petition you were circulating for a week now. Where is it, and how were these terrorists able to isolate Sony from the herd and make them so vulnerable?

CLOONEY: Here’s the brilliant thing they did. You embarrass them first, so that no one gets on your side. After the Obama joke, no one was going to get on the side of Amy, and so suddenly, everyone ran for the hills. Look, I can’t make an excuse for that joke, it is what it is, a terrible mistake. Having said that, it was used as a weapon of fear, not only for everyone to disassociate themselves from Amy but also to feel the fear themselves. They know what they themselves have written in their emails, and they’re afraid.

Be sure to read the whole interview; this exchange is priceless:

DEADLINE: What kind of constraints will this put on storytellers that want to shine a critical light on a place like Russia, for instance, with something like a movie about the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, the KGB officer who left and became an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin?

CLOONEY: What’s going to happen is, you’re going to have trouble finding distribution. In general, when you’re doing films like that, the ones that are critical, those aren’t going to be studio films anyway. Most of the movies that got us in trouble, we started out by raising the money independently. But to distribute, you’ve got to go to a studio, because they’re the ones that distribute movies. The truth is, you’re going to have a much harder time finding distribution now. And that’s a chilling effect. We should be in the position right now of going on offense with this. I just talked to Amy an hour ago. She wants to put that movie out. What do I do? My partner Grant Heslov and I had the conversation with her this morning. Bryan and I had the conversation with her last night. Stick it online. Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f*cking people.

 

Senator Wants to Screen The Interview at First Re-election Fundraiser [The PJ Tatler]

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wants to screen the movie that angered North Korea so at his first re-election fundraiser.

“I would say one thing — I’m pretty disappointed in Sony Pictures decision to pull The Interview under pressure from North Korea,” Kirk said Thursday on WBEZ radio, in comments captured by BuzzFeed. “I would say that I’m gonna be trying to hold the first big Kirk for Senate fundraiser at a screening of The Interview, so that everybody shows the North Koreans that you cannot edit what we want to see and do in the United States, under the First Amendment.”

“It was a terrible lesson to terrorists, to give them what they wanted — that we should, as Americans under the First Amendment, we should never have to ask North Korea for permission as to what movie we can — just think of a previous really good movie, that was Team America: World Police, that was really funny about North Korea,” Kirk said of the 2004 film from the creators of the South Park that lampooned Kim Jong-il.

Like the assassination plot against Kim Jong-un in The Interview, the elder Kim dies in Team America by being impaled on a kaiser’s helmet.

However, without explanation, Paramount has now banned theaters from screening Team America.

“And your birthright as an American citizen — you never have to ask the North Koreans for permission for what movie you can see,” Kirk said. “I hope that now all the media about this movie makes it a smash hit, and that we see many more movies like it, and teach the North Koreans a lesson about what Americans can and cannot do.”

There was no elaboration on how the Kirk campaign would get the film if Sony refuses to ever release it.

Anonymous accounts on Twitter have noted that people are asking or assuming that the power-hackers will leak the film, but they haven’t indicated that they plan to do so.

Obama Names ‘Task Force’ to Recommend ’21st Century Policing’ Practices [The PJ Tatler]

President Obama has decided on his task force to review police practices and make recommendations after the Ferguson protests.

Obama signed an executive order creating the  Task Force on 21st Century Policing as “part of the administration’s efforts to strengthen community policing and strengthen trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” according to the White House.

“The Task Force will examine, among other issues, how to build public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities that they protect, while also promoting effective crime reduction. The Task Force will prepare a report and recommendations to be presented to the President.”

Obama intends to appoint:

Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles Ramsey (co-chair)

George Mason University professor and former Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Laurie Robinson (co-chair)

Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Public Safety Cedric L. Alexander from DeKalb County, Georgia, who is also the National President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives

Jose Lopez, lead organizer at Make the Road New York (MRNY), a Brooklyn-based nonprofit community organization focused on civil rights, education reform, and combating poverty

Yale Law professor Tracey Meares

Brittany Packnett, executive director of Teach For America in St. Louis, Mo.

Susan Rahr, executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, formerly the first female sheriff of King County, Washington

Constance Rice, a civil rights attorney and co-director of the Advancement Project

Sean Smoot, director and chief counsel for the Police Benevolent and Protective Association of Illinois (PB&PA) and the Police Benevolent Labor Committee (PBLC); formerly a policy adviser to the Obama-Biden transition team on public safety and state and local police issues

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala.

Tucson Police Department Chief Roberto Villaseñor

“These fine public servants bring both a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles,” Obama said in a statement. “Our nation will be well-served by these men and women, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

Earnest: Obama Has ‘Certainly Been on Receiving End of Expressions’ Like The Interview [The PJ Tatler]

The White House vaguely promised a “proportional response” toward the “sophisticated actor” who hacked Sony and brought down the planned Christmas release of The Interview.

Press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday that the cyber-crime ”is still under investigation, both by the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice.”

“I for, I think, pretty obvious reasons, am not going to get ahead of that investigation or any announcements that they may make about that investigation,” Earnest said.

President Obama will undoubtedly be asked about the North Korean threat at his year-end press conference this afternoon.

“But I can tell you that consistent with the president’s previous statements about how we will protect against, monitor and respond to cyber incidents, this is something that’s being treated as a serious national security matter. There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor,” Earnest continued.

“And it is being treated by those investigative agencies, both at the FBI and the Department of Justice, as seriously as you would expect. It has also been the subject of a number of daily meetings that have been convened here at the White House that have been led by both the president’s homeland security adviser and occasionally by his cyber coordinator. This includes senior members of our intelligence community and homeland security officials, military, diplomatic and law enforcement officials.”

However, he wasn’t ready to say how the U.S. might respond to an attack.

“Before we start publicly speculating about a response, it’s appropriate that we allow the investigation to move forward. I do understand that the investigation is progressing. And that as the members of the national security team meet to discuss this matter, they are considering a range of options,” Earnest said.

“As they do so, though, they’re mindful of the need for a couple of things. They’re first of all, as we would be in any scenario, strategic scenario like this, they would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response. And also mindful of the fact that sophisticated actors when they carry out actions like this are oftentimes, not always, but often seeking to provoke a response from the United States of America… So we want to be mindful of that, too.”

As far as Sony canceling The Interview, Earnest would only say that “as a general matter is that the president and the administration stand squarely on the side of artists and other private citizens who seek to freely express their views.”

“Sometimes those views can be laced with criticism, or are sometimes intended to provoke either some kind of either comedic response or one that is intended to be some element of some pretty biting social commentary,” he added.

“All of that is — is appropriate and well within the rights of private citizens to express their views. And the president has certainly been on the receiving end of some expressions like that. And while we may not agree with the content of every single thing that is produced, we certainly stand squarely on the side of the right of private individuals to express themselves. And that is a view that we — that is strongly held by this administration as it has been throughout the history of our country.”

Nebraska, Oklahoma Ask SCOTUS to Declare Colorado Pot Law Unconstitutional [The PJ Tatler]

On Thursday, Nebraska and Oklahoma asked the Supreme Court to overturn Colorado’s law legalizing recreational use of marijuana. The states claim that Colorado’s law violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

Marijuana is flowing into neighboring states causing a law enforcement hassle.

Nebraska’s Attorney General Job Brunning said the law is creating problems in his states where the drug is still illegal. “Colorado has created a system that legalizes, promotes and facilitates distribution of marijuana,” Mr. Bruning said in a statement. “The illegal products of this system are heavily trafficked into neighboring states, causing an unnecessary burden on the state of Nebraska. Colorado has undermined the United States Constitution, and I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold our constitutional principles.”

Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt is also having a tough time enforcing anti-marijuana laws.

“As the state’s chief legal officer, the attorney general’s office is taking this step to protect the health and safety of Oklahomans,” Mr. Pruitt said in a statement.

Colorado’s top law enforcement official promises to defend Colorado’s law.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers claims the responsibility is with the federal government to enforce federal law.

“Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action,” Mr. Suthers said. “However, it appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told the Denver Post that he has discussed these issues with Nebraska and Oklahoma, adding “I’m not sure filing a lawsuit is the most constructive way to find a solution to whatever issues there are.”

 

Poll: Plurality of Americans Opposed to Commercial Drones [The PJ Tatler]

A new poll conducted by AP-GfK shows Americans are “skeptical that the benefits of the heralded drone revolution will outweigh the risks to privacy and safety.”

However, they do favor using drones for dangerous jobs or in remote areas.

AP reports that “by a 2-1 margin, those who had an opinion opposed using drones for commercial purposes. Only 21 percent favored commercial use of drones, compared with 43 percent opposed. Another 35 percent were in the middle.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is about to broaden the regulations that govern small drone use. Once those go in effect, there could be dones everywhere. Congress also wants the FAA to move on the regulations, as the drone industry is expected to “create 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic impact in the first 10 years they’re allowed, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group.”

Women and seniors were least supportive of the drones while white college graduates and wealthier people were most supportive.

Only 1 in 4 people support using drones to deliver small packages and 39% were opposed. There was a similar breakdown on the question of whether drones should be used to take pictures during weddings or private events. Only 23% favor the recreational use of drones.

 

 

 

What the Stats Really Say About Racially Motivated Cop Killings [The PJ Tatler]

Click here to view the embedded video.

Larry Elder at Real Clear Politics breathes essential statistical insight into the ongoing fight over whether or not white cops have a predilection for shooting black men:

In 2012, according to the CDC, 140 blacks were killed by police. That same year 386 whites were killed by police. Over the 13-year period from 1999 to 2011, the CDC reports that 2,151 whites were killed by cops — and 1,130 blacks were killed by cops.

Police shootings, nationwide, are down dramatically from what they were 20 or 30 years ago. The CDC reported that in 1968, shootings by law enforcement — called “legal intervention” by the CDC — was the cause of death for 8.6 out of every million blacks. For whites the rate was was .9 deaths per million.

By 2011, law enforcement shootings caused 2.74 deaths for every million blacks, and 1.28 deaths for every million whites. While the death-by-cop rate for whites has held pretty steady over these last 45 years, hovering just above or below the one-in-a-million level, the rate for blacks has fallen. In 1981, black deaths by cop stood at four in a million, but since 2000 has remained just above or below two in a million.

So what’s driving this notion that there is now an “epidemic” of white cops shooting blacks when in the last several decades the numbers of blacks killed by cops are down nearly 75 percent?

As Elder points out, there was no mention of race or racial motivation in the cases of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, or Michael Brown. When questioned about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict, “several jurors later said that during jury deliberations ‘race never came up.’” Elder asserts

This white-cop-out-to-get-black-civilian narrative advances the interest of many. The media loves what Tom Wolfe called the “Great White Defendant” — a bad white guy everybody can agree to dislike. For the Democrats, it furthers their assertion that race remains a major problem in America, that Republicans/tea partiers/black conservatives are out to get them, and you must vote for us. For “activists” like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and local wannabes, it gives them continued relevance.

In reality, the facts provide a startling lack of evidence in support of the theory of racial motivation. At the same time, they do provide solid evidence that both the media and so-called community activists like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson need to promulgate the myth of ghetto culture in order to maintain power over an audience and presumed authority over an entire segment of the American population.

Carly Fiorina Seems to Be Gearing Up for a Presidential Run [The PJ Tatler]

Why not?

Carly Fiorina is laying the groundwork for what one ally says is an “imminent” presidential campaign—one that could launch as early as next month.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, who raised her political profile with a failed run against Sen. Barbara Boxer of California in 2010, has frequently been mentioned as a long-shot contender to seek the Republican presidential nomination. The speculation is driven by equal parts novelty and activity: Fiorina, who paid several high-profile visits to early-nominating states in 2014, acknowledged that she would likely be the only woman in the GOP field.

“Look, I think it would be great if we had female candidates—or candidate,” Fiorina told National Journal earlier this year.

Fiorina is now poised to become that candidate. According to three sources with direct knowledge of the situation, she has authorized members of her inner circle to seek out and interview candidates for two key positions on her presidential campaign: political director and communications director. Notably, the sources said, her associates are aiming to fill both positions with women.

Look, she’s a more sane option than Jeb Bush to consider this far out. Then again, I’m a better idea than Jeb Bush. Ebola is a better idea than Jeb Bush.

Are we clear on the fact that I don’t like Jeb Bush?

Kidding aside though, I’ve talked to several people in the past year who have heard Fiorina speak at different events and each one was extremely impressed. She is apparently much better with crowds now and one colleague told me that she wasn’t even on his radar for 2016 and now he’s taking her seriously for at least the VP slot.

And she’s not Jeb Bush.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Shows Up in Court While Conspiracy Loons Support Him Outside [The PJ Tatler]

In non-Sony news

A bushy-haired and bearded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev made his first public appearance in more than 17 months as a throng of conspiracy theorists massed outside a Boston federal courthouse to show support for the terrorist suspect as he prepares for trial early next year.

The 21-year-old looked a bit different Thursday than the clean-cut photo that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine months after the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing that left three dead and more than 260 injured.

His supporters, who claim Tsarnaev was set up and is actually innocent, massed outside the court building armed with provocative signs. Two women caught the eye of marathon bombing survivor Marc Fucarile, who limped by with a cane needed after he lost his right leg in the carnage.

“That’s trickery?” Fucarile fumed as he lifted his prosthetic leg to show the damage Tsarnaev is accused of doing to score of innocents.

“We’re talking about the prosecution,” one woman shot back as Fucarile shook his head and continued in. “You should care that they get the right guy!”

How long before this little terrorist scum becomes a liberal cause célèbre? I mean, Mumia Abu-Jamal is getting a little long in the tooth and doesn’t have the wow factor for insane liberal conspiracy idiots he once did. Is there any doubt that’s exactly what Rolling Stone was trying to do for Tsarnaev with its cover profile last year?

FCC: Hail to the Redskins [The PJ Tatler]

Washington Redskins fans can relax for now: the word “Redskins” is okay:

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday ruled the name “Redskins” is not profane or obscene. In a formal ruling, the commission rejected calls to yank the broadcast license of a radio station owned by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for excessively using the team’s name, which some find offensive.

George Washington University professor John Banzhaf filed a petition in September opposing the license renewal of the D.C. station, WWXX-FM.

In case you’re wondering who John Banzhaf is, take a look at his website:

Prof. John Banzhaf has been called the “Ralph Nader of the Tobacco Industry,” “One of America’s Premier Legal Activists,” “An Unsung American Hero.” “The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials,” “the Ralph Nader of Junk Food,” “The Man Who Is Taking Fat to Court” [for using legal action to fight OBESITY], “Mr. Anti-Smoking,” “One of the Most Vocal and Effective Anti-Tobacco Attorneys,” a “Radical Feminist,” a “Man Who Lives by his Writs,” the “Father of Potty Parity,” “the Area’s Best-Known ‘Radical’ Law Professor,” ” Legal Academia’s Instigator in Chief,” One of the World’s Top “Game Theorists,” and an “Entrepreneur of Litigation, [and] a Trial Lawyer’s Trial Lawyer.”

He’s also been called — by his enemies — a “Legal Terrorist”,” the “Osama bin Laden of Torts,” a “Legal Bomb-Thrower,” and a “Legal Flamethrower,” and he has frequently been attacked on web sites (which are often inaccurate) [see, e.g., BanzhafWatch.com] by those who opposed his activities; clear indications, he says, that his many targets fear him and his legal actions.

The FCC bounced Banzhaf’s complaint on First Amendment grounds:

The commission cited the First Amendment, saying it does not withhold licenses based on a subjective view of what is appropriate programming. It noted that some racial or religious slurs are offensive to many, but it has previously declined “extending the bounds of profanity to reach such language given constitutional considerations.”

“Indeed, the Commission has held that ‘if there is to be free speech, it must be free for speech that we abhor and hate as well as for speech that we find tolerable and congenial,’” according to the commission. The commission rejected a number of complaints lodged by Banzhaf and noted that his petition was issued nearly three years too late to be considered.

But don’t worry: there are plenty of other folks, including the Senate Democratic Caucus, who will keep up the pressure until they get their way. Such is life in a “fundamentally transformed” America.

 

Rubio Leads With His Chin, Gets Clocked [The PJ Tatler]

The underwhelming Florida senator, Marco Rubio, walked right into this one:

The White House on Thursday took a direct shot at Sen. Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American and Florida Republican who has emerged as the most vocal critic of the administration’s move this week to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

A clearly prepared White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at Thursday’s daily briefing that Mr. Rubio’s own past statements on diplomatic relationships with other dictatorial regimes conflicted with his harsh remarks on re-opening ties with Havana.

“It occurs to me that it seems odd Sen. Rubio would be reluctant and, in fact, actively seeking to block the appointment of an ambassador to Cuba when earlier this year he voted to confirm the ambassador to China that the president nominated,” Mr. Earnest told reporters.

Rubio sank himself with many conservatives by joining the Gang of Eight on an abortive immigration “fix,” revealing himself to be a “Hispanic” senator first and a a Florida senator second. Now it seems like he’s a “Cuban” senator first and everything else second.

Following the announcement Wednesday that the U.S. would end its 50-year policy of isolation toward the communist island, Mr. Rubio held a press conference and blasted the president for opening travel and business ties with Cuba in light of the nation’s dismal human-rights record.

Mr. Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, also hinted he may look to block funding for an American embassy in Havana and could hold up the appointment of an ambassador.

That would be a huge mistake. The passions over Cuba have long since cooled, except among the expatriate Cuban community in Florida. Castro will soon be dead. Cuba will become neither a greater nor lesser basket case than any other country in Latin America with the exception of sterling little Costa Rica. Life will go on. And Marco Rubio will never become president.

 

In Holland, It’s Back to Court for Geert Wilders [The PJ Tatler]

Are Moroccans a “race”? To a still guilt-ridden Europe, which has decided to atone for the Holocaust by committing cultural suicide, it looks like the answer is yes:

 Dutch far-right populist lawmaker Geert Wilders is be tried for inciting racial hatred after pledging in March to ensure there were ‘fewer Moroccans’ in the Netherlands, prosecutors said Thursday. ’The public prosecutor in The Hague is to prosecute Geert Wilders on charges of insulting a group of people based on race and incitement to discrimination and hatred,’ prosecutors said in a statement.

‘Politicians may go far in their statements, that’s part of freedom of expression, but this freedom is limited by the prohibition of discrimination,’ it said, adding that no date had yet been set for the trial.

What did the conservative Dutch politician say now, you wonder?

The case centres on comments Wilders made at a March 19 rally after local elections. He asked his followers whether they wanted ‘fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?’

When the crowd shouted ‘Fewer! Fewer!’ a smiling Wilders answered: ‘We’re going to organise that.’ In a later TV interview, he referred to ‘Moroccan scum’. The remark led to 6,400 legal complaints being lodged across the Netherlands, and criticism was even voiced within Wilders’s own Party for Freedom.

Remember, that in the brave new egalitarian world the Left is making, “countries” are just a legal fiction and (in this case) Dutchmen are those holding a passport issued by the Netherlands; in other words, it’s all one big bureaucracy. Meanwhile, in Sweden:

 Sweden has led the way in European immigration, and Muslim immigration in particular. Some 20 percent of Sweden’s 9.5 million people are immigrants or the children of immigrants: the highest figure in Europe. Most European states were until recently monocultural. They have trouble assimilating immigrants, especially rural Muslims who wish to keep their cultural and religious identity. Sweden has applied the noblest of ideals—shelter to the oppressed—with the narrowness of mind that can happen when you live in a small society on the quiet side of the Baltic. The state has failed to assimilate its immigrants. Ordinary Swedes, both indigenous and immigrant, have paid the social cost. In a May 2014 poll, 44 percent of respond-ents wanted the new government to reduce immigration.

Last week, the comments sections of Swedish press websites abounded in conversions from both left and right. All said the same thing: Mass immigration has dissolved Sweden’s social cohesion and overburdened the welfare system. The established parties are too cowardly or corrupt to stop the rot… If Sweden leads the way, Europe’s political future is grim: a governing class unwilling to acknowledge a systemic failure of democracy, a populist backlash against immigration and the EU superstate, and deep hostility between an aging indigenous population and a fertile immigrant one. This is bad for Sweden and bad for Europe. And a weak, introverted, and increasingly extremist Europe is bad for the United States, too.

Remember, they’re not “immigrants,” they’re invaders. Is it too late for Europe to understand the difference?

 

Obamacare Tax Rules a Boon for Preparers [The PJ Tatler]

Tax preparation for the average American is going to be a lot more complicated this year as Obamacare penalties will be assessed for those who fail to purchase government-approved insurance.

Taxpayers have until February 15 to buy an approved insurance plan. Failure to do so will result in a fine being assessed of $325 or 2% of your income, whichever is greater.

Both insurance companies and tax preparation outfits are playing up the fines for non-insurance as a marketing tool. Companies like H&R Block and Jackson-Hewitt are inviting tax payers to pay them a visit to ensure they are in compliance with IRS regs.

The Hill:

Part of the pitch is helping consumers avoid the mandate through an exemption if they are eligible.

A variety of hardship qualifications makes this route possible for many people, including those who experienced the death of a close relative, had their previous health plan canceled or saw an increase in necessary expenses due to caring for an aging family member.

“There are a lot of people who will qualify for an exemption,” said Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson. “If a company can save someone the 2 percent fine on $50,000 of income, that is significant.”

Firms are also offering to help current enrollees understand how changes in income can affect their tax credits to buy coverage. In some cases, they can also help the uninsured select health plans.

In promotional materials, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service say they can provide consumers relief, arguing that healthcare reform is making tax planning more difficult.

“The ACA [Affordable Care Act] has changed the landscape of both healthcare and tax,” H&R Block states online, inviting consumers to calculate their mandate penalty or receive a “tax impact analysis” when they become a client.

Jackson Hewitt urges consumers to stop by one of its locations, promising that their employees “work harder to keep up with the latest tax law changes to protect you from possible penalties — not everyone else does.”

The marketing around the healthcare law is taking flight at a time when surveys show the public remains deeply confused about the mandate.

Almost half of U.S. adults are unaware they must report their health insurance status on their 2014 tax returns, according to a TurboTax survey released earlier this month.

And while about three in five uninsured people know the law penalizes people without coverage, nearly 90 percent do not realize the 2014 deadline has already passed.

As a result, experts are urging insurers and the federal government to do more to emphasize the mandate this enrollment period.

Some Americans are going to get a nasty surprise when they realize what exactly the individual mandate means. It’s relatively simple if you have insurance through your employer. But if you buy insurance on the open market, here are 13 pages of instructions that tell you how to fill out IRS Form 8965. (PDF)

Of course, most taxpayers won’t even attempt it, which is where the boon for tax prep companies is going to be huge. Complexity in this case is not a bug; it’s a feature.

But there’s a dirty little secret that the IRS doesn’t want you to find out. They won’t have a clue if your insurance plan is in compliance with the law or not:

Call it confusion over what to call the law – “Obamacare,” the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” the “Affordable Care Act,” the “PPACA,” or the “ACA.” Or a technical glitch. Or insufficient funding to write the program. But for whatever reason, the IRS has absolutely no way of verifying whose insurance coverage did not qualify under the law and who pays the penalty.

With just under 25 million people enrolling in the federal and state health exchanges (including Medicare and Medicaid recipients), plus the estimated 150 million who have employer-paid health care plans, there are still some 62 million people who would have to pay a penalty but likely will not. For those who do the math the IRS apparently did not, that’s a potential loss of nearly $6 billion in revenue – potentially out-pacing the EITC fraud everyone is so enraged over.

But wait, it gets worse. Some 3.6 million more people were laid off during the year and lost their health benefits – becoming liable for some or all of the penalty for the months they were not covered. Call that another billion and a half dollars.

And even worse. Those who successfully did enroll in Obamacare and received a premium credit must repay the overage if the IRS finds that the customer’s 2014 income increased over the 2012 income used as a benchmark. That’s the theory, but with the start of tax season mere weeks away there is no mechanism to make that comparison. The final rules say there will be income comparisons, but who will do this?

And worse yet. Those who do not meet the “essential minimum coverage” threshold for individuals can still avoid paying the penalty if they meet one of the dozen or so exemptions, which seem to be granted to any person who breathes air, or has a life crisis like missing a utility bill payment, or having a family member becomes ill or even a family pet with a flea problem. It really doesn’t matter, because there is no place to report either the coverage status or the exemption if you are not already enrolled in a qualified program. Those are supposed to be covered under rules that the IRS has not yet drafted.

This is a clusterfark waiting to happen. Literally millions of Americans have no idea the piano that is about to be dropped on their heads. Of course, for many of them, it’s their own fault for not paying attention to what’s going on in the country. You would think that by this time, Obamacare would hold no surprises for an informed citizenry.

But an “informed citizenry” is a relative term these days, so millions won’t see the piano. Meanwhile, H&R Block and their fellow tax preparation companies are leading the way in Obama’s economic recovery, generating wealth (their own) and creating jobs.

Putin: Economy in Tank Not Because of Sanctions, But Because the Bear Won’t ‘Hang on the Wall’ [The PJ Tatler]

In a three-hour press conference today, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked if the country’s current economic troubles have anything to do with international penalties for the invasion of Ukraine.

“No. This is not the price we have to pay for Crimea… This is actually the price we have to pay for our natural aspiration to preserve ourselves as a nation, as a civilisation, as a state. And here is why,” Putin began.

“After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia opened itself to our partners. What did we see? A direct and fully-fledged support of terrorism in North Caucasus. They directly supported terrorism, you understand? Is that what partners usually do? I won’t go into details on that, but this is an established fact. And everyone knows it,” he said.

“On any issue, no matter what we do, we always run into challenges, objections and opposition. Let me remind you about the preparations for the 2014 Olympics, our inspiration and enthusiasm to organise a festive event not only for Russian sports fans, but for sports fans all over the world. However, and this is an evident truth, unprecedented and clearly orchestrated attempts were made to discredit our efforts to organise and host the Olympics. This is an undeniable fact! Who needs to do so and for what reason? And so on and so forth.”

Putin compared Russian policy to “a bear protecting his taiga.”

“You see, if we continue the analogy, sometimes I think that maybe it would be best if our bear just sat still. Maybe he should stop chasing pigs and boars around the taiga but start picking berries and eating honey. Maybe then he will be left alone. But no, he won’t be!” he said.

“Because someone will always try to chain him up. As soon as he’s chained they will tear out his teeth and claws. In this analogy, I am referring to the power of nuclear deterrence. As soon as – God forbid – it happens and they no longer need the bear, the taiga will be taken over.”

In a pointed reference to the Siberian autonomy movement, which has picked up steam this year, Putin added that he’s heard “even from high-level officials that it is unfair that the whole of Siberia with its immense resources belongs to Russia in its entirety. Why exactly is it unfair? So it is fair to snatch Texas from Mexico but it is unfair that we are working on our own land – no, we have to share.”

“And then, when all the teeth and claws are torn out, the bear will be of no use at all. Perhaps they’ll stuff it and that’s all,” he said. “So, it is not about Crimea but about us protecting our independence, our sovereignty and our right to exist. That is what we should all realize.”

Despite sanctions, Putin stressed, “we must decide whether we want to keep going and fight, change our economy – for the better, by the way, because we can use the current situation to our own advantage – and be more independent, go through all this or we want our skin to hang on the wall.”

“This is the choice we need to make and it has nothing to do with Crimea at all.”

No to Tony Soprano in 2016? [The PJ Tatler]

Make that no Chris Christie in 2016, according to a recent poll:

A majority of voters in a poll out today say they couldn’t support Gov. Chris Christie for president. The NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey shows 53 percent of registered voters saying they couldn’t back Christie, while 27 percent said they could. The poll also found Christie faring worse than other potential GOP candidates among Republican voters more than a year before the first presidential primaries.

Other duds include also-also-ran flop Mitt Romney (60 percent disapproval) and snoozemeister scion Jeb Bush (57 percent); both had higher negative numbers than Christie, but slightly higher positive numbers as well. Illustrating the delusional fantasy land in which dwells the Establishment GOP, these figures are interesting:

Christie also was in negative territory among Republican voters, with 43 percent opposing him and 40 percent supporting him. By comparison, GOP voters said they could support Romney, 63 percent to 33 percent; Bush, 55 percent to 34 percent; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 47 percent to 39 percent; and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), 47 percent to 34 percent.

When you’re losing to Huckabee and Rand Paul among the home crowd, you know you’re in trouble. But how about that Mitt stat — 63 percent said they could support the man who lost a Senate race to Ted Kennedy, a nomination race to John McCain and a presidential election to Barack Hussein Obama? Wow.

VIDEO: Eric Holder Says Race Relations ‘In a Better Place’ After His Tenure [The PJ Tatler]

This is a video of Eric Holder saying that race relations are in a better place in this country following his tenure as attorney general:

That was a video of Eric Holder saying that race relations are in a better place in this country following his tenure as attorney general.

 

Li’l Kim, We Hardly Knew Ye… [The PJ Tatler]

At the link, the New York Post has a clip of the death scene from the laff-riot, probably never to be shown publically, The Interview, aka the comedy bomb that destroyed a major studio:

Right on the heels of Sony’s announcement that the studio would be scrapping the Christmas Day release of “The Interview,” the film’s controversial climax has surfaced.

The scene features North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung-un (Randall Park), meeting a fiery end as a missile hits his helicopter. As the tyrant perishes from the explosion, the scene is dramatically slowed down to the sounds of Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

As for the fates of Seth Rogen and James Franco, well, that’s still T.B.D. — at least until “The Interview” hits V.O.D.

Well, that certainly could have cheesed off the sawed-off runt ruler of the Hermit Kingdom. Meanwhile, via Drudge, Roger Friedman has another theory:

One thing that Kim Jong Un may or may not have objected to in “The Interview”: after a night of debauchery, he’s seen shirtless in bed with James Franco’s also-shirtless Dave Skylark character and a bevy of beauties. In the screenwriter Dan Sterling’s 2012 original version, this is how the scene read:

INT. PRIVATE LOUNGE – DAY

Dave and Kim are in a bed naked, with the four women.

They’re all playing MORTAL KOMBAT

Right so you’re thinking, either lucky Kim, or he should be so lucky. It’s hard to say if North Korea’s fearless leader would feel the same way. Certainly, the original screenplay made it seem like quite a night had occurred. By this time, Franco’s Dave and President Kim have cried together, shared their love of puppies, and Katy Perry.

Don’t worry — it gets worse. Read on, if you dare. Who greenlighted this mess?

Meanwhile, if you thought you could have a laugh at the Norks’s expense with Team America, think again:

Forget those plans by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and other theaters to run Team America: World Police in place of The Interview. The Austin-based chain says that Paramount has now decided not to offer South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s 2004 satire that focuses on Kim Jong-il, the late father of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Alamo says that the cancellation at its Dallas theater is “due to circumstances beyond our control” and says it will offer refunds to those who have already bought tickets. Cleveland’s Capitol Theater also tweeted that Team America “has been canceled by Paramount Pictures.”

 

This week in games: Minecraft gets the Walking Dead treatment [PCWorld]

This is it, everyone! We made it through 2014 (mostly) intact. Next week I'll be sleeping off the effects of huffing wrapping paper and pine needles while drinking copious eggnog, so I think this is goodbye until the New Year.

And that's fine anyway, if this week's weak news haul is anything to go by. Still, there are a few gaming news gems to polish off the year: Telltale and Mojang team up for a Minecraft adventure game, Nintendo is fascinated by donuts, and a Pac-Man restaurant is opening in Chicago. Let's dig in.

Hate leads to suffering

You might recall controversy surrounding a certain "2edgy4me" game called Hatred a few months back—a game with a main character who quite literally spews the line "My genocide crusade has begun" as if he's locked himself in his bedroom with a battered spiral bound notebook and a death metal album.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

DirecTV Android app adds 13 new live streaming channels [PCWorld]

Your Android phone or tablet is turning into a pretty good second screen for watching DirecTV. The company recently added 13 new channels to its live streaming and on-demand lineup, which gives you more freedom to watch what you want even if you’ve surrendered the TV to another member of the household.

The company now has a total of 108 channels available for in-home streaming and 44 you can watch even when you’re on the go. You can check the official list to see if your preferred channels made the cut.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Trojan program based on ZeuS targets 150 banks, can hijack webcams [PCWorld]

A new computer Trojan based on the infamous ZeuS banking malware is targeting users of over 150 banks and payment systems from around the world, security researchers warn.

The new threat, dubbed Chthonic, is based on ZeusVM, a Trojan program discovered in February that is itself a modification of the much older ZeuS Trojan.

“The Trojan is apparently an evolution of ZeusVM, although it has undergone a number of significant changes,” security researchers from antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab said in a blog post. “Chthonic uses the same encryptor as Andromeda bots, the same encryption scheme as Zeus AES and Zeus V2 Trojans, and a virtual machine similar to that used in ZeusVM and KINS malware.”

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

In 2015, EU aims to sweep away old rules on data protection and copyright [PCWorld]

The European Commission is gearing up to solve some longstanding problems with outdated copyright and data protection laws and move ahead on new rules for roaming charges and net neutrality.

During the past week, the Commission made public its work agenda for 2015, and high on the list is the ongoing effort to break down national barriers to create what it calls a digital single market.

While there are many policy issues involved in building such a market, the Commission will focus on areas where it can make “a real and tangible difference to people’s lives” by acting on a European, rather than a national, basis, said Andrus Ansip, Commission vice president responsible for the digital single market, in a blog post.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

BBC documentary highlights conditions at a Chinese iPhone factory, but is it all Apple's fault? [PCWorld]

I’ve worked at a lot of different jobs in my life, but there are a few I’d never like to try: picking crops on a farm, working in a chicken processing plant, and working in any kind of factory. The relentless assembly lines and the noise of the machines would be hard to deal with. Even those factories without deafening machines still seem like harsh places to work, if only because of the cadence they impose on employees.

Whatever device you’re reading this article on was built in a factory, most likely in China. In this country, not known for its pleasant working conditions, all the major computer manufacturers have their devices built and assembled. Including Apple.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Android Auto, baked directly into cars: Google may want it, but whether automakers do is unclear [PCWorld]

Google may be planning to build its Android Auto infotainment system directly into car dashboards next year, but obstacles abound.

Direct vehicle integration would be a feature of Android M, which, according to Reuters' unnamed sources may launch in the next year or so. However, there's no word on when the first vehicle would arrive with Android Auto built-in, or whether automakers are even on board with the plan.

In its current form, Android Auto (which is still in beta) requires users to plug their phones into the car's infotainment system with a Micro-USB cable. Competitors Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink system work similarly. Neither Google nor Apple, nor MirrorLink's nonprofit Car Connectivity Consortium, have announced plans to build their systems directly into car dashboards.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

FBI concludes North Korea 'responsible' for Sony hack [PCWorld]

North Korea was responsible for the devastating cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday after a two-week investigation.

The attack on Sony occurred in late November and resulted in the theft of thousands of files that, after being leaked online, proved highly embarrassing for the company. Financial documents, legal and business agreements, confidential information on employees and, perhaps most embarrassing of all, the entire email boxes of several senior executives.

“The FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” it said in a statement.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Samsung's ChatOn messaging service will be turned off early next year [PCWorld]

Samsung’s ChatOn will soon be ChatOff. After initially denying that it was closing its instant messaging service, the company confirmed on Thursday that ChatOn will be shut down early next year.

The plan is to close international versions on February 1 and then the U.S. mobile app shortly afterward.

It’s a setback for Samsung’s bid to build a larger ecosystem of apps and services around its mobile hardware. The company's TouchWiz custom interface is feature-heavy compared to other Android phone interfaces and includes several proprietary Samsung apps.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Dangerous 'Misfortune Cookie' flaw discovered in 12 million home routers [PCWorld]

Researchers at Check Point have discovered a serious security vulnerability affecting at least 12 million leading-brand home and SME routers that appears to have gone unnoticed for over a decade.

Dubbed the ’Misfortune Cookie’ flaw, the firm plans to give a detailed account of the issue at a forthcoming security conference but in the meantime it’s important to stress that no real-world attacks using it have yet been detected.

That said, an attacker exploiting the flaw would be able to monitor all data travelling through a gateway such as files, emails and logins and have the power to infect connected devices with malware. Man-in-the-middle attacks would also be possible, according to Check Point.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Instagram's spam purge reveals high-profile accounts with fake followers [PCWorld]

Instagram made good on its promise to delete spam accounts that have plagued the service and other social networks like Twitter. Sounds like a positive move, right? Well, the sudden evaporation of millions of fake users is enraging Instagram fans who care about things like high follower counts.

Millions of accounts vanished in the Great InstaPurge of 2014, also dubbed the “Instagram Rapture,” and the Instagrammers whose follower counts declined the most were the ones with the highest number of followers. Celebs like Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, and Beyoncé saw millions of followers disappear on Thursday in the clean-up. In a funny twist, Instagram’s own account was hit the hardest, losing nearly 19 million followers or almost 30 percent of its total follower count.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Intel gives Chromebook converts an assist with 'Easy Migration' tool [PCWorld]

Intel is trying to ease the transition to the cloud for anyone who picked up a Chromebook this season.

The chipmaker has launched a free “Easy Migration” tool for Chromebooks with Intel processors inside. With a few clicks, users can move their contacts, files, photos, and bookmarks to a Google account, making them accessible through the web. The migration app is available for iOSAndroid, and Windows, and if you don’t know what kind of processor your Chromebook is using, you can install a Chrome extension to find out.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

BrandPost: Today's Hot Deals: Dell Inspiron 300 for $450, ASUS Celeron Laptop for $199, and more [PCWorld]

BrandPost: Helpdesk Skills: Not sounding phony on the phone [PCWorld]

By sticking to written scripts as much as possible, your company can control the telephone experience, making sure that customer service and tech support representatives always say the right thing. But unless you exclusively hire trained actors, staying on script can produce stilted, phony language. Plus, the customer can tell you're on script, and it leaves them feeling alienated.

That was the case for some people who called the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. According to a New York Post article by Natalie O'Neill and Lorena Mongelli, one representative took the script too far and presented himself as a machine to callers. "His robot impression was so convincing that one annoyed caller demanded to 'speak to a human' after she thought an 'automated system' had hung up on her."

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

What we know about North Korea's cyberarmy [PCWorld]

The attack on Sony Pictures has put North Korea’s cyberwarfare program in the spotlight. Like most of the internal workings of the country, not much is known but snippets of information have come out over the years, often through defectors and intelligence leaks.

Here’s a summary of what we know:

The Cyberunits

North Korea’s governing structure is split between the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and the National Defense Commission (NDC).

North Korea’s main cyberoperations run under the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), which itself falls under the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces that is in turn part of the NDC. The RGB has been operational for years in traditional espionage and clandestine operations and formed two cyberdivisions several years ago called Unit 121 and Office 91.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Three security-boosting steps to perform on every router [PCWorld]

The computer industry has worked hard to make sure that a lot of the gadgets we use are mostly plug-and-play. In other words, you just fire up the device, login and you're ready to go—no configuration necessary. One device you should never consider "plug-and-play," however, is your home's network and wireless router.

After the technician leaves your house there are a few important things everyone should do.

Log in to your router and change the admin details

The first thing you should always do when you have a new router is log into its control panel. You want to do this so you understand where to change the Wi-Fi access password, change the type of security protocol your router is using, change the router name, et cetera. Most importantly, however, you need to login to your router so you can change the admin name and password.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Comcast launches 4K app the same week it kills Xfinity 3D [PCWorld]

If you need more convincing that 4K is the next big thing for HDTV and the push for 3D is toast, look no further than Comcast's announcements this week. On Tuesday, Comcast shut down its Xfinity 3D channel first launched in 2011. The company followed-up on Thursday by getting into 4K with a small pilot project.

Comcast subscribers with a 2014 Samsung UHD TV can now download Comcast's Xfinity in UHD app from Samsung's Smart Hub for free. To get the new app to work you'll need to login with your Xfinity credentials. Comcast's UHD programming is pretty limited at launch, with the latest seasons of just four shows from NBC and USA, including Chicago Fire, Covert Affairs, Suits, and Parks and Recreation (debuts in February).

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

10 holiday moments that prove you have phone addiction [PCWorld]

Using your phone as a barrier between you and your family? Totally normal!

Ubuntu Phone launch delayed until early 2015 [PCWorld]

Earlier this year, I reported on the forthcoming release of Ubuntu phones. Ubuntu for phones had just hit “release to manufacturer” status and phones were supposed to launch before the end of 2014.

Bad news: The phones clearly won’t be here this year. But good news! Canonical told me they’ll be out in early 2015, after a slight delay to clean up some lingering interface and manufacturing snags.

Hardware partners still onboard

Cristian Parrino, Canonical’s VP of mobile, told me that both Meizu and Bq are still onboard to manufacture Ubuntu Phones for the launch. There’s been some speculation that Bq at least was less interested after a big Bq press conference came and went with no mention of Ubuntu phone.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Cyberattack on German steel factory causes 'massive damage' [PCWorld]

A German steel factory suffered massive damage after hackers managed to access production networks, allowing them to tamper with the controls of a blast furnace, the government said in its annual IT security report.

The report, published Wednesday by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), revealed one of the rare instances in which a digital attack actually caused physical damage.

The attack used spear phishing and sophisticated social engineering techniques to gain access to the factory’s office networks, from which access to production networks was gained. Spear phishing involves the use of email that appears to come from within an organization. After the system was compromised, individual components or even entire systems started to fail frequently.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Xbox One kicks out the jams with new Pandora, Vevo apps [PCWorld]

Mere weeks after Microsoft dumped the free streaming tier of Xbox Music, two new streaming music apps have landed on the Xbox One for your aural pleasure: Pandora and Vevo.

Vevo was originally tipped in June as part of a major entertainment push for the gaming console that included 45 new apps.

Pandora says its new Xbox One app is a customized version of the Pandora for TV interface, and the app supports Kinect gestures and voice commands. It additionally includes options to see recently listened to stations and total time spent listening to specific stations. You can also use Pandora as background music while gaming.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Microsoft drags alleged tech support scammers into court [PCWorld]

Microsoft is finally cracking down on scammers who offer to fix non-existent computer problems for hundreds of dollars. In a first strike, Microsoft sued several U.S. companies it said are involved in fake tech support scams.

For years, people have been receiving calls from companies pretending to be official Microsoft tech support staff, who try to convince the victim that their computer is infected with a virus. The scammers often offer to deal with it for a fee.

It is a big problem. Since May 2014 alone, Microsoft has received over 65,000 customer complaints regarding fraudulent tech support scams. According to a survey issued by Microsoft, over one-third of U.S. citizens fall for the scams once contacted, causing them to suffer approximately $1.5 billion in financial losses each year.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Eyes-on with Sony's wearable display that transforms any glasses into smartglasses [PCWorld]

If anyone could use a hit product right now, it’s Sony. But its latest smartglasses won’t win people over from Google Glass despite having a better display.

The Japanese conglomerate is reeling from the massive hack of its U.S. film arm, and will put on a brave face at next month’s CES, where it plans to show off the head-mounted display.

The Single-Lens Display Module announced this week is designed to attach to different kinds of eyewear and provide high-res color graphics in the corner of your vision.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Blackberry reports falling revenue, but loss shrinks [PCWorld]

BlackBerry’s revenue continued its dive in the three months to Nov. 29, but on Friday the company reported a smaller loss than a year earlier.

Revenue for the three months, BlackBerry’s third fiscal quarter, fell to US$793 million, compared to $916 million in the preceding three months and $1.19 billion a year earlier.

The company reported a net loss of $148 million for its third fiscal quarter, compared to a loss of $207 million in its second. In its first quarter, however, it had reported a small profit. A year earlier, it reported a monster $5 billion loss, which included a $1 billion inventory write-down and a $2.7 billion impairment charge.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Microsoft helps boost Android, iOS app performance with offline access [PCWorld]

Microsoft wants to help Android, iOS and Windows apps run offline as well as online, offering a way to improve app responsiveness and functionality when network coverage is bad or non-existent.

In an age of always-connected smartphones, it might seem there is no need for apps with offline access—but they still have several advantages, including better responsiveness and the ability to limit data charges by caching data on the device, according to Microsoft. The caching also lets applications continue to work when there is little or no network connectivity, the company said in a blog post on Thursday.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Casio's latest Exilim high-speed camera can sync with up to seven others [PCWorld]

If you want to really see how good or bad your golf swing is, Casio’s latest digital camera can control seven cameras shooting 60 images per second.

