Mark Turner : Google collects Android users’ locations even when location services are disabled — Quartz

November 21, 2017 05:18 PM

Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card?

Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.

Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

Source: Google collects Android users’ locations even when location services are disabled — Quartz

Mark Turner : We’re With Stupid – The New York Times

November 21, 2017 03:32 PM

The Trump Presidency isn’t the fault of Hillary, or Bernie, or the Russians. It’s totally the collective fault of America.

Nearly one in three Americans cannot name a single branch of government. When NPR tweeted out sections of the Declaration of Independence last year, many people were outraged. They mistook Thomas Jefferson’s fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.Fake news is a real thing produced by active disseminators of falsehoods. Trump uses the term to describe anything he doesn’t like, a habit now picked up by political liars everywhere.

But Trump is a symptom; the breakdown in this democracy goes beyond the liar in chief. For that you have to blame all of us: we have allowed the educational system to become negligent in teaching the owner’s manual of citizenship.

Source: We’re With Stupid – The New York Times

Mark Turner : GOP Tax Bill Is The End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington

November 21, 2017 03:30 PM

That liberal rag Forbes takes aim at the proposed GOP tax plan.

No doubt many of you read the above headline and immediately started to tweet that the GOP tax bill can’t be the end of economic sanity in Washington because there never was any to begin with.I have two responses.

First…please do tweet that, and link to this post when you do.

Second…you’re wrong. If it’s enacted, the GOP tax cut now working its way through Congress will be the start of a decades-long economic policy disaster unlike any other that has occurred in American history.

Source: GOP Tax Bill Is The End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington

Mark Turner : The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics – Mother Jones

November 21, 2017 03:29 PM

Yikes!

The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter—including Juliette’s—came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.

Source: The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics – Mother Jones

Mark Turner : Argentina missing submarine: Concern grows after two false alarms – BBC News

November 21, 2017 03:27 PM

It doesn’t matter whose flag under which one serves, a sailor is a sailor and the brotherhood of the sea is a bond we all share. I’m hoping and praying these Argentinian sailors are found safe and sound.

Argentina’s navy says it will take advantage of improved weather conditions to further step up its search for a submarine that vanished last Wednesday in the Atlantic Ocean.

Strong winds and high waves have hampered the search for the ARA San Juan and its 44 crew in the past days.

On Monday, navy officials said that noises picked up by two search vessels did not come from the sub, dashing relatives’ hopes for a speedy rescue.It was the second false alarm.

A navy spokesman had earlier confirmed that satellite signals picked up on Saturday did not come from the missing boat.

Source: Argentina missing submarine: Concern grows after two false alarms – BBC News

Mark Turner : Men behaving badly and false equivalence

November 21, 2017 03:22 PM

Worst. Grope. Ever.

John Oliver had a wonderful show recently discussing the logical fallacies employed by Donald Trump whenever he’s challenged on his numerous falsehoods. One thing to watch out for (and not just from Trump) is false equivalence.

This has been the season for bringing misogyny into the open. Beginning with Harvey Weinstein, a parade of dumbshit men like Roy Moore, Lewis C.K., Charlie Rose and others have been exposed for their misogynist, sexist, and degrading behavior towards women.

Overall, I say right on. These men abused the trust of the women who looked up to them. Some, like Moore, crossed a moral line (if not a legal one) in chasing teenage girls. The transgressions all have different shades but overall they consist of a man abusing his power or authority over women and/or girls.

This brings us to the case of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Franken has been accused by LeeAnn Tweeden of an unwanted sexual advance, saying Franken aggressively kissed her during a rehearsal of a USO sketch they were both doing:

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

No photos exist of the kiss in question and Franken remembers it differently.

I hated to think that Franken was a scumbag the likes of Moore and Rose. He’s always seemed like a good, upstanding guy, those Minnesota values still strong in him. Over time, though, I had to conclude that this was something different.

According to Tweeden, she and Franken were rehearsing a kiss that was scripted into their sketch. It was no surprise. It was no unwanted advance. They were both acting. This was something they had agreed to do. You can debate the intensity of the kiss, sure, but it was in the script.

Secondly, Franken held no power of Tweeden. He was not her boss nor was her career hanging in the balance if she refused his kiss (which, as I just pointed out, was part of a sketch). In 2006, Franken was a minor celebrity at best. He was a former SNL writer, a bestselling author, and a radio host on Air America, a struggling liberal talk show network. Though I like his SNL work, no one would mistake Franken for a comedy industry titan, able to make or break careers.

