Category: Personal

Tim Cook won’t back down — opposes terrorism, selling data, and snooping

During an unannounced visit to Apple’s Covent Garden store

Following comments regarding Apple Watch specifications and an upcoming Apple Store revamp, Cook spoke with the Telegraph in an extensive interview covering data privacy, government snooping, terrorism and more.

The Apple chief is cognizant of the amount of customer information being “trafficked around” by corporations, governments and other organizations, saying data sharing is a practice that goes against Apple’s core philosophies. He said consumers, however, “don’t fully understand what is going on” at present, but “one day they will, and will be very offended.”

“None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information,” Cook said. “This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn’t give it up. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering or to people who fundamentally don’t understand the details…”

The publication also asked about implications of terrorism, especially government surveillance operations created with the intent of aiding law enforcement agencies. Cook took a hard-nosed stance on the topic, saying the issue is a non-starter in his book because terrorists use proprietary encryption tools not under the control of U.S. or UK governments.

“Terrorists will encrypt. They know what to do,” Cook said. “If we don’t encrypt, the people we affect [by cracking down on privacy] are the good people. They are the 99.999 percent of people who are good.” He added, “You don’t want to eliminate everyone’s privacy. If you do, you not only don’t solve the terrorist issue but you also take away something that is a human right. The consequences of doing that are very significant…”

The executive reiterated Apple’s mantra of making products, not marketing consumers as products. Every device and service that comes out of Cupertino is designed to store only a minimal amount of customer information, Cook said.

Finally, Cook talked about privacy as it applies to Apple Pay, the fledgling payments service Apple rolled out in October. Unlike other payments processors, Apple designed Apple Pay to reveal little to no information to outside parties, including itself.

“If you use your phone to buy something on Apple Pay, we don’t want to know what you bought, how much you paid for it and where you bought it. That is between you, your bank and the merchant,” Cook said. “Could we make money from knowing about this? Of course. Do you want us to do that that? No. Would it be in our value system to do that? No. We’ve designed [Apple Pay] to be private and for it to be secure.”

I love the privacy of Apple Pay. I haven’t stopped smiling since the first time a checkout clerk exclaimed…”It doesn’t even tell me your name!”

This is excerpted from a long interview in the TELEGRAPH – worth reading.

Alaska becomes 3rd state with legal weed

Alaska on Tuesday became the third U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but organizers don’t expect any public celebrations since it remains illegal to smoke marijuana in public.

In the state’s largest city, Anchorage police officers are ready to start handing out $100 fines to make sure taking a toke remains something to be done behind closed doors.

Placing Alaska in the same category as Washington state and Colorado with legal marijuana was the goal of a coalition including libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans who prize the privacy rights enshrined in the Alaska state constitution.

When they voted 53-47 percent last November to legalize marijuana use by adults in private places, they left many of the details to lawmakers and regulators to sort out.

That has left confusion on many matters.

There’s a surprise, eh?

That’s left different communities across the state to adopt different standards of what smoking in public means to them. In Anchorage, officials tried and failed in December to ban a new commercial marijuana industry. But Police Chief Mark Mew said his officers will be strictly enforcing the public smoking ban. He even warned people against smoking on their porches if they live next to a park.

But far to the north, in North Pole, smoking outdoors on private property will be OK as long as it doesn’t create a nuisance, officials there said…

In some respects, the confusion continues a four-decade reality for Alaskans and their relationship with marijuana.

Alaska has been burdened sufficiently with conservatives, religious nutballs and rightwing libertarians to have had any number of changes over the last four decades about what to do over getting a little mellow, being a drunk, how and where to have sex. This is just part of the whole package.

Fortunately, the Leftish flavor of libertarianism plus progressive Dems and Independents seems to be prevailing this week.

Who can sort out your online world after you shuffle off this mortal coil?


Facebook…has finally decided how to handle the photos and friend requests of its deceased users. In Facebook’s settings, people can now appoint a friend or family member to be in charge of their legacy. The person gets to make one last public post, download all their loved one’s Facebook photos, and respond to friend requests.