Designed with the help of a baseball pitching machine maker, the Exilim EX100-Pro is designed for sports, business users and experimental researchers. But it can show anyone extremely high-speed action shots or video.

Up to seven EX-100Pros can be linked via wireless LAN and controlled via an Android tablet running Casio’s SynchroShot app. That synchronization feature only works with other EX-100Pros, Casio said, and allows synchronized recording of a scene from multiple points of view.

The camera has a 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, a 3.5-inch LCD monitor that can swivel, and a 10.7 times optical zoom lens with aperture of F2.8.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

80 Days leads you on a round-the-world adventure during your commute [PCWorld]

I'll be honest: I've never read Jules Verne's literary classic Around the World in 80 Days. Nor have I seen any of the film adaptations—not the Academy Award-winning 1956 version, and certainly not the 2004 misfire starring Jackie Chan. I mention this upfront in the hopes of conveying how utterly unnecessary it is to have any affection for the original story in order for 80 Days ($5) to capture your attention.

Just released this week on Android, 80 Days builds a compelling work of interactive fiction around the novel's premise, letting you guide and shape the narrative with each and every beat. Whether it's plotting the route ahead, choosing from dialogue options that shape your character, or making decisions that can speed up or alternately halt your voyage, the journey really becomes your own. And while not quite as thrilling as actually seeing the whole world over, it is surprisingly enchanting.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Clean up your Wordpress plugins to avoid SoakSoak and other malware threats [PCWorld]

Watch out for SoakSoak, a new malware threat that has compromised more than 100,000 Wordpress websites and led to more than 11,000 domains' being blacklisted by Google. Wordpress is a hugely popular and widely used Web publishing platform, so it’s important to understand how the SoakSoak malware works, and what you can do to prevent your own Wordpress site from being compromised.

Approximately one in six websites—or about 60 million worldwide—are hosted through Wordpress, so the damage could be, or may still get, much worse. In a blog post on Tripwire’s State of Security, David Bisson explains that once a Wordpress site is infected, it may unexpectedly redirect users to the SoakSoak.ru domain, and/or download malicious files to the users’ computers to further propagate the attack.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Leaked James Bond movie script may have revealed the Sony Xperia Z4 [PCWorld]

Finally. We were waiting for something interesting to come out of this Sony hack, and here it is. It appears that promotional plans for Sony’s next flagship phone can be found within marketing documents for the next James Bond movie.

According to Gizmodo's perusal of Sony's leaked internal emails, the company was initially planning to debut the fourth-generation Xperia Z4 smartphone around the same time that Spectre is slated to be released theaters—around "May/November." (We don't get that time frame either.) 

The Spectre marketing package apparently contained product-placement pitches, complete with design concepts for the next Xperia smartphone. The visuals were needed to help movie producers figure out how to make the phone a part of the movie.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Indie gems: The 15 best PC games you may have missed in 2014 [PCWorld]

Needles in the gamestackjazzpunk robot 100358287 gallery

We review a lot of games over here at PCWorld, and looking back at the end of the year there are always a few that we missed—smaller titles shoved aside by the larger-profile, big-budget releases. Just because they didn't get as much attention as, say, Far Cry 4 doesn't mean they're any less deserving of love!

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

The best gaming PCs and hardware of 2014 [PCWorld]

I can still remember the winter of 2008: It was dark times for PC gaming, and talk in the industry made it seemed as though the end was nigh. Today, I'd laugh with the lust of a Viking as I smashed insignificant hardware under my axe. 

PC gaming, if you didn't know, is the place for gaming that matters. From indie gaming to free-to-play models and, of course, the centerpiece of PC gaming: the celebrated hardware. 

To put out 2014 with a bang, I've rounded up the best gaming hardware PCWorld has seen this year.

Best deal in CPUs: Intel Core i7 5820K

Street Price: $367

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

Pinker Steps Up Against Harvard Anti-Israel BDS [Power Line]

(Steven Hayward)

Paul wrote yesterday about the mendacity of the Israel BDS (“Boycott, Divest, Sanctions”) movement at Harvard, where the presence of a water dispenser made by an Israeli-based company in Harvard dining halls was called a “microaggression” by the permanently aggrieved.

Late yesterday the widely noted psychologist Steven Pinker stepped up, writing to Harvard’s president Drew Faust and provost Alan Garber to protest in the strongest possible terms against capitulating to the mob on this issue. I’ve never known exactly what to make of Pinker, who is a liberal of some stripe. I’ve liked some of his work when I read it (especially parts of his book The Better Angels of Our Nature); other times, not so much. But here he deserves our three cheers.

Here are the best two paragraphs:

Equally foreign to the mission of a university is the idea that students are to be protected from “discomfort” or so-called “microaggression” when they are exposed to beliefs that differ from theirs, or when the university does not accede to demands that it prosecute their moral and political crusades. Discomfort is another word for tolerance. It is the price we pay for living in a democracy and participating in the open exchange of ideas.

Middle East politics above all is a subject on which thoughtful people disagree; it is certainly not one on which a university should decree the correct position. While I am sympathetic with many of the students’ objections to the current policies of the Israeli government, I object even more strongly to the policies of the governments of countries such as Russia, India, Pakistan, China, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. In a world filled with governments with deplorable policies, it is pernicious for a university to single out one of them for opprobrium.

You can download a PDF of the whole letter here. And here’s a facsimile for readers with really good eyesight:

Pinker 1 copy

Pinker 2 copy

Where Did the Jobs Go? [Power Line]

(John Hinderaker)

Somewhat remarkably, given that it has presided over the worst recovery–by far–of the post-war era, the Obama administration tries to slice and dice employment numbers to portray itself as a champion of job creation. There are, indeed, a few more jobs today than there were six years ago. Yet for most Americans, the employment scene has gotten worse, not better. Why is that?

Senate Budget Committee staff offer data in explanation:

According to BLS data, in November of 2007 there were 23.1 million foreign workers in the United States with jobs. Today, the BLS reports, there are 25.1 million foreign workers in the United States with jobs – meaning 2 million jobs, on net, have gone to foreign workers since the recession. By contrast, BLS reports there were 124 million American-born workers with jobs in November of 2007 but only 122.5 million American-born workers with jobs today – a decline of 1.5 million for American workers.

Think about this: despite American workers accounting for 70 percent of all population growth among adults, they received, on net, none of the post-recession jobs gains. As a result, there are 11 million more American workers outside the labor force today than 7 years ago. So, despite the trillions spent, the enormous interventions, the years spent trying to climb out of the economic doldrums, the total number of American workers who are employed today is 1.5 million less than at this time in 2007. All employment growth during this time went to foreign labor imported from abroad at less cost.

This is not an inexplicable phenomenon but the plain result of Washington policy: each year the U.S. admits 1 million permanent immigrants (overwhelmingly low-wage) in addition to 700,000 foreign guest workers, 500,000 foreign students, and 70,000 refugees and asylees. The number of foreign-born has quadrupled since 1970. During that same time, the NYT reports: “More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s. For those who are working, wage growth has been weak, while corporate profits have surged.”

Here are the BLS data. You can check the numbers for yourself; click to enlarge:

BLS data

So Far, Response to Sony Hack Is Pathetic [Power Line]

(John Hinderaker)

North Korea, we are told, hacked into Sony Pictures’ computer system. The hackers made off with a vast number of emails, brought film production to a halt by disrupting Sony’s ability to pay bills, and stole passcodes governing entry into the studio’s headquarters so that employees had to line up to gain admission, one by one. The hackers then caused two movies to be withdrawn from circulation by threatening terrorist attacks on theaters, almost certainly an empty threat. In response to these acts of war–if it really was North Korea–our newspapers carried on gleefully about whether Angelina Jolie really is a moron, and whether it is “racist” to speculate in childish fashion about whether Barack Obama likes movies featuring black characters.

I would say that the administration’s response was equally lame, except that so far there hasn’t been one. White House spokesman Josh Earnest, who is ineffective on his best days, was asked about the Sony matter. Here is the exchange:

Earnest says that “this is something that’s been treated as a serious national security matter.” Not so far, it hasn’t been. This concerns me, too: “[T]hey would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response and also mindful of the fact that sophisticated actors when they carry out actions like this are often times, not always, but often, seeking to provoke a response from the United States of America.” I never understand the concept of a proportional response. What are we going to do, knock out part of North Korea’s film industry? The response to any terrorist act should not be proportionate, but rather, should be massive enough to deter any future actor from even considering doing anything similar.

The striking thing about the Sony attack is how much worse it could have been. The film industry is relatively unimportant. What if North Korea, or some other adversary, carried out a similar attack against J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and so on? They could bring America’s banking system to its knees. Or how about hacking into the computer systems of America’s utilities? Could a hostile regime turn off power to homes in the northern U.S. in mid-winter? Or maybe a hacker could disrupt the traffic lights in a major American city, and bring traffic to a standstill. The possibilities are endless. And North Korea is by no means the last word in computer expertise. The Chinese have state of the art technological capacity. Russia is a basket case in many ways, but software is like chess and Russians are great at it.

Was Sony Pictures’ computer system uniquely inadequate and therefore vulnerable to intrusion? I haven’t heard anyone say that. It appears that many companies could be vulnerable to similar attacks; indeed, as we have recently seen, major retailers have been vulnerable to hackers who sought profit rather than disruption. But the potential for disruption is the national security threat.

And if companies are vulnerable, then how about government agencies? What if North Korea hacked into the White House’s or State Department’s computers?

Maybe they already have. In October, we wrote here, here, here and here about a mysterious intrusion that brought down computers in the Executive Office of the President (which includes the White House and much more) and the State Department. The Obama administration was close-mouthed about the incident and refused our several requests for comment. Despite our efforts, the story was barely covered in the press, and disappeared without a trace. To my knowledge, no one has ever reported on the source of the intrusion or the cause of the outage.

It seems likely that the Obama administration wanted to suppress the story, which threatened to break days before the midterm elections. News of a hostile power invading the White House’s own computer system, if that is what happened, or may have happened, would have reinforced the perception that the Obama administration is weak. It is easy to imagine the press staying away from the story on political grounds. So, for all we know, the North Koreans–or the Russians, the Chinese, or some independent group–may already have carried out a highly destructive attack on the federal government’s computer system.

Be that as it may, the central questions arising out of the Sony Pictures story are 1) how widespread is the vulnerability to sophisticated hackers among corporations and government agencies, and 2) what can be done to secure our systems so that catastrophic attacks do not take place in the future? President Obama is scheduled to give a speech on several topics, including the Sony hack, later today. It will be interesting to see whether he addresses these questions, and if so, how.

Mark Falcoff: The Cuban paradox [Power Line]

(Scott Johnson)

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at AEI. He is the author of several books including Cuba the Morning After: Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes further to this post on Wednesday:

This subject has already been written to death, but may I add a couple more comments?

There are two kinds of people who favor normalization of relations with Cuba. One is the person who believes that by freeing up the possibilities of Americans to travel to Cuba, the Cuban people will get to know us better and share our vision of a freer society. They also imagine that normalization will offer new economic opportunities to the impoverished Cuban people.

The other is the person who secretly harbors the hope that this will provide the Castro brothers with the resources to continue in power indefinitely (and after their passing, to allow their progeny and relatives to continue to rule the island, all under the fiction of “sustainable socialism”.) Both points of view have their merit; that is to say, each point of view has its own internal logic. Rand Paul has just expressed the first. The Nation magazine, the New York Times, Jimmy Carter, and needless to say, President Obama, his National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, and all American leftists and most most American liberals harbor the second.

The problem is, both cannot be right. We will soon find out which is.

The other aspect untouched by the media is the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama next year. For some time now the Latin American chanceries have been making it clear they will not attend this event at all if Cuba is not invited. By doing an end-run with the Vatican, the administration has avoided a major diplomatic embarrassment (although one can’t be certain that the cancellation of the conference would be a great loss to anyone).

I cannot help reflecting, however, that the Latin Americans move back and forth on what used to be called the Estrada Doctrine. This was the diplomatic formula fashioned by a Mexican foreign minister in the 1920s, to the effect that it is countries rather than governments that are recognized. Hence, sanctions and non-recognition amounted to a violation (in Estrada’s opinion) of international law. After much pressure, lobbying and criticism in the late 1920s, the U.S. adopted this doctrine. The chief beneficiaries were patrimonial dictatorships like the Somozas in Nicaragua and the Trujillos in the Dominican Republic, who ruled the roost in their countries undisturbed for decades.

Then, however, after the coup in Chile and the disappearances in Argentina, the Latins suddenly decided that human rights should be at the top of our agenda (not theirs, however—all of them except Mexico maintained perfectly normal relations General Pinochet or the Argentine junta).

Suddenly it wasn’t countries but governments that were recognized after all! The job of sanctions was assigned by them to the United States and the United States alone. Did someone get tortured in a back alley of Santiago? That must have been the result of U. S. “support” for Pinochet!

Now, however, it turns out that human rights and democracy aren’t really all that important after all, and our spinsterish insistence on both in Cuba is an offense to decency. The Pope thinks so too.

If this proves anything, it is the profound lack of seriousness on the part of Latin American political elites, or what a friend of mine calls a lack of their democratic militance. What it reveals about the too clever Jesuit in the Vatican I will leave others to explain.

Thoughts from the ammo line [Power Line]

(Scott Johnson)

Ammo Grrrll returns to comment on GRUBER: THE POLITICAL EQUIVALENT OF EX-LAX. She writes:

I grew up in the Fiber-Free Fifties. With a steady diet of Jello, Twix, Wonder Bread, and Velveeta, small wonder laxative ads were prominent on television. Housewives discussed the issue openly in commercials, usually with their pharmacists and often volunteering that their husbands who were standing right there, humiliated, also had issues with regularity. One popular remedy was Ex-Lax, a product that masqueraded as a chocolate bar, and one that many many children sampled. But only once.

In truth, even disguised as a chocolate treat, the taste was a dreadful disappointment, even to a toddler. We weren’t really very fooled. But by then it was too late. I imagine that some marketing executive was paid a handsome sum of money to come up with the idea of making it look like candy. And if a few hundred thousand children spent a day chained to their potty chairs, well, a small price to pay to sell more product.

Fast forward to the early 21rst century. With Hillarycare a dim memory, the Left became urgently concerned once again about the “uninsured.” It was a crisis, we were told. The system was broken! Why, there were upwards of 40 million people without health insurance! Dying in the streets, they were. Yes, not even in their own beds, but staggering into the streets! Russell Brand said so, and inasmuch as he’s never had an original thought in his life, he was not alone.

Never mind that the uninsured included among them millions of people who made over $75,000 a year and just didn’t find health insurance a very sexy thing to buy when you could just show up at the ER for the flu or a broken arm and they had to take you in. Another large percentage included people who qualified for Medicaid but were too lazy or uninformed to apply for it. The young and invincible didn’t want to pay for it when they could get another tattoo instead. Yet another large component were, of course, illegal aliens, but the U.S. Taxpayers were called heartless for refusing to provide platinum health care coverage for all of Mexico. Just for starters.

Enter Jonathan Gruber and his co-conspirators with both hands out to Grub in the bottomless government money trough while trying to make the one-size-fits-all steaming disaster that is Obamacare work its way through the body politic. First, make the plan many thousands of pages long so that nobody, even serious policy wonks, could read it or make sense of it. Second, make it impossible for the CBO to score it accurately. On purpose. Third, ram it through on strict party lines with no input whatsoever allowed from the other side. Trot out heart-rending examples of what happens to people without insurance, and allow no unseemly digging into the actual facts of the narratives, not one of which held up to close scrutiny. Are you calling that sweet little orphan boy’s dead mama a liar?? Bribe, wheedle, threaten, strong-arm. Repeat.

But, mostly, lie through your teeth. You can keep your doctor or current insurance: wink, wink, nudge, nudge. It wasn’t a tax! Hell, no. Until it needed to be. Death panels? Sarah Palin is a lunatic. Grant thousands of exceptions to the more onerous rules to your homies. The lying had to be done, doncha know, because the American people are just too slack-jawed stupid to understand any complexities. Did YOU go to M.I.T.? I didn’t think so. Me neither. With all the lies to chocolate coat the process of moving the bill through the system, Nancy Pelosi was more prescient than she knew when she said we had to “pass the bill to see what’s in it.”

One thing that has become apparent with the left wing is that they are just terrible winners. When a single gay judge in California overturned the defeated gay marriage referendum, which itself was back on the ballot in defiance of the previous overwhelming defeat, it wasn’t enough to win. People who had opposed redefining marriage, even years previously, had to be punished, including with loss of their jobs.

And it wasn’t enough for Jonathan Gruber to help provide the chocolate in the Ex-Lax to make Obamacare progress smoothly. It wasn’t enough for him to walk away with tons of “street cred” for future consulting and wheelbarrels full of money. Enough money that he would never need to “work” again. (Please, God.) Think of that — set for life.

No, he had to taunt. He had to brag. He had to chortle about the knee-slapper he put over on us rubes. Never mind that that’s yet another lie – it never had majority support in polls. Maybe from the usual beneficiaries of freebies, but not from actual taxpayers footing the bill. We weren’t fooled. Like the kid with the crummy chocolate Ex-Lax, it was simply too late. Is there no remedy to recoup any of our money from these criminals and liars? The Solyndra thieves, the multimillionaires at the top of the Fannie Mae food chain, the “hide the decline” frauds in the global warming bidness? John, Paul, Scott, anybody? I’m just a retired comic, not an attorney, but isn’t deliberate, admitted fraud still a crime?

OPEN THREAD: Texas Plumber Gets Threats After Video Shows ISIS Using His Old Truck [Wizbang]

Consider this an Open Thread. But first…. Some very, very bad luck has rocked a Texas plumber who’s used truck somehow ended up on video and seen being used in Syria by ISIS terrorists. The Plumber’s name and phone number are right there as big as life on the door and now he is getting all sorts of threats. Texas City plumber Mark Oberholtzer sold his old truck a while ago, but was dismayed to see it being used as a gun platform by ISIS. Once the truck started showing up on video–with his phone number still prominently displayed on

A Peaceful Muslim Speaks Out [Wizbang]

For the sake of fairness to peaceful Muslims, the following commentary by a peaceful Muslim is republished below: “Teaching tolerance through Islam” - Dr. Yameen Khalil, Tulsa World, Friday, December 19, 2014, p. A 17. Each time I see a news headline with a link between Islam and terrorism my heart sinks. As I watched and read about the hostage situation in Sydney, I had the same sinking feeling as I saw yet another shocking story of possible terrorism. These acts of terrorism are becoming more and more prevalent with many of the perpetrators claiming to be Muslims. However, these

Wizbang Weekend Caption Contest™ [Wizbang]

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for the Wizbang Weekend Caption Contest™. Enter your best caption for the following picture: Winners for last week’s contest and this week’s will be announced Monday morning.

See what North Korea doesn’t want you to see. [Wizbang]

The government of North Korea doesn’t want us to see it, but we can anyway. From New York Daily News: Moviegoers might not be able to watch “The Interview” in theaters, but fans can still see its most controversial scene. A scene depicting the death of Kim Jong Un has leaked online after Sony announced it was pulling the comedy, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, from theatrical release. Click the above link to see the movie scene that North Korea tried to prevent us from seeing.

Spineless Media Spokesman Kowtows to Ruthless Socialist Dictator [Ed Driscoll]

“Just think of them as Democratic operatives with bylines and you won’t be far wrong.”

It Looks Like You’re Going to Need a Bigger VCR [Ed Driscoll]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bYdwbINvuQ/p>

Video: “The Top Five Liberal Lies for 2014.” as spotted by the Media Research Center, and it must have been quite a challenge whittling this down to just two minutes and five lies. As our own David P. Goldman, the aptly (self)-named “Spengler” writes, the left is basically just doing politics as performance art at this point. But it galls them that we know it’s performance art, and are laughing at the cut-rate kabuki.

Oh, and speaking of being called on her cut-rate kabuki, “Oh, so Now Donna Brazile is mad at the IRS?”

CNN: ‘Analyst: We Underestimated North Korea’ [Ed Driscoll]

Hey, it’s not like they were on the Axis of Evil of anything:

North Korea has similarly denied the massive hack of Sony Pictures, which has been forced to cancel next week’s planned release of “The Interview,” a comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

But KCNA applauded the attack.

“The hacking into the SONY Pictures might be a righteous deed of the supporters and sympathizers with the DPRK,” it said, using the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The hacking is so fatal that all the systems of the company have been paralyzed, causing the overall suspension of the work and supposedly a huge ensuing loss.”

Experts point to several signs of North Korean involvement. They say there are similarities between the malware used in the Sony hack and previous attacks against South Korea. Both were written in Korean, an unusual language in the world of cybercrime.

“Unfortunately, it’s a big win for North Korea. They were able to get Sony to shut down the picture. They got the U.S. government to admit that North Korea was the source of this and there’s no action plan really, at least publicly no action plan, in response to it,” said Cha. “I think from their perspective, in Pyongyang, they’re probably popping the champagne corks.”

I didn’t see the segment, but my wife was telling me that when she caught a few minutes of CNN while having lunch with some business associates today, everyone the network interviewed was angry with Sony (this was before news of Paramount knuckling under as well) for capitulating to North Korean demands to censor their media. Which seems rather paradoxical, given that, as is their wont with any socialist dictator*, CNN gave in to North Korean censorship long ago:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJmH28zyCvk&feature=player_embedded/p>

And let’ss not forget this infamous 2005 segment with the network’s goofy far left founder. Ted Turner red-lined the Godwin meter in interviews when he learned that Fox News was launching in the mid-1990s. But when faced with a 21st century national socialist regime, he was quite happy to sing their praises, the very definition of the phrase “useful idiot”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA2UVgmydZc/p>

* Foreign and domestic.

But then, it’s not like most MSM outlets don’t have a similarly huge mote in their eye on the issue of choosing self-censorship over advancing the First Amendment:

Update: From Ace, “What Exactly Has North Korea Done That Progressives Don’t Do Every Single Day?”

A professor blogged a criticism of a teaching assistant, who’d discussed gay marriage in her classroom, but then shut down all dissent, claiming dissent to be illegitimate (per his claim).

Result? The university is “investigating” him and has suspended him from all teaching duties.

Ace’s headline resonates particularly strongly here in California, where Sacramento’s first impulse is to ban everything. Not to mention at CNN, which has a pretty strong ban everything instinct as well. As does MSNBC, where “Lawrence O’Donnell probably would have pulled ‘The Interview’ too,” his associate Chris Hayes tweeted tonight.

Capitulation Complete: Paramount Bans Showing of Team America: World Police [Ed Driscoll]

Come on, man,” Ed Morrissey implores. Paramount bans showings of Team America: World Police in place of The Interview”:

Oh, the irony. After Sony cancelled the release of The Interview, a few theaters declared that they would show the 2004 hit Team America: World Police in its place as a protest against threats to free expression. That film also derided the government of North Korea, as well as the liberal Hollywood establishment that catered to anti-American despots in what was a prescient (if irreverent and very R-rated) satire.

As if to emphasize the latter critique, two cinemas have announced that Paramount Pictures has forbidden them to show the film publicly:

According to IMDB, Team America, while distributed by Paramount, was produced by Scott Rudin, the embattled (and uber-manic) Sony Pictures executive being eaten alive by the North Korean hacking scandal.  I wonder if he put in a frantic call to Paramount to have Team America banned as a substitute for the latest anti-North Korean movie whose production he led. (If so, the Norks will likely let us know in their next round of hacks.)

A few years ago, when TCM or AMC reran Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s Road to Morocco, a 1942 Paramount production, I remember thinking, it’s a good thing this film is grandfathered in, as there’s no way Hollywood would make this movie today, in today’s leftwing hypersensitive, comedy-killing “multicultural” era. That iteration of Paramount was made of sterner stuff — but who knew that the 2004 version of Paramount was as well?

A couple of years after Team America snuck past Paramount’s leftwing censors, Mark Steyn had Hollywood’s number down pat: “Hollywood prefers to make ‘controversial’ films about controversies that are settled, rousing itself to fight battles long won”:

Say what you like about those Hollywood guys in the Thirties but they were serious about their leftism. Say what you like about those Hollywood guys in the Seventies but they were serious about their outrage at what was done to the lefties in the McCarthy era — though they might have been better directing their anger at the movie-industry muscle that enforced the blacklist. By comparison, Clooney’s is no more than a pose — he’s acting at activism, new Hollywood mimicking old Hollywood’s robust defense of even older Hollywood. He’s more taken by the idea of “speaking truth to power” than by the footling question of whether the truth he’s speaking to power is actually true.

That’s why Hollywood prefers to make “controversial” films about controversies that are settled, rousing itself to fight battles long won. Go back to USA Today’s approving list of Hollywood’s willingness to “broach the tough issues”: “Brokeback and Capote for their portrayal of gay characters; Crash for its examination of racial tension . . .” That might have been “bold” “courageous” movie-making half-a-century ago. Ever seen the Dirk Bogarde film Victim? He plays a respectable married barrister whose latest case threatens to expose his homosexuality. That was 1961, when homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom and Bogarde was the British movie industry’s matinee idol and every schoolgirl’s pinup: That’s brave. Doing it at a time when your typical conservative politician gets denounced as “homophobic” because he’s only in favor of civil unions is just an exercise in moral self-congratulation. And, unlike the media, most of the American people are savvy enough to conclude that by definition that doesn’t require their participation.

A KNOWN WOMAN These films are “transgressive” mostly in the sense that Transamerica is transsexual. I like Felicity Huffman and all, and I’m not up to speed with the latest strictures on identity-group casting, but isn’t it a bit condescending to get a lifelong woman (or whatever the expression is) to play a transsexual? If Hollywood announced Al Jolson would be playing Martin Luther King Jr., I’m sure Denzel Washington & Co. would have something to say about it. Were no transsexual actresses available for this role? I know at least one, personally, and there was a transsexual Bond girl in the late Roger Moore era who looked incredibly hot, albeit with a voice several octaves below Paul Robeson. What about that cutie with the very fetching Adam’s apple from The Crying Game? And, just as Transamerica’s allegedly unconventional woman is a perfectly conventional woman underneath, so the entire slate of Oscar nominees is, in a broader sense, a phalanx of Felicity Huffmans. That’s to say, they’re dressing up daringly and flouncing around as controversy, but underneath they’re simply the conventional wisdom. Indeed, “Transamerica” would make a good name for Hollywood’s view of its domestic market — a bizarro United States run by racists and homophobes and a poodle media in thrall to the administration.

And nearly a decade later, that’s still how, in its heart of hearts, Hollywood would prefer to view America:

 


A few months ago, John Nolte of Big Hollywood was excoriated by the left for daring to predict that Time-Warner-CNN-HBO would eventually ban DVD sales or streaming of Blazing Saddles. But he was certainly on to something: Hollywood likely doesn’t want to admit that its earlier executives were made of much stronger stuff than those running the town now.

Update: At the Washington Free Beacon, Sonny Bunch documents the “Signposts of a Broken Culture:”

Think about this for a second. What we are saying—nay, what we have accepted, as a society—is a situation in which a totally blameless third party would be held responsible for the evil committed by an irresponsible actor. Sony and the theater chains are being punished for the mere potential of a terror attack against them.

I joked with a friend that tort reform immediately became my number one concern for 2016. He pointed out, rightly, that this is a much larger issue. Tort reform? That’s just futzing around at the edges. Our problem runs much, much deeper than concerns over insurance costs for doctors. Our true problem is that, again, we have accepted, as a society, that it’s okay to sue a party for the bad behavior of a second party even if the first party has no role whatsoever in the malfeasance.

“This is also totally and completely bonkers,” Bunch writes, before concluding that “We made this world. [Sony's] just living with the rules we adopted.” I’m not sure who “we” is, but I do know the top five list of Obama donors in 2012 include both Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of DreamWorks, and Steve Mostyn, “a Houston-based personal injury attorney.” We now know which industry blinked first in that equation.

WATCH: Downturn Abbey 2014 [Guido Fawkes]

Starring Quentin Letts, Kevin Maguire, Isabel Hardman and Miranda Green. Happy Christmas…

Via This Week.

Tagged: BBC, GuyNews.TV

Express Staff Told: Ban This Sick Filth [Guido Fawkes]

express

A mass influx of migrant fleas flooding the Daily Express newsroom has swept panic across the paper. Journalists were in chaos last night as hundreds of the blood-scrounging bugs descended past lapse security controls and arrived in their besieged office. Concerned Arts editor Clair Woodward vowed to launch a crackdown on newsroom filth after workers reported “having to wear Deet to the office”:

“Due to the amount of complaints about fleas, I have called in a chap from the City of London environmental health who will hopefully visit us  pronto and some of us might get to stop having to wear Deet to the office… nothing can be done until the culture of leaving food around in the office stops – flea-carrying rodents won’t take bait if there’s half a sandwich left in the bin next to your desk. Like our bitten colleagues, I’d really like to see and end to this once and for all, but I don’t want Mr Environmental Health to come to the office and tell us again that we’re not helping ourselves. Gestapo-like, I have noticed that food leftovers and packaging are still not being put in the swing-top bins, and packets of sugar (mice love it – some stole a friend of mine’s dentures she’d left on the bedside table as they had a bit of Cadbury’s Éclair stuck to them) left on tables, and food in packages mice can eat through in drawers.”

Experts last night warned the flea terror could see house prices rise by as much as 0%…


Tagged: Express, Media Guido

Oxfam Slammed By Charity Commission For Political Bias [Guido Fawkes]

oxfam

Readers will remember that Tory Conor Burns complained to the Charity Commission over the summer about this tedious Oxfam campaign. Today the Commission has ruled, finding Oxfam guilty of failing to maintain its political neutrality:

“We considered that the text of the tweet and the embedded picture, gave rise to speculation and varying perceptions about the tweet’s purpose, leading to complaints. We consequently considered that the tweet could have affected the views of those who received it and could be misconstrued by some as party political campaigning. As our guidance Speaking out: guidance on campaigning and political activity by charities (CC9) says, a charity “must remain neutral and should consider working with other parties to help ensure public perceptions of neutrality” and, as set out in an example in our guidance, that acceptable political activity is that which “supports the charitable purposes and that perceptions of the charity’s independence are unaffected… we concluded that the charity should have done more to avoid any misperception of political bias by providing greater clarity and ensuring that the link to the “Below the Breadline” report was more obvious. We appreciate that tweets by nature are short. Nevertheless, consideration must always be given as to how they might be perceived when received in isolation.”

Coincidentally Oxfam’s new policy director Richard Pyle is a Labour memberA shame to see such a once respected charitable brand sell out along the Save the Children shock PR route. 

H/T Telegraph.

Tagged: Labour Party

Julia Hartley-Brewer Leaves LBC [Guido Fawkes]

jhb

She has just announced on air that today is her last show…


Tagged: Media Guido

Guardian Looks Outside North London For New Editor [Guido Fawkes]

guardian

Outgoing Scott Trust chair Liz Forgan has this afternoon emailed Guardian staff informing them of the selection process to replace Alan Rusbridger. Forgan says “For the first time in Guardian history we will be openly advertising the role,” stressing that they are looking outside of North London:

“Both internal and external candidates, from any journalistic background, from any country in the world, will be welcome to apply. The role will be advertised and opened for applications before the end of this year. The Scott Trust will give equal consideration to all plausible candidates and will meet a longlist of applicants in February 2015.”

Guardian staff get a vote on who they want to edit them, but Forgan only says it is her “intention” to put their preferred candidate on the final shortlist, somewhat pissing on their quinoa:

“the opinion of the Guardian and Observer’s editorial staff is important, and it has been indicated to The Scott Trust that the Guardian and Observer chapel branch of the National Union of Journalists will conduct a ballot to select a candidate they wish to be considered. The terms of this ballot are for the chapel to confirm, but it is The Scott Trust’s intention to guarantee the selected candidate a place on the final shortlist… Our editorial staff are very important stakeholders in this process – but they are not the decision makers. We will take the results of the NUJ process into careful consideration when making the final appointment, but this is not an election process. The next editor-in-chief will be appointed by The Scott Trust, not voted in by the newsroom.”

Sit down and shut up, comrades…


Tagged: Guardian, Media Guido

Quote of the Time [Guido Fawkes]

Mandy Rice-Davies (R.I.P.) on Lord Astor’s denial of their affair….

“Well he would, wouldn’t he?”

WATCH: Lucy Powell Gets Brillo’d [Guido Fawkes]

Poor Lucy Powell did her best on the Daily Politics not to reveal whether she was responsible for Labour’s disastrous immigration strategy, described as “bollocks” by her colleagues. Eventually she ‘fessed up: “I take responsibility for what goes out in my name”. A penny for the thoughts of Labour MPs watching this interview…

Video via @liarpoliticians.

Tagged: BBC, GuyNews.TV, Labour Party

Going Nowhere – Fast [Guido Fawkes]

Sponsored post.

Ready for Christmas? Ready for the tailbacks, delays and cancellations?

But it doesn’t have to be this way. As part of its 2020 Vision programme, the Institute of Economic Affairs is focusing on Fast Tracking UK Transport.

The think tank says Britain could soon be on the move again – if politicians took a back seat and allowed private enterprise to develop our roads, railways and airports.

Otherwise, the UK will just be Going Nowhere – Fast, as this stylish new short from ieaTV shows. Watch it here:


Tagged: MessageSpace, Sponsored

Clegg’s Facebook Q&A on Education Goes As Well As Expected [Guido Fawkes]

For some reason the DPM thought it would be a good idea to hold a Q&A session on Facebook about education today. The results were entirely predictable:

Anyone would have thought Nick Clegg was a masochist…


Tagged: LibDems

Twitter Bitch Fight of the Week: Oborne v Maguire [Guido Fawkes]

Today’s Mirror splashes on “heartless” George Osborne giving his SpAd Rupert Harrison, apparently “one of the chief architects” of the “cruel austerity drive”, a 19% pay rise.

The story very much upset Man of the People Mirror Associate Editor Kevin Maguire, who Peter Oborne has the temerity to speculate is on rather more than Rupert:

Kerching!


Tagged: Cash, Media Guido, SpAd, Tories, Twitter, Twittery

WATCH: Farage Defends Candidate’s “Chink” Comment [Guido Fawkes]

Asked on LBC about UKIP candidate Kerry Smith’s use of the word “chink” while under the influence of sedatives, Nigel Farage gave a robust defence:

“Kerry Smith is a rough diamond. He’s a council house boy from the East End of London, left school early, and talks and speaks in a way a lot of people from that background do. We can pretend if you like… If you and your mates are going out for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?”

UKIP sources stress Farage was defending freedom of speech for a word “a lot of people” would use. In North London they say Hakkasan…


Tagged: GuyNews.TV, UKIP

Quote of the Day [Guido Fawkes]

The Economist asks Tony Blair about Wendi Deng:

“Mr Blair roundly denies any impropriety. Asked whether he was (at least) careless about his reputation, he says calmly that it is “not something I will ever talk about—I haven’t and I won’t”, and then bangs his coffee cup so loudly into its saucer that it spills and everyone in the room jumps. But did he find himself in a tangle over his friendship with Ms Deng? A large, dark pool of sweat has suddenly appeared under his armpit, spreading across an expensive blue shirt. Even Mr Blair’s close friends acknowledge that the saga damaged him—not least financially, since Mr Murdoch stopped contributing to Mr Blair’s faith foundation and cut him off from other friendly donors in America.”


Tagged: Quote of the Day

General Election Campaign Officially Starts Today [Guido Fawkes]

vote

Today is the day election spending rules kick in and the campaign for 2015 officially begins. Here are the key dates for your diary:

  • December 19: Long campaign begins. Candidate spending limited to £30,700, plus 9p per voter in county (rural) constituencies, and 6p per voter in borough (urban) constituencies.
  • January 5: House returns from Christmas recess.
  • February 12-23: February recess.
  • March 18: George Osborne delivers the final budget of the parliament. He only has a few working days to get it through before…
  • March 30: Parliament dissolves. Short campaign begins. Spending restrictions tightened to £8,700, plus 9p per voter in county constituencies and 6p per voter in borough constituencies.
  • May 7: Election day.

138 days to go…


Tagged: Cash, Elections

Obama Warned Us – Wired Schools [IMAO]

“In a country where we expect free wifi with our coffee, we should expect our schools to be wired.” -President Obama #ConnectED

@BarackObama

“Oh, wait… Starbucks is private sector… nevermind…”

Send to Kindle

Straight Line of the Day: Frank J. Needs to Launch His Presidential Campaign. What Should His Slogan Be? [IMAO]

Works like this: I feed you Moon Nukers a straight line, and you hit me with a punch line in the comments.

Frank J. needs to launch his presidential campaign. What should his slogan be?

Send to Kindle

Help, Help, I’m Being Repressed! [IMAO]

In an interveiw with People magazine, Obama has shared some of the devastating racism he has experienced in his life.  I got my hands on an advance look at the article, and here are some of the examples of racism he has observed in his life first hand.

  • None of the local butchers sell ground Shi Tzu or his favorite guilty pleasure corn-weiner-dogs.
  • While he was campaigning, a citizen once asked him who his favorite rap artist was.
  • For his own safety, the Secret Service would make him sit in the back of the bus while they threw his former friends and associates under it.
  • Angela Merkel asked him if he new of a good Ethiopian restaurant in DC.
  • His new Wii U didn’t have a default mulatto skin tone built in for his Mii.
  • Harvard admitted him.
  • In his Junior High School presentation of Freaks the Musical, the part of the albino was given to that weird, white kid with the pink eyes instead of him.
  • He was denied admission to Cheyney University because he didn’t meet their purity requirements.
  • Joe Biden keeps confusing him with the help.
  • At a Hollywood fundraiser, he was once mistaken for Jay Pharoah.  The real Jay Pharoah was moonlighting as the valet.
  • It’s okay for Nancy Reagan to consult an astrologist, but if Michelle reads goat entrials just once……
  • The only way to make his black coffee tolerable is to add white powder and white liquid to it.
  • It was unacceptable to fill out his Scantron test sheets using black ink.
  • Robert Byrd never invited him to any of his rallies.
  • When given a choice at school lunch, kids preferntially choose the chocolate milk.
  • He was always picked last for basketball, certainly due to his white ancestry.
  • He often heard his girlfriend make hushed remarks to her friends such as, “Well, THAT stereotype is certainly a myth.”
  • His SAT vocabulary prep book included the word ‘niggardly’, misspelled ‘def’ and had incorrect definitions for ‘stupid’ and ‘bad.’
  • While growing up in Hawaii, he was constantly hassled by the man for smoking doobies while black.
  • Natural dark chocolate just wasn’t good enough.  Europeans had to invent a white variety.
  • His grandmother took him to see Song of the South. He didn’t like it, and he didn’t inhale, though he was seen humming Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah for days.
  • He was required to read Huck Finn in High School English.
  • Sickle cell anemia.

 

Send to Kindle

Random Thoughts: North Korea, Self-Esteem, and Dogs [IMAO]

You can’t write humor about assassinating awful dictators? Well, there goes my TV series pitch.

Hollywood, I think understand the sort of things you want. My pitch: Chia Pets, the Movie. That will be one millions dollars, please.

So how is The Interview worse than Team America? Or are we just more cowardly now?

How do you even justify still being a Communist country these days? “Don’t you want to join the powerhouses Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea?”

Whose dumb idea was it to give kids self-esteem? I say no self-esteem until you have a job and are living on your own.

Remember when 30 Rock made fun of North Korea. Would that not fly now?

Did a table read of some scripts are worked on. I now have a job where that sort of thing happens.

I guess working as a programmer, we could have done table reads of scripts, but not many people can make Python come alive.

Anyway, working on something really really cool. Can’t wait for everyone to see it, but that will probably be months from now.

“What’s going on is beyond my comprehension, but perhaps it will all become clear if I tilt my head 15 degrees to the right.” -dogs

Send to Kindle

Clarity [IMAO]

Top Iranian leaders are saying “Americans have very clearly surrendered to Iran’s might” on nuclear negotiation.

Huh. Maybe that’s what Obama means when he says “let me be clear”.

Send to Kindle

It Starts Kinda Cool and Gets Better [IMAO]


[Slinky Master] (Viewer #738,463)

Send to Kindle

Viral [IMAO]

A new report shows that millions of people believe that wifi signals are giving them headaches and nausea.

Me too. But only when watching clips of Obama’s speeches on the internet.

Send to Kindle

Link of the Day: 15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About “The Matrix” [IMAO]

[High Praise! to Mental Floss]

15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About “The Matrix”

I actually didn’t know most of these, plus number 13 surprised me, because I’ve seen the Lobby Scene a LOT and hadn’t considered how they’d done the special effects.

[Think you have a link that’s IMAO-worthy? Send it to harvolson@gmail.com. If I use your link, you will receive High Praise! (assuming you remember to put your name in the email)]

Send to Kindle

They’re Not *Completely* Worthless [IMAO]

A new report shows that China is building a giant island in South China Sea large enough for airstrip.

Let me guess: it’s made of Treasury Bond paper mache.

Send to Kindle

Program Note [VodkaPundit]

Taking a personal day to catch up on shopping & wrapping.

Have Yourself a Snazzy Little Christmas [VodkaPundit]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UL6ZXRGWp30/p>

Tony Bennett released his first collection of Christmas songs, Snowfall, way back in 1968. It’s so good he gave Lou Rawls competition for Snazziest Christmas Collection Ever — but I might not have ever heard of it had he not re-released it 20 years ago. There was one additional track, Tony’s performance of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” with the Ralph Sharon Trio on the old Jon Stewart Show. That live track is a favorite of mine, but since I played that one last years, let’s go back to ’68 and some of my favorite things with Tony and arranger-conductor Robert Farnon.

Never been able to find out which band was playing, so my guess is that it’s just a bunch of session guys. But like most session players, these guys are good. Tony’s voice was still at its peak, too.

So that’s plenty of breezy holiday goodness for you on this one.

Opera 26 released. Install it on Linux Mint 17.1 and Ubuntu 14.10 [Full Circle Magazine]

I don’t quite remember the last time I used Opera browser, but it’s been a very long time ago. I didn’t even think that the company is still developing a Linux version.

So, surprised I was when I read that Opera 26 has been released for Windows, Mac and Linux. Even more surprising is this line from the FAQ about Opera Linux: “Yes, all of the major features found in Opera for Windows and Mac are also available to Linux users, including: Speed Dial, the Discover feature, Opera Turbo, bookmarks and bookmark sharing, themes, extensions and more.”

Source:

http://www.linuxbsdos.com/2014/12/04/opera-26-released-install-it-on-linux-mint-17-1-and-ubuntu-14-10/

Submitted by: LinuxBSDos

NONSEXUAL WAYS TO BE INTIMATE WITH SOMEONE [(More) Amy's Ramblings]

NONSEXUAL WAYS TO BE INTIMATE WITH SOMEONE:

fuckingconversations:

Link 1 <Personal & Body Care

Link 2 <Emotional & Psychological Closeness

Link 3 <Sleeping & Other Spacial Closeness

Link 4 <Life Arrangements

Link 5 <Urgent Situations

More examples include:

  • Being asked to open someone else’s mail
  • Having…

danagould: Consecutive selfies of my cat biting my face. [kevin w murphy]



danagould:

Consecutive selfies of my cat biting my face.

Marginalia as Gold Dust [LISNews:]

From the New York Times (scroll about halfway down to Found in the Margins):

In the last few months, foundations have given out hundreds of thousands of dollars to support research on the scribbles in the margins of old books.

Johns Hopkins University, Princeton and University College London have received funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to partner on a database, “The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe.” It will focus on 16th-century marginalia from the writers Gabriel Harvey, Isaac Casaubon and John Dee. Earle Havens, a library curator and professor at Johns Hopkins, said in an interview that the three “could not open a book without a pen in their hand.”

“The Archaeology of Reading” will result in searchable transcriptions of the annotators’ outrage, gossip, cross-references to other books and uncensored colloquial reactions. Harvey’s annotations are particularly revealing; he longed, futilely, to overcome his humble origins as a rope maker’s son and become a prominent legal figure.

Lisa Jardine, a professor at University College London, said that in Harvey’s marginalia, “You watch him move up the social ladder, but then he can’t straddle the final hurdles.”

Volumes marked up with handwriting used to be described as “dirty books” among dealers, she added. But in the modern age of words mostly appearing online, marginal notes can actually increase value. “Now they’re gold dust,” she said.

