Eight Things to Know About the U.K. Vote — by Barry Ritholtz

brexit
Hat tip to Ian Bremmer

Well, the Brits have really done it now. All the experts told us people in the U.K. were smart enough to see that voting to leave the European Union was a mistake — but not to worry because the referendum was going to lose…

1. London, Get Used to It

It was a back and forth between New York and London in the bidding to be the capital of capitalism. That race just ended. This may be good for New York and Hong Kong in some abstract way, but more likely the center of European financial gravity will shift to Geneva or Brussels or Frankfurt; or maybe no one city replaces London and financial power is scattered all over Europe.

London’s ambition to be the world’s most important city is now over. Expect it to become more like Colonial Williamsburg: A tourist trap that attempts to depict what life was like in the not-too-distant past.

Barry goes on from there. My favorite Recovering Republican, damned good economist and sufficiently cynical to function as a real financial analyst in a world full of phonies.

Please click the link and enjoy it all.

You know the FBI is probably looking at you in their facial recognition software – right?

The FBI has access to nearly 412 million photos in its facial recognition system — perhaps including the one on your driver’s license. But according to a new government watchdog report, the bureau doesn’t know how error-prone the system is, or whether it enhances or hinders investigations.

Since 2011, the bureau has quietly been using this system to compare new images, such as those taken from surveillance cameras, against a large set of photos to look for a match. That set of existing images is not limited to the FBI’s own database, which includes some 30 million photos. The bureau also has access to face recognition systems used by law enforcement agencies in 16 different states, and it can tap into databases from the Department of State and the Department of Defense. And it is in negotiations with 18 other states to be able to search their databases, too.

The size of the total pool of photos the bureau can access, which was not clear until the new report from the Government Accountability Office, is shocking even to those who have been paying close attention to the FBI’s growing use of biometric data, says Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And the degree to which the FBI has access to photos in state-owned face image databases, which contain mostly driver’s license images, has Lynch and other privacy advocates concerned…

Adding to the privacy concerns is another finding in the GAO report: that the FBI has not properly determined how often its system makes errors and has not “taken steps to determine whether face recognition systems used by external partners, such as states and federal agencies, are sufficiently accurate” to support investigations. By taking those steps, the bureau “could better ensure the data received from external partners is sufficiently accurate and do not unnecessarily include photos of innocent people as investigative leads,” the report concludes…

Our federal coppers say there is no concern. Adding in photos from a broad range of private and public sources is no different than using fingerprint info from background checks for jobs, etc.. Which is bullshit!

The point is made in the article by Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law. “I know what I touch, and I certainly know if I give fingerprints for a background check,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anyone who keeps track of every surveillance or smartphone camera.”

Alaska continues to melt under record heat

According to the latest data from NOAA: “For the first time in its modern climate history, Alaska’s average spring temperature hit 32.0 degrees F, breaking a record set in 1998. A new warm record was also set for the warmest year to date.”

And the news doesn’t get any better looking back to April …

The Alaska April temperature was record high at 33.3°F, 10.0°F above the 1925-2000 average and 0.4°F warmer than the previous record set in 1940. Record warmth was observed across the southern parts of the state with much-above-average temperatures for central and northern Alaska. Temperatures more than 12°F above average were observed across western parts of the state. Anchorage had its warmest April on record with a temperature of 43.5°F, 2.8°F warmer than the previous record set just last year…

In fact, as the site Climate Central notes, the past three January-May periods are among the four warmest in Alaska’s records.

Rick Thoman, climate science and services manager for the NWS’s Alaska region, told Climate Central that several factors had converged to keep Alaska so relatively toasty…The effects of the elevated temperatures are readily apparent, Thoman told the site, with berries ripening weeks earlier than usual, very early “last frosts” and an early start to construction projects.

All of which means the frozen ground, the permafrost that has been solid for tens of thousands of years, is melting.

Study results show that much of the undisturbed discontinuous permafrost south of the Yukon River has warmed significantly and some of it is thawing. That raises the possibility that roads, buildings, and other structures on thawed areas will collapse. Another problem could arise as well: As permafrost thaws it can release methane and carbon dioxide, gases that contribute to the green house effect and accelerate global warming.

Basically, Alaska as we all know it is turning into marshland and the consequences are likely to be troubling for us all.

To some extent this explains Republican fascination with Trump. He’s the 21st Century equivalent of Nero. Fiddling with his profit-making campaign while Rome burns.