Thirdly, let’s take a look at the photograph Tweeden says shows Franken allegedly groping her. Franken is not even touching Tweeden. He couldn’t touch her if he tried because she’s wearing a flak jacket. Tweeden nevertheless claims he did:

I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.

I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.

How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?

On this USO tour Tweeden has been shown to be open to grabbing, if not being grabbed herself, as a photo of her on stage shows her helping herself to a big ol’ handful of guitarist butt.

Double standard much?

Was Franken’s photo in bad taste? Possibly. Was there any contact? Not according to the photo. It looks to me like everyone got chummy and now that suddenly has become a problem for Tweeden.

It is a false equivalence to compare Franken’s actions with the likes of pedophile Roy Moore or misogynists like Weinstein, Rose, or Louis C.K. For those who want to wag their finger at liberals for allegedly turning a blind eye to Franken’s actions just because he’s a liberal, too, get real! Franken’s alleged misdeeds have been blown totally out of proportion and don’t compare to the actions of the others.

I’m disgusted with bad behavior of Weinstein, Rose, and Louis C.K., who are all liberals, and will freely say so. Not painting Franken with the same brush, though, has nothing to do with liberals protecting our own and everything to do with weighing the evidence.

Warren Myers : you can make anything online – even grave markers

November 20, 2017 07:23 PM

Knock yourself out.

Mark Turner : Facebook’s ‘People You May Know’ feature can be really creepy. How does it work? – Recode

November 18, 2017 02:18 PM

When Facebook’s Android app apparently accessed my camera without my permission I banned it from my phone. This story might drive me from Facebook altogether.

This upcoming year will see me drastically curtail my Facebook usage. There are so many other things I can be doing than scrolling through cat photos, and also I am not convinced the information I share is always going to be used to my benefit.

Facebook has a pretty clear and straightforward company mission: Connect everybody in the world.

One of the ways it carries out that mission is by recommending new friends for you every time you open the app or website — essentially, the company identifies other people on Facebook that it thinks you already know, and nudges you to connect with them inside Facebook’s walls.

The problem with this feature is that it can be really creepy.

Facebook previously employed user locations to recommend friends, but says it has stopped doing that; Fusion recently wrote about a psychiatrist who claims her mental health patients were being prompted to connect with one another on the service. Not good.

When my colleague Jason Del Rey and I recently experienced a number of oddly timed recommendations, we started to get curious ourselves. How does Facebook generate these eerily coincidental recommendations?

Source: Facebook’s ‘People You May Know’ feature can be really creepy. How does it work? – Recode

Mark Turner : How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met

November 18, 2017 02:06 PM

In real life, in the natural course of conversation, it is not uncommon to talk about a person you may know. You meet someone and say, “I’m from Sarasota,” and they say, “Oh, I have a grandparent in Sarasota,” and they tell you where they live and their name, and you may or may not recognize them.

You might assume Facebook’s friend recommendations would work the same way: You tell the social network who you are, and it tells you who you might know in the online world. But Facebook’s machinery operates on a scale far beyond normal human interactions. And the results of its People You May Know algorithm are anything but obvious. In the months I’ve been writing about PYMK, as Facebook calls it, I’ve heard more than a hundred bewildering anecdotes:

  • A man who years ago donated sperm to a couple, secretly, so they could have a child—only to have Facebook recommend the child as a person he should know. He still knows the couple but is not friends with them on Facebook.
  • A social worker whose client called her by her nickname on their second visit, because she’d shown up in his People You May Know, despite their not having exchanged contact information.
  • A woman whose father left her family when she was six years old—and saw his then-mistress suggested to her as a Facebook friend 40 years later.
  • An attorney who wrote: “I deleted Facebook after it recommended as PYMK a man who was defense counsel on one of my cases. We had only communicated through my work email, which is not connected to my Facebook, which convinced me Facebook was scanning my work email.”

Connections like these seem inexplicable if you assume Facebook only knows what you’ve told it about yourself. They’re less mysterious if you know about the other file Facebook keeps on you—one that you can’t see or control.

Source: How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met

Mark Turner : New “Quad9” DNS service blocks malicious domains for everyone | Ars Technica

November 18, 2017 02:02 PM

The Global Cyber Alliance (GCA)—an organization founded by law enforcement and research organizations to help reduce cyber-crime—has partnered with IBM and Packet Clearing House to launch a free public Domain Name Service system. That system is intended to block domains associated with botnets, phishing attacks, and other malicious Internet hosts—primarily targeted at organizations that don’t run their own DNS blacklisting and whitelisting services. Called Quad9 (after the 9.9.9.9 Internet Protocol address the service has obtained), the service works like any other public DNS server (such as Google’s), except that it won’t return name resolutions for sites that are identified via threat feeds the service aggregates daily.