Having toys and bright colours in their cages makes mice smarter in their brains! [lol my thesis]

Neuroscience, University of Sydney

"Environmental Enrichment and the Striatum: The influence of environment on inhibitory circuitry within the striatum of environmentally enriched animals and behavioural consequences"

Multi-dimensional black holes are not just for Matthew McConaughey [lol my thesis]

Physics, University of British Columbia

Baryons, branes, and (striped) black holes: Applications of the gauge / gravity duality to quantum chromodynamics and condensed matter physics

State Fairs are Great if You're White and Kind Of Racist [lol my thesis]

American Studies, Creighton University 

"True Midwesterner: Deconstructing Race at the Heartland State Fair" 

George Clooney discovers the essential uselessness of the Hollywood he helped create. [Moe Lane]

Oh, God, while the Sony situation isn’t funny George Clooney’s reaction to it certainly is. Well, not Good Funny.  This is Bad Funny… anyway, let’s go over who Clooney blames, shall we?

  • The press. “They played the fiddle while Rome burned.” They should have mentioned that this was blatantly a North Korean-friendly (at least) operation, based on the very name (I freely admit that I missed the historical details behind that one).
  • Trial lawyers. “[The theater chains] said they were not going to run it because they talked to their lawyers and those lawyers said if somebody dies in one of these, then you’re going to be responsible.” Those tort-obsessed trial lawyers…
  • Movie executives. “They know what they themselves have written in their emails, and they’re afraid.” Clooney argued that that’s why the first wave of emails were the embarrassing ones: to keep the rest of the industry’s heads down.
  • The government. “Everybody was doing their jobs, but somehow, we have allowed North Korea to dictate content, and that is just insane.” …This is as close as George Clooney will ever come to criticizing Barack Obama, and while I normally don’t grade the Left on a curve there were just too many other good bits in this interview to make me entirely merciless*.

That’s… a large cross-section of the Establishment Democrats’ supporters up there, huh?  We’re just missing the academics, Big Labor, and Big Green.  George Clooney thinks of all of these people as being a bunch of cowards, which is certainly true; but what he’s apparently not getting (while sounding like quite the fire-eating Republican on this issue, might I add**) is that they didn’t become cowards overnight. This is, in fact, pretty much reflective of the standard operation procedure that’s been adopted by the Other Side over the last few decades; and forgive me for saying this, but that’s why they were targeted***. Nobody over there wanted to fight.

So in the end George Clooney gets it almost right.  What he fails to see is that Hollywood’s moral defeat here was inevitable, because the institutions and groups that Clooney’s spent so much time working with were not up to the task****. It is my humble suggestion that the man consider this fact in the future when deciding what kind of civic contributions he wishes to make in the future in order to better help the Republic…

Via @SonnyBunch.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*Besides, despite it all the man did still give a great performance in O Brother, Where Art Thou?.  You’re just going to have to forgive me on this one.

**The rule of thumb is, You are most conservative about the things that are most important to you.  It would appear that the movie industry is genuinely important to George Clooney.

***They, of course, did not deserve to be targeted: ‘the way she was dressed…’ defense is not accepted in modern society, and for good reason. But many in modern society seem to have difficulty in distinguishing between saying that a behavior is risky, and saying that the same behavior justifies a particular response.

****At this point there are probably reflexive if not outright indoctrinated responses – not all from Democrats, alas – that the Right is just as much a bunch of cowards.  Far be it from me to suggest that the GOP is made up of a band of strong-jawed paladins and stalwarts.  But we do know when it’s time to circle the dang wagons, and this would be one of those times.

Quote of the Day, Maybe The Commie-Hipsters* WILL Move To Havana edition. [Moe Lane]

OK, lemme break a rule and quote the Daily Beast.

If you listen to people who know nothing about anything, you’ll inevitably be told that Cuba has the best health care on the planet, despite it’s poorly remunerated and constantly defecting doctors, a lack of basic medical supplies, and a lider maximo who jets off to Spain when his life is in danger (the poor saps who believe the health care propaganda, like Castro manqué Hugo Chavez, tend to end up stuffed with newspaper, covered in wax, and on display in a mausoleum).

So it might seem odd that [Alan] Gross would have lost sight in one eye, shed almost half his body weight, and emerge from captivity with the dentition of a minor league hockey player.

The enjoyment of this was marred by the fact that Michael Moynihan, alas, couldn’t handle his hate, later on in the article. For the record: the odds that the family that ran Chick-fil-A would do anything with the Castro regime except tell Fidel to his face that Hell awaits the unrepentant sinner is… nil**.  So no need to read the whole thing.  Suffice it to say that, yeah, there’s a lot of idiots out there who romanticize Commies, and a bunch of them were a bit hyped on the Cuba thing.

Surprise, surprise…

Moe Lane

*OK. We all give hipsters grief.  But some of them are essentially harmless, and not actually bothering the rest of us. So maybe we should make finer distinctions, or something.

**I say this as a same-sex marriage supporter, mind you: demonizing opponents of SSM like that simply makes the world a little bit uglier, and for no compelling reason.

Barack Obama not yet understanding that he needs to be irrelevant to 2016. [Moe Lane]

Well, I don’t need him to be irrelevant.  But you know what I mean.

This should be fascinating to watch: “In recent weeks, Democratic operatives have begun to voice concerns that the 2014 midterms made plain the limits of an approach that failed to reach beyond minority groups or those who are reflexively liberal. And yet what should come next is not yet totally clear.” Largely because it’s essentially futile.  The Democrats will not have control over their message in 2016, because in our system a sitting President has tremendous power to define for the public what his political faction does or does not care about.

And the bear is loose:

[Barack] Obama feels liberated, aides say, and sees the recent flurry of aggressive executive action and deal-making as a pivot for him to spend the last two years being more of the president he always wanted to be.

I don’t often feel sympathy for my opposite numbers – and, in fact, in this case I still don’t.  But if I were to feel sympathy, it’d be in the way that they’re going to have to spend the next two years going Never mind Barack Obama without actually looking like they’re going Never mind Barack Obama.  Because while Barack Obama’s popularity generally is in the toilet*, it’s noticeably better among Democratic primary voters. Which means that the Democrats can’t actually tell Barack Obama to sit down and shaddap.

In case you’re wondering: yes, normally second-term Presidents don’t need to be told this.  Generally speaking the sitting President gets out of the way as gracefully as possible so that the eventual nominee from their party can get on with the remarkably difficult task of winning three elections in a row.  Fortunately (for my side), nobody bothered to tell Barack Obama that. Or maybe he doesn’t care.  Or – and this would be the best answer – the man still hasn’t come to terms with the limits to his competence, and Obama thinks that he can (chuckle, snort!) help

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: If Barack Obama thinks that what was going this session was ‘deal-making’ (instead of, say, ‘trying to work around an over-rated Harry Reid’), we will probably find next year to be quite amusing, in its way.

*I should note, by the way, that his reputation will recover, post-Presidency.  That’s what typically happens.  Don’t get bent out of shape over it, because doing so won’t affect the process and you’ll just be there in the dark chewing bitter bones, as the Elves might say.

Tweet of the Day, PETA Honors A Man Who Killed A Groundhog On National TV edition. [Moe Lane]

And they wonder why people point and laugh.

Seriously, these people would normally be yelling about Groundhog Day celebrations where the mayor didn’t off a groundhog. It’s a little weird that they’re honoring somebody with sciurid blood on his hands…

J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hoard,’ revisited. [Moe Lane]

Recited by Tolkien himself:

…and if you haven’t seen The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies yet, you should probably check this out first. It’ll clarify elements of the film for you.


I don’t know how to explain to the Boston Globe how irrelevant the MA Congressional delegation is. [Moe Lane]

Oh, wait, I do.  This bit?

[Rep Joe] Kennedy’s vexation at the lack of congressional debate on what he called “another military conflict in another Middle Eastern country mired in yet another civil war” was aired by other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation who are assigned to key committees with oversight of foreign policy and the military.

…As far as I can tell, there isn’t a Ranking Member to a full committee in either the House or the Senate Massachusetts delegation.  Looking over that delegation, in fact, and I’m struck by how utterly bland and forgettable it is. Elizabeth Warren is the best of a sad and sorry lot, and she’s not really that impressive. She’s also not on any of the particularly good Senate committees, which shows a remarkably clear-headed view of her utility to Democrats.  Perhaps too clear-headed: I prefer my Democratic establishment types to be half-asleep.

So, yeah, the MA Congressional delegation can keep shaking their fists in the air.  Their own party doesn’t want to give them a better platform than that; why should the rest of us?

Heartbreak Santa Mauled by Bear [The Jawa Report]

I guess that's it then, Christmas is canceled boys and girls.

Men Arrested on Blasphemy Charges After Insulting The Prophet of Islam NO WAIT! [The Jawa Report]

Blasphemy Laws Suck!

BBC:A New Zealander and two Burmese men have pleaded not guilty to charges of insulting Buddhism in Myanmar.

The trio, who ran a bar in Yangon, are accused over a flyer promoting a drinks event depicting Buddha with headphones.

The image triggered an angry response online shortly after it appeared on the bar's Facebook page.

Burmese law makes it illegal to insult or damage any religion. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has seen growing Buddhist nationalism in recent years.

The flyer from VGastro Bar showed Buddha with his eyes shut, wearing large headphones, and surrounded by lurid colours.

The flyer advertised a drinks afternoon with limitless alcohol and shisha pipes.

Buddha is a jealous, angry and oppressive guy?

discobuhda.jpg

He always looks and seemed so happy.

ShamiWitness Claims Gladiator Status! [The Jawa Report]

Biswas is enjoying his stay in close quarters with all the sweaty unwashed gladiators and has elected to stay rather than go back to living with Mommy.

BENGALURU: "I'm a soldier and messenger. I don't regret what I've done," Mehdi Masroor Biswas, 24, told an advocate as a posse of policemen escorted him out of court hall 49, Civil Court Complex, Bengaluru, on Thursday.

Mehdi, arrested for operating a pro-ISIS Twitter handle, was remanded to 15 days in police custody by special judge Somaraju. One of the advocates asked Mehdi outside the courtroom, "Why did you do this, man?" Mehdi replied he had no regrets.

Isn't that special?


'Mericans So Cool The French Stand in Awe of Our Ramboness [The Jawa Report]

Le cool.

Whatever State they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other. Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine (Heh. More like Waffle House and McDonalds) - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us -
Viva Lafayette!

Islamic State of Losers Lose Again [The Jawa Report]

Is it just me of is ISIS making a habit of getting its ass kicked lately?Schweet!

BAGHDAD — Kurdish forces, backed by a surge of American airstrikes in recent days, recaptured a large swath of territory from Islamic State militants on Thursday, opening a path from the autonomous Kurdish region to Mount Sinjar in the west, near the Syrian border.

The two-day offensive, which involved 8,000 fighters, known as pesh merga, was the largest one to date in the war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, according to Kurdish officials. It was also a successful demonstration of President Obama’s strategy for battling the extremist group: American air power combined with local forces doing the fighting on the ground.

A statement released Thursday night by the office of Masrour Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Security Council, called the operation “the single biggest military offensive against ISIS, and the most successful.”

Its always nice to start off with a feel good story, don't you think?

Hat Tip: Small Wars Journal.

You Were In The Clone Wars? [The Jawa Report]

For a thousand years the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice throughout the galaxy. Before the dark times, before the Empire.

rideoffintothetwinsusset.jpg

ShamiWitness Still in Jail [The Jawa Report]

It looks like Mehdi Masroor Biswas will be spending Christmas in the slammer, with hands on training in The Greek.

Police custody of alleged handler of the most influential pro-Islamic State (IS) Twitter account Mehdi Masroor Biswas was extended by 15 days by a court in Bengaluru on Thursday.

"His police custody has been extended by 15 days till January 2. We had asked for 25 days," Joint Commissioner of Police Hemanth Nimbalkar told PTI. Biswas was presented before the session's court here at the end of his five-day police remand. Meanwhile, Biswas's parents who are in the city from West Bengal met their son and the city Police Commissioner MN Reddi.

Also Disillusioned Indian Jihadi forced to clean toilets for ISIS as part of his Jihad for Allah exchanged private messages with Biswas.
One of the three Kalyan youths, fighting for the ISIS in Syria, follows @ShamiWitness on Twitter, the account operated by Bangalore-based food manufacturing executive Mehdi Masroor Biswas, police told a special court on Thursday. Masroor, 24, was arrested last week.

Apart from putting out nearly 1.2 lakh tweets, Masroor also exchanged around 11,000 direct messages through his Twitter account and one of the persons with whom he communicated is suspected to be an Indian youth in Syria, recruited earlier this year along with three others from Maharashtra, the police said.

The crime branch police investigating the tweets by @ShamiWitness for terror-links, sought 25-day custody of Masroor, claiming that he needs to be taken to Mumbai to confront Areeb Majeed, the Kalyan youth who returned to India after having fought for ISIS.

So apparently ShamiWitness was aware of the low status given to Indian Jihadis by ISIS but never once mentioned it publicly (that I'm aware of).

The Collapsing Ruble: A Cautionary Tale for the United States [Patterico's Pontifications]

I don’t know if you have noticed, but the Russian ruble has utterly collapsed in recent days. It’s basically in free fall. Here’s Zero Hedge:

On the year, the ruble has lost more than 55 percent of its value against the dollar, breaking psychological barrier after psychological barrier.

What is the explanation? The Voxsplainer types will tell you this is about Ukraine sanctions or the price of oil. Here’s what they won’t tell you: in the last sixteen years, the Russian central bank’s balance sheet has exploded from 9 billion rubles to $2.1 trillion:

Central Bank Balance Sheet in Russia averaged 394.21 RUB Billion from 1997 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 2101.50 RUB Billion in December of 2014 and a record low of 8.90 RUB Billion in September of 1998.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 3.31.15 AM

Carmen Elena Dorobăț says:

In this light, Russia’s case isn’t special, but just a textbook example of currency collapse due to fiat inflation. It resembles the more recent experiences in Argentina or Venezuela, as well as a possible future of the United States, if for some reason or another the dollar can no longer make its way into foreign (Chinese) bank vaults.

Our own central bank, the Fed, has increased its balance sheet precipitiously in recent years — surely you have heard of “quantitative easing,” yes? Since the 2008 crisis, according to Heritage, “[t]he Fed’s balance sheet expanded from about $850 billion to more than $4.4 trillion.”

We face a day of reckoning. As I explained in November 2012, we are in a government debt bubble. Upside: maybe some day you can own a $100 trillion dollar note, like the $100 trillion dollar note I own from Zimbabwe, or like the one Andrew Breitbart used to carry in his wallet.

So that’s your upside. And the downside? Yeah, let’s just say it’s going to be pretty bad.

What Russia’s collapsing economy is telling us is this: it can also happen quickly.

A little perspective for you, the next time Congress debates how important it is whether the federal government expands its spending from year to year by x percent or y percent.

A Conflict of Visions, Part 4: The Constrained Vision’s Support for the Free Market [Patterico's Pontifications]

I have promised a series of posts on Thomas Sowell’s revelatory book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. The book has given me critical insights into the way people think about various issues, and I now find it hard to consider any political issue without seeing it through the lens of Sowell’s constrained/unconstrained dichotomy. Since the this dichotomy is becoming an integral part of my day-to-day analysis, you might as well become familiar with it.

I have delivered three posts so far, here, here, and here. Here is part 4. The last post I did was a bit meandering, muddled, and inconclusive — so today, by contrast, I am tacking an issue that is quite clear and straightforward. The post is a bit long, to be sure, but the concepts are very simple and easy to understand.

A couple of people suggested that I do a post on each of the 20 questions I included in my quiz. That might be a bit too ambitious, but I will certainly do a few. Today I would like to discuss a point that may be obvious but is an absolutely central and unshakable belief of mine: my belief in the free market. I thought I would illustrate the point with question 3, which explains part of my thinking, and then move on to the critical relationship between a free market and the very concept of political freedom. As I will show below, the latter simply cannot exist without the former.

Here’s question 3 from my quiz:

3.
a. I want to get government out of the people’s way, and let people make their own decisions for themselves. The knowledge any one human can possess is limited, and I prefer to rely on a process that coordinates information scattered throughout society, rather than relying on experts.
b. Government has a role in improving people’s lives. Part of the reason is that certain people possess concentrated specialized knowledge, and I would prefer to entrust decisions to those people, rather than to the masses.

Here, I am quite clearly from the constrained vision (and have become more so over time, as I have learned more about Austrian economics.). Here is a (very slightly) less-doctrinaire-than-today Patterico, from December 2008:

I’m skeptical of government intervention in economic affairs, because I believe they can lead to unintended consequences that are hard to predict. And I’m generally a believer in free-market principles. The idea is that the free market is the economic system most compatible with freedom, because rather than putting our trust in government to manage the economy, I believe we should trust the collective wisdom of consumers to make whatever decisions are best for them. As those decisions multiply, markets form as if by magic — and (in theory at least) it causes the best businesses to flourish while less useful ones fail. Put simply, a collection of choices, freely made, forms our markets.

This is a straightforward articulation of the “constrained vision” as applied to economics. As I have described in my recent posts on Sowell’s book, the believer in the “constrained vision” trusts mankind as a whole, far more than he trusts individuals or small groups. This view has implications for his views of all manner of social policies.

As for economics, the holder of the “constrained vision” rejects rule by a handful of experts relying on their purportedly superior vision, command of the facts, and rational explanations for their policies. Instead, the constrained vision prefers systemic processes that have evolved over time, building on the wisdom of humanity collectively — but stemming from individual decisions, not by a single group of philosopher kings, but by everyone in society. In particular, he is a believer in the price system, which directs entrepreneurs to move their resources into the lines of production most demanded by individual consumers. Like magic, this results in shortages being met by supply, and gluts being met by slowing demand, all providing for efficiency — but also, very importantly, in a higher standard of living for the least fortunate in society.

In short, if leftists really wanted to improve the lot of the poor, they would get government the hell out of the way and let the market work its magic. Thanks to the workings of the free market — and no thanks to government — the world has made gains in the lot of the poor in the last 200 years that would have been unthinkable to the richest kings and queens of the 1500s.

It’s not really a coincidence that I hold this vision, though. I learned this view of economics from reading . . . [wait for it] . . . Thomas Sowell — namely, his book Basic Economics, which changed my life years and years and years ago. Indeed, I cited an example from this book on this blog over ten years ago, in May 2004 — and I cited it in August 2007 as one of five books that fundamentally changed the way I look at the world.

One important point that bears repeating: capitalism is the only economic system compatible with freedom. That is important enough, in a long post, to say twice, so that you don’t miss it. Capitalism is the only economic system — the only one — compatible with freedom. I made this point in 2009, citing [prepare for a shock] Thomas Sowell, who said in “Basic Economics”:

Too often a false contrast is made between the impersonal marketplace and the compassionate policies of various government programs. But both systems face the same scarcity of resources and both systems make choices within the constraints of that scarcity. The difference is that one system involves each individual making choices for himself or herself, while the other system involves a smaller number of people making choices for others.

It may be fashionable for journalists to refer to “the whim of the marketplace,” as if that were something different from the desires of people, just as it was once fashionable to refer to “production for use, rather than for profit” — as if profits could be made by producing things that people cannot use or do not want to use. The real contrast is between choices made by individuals for themselves and choices made for them by others who presume to define what these individuals “really” need.

As I summarized the argument in my 2009 post:

Simply put:

Capitalism is each individual making choices for himself.

Socialism is those who claim to know best, making your choices for you.

The former is freedom. The latter is anything but.

So says the adherent to the constrained vision.

Bill Clinton: The Man Just Can’t Help Himself [Patterico's Pontifications]

[guest post by Dana]

Untitled-1

Photo caption time!

*Original photo here.

–Dana

Al Sharpton And Amy Pascal: The Obligatory Come-To-Jesus Meeting [Patterico's Pontifications]

[guest post by Dana]

Last week, I posted about Sony Picture’s co-chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin’s email exchange involving racial comments about the president and the movies he might like. Pascal and Rudin both profusely apologized for their comments. Seeing an opportunity, Al Sharpton inserted himself into the situation by taking Pascal – not Rudin – to task, claiming that her apology was not good enough and that she needed to meet immediately with black leaders. And what did I say?

Pascal should tell Sharpton to bugger off, however, she will meekly acquiesce and meet with whomever the reverend deems necessary for her rehabilitation. All the while, she will be denouncing her white privilege and cough up thousands of dollars more to donate to some diversity project somewhere to atone for her sin. Ironically, Rudin, meanwhile, will be just fine basking in his continued white male privilege. And money.

On Dec. 11, Pascal called Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to request a meeting with them to discuss her racial remarks. Today, Sharpton tweeted about the meeting he had with Pascal:

Very pointed and blunt exchange w/ Amy Pascal in our 90 min meeting. Hollywood needs to change. Her leaked e mails show a cultural blindness.

At today’s mtg w/ Sony we agreed to work towards establishing a basis to address the issues, Ms. Pascal committed to this.

Further, and with unbelievable arrogance, Sharpton added:

The jury is still out with where we go with Amy.

He also added that Pascal has agreed to work with various civil rights groups to improve racial diversity in Hollywood.

So, while Pascal’s rolling over in submission to Sharpton to beg forgiveness has set women back 20 years, Scott Rudin continues basking in his white male privilege. And money.

–Dana

Colbert Moves On [Updated with correction] [Patterico's Pontifications]

[guest post by JVW]

For those of you brave folks who pay attention to the smarmy comedians who are apparently the new intellectual backbone of progressivism, you have undoubtedly heard that Stephen Colbert is wrapping up his supposedly successful show, “The Colbert Report,” and moving on to replace David Letterman as host of “The Late Show.” To mark the occasion, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has created an online thank-you that the poor souls on their mailing list can access and sign. Powerline points out that even if Colbert (and his fellow pontificators Jon Stewart and John Oliver) want to pretend to be independent and non-partisan figures, this is a pretty good indication of the help that Democrats feel their party derives from hipper-than-thou progressive comedians.

On the other hand, look at it this way: When “The Colbert Report” debuted the Democrats had just recaptured both houses of Congress and the era of Hope and Change was only a year away. Today, as the set is struck for the last time, the GOP has run up two huge midterm election victories, Obama has been mostly exposed as an incompetent and a cipher, and the ideology of trickle-down bureaucracy created by academics, marketed by the media, and run by public employee union members is at its lowest ebb.

Hey, maybe the guy was working for our side all along.

[Update: Look at it this way: When “The Colbert Report” debuted the Democrats had just recaptured both houses of Congress and the era of Hope and Change was only a year away. Today, as the set is struck for the last time, the GOP has run up two huge midterm election victories, Obama has been mostly exposed as an incompetent and a cipher, and the ideology of trickle-down bureaucracy created by academics, marketed by the media, and run by public employee union members is at its lowest ebb.

Hey, maybe the guy was working for our side all along.

[Update: Art Deco reminds me that my math is wrong regarding the start of "The Colbert Report." My bad. I think my point still mostly stands: Colbert started with the Dems ascending and ended with them in disarray. Thank you Stephen Colbert.]

- JVW

Fun in POD-land [Perlsphere]

I love to tinker with tools, utilities, tweaks, anything that can be used to make grease the production chain into stupendously slick efficiency. So it stands to reason that I'd be drawn to documentation, its format, its processors, the tools to display and search it. Heck, I've even been known to actually read it, now and then.

Documentation, in the Perl sphere, means POD. It's a fairly simple markup format, but with just enough twists to make things... interesting.

As POD is as old as Perl, there is plenty of modules out there to parse it, and to generate output in pretty much all the usual formats. There are none, however, that does exactly what I want.

What do I want? I want simplicity. I want extensibility. I want trivially simple manipulations. And I think I want a peppermint tea. Don't move, I'll be back in 5 minutes.

Aaah, that's better. Where was I? Oh yes, wants. To be more pragmatic, there are two use cases I'm pursuing.

The first one is the transformation of POD documents into any other format. I did a first foray into that when I played with PDF documents and Pod::Manual. That project is still on the backburner, and these days I'm also eyeing exporting Perl distribution documentation as Dash/Zeal docsets.

The second one is POD extension/manipulation in the context of distribution building. "But there are Pod::Elemental and Pod::Weaver for that!", I hear you say. And you are right. But I have a confession to make:

Pod::Elemental and Pod::Weaver scare the everlasting bejeesus outta me.

Although fear can keeps me away only for so long. Underneath the initial gasp, I think that what disatisfy me is that each POD solution that I found on CPAN that gives me DOM manipulating powers is a special snowflake of a parser. Meaning that I have to learn about its DOM structure, its node descending rules, all that jazz. Meh. It's all hard work. Why couldn't it be simpler? Like, couldn't it be just like a jQuery-enabled page, where getting a section could be as simple as $('head1.synopsis') and moving it elsewhere be one $some_section.insert_after($some_other_section)?

If you found yourself nodding at that last paragraph, keep reading. If, on the other hand, you felt the cold finger of dread run down your spine, you might want to go and get your comfort blanket before soldiering on...

It's all too complicated. Let's use XML!

To be honest, that's not something I was expecting to say of my own volition. But, really, this is the type of stuff XML was born to do. Considering how well-understood XML/HTML is, it kinda makes sense to use it as the core format. And with that type of document, we don't have to invent a way to move around in the DOM tree -- there are already XPath and CSS selectors that are there for that. And lookee, lookee, there's Web::Query that would give us access to CSS and XPath selectors (for XPath selectors, just wait a few days for its next release to be out), and nifty jQuery-like DOM-manipulating methods.

In a nutshell, that's what I wanted to try: create a prototype of a pipeline that would slurp in some POD, allow to easily muck with it, and spit it out as whatever is desired.

The prototype, Pod::Knit, exists. It's still extremely alpha, but it's already at a point where an owner tour might be in order. Here, follow me...

POD comes in...

First thing on the agenda: read some POD and convert it to some XML document. Now, writing this part myself, considering how many POD parsers are out there, would be silly. Well, sillier than the rest of my plan, that is. So I went shopping on CPAN.

At first, I found Pod::POM. Its HTML output takes some liberties with the formatting attributes, so I wrote a quick generic XML view module.

... And only then realized the parser isn't easily extended to accept new POD elements. Dammit.

So I switched to Pod::Simple and Pod::Simple::DumpAsXML, making the POD-to-XML journey look like:

  
use Pod::Simple::DumpAsXML;

my $parser = Pod::Simple::DumpAsXML->new;

$parser->output_string( \my $xml );

$parser->parse_string_document( $source_code );

print $xml;

So far, so good.

Close the doors, we're altering the patient

Now the fun part comes: modifying the document.

As I want extensibility and modularity, I went for a plugin approach, where the POD document (presented as a thinly wrapped Web::Query object) would be passed through all the plugins in different stages.

And to make it real, I crafted a set of plugins that would exercise the basic manipulations I'd expect the framework to support:

  
---
plugins:
    # create the '=head1 NAME' section from the package/#ABSTRACT lines
    - Abstract
    # add an AUTHORS section
    - Authors:
        authors:
            - Yanick Champoux
    # grok '=method' elements
    - Methods
    # sort the POD elements in the given order
    - Sort:
        order:
            - NAME
            - SYNOPSIS
            - DESCRIPTION
            - METHODS
            - '*'
            - AUTHORS


Let's now see the different processing stages, and how those plugins implement them.

Stage 1: POD parser configuration

First, when the Pod::Simple parser is created, each plugin is given the chance to tweak it. For the moment, this is mostly to give them the opportunity to declare new POD elements. For example, the 'Methods' plugin has

  
package Pod::Knit::Plugin::Methods;

use Moose;

with 'Pod::Knit::Plugin';

sub setup_parser {
    my( $self, $parser ) = @_;

    $parser->accept_directive_as_processed( 'method' );
}

Stage 2: Preprocessing, aka putting those Russian Dolls together

The second stage is the "preprocessing" stage, where plugins take the raw output of Pod::Simple::DumpAsXML and groom it into the desired base structure. In most of the cases, that will be turning the raw flat list of elements given by Pod::Simple into a structure form.

For example, the raw head elements look like

  
    DESCRIPTION
    Blah blah
    $foo->bar
    More blah
    OTHER SECTION
    ...

but what we want is

  
    
        

There's an implicit plugin, HeadsToSections, that take care of that. And in our example, the plugin 'Methods' does the same thing for =method elements, slurping in the relevant following elements:

  
sub preprocess {
    my( $self, $doc ) = @_;

    $doc->find( 'method' )->each(sub{
            $_->html(
                '
' ); my $done = 0; my $method = $_; $_->find( \'./following::*' )->each(sub{ return if $done; my $tagname = $_->tagname; return if $done = !grep { $tagname eq $_ } qw/ para verbatimformatted /; $_->detach; $method->append($_); }); }); }

Stage 3: Do your thing

Finally, the stage where we can expect the document to be in the proper format, and where the plugins can go wild.

Things can be inserted. Based just on configuration items:

  
package Pod::Knit::Plugin::Authors;

use Moose;

use Web::Query;

with 'Pod::Knit::Plugin';

has "authors" => (
    isa => 'ArrayRef',
    is => 'ro',
    lazy => 1,
    default => sub {
        my $self = shift;
        [];
    },
);

sub transform {
    my( $self, $doc ) = @_;

    my $section = wq( '' );
    for ( @{ $self->authors } ) {
        $section->append(
            '' . $_ . ''
        );
    }

    # section() will return the existing
    # section with that title, or create
    # a new one if it doesn't exist yet
    $doc->section( 'authors' )->append(
        $section
    );
}

Or by looking at the source code or whatever Pod::Knit makes accessible to the plugins.

  
package Pod::Knit::Plugin::Abstract;

use Moose;

use Web::Query;

with 'Pod::Knit::Plugin';

sub transform {
    my( $self, $doc ) = @_;

    my( $package, $abstract ) =
        $self->source_code =~ /^\s*package\s+(\S+);\s*^\s*#\s*ABSTRACT:\s*(.*?)\s*$/m
            or return;

    $doc->section( 'name' )->append(
        join '',
        '',
            join( ' - ', $package, $abstract ),
        ''
    );
}

Things can also be modified.

  
package Pod::Knit::Plugin::Methods;

...

sub transform {
    my( $self, $doc ) = @_;

    my $section = $doc->section( 'methods' );

    $doc->find( 'method' )->each(sub{
        $_->detach;
        $_->tagname( 'head2' );
        $section->append($_);
    });

}


Or reordered.

  
package Pod::Knit::Plugin::Sort;

use Moose;

with 'Pod::Knit::Plugin';

has "order" => (
    isa => 'ArrayRef',
    is => 'ro',
    lazy => 1,
    default => sub {
        []
    },
);

sub transform {
    my( $self, $doc ) = @_;

    my $i = 1;
    my %rank = map { uc($_) => $i++ } @{ $self->order };
    $rank{'*'} ||= $i;   # not given? all last

    my %sections;
    $doc->find('head1')->each(sub{
            $_->detach;

            my $title = uc $_->find('title')->first->text =~ s/^\s+|\s+$//gr;
            $sections{$title} = $_;
    });

    for my $s ( sort { ($rank{$a}||$rank{'*'}) <=> ($rank{$b}||$rank{'*'}) } keys %sections ) {
        $doc->append( $sections{$s} );
    }
}

1;

Basically, anything goes.

Delicious sausages come out

With the transformed document being XML with a specific schema, we're now free to use whatever transformation engine we want. To make the prototype go full circle, I had to re-translate that XML into POD. And to do that, I resorted to good ol' insane XML::XSS:

  
package Pod::Knit::Output::POD;

use Moose::Role;

use XML::XSS;

sub as_pod {
    my $self = shift;

    my $xss = XML::XSS->new;

    $xss->set( 'document' => {
        pre => "=pod\n\n",
        post => "=cut\n\n",
    });

    $xss->set( "head$_" => {
        pre => "=head$_ ",
    }) for 1..4;

    $xss->set( 'title' => {
        pre => '',
        post => "\n\n",
    });

    $xss->set( 'verbatimformatted' => {
        pre => '',
        content => sub {
            my( $self, $node ) = @_;
            my $output = $self->render( $node->childNodes );
            $output =~ s/^/    /mgr;
        },
        post => "\n\n",
    });

    $xss->set( 'item-text' => {
        pre => "=item ",
        post => "\n\n",
    });

    $xss->set( 'over-text' => {
        pre => "=over\n\n",
    });

    $xss->set( '#text' => {
        filter => sub {
            s/^\s+|\s+$//mgr;
        }
    } );

    $xss->set( 'para' => {
        content => sub {
            my( $self, $node ) = @_;
            my $output = $self->render( $node->childNodes );
            $output =~ s/^\s+|\s+$//g;
            return $output . "\n\n";
        },
    } );

    $xss->render( $self->as_xml );
}

1;

Mind you, it's not nowhere near complete. But it's enough to make Pod::Knit take

  
package Foo::Bar;
# ABSTRACT: Do things

=head1 SYNOPSIS

    blah blah
    blah

=method one

Do things

    $self->one
    and   some    stuff


=method two

Do other things.

Not used often.

=head1 DESCRIPTION

Blah

=head2 subtitle

More blah

=over

=item foo

something

=item bar

=back


and end up with

  
=pod

=head1 name

Foo::Bar - Do things

=head1 SYNOPSIS

    blah blah
    blah


=head1 DESCRIPTION

Blah

=head2 subtitle

More blah

=over

=item foo

something

=item bar

=head1 methods

=head2 one

Do things

    $self->one
    and   some    stuff

=head2 two

Do other things.

Not used often.

=head1 authors

=over

=item Yanick Champoux

=cut

Gregor Herrmann: GDAC 2014/19 [Planet Debian]

yesterday I learned that I can go to FOSDEM in early 2015 because a conflicting event was cancelled. that makes me happy because FOSDEM is great for seeing other debian folks, & especially for meeting friends.


this posting is part of GDAC (gregoa's debian advent calendar), a project to show the bright side of debian & why it's fun for me to contribute.

Richard Hartmann: Release Critical Bug report for Week 51 [Planet Debian]

Real life has been interesting as of late; as you can see, I didn't post bug stats last week. If you have specific data from last Friday, please let me know and I will update.

The UDD bugs interface currently knows about the following release critical bugs:

  • In Total: 1095 (Including 179 bugs affecting key packages)
    • Affecting Jessie: 189 (key packages: 117) That's the number we need to get down to zero before the release. They can be split in two big categories:
      • Affecting Jessie and unstable: 134 (key packages: 90) Those need someone to find a fix, or to finish the work to upload a fix to unstable:
        • 32 bugs are tagged 'patch'. (key packages: 24) Please help by reviewing the patches, and (if you are a DD) by uploading them.
        • 13 bugs are marked as done, but still affect unstable. (key packages: 9) This can happen due to missing builds on some architectures, for example. Help investigate!
        • 89 bugs are neither tagged patch, nor marked done. (key packages: 57) Help make a first step towards resolution!
      • Affecting Jessie only: 55 (key packages: 27) Those are already fixed in unstable, but the fix still needs to migrate to Jessie. You can help by submitting unblock requests for fixed packages, by investigating why packages do not migrate, or by reviewing submitted unblock requests.
        • 29 bugs are in packages that are unblocked by the release team. (key packages: 11)
        • 26 bugs are in packages that are not unblocked. (key packages: 16)

How do we compare to the Squeeze release cycle?

Week Squeeze Wheezy Jessie
43 284 (213+71) 468 (332+136) 319 (240+79)
44 261 (201+60) 408 (265+143) 274 (224+50)
45 261 (205+56) 425 (291+134) 295 (229+66)
46 271 (200+71) 401 (258+143) 427 (313+114)
47 283 (209+74) 366 (221+145) 342 (260+82)
48 256 (177+79) 378 (230+148) 274 (189+85)
49 256 (180+76) 360 (216+155) 226 (147+79)
50 204 (148+56) 339 (195+144) ???
51 178 (124+54) 323 (190+133) 189 (134+55)
52 115 (78+37) 289 (190+99)
1 93 (60+33) 287 (171+116)
2 82 (46+36) 271 (162+109)
3 25 (15+10) 249 (165+84)
4 14 (8+6) 244 (176+68)
5 2 (0+2) 224 (132+92)
6 release! 212 (129+83)
7 release+1 194 (128+66)
8 release+2 206 (144+62)
9 release+3 174 (105+69)
10 release+4 120 (72+48)
11 release+5 115 (74+41)
12 release+6 93 (47+46)
13 release+7 50 (24+26)
14 release+8 51 (32+19)
15 release+9 39 (32+7)
16 release+10 20 (12+8)
17 release+11 24 (19+5)
18 release+12 2 (2+0)

Graphical overview of bug stats thanks to azhag:

Steve Kemp: Switched to using attic for backups [Planet Debian]

Even though seeing the word attic reminds me too much of leaking roofs and CVS, I've switched to using the attic backup tool.

I want a simple system which will take incremental backups, perform duplication-elimination (to avoid taking too much space), support encryption, and be fast.

I stopped using backup2l because the .tar.gz files were too annoying, and it was too slow. I started using obnam because I respect Lars and his exceptionally thorough testing-regime, but had to stop using it when things started getting "too slow".

I'll document the usage/installation in the future. For the moment the only annoyance is that it is contained in the Jessie archive, not the Wheezy one. Right now only 2/19 of my hosts are Jessie.

Petter Reinholdtsen: Of course USA loses in cyber war - NSA and friends made sure it would happen [Planet Debian]

So, Sony caved in (according to Rob Lowe) and demonstrated that America lost its first cyberwar (according to Newt Gingrich). It should not surprise anyone, after the whistle blower Edward Snowden documented that the government of USA and their allies for many years have done their best to make sure the technology used by its citizens is filled with security holes allowing the secret services to spy on its own population. No one in their right minds could believe that the ability to snoop on the people all over the globe could only be used by the personnel authorized to do so by the president of the United States of America. If the capabilities are there, they will be used by friend and foe alike, and now they are being used to bring Sony on its knees.

I doubt it will a lesson learned, and expect USA to lose its next cyber war too, given how eager the western intelligence communities (and probably the non-western too, but it is less in the news) seem to be to continue its current dragnet surveillance practice.

There is a reason why China and others are trying to move away from Windows to Linux and other alternatives, and it is not to avoid sending its hard earned dollars to Cayman Islands (or whatever tax haven Microsoft is using these days to collect the majority of its income. :)

Petter Reinholdtsen: Of course USA looses in cyber war - NSA and friends made sure it would happen [Planet Debian]

So, Sony caved in (according to Rob Lowe) and demonstrated that America lost its first cyberwar (according to Newt Gingrich). It should not surprise anyone, after the whistle blower Edward Snowden documented that the government of USA and their allies for many years have done their best to make sure the technology used by its citizens is filled with security holes allowing the secret services to spy on its own population. No one in their right minds could believe that the ability to snoop on the people all over the globe could only be used by the personnel authorized to do so by the president of the United States of America. If the capabilities are there, they will be used by friend and foe alike, and now they are being used to bring Sony on its knees.

I doubt it will a lesson learned, and expect USA to loose its next cyber war too, given how eager the western intelligence communities (and probably the non-western too, but it is less in the news) seem to be to continue its current dragnet surveillance practice.

There is a reason why China and others are trying to move away from Windows to Linux and other alternatives, and it is not to avoid sending its hard earned dollars to Cayman Islands (or whatever tax haven Microsoft is using these days to collect the majority of its income. :)

Dirk Eddelbuettel: Rocker is now the official R image for Docker [Planet Debian]

big deal

Something happened a little while ago which we did not have time to commensurate properly. Our Rocker image for R is now the official R image for Docker itself. So getting R (via Docker) is now as simple as saying docker pull r-base.

This particular container is essentially just the standard r-base Debian package for R (which is one of a few I maintain there) plus a mininal set of extras. This r-base forms the basis of our other containers as e.g. the rather popular r-studio container wrapping the excellent RStudio Server.

A lot of work went into this. Carl and I also got a tremendous amount of help from the good folks at Docker. Details are as always at the Rocker repo at GitHub.

Docker itself continues to make great strides, and it has been great fun help to help along. With this post I achieved another goal: blog about Docker with an image not containing shipping containers. Just kidding.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.

Kenshi Muto: smart "apt" command [Planet Debian]

During evaluating Jessie, I found 'apt' command and noticed it was pretty good for novice-usual users.

Usage: apt [options] command

CLI for apt.
Basic commands: 
 list - list packages based on package names
 search - search in package descriptions
 show - show package details

 update - update list of available packages

 install - install packages
 remove  - remove packages

 upgrade - upgrade the system by installing/upgrading packages
 full-upgrade - upgrade the system by removing/installing/upgrading packages

 edit-sources - edit the source information file

'apt list' is like a combination of 'dpkg -l' + 'apt-cache pkgnames'. 'apt search' is a bit slower than 'apt-cache search' but provides with useful information. 'apt show' formats bytesizes and hides some (for experts) fields. install/remove/upgrade/full-upgrade are mostly same as apt-get. 'apt edit-sources' opens a editor and checks the integrity.

So, I'd like to recommend 'apt' command to Debian users.

Well, why did I write this entry...? ;) I found a mistranslation I had made in ja.po of apt. Because it is critical mistranslation (Japanese users will confuse by it), I want to fix it strongly.

Dear apt deity maintainers, could you consider to update apt for Jessie? (#772678. FYI there are other translation updates also: #772913, #771982, and #771967)

Enrico Zini: upgrade-encrypted-cyanogenmod [Planet Debian]

Upgrade Cyanogenmod with an encrypted phone

Cyanogenmod found an update, it downloaded it, then it rebooted to install it and nothing happened. It turns out that the update procedure cannot work if the zip file to install is in encrypted media, so a workaround is to move the zip into unencrypted external storage.

As far as I know, my Nexus 4 has no unencrypted external storage.

This is how I managed to upgrade it, I write it here so I can find it next time:

  1. enable USB debugging
  2. adb pull /cmupdater/cm-11-20141115-SNAPSHOT-M12-mako.zip
  3. adb reboot recovery
  4. choose "install zip from sideload"
  5. adb sideload cm-11-20141115-SNAPSHOT-M12-mako.zip

Wouter Verhelst: Introducing libjoy [Planet Debian]

I've owned a Logitech Wingman Gamepad Extreme since pretty much forever, and although it's been battered over the years, it's still mostly functional. As a gamepad, it has 10 buttons. What's special about it, though, is that the device also has a mode in which a gravity sensor kicks in and produces two extra axes, allowing me to pretend I'm really talking to a joystick. It looks a bit weird though, since you end up playing your games by wobbling the gamepad around a bit.

About 10 years ago, I first learned how to write GObjects by writing a GObject-based joystick API. Unfortunately, I lost the code at some point due to an overzealous rm -rf call. I had planned to rewrite it, but that never really happened.

About a year back, I needed to write a user interface for a customer where a joystick would be a major part of the interaction. The code there was written in Qt, so I write an event-based joystick API in Qt. As it happened, I also noticed that jstest would output names for the actual buttons and axes; I had never noticed this, because due to my 10 buttons and 4 axes, which by default produce a lot of output, the jstest program would just scroll the names off my screen whenever I plugged it in. But the names are there, and it's not too difficult.

Refreshing my memory on the joystick API made me remember how much fun it is, and I wrote the beginnings of what I (at the time) called "libgjs", for "Gobject JoyStick". I didn't really finish it though, until today. I did notice in the mean time that someone else released GObject bindings for javascript and also called that gjs, so in the interest of avoiding confusion I decided to rename my library to libjoy. Not only will this allow me all kinds of interesting puns like "today I am releasing more joy", it also makes for a more compact API (compare joy_stick_open() against gjs_joystick_open()).

The library also comes with a libjoy-gtk that creates a GtkListStore* which is automatically updated as joysticks are added and removed to the system; and a joytest program, a graphical joystick test program which also serves as an example of how to use the API.

still TODO:

  • Clean up the API a bit. There's a bit too much use of GError in there.
  • Improve the UI. I suck at interface design. Patches are welcome.
  • Differentiate between JS_EVENT_INIT kernel-level events, and normal events.
  • Improve the documentation to the extent that gtk-doc (and, thus, GObject-Introspection) will work.

What's there is functional, though.