The decision was applauded by estate planners—especially because it gets around the issue of needing a password to get into people’s accounts. Yet it doesn’t solve all the problems around online information after death.

For example, what happens if a user dies, and family members want to see private messages to get clues about whether it was a suicide? Using their password to get into the account, which is banned by Facebook’s terms of service, would violate federal privacy laws, says James Lamm, a principal at a Minnesota firm in charge of estate planning. Appointing a legacy account handler on Facebook also isn’t legally binding and doesn’t transfer any of the intellectual property on videos or poetry the person may have posted, he said.

For attorneys such as Lamm…the infrastructure of the digital world has created countless barriers for clients seeking to access bank accounts, find answers surrounding a death, or simply collect all the memories they can about the person they lost. Passwords, terms of service, encryption, and cloud storage all complicate the search for information required after a death.

Inconsistency – therefore uncertaincy – remains through the breadth of online providers. The article goes on to note a few and makes suggestions. My own unqualified advice is to sort out reponsibility, administrative rights, by assigning someone the rights to your intellectual property just as you would with real property.

It’s a new world; so, a new set of questions has to be answered. As usual in our society, the questions become pointed when dealing with something of value.

Nursing Homes have the power to seize control over patients’ savings

Lillian Palermo tried to prepare for the worst possibilities of aging. An insurance executive with a Ph.D. in psychology and a love of ballroom dancing, she arranged for her power of attorney and health care proxy to go to her husband, Dino, eight years her junior, if she became incapacitated. And in her 80s, she did…

But one day last summer, after he disputed nursing home bills that had suddenly doubled Mrs. Palermo’s copays, and complained about inexperienced employees who dropped his wife on the floor, Mr. Palermo was shocked to find a six-page legal document waiting on her bed.

It was a guardianship petition filed by the nursing home, Mary Manning Walsh, asking the court to give a stranger full legal power over Mrs. Palermo, now 90, and complete control of her money.

Few people are aware that a nursing home can take such a step. Guardianship cases are difficult to gain access to and poorly tracked by New York State courts; cases are often closed from public view for confidentiality. But the Palermo case is no aberration. Interviews with veterans of the system and a review of guardianship court data conducted by researchers at Hunter College at the request of The New York Times show the practice has become routine, underscoring the growing power nursing homes wield over residents and families amid changes in the financing of long-term care.

RTFA. Pissed-off is a perfectly reasonable response.

As my wife and I plan for the possible disasters that can disorder the end of life – processes guided by the medical-industrial complex – legal agents perfectly willing to rollover at the least request from corporations committed to siphoning every last penny from your declining life fill me with the greatest anger.

Awareness of thinking – awareness of dreaming


To control one’s dreams and to live out there what is impossible in real life – a truly tempting idea. Some persons – so-called lucid dreamers –can do this. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have discovered that the brain area which enables self-reflection is larger in lucid dreamers. Thus, lucid dreamers are possibly also more self-reflecting when being awake.

Lucid dreamers are aware of dreaming while dreaming. Sometimes, they can even play an active role in their dreams. Most of them, however, have this experience only several times a year and just very few almost every night. Internet forums and blogs are full of instructions and tips on lucid dreaming. Possibly, lucid dreaming is closely related to the human capability of self-reflection – the so-called metacognition…

The differences in volumes in the anterior prefrontal cortex between lucid dreamers and non-lucid dreamers suggest that lucid dreaming and metacognition are indeed closely connected. This theory is supported by brain images taken when test persons were solving metacognitive tests while being awake. Those images show that the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex was higher in lucid dreamers…

The researchers further want to know whether metacognitive skills can be trained. In a follow-up study, they intend to train volunteers in lucid dreaming to examine whether this improves the capability of self-reflection.

You, too, can join the ranks of Sartre and Camus. :)

It is especially interesting to me – to see these attributes often referred to in the Existential offshoots from Materialist Dialectics getting special attention from one of the leading researchers in the world.