“Anyone anywhere can use it,” said Phil Rettinger, GCA’s president and chief operating officer, in an interview with Ars. The service, he says, will be “privacy sensitive,” with no logging of the addresses making DNS requests—”we will keep only [rough] geolocation data,” he said, for the purposes of tracking the spread of requests associated with particular malicious domains. “We’re anonymizing the data, sacrificing on the side of privacy.”

Source: New “Quad9” DNS service blocks malicious domains for everyone | Ars Technica

Mark Turner : 3 Major Reasons Why More Millennials Are Starting Blogs

November 18, 2017 01:54 PM

“… sale of advertising can be a real moneymaker.”

Bwahahahahahaha! #unlikely

Millennials see opportunities through blogging. If they gather a solid following, the sale of advertising can be a real moneymaker, and there are a number of millennial bloggers who have successfully monetized their blogs through a number of techniques.

As an example, consider the recent phenomenon of millennial “mommy blogs.” These are smart, educated women who are now at home with children. Blogging is an outlet for them as well as a quick entryway into making a sizeable income. Many of these women spend a year or two building a following. Then, they move into monetizing their blogs and even developing their own product lines, with a loyal and trusting target audience already at their fingertips. Some of the more successful mommy bloggers have achieved incomes as high as $20,000 a month.

Source: 3 Major Reasons Why More Millennials Are Starting Blogs

Mark Turner : America’s global influence has dwindled under Donald Trump – Endangered

November 18, 2017 01:46 PM

Many people find reassurance in the sober, capable military men who surround him (see article). His chief of staff, his defence secretary and his national security adviser all understand the horrors of war and will stop him from doing anything rash, the argument goes. Optimists even speculate that he might emulate Ronald Reagan, by shaking up the diplomatic establishment, restoring America’s military muscle and projecting such strength abroad that a frightened, overstretched North Korea will crumble like the Soviet Union. Others confidently predict that even if he causes short-term damage to America’s standing in the world, Mr Trump will be voted out in 2020 and things will return to normal.

All this is wishful thinking.

Source: America’s global influence has dwindled under Donald Trump – Endangered

Mark Turner : Paradise Papers: Tax haven secrets of ultra-rich exposed – BBC News

November 18, 2017 01:43 PM

A huge new leak of financial documents has revealed how the powerful and ultra-wealthy, including the Queen’s private estate, secretly invest vast amounts of cash in offshore tax havens.

Donald Trump’s commerce secretary is shown to have a stake in a firm dealing with Russians sanctioned by the US.The leak, dubbed the Paradise Papers, contains 13.4m documents, mostly from one leading firm in offshore finance.BBC Panorama is part of nearly 100 media groups investigating the papers.

As with last year’s Panama Papers leak, the documents were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which called in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to oversee the investigation. The Guardian is also among the organisations investigating the documents.

Sunday’s revelations form only a small part of a week of disclosures that will expose the tax and financial affairs of some of the hundreds of people and companies named in the data, some with strong UK connections.

Many of the stories focus on how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures of trusts, foundations and shell companies to protect their cash from tax officials or hide their dealings behind a veil of secrecy.

Source: Paradise Papers: Tax haven secrets of ultra-rich exposed – BBC News

Mark Turner : Slipping into Southern again

November 17, 2017 03:27 AM

Yesterday morning my Southern accent got noticed again, this time by a fellow Southerner. My dentist’s office is full of good ol’ Southerners and I always love hearing the conversations going on. I was getting my teeth cleaned by a hygienist I don’t ordinarily see and she was making small talk to get to know me.

Halfway through she says, “so, where are you from? I noticed you have an accent.”

If I could’ve smiled with a mouthful of fluoride brush and suction tube, I would’ve! I don’t always remember to speak Southern until I’m around others who are speaking that way, but then I just slip back into it without me even noticing. I suppose if I were around more places where Southern was spoken i would speak it more often, too, but Southern isn’t spoken much in Raleigh anymore.

Warren Myers : what is “plan b” for iot security?

November 16, 2017 04:37 PM

Schneier has a recent article on security concerns for IoT (internet of things) devices – IoT Cybersecurity: What’s Plan B?

We can try to shop our ideals and demand more security, but companies don’t compete on IoT safety — and we security experts aren’t a large enough market force to make a difference.