Update: if you're going to talk about code, it's usually a good idea to link to said code. Thanks, Emanuele, for pointing that out ;-)

Gregor Herrmann: GDAC 2014/18 [Planet Debian]

what constantly fascinates me in debian is that people sit at home, have an idea, work on it, & then suddenly present it to an unexpecting public; all without prior announcements or discussions, & totally apart from any hot discussion-de-jour. the last example I encountered & tried out just now is the option to edit source packages online & submit patches. - I hope we as a project can keep up with this creativity!


this posting is part of GDAC (gregoa's debian advent calendar), a project to show the bright side of debian & why it's fun for me to contribute.

Peter Cannon: Merry Christmas [Planet openSUSE]

When it comes to Christmas I turn into a monumental hypocrite. I have no religious beliefs, hell I refuse to even believe in ghosts simply because how can you believe in some form of afterlife and then say “I don’t believe in God!” So I like Christmas.

I like carols, I shouldn’t really but I do. I fall for that snowing image of people holding lanterns and singing ♫ ♪ “Silent night, holy night….” ♪ ♫ from my TV screen. To me these songs are just singing and as Nicolas Cage said in Captain Corelli’s mandolin “There is singing at births, there is singing at funerals, there is singing at weddings, there is singing as men march into war, there is singing at most occasions worthwhile. I have always found something in life worth singing about.” so I reconcile myself with the excuse that it’s just singing. So I like Christmas.

I like presents, who doesn’t? OK it’s all commercialised now, your offspring are not going to be happy with an Airfix model or dolls house “We’re do I plug my Dr Beats in then?” but it does make people happy for a couple of hours and for me it’s a kind of ending for the year, a sort of “We made through that one, here have a prezzie to celebrate.” So I like Christmas.

I certainly don’t see it as Jesus’s birthday or some kind of religious event. I used to, I even used to go to midnight mass but then one day I woke up and gave up all that “There must be something more than this?” insecurity but I see no harm in celebrating Christmas there’s also no harm in giving yourself a day off and joining in something you don’t believe in which ultimately means: So you like Christmas then?

For Kara Square

flattr this!

Ubuntu Podcast from the UK LoCo: S07E38 – The Last One [Planet Ubuntu]

We’re back with the final episode of Season Seven: It’s Episode Thirty-eight of the Ubuntu Podcast! Alan Pope, Laura Cowen, Tony Whitmore and Mark Johnson are all present with mince pies and brandy butter to bring you this episode.

In this week’s show:

  • We interview Michael Hall about Ubuntu Incubator.

  • We also discuss:

  • We share some Command Line Lurve which helps you find out where your disk space has gone:
    ncdu
    
  • We review the predictions we made last year and rashly make some more about 2015. We also reveal which of the podcast team is leaving the show.

  • And we read your feedback. Thanks for sending it in!

That’s all for this season, but while we are off the air, please send your comments and suggestions to: podcast@ubuntu-uk.org
Join us on IRC in #uupc on Freenode
Leave a voicemail via phone: +44 (0) 203 298 1600, sip: podcast@sip.ubuntu-uk.org and skype: ubuntuukpodcast
Follow us on Twitter
Find our Facebook Fan Page
Follow us on Google+

Oli Warner: Streaming your Kodi library over the Internet [Planet Ubuntu]

Even if you're leaving your media centre behind while you travel this Christmas, you don't have to be without all your media. I'm going to show you that in just a few steps you can access all your TV and movies remotely on an Android device over a nice, secure SSH connection.

I recorded a short demo showing me play a video from Kodi over HDSPA. It's boring to watch but it's proof this is possible.

Before we get too carried away, you need a few things:

  • A fast internet connection is essential. There's a fair amount of overhead in SSH so anything under 5Mbit upload is going to be unbearable. You need cable, VSDL or another good, low latency connection.

  • A stable remote connection. 3G won't cut it. HDSPA+ works. Good wifi is best. Also check you're not going to destroy your mobile data allowance.

  • An Ubuntu-based media centre. You can probably do this with any *nix but Ubuntu's the best, right?

  • Android. This isn't just my bigotry, iOS cuts the connection after a few minutes making it useless for long viewing.

If you have all that, let's get started.

Install a SSH server on your Kodi machine

So you've got an media centre running Ubuntu. If you haven't already, let's install the SSH server:

sudo apt-get install ssh

Before we make this accessible on the internet, we need to make the SSH server secure. Use key-based auth, disable password auth, use a non-standard port, install fail2ban, etc. Do not skip this.

If SSH can be insecure, why are we using it at all? We could just forward ports through to Kodi... But I just wouldn't want to risk exposing it directly to the internet. OpenSSH has millions of active deployments. It's battle-tested in a way that Kodi could only dream. I trust it.

Expose SSH to the internet

Almost all of you will be behind a NAT router. These split a public IP into a subnetwork of private IPs. One side effect is computers on the outside can't directly address internal computers. We need to tell the router where to send our connection when we try to log in with SSH.

The process is subtly different for every router but if you don't know what you're doing, there's a guide for just about every router on portforward.com. We just want to forward a port for whatever port you assigned to your SSH server when hardening it above.

Now you can connect to your public IP from outside the network on your SSH port. However most consumer routers won't do port forwarding from inside the internal network. You'll need another connection to test it or you could use an online port tester to probe your SSH port.

Using dynamic DNS to keep track of our network

If you have a static IP, skip this but most home connections are assigned an IP address that frequently changes. This makes it hard to know where we're going to SSH to once we're outside the network. But we can use a "dynamic DNS" service to make sure there's a domain name that always points to our external IP address.

No-IP has a free service and a Linux client. There are many other services out there.

By the end of this step you should have a domain name (eg myaccount.no-ip.info) and something running regularly on the media centre that keeps this DNS updated to our latest IP.

Install Android packages

We need a few things on our client phone:

ConnectBot is completely free while Yaste and MX Player both have free versions with unlockable features. You shouldn't need to pay any money to test this out though I do recommend paying for Yaste because it's that good.

Connect to SSH and set up our tunnels

We'll start in ConnectBot. We need to start by generating a keypair. This is what will allow us to log into the SSH server. This guide has the full process but in short: generate a keypair, email yourself the public key and copy that into ~/.ssh/authorized_keys2 on the server.

Then we can create a new connection. On the ConnectBot home screen just punch user@myaccount.no-ip.info:12345 (obviously replacing each bit with your actual username, domain and port respectively). Assuming that all works, disconnect and long press the new connection on the home screen and select "Edit port forwards". We want to add two ports:

  • HTTP, port 8080 mapped to localhost:8080
  • DLNA, port 9777 mapped to localhost:9777

Reconnect and leave it in the background. We'll connect to this now with Yaste.

Create a Yaste host using our tunnels

Open Yaste and open the Host Manager. Create a new host. It probably won't detect the tunnels so skip the wizard. When asked, use localhost as the IP and 8080 as the port. It will test the connection before it lets you add it.

Sync your library (long press the item on the sidebar), select the "Play locally" toggle and then you'll be able to stream things over the internet! It may buffer a little if you're on a slow connection but it should work. Alternatively, you can download files from the Kodi server using Yaste which might be a little more predictable on a spiky connection.

Dustin Kirkland: AWSnap! Snappy Ubuntu Now Available on AWS! [Planet Ubuntu]


Awww snap!

That's right!  Snappy Ubuntu images are now on AWS, for your EC2 computing pleasure.

Enjoy this screencast as we start a Snappy Ubuntu instance in AWS, and install the xkcd-webserver package.


And a transcript of the commands follows below.

kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ cat cloud.cfg
#cloud-config
snappy:
ssh_enabled: True
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ aws ec2 describe-images \
> --region us-east-1 \
> --image-ids ami-5c442634

{
"Images": [
{
"ImageType": "machine",
"Description": "ubuntu-core-devel-1418912739-141-amd64",
"Hypervisor": "xen",
"ImageLocation": "ucore-images/ubuntu-core-devel-1418912739-141-amd64.manifest.xml",
"SriovNetSupport": "simple",
"ImageId": "ami-5c442634",
"RootDeviceType": "instance-store",
"Architecture": "x86_64",
"BlockDeviceMappings": [],
"State": "available",
"VirtualizationType": "hvm",
"Name": "ubuntu-core-devel-1418912739-141-amd64",
"OwnerId": "649108100275",
"Public": false
}
]
}
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ # NOTE: This AMI will almost certainly have changed by the time you're watching this ;-)
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ clear
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ aws ec2 run-instances \
> --region us-east-1 \
> --image-id ami-5c442634 \
> --key-name id_rsa \
> --instance-type m3.medium \
> --user-data "$(cat cloud.cfg)"
{
"ReservationId": "r-c6811e28",
"Groups": [
{
"GroupName": "default",
"GroupId": "sg-d5d135bc"
}
],
"OwnerId": "357813986684",
"Instances": [
{
"KeyName": "id_rsa",
"PublicDnsName": null,
"ProductCodes": [],
"StateTransitionReason": null,
"LaunchTime": "2014-12-18T17:29:07.000Z",
"Monitoring": {
"State": "disabled"
},
"ClientToken": null,
"StateReason": {
"Message": "pending",
"Code": "pending"
},
"RootDeviceType": "instance-store",
"Architecture": "x86_64",
"PrivateDnsName": null,
"ImageId": "ami-5c442634",
"BlockDeviceMappings": [],
"Placement": {
"GroupName": null,
"AvailabilityZone": "us-east-1e",
"Tenancy": "default"
},
"AmiLaunchIndex": 0,
"VirtualizationType": "hvm",
"NetworkInterfaces": [],
"SecurityGroups": [
{
"GroupName": "default",
"GroupId": "sg-d5d135bc"
}
],
"State": {
"Name": "pending",
"Code": 0
},
"Hypervisor": "xen",
"InstanceId": "i-af43de51",
"InstanceType": "m3.medium",
"EbsOptimized": false
}
]
}
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ aws ec2 describe-instances --region us-east-1 | grep PublicIpAddress
"PublicIpAddress": "54.145.196.209",
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ssh -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa ubuntu@54.145.196.209
ssh: connect to host 54.145.196.209 port 22: Connection refused
255 kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ssh -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa ubuntu@54.145.196.209
The authenticity of host '54.145.196.209 (54.145.196.209)' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 91:91:6e:0a:54:a5:07:b9:79:30:5b:61:d4:a8:ce:6f.
No matching host key fingerprint found in DNS.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added '54.145.196.209' (RSA) to the list of known hosts.
Welcome to Ubuntu Vivid Vervet (development branch) (GNU/Linux 3.16.0-25-generic x86_64)

* Documentation: https://help.ubuntu.com/

The programs included with the Ubuntu system are free software;
the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Ubuntu comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by
applicable law.

Welcome to the Ubuntu Core rolling development release.

* See https://ubuntu.com/snappy

It's a brave new world here in snappy Ubuntu Core! This machine
does not use apt-get or deb packages. Please see 'snappy --help'
for app installation and transactional updates.

To run a command as administrator (user "root"), use "sudo ".
See "man sudo_root" for details.

ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ mount
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
proc on /proc type proc (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
udev on /dev type devtmpfs (rw,relatime,size=1923976k,nr_inodes=480994,mode=755)
devpts on /dev/pts type devpts (rw,nosuid,noexec,relatime,gid=5,mode=620,ptmxmode=000)
tmpfs on /run type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,noexec,relatime,size=385432k,mode=755)
/dev/xvda1 on / type ext4 (ro,relatime,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /writable type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
tmpfs on /run type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,noexec,relatime,mode=755)
tmpfs on /etc/fstab type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,noexec,relatime,mode=755)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/systemd/system type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
securityfs on /sys/kernel/security type securityfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
tmpfs on /dev/shm type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev)
tmpfs on /run/lock type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,size=5120k)
tmpfs on /sys/fs/cgroup type tmpfs (ro,nosuid,nodev,noexec,mode=755)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/systemd type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,xattr,release_agent=/lib/systemd/systemd-cgroups-agent,name=systemd)
pstore on /sys/fs/pstore type pstore (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,cpuset,clone_children)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/cpu,cpuacct type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,cpu,cpuacct)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/memory type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,memory)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/devices type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,devices)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/freezer type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,freezer)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/net_cls,net_prio type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,net_cls,net_prio)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/blkio type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,blkio)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/perf_event type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,perf_event)
cgroup on /sys/fs/cgroup/hugetlb type cgroup (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,hugetlb)
tmpfs on /etc/machine-id type tmpfs (ro,relatime,size=385432k,mode=755)
systemd-1 on /proc/sys/fs/binfmt_misc type autofs (rw,relatime,fd=22,pgrp=1,timeout=300,minproto=5,maxproto=5,direct)
hugetlbfs on /dev/hugepages type hugetlbfs (rw,relatime)
debugfs on /sys/kernel/debug type debugfs (rw,relatime)
mqueue on /dev/mqueue type mqueue (rw,relatime)
fusectl on /sys/fs/fuse/connections type fusectl (rw,relatime)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/hosts type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/sudoers.d type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /root type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/click/frameworks type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /usr/share/click/frameworks type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/systemd/snappy type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/systemd/click type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/initramfs-tools type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/writable type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/ssh type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/tmp type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/apparmor type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/cache/apparmor type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/apparmor.d/cache type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /etc/ufw type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/log type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/system-image type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
tmpfs on /var/lib/sudo type tmpfs (rw,relatime,mode=700)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/logrotate type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/dhcp type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/dbus type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/cloud type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /var/lib/apps type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
tmpfs on /mnt type tmpfs (rw,relatime)
tmpfs on /tmp type tmpfs (rw,relatime)
/dev/xvda3 on /apps type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvda3 on /home type ext4 (rw,relatime,discard,data=ordered)
/dev/xvdb on /mnt type ext3 (rw,relatime,data=ordered)
tmpfs on /run/user/1000 type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime,size=385432k,mode=700,uid=1000,gid=1000)
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ mount | grep " / "
/dev/xvda1 on / type ext4 (ro,relatime,data=ordered)
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo touch /foo
touch: cannot touch ‘/foo’: Read-only file system
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo apt-get update
Ubuntu Core does not use apt-get, see 'snappy --help'!
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy --help
Usage:snappy [-h] [-v]
{info,versions,search,update-versions,update,rollback,install,uninstall,tags,build,chroot,framework,fake-version,nap}
...

snappy command line interface

optional arguments:
-h, --help show this help message and exit
-v, --version Print this version string and exit

Commands:
{info,versions,search,update-versions,update,rollback,install,uninstall,tags,build,chroot,framework,fake-version,nap}
info
versions
search
update-versions
update
rollback undo last system-image update.
install
uninstall
tags
build
chroot
framework
fake-version ==SUPPRESS==
nap ==SUPPRESS==
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy info
release: ubuntu-core/devel
frameworks:
apps:
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy versions -a
Part Tag Installed Available Fingerprint Active
ubuntu-core edge 141 - 7f068cb4fa876c *
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy search docker
Part Version Description
docker 1.3.2.007 The docker app deployment mechanism
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy install docker
docker 4 MB [=============================================================================================================] OK
Part Tag Installed Available Fingerprint Active
docker edge 1.3.2.007 - b1f2f85e77adab *
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy versions -a
Part Tag Installed Available Fingerprint Active
ubuntu-core edge 141 - 7f068cb4fa876c *
docker edge 1.3.2.007 - b1f2f85e77adab *
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy search webserver
Part Version Description
go-example-webserver 1.0.1 Minimal Golang webserver for snappy
xkcd-webserver 0.3.1 Show random XKCD compic via a build-in webserver
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ sudo snappy install xkcd-webserver
xkcd-webserver 21 kB [=====================================================================================================] OK
Part Tag Installed Available Fingerprint Active
xkcd-webserver edge 0.3.1 - 3a9152b8bff494 *
ubuntu@ip-10-153-149-47:~$ exit
logout
Connection to 54.145.196.209 closed.
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ec2-instances
i-af43de51 ec2-54-145-196-209.compute-1.amazonaws.com
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫ ec2-terminate-instances i-af43de51
INSTANCE i-af43de51 running shutting-down
kirkland@x230:/tmp⟫

Cheers!
Dustin

The Fridge: Vivid Vervet Alpha 1 Released [Planet Ubuntu]

"How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"
– Guybrush Threepwood, Monkey Island

The first alpha of the Vivid Vervet (to become 15.04) has now been released!

This alpha features images for Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, UbuntuKylin and the Ubuntu Cloud images.

Pre-releases of the Vivid Vervet are *not* encouraged for anyone needing a stable system or anyone who is not comfortable running into occasional, even frequent breakage. They are, however, recommended for Ubuntu flavor developers and those who want to help in testing, reporting and fixing bugs as we work towards getting this release ready.

Alpha 1 includes a number of software updates that are ready for wider testing. This is quite an early set of images, so you should expect some bugs.

While these Alpha 1 images have been tested and work, except as noted in the release notes, Ubuntu developers are continuing to improve the Vivid Vervet. In particular, once newer daily images are available, system installation bugs identified in the Alpha 1 installer should be verified against the current daily image before being reported in Launchpad. Using an obsolete image to re-report bugs that have already been fixed wastes your time and the time of developers who are busy trying to make 15.04 the best Ubuntu release yet. Always ensure your system is up to date before reporting bugs.

Kubuntu

Kubuntu uses KDE software and now features the new Plasma 5 desktop.

The Alpha-1 images can be downloaded at: http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/kubuntu/releases/vivid/alpha-1/

More information on Kubuntu Alpha-1 can be found here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/VividVervet/Alpha1/Kubuntu

Lubuntu

Lubuntu is a flavour of Ubuntu based on LXDE and focused on providing a very lightweight distribution.

The Alpha 1 images can be downloaded at: http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/lubuntu/releases/vivid/alpha-1/

More information on Lubuntu Alpha-1 can be found here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/VividVervet/Alpha1/Lubuntu

Ubuntu GNOME

Ubuntu GNOME is an flavour of Ubuntu featuring the GNOME desktop environment.

The Alpha-1 images can be downloaded at: http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-gnome/releases/vivid/alpha-1/

More information on Ubuntu GNOME Alpha-1 can be found here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/VividVervet/Alpha1/UbuntuGNOME

UbuntuKylin

UbuntuKylin is a flavour of Ubuntu that is more suitable for Chinese users.

The Alpha-1 images can be downloaded at: http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntukylin/releases/vivid/alpha-1/

More information on UbuntuKylin Alpha-1 can be found here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/VividVervet/Alpha1/UbuntuKylin

Ubuntu Cloud

Ubuntu Cloud images can be run on Amazon EC2, Openstack, SmartOS and many other clouds.

http://cloud-images.ubuntu.com/releases/vivid/alpha-1/

Regular daily images for Ubuntu can be found at: http://cdimage.ubuntu.com

If you’re interested in following the changes as we further develop Vivid, we suggest that you subscribe to the ubuntu-devel-announce list. This is a low-traffic list (a few posts a week) carrying announcements of approved specifications, policy changes, alpha releases and other interesting events.

http://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-devel-announce

A big thank you to the developers and testers for their efforts to pull together this Alpha release!

Jonathan Riddell, on behalf of the Ubuntu release team.

Originally posted to the ubuntu-devel-announce mailing list on Thu Dec 18 22:17:15 UTC 2014 by Jonathan Riddell

Thomas Ward: NGINX: Mitigating the BREACH vulnerability [Planet Ubuntu]

This post serves as a notice regarding the BREACH vulnerability and NGINX.

For Ubuntu, Debian, and the PPA users: If you are on 1.6.2-5 (or 1.7.8 from the PPAs), the default configuration has GZIP compression enabled, which means it does not mitigate BREACH on your sites by default. You need to look into whether you are actually impacted by BREACH, and if you are consider mitigation steps.


What is it?

Unlke CRIME, which attacks TLS/SPDY compression and is mitigated by disabling SSL compression, BREACH attacks HTTP responses. These are compressed using the common HTTP compression, which is much more common than TLS-level compression. This allows essentially the same attack demonstrated by Duong and Rizzo, but without relying on TLS-level compression (as they anticipated).

BREACH is a category of vulnerabilities and not a specific instance affecting a specific piece of software. To be vulnerable, a web application must:

  • Be served from a server that uses HTTP-level compression
  • Reflect user-input in HTTP response bodies
  • Reflect a secret (such as a CSRF token) in HTTP response bodies

Additionally, while not strictly a requirement, the attack is helped greatly by responses that remain mostly the same (modulo the attacker’s guess). This is because the difference in size of the responses measured by the attacker can be quite small. Any noise in the side-channel makes the attack more difficult (though not impossible).

It is important to note that the attack is agnostic to the version of TLS/SSL, and does not require TLS-layer compression. Additionally, the attack works against any cipher suite. Against a stream cipher, the attack is simpler; the difference in sizes across response bodies is much more granular in this case. If a block cipher is used, additional work must be done to align the output to the cipher text blocks.

How practical is it?

The BREACH attack can be exploited with just a few thousand requests, and can be executed in under a minute. The number of requests required will depend on the secret size. The power of the attack comes from the fact that it allows guessing a secret one character at a time.

Am I affected?

If you have an HTTP response body that meets all the following conditions, you might be vulnerable:

  • Compression – Your page is served with HTTP compression enabled (GZIP / DEFLATE)
  • User Data – Your page reflects user data via query string parameters, POST …
  • A Secret – Your application page serves Personally Identifiable Information (PII), a CSRF token, sensitive data …

Mitigations

NOTE: The Breach Attack Information Site offers several tactics for mitigating the attack. Unfortunately, they are unaware of a clean, effective, practical solution to the problem. Some of these mitigations are more practical and a single change can cover entire apps, while others are page specific.

The mitigations are ordered by effectiveness (not by their practicality – as this may differ from one application to another).

  1. Disabling HTTP compression
  2. Separating secrets from user input
  3. Randomizing secrets per request
  4. Masking secrets (effectively randomizing by XORing with a random secret per request)
  5. Protecting vulnerable pages with CSRF
  6. Length hiding (by adding random number of bytes to the responses)
  7. Rate-limiting the requests.

Whichever mitigation you choose, it is strongly recommended you also monitor your traffic to detect attempted attacks.


Mitigation Tactics and Practicality

Unfortunately, the practicality of the listed mitigation tactics is widely varied. Practicality is determined by the application you are working with, and in a lot of cases it is not possible to just disable GZIP compression outright due to the size of what’s being served.

This blog post will cover and describe in varying detail three mitigation methods: Disabling HTTP Compression, Randomizing secrets per request, and Length Hiding (using this site as a reference for the descriptions here).

Disabling HTTP Compression

This is the simplest and most effective mitigation tactic, but is ultimately not the most wieldy mitigation tactic, as there is a chance your application actually requires GZIP compression. If this is the case, then you should not use this mitigation option, when GZIP compression is needed in your environment. However, if your application and use case does not necessitate the requirement of GZIP compression, this is easily fixed.

To disable GZIP globally on your NGINX instances, in nginx.conf, add this code to the http block: gzip off;.

To disable GZIP specifically in your sites and not globally, follow the same instructions for globally disabling GZIP, but add it to your server block in your sites’ specific configurations instead.

If you are using NGINX from the Ubuntu or Debian repositories, or the NGINX PPAs, you should check your /etc/nginx.conf file to see if it has gzip on; and you should comment this out or change it to gzip off;.

However, if disabling GZIP compression is not an option for your sites, then consider looking into other mitigation methods.

Randomizing secrets per request or masking secrets

Unfortunately, this one is the least descriptive here. Secret handling is handled on an application level and not an NGINX level. If you have the capability to modify your application, you should modify it to randomize the secrets with each request, or mask the secrets. If this is not an option, then consider using another method of mitigation.

Length hiding

Length hiding can be done by nginx, however it is not currently available in the NGINX packages in Ubuntu, Debian, or the PPAs.

It can be done on the application side, but it is easier to update an nginx configuration than to modify and deploy an application when you need to enable or disable this in a production environment. A Length Hiding Filter Module has been made by Nulab, and it adds randomly generated HTML comments to the end of an HTML response to hide correct length and make it difficult for attackers to guess secret information.

An example of such a comment added by the module is as follows:

<!-- random-length HTML comment: E9pigGJlQjh2gyuwkn1TbRI974ct3ba5bFe7LngZKERr29banTtCizBftbMk0mgRq8N1ltPtxgY -->

NOTE: To use this method, until there is any packaging available that uses this module or includes it, you will need to compile NGINX from the source tarballs.

To enable this module, you will need to compile NGINX from source and add the module. Then, add the length_hiding directive to the server,http, or location blocks in your configuration with this line: length_hiding on;


Special Packaging of NGINX PPA with Length Hiding Enabled

I am currently working on building NGINX stable and mainline with the Length Hiding module included in all variants of the package which have SSL enabled. This will eventually be available in separate PPAs for the stable and mainline PPAs.

Until then, I strongly suggest that you look into whether you can operate without GZIP compression enabled, or look into one of the other methods of mitigating this issue.

Ubuntu GNOME: Vivid Vervet Alpha 1 has arrived [Planet Ubuntu]

Hi,

Ubuntu GNOME Team is glad to announce the availability of the first milestone (Alpha 1) for Ubuntu GNOME Vivid Vervet (15.04).

Kindly do take the time and read the release notes:
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/VividVervet/Alpha1/UbuntuGNOME

We would like to thank our great helpful and very supportive testers. They have responded to our urgent call for help in no time. Having high quality testers on the team make us more confident this cycle will be extraordinary and needless to mention, that is an endless motivation for us to do more and give more. Thank you so much again for all those who helped to test Alpha 1 images.

As always, if you need more information about testing, please see this page.

And, don’t hestiate to contact us if you have any question, feedback, notes, suggestions, etc – please see this page.

Thank you for choosing, testing and using Ubuntu GNOME!

Colin King [Planet Ubuntu]

It is approaching the Christmas Holiday season, so it's that time again to write some slightly obfuscated C in a seasonal way.  This year I thought I would try some coloured ASCII art for the output for a little variety.


#define r(s) s[e%(sizeof s-1)]
#include /* */
#define S "%s"/* Have */
#define u printf(/* a */
#define c )J/* Merry */
#define W "H"/* Christmas */
#define e rand()/* and */
#define U(i) v[i]/* a */
#define C(q) q[]=/* Happy */
#define J ;;/* New Year */
#define O [v]/* Colin.I.King */


typedef a
; a m, v[6] ,
H;a main(
){char C(
o){033,91,0},C(D)
"*Oo", C(t
)"^~#",Q[ ]=
"13747516",C(s
)".x+*";u S"2"
"J%s0;0H%s0"
";37;40"
"m",o,o, o
c while(U(!!m)
<22)u S"%dm%39s\n" ,
o,0 O++>19?42:',',""
c while(0 O++<'~') u S
"%d;%dH%s44m%c",o,e%21,e
%39,o,r(s)c for(J){1 O=1
-U(1),srand(v),u S"0;0"W S
"0;2;%dm",o,o,' 'c for(m=0
;m>>4<1;++m){u S"%d;%d"W,o
, m+2,20-m c;for(H=0;H<1+(m
<<1);H++){4 O=!H|H==m<<1 ,
2 O=!(e&05),U(3)=H>m*5/
3,5 O=r(D)J if(4 O|U(
2)){u S"%d;%d;3%cm"
"%c",o,U(4)?','
:'*',3 O?2:1+(U(1)^(1&e)),r(Q),U(5)c}else u S"42;32\
;%dm%c",o,1+3 O,r(t)c u S"0m",o c} }while(m<19)u S"\
%d;19"W S"33;2;7m #\n",o,1+ ++m,o c sleep(m>=-H c}}

The source can be downloaded from here and compiled and run as follows:

gcc snowman.c -o snowman
./snowman

and press control-C to exit when you have seen enough.

Kubuntu: Kubuntu Vivid Alpha 1 [Planet Ubuntu]

"How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" - Guybrush Threepwood, Monkey Island

The first Alpha of Vivid (to become 15.04) has now been released!

The Alpha-1 images can be downloaded at: http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/kubuntu/releases/vivid/alpha-1/

More information on Kubuntu Alpha-1 can be found here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/VividVervet/Alpha1/Kubuntu

Dustin Kirkland: Hollywood Technodrama -- There's an App for that! [Planet Ubuntu]



Wargames.  Hackers.  Swordfish.  Superman 3.  Jurassic Park.  GoldenEye.  The Matrix.

You've all seen the high stakes hacking scene, packed with techno-babble and dripping in drama.  And the command and control center with dozens of over-sized monitors, overloaded with scrolling text...

I was stuck on a plane a few weeks back, traveling home from Las Vegas, and the in flight WiFi was down.  I know, I know.  Real world problems.  Suddenly, I had 2 hours on my hands, without access to email, IRC, or any other distractions.

It's at this point I turned to my folder of unfinished ideas, and cherry-picked one that would take just a couple of fun hours to hack.  And I'm pleased to introduce the fruits of that, um, labor -- the hollywood package for Ubuntu :-)  Call it an early Christmas present!  All code is on both Launchpad and Github.


If you're already running Vivid (Ubuntu 15.04) -- I salute you! -- and you can simply:

sudo apt-get install hollywood

If you're on any other version of Ubuntu, you'll need to:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:hollywood/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install hollywood

Fire up a terminal, maximize it, open byobu, and run the hollywood command.  Then sit back and soak into the trance...

I recently jumped on the vertical monitor bandwagon, for my secondary display.  It's fantastic for reading and writing code.  It's also hollywood-worthy ;-)


How does all of this work?

For starters, it's all running in a Byobu (tmux) session, which enables us to split a single shell console into a bunch of "panes" or "splits".

The hollywood package depends on a handful of utilities that I found (mostly apt-cache searching the Ubuntu archives for monitors and utilities).  You can find a handful of scripts in /usr/lib/hollywood/.  Each of these is a "driver" for a widget that might run in one of these splits.  And ccze is magical, accepting input on stdin and colorizing the text.

In fact, they're quite easy to write :-)  I'm happy to accept contributions of new driver widgets, as long as you follow a couple of simple rules.  Each widget:
  • Must run as a regular, non-root user
  • Must not eat all available CPU, Disk, or Memory
  • Must not write data
  • Must run indefinitely, until receiving a Ctrl-C
  • Must look hollywood cool!
So far, we have widgets that: generate passphrases encoded in NATO phonetic, monitor and render network bandwidth, emulate The Matrix, find and display, with syntax highlighting, source code on the system, show a bunch of error codes, hexdump a bunch of binaries, monitor some processes, render some images to ASCII art, colorize some log files, open random manpages, generate SSH keys and show their random art, stat a bunch of inodes in /proc and /sys and /dev, and show the tree output of some directories.

I also grabbed a copy of the Mission Impossible theme song, licensed under the Creative Commons.  I played it in the Totem music player in Ubuntu, with the Monoscope visual effect, and recorded a screencast with gtk-recordmydesktop.  I then mixed the output .ogv file, with the original .mp3 file, and transcoded it to mp4/h264/aac, reducing the audio bitrate to 64k and frame size to 128x96, using this command:
avconv -i missionimpossible.ogv -i MissionImpossibleTheme.mp3 -s 128x96 -b 64k -vcodec libx264 -acodec aac -f mpegts -strict experimental -y mi.mp4

Then, hollywood plays it in one of the splits with mplayer's ascii art video output on the console :-)

DISPLAY= mplayer -vo caca /usr/share/hollywood/mi.mp4

Sound totally cheesy?  Why, yes, it is :-)  That's the point :-)

Oh, and by the way...  If you ever sit down at someone else's Linux PC, and want to freak them out a little, just type:

ubuntu@x230:~⟫ PS1="root@$(hostname):~# "; clear 
root@x230:~# 

And then have fun!
That latter "hack", as well as the entire concept of hollywood is inspired in part by Kees Cook's awesome talk, in particular his "Useless Hollywood Drama Mode" in his exploit demo.
Happy hacking!
:-Dustin

Rick Wilson [Ace of Spades HQ Podcast]

Republican media strategist Rick Wilson joins Ace, Gabe and John to discuss the crazy goings on this week.

This is probably the last episode of the year, and we wish all our listeners a happy holiday season. See you in 2015.

Intro: Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis
Outro: Otis Redding – White Christmas

Just announced, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has... [Join me, won't we?]



Just announced, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has been split into five films, one for each army.

Christmas and New Year arrangements [Radio Society of Great Britain - Main Site]

This is the penultimate GB2RS broadcast of 2014 and the (more…)

Youngsters on the Air news [Radio Society of Great Britain - Main Site]

December is Youngsters on the Air month and (more…)

Island DXpedition to Iran in January [Radio Society of Great Britain - Main Site]

The Rockall DX Group are planning a new challenge for (more…)

New Director joins RSGB Board [Radio Society of Great Britain - Main Site]

The RSGB Board is delighted to announce the co-option (more…)

New IRTS award [Radio Society of Great Britain - Main Site]

Next year will see a new IRTS award (more…)

Axing The Interview 'a mistake,' Obama says [CBC | Technology News]

Barack Obama

Sony Pictures "made a mistake" when it pulled its comedy The Interview from theatres, following a cyberattack that investigators have blamed on North Korea, according to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The top 10 science stories of 2014: Bob McDonald [CBC | Technology News]

Comet Landing

Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald chooses the 10 stories that he thinks defined the year in science.

UBC researchers confirm existence of Super-Earth planet [CBC | Technology News]

UBC astronomer confirms a new “Super-Earth” planet

A UBC astronomer and a Canadian space telescope played pivotal roles in the discovery of a new planet — a so-called Super-Earth — found orbiting a sun well beyond our solar system.

Apple on defence after BBC exposé of working conditions in its factories [CBC | Technology News]

hi-852-foxconn-factory-02423687

Apple is in the spotlight again over working conditions for the people who make its products, following a BBC investigation that alleges poor treatment of workers in Chinese factories.

BlackBerry's loss shrank in 3rd quarter — but so did sales [CBC | Technology News]

BlackBerry Event 20140924

BlackBerry narrowed its net loss to $148-million US in its third quarter and did better with adjusted earnings than expected, but ultimately missed expectations with lower revenue on fewer smartphone sales.

CBC News launches new Android app [CBC | Technology News]

CBC News Android app

New features include breaking news 'push' alerts, more local news, weather and video.

'Deep learning' computers cast new light on DNA [CBC | Technology News]

frey-team

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a new way to read the human genome, which could answer stubborn questions about how flaws in DNA lead to disease.

Government puts 3 species of bats on endangered list [CBC | Technology News]

white-nose syndrome

The federal government has listed three species of bats under threat from white-nose syndrome as endangered.

Sony cyberattack: what is Obama going to do about it? [CBC | Technology News]

CUBA-USA/

The cyberattack against Sony Pictures is a matter of national security and U.S. President Barack Obama and his team are weighing various options to respond, a White House spokesman said Thursday.

Hackers posing as Syrian-Canadians may be tied to ISIS [CBC | Technology News]

ISIS Peshmerga Kurds

Hackers suspected of ties to ISIS posed as Syrian-Canadians to try to implant malicious software on a computer of a Syrian citizen media group, an internet watchdog says.

Life after Serial: 5 podcasts to follow while waiting for season 2 [CBC | Technology News]

Serial

Serial fans are devouring the season finale of Sarah Koenig's addictive new podcast today. Here are 5 listening suggestions you might enjoy.

RTÉ longwave extended until 2017 [The SWLing Post]

rte-logo-web1This is good news for those who listen to RTÉ via longwave. This extension will also give LW DXers an opportunity to log RTÉ outside the normal broadcast footprint.

(Source: RTÉ via Mauno Ritola and Mike Terry)

RTÉ Radio 1 LW will operate a full service in 2015, with reduced hours in 2016 before working towards a full shutdown in 2017.

The service was due to end early next year after RTÉ postponed a decision to close the transmitter until 19 January.

RTÉ had previously announced that it would be ceasing its Longwave 252 service from the Clarkstown longwave transmitter on 27 October and migrating its Radio One service to digital platforms.

RTÉ said that in slowing the pace of the longwave shutdown, it has considered contact from listeners and submissions from a range of groups, who highlighted that more time was needed to “understand and enable the migration to digital platforms for all listeners”.

Head of RTE Radio 1 Tom McGuire said: “We’ve listened particularly to the concerns raised by and on behalf of the elderly Irish in the UK.

“Cost-reduction remains a key priority for RTÉ and we remain convinced that, in the longer term, longwave has had its day.

“Nonetheless and despite the mid-term cost impact, RTÉ believes it is necessary to take a collaborative approach and slow this transition.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is prepared to work with RTÉ to commission specific research to better understand the community in the UK who listen to the longwave service.

The research will be conducted next year, will be funded by the department and will include perspectives from community groups representing the Irish elderly in the UK.

Chair of the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee John O’Mahoney said he was delighted at the decision of the RTÉ board to retain the service.

Minister for Communications Alex White has also welcomed the announcement.

He said: “I recently met representatives of the Irish community living in Britain, who stressed the value they place on RTÉ’s longwave service.

“I welcome the decision to extend the life of the service by two years, which will give the broadcaster space to engage with its listeners about other ways of accessing RTÉ radio in the UK.”

WRTH 2015: A look inside [The SWLing Post]

WRTH2015I received my copy of the 2015 World Radio and TV Handbook (WRTH) directly from the publisher last week. As many SWLing Post readers know, I always look forward to receiving this staple radio reference guide each year. While other reference guides have dropped out of the scene, WRTH has remained strong and the publication’s quality has been wonderfully consistent. In fact, I noticed in the Editorial that this is 69th edition of WRTH: obviously, a publication with longevity.

WRTH’s team of noted DXers from around the world curate frequencies and broadcaster information by region; while I’m not sure how they orchestrate all of this, the end result is truly a symphony of radio information. In addition to broadcaster listings, WRTH’s radio reviews, feature articles, and annual HF report make for excellent reading.

But the WRTH isn’t just a frequency guide: the publication always devotes the first sixty or so pages to articles relating to various aspects of the radio hobby. Following, I offer a quick overview of these.

The first article always features a WRTH contributor (indeed, it’s this very network of contributors that make WRTH and its listings such a success):  this year, Mauno Ritola tells us how he got interested in the hobby and what being a contributor means to him. Many of you will recognize Mauno’s name–he’s quite a prominent Finish SW and MW DXer (and a very nice fellow, as well).

The second set of articles is always my favorite: WRTH receiver reviews.

KX3-Helper-Tecsun-PL-600This year, WRTH reviewed the CommRadio CR-1a (un update of their very positive CR-1 review last year).  They also review the Tecsun PL-600 (above), the SDRplay software defined radio, the MFJ-1046 Preselector, and the Apache ANAN-10. The 2015 WRTH also has a special review section that features two HF noise and loop antennas: the AOR LA400 indoor loop and the Wellbrook ALA 1530S+ Imperium Loop (which wins the WRTH Award for Best Antenna). As I’ve come to expect from this publication, these are all great comprehensive reviews.

The SDRplay

The SDRplay

The following article is “Wooferton: 70 Years on the Air,” written by Dave Porter, one time Senior Transmitter Engineer at the site. In a few pages, you’ll gather the technological history of the site, dating back to a rather bumpy start in WWII.

Following this, noted DXer and WRTH contributor, Max van Arhem, speaks to The Future of DXing. He proposes that with the decline of international broadcasting on the shortwaves, there is still much challenge in the hobby–especially by broadening DXing in the FM and medium wave bands. [Indeed, I’ve certainly seen an increase of questions about medium wave DXing here on the SWLing Post. I hope to cover more of these topics in 2015.]

Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island

WRTH often features a snapshot of the radio scene in various parts of the world.  This year, WRTH Contributor, David Foster, writes about his recent trip to remote Lord Howe Island and what he discovered about the radio landscape there. As a keen traveler myself, I found his article fascinating (Lord Howe Island is now on my travel list!).

1500As a bonus, WRTH includes a feature/review of the benchmark Watkins-Johnson 8711A receiver. Not only does the article speak to the mechanics and virtues of the 8711A, but it also places this particular model within the context of the Watkins-Johnson legacy.

The final sections of articles are dedicated to the WRTH Digital Update and HF propagation report/forecast.

As expected, this is another great edition of the World Radio TV Handbook. As I’ve said many times, though I use online frequency databases fairly regularly, there is just no replacement for a good printed frequency guide–especially for all of my off-grid DXing.

For DXers who collect QSL cards, you’ll find that broadcaster contact information in WRTH is often more up-to-date than a broadcaster’s own website.

Not only does WRTH contain more in-depth information on broadcasters and schedules, but it makes for quick reference, and doesn’t require a computer or Internet connection–much like, well, your shortwave radio.

Purchase your copy of WRTH 2015 directly from WRTH’s publishers, or from a distributor like Universal Radio (US)Radio HF (Canada) or Amazon.com. Happy reading–and listening–in 2015!

Saudi Cleric Who Once Headed Mecca’s Religious Police Receiving Death Threats After Wife Appears On TV With Her Face Showing… [Weasel Zippers]

And she wore makeup! Via Daily Mail:  A Saudi cleric who once headed Mecca’s religious police has received death threats after his wife appeared with him on TV wearing make-up without a veil. Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi and his wife told the audience of a chat show that Islam does not require women to hide their […]

Obama Senior Adviser Mocks Republicans For Failing To Repeal Obamacare… [Weasel Zippers]

Via Breitbart: Ahead of President Obama’s press conference on Friday, Dan Pfeiffer, his senior political adviser, mocked Republicans for failing to repeal Obamacare. “We just finished a debate on how funding the government for next year and the Republicans didn’t even have the heart to suggest repealing it,” he wrote in a post on Medium, […]

FRIDAY OPEN THREAD… [Weasel Zippers]

I thought the Sony executives were the most gutless wimps in Hollywood, that is until Paramount dethroned them by banning Team America, a movie released 10 years ago. Language warning: NSFW X 100. Midday bump: New Christmas card features an armed Santa Claus defending Baby Jesus from knife wielding Islamic terrorist. WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2014 […]

All Net Job Growth Since 2007 Has Gone To Legal And Illegal Immigrants… [Weasel Zippers]

US-born American? You may be screwed… Via National Review: All of the net gains in in jobs since 2007 have gone to immigrants — both legal and illegal — according to a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies, meaning that fewer native-born Americans are working today than were at the end of 2007. […]

Castro Daughter: America “Must Be Dreaming” If They Think Cuba Will Drop Socialism And Return To Capitalism… [Weasel Zippers]

Because socialism has been working so good in Cuba? Via Telegraph: The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro said on Thursday the United States “must be dreaming” if it thinks Cuba will return to capitalism after both countries agreed to normalise diplomatic relations. Speaking in Havana, Mariela Castro, said the island nation would not return […]

Rarity: CEO Gives Back $1.86 Million Bonus, Says He Doesn’t Deserve It… [Weasel Zippers]

This may be one of the only times you’ll see this… Via Fortune: Well, here’s something you don’t see too often. Or maybe never… Rick Holley is CEO of Plum Creek Timber Co. PCL -0.50% , a Seattle-based real estate investment trust that owns and manages around 6.8 million acres of timberland in 19 states.Today […]

Dems Spent $1.5 Million Flying The Clintons On Private Jets To Campaign Events… [Weasel Zippers]

Must be fun to take private jets across America even though you’re broke. Via The Hill: The cost to campaigns and political committees of flying in Bill and Hillary Clinton on private jets to campaign for the midterms topped $1.5 million, according to a Politico review of filings. Republicans have been pushing the narrative that […]

CNN’s Gloria Borger Likens Obama To Santa Claus, Says His Executive Orders Are Like Santa’s Toys… [Weasel Zippers]

One of the big differences is Obama Claus takes toys from the “rich” kids and gives them to the poor ones and calls in “paying your fair share.”

Report: Hackers Sent Sony Execs Message Thanking Them For Being So Spineless… [Weasel Zippers]

Via CNNMoney: The hackers behind a devastating cyberattack at Sony Pictures have sent a new message to executives at the company, crediting them for a “very wise” decision to cancel the Christmas day release of “The Interview,” a source close to the company told CNN. The email message was received by Sony’s top executives on […]

Transgender Student Files Federal Complaint Against Virginia School District For Banning Her From The Boys Restroom… [Weasel Zippers]

If you have to squat to pee, you deserve to be in the girls restroom. Via BuzzFeed: A transgender teenager in rural Virginia is taking his case to the U.S. Department of Justice, arguing in a complaint that the Gloucester County School Board violated his rights by approving a policy this month prohibiting students from […]

Video: Trailer Chris Kyle Movie, “American Sniper”… [Weasel Zippers]

Looks awesome. Thank God they picked non-moonbat Clint Eastwood to direct the film (who’s easily one of the best directors in Hollywood).