In the expanse of free time accrued since retirement, I have found myself from time to time wandering back to questions like these for the first time in decades. I’ve been aware of being a lucid dreamer since childhood. Metacognitive processes have always been equally provocative, equally challenging.

Fascinating as ever.

It was the largest rally ever held in Paris

It was the day Paris united. And with dozens of world leaders joining the millions of people marching to commemorate and celebrate the victims of last week’s terror attacks, it was also the day the world united behind the city…

It was the first time since the liberation of Paris in August 1944 that so many people – the interior ministry said there were too many to count but most estimates put it at somewhere between 1.5 million and 2 million – took to the streets of the city. An estimated 3.7 million took to the streets across the whole country.

As investigations continue into the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine by Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, which left 12 dead on Wednesday, the killing of a female police officer the following day, and the attack on a Kosher supermarket by Amédy Coulibaly on Friday in which four died, the mood among the crowds in Paris was one of unity.

This was a nationwide outpouring of grief, solidarity and defiance. Parisiens of all ages, religions and nationalities turned out en masse not only to show their respect for the victims but their support for the values of the Republic: “liberté, égalité, fraternité” – freedom of speech and freedom of the press…

The noise along the route…rose and fell in waves, with songs and chants of “Charlie, Charlie, Charlie” punctuating the solemnity of the atmosphere and drowning out the helicopters overhead.

At regular intervals, the crowd stopped to applaud police and gendarmes shouting “merci police”; three police officers died in the attacks.

On a political and diplomatic level, it was unparalleled. Protocol rules were ignored as around 50 world leaders congregated in the French capital. Presidents, prime ministers, statesmen and women took buses from the Elysée palace to join the march from Place de la République to Place de la Nation, two of Paris’s best-known squares…

As a powerful mark of respect for those who died, the world leaders took second place, walking behind the families and friends of the victims of last week’s attacks.

Earlier in the day hundreds gathered to honour Ahmed Merabet, 42, the police officer gunned down in the Charlie Hebdo attack. The hashtag #JesuisAhmed has become widely used on Twitter along with #JesuisCharlie.

The events of last week have deeply shocked and scarred the French people who found a sense of collective comfort in coming together on Sunday to say “We are not afraid”. As night fell, they continued to march and gather, reluctant to leave the comfort of the crowd and the momentous occasion.

I shouldn’t be surprised when a journalist discovers there can be something correctly called the “comfort of the crowd”. Not a mob emotion, not even the jubilance of a proper rally; but, the quiet sisterhood and brotherhood of being able to stand in harmony with thousands and tens of thousands of others who are sharing the satisfaction of coming together in a progressive cause. A gathering so large that even the most ignorant and bigoted retreat in fear and confusion from the confrontation they always brag about desiring.

You never lose that feeling. Unless you’ve lost the caring that brought you there in the first place.

I felt it in Washington, DC a few times. The civil rights march for peace and freedom with Dr. King in 1963. Later gatherings just as large against the US War in VietNam. All those hope-endorphins leave a lasting effect on your brain. Maybe that’s why I remain an optimist…

Hastening death and suicide are different

In recent weeks, all of America was captivated by the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year old terminally ill brain cancer patient. She died on Nov. 1 of her own free will with the aid of physician-prescribed medication.

Prior to her death, Maynard and her family moved to Oregon, one of only three states that have enacted legislation – known as “death with dignity” or “aid-in-dying” legislation – that sets out strict requirements for competent adults with terminal diseases who wish to end their suffering by being aided in death. Washington and Vermont also have similar laws on the books.

Two other states – Montana and New Mexico – have not passed laws on the issue but have court decisions in place that effectively allow such deaths to take place. The Montana case was Baxter v. State; in the New Mexico case, known as Morris v. Brandenberg, Second District Judge Nan Nash – whose decision is currently being appealed – wrote that:

“If decisions made in the shadow of one’s imminent death regarding how they and their loved ones will face that death are not fundamental and at the core of these constitutional guarantees, then what decisions are..?”