We need a Plan B, although I’m not sure what that is. Comment if you have any ideas.

There are loads of great comments on the post.

Here’s the start of some of my thoughts:

There are a host of avenues which need to be gone down and addressed regarding device security in general, and IoT security in particular.

Any certification program could be good .. right up until the vendor goes out of business. Or ends the product line. Or ends formal support. Unless we go to a lease model for everything, you’re going to have unsupported/unsupportable devices out there.

We can’t have patches ad infinitum because it’s not practical: every vendor EOLs products (from OSes to firearms to DB servers to cars, etc).

A few things which would be good:

  • safe/secure by default from the vendor – you have to manually de-safe it to use it (like a rifle which only becomes usable/dangerous/operable when you load a cartridge and put the safety off)
  • well-known, highly-publicized support lifecycles (caveating the vendor going out of business)
  • related to the above, notifications from the device as it nears end of support
  • notifications from the device as well as the vendor that updates/patches are available
  • liability regulations – and an associated insurance structure – affecting businesses which choose to offer IoT devices across a few levels:
    1. here it is :: you deal with it || no support, no insurance, whatever risk is there is your problem
    2. patches / updates for 1 year || basic insurance / guarantee of operation through supported period, as long as you’re patched up to date
    3. patches / updates for 3 years ||
    4. patches / updates for 5 years || first-level business offering || insurance against hacks / flaws that have been disclosed for more than 90 days so long as you have patched
    5. patches / updates for 10 years || enterprise / long-term support || “big” insurance coverage (up to a year, so long as you’re yp-to-date) || proactive notifications from the vendor to customers regarding flaws, patches, etc

There are probably other things which need to be considered.

But there’s my start.

Mark Turner : Hallie’s story runs on the front page of the N&O

November 16, 2017 03:08 AM

Hallie was featured on the front page of the N&O, 15 Nov 2017


The story of the new environmental lawsuit that Hallie is participating in (along with two other teens) ran on the front page of the News and Observer today. Pretty cool to see that.

This is at least the second time she’s been featured on the N&O’s front page, if not the third. The first time was when she was still a guest of the WakeMed NICU.

Mark Turner : Rowland, the astrophotographer

November 15, 2017 01:14 AM

Messier 33 galaxy, by Rowland Archer

My friend and former boss Rowland Archer has a hobby of astrophotography. He’s built up quite a collection of stunning photographs that he’s taken from the little observatory he’s build in his backyard outside of Durham. Here’s one of the latest photos he’s shared, of the Milky Way’s nearest neighboring galaxy, Messier 33.

Says Rowland:

This is Messier 33, the Triangulum Galaxy, so named because it is in the constellation Triangulum and was the 33th object discovered by Charles Messier – who was a comet hunter and famously compiled a list of “darn, another fuzzy thing that’s not a comet!” Ironically, his list of stuff to avoid is now one of the most popular list of things to observe! M33 is part of the local group of galaxies – it’s smaller than our Milky Way, and fainter than the Andromeda Galaxy posted earlier this week, but I think it’s a rocking looking galaxy from our view here on Earth – the blue spiral arms, the red knots of color in the arms that are active star forming regions, and the individual stars visible in both. It’s about 3 million light years away from us, and contains “only” about 30 billion stars. But it’s still the third largest member of our local group – our neighborhood of galaxies that are close enough to be bound together by gravity.

Amazing stuff!

Mark Turner : John Oliver on what we’ve learned from a year of Trump presidency

November 14, 2017 10:33 PM

This segment is great stuff.

Mark Turner : Grandma’s house is for sale again

November 14, 2017 04:12 PM

One of the great things about the way real estate is sold on the Internet is being able to get a virtual tour of the homes you knew and loved. I found out that my grandmother’s former home at 937 Oak Avenue in Panama City, FL is now for sale (MLS# 663442). Poking through the photographs it appears the owners (who bought it from Grandma’s estate) didn’t change it as radically as they could’ve. The most drastic changes are the paint colors. Apparently the electrical system has been upgraded. I don’t recall the renovated rear bathroom but that might have been there at the time Grandma lived there. The kitchen hasn’t changed basically at all, which was good to see.

I created a copy of the Zillow page here, as the house is pending sale and the listing won’t be available much longer. I also have photos from that page that I will add to the blog.

I hope I can take another walk (perhaps my last?) through it when we’re down there for Thanksgiving.

Mark Turner : Climate change:NC teens petition NC environment commission to cut fossil fuel and greenhouse gases | News & Observer

November 14, 2017 01:39 AM

News broke today that Hallie is trying again, this time with friends, to get North Carolina’s environment back on track. Go, Hallie!