Obama Admin Backed Talks Between Leading Al-Qaeda Clerics And Islamic State’s “Spiritual Adviser” In Bid To Free U.S. Hostage Peter Kassig… [Weasel Zippers]

Including infamous al-Qaeda cleric Abu Qatada, who was jailed and then deported from the UK. Via Guardian: US counter-terrorism officials backed a high-stakes negotiation involving two of the world’s most prominent jihadi clerics as well as former Guantánamo detainees in an attempt to save the life of an American hostage held by Islamic State, the […]

Pic Of The Day: Obama Sniffs Cuban Cigar Hours After Lifting Embargo… [Weasel Zippers]

Must. Fight. Urge. To. Make. Reggie. Love. Joke. Close to a Cuban: Obama was attending one of two White House receptions to welcome the start of Hanukkah when a guest handed him a large cheroot, which he took in his hand and ran under his nose. (DM)

Whoopi To Rosie For Playing Race Card: “You’re A White Lady Telling Me What’s Racist” – Rosie Responds: “I Have A Black Kid!”… [Weasel Zippers]

Too funny. Via Daily Mail: A screaming match over racism erupted between Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O’Donnell on Thursday’s episode of The View. The show’s co-hosts were discussing the news that Barack Obama was mistaken for a valet. Goldberg dismissed the confusion as one of stupidity, with Americans failing to identify the most important man […]

DHS Chief Jeh Johnson Admits Forgetting Pledge Of Allegiance… [Weasel Zippers]

The Pledge isn’t the most popular song among liberals. Via Free Beacon

Jacksonville Jaguars’ Players Wear “I Can’t Breathe” Shirts Before Thursday Night Game… [Weasel Zippers]

The latest fashion craze. JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars receiving corps wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts during pregame warmups prior to Thursday night’s 21-13 win against the Tennessee Titans. Cecil Shorts III, Marqise Lee, Ace Sanders and Allen Hurns wore the shirts while they were running around the field and catching passes more than […]

Obama Praises LeBron James For Stoking Racial Tensions By Wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-Shirt Before Game… [Weasel Zippers]

Then again, Obama’s a LeBron fanboy so nothing he does is wrong. Via The Hill: Obama Praises LeBron James For Stoking Racial Tensions With Wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-Shirt… President Obama says NBA superstar LeBron James did “the right thing” when he wore a t-shirt protesting the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner. James […]

SEIU Union Goon Arrested For Attacking NYPD Officers During Garner Protest… [Weasel Zippers]

The SEIU is one of the only employers in America where punching a cop is considered a good thing. Via Daily Beast: Robert Murray, an SEIU organizing coordinator, has been charged for Saturday night’s assault on police officers on the Brooklyn Bridge. A protester who has been charged with assaulting a New York police officer […]

Syrian Christian Militia Fighting Islamic State And Al Nusra Front Jihadists To Protect Assyrian Christian Communities… [Weasel Zippers]

Godspeed. Via Middle East Eye: The Syriac Military Council (MFS) was established in January 2013 to protect the marginalised Assyrian Christian communities in Syria. They have fought to defend themselves from the Islamic State, Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham and frequently work in tandem with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). As sectarian violence swamps […]

December 19, 2014 [ARRL Audio News]

This week: Amateur Radio Parity Act momentum will carry into 2015; another Red Badges on the Air Day for New Year's Eve; the ARRL RTTY Roundup is just around the corner; more!

Russian ARISS Team Transmitting Slow-Scan TV from the ISS [American Radio Relay League | Ham Radio Association and Resources]

Several stations around the globe reported receiving slow-scan television (SSTV) images from the International Space Station on December 18. The Russian ARISS announced earlier that it would activate the Amateur Radio SSTV “experiment” from the ISS on 145.800 MHz FM (PD180 mode). Additional transmissions are planned for December 20. All of the images commemorate the birth 80 years ago of Soviet...

Annual Christmas Eve Fessenden Commemorative Transmission Set [American Radio Relay League | Ham Radio Association and Resources]

Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, will put his 600 meter Experimental Station WG2XFQ on the air for his annual Christmas Eve transmission. WG2XFQ will transmit on 486 kHz from Forest, Virginia, to mark the 108th anniversary of Reginald Fessenden’s first audio transmission. Historic accounts say Fessenden played the violin and read a brief Bible verse. It’s been reported that other radio experimenters and s...

ARRL RTTY Roundup is Always a Mid-Contest Season Favorite [American Radio Relay League | Ham Radio Association and Resources]

Dust off those keyboards! The ARRL RTTY Roundup takes place January 3-4, 2015. It’s very easy to get on RTTY and other digital modes, and some late-model transceivers even have RTTY and other digital capabilities built right into the radio. Participation in this annual operating event has grown along with the enthusiasm for digital modes. In addition to conventional Baudot, RTTY Roundup ops may...

The K7RA Solar Update [American Radio Relay League | Ham Radio Association and Resources]

Solar activity made a strong comeback this week, with the average daily sunspot number on December 11-17 rising 57 points to 145.4 from the previous seven days, while average daily solar flux was up 28.1 points to 167.7.

But then toward the end of the week, activity made a large jump, with solar flux at 213.2 on Thursday.

Predicted solar flux is 220, 225, 220 and 210 on December 19-22, then 200, ...

Castro could visit White House, says US [http://www.france24.com/en/americas/rss/]

The White House has raised the possibility of a precedent-shattering visit to Washington by Cuban President Raul Castro as part of President Barack Obama’s plans to normalise relations with Havana.

Iran urged to show more flexibility in nuclear talks [http://www.france24.com/en/americas/rss/]

Iran has not demonstrated sufficient flexibility in nuclear talks with six world powers aimed at ending a 12-year stand-off with the Islamic Republic over its atomic ambitions, France and Britain said on Thursday.

US mulls ‘proportional’ response to Sony cyberattack [http://www.france24.com/en/americas/rss/]

The White House on Thursday said last month’s cyber attack on Sony Pictures was a “serious national security matter” to which it was considering a “proportional” response, although the Obama administration stopped short of blaming North Korea.

US and Cuba to 'normalise' relations, says Obama [http://www.france24.com/en/americas/rss/]

The United States will "immediately" begin talks with Cuba on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, US President Barack Obama said Wednesday, marking a sea change in US policy that has seen ties suspended since January 1961.

Pakistan restarts executions after Peshawar school attack [Asia/Pacific – France 24 - International News 24/7]

Pakistan hanged two convicted militants Friday in its first executions since 2008, officials said, after the government ended a moratorium on the death penalty this week following a terror attack on a school that killed 149 people, mainly children.

FBI accuses North Korea of launching Sony cyberattack [Asia/Pacific – France 24 - International News 24/7]

A US inquiry into a major hack into the computers of Japanese electronics giant Sony has found that North Korea was behind the breach, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said.

Eight children found dead at home in northern Australia [Asia/Pacific – France 24 - International News 24/7]

Eight children aged between 18 months and 15 years have been found dead at a home in the Australian city of Cairns, police said Friday, reportedly after a gruesome mass stabbing.

FBI accuses North Korea of launching Sony cyberattack [http://www.france24.com/en/top-stories/rss/]

A US inquiry into a major hack into the computers of Japanese electronics giant Sony has found that North Korea was behind the breach, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said.

FIFA to publish redacted World Cup corruption report [http://www.france24.com/en/top-stories/rss/]

FIFA's executive committee has unanimously agreed to publish an "appropriate" version of a report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups but said Russia and Qatar would still stage the tournaments.

Pakistan restarts executions after Peshawar school attack [http://www.france24.com/en/top-stories/rss/]

Pakistan hanged two convicted militants Friday in its first executions since 2008, officials said, after the government ended a moratorium on the death penalty this week following a terror attack on a school that killed 149 people, mainly children.

Pennsylvania Democrats Indicted for Accepting Bribes to Vote Against Voter ID Law [Jammie Wearing Fools]

In a stunning development the word Democrats was used in the first sentence of the story. This is dated Tuesday and hasn’t made any national headlines, so that part makes sense.

State Reps. Ron Waters and Vanessa Lowery Brown, both Philadelphia Democrats, surrendered Tuesday in Harrisburg on bribery, conflict of interest and other charges after a Philadelphia grand jury investigation.

The charges pick up from a long-running state investigation that was spurned last year by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, but that Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams later took up.

Williams said both lawmakers have appeared before his grand jury and “fully admitted that they knowingly took illegal cash payments.”

Waters, the current secretary of the House Democratic Caucus and a House member since 1999, was charged with accepting nine payments totalling $8,750 from a confidential informant posing as a Harrisburg lobbyist to “exercise that God-given right of leverage.”

Brown, a member of the state House since 2009, was charged with taking $4,000 on five different occasions from the informant.

Kane the AG, also a Democrat, suspected racism, of course.

When the revelations emerged earlier this year, the Keystone State’s top law-enforcement officer, Democratic attorney general Kathleen Kane, said she would not charge Brown or Waters, and shut down the operation that began under her predecessor, then–attorney general and currently outgoing Republican governor Tom Corbett. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Kane called into question how the investigation was conducted and suggested that race played a role in targeting Brown and Waters, who are black.

In what should come as no surprise, racist Eric Holder has declined to pursue a federal case against the indicted Democrats.

Surprise: Lefty Clown Whose Story Started #illridewithyou Twitter Hashtag Made It All Up [Jammie Wearing Fools]

Hard to believe a leftwinger would make something up, huh? What we should do is simply assume anything and everything on the left is fraudulent until proven true.

GAPS have appeared in the story that inspired the #illridewithyou Twitter phenomenon.

University lecturer Rachael Jacobs had originally posted a status on Facebook, explaining how she offered to protect a woman who felt uncomfortable wearing her hijab.

According to her story, Ms Jacobs had seen the woman beginning to remove her scarf, and ran after her, saying “Put it back on. I’ll walk with you.”

The exchange took place on a Brisbane train, while the Sydney siege was taking place in Sydney’s Martin Place.

However Rachael Jacobs has admitted that she “editorialised’’ parts of her story.

“Confession time. In my Facebook status, I editorialised. She wasn’t sitting next to me. She was a bit away, towards the other end of the carriage,” she wrote.

Detailing her thought process, Ms Jacobs now says she wondered if she even needed to help.“She might not even be Muslim or she could have just been warm!,” she wrote.

The hashtag continues to divide people on social media, with some lauding it as Australia’s way of combating Islamophobia.

Others say it detracts from the real tragedy of two people being murdered at Martin Place.

But hey, it at least provided the angry left some smug superiority over all you Islamophobic bigots. Who cares if it was totally bogus?

What made this #illridewithyou so offensive is that it deflected sympathy from the hostages – still in captivity – to those who shared the jihadists’ faith, and that it presumed Australians were so racist that they’d go on a pogrom (which, yet again, they did not).

This was not a manifestation of tolerance but its reverse, as demonstrated by an earlier posting by Tessa Kum, the woman who created the hashtag:

“I’m learning about hate because I am coming to hate you, white person. You have all the control, all the power, all the privilege, and there is nothing holding you accountable. I hate the double standards and hypocrisy you display, the rank dishonesty of your conduct. I hate that you can harm us, when we cannot harm you. “

 

US backed talks between jihadi clerics and Isis in effort to save hostage’s life [Jammie Wearing Fools]

US counter-terrorism officials backed a high-stakes negotiation involving two of the world’s most prominent jihadi clerics as well as former Guantánamo detainees in an attempt to save the life of an American hostage held by Islamic State, the Guardian can reveal.

Emails seen by the Guardian show how tentative talks with the spiritual leadership of Isis to secure the release of Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig began in mid-October and ran for several weeks, with the knowledge of the FBI.

Kassig – who converted to Islam while imprisoned for more than a year – was the most recent western hostage to be killed by Isis. The jihadi group announced his death on 16 November with a typically grisly video.

The ultimately unsuccessful initiative to save him was the brainchild of a controversial New York lawyer, Stanley Cohen, who has represented Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and members of Hamas in US courts.

Cohen persuaded two senior clerics aligned with al-Qaida to intervene with Isis on behalf of the American. One, Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi, is regarded as the world’s most influential living jihadi scholar, while the other, Abu Qatada, was once branded by a Spanish judge as al-Qaida’s “spiritual ambassador” in Europe.

Full story.

NYPD Union Chief Goes Nuclear on Feckless de Blasio: “He is not running the City of New York. He thinks he’s running a f- -king revolution” [Jammie Wearing Fools]

Might be time for a wave of the blue flu. Maybe on New Year’s Eve, just to teach this jerk a lesson.

Mayor de Blasio acts more like the leader of “a f- -king revolution” than a city, police-union President Pat Lynch said at a recent delegate meeting.

“He is not running the City of New York. He thinks he’s running a f- -king revolution,” said Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, during the private gathering in Queens last Friday.

Lynch, who was secretly recorded, also all but ordered a rule-book slowdown, according to the seven-minute tape obtained by Capital New York.

“If we won’t get support when we do our jobs . . . then we’re going to do it the way they want it,” Lynch said. “Let me be perfectly clear: We will use extreme discretion in every encounter.”

Lynch, when referring to de Blasio, encouraged members to be wary of what he called “enemies.” “Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies, extreme discretion,” he said. “The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well, now we’ll use those rules to protect us.”

In response de Blasio will be meeting with the “mostly peaceful” protest thugs today.

Police union leaders have publicly disagreed with Mayor Bill de Blasio since the mayor called for an end to “the stop-and-frisk era” during his campaign last year, and the union has escalated its rhetoric amid protests following the Garner decision.

This morning, de Blasio is scheduled to atttend a CompStat meeting at NYPD headquarters and on Friday he’ll meet with members of Justice League NYC, a police reform advocacy group helping to organize daily demonstrations around the city. The group is led by former Al Sharpton aide Tamika Mallory, and wants as part of their demands, an “end” to Broken Windows policing and the “immediate” passage of two bills to limit police in the City Council.

In the audio recording, Lynch urges officers to police the streets in a way that protects them from critics.

“There’s a book they make for us where if you carried it with you, you won’t need to go to the gym,” Lynch said. “Every time there’s a problem, they tell us what we can’t do. They tell us what we shouldn’t do. But they never tell us what we can do. We’re going to take that book, their rules and we’re going to protect ourselves because they won’t. We will do it the way they want us to do it. We will do it with their stupid rules, even the ones that don’t work.”

Pretty soon the days of Dinkins will be looked upon nostalgically.

SEIU Union Thug Arrested for Attacking NYPD Officer During ‘Mostly Peaceful’ Protest [Jammie Wearing Fools]

A real stunner seeing a union organizer being arrested for attacking a cop.

A protester who has been charged with assaulting a New York police officer was making six-figures working for one the country’s largest unions, The Daily Beast has learned.

Robert Murray, 43, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, surrendered to police at Manhattan’s 5th Precinct Thursday morning.

According to a police spokesperson, Murray was charged with two felony counts of assaulting a police officer and three misdemeanors counts, one each of resisting arrest, inciting to riot, and obstruction of governmental administration. Murray has no prior arrests, the spokesman said. No date has been announced yet for Murray’s arraignment, where he will enter his plea and have an opportunity to contest the charges.

Murray worked as an organizing coordinator for 32BJ, a 145,000-member New York affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, known as SEIU, which has more than two million members nationally.

The attack in which Murray is charged has been front-page news in New York for almost a week. It was the first significant violence directed toward police after weeks of demonstrations across the city.  In the wake of the incident, the police union has harshly criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio, who they have portrayed as overly sympathetic to the protesters and insufficiently supportive of police.

Significant violence, not to be confused with garden variety violence.

At a private event last Friday the head of the police union, Pat Lynch, told a room full of delegates that “Mayor Bill de Blasio acts more like the leader of “a fucking revolution” than a city,” according to Capital New York’s Azi Paybarah who obtained a recording of the meeting.

Elaine Kim, assistant to the president for communications for 32BJ SEIU, provided this statement after being contacted regarding Murray’s arrest.

“Rob Murray is a staff member of 32BJ SEIU and is now on unpaid leave. The union does not under any circumstance condone violence of any kind, including against police officers. We respect the work of our police officers and support their efforts to protect both the public and those engaging in lawful protest. 32BJ SEIU has repeatedly called on protesters to express their views peacefully just as we called on the police to respect the rights of demonstrators. We trust the facts in this case will come to light through the legal process.”

If they allegedly don’t condone violence, why are union goons so violent during “mostly peaceful” protests? Do they not realize the NYPD officers are also in a union?

The incident marred a mostly peaceful protest in which tens of thousands of demonstrators took to city streets in what was by far the largest of several protests this month in response to the grand jury’s decision.

Yeah, that so so peaceful these morons chanted about wanting dead cops. Meanwhile, another mostly peaceful liberal was arrested earlier in the week.

The NYPD released photos of seven suspects — four males, three females — wanted for questioning in connection with the assault, as well as nine witnesses. The initial reward offered was $12,000.

According to an NYPD statement, the suspects mobbed the two lieutenants, who were attempting to arrest a protester who was trying to toss a garbage can onto the roadway below him at about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Several demonstrators punched and kicked the lieutenants, while trying to remove their police radios and NYPD jackets. One of the lieutenants suffered a broken nose, police said, while both suffered multiple cuts and bruises.

The protester accused of trying to toss the garbage can, Eric Linsker, a 29-year-old CUNY professor and poet, escaped but left a backpack full of hammers, personal papers, and a small amount of marijuana behind, police allege. He was arrested early Sunday morning and faces several felony charges.

Another aging hippie was also arrested.

Police also arrested a Staten Island man, Richard Lynch, 53, who protests with a Guy Fawkes mask and a sign that reads “Angry Pacifist,” accusing him of disorderly conduct and disrupting traffic on the bridge during the demonstration. He does not face any charges in connection with the alleged assault.

These people really need to grow up. Oh, and in a show of solidarity with the NYPD, the moron mayor will be meeting with … protest organizers today.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning to meet with organizers of the protests over the death of Eric Garner.

Administration officials confirmed that de Blasio, a Democrat who took office in January, will meet with members of the Justice League at City Hall on Friday.

The Justice League? What are they, fucking cartoon characters?

A military miracle: Hanukkah care for U.S. armed forces personnel [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

Troops with their Hannukah care packages. (Courtesy of Ava Hamburger)

Troops with their Hannukah care packages. (Courtesy of Ava Hamburger)

On Hanukkah, Jews around the world pay tribute to the Maccabees, a small band of Jewish soldiers who pulled off an improbable military victory.

Members of the Israel Defense Forces carry on that legacy today, and for Hanukkah, they too are recognized alongside their Maccabean predecessors with organizations across political stripes visiting military bases and bringing party supplies.

But for Jewish soldiers in the United States armed forces, this is less of a reality.

“Within the collective Jewish community, there is a lot of focus on the IDF. I don’t think there is even an awareness that there are Jews in the [U.S.] military,” says Rabbi Ephraim Travis, a chaplain in the U.S. military.

One person who is aware is Ava Hamburger, a founder of an organization called Kosher Troops. For the last seven years, she and co-founder Sara Fuerst have been sending care packages to American-Jewish servicemen and women across the globe. They deliver some 5,000 kosher food packages each year, most of which go out during the holidays. They’ve sent matzah to Micronesia, challah to Kuwait and gefilte fish to Germany.

“Once, we sent rugelach to a guy stationed in the Middle East,” said Hamburger. “He was worried that someone might find out he was Jewish. Instead, another soldier approached him and said ‘you’re Jewish too?!’”

Especially on Hanukkah, Hamburger says sending the packages takes special significance.

“I’m not out there defending anyone,” she said. “I’m here enjoying my freedoms, so I want to support and show gratitude to those who are.”

Jews make up a tiny minority of the U.S. Armed Forces (estimates range between 5,000 to 10,000, or roughly one half of one percent of active military personnel), making the holiday season a challenge for some soldiers — not just to express their faith, but to tap into the same sense of joy and celebration that other soldiers experience. Many army installations have tree-lighting ceremonies, potluck dinners with a Christmas ham or a party accompanied by Santa Claus himself.

Even with the care packages — which go a long way — celebrating Hanukkah isn’t always easy. At Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Travis was stationed for two recent Hanukkahs, he would organize one party that would last “maybe” three hours.

“Just because it’s Hanukkah doesn’t mean that work starts late the next morning,” he said.

The events generally included members of different faiths as well as Jewish soldiers whom he previously didn’t know were Jewish. Some Jewish soldiers, he notes, otherwise avoid singling themselves out as Jewish. “The army is all about unity, and people don’t want to be ostracized or stick out based on their faith,” he said.

The donations from Kosher Troops allowed Travis to hold the party, to light candles, and to “get together, enjoy each others company, and relish the opportunity to celebrate a Jewish holiday in uniform.”

And that, he says, is a “blessing.”

Behind every great ‘Serial’ podcast host, a Jewish studies professor [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

Sarah Koenig (WBEZ)

Sarah Koenig (WBEZ)

No spoilers here about the “Serial” season finale, but I will say this much: The episode ends with … a special thanks to a certain Jewish studies professor.

That would be Benjamin Schreier, the interim director of the Jewish studies program at Penn State and the husband of “Serial” host Sarah Koenig.

With “Serial,” Koenig has achieved something akin to superstardom. Her “This American Life” spinoff, in which she reexamines a 15-year-old murder case, has topped iTunes charts — with a reported 31 million downloads as of earlier this week.

“Fame hasn’t changed her. She’s been too busy working on the story to pay attention” to all of the buzz surrounding the podcast sensation, said Schreier, an associate professor of English and Jewish studies at the State College, Pa., university.

For “Serial,” Koenig spent some 15 months trying to figure out whether or not Adnan Syed — a former honor student convicted in the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee — is guilty of the crime for which he is serving a life sentence. In 12 weekly installments, the veteran radio producer chronicled her findings and her many ruminations along the way. The final episode of the first season (and we’re told there will be a second season, thanks to listener support, but on a different topic) was released on Thursday.

Testaments to the podcast’s cultural impact include the show’s own subreddit, a Slate podcast devoted to analyzing each installment, a feature in The New York Times Magazine, multiple parody podcasts and a spot-on Funny or Die sketch starring the actress Michaela Watkins.

But not much has changed in the Koenig-Schreier household, her husband said.

While Koenig was reporting “Serial,” Schreier stayed focused on his academic career. At Penn State, he teaches courses on topics such as post-Holocaust literature and Jewish American film. His second book on “the concept of identity in Jewish American literature” will be published next year, he said.

In recent months, Schreier has also spent a fair amount of time solo parenting the couple’s two children while Koenig was hard at work on the series. He noted that Koenig, in turn, has stepped up over the years when he’s had to travel for work. “We both support each other,” he said.

He called the finale “fantastic,” and noted that the fascination with “Serial” has even filtered into his professional life. He recalled how at a recent conference on Jewish literature, a graduate student “flipped out” when she heard he was married to Koenig.

French far-right mayor’s city hall menorah sparks controversy [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

(JTA) — A French mayor with ties to the far-right National Front party lit a menorah in city hall despite protests that doing so violated the separation of church and state.

Robert Menard of Beziers, who was elected mayor earlier this year, lit the menorah Tuesday, the first night of Hanukkah, at the seat of his municipality, the Actualite Juive newspaper reported Thursday.

Aime Couquet, a well-known former leader of the French Communist Party who lives in Beziers, told the Midi Libre daily that it was “a violation of the French constitution and of the law on the separation of church and state” and that the mayor “installed a new ostentatious religious symbol inside city hall.”

Maurice Abitbol, president of the local Jewish community, told Actualite Juive that he asked the mayor to erect a menorah but that the local branch of the Consistoire – French Jewry’s organization responsible for religious services – “applied heavy pressure” to prevent the event from taking place due to  Menard’s National Front affiliation.

Representatives of France’s Jewish community are boycotting the National Front, which they say needs to distance itself from party officials like honorary president and founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has multiple convictions for inciting hate against Jews and for Holocaust denial. His daughter and successor as party leader, Marine Le Pen, has tried to reach out to French Jews.

Abitbol said Menard was ”impartial.”

On Friday, an administrative court in the nearby city of Montpellier rejected a motion filed by a local human rights group requesting that the court issue an injunction against a nativity scene, or crèche, that Menard had placed at city hall several weeks ago.

Judge Marianne Hardy ruled that the crèche posed neither a danger to public order nor to “the principles of secularism and neutrality.”

Secularism in the public sphere, or laicite, is a principle of the French government and constitution. Many are concerned the principle is being eroded, in part because of the arrival to France of millions of Muslims from the 1950s onward.

Jesus comes to the Hanukkah party [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

Sure, his birthday usually falls around the same time as Hanukkah, but Jesus and the Jewish holiday generally don’t mix.

This year, however, two Jesus-Hanukkah juxtapositions have been getting a lot of social media attention.

First, there’s Bud Williams, the Springfield, Mass., city counselor who said “Jesus is the reason for the season” — at a menorah lighting.

And there’s the morning host of St. Louis’ Fox affiliate, Kim Kelly Hudson. who sported a T-shirt bearing an image of Jesus on the cross while she interviewed a local rabbi about Hanukkah.

Asked about the T-shirt by Jim Romenesko, via Twitter, Hudson explained that she routinely wears T-shirts promoting local events — this one was for a Christian rap concert the same evening. “No insult was intended,” she said.

Williams seemed surprised at the ruckus, telling MassLive that when folks speak of a “bright light” from 2,000 years ago — as did rabbis at the ceremony — Jesus naturally comes to mind.

“I thought it added something to the service; it didn’t take away,” he said.

For Cuban Jews in U.S., rapprochement with Castro regime cause for concern [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

People stand outside the Little Havana restaurant Versailles, as they absorb the news that Alan Gross was released from a Cuban prison and that U.S. President Barack Obama wants to change the United States Cuba policy, Dec. 17, 2014 in Miami. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

People stand outside the Little Havana restaurant Versailles, as they absorb the news that Alan Gross was released from a Cuban prison and that U.S. President Barack Obama wants to change the United States Cuba policy, Dec. 17, 2014 in Miami. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(JTA) – For many Cuban Jews – the majority of whom now live in the United States – it has been a bittersweet week.

Like countless Jews around the world, they cheered the release of Alan Gross, the American Jewish telecommunications contractor who had been held in a Cuban prison for the last five years.

But then there’s the matter of reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana.

For those old enough to remember the most brutal years of the Castro regime, the idea of rapprochement with a country still ruled by the Castro family (Fidel’s brother, Raul, is now president) is more cause for concern than celebration. And while there’s some acknowledgment that ending the embargo may bring some benefits for the Cuban people, it is surpassed by abiding concern that the deal President Obama announced on Wednesday will extend the life of a brutal dictatorship whose crimes can be neither forgotten nor forgiven.

“Castro is being saved today by Obama!” bemoaned Joseph Perelis, who came to the United States in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. “In the terms I see, this will allow Castro to maintain his grip on power.”

The newly announced deal with Washington, he said, likely would enable Cuba to adopt the Chinese model: a Communist regime where the army and the party are enriched by capitalist enterprise while the cheap labor of the people is exploited for the benefit of the regime and its trading partners.

“The old 1959 political refugees want a democratic regime change: free press, free elections, free Internet, a real improvement for the Cuban people,” Perelis said.

Nancy Brook, who left Cuba in 1961 when she was 12, expressed similar concerns, even as she acknowledged the failure of America’s Cuba policy to dislodge the Cuban regime.

“It is obvious that the so-called embargo has not worked,” she said. “But will these new measures bring benefits and freedom to the Cuban people or just benefit the Cuban government and their bunch of thugs?”

Brook has not been back to Cuba since she left. Her parents came to the United States three years later, after the two stores and eight-story building they owned were confiscated by Castro’s Communist regime.

There is something of a generational divide among Cuban Americans when it comes to the question of the embargo. Many younger Cuban Americans say ending the long U.S. embargo may provide new opportunities to change life in Cuba for the better. But those who witnessed the regime’s crimes firsthand generally believe there can be no rapprochement with a Castro-led government.

“The older Cubans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are mostly against because they suffered: They had to abandon Cuba, they saw a lot of injustices,” said Sergio Grobler, a past president of the Cuban Hebrew Congregation of Miami, Temple Beth Shmuel. “The younger Cubans mostly are for an easing of the relationships between Cuba and the U.S., because the most horrifying things happened before they were born. When you don’t see it with your own flesh, it’s different. But I think it would be immoral to accept what has been happening.”

That generational divide is evident within Grobler’s own family. Grobler says his son has talked to him about wanting to visit Cuba; visits by Americans have been permitted to the island nation for some time, so long as they take place under certain conditions, such as under religious or journalistic auspices. Grobler says he has no problem with his son going to see the place his father grew up and visiting the local Jewish community, but he himself won’t go until the Communist dictatorship has been removed.

“I refuse to go to Cuba,” Grobler said. “I refuse to do business with them. I will go the day prior to the day there will elections in Cuba.”

In the Perelis family, too, the generational divide is evident.

“In general, younger Cuban-Americans (myself included) see the embargo as a stupid policy which only gives the Castro regime an enemy to blame and excuses for their incompetence and absence of human rights,” said Joseph Perelis’ son, Ronnie Perelis, who is a professor of Sephardic studies at Yeshiva University and was born in the United States. “Nixon went to China. We have had diplomatic and military relationships with dastardly regimes from the Saudis to [Chilean dictator Augusto] Pinochet.”

Yet Ronnie Perelis acknowledges some ambivalence about this week’s announced changes.

“Clearly the embargo has been a failure and perhaps openness can open a new way forward,” he said. “The chance of person-to-person contact changing things in small ways in the island is not insignificant.”

But, he added, the change may also “simply leave the regime in a stronger position to continue their control of the population without any democratic change.”

Marcos Kerbel, a past president and now chair of the finance committee at the Cuban Hebrew Congregation in Miami, says the community is taking a wait-and-see attitude for now.

“We’re all extremely happy about the release of the Alan Gross,” Kerbel said. “I don’t take political sides. We see in Congress there are some debates about the new policy. My attitude right now is wait and see what’s going to happen.”

Washington Institute names former Palestinian negotiator as fellow [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Washington Institute for Near East Policy named a former Palestinian negotiator to its think tank team.

Ghaith al-Omari, who until recently directed the American Task Force on Palestine, is joining the think tank as a senior fellow, a Washington Institute statement said.

Al-Omari worked with the Palestinian team during the 1999-2001 talks with Israel.

The Washington Institute is known for its ties in the U.S. and Israeli governments and for hosting guest speakers from a broad range of Middle Eastern countries.

Dennis Ross, a Washington Institute counselor, was a top Middle East adviser to President Obama, and among its previous fellows is Moshe Yaalon, currently Israel’s defense minister.

The ATFP, the premier Palestinian advocate in the United States of a two-state solution, recently downsized, citing difficulties in fundraising.

Tunisian Jewish leaders endorse secularist’s presidential bid [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

(JTA) — In advance of the second round of Tunisia’s presidential elections, the head of the country’s Jewish community endorsed the campaign of secularist hopeful Beji Caid Essebsi.

Joseph Roger Bismuth, president of the Jewish Community of Tunisia, or CJT, gave Essebsi his support in an interview published Thursday by the news site AfricanManager.com ahead of the Dec. 21 vote.

He is quoted as saying that Essebssi will win the election because “he has worked for a long time for Tunisia and he has many contacts and relations that allow him to work better” than other candidates.

In an interview for the news site earlier this week, René Trabelsi, who heads the Jewish community of Djerba, also endorsed the campaign of Essebsi, who is the leader of the secularist Nidaa Tounes. In October’s parliamentary elections, his party emerged as the country’s largest after it won 86 seats of the Tunisian parliament’s 217.

Bismuth also said that the Islamic Ennahdha party, which after the elections became the country’s second largest, “will complement the next government, and this will serve socio-political stability” in Tunisia.

The Dec. 21 election is the first regular presidential election after the Tunisian Revolution of 2011 and the adoption of the constitution in January.

Some 1,700 Jews live in Tunisia, according to the European Jewish congress. The country used to have more than 100,000 Jews.

Obama signs ‘No Social Security for Nazis’ act [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama signed into law a bill that ends Social Security payments to former Nazis.

The “No Social Security for Nazis Act” Obama signed Thursday was passed unanimously by both chambers in Congress earlier this month.

The measure closes a loophole that had allowed ex-Nazis who lied about their past when immigrating to the United States — and had been identified and deported by the Justice Department — to continue receiving Social Security and other government benefits.

News of the continued benefits was uncovered in October when The Associated Press published an expose.

There are at least four living beneficiaries, including Jakob Denzinger, a former guard at Auschwitz. Denzinger, 90, lives in Croatia, where he receives approximately $1,500 a month in Social Security payments.

Separately, Congress last week allocated $2.5 million to assist impoverished Holocaust survivors as part of an omnibus funding bill. Obama signed the $1.1 trillion bill Tuesday.

The Obama administration, together with Florida lawmakers Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, have been pushing for extra programs and funding to assist the survivors.

The Jewish Federations of North America, which has led lobbying and fundraising to meet the needs of the survivors, praised the allocation of the funds.

“Because of this action, we will be able to continue to provide valuable services that survivors are unable to find elsewhere,” Mark Wilf, who chairs the JFNA effort on behalf of survivors, said in a statement.

The Obama administration also launched a drive to recruit volunteers to assist survivors through the federal anti-poverty volunteer program, Americorps-VISTA.

According to JFNA, there are about 113,000 Holocaust survivors in the United States, of which about 25 percent live below the poverty line.

Menorah honoring terror victims erected in Sydney [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Chabad set up a menorah in downtown Sydney as a tribute to the victims of a terrorist attack.

The 32-foot menorah was erected late Thursday night in downtown Sydney, just hours after the Hasidic outreach organization cancelled its annual candle-lighting ceremony in the wake of the terror attack that killed ended with three people, including the assailant, killed. The menorah has been used for Hanukkah ceremonies for nearly 30 years.

At the foot of the menorah is a message that reads: “The Jewish community of Australia expresses our deepest sympathy for the families of the Martin Place tragedy. May the Lights of the festival of Hannukah bring comfort and warmth to our nation.”

Erecting the menorah sends a message even in the absence of the lighting ceremony, said Rabbi Elimelech Levy, the director of Chabad Youth NSW and coordinator of the annual Hanukkah in the City celebration.

“Whilst the event was cancelled, the presence of the giant menorah sends a powerful message that light will always overcome darkness,” Levy said. “As we mourn the loss of life and the atrocity that has taken place, people of goodwill will continue to shine the light of freedom and communal harmony, which is what the Hanukkah menorah is all about.”

The menorah was scheduled to be erected Monday night but was postponed because of the siege at Lindt chocolate café. Man Haron Monis, a self-styled Iranian cleric, held almost 20 people hostage before the 16-hour siege ended in a shootout.

On Thursday, two Chabad rabbis joined an interfaith gathering at the memorial site, which has become a sea of tens of thousands of flowers.

Rabbi Levi Wolff gave a yarzheit candle to Ken Johnson, the father of Tori, who was killed trying to subdue the terrorist.

“I told him that Tori is one of G-d’s tallest candles and that he has lit up a nation with his brave act,” Rabbi Wolff told J-Wire, a local Jewish website.

Amsterdam acting mayor lights Hanukkah candles against intolerance [Jewish Telegraphic Agency]

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) – At a public lighting of Hanukkah candles, Amsterdam’s acting mayor urged Jews to celebrate their faith openly to counter rising levels of anti-Semitism.

“The answer to intolerance lies precisely in demonstrating freedom of worship and of expression,” Eric van der Burg said Tuesday, lighting the first candle of the holiday. Gesturing toward the three-foot menorah on display at a square in Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, he added: “This is a shining example of this.”

Anti-Semitic incidents increased dramatically in the Netherlands during Israel’s summer war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The CIDI watchdog group registered 105 complaints during the two-month operation. The organization registered 147 the whole of 2013.

Yanki Jacobs, a Chabad rabbi from Amsterdam who lit the menorah with the mayor, thanked him.“The message is that you can’t fight darkness with darkness,” Jacobs said.

Public Hanukkah celebrations are a recent development in Europe. In the Netherlands, the lightings are spearheaded by pro-Israel and pro-Jewish Christians.

On Thursday, Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, Yanki Jacobs’ father, lit a 36-foot menorah in the small city of Urk near Amsterdam at a ceremony attended by hundreds of Christian Zionists. The menorah, built last year by the Christians for Israel organization,  is believed to be Europe’s largest.

Earlier this week, Jacobs attended another Hanukkah ceremony in the southern city of Middleburg, where Mayor Harald Bergmann presented a royal decoration to two of the local Jewish community’s pioneers who had been knighted.

Aryeh and Rachel Herz, 72 and 73 respectively, were made knights in the Netherlands’ Order of Orange-Nassau for their efforts to rebuild their community’s synagogue, among other projects.

The North Korean Hacking Threat Hits Close to Home [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

Featured in the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The North Korean Hacking Threat Is Closer Than You Think

The latest news out of North Korea is outrageous, and I’ve just about had it with this — BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

Ha-ha-ha, Morning Jolt Readers! It is I, Kim Jong-un, and my friends at Guardians of Peace group have helped me hack into the Morning Jolt newsletter!

Now I can interrupt Jim’s writing whenever I want, and he’ll have no idea! Finally, we the Heroic People’s Collective of Noble Righteous Revolutionary Justice can stop Jim’s capitalistic running dog propaganda. Let’s check in to see what he’s saying, and laugh at how he doesn’t know we’re doing this . . . 

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

. . . This fat pant-load thinks he can push us around. I’d say we need to give this guy a little chin music, except I can’t decide which chin to start with. I’ve never seen a one-man cause of national starvation. I understand he was initially excited about the proposed plan of revenge against Sony, because he thought the plan involved snacking.

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

This is not funny, Running Dog Geraghty. Words can hurt, you know. Dad said I was big-boned.

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

It looks like we’re being threatened by the little kid from Pixar’s Up.

He’s the only world leader whose haircut gets worse every single time. It’s like his barber used up all the electricity in the country shaving the sides. You can tell every general standing behind him is trying to not stare at it, because they don’t want to. There’s that awkward silence, nobody knows how to talk to him. Obviously, the only reason anybody hung around with this guy was because his dad was a homicidal maniac who ran the country.

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

That is really uncalled for. It’s lonely being the heir to the throne of a Communist monarchy.

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

Think about it, the only reason women sleep with him is because he can kill their families. He couldn’t even get a real NBA star to come over to his country and hang out; he had to settle for Dennis Rodman. He grew up a die-hard Michael Jordan fan, and he has to settle for Rodman. At least hold out for Scottie Pippen!

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

Why is everyone always so mean to me?

BZZZZT #*%#&$^#($*

I’d call for a retaliatory cyber-strike taking down the North Korean electrical grid, except nobody would notice. When he says “it’s time to turn out the light” at bedtime, he means the country’s lone electrical light. This is why “how many North Koreans does it take to screw in a light bulb” jokes don’t work there. But that’s okay, because nothing else works there, either.

You and I may not have the money, power, palaces, and alleged nuclear arsenal that Kim Jong Un has, but we can hold our heads high in a way he can’t. We don’t have to wrap ourselves and our entire country in an endless labyrinth of lies to prevent everyone around us from killing us, and we don’t live in constant terror that people will see the world as it actually is and us as we actually are. What a pathetic form of existence.

You’re mean, Running Dog Geraghty. Really, really mean.

Bloomberg: The Real Threat with North Korea Is U.S. Overreaction [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

The editors at Bloomberg have identified the real threat in the controversy over The Interview and North Korea’s hack attack: American overreaction.

Like so many Hollywood movies, North Korea’s offensive against Sony Pictures Entertainment could end badly — which is why U.S. officials have to be careful not to overreact.

. . . Now that unnamed U.S. officials have claimed North Korea is behind the cyberattack that crippled Sony’s computers, some are calling for the government to retaliate. That would be a mistake.

. . . Sony and other corporations can’t expect the U.S. government to respond to every attack on their behalf. However embarrassing and costly to the studio, the hacking represents a cybercrime, not an act of cyberterrorism directed at civilians or vital national infrastructure. (By the same token, threats against theaters showing a Hollywood comedy that mocks Kim Jong Un hardly compare with the vows of annihilation that constantly pour out of North Korean state media.)

What about the consequences of underreaction?

You can literally watch the reaction to a threat from a foreign power in our cities, as Sony quickly removes the billboards . . . how in the world is our reaction the problem here?

Why do we have to be so careful to not provoke them? Why doesn’t anybody ever fear the consequences of angering Americans?

Castro Lives Long Enough to See a Big Win. [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

Brezhnev keeled over in 1982, Qaddafi died a violent death at the hands of his people, but Castro hung on long enough to see the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States, fewer travel restrictions, increased U.S. exports, and likely a removal of sanctions for sponsoring terrorism.

How Far Is North Korea Willing to Go to Derail a Critical Movie? [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Just How Far Is North Korea Willing to Go to Derail a Critical Movie?

Up until now, the hacking of Sony Pictures — suspected to be the work of North Korea, in response to the upcoming comedy film The Interview — has been mostly fun and games as long as you don’t work in Hollywood. (Our Tim Cavanaugh points out that we’re all chuckling about messages that constitute stolen property.)

The furious reaction from Pyongyang is particularly ironic, since having a hostile foreign state with nuclear weapons throw a temper tantrum and/or launch a cyber-war is basically the greatest publicity a film could possibly want. Considering the way they’re reacting, you would think The Interview has actual footage of Kim Jong Un dancing “YMCA” in pink underwear or something. (Actually, the film’s climax features an actor playing Kim Jong Un meeting a spectacularly unfortunate end. Spoiler and content warnings for that link.)

The fun just stopped:

The Sony hackers have threatened a 9/11-like attack on movie theaters that screen Seth Rogen and James Franco’s North Korean comedy “The Interview,” substantially escalating the stakes surrounding the release of the movie.

The attackers also released the promised “Christmas gift” of files. The contents of the files are unknown but it’s called “Michael Lynton,” who is the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“The world will be full of fear,” the message reads. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.”

Past messages have included budgets to Sony films, salary information of top executives, and employee medical records and social security numbers.

There have been suspicions that the attack may have been launched by North Korea in retaliation for “The Interview’s” depiction of an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un. The country has denied involvement but praised the attacks.

North Korea — or somebody working on their behalf — wouldn’t be dumb enough to launch a terror attack on American movie theaters on Christmas Day, would they?

Somebody’s getting nervous.

“The Interview” stars Seth Rogen and James Franco have canceled all upcoming media appearances following the latest threats made against theaters showing the movie, Variety has confirmed.

The duo has withdrawn from previously scheduled press appearances, including Rogen’s Thursday appearance on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and a chat with Buzzfeed Brews, leading up to “The Interview’s” Christmas Day release.

According to insiders, Rogen and Franco are still scheduled to appear at Thursday’s New York special screening of “The Interview.” The two were at the Los Angeles premiere last week, but didn’t do press interviews.

Sometimes North Korea’s idea of saber-rattling is drawing the saber and stabbing you:

The ROKS Cheonan sinking occurred on 26 March 2010, when the Cheonan, a Republic of Korea Navy ship carrying 104 personnel, sank off the country’s west coast near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 seamen. A South Korean-led official investigation carried out by a team of international experts from South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Sweden presented a summary of its investigation on 20 May 2010, concluding that the warship had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo fired by a midget submarine.

The Norks’ entire concept of deterrence, and what kind of risk is acceptable in their metronomic brinksmanship, is completely different from ours.

Maybe the threat to movie theaters is nothing but bluster. But we’ve seen a gunman shoot up the Canadian Parliament, a guy out on parole take hostages and kill hostages in an Australian chocolate shop, and the Taliban massacre children in a school. The sense of what’s really “unthinkable” in our chaotic world gets a little narrower, week by week.

What, “two thumbs down” just isn’t enough for the Norks?

Get Ready for Jeb Bush's Spanish on the Stump [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

Here’s Jeb Bush, speaking at the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC’s eleventh annual luncheon in Coral Gables, Fla., at the beginning of the month:

Even if you speak no Spanish, you can figure out his opening joke about his “tenemos hermanos muy famosos . . . Marvin Bush.” And then he mentions “Oh, si, si, el otro.”

