International Day of Peace — 2016

Nations were destined to be co-operating parts in one grand whole. . . . Peace hath her victories much more renowned than those of war: the heroes of the past have been those who most successfully injured or slew; the heroes of the future are to be those who most wisely benefit or save their fellow-men.

Andrew Carnegie, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, October 17, 1905

In 1981, the United Nations designated September 21 as the International Day of Peace to bring awareness to peace efforts around the world. Carnegie Corporation of New York continues to pursue our founder’s vision to advance peace and understanding, and therefore to mark this day, we sought out the perspectives of several leaders in the field…how can we advance peace?

Please read the article. Reflect upon the mission on a day when, frankly, gazing around this nation, this world, the task seems more difficult than ever.

Thanks, Ian Bremmer

In the not-too-distant future, we won’t need sex to reproduce — Get ready!

I’ll give you the beginning of this article – and the end. You really need to read the whole critter to justify pondering the concept.

❝ For 100 million years, all our ancestors reproduced basically the same way. A male reproductive organ deposited sperm into a female reproduction organ, where it could fertilize eggs — leading to baby ancestral tetrapods, mammals, primates, and eventually humans. The past 60 years have seen this begin to change, first with clinically available artificial insemination and then with in vitro fertilization (IVF)…

❝ In the United States today, these two techniques lead to about 100,000 births each year, roughly 2.5 percent of the 4 million children born annually. Within the next few decades, that percentage will skyrocket. Developments in bioscience, galloping forward in most cases for reasons having nothing to with reproduction, will combine to make IVF cheaper and much easier.

These new techniques will allow safe and easy embryo selection – but they will also open doors to genetically edited babies, “their own” genetic babies for same-sex couples, babies with a single genetic parent, and maybe babies from artificial wombs.

❝ Starting in the next few decades, these new methods of reproduction will give people new choices. They will also raise a host of vexing legal and ethical questions, questions we need to start discussing.

Deal with genetic selection of embryos, designer babies, create 100 embryos to choose the best and scrap or recycle the rest, unibabies from a uniparent [not a clone]…you get the idea.

Henry Greely is a professor of law and of genetics. He concludes…

We need to start thinking about these questions. The future is coming. It may not be exactly the future I foresee, but, like it or not, it will certainly feature far more choices, for families and for societies, about making babies.

You now know more about that future than 99.9 percent of humanity. Learn more, pay attention to the relevant news, and talk with your family and friends. The more we consider, debate, and plan for plausible futures, the more likely we are not to create any kind of perfect future, but, at least, to avoid some catastrophes. And that is not a bad goal.

You need to be concerned about “smart” sex toys and privacy – Huh? Wha?


WTF?

❝ With the internet of things, previously innocuous devices have been rigged up to collect all sorts of data about their users—including sex toys. According to a recently filed US lawsuit, at least some people are unhappy with the privacy risk this could pose.

In the complaint, an unnamed plaintiff claims one “smart” sex toy collected identifiable details on her use of the device without her knowledge, and she is now seeking punitive damages. That data allegedly included details such as when the device was used, and what intensity setting the user selected.

❝ Although this sort of data collection may come as a surprise to some, researchers have discovered that other similar devices are also pooling sensitive information, highlighting a looming privacy threat: What if the company is hacked, and those details are released? Even if the data is kept secure, some customers perhaps don’t want unknown employees to have access to a wealth of data on how they spend their most personal time…

❝ The lawsuit, first reported by the Courthouse News Service, centres around a device called the We-Vibe: a vibrator which can be remotely controlled with a smartphone app.

The complaint alleges that the app was designed to “secretly collect intimate details about its customers’ use of the We-Vibe, including the date and time of each use, the vibration intensity level selected by the user, the vibration mode or pattern selected by the user,” and the user’s email address.

According to the complaint, “Plaintiff would never have purchased a We-Vibe had she known that in order to use its full functionality, Defendant would monitor, collect, and transmit her Usage Information.”

❝ The lawsuit appears to be based on the work of security researchers known as g0ldfisk and followr, who told an audience at the Defcon hacking conference in August how they took apart the We-Vibe and discovered the sort of data it was sending back to the company. At the time, Standard Innovation, the Canadian company behind the We-Vibe, said it collected some of the data for market research purposes. The company gave the example that if lots of customers kept using the We-Vibe’s highest intensity setting, then perhaps the device was a bit too weak overall…

The We-Vibe is far from the only smart sex toy on the market collecting user data. In one case, Pentest Partners found an Android sex toy app that stored very personal temporary images…

“If you lose your phone, or someone pops your SD card, some highly private content could be exposed,” security researcher Ken Munro said.