Hallie Turner was 13 years old when she stood outside a Wake County courtroom telling media crews with cameras trained on her that she planned to continue to fight for action on climate change despite her unsuccessful attempt to sue North Carolina over its environmental rules.

Now 15, Hallie is trying again to get the state Department of Environmental Quality and the state Environmental Management Commission to adopt a rule calling for a sharp reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the next three decades. This time, two other North Carolina teens — Emily Liu, 16, of Chapel Hill, and Arya Pontula, a Raleigh 17-year-old, will join Hallie in petitioning the commission.

With the help of Ryke Longest at the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and Our Children’s Trust, a Oregon-based nonprofit focused on climate change, the teens hope to persuade the state to adopt a rule ensuring that by 2050 carbon dioxide emissions would be down to zero.

“It would be a future in which you would not be burning fossil fuels to power your homes,” Longest said on Monday, the day before the teens plan to file their petition.

Source: Climate change:NC teens petition NC environment commission to cut fossil fuel and greenhouse gases | News & Observer

Mark Turner : Rebecca Traister on the Post-Weinstein Reckoning

November 14, 2017 01:30 AM

The anger window is open. For decades, centuries, it was closed: Something bad happened to you, you shoved it down, you maybe told someone but probably didn’t get much satisfaction — emotional or practical — from the confession. Maybe you even got blowback. No one really cared, and certainly no one was going to do anything about it.But for the past six weeks, since reports of one movie producer’s serial predation blew a Harvey-size hole in the news cycle, there is suddenly space, air, for women to talk. To yell, in fact. To make dangerous lists and call reporters and text with their friends about everything that’s been suppressed.

This is not feminism as we’ve known it in its contemporary rebirth — packaged into think pieces or nonprofits or Eve Ensler plays or Beyoncé VMA performances. That stuff has its place and is necessary in its own way. This is different. This is ’70s-style, organic, mass, radical rage, exploding in unpredictable directions. It is loud, thanks to the human megaphone that is social media and the “whisper networks” that are now less about speaking sotto voce than about frantically typed texts and all-caps group chats.

Really powerful white men are losing jobs — that never happens. Women (and some men) are breaking their silence and telling painful and intimate stories to reporters, who in turn are putting them on the front pages of major newspapers.

Source: Rebecca Traister on the Post-Weinstein Reckoning

Mark Turner : Red Hat IPO

November 13, 2017 08:11 PM

A red hat


I was thinking about the early days of Red Hat this weekend and the company’s IPO. That got me looking up Red Hat’s S-1 statement which was filed for their IPO. Two things made me laugh:

1. Red Hat all of 125 employees when it went public, and
2. Red Hat actually told investors it was banking on ad revenue from its website!

OUR STRATEGY

We seek to enhance our position as a leading provider of open source software and services by:

– continuing to enhance our Web site to create the definitive online destination for the open source community; [Emphasis mine]

– expanding our professional services capabilities to capture large corporate business on an enterprise basis;

– increasing market acceptance of open source software, particularly through technology alliances and sharing our development efforts and resources with third-party developers;

– continuing to invest in the development of open source technology; and

– enhancing the Red Hat brand through targeted advertising and public relations campaigns.

What makes this even funnier is that the S-1 also lists Google as a Red Hat customer:

Red Hat Customers in 1999

Hmm, where do you think all of that web advertising revenue went?

The company is quite different today than the company that went public in 1999, which seems to have been more smoke and mirrors. I’m glad they finally figured it out because it’s good to still have them around!

Tarus Balog : 2017 Cubaconf

November 13, 2017 04:29 PM

I’ve just returned from Cubaconf in Havana, which was also my first visit to Cuba. It was a great trip and I’ve got enough material for at least four blog posts. Most of them won’t deal with free and open source software, so I’ll put them up on my personal blog and I’ll add links here when they are done..

Cubaconf is in its second year, and while I really wish they would have called it “Cuba Libré” (grin) it was a good conference.

There is a spectrum within the Free, Libré, Open Source Software (FLOSS) community, and this is often described by trying to separate the term “open source” from “free software”. If we define “open source” as any software with a license that meets requirements of the Open Source Definition (OSD) and “free software” as any software with a license that meets the requirements of the Four Freedoms, they are the same. You can map the ten requirements of the OSD onto the four requirements of free software.