Speaking fluent Spanish may or may not win over many Hispanic or Latino voters. Very few Democrats who have won this demographic in the past speak it (Obama doesn’t), and HUD secretary and former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, allegedly the preeminent Latino Democratic politician in the United States, does not speak much Spanish

But many loud voices in the media — buying into the notion that a Republican presidential candidate must support a path to citizenship and denounce the “xenophobic” elements of the party — are likely to treat Bush’s fluency as a factor that could win over many Hispanic or Latino voters.

The English portion of Bush’s speech, critiquing Obama’s foreign policy, is likely to play well on the stump in the GOP primary:

Words matter. Presidents need to set United States aspirations and intentions, with little gap between words and deeds. Think of the Russian reset. Think of the Syrian Red Line. Think of the pivot to Asia. Think of taking out ISIS. All of these things were perhaps important, but none of them have been accomplished. And it has created a big gap between our rhetoric and our action, and it undermines our credibility in the world. Our allies don’t trust us, and our enemies don’t fear us. There is no situation worse for stability and peace than that. The iron rule of superpower deterrent is mean it when you say it, and it has been broken by this president.

Jeb Bush: I Am 'Actively Exploring' Running for President [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

Well, now we know:

A Note from Jeb Bush

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

 

Like many of you, our family was blessed with the opportunity to gather together over the recent Thanksgiving holiday.

 

Columba and I are so proud of the wonderful adults our children have become, and we loved spending time with our three precious grandchildren.

 

We shared good food and watched a whole lot of football.

 

We also talked about the future of our nation. As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.

 

In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

 

In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.

 

Best wishes to you and your families for a happy holiday season. I’ll be in touch soon.

 

Onward,

Jeb Bush

The Overhyped Obama Bump Over Executive Amnesty [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The Overhyped Obama Bump Over Executive Amnesty

Peter Beinart’s theory:

Remember when pundits loved Barack Obama? It’s been quite a few years now. But I suspect some of the adoration is about to come back.

Politically, Obama’s immigration gamble is working. Fearful of alienating Hispanics or shutting down the government, Republican leaders have largely abandoned hope of overturning Obama’s move. What’s more, Obama’s approval ratings are up 15 points among Hispanics but have not dropped among Anglo whites. Add immigration to health-care reform and the fiscal stimulus and more commentators will start noticing that, whether you like Obama’s agenda or not, it’s been the most consequential of any Democratic president’s since Lyndon Johnson.

The executive amnesty may not have dropped Obama’s numbers among “Anglo whites” but that’s probably because they already hit the floor. And the bump among Latinos is pretty marginal in terms of the overall electorate. Take a look at Obama’s approval in the Real Clear Politics average for the past three months and see if you can spot the amnesty bump. It’s harder to find than Waldo:

The red line (skipping over the obvious “red line” joke) is Obama’s disapproval, steady in the low-to-mid 50s. The black line is his approval, steady in the low-to-mid 40s.

We often hear the accurate fact that Hispanics or Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic in the United States — but it’s easy to forget that amounts to only 17 percent of the U.S. population, as of 2012. A 15 point bump among that 17 percent of the electorate turns into . . . a 2.5 point bump overall.

Romney Was Right to Oppose Negotiating with Child-Killers [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

The news out of Pakistan is horrifying: More than 126 dead, mostly children, in a Taliban attack on a school.

Back in 2012, the entire foreign-policy establishment, inside and outside the Obama administration, thought Mitt Romney was a fool for opposing negotiations with the Taliban. Who’s the fool now?

Who wanted the United States to sit down across a table and make concessions to a the kind of men who massacre children?

Back in 2008, as a presidential candidate, Obama denounced the Pakistani government for . . . negotiating with the Taliban.

We can’t coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions of dollars and then he’s making peace treaties with the Taliban and militants. What I’ve said is we’re going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants.

Glad to see the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange deal helped open a dialogue and moderate the Taliban’s behavior.

If you can’t trust a face like this . . . er, never mind.

A Choice, Not a Metaphorical Brother-in-Law [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

NBC News:

Jeb Bush is moving closer and closer to a presidential bid in 2016 — after announcing he would release 250,000 emails from his days as Florida governor, as well as release a new book.

Presuming Hillary Clinton is the Democrats’ 2016 nominee, grassroots conservatives will want to beat her with the blazing passion of a thousand suns going supernova.

Earlier this month:

George W. Bush might have developed a brotherly relationship with Bill Clinton — but he’s still picking his actual brother, Jeb, over Clinton’s wife, Hillary, in a potential 2016 presidential match-up.

The two former presidents have developed a close friendship, with Bush sometimes calling Clinton his “brother from another mother.” In an interview, CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Bush what that makes Hillary Clinton.

“My sister-in-law,” he said.

It’s great that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and the Bush and Clinton families get along so well these days, but the Republican party’s base is not going to entrust the task of beating Hillary Clinton to her metaphorical brother-in-law.

Jeb Bush, speaking at National Constitution Center Liberty Medal ceremony honoring Hillary Clinton in September 2013.

Greenpeace, Trampling History in a Publicity Stunt [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

If you’re having trouble getting your Morning Jolt e-mail, contact newsletter@e.nationalreview.com.

Also in today’s Jolt:

Greenpeace, Joining the Ranks of Indiana Jones Villains

Greenpeace. I hate these guys.

Peru will seek criminal charges against Greenpeace activists who it says damaged the world-renowned Nazca lines by leaving footprints in the adjacent desert during a publicity stunt.

“It’s a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred,” said Luis Jaime Castillo, the deputy culture minister, after the action by the environmental group on Monday, at the famed drawings etched into Peru’s coastal desert, a UN world heritage site.

He said the government was seeking to prevent those responsible from leaving the country while it asks prosecutors to file charges of attacking archaeological monuments, a crime punishable by up to six years in prison.

The activists entered a “strictly prohibited” area beside the figure of a hummingbird, the culture ministry said. They laid big yellow cloth letters reading: “Time for Change! The Future is Renewable.” The message was intended for delegates from 190 countries at the UN climate talks being held in Lima.

Castillo said no one, not even presidents and cabinet ministers, was allowed where the activists had gone without authorisation and anyone who received permission must wear special shoes.

The Nazca lines are huge figures depicting living creatures, stylised plants and imaginary figures scratched on the surface of the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago. They are believed to have had ritual functions related to astronomy.

Claiming to promote the preservation of the environment, Greenpeace did damage to the environment. It belongs in a museum!

Michael Rubin:

Beyond the sheer stupidity of the Greenpeace activists’ actions, a broader question — not addressed by the New York Times or much of the press — was what the purpose of the Greenpeace action was. Certainly, perpetrators said on video that they were motivated by the fight against climate change, but it seems so often that Greenpeace stunts are motivated far more by a desire to promote Greenpeace than do anything for the environment.

Naidoo and other Greenpeace executives cannot plead ignorance, for they embraced and encouraged the behavior that led to the vandalism at Nazca . . . 

So, Greenpeace trained the activists whom it later sent to vandalize the UNESCO site.

What happened in Peru symbolizes not only the hypocrisy of some in the environmentalism industry, but also exposes international NGOs for what they are. No longer are groups like Greenpeace motivated by a desire to heal the world. Instead, they scam well-meaning donors to fund for plush executive lifestyles, overhead, international travel, and an endless quest for publicity to grease further fundraising. Not all NGOs are the same, but Greenpeace seems, increasingly, like the rule rather than the exception among some of the biggest and best-known organizations.

Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an extremist group with an apocalyptic, faith-based ideology and no regard for dissenting views or outsiders trashing major historical landmarks of other cultures and faiths in the name of their holy cause. We’re just used to seeing this from the Taliban and the Islamic State.

Too bad the Hovitos don’t know you the way we do, Greenpeace.

Recalling Hillary's Call to 'Empathize With Our Enemies' Perspective' [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

Hillary Clinton, earlier this month:

This is what we call smart power: using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security, and leaving no one on the sidelines, showing respect, even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective and point of view — helping to define the problems, determine the solutions, that is what we believe in the 21st century will change. Change the prospects for peace.

Which enemies should we be empathizing with? Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Hillary Clinton didn’t mean ISIS; he said, “there’s no question in my mind she was referring to those out there with whom we are not actively fighting or engaged in a war but who are behaving in ways that are clearly opposed to our interests,” and later mentioned Russia.

Wasn’t the “reset button” an attempt to “show respect, even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective”? How did that work out?

Do our problems with our enemies really stem from our lack of empathy to their perspective? Or is it a lack of effectively countering their provocation and aggression?

Dissension in the Ranks at the Post-Ferguson Protests [National Review Online - The Campaign Spot]

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Organizational Meeting for Anarchists Ends in Chaos

Let’s start with a fascinating story about division in the ranks in the post-Ferguson protests, flaring up at the “Justice for All” March in Washington, D.C., this weekend:

Though there were moments of great emotion during Saturday’s Justice For All March — particularly when the families of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Jonathan Crawford, III, Amadou Diallo, Brown and Garner, voiced their gratitude for [Al] Sharpton and the sea of supporters who have kept their loved ones names alive — the criticism that has followed the event largely proved to be true and young protesters all the way from Ferguson, Mo., made sure to let the world know it.

Johnetta Elzie, 25, an activist on the ground in Ferguson and St. Louis who has emerged as a leading voice in the movement, stormed the stage with other young organizers after [National Action Network] officials reportedly denied them access.

When I caught up with Elzie via phone after the march she said that they came to participate in a protest, not be denied access to a “VIP section.”

“When we first got there, two people from NAN told us that we needed a VIP pass or a press pass to sit on the ledge,” said Elzie in disbelief, the frustration still resonating in her voice. “If it is a protest, why do you need to have a VIP pass?”

According to Elzie, once she finally did get a chance to speak, they cut her microphone.

“I was glad to get the support of the some in the crowd who chanted, ‘Let them speak, let them speak.’ One lady in the crowd said that I was being disrespectful. I think it’s disrespectful that black people are being killed every 28 hours. So what they’re telling me does not matter. It’s not our job to convince them that all black lives matter.”

>Does this complaint represent Al Sharpton taking credit for the work of younger activists and refusing to share the spotlight? Or are the young activists presumptuously claiming the right to address the crowd at a rally that Sharpton and his organization organized? We’re always hearing the chant, “The people . . . united . . . will never be defeated” — but who really speaks for “the people”?

To score a point for the young protesters, they’re starting to explicitly make the case that Al Sharpton is not an authentic, convincing, or idealistic representative of their cause, as this spectacular Tweet from one of the young protesters illustrates:

On the other hand, at a rally or protest with speakers, somebody’s got to decide who holds the microphone and when. Otherwise, the privilege of addressing the assembled is dominated by whoever can grab the microphone first and hold off everyone else the longest.

Most large, organized protests target those in positions of authority (politicians, police, business owners) and a key element of their argument is that those who are in power do not have legitimate authority over others. Now the young post-Ferguson protesters are starting to regard the self-appointed or self-proclaimed leaders of the movement with the same skepticism and lack of trust or respect previously reserved for official authorities. Either one of two things will happen: a leader with the trust of the young protesters will emerge, or the movement will try to advance without anyone in any position of authority and capable of deciding who speaks and how. The last movement to so explicitly reject the notion of a leader with authority over others was . . . Occupy Wall Street?

Sixteen Years Ago [National Review Online - The Corner]

Sixteen years ago today, the House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton.

Let it be said that the House was right to do so. Clinton clearly committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” 

The House impeached Clinton not because he took advantage of his position of authority and degraded the Oval Office by having sexual relations with an intern. Clinton was impeached because he manifestly, inarguably perjured himself in sworn testimony to officers of the law, and he took several actions to obstruct justice (and, in effect, to suborn perjury by others). Most directly, the case in question involved a sexual-harassment lawsuit by Paula Corbin Jones against Clinton. Sexual harassment, according to all of Clinton’s allies on the Left, was a horrendous crime — the crime du jour – that merited serious punishment. The suit contained plenty of substance. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the case should go forward while Clinton was still president.

The reason special prosecutor Kenneth Starr was handling the Lewinsky matter at all was because Attorney General Janet Reno petitioned a court to expand Starr’s jurisdiction to cover the issue, because of serious allegations of witness tampering and obstruction of justice. It is worth noting that these allegations mirrored similar, highly believable allegations in the ongoing Whitewater investigation. It was part of a pattern and practice of obstruction of justice, across a broad swath of issues and involving criminal activity of various sorts by a rogue’s gallery of close Clinton associates. The pattern and practice quite arguably demonstrated a mens rea – a criminal mindset — for what was not an isolated incident of sexual misconduct, but rather an interlocking series of scandals in which many of the same players engaged in similar activities to cover up wrongdoing. It included a pattern of misusing protective details, and allegedly of threats to a series of women.

It was the interlocking nature of so many of the scandals that led Starr and, more important, even Reno to decide there was a legitimate nexus between Starr’s broad investigation into what was known by the shorthand of “Whitewater” (even though it included many more scandals than just the failed land deal) and the obstruction of justice in the Jones suit. The practice of cover-ups of sexual relationships, as alleged in the Jones suit, clearly was followed in the Lewinsky affair, which was therefore quite evidently relevant to the Jones suit.

When the president perjures himself — not just to cover up an “affair,” but to protect himself from liability for particularly egregious sexual harassment — that is a crime. When he suborns other government officials — other people supposedly there to serve the public — to obstruct justice in order to protect his own skin, that is a crime. 

Clinton did not just “lie about sex.” Clinton lied under sworn oath, before a grand jury, about a practice of sexual misdeeds that included fairly ample evidence of sexual harassment (and, frankly, worse: see the story of the rape of Juanita Broaddrick). It included highly believable accounts of sexual assault in the Oval Office itself.

When someone uses the power of the highest office in the land to obstruct justice, to suborn others to do the same, and at least allegedly to threaten others who would blow the whistle on all sorts of misdeeds, those are impeachable offenses.

The House was right to impeach Clinton. The Senate should have removed him from office.

Obama: Sony 'Made a Mistake' by Pulling Movie After Cyberattack [National Review Online - The Corner]

President Obama finally weighed in on last month’s devastating hack attack against Sony Corporation, saying the company “made a mistake” by pulling a movie in face of hacker threats and wishing that the executives had “spoken to [him] first.”

With the FBI set to accuse the North Korean regime for the attack, the president lamented Sony’s decision to pull The Interview, a dark comedy revolving around the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. 

Obama noted that Sony is a private company and had suffered immensely under the cyber assault. “Having said that,” he continued, “yes, I think they made a mistake.”

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” the president later said, noting the dangerous precedent it sets in other fields — particularly journalism. “That’s not who we are,” he continued. “That’s not what America is about.”

“Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony, as a private company, was worried about liabilities and this, that, and the other,” Obama said. “I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.’”

College Campuses' Feelings-Based Tyranny [National Review Online - The Corner]

At Marquette University, an ethics teacher refused to allow a class discussion on gay marriage because gays in the room might be offended by negative opinions.

At Harvard Law, Dean Martha Minow cited “hurt” as her reason for sending a campus-wide e-mail excoriating a student who said, in a private message, that some research on race and intelligence might be worthwhile.

At Oberlin, a thousand people signed a petition  to “discontinue the standard grading system” this semester for black students because they have ”suffered significant trauma” from the grand jury decisions in the Ferguson and Staten Island cases.

At the University of Michigan, a conservative Muslim student, Omar Mahmood, set off a month-long campus uproar, and some vandalism, by hurting the feelings of  progressives with a satirical article on liberal attitudes.

And students at several law schools want to eliminate rape law from the curriculum because discussing it is too traumatic, according to Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk, writing in The New Yorker.

These are routine reactions on the modern hypersensitive campus, where hurt feelings regularly trump free speech, free inquiry and ordinary common sense.

For more than 20 years, campus speech and behavior codes have been written in the language of feelings, banning “offensive language,” “hurtful comments,” “disparaging remarks,” or anything that would render a student “uncomfortable.” Though many of these codes have been ruled unconstitutional, the language tends to pop up again in various campus rules. The University of California’s sexual-harassment “info sheet” defines sexual harassment as, among other things, “Humor and jokes about sex in general that make someone feel uncomfortable or that they did not consent to . . . ” A particularly gross example of feelings-based regulation: recently Yale grounds for initiating a sexual-assault complaint to include a student’s “worry” about possible rape.

Feelings in effect are the measure of student misconduct, and causing a student to feel bad is viewed as a form of assault (at least if the offended student is gay, female or a member of a non-Asian minority). Hypersensitivity accounts for new concerns about “trigger warnings” on  potentially traumatic material and “microaggressions” (hard-to-notice little snubs on race and identity), plus the trauma some Wellesley students reported this year upon seeing a statue of a man in his underwear planted on campus.

Chris Rock drew attention to the campus hurt-feelings movement as an obstacle to comedy, telling Frank Rich of New York magazine that he no longer  performs on campuses because ”everything offends students these days.” Professor Suk writes: ”For at least some students, the classroom has become a potentially traumatic environment, and they have begun to anticipate the emotional injuries they could suffer or inflict in classroom conversation.”

So far resistance to the campus hurt-feelings culture has drawn little support from faculty and none from college administrations. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) opposes all form of speech codes and its president, Greg Lukianoff, warns that today’s students are “unlearning liberty “ on campus. FIRE’s latest  report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2014: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses, finds that nearly 60 percent of the 427 colleges and universities analyzed maintain policies that seriously infringe upon the free-speech rights of students. What happens when students who tamely accept these policies are running the country?

— John Leo is editor of Minding the Campus, an online magazine of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. 

How Brave Are We, Really? [National Review Online - The Corner]

I’ve found the entire Interview cancelation fiasco deeply disturbing. It’s one story if Sony faced a vague threat and canceled the movie in a panic, a cancellation that would also have the collateral effect of perhaps appeasing the hackers and preventing the further release of damaging e-mails. But the collapse of will here was far more systematic. It wasn’t just Sony. Every major theater chain pulled out. Major online streaming services indicated they wouldn’t run it. Another studio, Paramount, canceled the small-scale screenings of an entirely separate film, Team America: World Police, a movie that’s been viewed countless times in theaters and online without incident.

Particularly disheartening is the fact that the cancellation came from corporations that have gained enormous market share precisely because they’re very, very good at determining what the American consumer wants. Was this corporate cowardice, or were the corporations reacting to years of accumulated information and experience about the American movie-goer? I think it’s a combination of both. 

Regarding corporate cowardice, the irony is that we’re talking about an industry that routinely applauds itself for “speaking truth to power” or for it’s own “courage” when it makes films that their fellow progressives love but might anger a few people in Tennessee and Alabama. It’s not courage when you seek the acclaim of your peers at the expense of the feelings and mores of people who will do no more than publicly criticize your product. So, now, in the face of a miniscule “real” threat, we see the stuff Sony and Paramount are made of. And it is weak stuff indeed.

But that’s only part of the story. Unrepresentative tweets and Internet comments to the contrary, I think to the extent that people were even aware of the threats, they would be more likely to steer away from the movie (and theaters that showed it) than they would be to defiantly attend. The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto is exactly right (and he quotes NRO’s own Charles Cooke):

Given the choice between the risk of a ruinous loss and even the certainty of a small one, most people will opt for the latter; thinkers from Blaise Pascal to Daniel Kahneman have recognized as much. And with few theaters willing to screen the film, Sony could hardly be expected to release it on schedule—though one suspects the studio’s execs were relieved to have the excuse.

There is of course another injury here—to America’s character as “a resolute and free people,” as National Review’s Charles Cooke puts it. But that loss is an abstract and diffuse one, not the sort of thing for which ordinary people risk life or livelihood except in conditions of emergency.

Free speech may be a value people broadly support, but they also take it completely for granted, giving it zero thought in their daily lives. If they hear about a terrorist threat at a movie theater, their first thought is not necessarily, “I’ll go to the movie as an act of defiance,” it’s more like, “Let’s go out to eat instead.” A critical mass of Americans are not necessarily going to see the meaning and purpose of enduring even the slightest risk for a raunchy comedy. 

But here’s the problem: Timidity is habit-forming. Most people like to think of themselves as the kind of person who will do the right thing when the stakes are high, but we can go through most of life without encountering truly high-stakes challenges to our courage and integrity. Instead, we tend to do the easy thing again and again, blissfully unaware that each easy step erodes just a bit more of our character. As I raise my three kids, I think often of Luke 16:10: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Sony took the easy out, and so did a host of other companies. 

The right response to North Korea’s vague threats (and, let’s be honest, when is North Korea not making threats?) was easy: Beef up police presence at theaters to show that we take protecting our citizens seriously, donate a portion of the movie’s proceeds to humanitarian relief for North Koreans fleeing oppression, and celebrate our liberty in a small but meaningful way by seeing a movie — if you can stomach the raunch — that features the one thing that irritates self-proclaimed god-kings the most, pure mockery. 

But if the right thing was easy, Sony and a host of other companies saw capitulation as easier still. That’s certainly dispiriting, but the thought that they might be accurately reading their customer base is the most dispiriting thought of all.

Two Dem Lawmakers Indicted for Accepting Bribes to Oppose Voter-ID Law [National Review Online - The Corner]

Two Democratic Pennsylvania state representatives were indicted earlier this week for receiving thousands of dollars in bribes to vote against the state’s voter-identification law. The charges by a Philadelphia district attorney come after the Obama administration’s Department of Justice and Pennsylvania’s Democratic attorney general refused to pursue the case.

State representatives Vanessa Brown and Ron Waters were caught as part of a years-long investigation that found they accepted $4,000 and $7,650, respectively, in cash or money orders from a confidential informant in 2011 ahead of a vote for a bill that required voters to show identification at the polls; the law passed, but was struck down by a judge in January of this year. Waters also reportedly accepted a $2,000 Tiffany bracelet.

Following a grand-jury investigation, Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams said Brown and Waters “fully admitted that they knowingly took illegal cash payments.”

When the revelations emerged earlier this year, the Keystone State’s top law-enforcement officer, Democratic attorney general Kathleen Kane, said she would not charge Brown or Waters, and shut down the operation that began under her predecessor, then–attorney general and currently outgoing Republican governor Tom Corbett. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Kane called into question how the investigation was conducted and suggested that race played a role in targeting Brown and Waters, who are black.

As PJ Media notes, the Justice Department declined to investigate the case as well, although it has taken steps to investigate other cases of public corruption, such as that of former Republican Virginia governor Bob McDonnell. This left it to Williams, the local district attorney, to file charges after a grand-jury investigation.

Brown and Waters turned themselves in on Tuesday on charges of bribery and conflict of interest, among others, according to Harrisburg’s Patriot-News.

Cuba: Either Too Early or Too Late [National Review Online - The Corner]

I’m in favor of interacting with Cuba diplomatically like we do with the world’s other decrepit countries ruled by gangsters, and just calling our embassy there an “embassy” rather than an “interests section.” We have an embassy in Zimbabwe, after all, and in Sudan and Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea and Azerbaijan, all ruled by what amount to mafias – why should Cuba be different? In fact, the “normal diplomatic relations” thing is largely symbolic, mainly affecting the sign on the door of the embassies that we already operate in each other’s countries. Here’s a picture of our embassy in Havana:

US embassy Havana

and here’s Cuba’s embassy in Washington:

Cuba embassy DC

But symbolism matters. The justification for our differential treatment of Cuba was that Castro had turned it into a foreign colony in the Western Hemisphere, thus representing a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, and not a colony of just any foreign country but of our chief enemy in the world, that was bent on global domination. Cuba was an enemy base in our backyard and all measures, including even the use of force, were fully justified.

It follows, then, that there were two obvious opportunities for ending this extraordinary situation and normalizing relations. The first came in 1991, with the disappearance of the USSR. Once the Soviet empire evaporated, there was no longer any real rationale for non-recognition and the embargo. Castro became a lackey without a master, a common gangster oppressing his people, like so many other gangsters oppressing other peoples. Having lost its Moscow benefactor, Cuba hit hard times, its people reduced to breading and frying grapefruit peels for sustenance.

But we didn’t change at that time.

The second opening would have come when Fidel Castro dies; he’s 88 and, while he could well live into his 90s, he’ll be checking out soon enough. As the embodiment of Communist rule, his death will be a milestone, even if his brother Raul, the current president, continues the regime’s rule. 

Normalizing relations at either of those times would have communicated strength rather than weakness. A change in policy in either instance would have been seen as (and actually have been) the act of a victor, one that outlasted the USSR or Castro and now could return to the normal relationship a great power has with a puny nonentity.

Instead, Obama has normalized relations with Cuba in such a way as to communicate maximum weakness. The move is rightly being hailed as a victory for Cuba, both by the regime and by its lickspittles in the U.S. To wit:

When piled onto Obama’s other foreign-policy failures — the red line in Syria, the non-response to the Benghazi attack, the almost-certain non-response to North Korea’s attack on the United States, the talk of sanctions on Israel, just to name a few — even a foreign-policy minimalist like me starts to get worried. I’m for much less involvement in other countries’ business, but when that’s approached like Obama is approaching it — as weakness and retreat rather than a clearly defined narrowing of U.S. vital interests — the thugs and bandits who run much of the world will be emboldened to push us around. At some point we’re going to pay a price for Obama’s feckless and timid foreign policy; the smarter people in the White House are probably just hoping they can ride out the next two years without that bill coming due on their watch.

Re: Report: All Net Jobs Growth Since 2007 Has Gone to Immigrants [National Review Online - The Corner]

The report by my colleagues Steve Camarota and Karen Zeigler that Ryan reports on below builds on their earlier research showing immigrants capturing all recent job growth. (Here is a more detailed report breaking down people by age groups, education, etc. And they did a series of state-specific reports as well, on Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia.)

The main thing that’s different about this latest report is that you can just get the numbers yourself from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ public web site (specifically, Table A-7, “Employment status of the civilian population by nativity and sex, not seasonally adjusted [Numbers in thousands])”.

In other words, you don’t have to take our word for it, you don’t have to download a dataset, you don’t need number-crunching skills – you just have to be able to read a simple table. Check the boxes for “Employed” in both foreign-born and native-born, click “Retrieve data”, and look at the column for November; you’ll see that there were about 1.5 million fewer native-born Americans working last month than in November of 2007, but about 2 million more immigrants, even though the native-born accounted for the large majority of growth in the working-age population.

The point is not that the immigrants who are displacing American workers are doing anything wrong. While some are certainly illegal aliens, most are legal immigrants admitted by the system that Congress has set up. That’s the problem — too much immigration, most of it legal. And into this situation, the president, congressional Democrats, and too many of their Republican colleagues (including most of those who are likely to seek the presidential nomination) want to increase immigration and “temporary” worker programs even further. Voters might ask them why.

Rand to Rubio: On Cuba, You're the Real Isolationist [National Review Online - The Corner]

Two potential 2016 foes publicly traded blows in recent days over the United States’s shift in its policy towards Cuba — and one of them’s a Cuban American.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said on Thursday that his colleague, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.), who supports the president’s plans to normalize relations with Cuba, “has no idea what he’s talking about” when it comes to the issue.

On Friday, Paul posted a response to Rubio on his Facebook page:

Senator Marco Rubio believes the embargo against Cuba has been ineffective, yet he wants to continue perpetuating failed policies. After 50 years of conflict, why not try a new approach? The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. Why not Cuba? I am a proponent of peace through commerce, and I believe engaging Cuba can lead to positive change.

Seems to me, Senator Rubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism. Finally, let’s be clear that Senator Rubio does not speak for the majority of Cuban-Americans. A recent poll demonstrates that a large majority of Cuban-Americans actually support normalizing relations between our countries.

(Paul’s reference to isolationism is a shot at critics of his own approach to foreign policy, which he says is realist and non-interventionist.)

Paul went after Rubio on Twitter, too:

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, has been an adamant defender of the U.S.’s isolation of the Cuban regime, and has been a leading critic of the Obama administration’s announcement this week that the U.S. will normalize diplomatic relations with the Communist state. Paul has emerged as one of the most prominent Republicans backing the change.

Americans Unite! Organize 'Team America' Viewing Parties in Your Neighborhood! [National Review Online - The Corner]

This cannot stand. We are now entering untrod territory in America: preemptive self-censorship. The news that Paramount Pictures has ordered movie theaters not to show Team America is a new low in corporate cravenness. Hey, suits! We’re talking about North Korea here: They have midget subs that sink by themselves, starving citizens, and fighter pilots who believe that the red button in the cockpits of their 1960s jets will make their planes invisible (trust me on this). You are, or were until yesterday, Americans. What level of self-abasing Dantean shame you now occupy is beyond my poor psychoanalytical abilities. 

So, it’s now up to us. Fellow citizens, any of you who own the Team America DVD (preferably the uncut version), stand up for freedom, for comedy, for America, and organize a showing in your neighborhood. Invite your neighbors, tell the local press, pass the DVD around, and stick it in the eye of both the Norks and the wussies at Paramount. Oh, and, start boycotting Star Trek, too. 

What Do Liberals Have to Say about Majority-Black Prison-Guard Brutality at Rikers? [National Review Online - The Corner]

A central tenet of the current mass hysteria against policing holds that majority-white police departments are prima facie abusive in minority communities. The riots in Ferguson, Mo., were inspired, we were told, by years of mistreatment from a predominantly white police department that by definition could not police fairly in the majority-black town. Black officers, by implication, would be less prone to, if not altogether immune from, such abuses.

This piece of received wisdom does not fit well with the facts. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York just announced that he was joining a lawsuit against New York City for its mistreatment of inmates at the Rikers Island jail complex. Rikers Island is the second largest jail system in the country, after Los Angeles, and it has been dogged for years by allegations that its correctional officers brutalize inmates. Four months ago, the U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara, published a report denouncing what he called a pervasive and “deep-seated culture of violence” directed at teenage inmates at Rikers.

The correctional officers on Rikers are over two-thirds black; the command staff is predominantly minority as well — this in a city that is only 23 percent black. If the allegations against the guards are true, this would seem to be another instance of black-on-black violence. The Detroit police force is also two-thirds black; it recently came out from under a decade-long federal consent decree for civil-rights violations. The New Orleans police force is majority black; it, too, has been investigated by the federal government for brutality and misuse of force.  Race, it would seem, is not a surefire predictor of police behavior.

Report: All Net Jobs Growth Since 2007 Has Gone to Immigrants [National Review Online - The Corner]

All of the net gains in in jobs since 2007 have gone to immigrants — both legal and illegal — according to a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies, meaning that fewer native-born Americans are working today than were at the end of 2007.

From November 2007 through November 2014, the number of employed native-born Americans has decreased more than 1.45 million, while the number of employed immigrants has risen by more than 2 million (as the immigrant population grew rapidly, too), according to data compiled by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Native employment has still not returned to pre-recession levels, while immigrant employment already exceeds pre-recession levels,” the report says. “Furthermore, even with recent job growth, the number of natives not in the labor force (neither working nor looking for work) continues to increase.”

Native-born Americans accounted for nearly 70 percent of the growth in the population aged 16 and older, the report notes, and yet fewer of them are working now than were in 2007.

Friday Links [National Review Online - The Corner]

Supercut of the phrase “we’re not so different, you and I” in movies.

The winners of the 2014 National Geographic Photo Contest.

The strangest and most beautiful calculators ever created.

These awkward Christmas photos are a hoot.

The Origin of the TV Dinner. Vaguely related, can you tell the difference between school lunches and prison food?

Beneath London, there’s a revolting battle to keep the sewers free of “fatbergs.”

ICYMI, Thursday’s links are here, and include weird Nativity sets, armpit-hair extensions, Star Wars Christmas cards, and why dark winter days bum you out.

‘Abandoned on the Battlefield’ [National Review Online - The Corner]

Obviously, Cuban dissidents have no say in U.S. policy toward Cuba. (That is obvious in more ways than one.) U.S. policy is strictly a matter of U.S. interest. But, given all that these men and women have suffered — beatings, torture, imprisonment — we should note their opinions, I think you will agree.

This is especially true in view of the fact that President Obama claims his new policy will help the Cuban people.

Readers of NR and NRO are well familiar with Oscar Elias Biscet. He is the Afro-Cuban physician and democracy leader who was imprisoned for twelve years, released in 2011. George W. Bush gave him the Medal of Freedom, in absentia, in 2007. That was so like Bush. I interviewed Biscet shortly after he got out of prison, here.

About Obama’s abrupt move, Biscet has said, “I feel as though I have been abandoned on the battlefield.”

Berta Soler, you also know. She is the leader of the Ladies in White (also Afro-Cuban, as so many Cuban opposition leaders are). I interviewed her in 2013, here. She became the leader of the Ladies in White after the founder of the group, Laura Pollán, died in extremely mysterious circumstances.

“Sadly, President Obama made the wrong decision,” Soler has said. “The freedom and democracy of the Cuban people will not be achieved through these benefits that he’s giving, not to the Cuban people, but to the Cuban government. The Cuban government will only take advantage to strengthen its repressive machinery . . .”

Yoani Sanchez is probably the best-known of the Cuban dissidents right now. She spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum in October. (For my write-up, go here.)

This week, she has said, “Castroism has won.” She added, however, that “the positive result is that Alan Gross has left alive the prison that threatened to become his tomb.”

I have been talking lately about Guillermo Fariñas, the doctor, journalist, and dissident. (Afro-Cuban.) Fariñas won the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament. Recently, his home was broken into by an agent of the state. The agent stabbed four people, leaving two of them in critical condition. They were members of the Ladies in White.

Fariñas: “Alan Gross was used as a tool by the Castro regime to coerce the United States. Obama was not considerate of Cuban citizens and of the civil society that is facing this tyrannical regime. . . . The betrayal of Cuba’s democrats has been consummated.”

I have also been talking about Oswaldo Payá — murdered, almost certainly, by the dictatorship in 2012. He, too, was a recipient of the Sakharov Prize.

His daughter, Rosa Maria, has said, “The Cuban people are being ignored in this secret conversation, in this secret agreement that we learned about today.”

Let me end with the man known simply as “Antunez.” NR/NRO readers have been hearing about him for many years. He is a fantastically brave ex-political prisoner and democracy leader (Afro-Cuban). He has endured more beatings than almost any of them. That he keeps going is almost superhuman.

Antunez said, “This is a betrayal that leaves the democratic opposition defenseless. Obama has allied himself with the oppressors and murderers of our people.”

To repeat, these people have no say in U.S. policy, which is strictly a matter for Americans. But given all that they have suffered and striven for, they have earned the right to speak their minds.

What they say does not tell me everything. Moreover, they may well be wrong in their opinions. I hope so. But I also think along these lines: Some of the people I admire most in all the world are crying in agony and fury against Obama’s move. Some of the people I admire least in all the world are celebrating. That must tell me a little something, right?

To see the statements of these dissidents, and other statements, go to the indispensable Mauricio Claver-Carone, here.

P.S. Seth Leibsohn and I discussed Obama’s move on the radio, here. Hugh Hewitt and I had a similar discussion. I can’t find it on the Net, but better Googlers than I probably can.

What's On the Agenda for GOP Governors Running for President? [National Review Online - The Corner]

Many Republicans believe that their next presidential nominee is likely to be a governor or former governor. The experience of watching Barack Obama’s floundering presidency has soured many voters on elevating senators who’ve never managed more than a personal staff to the Oval Office. Among the potential GOP candidates with executive experience are former Florida governor Jeb Bush, retiring governor Rick Perry of Texas, and sitting governors Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

If the GOP nominee is a sitting governor, journalists and party activists will want to know what issues they will be emphasizing back home with their legislatures in the coming year. Chris Christie, largely out from the shadow of his Bridgegate scandal, will be tackling the state’s public-pension liabilities, a state proxy for the federal entitlement crisis. Bobby Jindal will be plugging a $180 million annual deficit in his state’s budget, a test of his ability to cut spending. John Kasich will be trying to reduce the state’s income-tax rate as well as passing tougher regulations on charter-school operators.

But perhaps the most extensive agenda will be pursued by Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Since he won reelection by six points in November, his aides have indicated he wants to continue lowering taxes, push to expand school choice, and replace the federal Common Core education standards. He also will try to have food-stamp and unemployment benefit recipients undergo drug testing, in part so they can show employers they are capable of holding jobs. As of now, he doesn’t plan any new dramatic assaults on the public-employee unions whose power he curbed in 2011 legislation.

Most of his agenda will resonate with GOP primary voters. But other parts are more tricky. Walker has floated the politically risky idea of a new sales tax on gasoline to pay for more roads. The new tax would replace an existing one, but would almost certainly cost drivers more in the future. That “tax swap” might not sit well with anti-tax activists in key primary states.

Walker will also have to address an issue both social conservatives and right-to-work activists have a stake in. He has delayed for months on a decision about whether or not to approve a massive new $808 million off-reservation casino in Kenosha proposed by the Menominee tribe. Proponents tout the 3,000 jobs that could be created, while social conservatives say Wisconsin already has enough gambling. Walker has agreed with that view in the past, noting that legal gambling carries clear social costs while often not injecting new dollars into struggling communities.

He is also under pressure on the casino from Wisconsin Right to Work, a group which is running ads that highlight the fact that the Kenosha casino would be the first union-operated shop of its kind in the state, and would also operate using card check — the tool unions use to intimidate workers. “Any presidential candidate who expands gambling is going to have a lot of explaining to do,” declares Pat Andrews, a leader in Phyllis Schalfly’s conservative Eagle Forum group.

Walker appears almost certain to run for president, and his conservative record has created a lot of good will for him with national GOP donors and activists. But he will have to handle two issues carefully — the new gas tax he might propose would have to be carefully thought out to avoid demagogic attacks by competitors and his decision on the Kenosha casino will be watched carefully by his social-conservative allies.

Raul Castro at the White House [National Review Online - The Corner]

White House spokesman Josh Earnest allowed yesterday that such a visit is a possibility. “I wouldn’t rule out a visit from President Castro,” Earnest told reporters. Earnest cited our relations with China and Burma as justification.

Look, we all understood the reasons for opening relations with communist China. It was to throw the Soviet Union off balance. Still, it’s worth recalling that National Review’s founder, Bill Buckley, among others, was highly critical of the tone of Nixon’s visit to China. Clinking champagne flutes with the greatest mass murderer in human history was not necessary to achieve the strategic objective. So, sure, blame Nixon for setting a very bad precedent.  As for Burma, that nation at least released Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and made progress toward democracy and respect for human rights.

Cuba, by contrast, remains one of the worst prison states in the world, an enthusiastic supporter of terror, and a sadistic oppressor of its people. Castro will release some 53 political prisoners as a result of the deal. That’s fine. But what of the others? There are between 30,000 and 80,000 prisoners in Cuba (well, the whole country is a prison actually because they shoot those who try to flee). No one knows the exact number, nor the offenses for which they are held. Some are true criminals. Others do time for a wide variety of offenses against the state.  And who will be checking to learn whether Castro arrests the 53 again in short order? John Kerry? Here’s an excerpt from a State Department report about conditions in Cuba’s prisons (which are not open to international inspection):

Food shortages were widespread, available food was often spoiled or infested with vermin, and many prisoners relied on family parcels of up to 30 pounds of food and other basic supplies that were brought during each visit. Prison cells lacked adequate water, sanitation, space, light, ventilation, and temperature control. Running water was rare and, if available, generally ran only for a limited time. Water for drinking and bathing was foul and frequently contaminated with parasites. Many prisoners reported receiving only one small glass of water per day, even when confined to sweltering cells during the summer. Vermin and insect infestations were common, with inmates reporting rats, cockroaches, fleas, lice, bedbugs, stinging ants, flies, and mosquitoes. Prisoners reported that they lacked access to basic and emergency medical care, including denta care. Prisoners engaged in hunger strikes throughout the year to demand medical treatment. Reports of beatings of prisoners were commonplace, and included beatings by prison officials as well as among prisoners. 

The United States cannot deal only with angels on the world stage of course. But President Obama’s atrocious timing is remarkable. When history presented an opportunity to side with the people of Iran against their oppressors in 2009, Obama stiff-armed them, essentially siding with the mullahs. The opportunity passed. Now, Cuba is on the ropes. Fidel Castro is decrepit. Raul’s grip on power depends upon subventions from Venezuela, which is imploding. Now should be a moment of maximum leverage against the criminal government in Havana. Instead, Obama is drawing up the dinner menu. It’s staggering. In my column today, I argue that for all of his snide put downs of others for Cold War mindsets, Obama is actually trying to reprise the Cold War, only this time, we lose.

Krauthammer's Take: North Korea Hack Could Be Harbinger of 'Catastrophe on a Pearl Harbor Scale' [National Review Online - The Corner]

On Thursday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said Sony Pictures made a bad choice to scrap the release of The Interview, a comedy film in which a journalist set to interview Kim Jong-un is asked by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean dictator. “I think this is not sort of rocket science, Sony made exactly the wrong decision,” Krauthammer said. “What you do is…you put it out on the Internet for free. So it’s a gesture, but also it doubly screws over Pyongyang.” Krauthammer explained that he thought more people would view it online than would have ever done so in theaters, if Sony decides to upload the film online. He continued to explain that if hacks similar to the one that forced Sony’s hand were carried out against other facets of society, then America could experience “a catastrophe on a Pearl-Harbor-scale.” 

Hollywood's Hari-Kari [National Review Online - The Corner]

Charlie noted that those theaters planning to screen Team America: World Police in lieu of The Interview are out of luck, because Paramount Pictures has apparently pulled the film from release. America’s cinema chains and Sony should be ashamed for pulling The Interview in the first place. But Paramount should just go ahead and commit seppuku, because this is a whole new nadir of cravenness.

Regal/Cinemark/etc., and Sony, could at least cite the threat of violence, the herd of trial lawyers that would stampede to sue if an attack actually occurred (for more on the insanity of that scenario, see the Free Beacon’s Sonny Bunch), and the rest.

But Paramount has preemptively surrendered screening a totally different movie.

One could have argued yesterday that Sony et al. caved to a lunatic, cheese-addicted despot who did not appreciate seeing his pomaded Macklemore hair on fire — but, you know, the movie was about him, no one likes to see their own head exploding onscreen, maybe it was in bad taste, &c.

But Team America: World Police is not about Kim Jong-un, it does not depict a sitting head of state, and the characters are puppets! The point is this: After a staggering, intolerable display of cowardice yesterday, Paramount upped the ante — because there is a categorical difference between manipulating the present because it might be offensive, and whitewashing the past because it’s suddenly offensive now. By this standard, the German government can effectively shut down screenings of Casablanca, right? Putin can scrub half the films made between 1945 and 1989?

If Hollywood wants to give veto power over prospective projects to the Mugatu of the Korean Peninsula, fine. I’ll save money on movie tickets. But if production studios are going to start retroactively self-flagellating to mollify the dudgeon of a cross-dressing gulag oberkapo, let’s cut our losses and draw the curtain on “free” society.​

And Paramount and the rest can set up in Pyongyang. Fair warning: The craft service will be limited.

Re: The Obamas and People [National Review Online - The Corner]

Jay, what’s most striking about the Obamas’ People interview are the experiences with racism — out of all the possibilities — that they didn’t cite.

Neither claimed that they were compelled to go to segregated, substandard schools. All evidence is that they each went to decent schools.

Neither claimed that they were compelled to live in segregated areas or substandard housing. In fact, rumor has it they live in pretty decent housing right now.

Neither cited being barred from colleges or law schools on the basis of race. Indeed, given the ubiquity of affirmative-action programs, it’s highly probable that they received racially preferential treatment from such schools.

Neither claimed they were denied jobs due to race. Again, the fact that most major institutions practice affirmative action renders it probable that they were just as, if not more, likely to get jobs than similarly situated white comparatives.

Neither claimed they were denied the ability to vote or participate in the political process. The president has even joked about voting more than once in his hometown of Chicago.

Neither claimed that they were turned away from a restaurant, place of lodging, or had to eat in a segregated area.

Neither claimed they were denied a raise, promotion, transfer or were otherwise treated differently during their employment history on the basis of race.

Neither claimed a publisher refused to publish any of their work or relegated such work to a publishing racial ghetto.

The examples could go on almost interminably, including more subtle ones. Let’s stipulate that, of course, racism and discrimination exist, and that in a nation of 310 million, some instances are egregious. Nonetheless, the Obamas could at least have the grace to stipulate that the fact they have to cite getting mistaken for a valet and being asked to help get something off a shelf (even if such acts are somehow indicative of latent racism) shows the country has made impressive progress over the last 50 years.