When it comes to making the emotional appeal for such laws, Maynard, with the aid of Compassion & Choices, a leading aid-in-dying organization based in Oregon, told her story in about as articulate, intelligent and compassionate a way as humanly possible. Yet although her story made all the major media outlets, there was one point that was never picked up by any media with perhaps one exception –- what she planned to do, as she explained in one of her video clips, was not a suicide.

Despite this, many of the media captioned her story as one involving her “suicide” or “assisted suicide” (because the medication she used was lawfully prescribed by a licensed physician)…

But when we consider death with dignity, or aid-in-dying, the words “suicide” or “assisted suicide” should forever be banished from the lexicon.

I made this point a few years ago in a “friend of the court” brief for the Baxter court case in Montana; my argument was mentioned in a concurring opinion once the case was decided…

Physicians and other health professionals point to advances in palliative care to assuage the pain and suffering experienced by terminally ill and dying patients as one reason that ending one’s own life may now be avoided in these situations. It is certainly true that such advances have been made, but on balance, a competent adult with a terminal illness or disease must have a choice to end life with dignity on terms arrived at by that person.

A law like Oregon’s permits this option, and allows for what should be a basic human right at the end of life – a right that is to be granted only to those suffering from a painful terminal illness, not those wishing to end their lives for other reasons.

Which is my only dispute with the article. Although in general I don’t find many reasons legit – I can imagine one or another coming to pass. And I would want the right to make that decision.

Before she died, Maynard brought to the public’s attention her well-formed decision-making process and showed how it should apply to people in her specific situation…

In the end, as human thought advances over time, our views on ideas once held sacrosanct change. This is part of the human condition and ingrained within the fabric of social transition. Isn’t it high time that all of us discuss and evaluate the Brittany Maynards of our existence with the proper language that excludes the words suicide or assisted suicide, including anyone who writes, speaks or legislates about the subject in an open forum?

Let’s get little stuff out of the way. Regardless of questions about death with dignity, freedom of choice, you need to take care of the legal clutter impacting anyone in the clutches of the medical-industrial complex. Yes, that’s tongue-in-cheek. I’ve had some damned decent, thoughtful doctors in my life – they can help a great deal in discussions on the topic.

Here in New Mexico, you first should sort out a power of attorney with friend, spouse or significant other. Standard info on Advance Directives is available over here from the UNM medical school. Here’s one of the forms [.pdf] they suggest. I offer the link because it’s the one my wife chose – and she does a better job at this kind of search than I do.

I have to remember to keep my fey sense of humor out of the way. We had our first Death Panel get-together with my wife’s doctor a few weeks back. I have nothing but contempt for the conservative idjits who coined that term – so, of course, I deliberately use it as a joke. My wife’s doctor didn’t smile.

And we were the first patients I think she ever had bring up the topic. My first official discussion with my own doctor is next month – who is the husband of my wife’s doctor. Not really relevant; but, interesting.

The most important thing we learned was this Advance Directives form is more important, thoughtful and primary than the DNR [Do Not Resuscitate] form often referred to in discussions like this. I have one mate up in Canada who has it tattooed across his stomach. But, he’s in terrible health with a truly failing heart. My honey and I are essentially in good health. I have several worn-out bits here and there; but, the basic meat machine still works fine.

A DNR doesn’t allow for accidents or even health disasters which used to be considered inevitably fatal, lingering or otherwise. My wife’s doctor made a sensible case for reliance on this advance directive. A DNR can be added in person or via power of attorney if you end up teetering on the edge. but, a DNR can get in the way of what is reasonable resuscitation, nowadays – with years of perfectly satisfactory life following.