Open Source is Free Software Chart

However, it can be useful to separate those who look at FLOSS as simply a development methodology from those who view it as a social movement. When companies like Microsoft and Facebook publish open source software, they are simply looking to gain value for their business that such sharing can create. It’s a development methodology. When people talk about free software, they tend to focus on the “help your neighbor” aspect of it, and this was more the focus of Cubaconf than simply creating new code.

The main thing I discovered on my visit was that Cubans face severe limitations on many things, but I’ve never met a people more determine to do as much as they can to make their situation better, and to do it with such passion. If I had to pick a theme for the conference, that would be it: passionate continuous improvement.

Cubaconf Registration

The three day conference had the following structure: Day One was a standard conference with keynotes and five tracks of presentations, Day Two had keynotes and more of a “barcamp” organization, and Day Three was set aside for workshops, as well as the obligatory video game tournament.

They did have the best lanyard sponsor I’ve seen at a technology conference:

Cubaconf Lanyard and Badge

I was in Cuba with my friend and coworker Alejandro, who used to live in Venezuela and is a fluent Spanish speaker, and Elizabeth K. Joseph, who promotes the open source aspects of Mesosphere. We shared a three bedroom “casa particular” in Old Havana, about a ten minute walk from the conference, which was held on the second floor (third floor if you are American) of the Colegio de San Gerónimo.

Everyone was together on the main room for the first keynote.

Cubaconf People in Room

While both English and Spanish were spoken at the conference, the presentations were overwhelmingly in Spanish, which was to be expected. I can get by in Spanish, but the first speaker, Ismael Olea, spoke fast even for the native speakers. At least I could understand most of the content in his slides.

Cubaconf Ismael Olea

Olea is from Spain and did a keynote on HackLab Almería. Almería is a province in the southeastern part of Spain, and with a population of around 700,000 people it is much smaller than provinces like Madrid (6.5 million) and Barcelona (5.5 million). As such, the region doesn’t get as much attention as the larger provinces, and so they goal of Hacklab Almería is to use technology at the “hyperlocal” level. They define themselves as a “collective of technological , social and creative experimentation” and FLOSS plays a large role in their mission.

After the keynote, we broke up into individual sessions. I went to one called “How to Make Money with Free Software” presented by Valessio Brito from Brazil. While he spoke mainly in Spanish, his slides were in Portuguese, but I was able to follow along. His presentation focused on how he used his knowledge of FLOSS to get consulting engagements around the world. This was pretty topical since in Cuba, as elsewhere, having strong software skills can be lucrative, and since a lot of proprietary software is either impossible to get or too expensive, having skills in open source software is a plus.

Cubaconf Valessio Brito

Also, I liked his shirt.

Our OpenNMS presentation was in the next time slot. I asked our hosts if they would like the presentation in English or Spanish, and when they said Spanish I asked Alejandro to give it. He did a great job, even though he had only a short time to understand the slides.

Cubaconf Alejandro Galue

The lunch break came next, and we walked a couple of blocks to the Casa de Africa, a museum dedicated to the African influence in Cuban culture.

Cubaconf Lunch Break

We ate sandwiches and talked out on the patio. This would be the location for lunch for all three days.

Cubaconf Maira Sutton

After lunch I watched a presentation by Maira Sutton called “Fighting Cyber Dystopia with Tech Solidarity and the Digital Commons” which is a long way to express the idea of using free software combined with working together to take back some of the power from large corporations. Her main example talked about the city of Austin, Texas, and its fight with Uber and Lyft. Austin wanted all ride sharing drivers to have to undergo a background check that included fingerprints. Sounds reasonable, but Uber and Lyft resisted, eventually leaving the city.

However, services like Uber and Lyft can be downright useful, so a number of startups filled in the gap, offering similar services that met the City’s fingerprint requirements. Instead of acquiescing to local laws, Uber and Lyft took their fight to the State legislature, which overturned Austin’s regulation.

Even though it is a sad ending, the example did demonstrate that combining technology and social action can result in solutions that can meet or exceed those provided by large commercial companies.

Cubaconf First Night's Event

For each night of the conference there was an event, and the one for Tuesday was held at a modern art gallery on the southern side of Old Havana. There was lots of food and drink, and I got exposed to a project called cuban.engineer. This is a group to promote technology careers within Cuba, and I had seen their shirts at the conference.

Cubaconf cuban.engineer shirts

In a lot of the world we take Internet access for granted. I can remember accessing the Internet from the night market in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on an open wi-fi connection. That doesn’t exist in Cuba. Cuba is one of the most disconnected countries in the world, which can make working with technology difficult. Access is controlled by an agency called ETESCA. To access the Internet you purchase a card which offers a certain number of hours of use, and then you have to locate an area with a wi-fi hotspot (usually near a park). The card has a number of digits for a username and a number of digits as a password, and once you get connected you hope you stay connected long enough to do what you need to do.