By the way, to use Obama’s example, I’m about his age, am a professional, and, on occasion, have found myself standing in front of restaurants. I’ve never been mistaken for a valet. I have, however, been mistaken for a police officer, physician, security guard, truck driver, NFL running back, brick mason, water pipe repairman, Marine, pharmacist, store clerk — just to name a few. As opposed to the Obamas, I was never offended. There was no evidence of racial animus (in fact, some of the people making the mistake were black), and all of the occupations are honorable and worthwhile (I’ve held some of these positions, just not at the time I was so misidentified). But for the perpetually aggrieved, sometimes honest mistakes are presumptive evidence of invidious discrimination.

We can only hope that one day Mr. Obama will be mistaken for the president of the United States of America. So far, he’s given precious little indication he understands that’s what he was elected to be.

No, The 1967 Borders Won't Be Enough for the Palestinians [National Review Online - The Corner]

One of the more ridiculous aspects of the decades-long Middle East “peace process” is the belief that the so-called 1967 borders between Israel and Arab-held territory represent the foundation for a lasting piece. It’s never been true, it’s not true now, and there’s no realistic indication it will ever be true. The following points are elementary, but they apparently have to be repeated again and again:

First, the 1967 borders weren’t borders at all, but instead armistice lines between warring parties. When Israel’s War of Independence ended, Egyptian (in Gaza), Jordanian (in the West Bank), and Syrian (in the Golan) military forces were entrenched along these lines. They were not designed as the foundational borders for a nation-state but were instead essentially the lines established after the retreat of multiple attacking armies all bent on destroying Israel. Moreover, the lines left Israel so vulnerable that they created instability and invited war. After all, Israel was living within these talismanic “1967 borders” . . . in 1967. Yet Egypt still amassed a staggering array of forces to strike Israel and drive its Jewish citizens into the sea.

Second, if you think that contemporary Palestinian activists would be content with the 1967 borders, you’re delusional. Let’s not forget that the Second Intifada was launched after Israel offered a peace settlement that was based on the 1967 lines and gave the Palestinians a capital in East Jerusalem. Even today, Palestinian activists reject 1967-based solutions. Here’s Ali Abunimah writing today in the Electronic Intifada:

I evaluate any steps related to Palestine through a simple and consistent lens: does this measure take us closer to the fulfillment of Palestinian rights, all Palestinian rights?

These rights are set out most succinctly in the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS): an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land during and since 1967; an end to Israel’s institutionalized racism against Palestinians in present-day Israel (the areas on which Israel was established in 1948); and the return of Palestinian refugees to their land and homes.

I believe in a positive vision of a Palestine whole and free, where all people live in a decolonized and reunified territory without discrimination based on religion or ethnicity and without sectarian territorial partition.

This is a recipe for the political and demographic destruction of the state of Israel, and it is not a “fringe” view amongst Palestinians and their allies. 

And that brings us to the third point. The future does not look bright for a 1967 solution. Palestinians support Hamas over the Palestinian Authority by an overwhelming 61–32 margin. Hamas has no intention of coexisting with Israel and every intention of destroying it, utterly. 

Yet despite the past, present, and foreseeable future, American officials continue to repeat the 1967 mantra as if it’s anything other than the first stage of a Palestinian territorial counteroffensive against Israel. No one should be fooled by the recent Palestinian U.N. resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. It’s not a diplomatic act, but instead a continuation of Palestinian lawfare — the abuse of international law to accomplish results that Palestinian terrorists could never hope to achieve on the battlefield.

Rand Paul: Cuba Relations Thaw 'Probably a Good Idea' [National Review Online - The Corner]

Kentucky Republican Rand Paul broke with many of his Senate colleagues over Cuba on Thursday, telling a West Virginia radio station that the Obama administration’s push to “normalize” relations with the communist Caribbean nation is “probably a good idea.”

The likely 2016 presidential candidate was silent when news of the policy change first broke on Wednesday. And on Thursday, he chose a small radio station in rural West Virginia to air his opinion.

“The 50-year embargo just hasn’t worked,” Paul told Tom Roten of News Talk 800 WVHU in Huntington, West Virginia, according to the Associated Press. “If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working, and probably, it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.”

“In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea,” the senator continued.

The stand puts Rand at odds with likely presidential rivals Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, all of whom came out forcefully against lifting the embargo on Wednesday.

Just When You Thought Things Couldn't Get Any Sillier.... [National Review Online - Phi Beta Cons]

Harvard bows to pressure to get rid of SodaStream machines because the company is Israeli and if someone who feels aggrieved by Israel might think that Harvard was microaggressing.

Katherine Timpf has the story on the home page.

What will Harvard do if North Korea demands that the university ban Hyundai cars, Samsung phones, and anything else made in South Korea?

"Multiracial Marriage on the Rise" [National Review Online - Phi Beta Cons]

That’s the title of a short but compelling discussion on the Brookings website here.  It was brought to my attention by Washington, D.C.. lawyer Carissa Mulder, who asks, “How can racial preferences continue to be justified when more than 40% of Hispanics and Asians marry someone of a different race (usually white) and nearly 30% of new black marriages are to someone of a different race (usually white)?  Are we going to ask kids the races of their parents and penalize the ones who have a white parent?”  Good questions, especially in the context of university admissions.  Also makes you wonder a bit about just how racist a country we can be, with all this fraternization going on.

Higher Ed has Become Morally Bankrupt [National Review Online - Phi Beta Cons]

In today’s Pope Center piece, Jesse Saffron writes that moral bankruptcy is undermining higher education. His inspiration for it was a recent Chronicle article about the party atmosphere at the University of Georgia, which he was familiar with as a youngster. While UGA’s buildings are as imposing as ever, the students seem to be increasingly interested only in the party life. Fewer and fewer students there (and at schools around the nation) are in college because they’re intent on truly studying anything. They look for the easiest courses and have no qualms about cheating to get through any course. Saffron correctly observes, “They’re not interested in academics; they’re interested in perfunctorily obtaining their diplomas and partying their way to graduation.”

Moral decay and academic decay spring from the same root. That root is the federal policy of trying to ensure “access” to higher education for almost everyone. The supposedly well-intentioned Higher Education Act with its manifold subsidies transformed higher ed. What had formerly been a good that a few Americans saw as worth striving for and saving to afford, was turned into a near entitlement, mostly paid for by government money and easy, cheap loans it made available to all. (That’s the same story as with the disastrous housing bubble.) Over time, the percentage of weak and disengaged kids who just want to have fun has steadily increased, and most colleges decided to accommodate their desires (watered-down courses, lax discipline, lush amenities) rather than risk losing tuition dollars.

Saffron closes by wondering if “higher education’s dark side will take control of the Ivory Tower.” It’s already far along.

NHK WORLD RADIO JAPAN - English News at 21:01 (JST), December 19 [English News - NHK WORLD RADIO JAPAN]

Special on Sieghart: The Independent Library Report [Public Libraries News]

Editorial

The description of public libraries as a golden thread that is present throughout people’s lives is what will stick with me from this report but I am unsure what else will, for this appears to be a report written with the current government and politics in mind.

Sieghart knows that the Coalition is not going to accept a report that requires large amounts of money or goes against the doctrine of localism so he looks at what is needed and tries to pull the appropriate lever.  Need investment in getting new computers? Go for pushing the digital by default agenda and very carefully avoid giving a figure for anything.  Frustrated by the lack of central direction? Get together all of the current leaders in libraries, along with digital people (two birds, one stone) and give them priorities and times scales. As such, one way of viewing the report is to admire the Machiavellianism of people working out what is needed and couching it in terms that are acceptable to the decision makers. You can see the whole thing as being written in a careful code, tiptoeing around the reality of dire budgets and an increasingly atomised and demoralised service in order to try to keep something alive for better times. Indeed, one wonders why the Government, normally completely ignorant of subtlety, appears to have deliberately buried this key report on public libraries on the very last possible day before Christmas.

An opposing view of course is that this committee has been packed with people who think like the Government does.  Such a viewpoint would note that Ed Vaizey will not be choking while sat on his antique furniture over this one.  Indeed, the Report appears argues what he does, that massive cuts to public libraries can somehow be squared with a thriving service, that 151 local authorities will somehow be more efficient than a regional or national service and that best practice and nudging will do the work that in other countries require national strategy and direction. The Report thus misses the chance to make a big statement or a big headline and, one worries, a big impact. There’s no mention of standards or the possibility of them, which is a great shame as that is one thing that could make a change and, although there’s no way Vaizey would have gone for it, there’s another party out there and a general election in the offing.  Let’s face it, if the Conservatives get in next time then libraries as we know them are gone. The worry is that Labour will read this report and do too little to change.  Or it may be the committee believes that both parties are effectively the same (and there’s so little between them in so many things they may not be wrong) and so it’s time to get used to the new order, salvaging what one can.

The message that the media has taken away from this is that libraries should be like cafes.  But the country already has cafes.  What libraries are, can be and should be for the future health of the country is so much more than that.  To their credit, the committee does show their awareness of this many times but the media appear to have gone for the simple lowest common denominator description. So what do I believe? I think that this report is fine and the hard work that went into it is worthy of praise, however faint it may sound. It’s  frankly hard to argue with too much of it and what there is, if it happens as suggested,  will change things for the better.  But I also believe that it misses the chance to make big points.  It is just another, despite its protestation, report.  But then I guess all reports are.  If it stands a chance to be more than a report depends on the energy and motivation of those involved. This government, when it comes to libraries, has neither … so it will be up to the rest of us.  Therefore, whether the Independent Report will have long-term positive effects I cannot tell – the future of this, and thus the public library service, is hanging by a thread.  Golden or otherwise.

Number of times the word “book” is used, without being denigratory (e.g.”libraries are more than books”) = 3

Number of times the word “digital” is used =63

Summary of recommendations and actions

My thoughts are in italics.

  • Government to fund Wifi for all libraries, upgrade computers and train workforce. This is so needed. Even the local bakers has wifi yet a third of public libraries do not.  The public computers are sometimes ten years old and are noticeably unreliable and prehistoric.  In addition, there still remains a reasonable proportion of library staff who are not adequately trained. The library worker hesitant to help people on the computers, and with no email or social media account of their own, still exists in December 2014.
  • Library taskforce “Leadership for Libraries” to provide leadership, implement proposals and “reinvigorate” public libraries.  The group will exist for three to four years.  In effect, this tries to bring together all of the existing players in the crowded library market that already includes the DCMS, ACE and SCL, CILIP, LGA, Reading Agency  and will now add the BBC, the Government Digital Service (including the GDS in here may be a stroke of genius as it could embed libraries into national government initiatives) and the British Library into the mix. Membership will change depending on the task in hand (volunteers and even, gosh, library workers may even be members at different points – so expect a lot of sub-committees).  All of these players will be part of a “task and finish” group,  chaired by a local council.  It’s first meeting will be in February.  Who will chair a committee normally gives a very clear idea of how things are going to go so it is worth noting that it will be chaired by Paul Blantern, head of Northamptonshire County Council. For an idea of what Northamptonshire believes, check out this article entitled Almost like a PLC. The chosen strategy is to shrink the council as much as possible, outsourcing (or “rightsourcing” – did they just make that up?) as much as possible.  This is going to mean a lot of non-profit trusts and semi-commercial thinking going on there. Northamptonshire libraries are notable for this and also (in case this is coming across as negative) for surviving well, even taking over the activities of children’s centres.  The emphasis will also be on digital (read online) provision of services.  This ties in very much with the current Government thinking about doing things leaner with less money and suggests that the future of public libraries is going to be as commercial as possible, with as few paid staff as possible and as digital as possible
  • Government to have greater cross-department involvement and recognition of librariesWell, yes.  If it can be achieved then libraries can really gain from this, Jacks of All Trades (and thus fulfillers of many Government objectives) as they are. There is a clear hint in this report that library services will have to work closer together in order to gain grants for intitiatives, perhaps leading to some sort of nat
  • PLR for e-books and promote e-lending – Fair enough. We’re way behind the leading e-lending countries.
  • Create a national digital library frameworkThis appears to mean universal wifi, up to date computers (with a move towards more being laptops and tablets) and trained staff.  There is some talk of library services using this to co-operate more together (especially in terms of stock) but it is unclear how this would happen: it has signally failed to do that with the existing People’s Network.
  • Motivate and train staff, especially new recruits. Aim for “community impresarios” with digital and commercial expertise. At this moment I simply don’t believe that anyone new would see public libraries as a long-term career. Ten out of ten for optimism on this one. However, they’re bang on with the need for library managers to be extrovert opportunity-seekers. Those that simply believe their job is to keep the library open during the requisite hours are missing the point.
  • Best practice guidelines for volunteers and volunteer-run libraries. Some of the most innovative libraries visited had a strong volunteer involvement. Noted worries about long-term viability and tendency for them to be more successful in more prosperous areas. There should be more consultation with communities. A very balanced view here, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of volunteers.  The Report sees the need for more involvement of volunteers in the management of libraries, though, which suggests a pro (or downright realistic given cuts in paid staff?) viewpoint.
  • Greater collaboration between local councilsThere are 151 separate authorities in the UK.  There are very obvious economies of scale that could be taken but due to  local politics this has not happened as yet. The Report suggests all this collaboration will be voluntary and neglects to mention that any real movement in local council provision will have to be top-down because turkeys very very rarely vote for Christmas.
  • Consider all delivery modelsThis will add further impetus to the move away from council controlled services to those run by a plethora of other providers. The inclusion of Suffolk and York as case studies appears to suggest that the committee are keen on mutuals and the other case studies show support for volunteers and commercialism. Indeed, I think the underlying assumption is that the traditional council model is not up to it so we’d better try something else, and quickly.

Media and other mentions of the Report

“The ‘Future of Libraries’ in the UK appears to be the ability to serve latte and reset the wifi, while getting your meals from a foodbank.” FlappyLibrarian

“Strategic leadership could, as the report suggests, help to spread best practice – although it timidly stops short of recommending mergers between authorities. Yet polite evasion weakens even this familiar hi-tech manifesto. It beggars belief that the social cost of recent shutdowns and transfers should almost entirely escape the notice of a panel rightly convinced that “the library does more than simply loan books. It underpins every community.” This delicate oversight ignores not so much the elephant in the room as the padlocks on the door and the boards across the window.” Independent editorial

“It’s a sound report, but it’s Mr Softee all round. All the more shameful, then, that the immediate government response is pretty well zero.” Library Campaign.

““At last we have a blueprint for a national public library service.” … He welcomed the creation of the library task force, saying it would “fill the leadership void and allow libraries to rediscover their purpose”. He added: “This report must not be kicked into the long grass; it is almost the last chance to rebuild a public library service with real value.”” Desmond Clarke

  • Experts demand urgent overhaul of England’s public library service – Guardian. Includes response from Ed Vaizey welcoming the report.
  • Flexible and digitised, our libraries have a bright future - Telegraph / Joanne Trollope. “The need has never been greater for a modern, safe, non-judgmental, flexible place where people can mine the knowledge of the world for free. Nor has the need for the help and wisdom of professionals to guide them through the complexities of information gathering ever been more pressing. ” … “none of the recommendations for the libraries of the future is going to cost a fortune. And the benefits that they will deliver are huge. ” Joanne Trollope was one of the writers of the Report.

“Joanna Trollope may think all will be well but she isn’t seeing the real problem is that, without structural reform, secondary services such as libraries will not survive.” Geoffrey Dron

“Will any council, anywhere have any reason to to take any notice of this Sieghart report and change anything they would otherwise have done ? No.” Shirley Burnham

“My personal view remains that with a universally acknowledged lack of technical expertise in our public library service the need for a national agency to fill that skills gap, to communicate the strategic vision of libraries to the market, and develop solutions that are open, affordable and deliverable to all remains paramount.” Mick Fortune

  • Northants County Council boss to take charge of Government’s national library taskforce – Northants Telegraph. “Paul Blantern was today (Thursday, December 18) unveiled as the head of the new body, which has been set up in response to the findings of the Sieghart Review of library services across Britain. The taskforce will work with councils across the country and will report to Government ministers to help develop library services to make sure they are fit for the 21st century.”
  • Public libraries should emulate coffee shops, says report – BBC. “Public libraries in England are “at a crossroads” and must adapt if they are to survive, an independent report into the future of the service has said. It suggests they need to emulate coffee shops, by offering free wifi, sofas, toilets and hot drinks.” … “Mr Sieghart told the BBC it was not just a question of pumping new resources in to the public library network, but using existing resources “in a more sensible way”.

“It’s not quite last chance saloon for libraries if we just remain viewing them as book lending places only but this is our chance to really go beyond that and take libraries firmly in to this century.” Mark Taylor, CILIP (“He sounds fed up with books” is one comment I’ve heard on this – Ed.)

  • Response - Arts Council England. Suggest the ACE report Envisioning is used as the basis and that everyone pushes libraries as hubs of the community. Notes that ACE will support and lead on any investment into public libraries if asked.
  • Romantic fiction: A review of libraries that fails to address the real problem – Independent/Editorial. “Over a decade, the number of UK public libraries has fallen from 4,622 to 4,145. Volunteers run a steeply rising number of those that remain. Yet the new Independent Library Report for England, chaired by William Sieghart on behalf of the Government, averts its gaze from such vulgarities. Although it praises libraries as a “golden thread” through our lives, it has nothing apart from euphemisms about a “fragile financial environment” to offer those bereft users who have seen that golden thread brutally severed.”
  • SCL Responds to Independent Library Report for England - Society of Chief Librarians. Agrees with report but ” “Would have welcomed a commitment to investment in public libraries to support the report”. Points out work SCL is already doing. “Believes that the key conclusion for Government, both Central and Local, is that public libraries support the delivery of a wide range of key policy agendas and, with appropriate investment from relevant parts of Government, could do even more in the future as vibrant community hubs. Public library services have a successful track record in delivering high impact work for modest investment.”
    Sieghart: Action needed now - Library Campaign. ” so far – the most important bit is missing. The bit where the government says: “OK, this is what we are going to do…” … “Sieghart has a good list of what needs doing. Some of it will cost a little money. But we are talking about peanuts. Now we want action.” … “This is a tactful report, clearly aimed at being nice to the government so that it does something, instead of getting in a huff. The references to the current financial meltdown are not absent, but are pretty pallid.” … “As for the hundreds of volunteers left holding the baby, Sieghart just says ” …there are questions over their long-term viability”. That’s putting it far too mildly.”
  • Sieghart’s Independent Library Report for England – Lauren Smith. The best in-depth critical review of the report so far. “Being more like retail outlets, encouraging community involvement etc. are all recommendations that have come out of previous reports and things that librarians have been talking about for years. Some local authorities responded to the recommendations from the last umpteen reports, but some of them had already experienced such budget cuts that it was impossible to actually do the things they wanted and knew they needed to do” … “Spending a bunch of cash on helping libraries deliver services associated with the digital by default agenda of government doesn’t really help libraries, it just helps government deliver services unrelated to libraries, through libraries. It might force a few more people to enter the library building against their will, but it’s not going to get them invested in the notion of the public library.” … Wifi: “I’d like to see a whole bunch of money for it, and I’d like to see the government write a standard document for councils to use as a policy for installing wifi, and one standardised document that can serve as an Acceptable Use Policy for all of the library services to ask users of the computers and library WiFi. Scotland’s already working on this, I recommend England get on board. “. Taskforce: “My main concern with this is the recommendation that it be led by councils, who, in my experience, are possibly the least informed, least knowledgeable and least engaged stakeholders in the whole shebang.” … “If you want your 21st century librarian to have digital and commercial expertise you already have those, but there aren’t any jobs for them.” … “Asking for different models of management at the same time as asking for increased consistency is a contradiction.”
  • Sieghart: on the money – BookSeller. “The Independent is wrong to damn the new Sieghart Report as a “romantic fiction” with nothing but euphemisms to offer a decimated public library service, in its editorial today (18th December). What the report is doing, by pushing the role libraries can play in the digital sphere, is to align the service with the priorities of central and local government, and so try to rescue it from the neglect that has seen such destructive library closures instigated by local authorities without intervention from a clearly uninterested culture ministry.” … “In the longer term, libraries embracing a digital role could prove to be a case of turkeys voting for Christmas – if remote e-lending becomes the norm, as Sieghart seems to hope, why visit your library? Meanwhile asking librarians to become digitalists certainly has its downside, with some at the Speak Up for Libraries conference arguing that the profession had become “overdiversified”, with the range of functions it is asked to fulfil taking it away from its core purpose of reading and education. But then if libraries don’t get more backing in the very near future, thinking longterm could be a luxury anyway.
  • Sieghart Report captures vital importance of public library service - Publisher’s Association. ““The Sieghart Report captures the vital importance of the public library service and the urgent need for action to sustain it.  The PA fully supports the Report’s call for greater government funding, and its focus on the development of a national digital library network to help libraries provide new services and develop new audience. “However, with the publication of the report coinciding with today’s announcement on local government budgets, it amplifies the need for policy and budget for public libraries to be brought together in one single Department.””

“’’”

  • –“”…“ “

The money has been shown to count … so make it count [Public Libraries News]

Editorial

So I did some calculations on the CIPFA figures yesterday (a national newspaper had emailed wanting some info – this sort of thing happens a lot: I had already helped Radio 4 earlier this week) and one thing jumped out.  This is that there may be a decline in English public libraries but there  is not in Wales, with the major difference between them – and I’m Welsh and living in England so I know of where I speak – is that Welsh budgets have been OK up until now while the English ones have been slashed. How slashed? Well, statistics are wonderful things but if you completely ignore inflation the minimum that English budgets are down  is 18% since 2010 and, if you include inflation using the Bank of England calculator, then the most that they’re down is a whopping, a gigantic, 38.6%.  Nearly two-fifths in four years?  Let’s just be quiet for a second, contemplate the horror, and then move on (See this page for more statistical details). There are also other differences tooof course – Wales actually has Standards and a nationwide e-book/e-zine offer for instance – that will have made an impact but the key for my money is, well, the money.  Let’s hope then that England becomes more like Wales, and not vice versa. Get those singing voices trained now, Limeys, because, trust me, I’ve been in enough English churches to know that generally you lot need the practice.

One money thing that has stayed the same in England the last few years, and it has been announced will do so for another three years, is the Arts Council England grants for arts in public libraries.  I’ve always been ambivalent about this.  On the one hand, they’re a great resource for libraries to gain publicity and to encourage new audiences.  On the other, well, it’s just plain strange to see often the same library authority announcing deep cuts and also some fancy arts library project in the same year and sometimes even in the same month.  The challenge for libraries taking on these projects therefore should be to make them count.  The time has gone, if it ever was here, where a service can get away with a nice feel-good project, employ a few artists, and then move on to the next grant.

Changes

UK national news

  • Arts Council England announces a further £6 million to be allocated through Grants for the arts to public libraries – Arts Council England. “The Grants for the arts Libraries fund, which is funded by the National Lottery, will invest a further £6 million over three years, demonstrating Arts Council’s ongoing commitment to libraries. It will continue to fund projects delivered by public libraries or library authorities working in partnership with cultural organisations across all art forms, including music, dance, theatre, visual arts and literature.”

“Public libraries can apply for grants of between £1,000 and £100,000 covering activities lasting up to three years. The fund will open to applications on 1st April 2015 and will run until 31st March 2018. Phase one of the fund will remain open until 31st March 2015 and there will be no break between the end of the first phase and the start of the second. The application criteria will remain the same. Find out how to apply here.”

  • Libraries’ incomes are on the rise, says survey – South Wales Argus. Budget up 18.5% [! – Ed.]  but visits down 3% in one year.
  • Library cuts are pay cuts. Really - Bookword. “What is more risible? The notion that culture and sport have wellbeing impacts? The attempt to quantify and value these so-called impacts? Or the knowledge that this ‘salary’, which you probably didn’t know you had from libraries and the arts will be cut by people who wouldn’t notice a rise or a cut of £2500? It is certainly not amusing that 49 branches have closed in the last 12 months.”

“The number of people borrowing from public libraries in Wales is up by almost 5% in the last 12 months – whilst the UK as a whole has seen a decrease of over 4% according to figures released by CIPFA (Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy) for 2013-14. Whilst visits to libraries and book issues have slightly decreased, there were still over 14 million physical visits to public libraries across Wales last year and over 12.3 million books issued to library users. Audio-visual and electronic issues, including e-books and e-zines rose to over 1 million showing an increase in usage of 19% compared to last year. The all-Wales roll out of free e-books and e-magazines is a major factor in this increase … The level of enquiries made to library staff increased by 27% to over 2.6 million. And with many public services now being delivered primarily online this has led to an increase of over 3% in computer use in libraries, with over 2 million hours of free computer use.” Welsh libraries are bucking the trend - Welsh Libraries”

  • When rubbish goes uncollected people may start to notice the misery – Guardian / Public Leader’s Network. Over the last five years “Libraries and day centres were closed, grants to voluntary groups cut, services outsourced, management posts culled, staff made redundant, wages frozen, costs shunted, partner agencies antagonised and mergers contemplated. People protested over the loss of their library and the reduction in their mother’s home care; they went to court to get a judicial review of plans to close elderly people’s care homes – but the cuts went ahead. The trade unions couldn’t stop the outsourcing, redundancies or wage freeze, but without them staff wouldn’t have won any safeguards and would have been totally reliant on management for information.”

If CIPFA trends continue, English public libraries hit zero in 2022 – Tim Coates

International

  • 6 Things I Learned From Working In A Public Library - Thought Catalog (USA). A great US-orientated post on library work explaining how busy it is and the weird and wonderful variety of people you meet working in a library.
  • A Doggone Good Time: Therapy Dogs at the Library - Mr Library Dude (USA). “It’s a great way to put a different face on the academic library: to show students we care about their mental well-being. We want them relaxed for Final Exams. We want to relieve those jitters for a little while. This gives them an opportunity to take a break from studying if for just a bit.” … “For the library it costs little money. The local kennel club participants volunteer their time for free. Our marketing is via the library website, Facebook, and Twitter. We spent some money printing posters. It’s also important to be in contact with your parent organization’s risk management person to make sure the appropriate paperwork and insurance forms are filled out. Otherwise, it’s a pretty easy event to handle.”
  • Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover: Tech-Savvy Teens Remain Fans of Print Books - Nielsen (USA). “Despite teens’ tech-savvy reputation, this group continues to lag behind adults when it comes to reading e-books, even with the young adult genre’s digital growth relative to the total e-book market. While 20% of teens purchasing e-books, 25% of 30-44 year olds and 23% of 18-29 year olds buy digital copies. While younger readers are open to e-books as a format, teens continue to express a preference for print that may seem to be at odds with their perceived digital know-how.”
  • New Halifax library officially opens its doors to the public – Globe and Mail (Canada). “At an estimated cost of $57.6 million the building has been touted as the new architectural centrepiece of the city’s downtown core. The 129,00 square foot facility features a larger collection of books than the building it is replacing, as well as meeting and study rooms, technology areas for computers, cafes and a 300-seat auditorium.” … “The federal government is contributing up to $18.3 million and the Nova Scotia government $13 million towards the cost of the project, with the remainder being funded through the municipality and a public funding campaign.”
  • Support the construction of a new Alaskan library by helping us create a Harry Potter tribute wall - Indiegogo (USA). “Juneau, Alaska is currently in the process of building a brand new library branch, which is partially thanks to a one MILLION dollar donation from the Friends of the Juneau Public Library, a local non-profit. To help raise funds, the Friends are selling engraved bricks, which will be placed in three different outside walls of the new library.”
  • Things That Make the Librarian Angry – Medium / Jessamyn West (USA). A look at the artificial barriers put in the way of librarians due to copyright law e.g. limited lending of e-books, photocopying.

UK local news by authority

  • Barnet – Save Barnet Libraries – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. Updates news so far.
  • Birmingham – Acclaimed library to halve hours after just one year - Financial Times. see also Birmingham Update – Stop the privatisation of public libraries. Updates news so far and Birmingham axes 1,000 jobs and cuts back library hours – Morning Star.
  • Brent – Brent Libraries Bucking the Trend Again - James Powney’s Blog. “As I suggested, library authorities around England are seeing visits and loans drop at an alarming rate.  The Brent figures are going up in both cases.  It is also worth noting that Brent library satisfaction ratings as measured by PLUS were better in 2012 than they were in 2009.    I see that Brent does not quite get Wembley Library in the top ten busiest libraries in the Guardian piece, as it has “only” 651,677 visits for the year ending March 2014.  A glance at the more recent half year data suggests to me that that picture will change at the end of this financial year, as by then Wembley Library should be getting more than one million visits a year.   Of course, it will again take a while for us to see this as CIPFA publish their comparisons quite late in the financial year.  Nonetheless, it is a good indication (yet again) that the Libraries Transformation Project was the right way to go.”
  • Cardiff – We should fight to save our libraries – Wales Online / Letters. “Can we presume that since so many council services are disappearing the salaries of the elected members, or even their numbers, will be reduced by the same proportion as the council employees who are losing their jobs? As M. King has stated, libraries cost so little yet offer so much, so we should fight any attempt to remove them.”
  • Edinburgh – Edinburgh University give library card to cat – Edinburgh Evening News. “The feline has his own Facebook page set up by students with 6,100 “likes”. And now the black and white pet has been made “official” by getting a card for the library, complete with a photo and 2017 expiry date.”
  • Edinburgh – Visitor numbers treble at Central Library on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh – BBC. “Edinburgh’s oldest public library has seen its visitor numbers treble after a major refurbishment of its music and children’s collections. Central Library on George IV Bridge has reported visitor numbers up by 188%. The children’s library, based a few doors down, moved into the main library. A dedicated craft space, nappy changing and an under-fives room were added and a Lego Club was introduced. Book lending is up by 45%. The new music library has increased visitors by 26%.”
  • Hertfordshire – Petition to save Buntingford Library handed to County Hall - Hertfordshire Mercury. “Apetition to save a popular library service was handed into County Hall after garnering huge support from residents. The campaign to save Buntingford library garnered 2,216 signatures, the equivalent to roughly half the town’s population.” … “Under current proposals Buntingford’s Library could be moved from its High Street location and could face cuts in staff and see the introduction of a virtual librarian service. Their new shared home could be a small porter cabin near the town’s fire station.”
  • Monmouthshire – Concerns over library closure – South Wales Argus. “Matthew Plumb, chairman of Friends of Abergavenny Library Services (FOALS) is concerned at the proposal that library service provision is to be merged with the One Stop Shop (OSS) and relocated.”
  • Newcastle – Nick Forbes: we were whistleblowers for what austerity meant for the arts – Guardian. ““We’ve cut our play service and youth service,” Forbes said. “We have had to reduce the libraries. We have cut sport and leisure. We have reduced support for older people; we’ve cut bin collections; we’ve cut street cleaning. We have lost our flower programme in the city. We’ve cut graffiti removal. We’ve lost getting on for 1,200 cuts from the council.” Newcastle lopped £37m from its spending in 2013-14, £38m this year, and more is to come.”
  • Norfolk –  Norwich’s Millennium Library most popular in the UK – EDP. “The library issued at 1,124,406 items in the year. The achievement comes despite the East of England undergoing one of the UK’s largest percentage reductions of book stocks in its libraries. In 2013-14 this saw the region reduce its total book stock by 6.8 percent, the equivalent of 500,000 less books.”
  • North Ayrshire – Schools, bins and libraries hit by £20m cuts - Largs and Millport News. “Among the list of cuts and charges set to come into effect next year are the introduction of charging for blue and brown recycling bins, an increase in special uplift charges to £13.50, a rise in school meal prices to £2, reduced business support staff hours, reductions to child care support, business grants, funding for the recently launched nurturing excellence programme, reduction in library opening hours, budgets for community facilties”
  • Northamptonshire – Council eyes ‘next generation’ model and retained organisation with 150 staff – Local Government Lawyer. “According to a report on the BBC, the plan – if implemented – could see all but 150 council staff transferred to these organisations. Northamptonshire said the retained organisation would “oversee ‘right sourcing’ of Safeguarding and Wellbeing outcomes and hold the responsibility for statutory duties, Quality Assurance and the democratic interface between elected members and their constituents.”
  • Southampton – Keep our Burgess Road Library - Change.org. “For four days a week this is the only free, open-access indoor space where anyone can go.  Children especially are safe here, after school and in holidays.  They are encouraged to learn, and stimulated by all the activities that library staff devise and put on. It is a neighbourhood library, where we meet as neighbours, where the children have opportunities they might not have otherwise.”
  • Staffordshire - Protest over planned changes to Staffordshire library services – Express and Star. “Councillors want more than half of libraries in the county to be run by volunteers in a bid to help save £1.3m over the next three years. Jobs are also at risk as the proposals would see community organisations take on 24 of the county’s 43 libraries. A total of 8,255 residents have now signed petitions against the idea. Addressing a meeting of the full council yesterday Claire Geoghegan, of the Friends of Penkridge Library, said that it was unfair to expect volunteers to replace librarians.”
  • Staffordshire – Staffordshire County Council leaders told library volunteers need supportSentinel. “Conservative councillors rejected claims by Labour that the shake-up is a result of funding cuts from Government, and said the service must adapt to a change in how people use it. Council leader Philip Atkins said: “They are a vital part of the community, but if we go through the review, and look at what we can get, we could have more local libraries. “There could be more places where you can collect books. Click and collect is the way people are moving in the future.”
  • Tri-borough – Has the Tri-Borough Project improved services for residents? - Stop the privatisation of public libraries. “The creation of a single library card and the joint procurement of a Library Management System (LMS) are mentioned” in report but staff do not think the change to one authority has improved the customer experience.
  • Walsall – Support grows in bid for Walsall Council to rethink plans to axe Pheasey Library - Walsall Advertiser. “Pheasey Library on Collingwood Drive is one of several libraries Walsall Council is proposing to shut in 2015/16 to save £500,000 of the enormous £86 million they need to salvage over the next four years. But residents living near the facility have rallied to save their library from closure, with more than 1300 people already adding their signatures to a petition against the swinging cuts.”

Sacked Fiji TV executive says they were sacrificed for licence [ABC Radio Australia Pacific (English International)]

One of two Fiji TV executives sacked in the wake of a Rugby Sevens broadcasting scandal has supported claims she and her colleague were sacrificed to secure the network's license.

Julie Bishop launches book series Maria's Family in PNG highlands [ABC Radio Australia Pacific (English International)]

Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop says books developed by academics in Australia and Papua New Guinea will help promote women's literacy in PNG.

E-cigarette use on the rise in Hawaii especially among teens [ABC Radio Australia Pacific (English International)]

There are fears e-cigarettes are being used as a gate-way drug in the Pacific to get more young people to smoke traditional cigarettes.

Alleged Fiji student cheats win High Court challenge [ABC Radio Australia Pacific (English International)]

Eleven students in Fiji who received zero marks on their biology exam two years ago over allegations of cheating have just won a High Court challenge.

Palau President in Japan to close the deal on a proposed royal visit [ABC Radio Australia Pacific (English International)]

The President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Junior, is on an official visit to Japan, during which he'll be making a formal request for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to visit the Republic next year.

Excitement in Apia in the buildup to Miss Pacific Islands title [ABC Radio Australia Pacific (English International)]

The winner of Miss Pacific Islands will be crowned in Apia tonight after the contestants participate in the grand finale.

Marshall Islands college commits to climate change action [ABC Radio Australia Pacific (English International)]

After international climate change talks in Lima suffered setbacks, the momentum for local action has taken off at the College of Marshall Islands.

Mua Voyage navigator says vaka connect people together [ABC Radio Australia Pacific (English International)]

The Mua Voyage fleet is sailing back across the Pacific after its headlining trip to Sydney for the World Parks Congress.

Tagata o te Moana for 20 December 2014 [RNZ: Tagata o te Moana]

NZ defence keen to 'reengage' with Fiji; Australia cuts 3 billion more in foreign aid; Shutdown of PNG corruption unit could be catastrophic; Protest over Fiji TV sackings; NZ joins chorus of demands for Papua shooting investigation; Strong support for Samoa PM's over comments on women; Ray of hope for pacific cocoa farmers.

George Clooney discovers the essential uselessness of the Hollywood he helped create. [RedState]

Oh, God, while the Sony situation isn’t funny George Clooney’s reaction to it certainly is. Well, not Good Funny.  This is Bad Funny… anyway, let’s go over who Clooney blames, shall we?

  • The press. “They played the fiddle while Rome burned.” They should have mentioned that this was blatantly a North Korean-friendly (at least) operation, based on the very name (I freely admit that I missed the historical details behind that one).
  • Trial lawyers. “[The theater chains] said they were not going to run it because they talked to their lawyers and those lawyers said if somebody dies in one of these, then you’re going to be responsible.” Those tort-obsessed trial lawyers…
  • Movie executives. “They know what they themselves have written in their emails, and they’re afraid.” Clooney argued that that’s why the first wave of emails were the embarrassing ones: to keep the rest of the industry’s heads down.
  • The government. “Everybody was doing their jobs, but somehow, we have allowed North Korea to dictate content, and that is just insane.” …This is as close as George Clooney will ever come to criticizing Barack Obama, and while I normally don’t grade the Left on a curve there were just too many other good bits in this interview to make me entirely merciless*.

That’s… a large cross-section of the Establishment Democrats’ supporters up there, huh?  We’re just missing the academics, Big Labor, and Big Green.  George Clooney thinks of all of these people as being a bunch of cowards, which is certainly true; but what he’s apparently not getting (while sounding like quite the fire-eating Republican on this issue, might I add**) is that they didn’t become cowards overnight. This is, in fact, pretty much reflective of the standard operation procedure that’s been adopted by the Other Side over the last few decades; and forgive me for saying this, but that’s why they were targeted***. Nobody over there wanted to fight.

So in the end George Clooney gets it almost right.  What he fails to see is that Hollywood’s moral defeat here was inevitable, because the institutions and groups that Clooney’s spent so much time working with were not up to the task****. It is my humble suggestion that the man consider this fact in the future when deciding what kind of civic contributions he wishes to make in the future in order to better help the Republic…

Via @SonnyBunch.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*Besides, despite it all the man did still give a great performance in O Brother, Where Art Thou?.  You’re just going to have to forgive me on this one.

**The rule of thumb is, You are most conservative about the things that are most important to you.  It would appear that the movie industry is genuinely important to George Clooney.

***They, of course, did not deserve to be targeted: ‘the way she was dressed…’ defense is not accepted in modern society, and for good reason. But many in modern society seem to have difficulty in distinguishing between saying that a behavior is risky, and saying that the same behavior justifies a particular response.

****At this point there are probably reflexive if not outright indoctrinated responses – not all from Democrats, alas – that the Right is just as much a bunch of cowards.  Far be it from me to suggest that the GOP is made up of a band of strong-jawed paladins and stalwarts.  But we do know when it’s time to circle the dang wagons, and this would be one of those times.

The post George Clooney discovers the essential uselessness of the Hollywood he helped create. appeared first on RedState.

ISIS Continues their Brutal Barbarism in the Middle East [RedState]

In this image (obtained from Wikipedia), the gray area is the territory controlled by ISIS.

A couple of weeks ago, ISIS made news for martyring children who refused to renounce their Christian faith. This story was hardly surprising, and in fact, it was depressingly only one of the smaller outrages against humanity they’ve committed. Not content to stop there, we’ve received news this week of even more of their barbarism this week.

First of all, we need to remember that ISIS is one of the worst perpetrators in the War on Women. Fresh off news from last week that the terrorist organization has published pamphlets on how to properly sexually exploit and abuse women and underage girls, we find news of what happens when women and children don’t submit to these horrors. Mary Chastain over at Breitbart brings to our attention a report from the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights that at least 150 women have been executed after they refused to have sex with members of the terrorist group:

“At least 150 females, including pregnant women, were executed in Fallujah by a militant named Abu Anas Al-Libi after they refused to accept jihad marriage,” said the Ministry. “Many families were also forced to migrate from the province’s northern town of Al-Wafa after hundreds of residents received death threats.”

The militants buried the victims in mass graves in the city. The families who left lost many children after they were stranded in the desert.

This might receive some coverage in Western media. It should be one of the leading news items over the next few days, but perhaps it doesn’t offend feminists and their media enablers as much as restrictions on the right to slaughter unborn children or rape stories with only tenuous connections to the truth.

Meanwhile, it has also come to our attention that the Islamic State has published an official penal code for the territories under its control. It is unsurprisingly harsh. Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon explains:

The Islamic State (IS) has published it own penal code, which harshly penalizes actions such as sodomy and blasphemy with punishments including execution, crucifixion, lashing, and the severing of limbs, among other penalties.

IS (also known as ISIL or ISIS) issued the detailed document as a “warning and a reminder to people living under its rule” that any behavior not in accordance with strict Islamic law will be cruelly punished, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which translated a copy of the penal code posted at a radical online depot known as the Jihadi Media Platform.

Radical militants associated with IS emphasized that they have a “commitment” to enforce the brutal doctrine “vigilantly,” according to MEMRI.

As IS continues to gain strength and devotees, it has staked out bolder and more confrontational policies governing the territory in its control. The release of a formal penal code is a sign that the terror outfit remains committed to regional dominance in the face of ongoing U.S.-led airstrikes.

The emphasis on crucifixion is mine. The whole list of punishments is brutal on its own, but the inclusion of that particular method of execution, while not unusual in that reason, is nevertheless one of the greatest reminders of the scale of their inhumanity. It is one of the punishments for murder and stealing, although as Kredo notes, stealing on its own, or “banditry”, might just result in the severing of the culprit’s right hand and left leg. In addition to murder, the list of offenses that will result in the death penalty include: “blasphemy against Allah”, homosexual acts for both the active and passive partners, “spying for unbelievers”, and adultery is punished by stoning until the offending is dead. Drinking alcohol will result in only 80 lashes, which is enough to kill a person, and theft–which is evidently different from death penalty stealing and “banditry”–will only be punished by cutting off the culprit’s hand. Of course, as with the lashes, it is entirely possible for a person to die from having limbs severed.

All of this comes on the heels of a report by The Guardian that Obama administration officials backed talks with ISIS in an attempt to secure the release of Peter Kassig, also known by his Islamic first name (he converted while captive) of Abdul-Rahman. We know how that story ended. Kassig was killed on November 16. The take away here is more than just the fact that the Obama administration is okay with negotiating with some of the worst terrorists, although that is appalling enough on its own, but we also need to realize that it couldn’t even orchestrate this planned meeting properly.

With US troops now engaging in combat with ISIS fighters for the first time, it’s important to remember the evil we are up against. We are fighting one of the most barbaric groups of militants in centuries, and thus far, our strategy has had plenty of problems in meeting its stated goal to destroy the terrorist group. As a nation, we need to find the resolve to conquer them and ensure that our leaders share it.

The post ISIS Continues their Brutal Barbarism in the Middle East appeared first on RedState.

IRS Commissioner: cutting our budget means civilization is doomed [RedState]

Bad news. The IRS says it may have to furlough workers because it doesn’t have enough money to operate.

The IRS is considering its own temporary shutdown due to recent budget cuts enacted by Congress, its chief said Thursday.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said furloughs — forced unpaid days off for employees as part of an IRS closure — is one idea reluctantly being tossed about to save money, though they are hoping they will not have to go there.

“People call it furloughs; I view it as: Are we going to have to shut the place down? And at this point, that will be the last thing we do, … but there is no way we can say right now that that wont happen,” Koskinen told reporters at a Thursday press conference on the upcoming tax season. “Again, I would stress that would be the last option.”

This is one of those existential questions: is this a feature or bug.

The news comes a day after Koskinen in an email warned IRS employees that overtime would be suspended and a hiring freeze enacted. He also said more tough news would likely follow as IRS leadership negotiates with the National Treasury Employees Union, particularly because personnel costs comprise about 75 percent of the IRS costs.

In the recent budget deal, Congress cut the IRS budget by $346 million to $10.9 billion — $1.5 billion less than the administration asked for. The IRS’ budget has been reduced about $1 billion since 2010.

“It’s not just the $350 million cut in the budget; it’s the fact that we have $250 million in new expenses for a government-wide pay raise. … So we really have a $600 million hole this year,” he said.

What will the impact be? Naturally dire. Civilization will probably end, the atmosphere will ignite and the oceans will transform into pools of molten, effervescing lava.

“Everybody’s return will get processed,” Koskinen said at a news conference. “But people have gotten very used to being able to file their return and quickly get a refund. This year we may not have the resources.”

Already, Koskinen told employees this week that the agency would have to stop handing out overtime, in all but emergency situations, and freeze hiring. The IRS will still hire temporary staff to help out during the filing season, Koskinen said Thursday.