The wonders of any technological advance pretty much can be guaranteed to provoke greed, profit, salacious abuse and criminal behavior – by human beings.

John Hersey’s Hiroshima revealed the horror of the bomb


This book has never been out of print

At the end of this month 70 years will have passed since the publication of a magazine story hailed as one of the greatest pieces of journalism ever written. Headlined simply Hiroshima, the 30,000-word article by John Hersey had a massive impact, revealing the full horror of nuclear weapons to the post-war generation, as Caroline Raphael describes.

❝ I have an original copy of the 31 August 1946 edition of The New Yorker. It has the most innocuous of covers – a delightful playful carefree drawing of summer in a park. On the back cover, the managers of the New York Giants and the New York Yankees encourage you to “Always Buy Chesterfield” cigarettes.

Past the Goings on About Town and movie listings, past the ritzy adverts for diamonds and fur and cars and cruises you find a simple statement from The Editors explaining that this edition will be devoted entirely to just one article “on the almost complete obliteration of a city by one atomic bomb”. They are taking this step, they say, “in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon, and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of its use”.

Seventy years ago no-one talked about stories “going viral”, but the publication of John Hersey’s article Hiroshima in The New Yorker achieved just that. It was talked of, commented on, read and listened to by many millions all over the world as they began to understand what really happened not just to the city but to the people of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and in the following days…

Hersey’s editors, Harold Ross and William Shawn, knew they had something quite extraordinary, unique, and the edition was prepared in utter secrecy. Never before had all the magazine’s editorial space been given over to a single story and it has never happened since. Journalists who were expecting to have their stories in that week’s edition wondered where their proofs had gone. Twelve hours before publication, copies were sent to all the major US newspapers – a smart move that resulted in editorials urging everyone to read the magazine…

All 300,000 copies immediately sold out and the article was reprinted in many other papers and magazines the world over, except where newsprint was rationed. When Albert Einstein attempted to buy 1,000 copies of the magazine to send to fellow scientists he had to contend with facsimiles. The US Book of the Month Club gave a free special edition to all its subscribers because, in the words of its president, “We find it hard to conceive of anything being written that could be of more important at this moment to the human race.”

By November, Hiroshima was published in book form. It was translated quickly into many languages and a braille edition was released. However, in Japan, Gen Douglas MacArthur – the supreme commander of occupying forces, who effectively governed Japan until 1948 – had strictly prohibited dissemination of any reports on the consequences of the bombings. Copies of the book, and the relevant edition of The New Yorker, were banned until 1949, when Hiroshima was finally translated into Japanese by the Rev Mr Tanimoto, one of Hersey’s six survivors.

Please read the book. It is one of the three books reflecting the War that formed much of my life. Certainly my feelings about the cruelty of war. My family still has the free copy we received from the Book-of-the-month club.

Sorry. I can write no more this morning. Too many tears.

Eurofurence 22 in Berlin — Europe’s largest furry convention


Click to enlargeCarsten Koall/Getty

More than 2,500 people have gathered in Berlin for Eurofurence, a convention for “furries” – lovers of anthropomorphic cartoon animals. Many of those attending Europe’s largest “furry” convention wear life-sized fantasy animal costumes, while others are fans of those who wear fursuits.

Members of the furry fandom often create their own “fursona” – an animal character. This avatar allows them to express characteristics quite different from their own personalities. Although around 80% of furries are male, many of their avatars are of a different gender.

Hope the weather ain’t too hot for furry suits.

Do you refer to the local TV news as “the local murders”?

Bad politicians, terrorists, and the Zika virus will collectively wipe out the human race in the very near future, or at least sometime within the current news cycle. These introductory words might be funny if there weren’t so many people who find some truth in it.

Perhaps the biggest problem facing humanity today is not that the world is increasingly becoming a bad place to live but that we think that the world is becoming a bad place to live.

And why do we think this? Because that’s the perspective we are most often given (and we don’t choose to find alternative, more truthful perspectives).

Speak for yourself. With internet access, alternatives are only a click away.

To illustrate my point in a simple way, think of how a typical evening newscast is structured: Out of 30 minutes airtime, approximately 28 minutes is filled with stories of tragic events around the world, stories of tragic events in our country, reports of threatening diseases, politics, and the commercials in between that suggest you can’t be happy without their product or service. The other two minutes, which always comes at the end of the newscast, is a heart-warming, human interest story.