And we live in New Mexico, so unless the state succeeds in challenging current case law, we can rely on assistance from our doctors in a reasonable end to a terminal condition. At least I hope so. That’s the discussion I have next month. My doctor is bright and reasonable. I just presume that includes agreeing with me. :)

Mysteries of the CoyWolf

Click to enlarge

Coywolves are canid hybrids of wolves and coyotes. They have recently become common in eastern North America, where they have been considered eastern coyotes, eastern wolves, or red wolves. Apparently their habitat now includes northern NM.

Many eastern coyotes (Canis latrans “var.”) are coywolves, which despite having a majority of coyote (Canis latrans) ancestry, also descend from either the gray wolf (Canis lupus) or the red wolf (Canis lupus rufus, formerly Canis rufus). They come from a constantly evolving gene pool, and are viewed by some scientists as an emerging coywolf species. The genetic composition and classification of the eastern coyote is debated among scientists.

A study showed that of 100 coyotes collected in Maine, 22 had half or more gray wolf ancestry, and one was 89 percent gray wolf. A theory has been proposed that the large eastern “coyotes” in Canada are actually hybrids of the smaller western coyotes and gray wolves that mated decades ago as the coyotes moved toward New England from their earlier western ranges.

Coywolves have the wolf characteristics of pack hunting and the coyote characteristic of lack of fear of human-developed areas. They seem to be bolder and more intelligent than regular coyotes.

…Unfortunately for this beautiful animal very few people truly understand them. Spending time with them and watching their true behavior shows us they are an extremely social and intelligent wild canine species. The world is far better with Coy-Wolves.

I have a special spot in my heart for CoyWolves. I knew them as Adirondack coyotes – and folks automatically presumed they were a cross between coyotes and wolves.

I did a fair piece of design and testing early in the creation of mountain bikes. Mostly in the Catskill Mountains and the Adirondack range. Had a couple of favorite trails I rode well beyond the boundaries of good sense and safety. Testing designs for future production being the excuse. In hindsight, not too bright.

But, on one of those favorite trails in the Catskills – on a downhill stretch where I flew about 30+mph for quite a distance – one autumn afternoon I had a big auburn CoyWolf join me side-by-side full bore down the mountain trail for a quarter-mile or so – felt like leagues of speed. We glanced at each other from time to time, maintaining a gap of 3 or 4 feet between us.

Then as the trail started to level off and my speed dropped she gave a final look at this crazy two-legger on two wheels and made a sharp right angle turn away into the trees.

I can still feel the rush of sharing that trail that way, that day.

Really interesting list of scientific breakthroughs in 2014

#1 of 10

In 2007, archaeologists examining fossilized seashells in a museum collection stumbled upon a detail other scientists had somehow missed: deliberate engravings of abstract patterns. These shells were dated to over 500,000 years ago, and were found amongst other shells that had been carefully crafted into specialized tools, at the same site where the first fossils of Homo erectus, our hominin ancestor, had been discovered, in 1890.

Taken together, these discoveries suggest that Homo erectus was far more sophisticated than previously believed and capable of symbolic thought…The discovery “raises the possibility that the development of human cognition — human culture — was a very long process. It was not a sudden development…”

#3 of 10

In late September, for the first time ever, a woman gave birth to a baby after receiving a womb transplant. The mother and child offer hope to women the world over with missing or non-functional uteruses, who desire to carry their own children to term.

The unidentified 36-year-old woman was born without a womb…and is one of nine Swedish women who received a uterine transplant from live donors between 2012 and 2013. Some of those women received wombs from family members (including their own mothers), but this particular uterus was reportedly donated by a 61-year-old “family friend” who had undergone menopause 7-years prior to the 2013 surgery.

Lists like these are often throwaway crap, filler from an editor or editors with a writing staff on holiday.

This batch reminds me – once again – to add to my morning reads. Give it a thorough trial. They produce interesting reads on a consistent basis.

And wander through all 10 of these offerings. Some have already been noted in and I’ve read most of the rest as they were published. But, it’s always worth being reminded of increases in our knowledge base and to check in on further progress from time to time.

Thanks, Ursarodinia — GMTA