Still, the commissioner stressed that the budget cuts will undoubtedly make life more difficult for taxpayers once the 2015 filing season opens. Taxpayers trying to reach the IRS will have only about a 50-50 shot at getting their call answered — and those that do can expect to be on hold for awhile, Koskinen said.

Let’s unpack this various claims.

Every year the IRS trots out the same claim that refunds will be delayed. It is their best shot. It is the IRS equivalent of closing the National Mall to World War II veterans. For instance, from 2013 (the 2012 filing season):

Law-abiding taxpayers could shoulder the brunt of the blow when the sequester hits the Internal Revenue Service Friday — and tax cheats might find it easier to rig the system.

It’s a little-discussed risk of the automatic budget cuts — and yet, another smack to the already battered 2012 tax filing season.

Absent a last-minute deal, the 8.2 percent funding cut facing the cash-strapped IRS will most likely translate to fewer specialists on hand to help taxpayers with their returns and to root out fraud — two tasks that watchdog groups say need more, not fewer, hands.

From the 2013 filing season:

Folks who rely on getting their tax refund quickly may need to wait even longer for their money. If there is another shutdown again in January when the government renews budget talks as part of the recent compromise that ended the shutdown, refunds could potentially be delayed further.

As you can see the same claims — delayed refunds, more tax cheats, longer wait times for assistance — are as much a feature of our taxation system as the W-2 form.

In reality, Koskinen shot himself in the foot and is now complaining because it hurts. He is a major Democrat donor who was appointed to the IRS more to stonewall investigation into Lois Lerner’s seemingly criminal dragooning of the IRS into the service of the Democrat party.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is in the spotlight as he is set to further testify to Congress regarding the IRS targeting of conservative groups. It is important to remember that Koskinen has shelled out nearly $100,000 to Democratic candidates and groups.

Koskinen has been contributing to Democrats for four decades, starting with a$1000 contribution to Democratic candidate for Colorado Senate candidate Gary Hart in 1979.

Koskinen has been a reliable donor over the years, contributing a total of $19,000 to the Democratic National Committee from 1988 to 2008. He has made a contribution to the Democratic candidate for president in each election since 1980, including $2,300 to Obama in 2008, and $5000 to Obama in 2012.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has received $3,000 from Koskinen since2008, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee received $2,000 from 2004 to 2006.

Hillary Clinton has received $3,800 for her various political campaigns from Koskinen.

Koskinen’s most recent contribution was $2,500 to Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mark Warner3%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard3% (D., Va.) in February of 2013.

When he did testify, rather than taking the opportunity to establish a clean slate and bring miscreants to justice, he treated the Congress with utter contempt and, as it turned out, lied to them about the fate of the mystery missing emails and Lois Lerner’s fortuitous “computer crash.” As a result, he’s hardly established the kind of professional relationship that is needed to run an inherently unpopular and reflexively abusive agency.

Even if everything that Koskinen claims is true, those claims are more of a call for tax reform than they are for additional IRS people. EITC and other programs need to be tightened to prevent fraud, I’d argue they need to be done away with completely but the constituency supporting them is just too powerful. But given the IRS’s record on enforcing the law, one has to suspect that the agency has decided to simply not touch it… moreso now that it has been opened to illegal aliens:

President Obama’s unilateral executive action on immigration will make hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million, illegal immigrants eligible for federal transfer payments. That will be done primarily through two widely used programs — the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, and the Additional Child Tax Credit, or ACTC.

As it turns out, those two programs are already among the most corrupt and fraud-ridden in the entire federal government. A newly-released report from the inspector general of the Internal Revenue Service confirms that the EITC is plagued by fraud (which was already well known) and also reveals for the first time that the ACTC is even worse.

The two programs, intended for low-income workers, are what is known as refundable tax credits. That means they give workers a tax refund that is larger than their tax liability. So a family with a tax bill of $1,000 might receive an EITC “refund” of $5,000, meaning the family doesn’t write a check to the government but rather receives a check from the government. The ACTC works similarly for low-income workers with children.

Supported by both political parties over the years, the programs were intended to encourage work and strengthen families. Their growth has been extraordinary in recent years — payments increased 40 percent from 2007 to 2012 alone. And now both are beset by staggering levels of fraud.

According to the inspector general, the IRS paid out $63 billion in EITC benefits in 2013. Of that, 24 percent, or about $15 billion, was given improperly to people not qualified to receive it. That improper payment rate has been enough to qualify the EITC as a “high risk” program for years.

The IRS paid out $26.6 billion in ACTC credits in 2013. The inspector general reports the child credit improper payment rate for that year was somewhere between 25.2 percent and 30.5 percent — worse than the EITC.

One also has to question why the IRS is in the tax advice business given that receiving wrong advice from the IRS doesn’t give you safe harbor from penalties and interest and the IRS provides wrong answers frequently. Rather than, as they used to say, “keep to their knitting” the IRS has made an ill considered attempt to establish itself as a regulatory agency governing income tax preparers and decided to act as political goon squad at the behest of the administration.

In short, it is hard to see a downside to the IRS budget cuts and it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

 

 

 

The post IRS Commissioner: cutting our budget means civilization is doomed appeared first on RedState.

There They Go Again [RedState]

With metronomic precision each year the national press corps begins running columns by “religion scholars” who wish you to know that Jesus Christ is a fictional character. Mind you, no newspaper of note in the world is brave enough to run a similar story about the Prophet Mohammed.

The latest comes from a “lecturer in religious studies” from Australia named Raphael Lataster. The Washington Post felt compelled to run this so the godless heathens in Washington, D.C. can continue on with no consequence.

According to Mr. Lataster, “There are no existing eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus. All we have are later descriptions of Jesus’ life events by non-eyewitnesses, most of whom are obviously biased.” These biased, non-eyewitness accounts include the writings of the Apostles Matthew, Peter, and John all three of whom were standing near the cross on which the magical mythological Jesus was nailed. They were just, one might suppose, looking in a different direction.

Then, of course, there are the books of James and Jude in the Bible, written by the brothers of Jesus. There are also the several letters written by Paul, who claims Jesus appeared in physical form to him after Jesus’s death. Lastly, there is Luke, a doctor, who interviewed many eyewitnesses including the imaginary Mary, mother of the imaginary Jesus.

Mr. Lataster must write out of history many people we know existed in order to write Jesus out of history. His dismissal of all scholars who disagree with him is pretty staggering. One must wonder if he is also prepared to write out of history Socrates who, like Jesus, never wrote anything himself. Others wrote about him after he died.

That the Washington Post and other news outlets feel compelled, each year, to point out that Jesus is a myth is telling in and of itself. They lack the bravery to do it about Islam’s top prophet because Christians will turn the other cheek whereas muslims would kill them. For any who disagree, just review the book stores bombed for carrying Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” or the riots against cartoonists who drew Muhammed.

The only really remarkable thing about the media effort to cast doubt on Jesus’s existence is that the press usually finds an Episcopalian priest or Jesuit scholar to do it. They first attack the virgin birth as an interpretation then end up at Jesus dying and his resurrection being only metaphor. Rarely do they go straight to the atheist religious scholar.

The common thread of all these columns, articles, and expositions are unbelievers writing to reassure other unbelievers at a time of year billions of people are celebrating either the miraculous burning of oil for eight days or a virgin giving birth to a child. The secular left can abide no miracles.

For the rest of us, it is worth reflecting on what did happen two thousand years ago. A virgin gave birth to a child fulfilling a prophesy made at the beginning of time in the fifteenth verse of the third chapter of the first book of the Bible. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The prophet Isaiah, nearly 750 years before the birth of Jesus, said God told him, “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The Apostle Matthew, a friend of Jesus, wrote that Mary was a virgin and Jesus’s birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophesy.

Non-Christian scholars and poseurs within the faith argue over Isaiah’s word choice, but the Christian’s scripture gives no choice. It is a fundamental belief of the faith that Christ was born of a virgin and rose again from the death. Take away either and we are left with just a man, not a God.

Several billion people around the world believe Jesus is real. We can also hold with equal certainty that a century from now several billion will still believe that and no one will remember the name of Raphael Lataster.

The post There They Go Again appeared first on RedState.

Barack Obama not yet understanding that he needs to be irrelevant to 2016. [RedState]

This should be fascinating to watch: “In recent weeks, Democratic operatives have begun to voice concerns that the 2014 midterms made plain the limits of an approach that failed to reach beyond minority groups or those who are reflexively liberal. And yet what should come next is not yet totally clear.” Largely because it’s essentially futile.  The Democrats will not have control over their message in 2016, because in our system a sitting President has tremendous power to define for the public what his political faction does or does not care about.

And the bear is loose:

[Barack] Obama feels liberated, aides say, and sees the recent flurry of aggressive executive action and deal-making as a pivot for him to spend the last two years being more of the president he always wanted to be.

I don’t often feel sympathy for my opposite numbers – and, in fact, in this case I still don’t.  But if I were to feel sympathy, it’d be in the way that they’re going to have to spend the next two years going Never mind Barack Obama without actually looking like they’re going Never mind Barack Obama.  Because while Barack Obama’s popularity generally is in the toilet*, it’s noticeably better among Democratic primary voters. Which means that the Democrats can’t actually tell Barack Obama to sit down and shaddap.

In case you’re wondering: yes, normally second-term Presidents don’t need to be told this.  Generally speaking the sitting President gets out of the way as gracefully as possible so that the eventual nominee from their party can get on with the remarkably difficult task of winning three elections in a row.  Fortunately (for my side), nobody bothered to tell Barack Obama that. Or maybe he doesn’t care.  Or – and this would be the best answer – the man still hasn’t come to terms with the limits to his competence, and Obama thinks that he can (chuckle, snort!) help

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: If Barack Obama thinks that what was going this session was ‘deal-making’ (instead of, say, ‘trying to work around an over-rated Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Harry Reid10%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard10%‘), we will probably find next year to be quite amusing, in its way.

*I should note, by the way, that his reputation will recover, post-Presidency.  That’s what typically happens.  Don’t get bent out of shape over it, because doing so won’t affect the process and you’ll just be there in the dark chewing bitter bones, as the Elves might say.

The post Barack Obama not yet understanding that he needs to be irrelevant to 2016. appeared first on RedState.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms: The Detroit Project, The Interview, and Cuba #BATF [RedState]

ATF-logo-woodIn tonight’s episode of The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends, the guys are joined by Ben Howe to discuss their favorite holiday season adult beverages, Ben’s upcoming Detroit film project, the controversy over The Interview movie, the normalization of Cuban relations, and the Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Ted Cruz95%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard95% kerfuffle.

Tune in via Google Hangout to interact with the group or watch via YouTube below.

BIG NEWS: The Bureau is now available in podcast format via iTunes! Subscribe by clicking here!

Embed code:

The post The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms: The Detroit Project, The Interview, and Cuba #BATF appeared first on RedState.

How to Lose a Cyberwar with North Korea [RedState]

In the past twenty-four hours, United States intelligence officials definitively confirmed that the recent cyberattacks against Sony Pictures Studios and the explicit threats to terrorize movie theaters showing its film, “The Interview,” are indeed the work of North Korean state actors.  Sony, of course, canceled the global release of “The Interview,” which threatens to ex ante effectuate some of the most outright perverse incentives in geopolitics that we’ve seen since the TARP bailout.  Let us not mince words about North Korea: this is casus belli — a provocative act of war.  It is not mere rhetorical bluster by the despotic apparatchiks in Pyongyang.  This is unequivocally an act of 21st-century state-sponsored cyberwarfare and, indeed, state-sponsored terrorism.  Unnervingly, there is not much precedent for these sorts of attacks, and we are utterly clueless in how to respond.  Abe Greenwald, over at Commentary’s online blog, observes that

This isn’t a gossip story or an industry problem. It’s war. Moreover, it’s a war we don’t know how to fight. In 2011, the U.S. military declared cyberattacks tantamount to acts of war and therefore liable to military response. But that statement concerned cyberattacks on our government or infastructure. We now have rogue regimes going after American citizens and corporations. There’s nothing on the books for that. There’s been talk of “hacking back” among corporate victims, but that’s a reckless and probably illegal option. There needs to be fresh strategic thinking about this, and fast. We’re catching up to a challenge that’s already out of control.

What is particularly unnerving about all of this is that we are forced to learn how to deal with 21st-century cyberwarfare whilst we suffer the indignity of our benighted serial appeaser in the White House — a “mom jeans“-wearing sycophant to all the world’s worst actors whose love of apologizing for America’s ostensible sins at times frankly appears to outweigh his sincere desire to protect the homeland.  Indeed, this whole tragic saga has not-all-too-coincidentally overlapped with the latest emasculating embarrassment by the “Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy doctrine” (to borrow from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Ted Cruz95%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard95%‘s politically ingenious label) of isolating allies and kowtowing to enemy tyrants: the “naive” attempt at rapprochement with the evil, anti-human dignity, terrorism-supporting Castro regime 90 miles off the Floridian coast.  While I certainly look forward to purchasing Cohiba cigars, on a personal note, the eschewing of principle for the misbegotten sake of some “Nixon goes to China” legacy-cementing moment is utterly lamentable.

You really cannot make this stuff up; Barack Obama continually proves true the old adage that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.  It does not have to be this way.  As my friend Professor Kevin Gutzman of Western Connecticut State University noted yesterday on Facebook, with respect to the North Korea terrorism: “Reagan would sink their entire navy in an afternoon and then show the movie in the White House cinema.”  Well said, Professor.  But no, today, Obama’s dangerous solidification of a national culture of appeasement has coincided with the metastasizing of Hollywood’s self-induced institutional castration.  Following Sony’s capitulation yesterday to the North Koreans, it got even worse today.  The proudly defiant Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, down in the great State of Texas, had planned to show in lieu of “The Interview” the 2004 Kim Jong-il belittling parody film, “Team America: World Police.”  And yet news soon broke that the dolts at Paramount Pictures — the studio behind “Team America” — quickly decided to ban all subsequent showings of “Team America” in American cinemas.

Yesterday, the United States conceded defeat to the brutal Castro regime; today, state-sponsored North Korea terrorists have outright defeated the United States in a 21st-century cyberwar.  It is nearly impossible to envision any scenario whatsoever in which Barack Obama decides to respond to this casus belli.  Tit-for-tat cyberwarfare response intuitively strikes us as being below our dignity, Pyongyang has a nuclear arsenal aimed squarely at our treaty-sworn ally South Korea, and in any event the White House and Foggy Bottom would probably rather go try to find a new dictatorship to whom we can unilaterally surrender.

God willing, Hollywood’s feckless obsequiousness and the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy doctrine of “leading from behind” will not cost us any more than they already have.  Perhaps we will even earnestly strive to take Abe Greenwald’s advice about developing a coherent strategy of countering cyberwarfare.  But the damage to America’s national security interests and global standing is real, and We the People are increasingly powerless to stop this increasingly unhinged presidential ideologue acting with the full support of a complicit Hollywood.  This is a sad two-day stretch for the United States of America.

The post How to Lose a Cyberwar with North Korea appeared first on RedState.

I Love Santa [RedState]

From the diaries by Caleb. We are a Santa family too. And I still believe.

What is this idea that Santa Claus somehow detracts from celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ? I grew up in a Christian household that loved Santa and, as pretty much anyone who knows me or follows me on Twitter can attest, I still really like Jesus. Believing in Santa Claus and loving Jesus are hardly mutually exclusive.

There are some pretty common arguments I hear in these anti-Santa tirades: namely, that he creepy, that he is a false idol, a secular being who keeps us from keeping Christmas centered on Christ, or that, when the kids figure out that Santa Claus isn’t real, they will also question their faith. I think all of these arguments are, quite frankly frankly, silly if you are teaching your child about the real meaning of Christmas, too. If a child is taught about Jesus, how would Santa be a threat to…anything?

Let’s take each in turn.

Is Santa creepy? OK, this is a purely secular argument, but I’ve heard Christians use it, so I thought it was worth addressing. Usually this argument refers to a mall Santa, and parents recoil at the idea of putting their child on the lap of a stranger to get a photo. One has to wonder exactly why people think he’s creepy, though. Santa Claus is an embodiment of goodness, of innocent joy. It takes a hypersexualized and suspicious culture to assume that the elderly man at the mall is secretly a pervert. Has there been a rash of mall Santas gone wild that I somehow missed? I’m pretty sure there hasn’t.

If the Santa at your mall is skeevy, or if the whole thing gives you the skeeves, skip it. Don’t get a picture. That’s ok. That doesn’t mean you have to skip the legend of Santa Claus entirely, though, does it? He is a whole lot more than a guy from whom you request gifts at your local mall. Commercialization of that kind can and should easily be removed from the Santa equation. Embrace those parts of Santa that remain, if you prefer: the magic and the goodness.

Next up is the idea that Santa Claus is a secular being who will detract from Jesus at Christmas like a false idol. I can understand arguments against traditions rooted in paganism (although I still love my Christmas tree), but that simply does not apply to Santa Claus. He is not secular. This argument doesn’t stand up against even the most minor of scrutiny.

The name “Santa Claus” is a derivative of Saint Nicholas, making it perfectly simple to connect his story back to the birth of Christ. Saint Nicholas tended to the sick and needy and, the story goes, he sometimes did this by sneaking gifts into homes at night. After his death, stories of his gift-giving spread, and that has turned into today’s stories of Santa Claus.

Yes, the image of Santa Claus now permeates popular secular culture, but that does not make him a secular figure. He doesn’t lose his religious background simply because some people are unaware of or ignore it. If anything, it gives us an opportunity to introduce the work of Saint Nicholas through an already familiar figure. I call that a win.

The story of Saint Nicholas gives us a chance to talk to children about the ways that we can do the work of Christ on Earth, that giving is more important than receiving, and that we do these things to glorify Jesus, whose birth we are celebrating. It all ties together perfectly, and keeps Christ central to the story. If Santa Claus is a false idol, then you’re not telling the story right.

Finally, there is the question of whether or not teaching one’s children about Santa Claus will somehow lead to a lapse in faith when they find out that he does not, in fact, shimmy down the chimney every Christmas Eve. To this, my answer is an emphatic no, unless the religious education you are giving your children is very much lacking.

No, Santa Claus is not a living person who flies around the world in one night, leaving presents and nibbling on cookies as he goes. He is, however, the embodiment of Saint Nicholas, and shows that his spirit is alive in us helping others, as he did, to serve Christ. Parts of the legend of Santa Claus aren’t real, but they came from the true story of Saint Nicholas, who lived and walked the earth just as Jesus did.

Finally, faith gets tested. Any faith. It just does. This is an early, easy test for your kids. They will come to discover that parts of the Santa Claus legend aren’t true but, when a child is disillusioned by a hero or a supposition is overturned, we don’t say “well, there goes their faith in God.” This argument seems to be unique to Santa Claus. In fact, these are opportunities to strengthen their faith in Jesus, to show them that we keep on believing in Jesus even when we are tested. Little things may change, but the big things remain the same in Christ.

In short, if you think Santa Claus is a threat to Jesus Christ, your kids need to know more about the latter.

Santa Claus is the embodiment of the spirit of Christmas, based on the life of an actual saint. This teaches kids that it is better to give than to receive, and that we are blessed when we give in the name of Christ. Sprinkle a little magic on top, and you stir a child’s imagination, which just might make them want to learn more about the saints, Jesus, and miracles. Let them embrace that magic, let them love Santa Claus.

If you choose not to have Santa as part of your Christmas celebrations, that’s up to you, but there should not be any religious barrier to including him. If you choose not to include Santa, I hope you teach your kids not to spoil the magic for others. For me and mine, we remain on Team Santa, which in no way threatens our loyalty to Team Jesus.

The post I Love Santa appeared first on RedState.

The Children Are Our Future [Small Dead Animals]

Coddled millennial update;

Student organizations representing women's interests now routinely advise students that they should not feel pressured to attend or participate in class sessions that focus on the law of sexual violence, and which might therefore be traumatic. These organizations also ask criminal-law teachers to warn their classes that the rape-law unit might "trigger" traumatic memories. Individual students often ask teachers not to include the law of rape on exams for fear that the material would cause them to perform less well. One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word "violate" in class--as in "Does this conduct violate the law?"--because the word was triggering. Some students have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress.

h/t Bob H

The Keystone XL [Small Dead Animals]

10659393.png

Full steam ahead, currently above ground;

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. is poised to meet a goal to boost crude shipments by at least 67 per cent next year as oil producers and pipeline companies continue to build terminals even amid a bear market for the commodity.

"From the intelligence we get from our customers that are buying the crude, I don't think the bottom is going to drop out" of the business, chief operating officer Keith Creel said Monday during an interview in Toronto. "Will it slow down and will some consolidation happen? Yes, but I think our supply partners are in a position of strength."

Creel's reaffirmation of the railroad's plan to increase crude carloads to 200,000 in 2015 from as many as 120,000 this year...

h/t Karen

I Amuse Myself [Small Dead Animals]


Reader Tips [Small Dead Animals]

In tonight's seasonal selection Bing Crosby and actress/singer Carol Richards team up to sing the modern standard Silver Bells.

The comments are open for your Reader Tips.

Wild Rose Country [Small Dead Animals]

Heh.

(credit to @SheilaGunnReid)

Related: A very unhappy FB page.

Are We Still A Member Of This Thing? [Small Dead Animals]

Now what would that be? $10 billion UN-linked climate change fund wants immunity from prosecution

h/t Kevin B

The Decline And Fall Of The American Empire [Small Dead Animals]

"Democrats need to embrace Hollywood because this is where they need to come to learn how to tell a story." - Michael Moore

And the title of today's story is Surrender;

Paramount Pictures has apparently forced the cancellation of planned screenings of Team America: World Police across the U.S. in the coming days, presumably over fears of the bogeymen from North Korea.

Ensorcelled by ‘ensorcelled’ [TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics]

From Aaron Sorkin at his two HBO series hits “The West Wing” and the just-concluded “The Newsroom”  to poet and literary critic Wayne Koestenbaum, the seldom-used (but now increasingly spoken and printed) word “ensorcelled” has been making the rounds. Danielle Berrin at the Jewish Journal in Los Angeles likes the word, too, and has used […]

The post Ensorcelled by ‘ensorcelled’ appeared first on TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics.

eReading while cruising [TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics]

When I mentioned to Chris Meadows that I was leaving for my first ever cruise, he suggested I write something about ereading while cruising. I wasn’t sure how I’d approach that, until I’d been on the ship for a couple of days. It was interesting to walk around the decks and see what devices people […]

The post eReading while cruising appeared first on TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics.

Morning Links: Amazon launches Prime Now. Book culture heroes of 2014 [TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics]

Five Book Culture Heroes of 2014 (Book Riot) I say this every year, but folks: it’s never been a better time to be a reader. This year, in particular, we’ve been blessed by some incredible people who are making book culture better and more inclusive. So here’s to the book culture heroes of 2014: thanks […]

The post Morning Links: Amazon launches Prime Now. Book culture heroes of 2014 appeared first on TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, John Sargent: Major publishers learning, trying new things with e-books [TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics]

Here are an interesting juxtaposition of posts that just came to light today. In the first, Kristine Kathryn Rusch at last returns to blogging about the publishing industry with an end-of-year post that is both interesting and scary. Last year, I wrote an open letter asking the Big Five publishers if they’d learned anything from […]

The post Kristine Kathryn Rusch, John Sargent: Major publishers learning, trying new things with e-books appeared first on TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics.

‘Stormteller’ mixes fantasy, cli-fi [TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics]

David Thorpe has penned a crossover YA fantasy novel titled “” and by crossover I mean it’s for both young adults and adults. In a recent interview with Mr Thrope in Wales, where he has lived for more than 20 years, I found a man who writes not only to tell a good yarn but […]

The post ‘Stormteller’ mixes fantasy, cli-fi appeared first on TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics.

Book review: Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross E. Lockhart, Word Horde [TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics]

With Christmas near, the evenings drawing in, the fog pooling in the alleys, and rapt listeners gathering closer round the fire to hear dark tales of quivering horror, now seems a good time to review Tales of Jack the Ripper, Ross E. Lockhart’s superlative collection of modern-day stories inspired by one of London’s most notorious […]

The post Book review: Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross E. Lockhart, Word Horde appeared first on TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics.

FBI fingers Norks in Sony hack, Obama says: HOW DO WE SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE KOREA? [The Register]

Schneier: It's WMDs all over again

The FBI claims to have found evidence linking the North Korean government with the hackers who ransacked Sony Pictures' servers and dumped gigabytes of sensitive data online.…

The Shock of the New: The Register redesign update 4 [The Register]

Some changes for your delectation

Readers, thanks for all the feedback. Here's a list of tweaks we rolled out today.…

Vulture 2 design hero describes epic 'hobby' project [The Register]

Chris Dodd talks spaceplane with The Engineer

It's a traditional SPB tip of the hat today to Vulture 2 spaceplane designer Chris Dodd, who's been chewing the fat with The Engineer about his involvement with the Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) project.…

Hackney council leaked thousands of locals' data in FoI blunder [The Register]

Names, addresses and rental accounts outted in spreadsheet snafu

Thousands of Hackney residents are fuming after their personal information was leaked by the council online in a bungled Freedom of Information request.…

Apple v BBC: Fruity firm hits back over Panorama drama [The Register]

Guess who's off Tim Cook's Christmas card list

Apple has refuted claims made by the BBC’s Panorama programme that it is not working hard enough to protect the rights of workers.…

Windows Server 2003 custom support could cost MILLIONS [The Register]

Got a few million tucked under the mattress for Microsoft?

Business leaders who dismissed calls from the IT department to migrate off Windows Server 2003 as nothing more than a maintenance exercise could be left rueing a potentially costly seven-figure financial howler.…

UK air traffic bods deny they 'skimped' on IT investment after server mega-fail [The Register]

90s kit isn't 'ancient', indignant chief exec tells Parliament

The chief executive of the National Air Traffic Services, Richard Deakin, has denied the body “skimped" on its IT investment after being hauled in front MPs this week to account for its major computer outage.…

Love the cloud? Be a ‘Cloud Hero’ with Microsoft [The Register]

Take the challenge, win prizes

Promo  Microsoft UK are offering you the chance to bank some ‘Cloud Hero’ kudos along with a raft of prizes in exchange for completing some tasks in Azure.…

Welsh council rapped for covert spying on sick leave worker [The Register]

'Incredibly intrusive' use of powers prompts slap from ICO

A council that ordered covert surveillance of a sick employee has been ordered to review its practices following an investigation by data privacy watchdogs.…

Linux 'GRINCH' vuln is AWFUL. Except, er, maybe it isn't [The Register]

Securo-bods in bunfight over priv-escalation problem

A dispute has arisen about the seriousness of a vulnerability in Linux, dubbed "Grinch", that supposedly creates a privilege escalation risk.…

Iliad owner coughs €2.3bn for Orange Switzerland [The Register]

Telco shopping trip finally bears fruit for French biz bloke

Xavier Niel, the owner of French ISP and mobile phone company Iliad, is buying Orange Switzerland for CHF2.8bn (€2.3bn) from VC Apax Partners.…

Merlot and hot dogs: Atos snaps up Xerox's outsourcing biz for $1.05bn [The Register]

Plan for world domination based on shrugs and '3-year strategic plan’

French IT services giant Atos has snapped up Xerox's outsourcing biz for $1.05bn (£670m), as it tries to extend its garlic and lemon-infused tentacles across the American market.…

Reviewed: LittleBigPlanet 3, Lara Croft's latest raid and more [The Register]

Festive family video gaming fun

Game Theory  Christmas is all about interacting with people whether you like it or not. If you can’t convince your family to succumb to the new board gaming fad, here are three multiplayer video gaming options you can play as a family or that are more suitable for a younger audience than the forthcoming PC release of GTA V.…

Google Tax part 94: EU's H-dot wavers over copyright levy [The Register]

Here’s a little number about charging the Choc Factory

EU digi-chief Gunther H-dot Oettinger has been characteristically clear as mud in explaining his plans for copyright reform.…

Webcam-snooping spawn of ZeuS hits 150 banks worldwide [The Register]

Chthonic exploits Word bug to hijack browsers, steal passwords

The latest evolution of the online bank account raiding Trojan ZeuS is the webcam-spying Chthonic malware, according to researchers.…

Armouring up online: Duncan Campbell's chief techie talks crypto with El Reg [The Register]

Truecrypt, PGP, GPG - but NEVER Skype

Crypto toolbox, Part I  I think I was about 15 or 16 when PGP was making headlines for being classified as munitions by the US government and was (supposedly) banned from export. While I wasn’t a subversive type at the time, I got a very strong sense that any software that scared the mighty USA so badly was something I ought to play with and try to understand – even if I didn’t need it.…

Fujitsu’s customers come big data samba dancing [The Register]

Get down on the analytics dance floor

Fujitsu is helping its customers get up (and down again) on the big data dance floor and do the analytics samba with an integrated bundle of HW and SW and services called PRIMEFLEX for Hadoop (PfH - our initials) to save customers from any DIY aggro.…

VISC-y business: Can Soft Machines keep the free lunch counter open? [The Register]

It's a multicore world alright, but the ghost of Transmeta lingers

If the free lunch is over, then few have heeded the end-of-break bell.…

Git thee behind me, Git crit security bug! [The Register]

Update anything on the desktop that touches GitHub if you want to live

GitHub has acknowledged there's a flaw in its client software and recommended that users upgrade as soon as possible.…

Movie industry's evil plan to destroy the internet is going precisely nowhere [The Register]

Yes, it would damage the DNS; no, it's not going to happen

As well as finding out that Jennifer Lawrence earns less than her male counterparts, Hollywood studio execs are self-important a-holes and Sony Pictures has a password policy that a baby could break ... it turns out movie giants are also seeking to DESTROY THE INTERNET with a ten-page legal memo.…

Judge spanks SCO in ancient ownership of Unix lawsuit [The Register]

IBM win means Linux is saved! Again!

IBM has had a win in its long court battle with SCO over just who owns Unix and, by extension, whether Linux is an unauthorised clone.…

How much for a wrist job? A tenner normally, but for this one, over $30k [The Register]

Tosser alert: Diamond-encrusted Apple gold watch out next summer

The wait is almost over for footballers, Arab oil magnates, the fanbois elite, Croydon-based lottery winners, or anyone else with a money to burn: a diamond-encrusted Apple Watch will hit the shops next year with an eye-popping price tag.…

India's heavy launch rocket passes flight test [The Register]

Short flight for GSLV Mk-III proves crew-capsule-carrying-chops

India yesterday conducted a successful test of its new GSLV Mk-III X/CARE launch vehicle.…

Hack hijacks electric skateboards, dumps hipsters in the gutter [The Register]

Automated attacks crash riders on the fly

A hacker duo have shown how to hijack "Boosted" brand electricity-assisted skateboards.…

Microsoft fires legal salvo at phone 'tech support' scammers [The Register]

Sick callers face fingering from Redmond's revenge

Microsoft has launched its first US lawsuit against companies offering phoney phone support for its products and says it plans further operations in the UK and India to stamp out the scammers.…

NBN Co reveals product roadmap and Telstra planning deal [The Register]

Hybrid fibre-coax trials to commence in late 2015

NBN Co has updated its product roadmap and Telstra has revealed it will help the company to plan future deployments.…

Forget Google's robot cars, now it's on to ANDROID cars [The Register]

Next OS to come built into auto dashboards, sources claim

Google is planning a big push into in-car infotainment systems with an upcoming version of Android, sources claim.…

Kiwi hacker 'menace' pops home detention tracker cuffs [The Register]

Hack unit worn by on-parole crim. Blackmail said crim. Profit

Kiwicon  Christchurch bus hacker William Turner has demonstrated how to trick home detention ankle monitors used in New Zealand.…

Johnson & Johnson snatches your .baby for $3m [The Register]

Don't expect to see Wholovesyou.baby anytime soon

Johnson & Johnson has bought the right to .baby domains for $3.1m, beating Google and five other companies.…

Woz moves to Oz [The Register]

Apple founder moving to Tasmania, aka 'The Apple Isle'

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has become a permanent resident of Australia.…

Net Neut: Verizon flips the bird to FCC on peering deal crackdown [The Register]

You can't stop us creating web traffic fast-lanes, telco says

Verizon reckons the FCC's net neutrality proposals can not lawfully stop ISPs charging websites big bucks to increase streaming speeds to subscribers.…

Microsoft drops early Chrissie pressie on Mac Office fanbois [The Register]

Stocking-fillers land for Mac Outlook

Microsoft's not been kind to Office for Mac over the years: since the last major update in 2010 fanbois haven't had much to get excited about.…

Red Hat CFO reaches for eject cord after Street-beating performance [The Register]

Linux firm ups annual guidance yet again

Red Hat chief financial officer Charlie Peters announced on Wednesday that he's stepping down from the company, even as it reported another quarter of strong earnings that beat even its own guidance.…

Finally kicked that Minecraft habit? Story time! [The Register]

Mojang says an epic narrative-mode is in the works

Minecraft's maker says it's working on a new "narrative-driven" follow up to the ultra-addictive world-building game.…

Banish the fear of Big Brother when you bring in BYOD [The Register]

The magic of MDM

As I have said before, bring your own device (BYOD) can be a difficult concept to sell. After all, you are basically saying to users: “We want you to supply your own IT equipment but we want to be able to control the corporate data and applications that go on it.”…

New fear: ISIS killers use 'digital AK-47' malware to hunt victims [The Register]

New code built in-house targets innocents fending off deranged terrorists

Malware has emerged from war-torn Syria targeting those protesting the rule of ISIS (ISIL, Islamic State, whatever the murderous humanity-hating fanatics are calling themselves these days.)…

Android gives Google a search monopoly? Not so fast, says judge [The Register]

More facts needed before class-action suit can proceed

A US District Court judge has cast doubt on an antitrust lawsuit filed against Google, describing the damages sought as "speculative."…

Microsoft kills its Euro pane in the a**: The 'would you prefer Chrome?' window [The Register]

Time runs out on mandatory non-IE installation tool

Fresh Windows PCs in Europe will no longer offer to install Google Chrome and other web browsers rivaling Internet Explorer.…

Misfortune Cookie crumbles router security: '12 MILLION+' in hijack risk [The Register]

New claim: Homes, businesses menaced by vulnerable firmware

Infosec biz Check Point claims it has discovered a critical software vulnerability that allows hackers to hijack home and small business broadband routers across the web.…

The podcast and the murder: why I soured on Serial [The Verge - All Posts]

Spoiler alert: this piece discusses many details of the series and its finale.

The world’s first blockbuster Podcast, Serialreleased its final episode yesterday. You can be forgiven for missing it, because not a lot of people were talking about it. That’s because its long-speculated dramatic conclusion ended up lacking in both drama and conclusion. Its thoroughly unsatisfying denouement highlighted everything I have come to dislike about this show, which I feel is a failure as both a journalistic enterprise and true crime narrative.

Continue reading…

These Alien 35th anniversary posters are gorgeous and gruesome [The Verge - All Posts]

Alien has seemingly been everywhere this year. We've seen blockbuster games dedicated to recreating the tension of Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror classic, and fan projects that turn the late H.R. Giger's most famous creation into incredibly detailed sculptures. All this despite the fact that the seminal film came out in 1979 — and to celebrate the 35th anniversary, Poster Posse has curated a collection of Alien posters from some of the best artists around.

"Alien will always be regarded as one of the most terrifying films of all time," says artist Robert Bruno, who contributed to the project, "and rightfully so. It set the tone for virtually every sci-fi / space movie and was remarkably inventive and ambitious for its time." The posters...

Continue reading…

Obama: the US 'will respond' to the North Korean attack on Sony [The Verge - All Posts]

President Obama says that the United States will respond to North Korea over its cyberattack on Sony Pictures. He declined to say what that response will be, saying only that it will be "proportional." Obama said that a number of options are being worked up by his staff and that he will choose what to do based on what he feels is "appropriate to the nature of this crime."

Continue reading…

Tesla to start battery swap pilot program with Model S owners next week [The Verge - All Posts]

In a blog post, Tesla says that it'll finally start offering battery swaps for the Model S — a feature that was first demonstrated in mid-2013, designed as a quicker alternative to charging. The concept is that a complete battery swap, which was promised to take as little as 90 seconds, would be far faster than charging even with an ultra-fast Supercharger, so you could be in and out of a station in roughly the same amount of time (if not less) than filling up with gas.

Continue reading…

Facebook releases a new app for covering your photos in stickers [The Verge - All Posts]

Facebook's cartoon stickers add a whimsical touch to the company's Messenger app, and now they're coming to photos. The company announced today a new app called Stickered that lets you add stickers to your pictures, and then send it to a friend using Messenger. The app, which will be available today on Android and on iOS "soon," lets you add as many stickers as you want to pictures using either your front or rear camera. Or you can add stickers to a photo from your camera roll.

Stickered is one of a number of holiday updates from the Messenger team, which also include new themed sticker packs, a "festive frame" for New Year's Eve pictures, and "snow globe chat heads." It's all in good fun, and a nice little present for everyone...

Continue reading…

Robot zombies are coming to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare [The Verge - All Posts]

One of the biggest changes in the newest Call of Duty is the shift to the future, which lets you play with all kinds of cool gadgets and weapons — and now that futuristic technology is coming to the undead. As with past games in the series, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is getting downloadable content that adds zombies to the game, but in this case the shambling hordes are being replaced with robotic terrors. And just like the main game, which starred Kevin Spacey as the villain, the DLC will feature the acting talents of several notable actors, including John Malkovich and Bill Paxton. The new content is expected sometime next year.

Continue reading…

Watch Obama talk about North Korea's cyberattack on Sony [The Verge - All Posts]

President Obama is about to begin a press conference where he is expected to discuss North Korea's cyberattack on Sony Pictures. It is not clear what, if any, actions the United States will take in response, but the White House press secretary already began setting expectations small yesterday, noting that the hackers may be hoping for a certain reaction.

Read next: Obama says the US "will respond" to the North Korean attack on Sony

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said earlier today that it had determined North Korea was behind the cyberattack on Sony Pictures. The movie studio was hacked in late November, and data stolen from it has been released to the public over the course of the past two weeks. The information has been quite...

Continue reading…

The Hobbit’s vision for the future of cinema looks awful, but it just might work [The Verge - All Posts]

The dragon Smaug flies down from the mountain and soars over Lake-town. He is enormous, glowing in flames, and way more detailed than any digitally made creature has a right to be on a screen this large. Watching the beginning of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies very quickly reminds you why director Peter Jackson is so popular for what he does — making truly spectacular movies — but people seeing it in certain theaters are likely to be reminded of something else as well: playing a video game.

Continue reading…

Republicans looking to introduce net neutrality bill that avoids Title II [The Verge - All Posts]

2014 has seen a widescale battle for net neutrality, with the government and massive corporations clashing over just what a free and open internet will look like in the years to come. Much of that conversation has focused around the FCC reclassifying the internet as a Title II utility, which would let the commission impose more stringent rules and avoid things like paid "fast lane" access, but a new piece of Congressional legislation might seek to limit those controversial fast lanes without requiring reclassification.

According to The Washington Post, an upcoming bill backed by Republicans in Congress will establish a new way for the FCC to regulate internet access without reclassifying it as a utility — this bill would give the FCC...

Continue reading…

Price Check: Logitech's colorful speaker, Star Wars cookies, and interstellar gaming [The Verge - All Posts]

Welcome to Price Check, our weekly post dedicated to sorting through all the new products and deals that we find. We also get a ton of gadgets sent to our office, so consider this the best place for us to tell you about them and where you can find them — sometimes even for cheap.

Star Wars gingerbread cookie cutters ($9)

We're now less than a year away from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but the wait is probably going to feel like an eternity for most fans. So what better way to bide your time than to eat your feelings after making some Star Wars gingerbread cookies with these cookie cutters? There are six different characters, though they're a bit random — no Luke, Leia, or Han. You do get Darth Vader and Boba Fett, as well as...

Continue reading…

Let’s Have A “National Conversation About Race” [Transterrestrial Musings]

…so we can know whom to fire. As noted at the end, those calling for a “conversation,” don’t really want a dialogue. They just want to lecture us, without interruption.

Writing Versus Typing [Transterrestrial Musings]

Is it cognitively different? I don’t care. They’ll take away my keyboard from my cold, dead hands.

The Wright Anniversary [Transterrestrial Musings]

It’s been 111 years. On the centennial, eleven years ago, I wrote three pieces. One at Fox News, one at TechCentralStation (which later became TCSDaily), and one at National Review on line. Unfortunately, the latter seems to have suffered from link rot. I’m trying to find out if it still exists on their server. [Evening […]

Feeds

FeedRSSLast fetchedNext fetched after
(More) Amy's Ramblings XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
@midnight XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
ABC Radio Australia Pacific (English International) XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Academic Librarian XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Ace of Spades HQ XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Ace of Spades HQ Podcast XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
AEI » Pethokoukis XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Allergic to Bull XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Althouse XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Amateur Radio Newsline Podcast XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
American Bandscan XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
American Radio Relay League | Ham Radio Association and Resources XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
AMSAT-NA XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Andy Ihnatko's Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA) XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Annoyed Librarian XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Armed and Dangerous XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
ARRL Audio News XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Ars Technica XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Asia/Pacific – France 24 - International News 24/7 XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Bits from Debian XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
BLACKFIVE XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Bradley M. Kuhn's Blog ( bkuhn ) XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Bry Jensen XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Bry Jensen XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
bsdtalk XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Catalogablog XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
CBC | Technology News XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Celestial Junk XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Chaos Manor - Jerry Pournelle XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Charles C. W. Cooke XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Clockwise XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Comedy Factory from CBC Radio XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Comedy of the Week XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Coyle's InFormation XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
DamianPenny.com XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
DanLynch.org XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Daring Fireball XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Debian package news for dianara XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Debian package news for pumpa XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Deeplinks XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Disruptive Library Technology Jester XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
DistroWatch.com: News XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Dr. Helen XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
DX International radio XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Ed Driscoll XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
English News - NHK WORLD RADIO JAPAN XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Everyday Athlete XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4 XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Full Circle Magazine XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Guido Fawkes XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
hogewash XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Houston AMSAT Net Podcast XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
http://www.france24.com/en/americas/rss/ XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
http://www.france24.com/en/top-stories/rss/ XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
IMAO XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Information Wants To Be Free XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
iowahawk XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
iowahawk XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Jammie Wearing Fools XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Jewish Telegraphic Agency XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Join me, won't we? XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Judge John Hodgman XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
KCRW's Martini Shot XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
kevin w murphy XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Laugh Out Loud from CBC Radio XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
librarian.net XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Library of Congress: News XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
LISNews Netcast Network XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
LISNews: XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
lol my thesis XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Marginal REVOLUTION XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Mark Shuttleworth XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Michael Geist XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Moe Lane XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Musings about librarianship XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
My Happy Space Family XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
National Review Online - Phi Beta Cons XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
National Review Online - The Campaign Spot XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
National Review Online - The Corner XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
NPR: Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Podcast XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
NZART Official Broadcast XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Ordered Liberty XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Patterico's Pontifications XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
PCWorld XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Pegasus Librarian XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Perlsphere XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Photoshop Wil Wheaton XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Planet Debian XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Planet openSUSE XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Planet Ubuntu XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
popey.com blog XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Power Line XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
protein wisdom XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Public Libraries News XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Radio Society of Great Britain - Main Site XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Radio Survivor XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
RedState XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
RiffTrax XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
RNZ: Tagata o te Moana XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Rubin Reports XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Shortwave America XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Shortwave Central XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Small Dead Animals XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
stefano zacchiroli home page XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Swift Blog - Apple Developer XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Tech Tent: Business and Technology XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Archers Omnibus XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Btown Monitoring Post XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Captain's Journal XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The DiploMad 2.0 XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Flash XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Ihnatko Almanac XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Jawa Report XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Other McCain XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The PJ Tatler XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Register XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The SWLing Post XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Travelin' Librarian XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
The Verge - All Posts XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Tim Blair XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Transterrestrial Musings XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Trending XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Ubuntu Sense XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
VodkaPundit XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Voices for the Library XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Walt at Random XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Weasel Zippers XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Welcome to the FUNcube Web Site XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
WIRED » Threat Level XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Wireless Institute of Australia News Netcast XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Wizbang XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Works and Days XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
Xfce Blog XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17
xkcd.com XML 2014-12-19 14:07 2014-12-19 14:17