Therefore, on the so-called “news,” you get more than 90% of disturbing stories and illusory advertisements and less than 10% of what is a much more accurate reflection of humanity…

To arrive at a meaningful number for discussion purposes, let’s say that the total number of the world’s worst politicians, the terrorists, the most violent criminals, the terribly corrupt corporate types, and the just plain evil people in the world totals 7 million. That’s probably an incredibly high number. But for perspective’s sake that’s one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population.

In our quick unscientific observation, we can say that at as much as 99.9% of the world’s population are either good human beings or at least ones who don’t cause real problems for the others around them…

Perhaps the real problem that exists in the world today is not bad human beings but the ignorant ones. When people can’t recognize illusion, or they simply prefer it to reality, the illusionists will remain the most powerful.

This is the point where I plug in what I call the standard internet question, e.g., ignorant or stupid. You needn’t be intellectually damaged, mentally ill or severely impaired and incapable of thinking. Just plain unwilling for whatever reasons to examine evidence, fact-based data to draw conclusions. All that is required is the kind of brainwashing many cultures embrace – which rejects the redirective thought process. You aren’t supposed to draw conclusions from fact especially if it contradicts superstition.

You can walk around and function well through the trivial aspects of your day and still be stupid about serious decisions. Like voting. Like volunteering for war. Like making life miseable for a new neighbor because of the color of their skin or their religion.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Unfortunately, I never worked for anyone who thought of employee bonuses like this


Click to enlarge

As Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title win continues to refuse to sink in, the club’s owner has once again reminded us all that our collective daydream is actually a work of non-fiction.

Indeed, a batch of photos taken outside the Foxes’ King Power stadium appear to show that the owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has splashed out on a fleet of matching BMWs, which are to be doled out among the squad.

We’re reliably informed that we’re looking at 19 brand new BMW i8s, which retail at around £75,000-80,000 a pop depending on the model…

Dreams for motorheads.

IMHO, voting for a scumbag bigot means you’re a scumbag bigot


Ghazala Khan, Khizr KhanSaul Loeb/AFP

The most emotional moment of the Democratic National Convention was the speech by Khizr Khan, the bereaved father of Army Captain Humayun Khan. With his wife Ghazala by his side, Khan recalled his son’s character, his faith, his patriotism — and, ultimately, his courageous death in the service of the country he loved, and the fellow soldiers he was protecting.

And, yes, the Khan family is Muslim. Under Trump’s proposed policies, they would be innately suspect; had he been president when they immigrated to America, they would’ve been barred from entering, and Humayun Khan never would have served.

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khan asked Trump. “Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”…

Trump’s actual response…

“If you look at his wife, she was standing there,” he said, on national television. “She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”…

Let’s be very clear about what Trump is doing here: as ABC wrote, he’s suggesting “Khan’s wife didn’t speak because she was forbidden to as a Muslim.” This is bullshit. It is flatly, verifiably, false. But that’s almost beside the point.

Trump listened to a speech by the bereaved father of a fallen Muslim soldier and used it to slander the fallen soldier’s family. That was his response. That is his character.

…I’ll note James Fallows’s response. He quotes Joseph Welch, speaking to Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954…

“Until this moment,” he said, “I think I never really gauged your cruelty.”

If you would like to see Ghazala Khan speak, you can do so in this interview she gave to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. As Fallows writes, she breaks down sobbing while speaking of her son. It suggests she let her husband give the DNC speech for a simple reason: she remains overwhelmed by grief.

This is the woman Trump decided to slander. This is the gauge of his cruelty.

It would take a substantial amount of self-delusion for someone to truly believe Trump isn’t a bigot, a racist, a scumbag. Yes, many say they believe he isn’t. That’s them trying to justify their commitment to his bigotry – while still pretending not to espouse the same contemptible ideology.

I can’t accept the rationale. If you’re stupid enough to believe Trump’s blather about not being a bigot – then, you’re too stupid to be voting.

In any case, you’re as guilty of bigotry as The Donald.

It’s always easier to get forgiveness than permission


Click to enlargeKurt Kohlstedt

“Dear Bridge Farm School,” the letter reads. “Thanks for your letter and naming a house after me. Please have a picture, and if you don’t like it, feel free to add stuff. I’m sure the teachers won’t mind. Remember, it’s always easier to get forgiveness than permission. Much love, Banksy.”

RTFA, click the link above.

Thanks, Honeyman – your new wheels? Keep the shiny side up, the rubber side down!🙂