No one is exempt from this. Even in our apartment the owner would use one of these cards to enable access for the hotspot on the ground floor. So, if you are a technology business in Havana, your first job is to located your office near a hotspot, and then buy a bunch of these cards.

Thus you can imagine that sharing in a big part of the culture. People burn and swap CDs with software such as Ubuntu on them, and they tend to use Gitlab to make local mirrors of code repositories. While wi-fi equipment can be hard to come by, people have been able to set up their own, private wi-fi networks within cities like Havana to make sharing easier. There is no Internet access (I joked that it was Cuba’s “dark web“) but they can set up tools like Rocket.Chat to communicate and share.

Despite limitations in acquiring software, Microsoft Windows is still the most common operating system running on Cuban computers. An attempt was made to create a Cuba focused Linux-based distro called Nova. I was told that they even experimented with making it look as close to Windows 7 as possible, but people were still tied to using Windows. According to Wikipedia this distro is no more, which is a shame.

Cubaconf Mixæl Laufer

The second day started with the meter pegged at full on social justice, with a presentation by Dr. Mixæl S. Laufer, Ph.D., from Four Thieves Vinegar. They are a collective aiming to share information on how to create pharmaceuticals in places where they might not be available. If you live in the US than you probably heard of Martin Shkreli who as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals raised prices 5600%, and EpiPen maker Mylan who raised the price of this life saving device several hundred percent just because they could. Laufer showed how you could make your own EpiPen for around $30, among other things.

Now drug companies will say that they have to charge that amount to cover the costs of creating new drugs, but the EpiPen greed demonstrated that wasn’t true. Running health care as a “for profit” enterprise has always seemed inherently wrong due to the incentives being more toward making money versus keeping people healthy, but that is commentary for another time and place.

I had to leave after that presentation for something special. I make classic cocktails as a hobby, and one of our hosts asked me to speak to a school for bartenders (cantineros) on the great tradition of Cuba cocktails. It was a blast and I’ll write that up soon.

Cubaconf Wednesday Event

Wednesday night’s event was held, appropriately, at a bar in an area called Barber’s Alley. It was a fun gathering and I got a nice picture of some of our hosts.

Cubaconf Hosts

Left to right is Jessy, Pablo, pb, and Adalberto.

There was also a guy there who made pipes, specifically replicas of native American peace pipes, and one was passed around.

Cubaconf Peace Pipe

The third and final day was a series of workshops, but was started with a keynote from Ailin Febles, from the Uniōn de Informāticas de Cuba, a non-profit organization to bring together “all technicians, professionals and people related to information and communication technologies in a space that enables mutual support of the associates in the achievement of their professional, academic, scientific, cultural and personal objectives”.

Cubaconf Ailin Febles

Of course, a lot of their organization is driven by open source software.

Cubaconf Software used by UIC

I hope they switch to Nextcloud from Owncloud soon.

There was one morning workshop in English, ironically by a German named Christian Weilbach, on machine learning. I was interested in the topic since I keep hearing about it lately, and the fact that I would probably be able to understand it was a plus. To me machine learning is magic, and I wanted to dispel some of that magic.

Cubaconf Christian Weilbach

It worked. It turns out that machine learning is, to a large extent, what we used to call linear algebra. It just is able to work on much larger and more complex data sets. I’m still eager to play more with this technology, but it was nice to learn that it really isn’t all that new.

Cubaconf Old Car Taxi

After lunch we decided to spend our last afternoon exploring Havana a bit.

Cubaconf Brewery Event

The final evening event was in a brewery, and I enjoyed the beer. What I enjoyed more was the opportunity to talk with Inaury about race in Cuba. Cubans come in all shapes and sizes, from people with light skin, blond hair and blue eyes to people so dark they are almost blue, yet they all seem to interact and socialize with each other more so than any other place I’ve been. I plan to chat more about that in a blog post as well.

Overall I had a great time in Cuba. I love the fact that working in free software means I can make new friends in almost any country, and that even a place with limited resources can put on a great conference. If you get a chance to go to Cubaconf, you should take it.

Mark Turner : Exercise – induced changes in cerebrospinal fluid miRNAs in Gulf War Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and sedentary control subjects | Scientific Reports

November 11, 2017 05:50 PM

I got an email yesterday from Dr. James Baraniuk, the researcher who ran the Gulf War Illness research study I participated in back in October 2016. His paper has just been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

It’s interesting research, showing brain differences between GWI and CFS patients. Will it prove useful to me? Probably not. In all honesty, I have not had as many episodes of fatigue since I participated the study, in part due to my taking up running, I believe. I still have occasional cognitive issues (which really piss me off when they happen) but energy hasn’t been too big of a problem. That 65 mile bike ride I did with Travis and Kelly absolutely did wreck me the next day (or two), but I suppose it would do that for anyone else who hadn’t properly trained for it.

I’ve always said that the cognitive issues were the biggest issue for me. I wish I had the memory and mental clarity I had in my twenties. As they say, youth is wasted on the young!

Gulf War Illness (GWI) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have similar profiles of pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction and exertional exhaustion. Post-exertional malaise suggests exercise alters central nervous system functions. Lumbar punctures were performed in GWI, CFS and control subjects after (i) overnight rest (nonexercise) or (ii) submaximal bicycle exercise. Exercise induced postural tachycardia in one third of GWI subjects (Stress Test Activated Reversible Tachycardia, START). The remainder were Stress Test Originated Phantom Perception (STOPP) subjects. MicroRNAs (miRNA) in cerebrospinal fluid were amplified by quantitative PCR. Levels were equivalent between nonexercise GWI (n?=?22), CFS (n?=?43) and control (n?=?22) groups. After exercise, START (n?=?22) had significantly lower miR-22-3p than control (n?=?15) and STOPP (n?=?42), but higher miR-9-3p than STOPP. All post-exercise groups had significantly reduced miR-328 and miR-608 compared to nonexercise groups; these may be markers of exercise effects on the brain. Six miRNAs were significantly elevated and 12 diminished in post-exercise START, STOPP and control compared to nonexercise groups. CFS had 12 diminished miRNAs after exercise. Despite symptom overlap of CFS, GWI and other illnesses in their differential diagnosis, exercise-induced miRNA patterns in cerebrospinal fluid indicated distinct mechanisms for post-exertional malaise in CFS and START and STOPP phenotypes of GWI.

Source: Exercise – induced changes in cerebrospinal fluid miRNAs in Gulf War Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and sedentary control subjects | Scientific Reports

Mark Turner : Semper Fidelis: Guantanamo and The Ethical Dilemma of Gen. John Baker

November 09, 2017 10:43 PM

A law professor sorts out the issues in the Gen. Baker case at GITMO.

On November 1, at Guantanamo Bay, an Air Force colonel sentenced a Marine general to 21 days confinement and $1000 fine. Both the colonel and the general are jurists with different roles in the trial of a suspected al-Qaeda mass murderer. Which of the two senior officers is in the right? That’s what this column will endeavor to elucidate.

Source: Semper Fidelis: Guantanamo and The Ethical Dilemma of Gen. John Baker

Mark Turner : Pentagon official releases Marine general confined in Guantanamo dispute – POLITICO

November 09, 2017 10:42 PM

A Pentagon official ordered the release Friday of a Marine Corps general who was sentenced to 21 days confinement to quarters in connection with a dispute over defense attorneys at the Guantánamo Bay military tribunals.

A Defense Department lawyer who heads up the military commissions, Harvey Rishikof, agreed to a “deferral” of the punishment imposed on Brig. Gen. John Baker by a military judge Wednesday afternoon, according to a court filing.

An attorney for Baker confirmed he was advised that he is no longer confined to his quarters at Guantánamo.”I have spoken with him and he has been told he is free to go,” Baker’s lawyer Barry Pollack told POLITICO.

Friday’s move came about an hour before a federal judge in Washington convened a hearing on a habeas corpus petition seeking Baker’s immediate release.

Source: Pentagon official releases Marine general confined in Guantanamo dispute – POLITICO

Mark Turner : Gitmo Judge Convicts U.S. General—Because He Stood Up for Detainee Rights

November 09, 2017 10:41 PM

What is going on at GITMO? Recording attorney-client conversations? Jailing generals who disagree?

The U.S. Government has in their custody a bad, bad man and the military is doing its damnedest to screw up his trial. The attorneys were right to quit and Judge Spath needs to back the f up.

The Guantanamo Bay military tribunals on Wednesday won their first conviction without a plea deal since 2008. Only it wasn’t a terrorist who was convicted – it was a one-star Marine general sticking up for the rights of the accused to have a fair trial.

In defending the principle that attorneys ought to be able to defend their clients free from government surveillance, Brigadier General John Baker was ruled in contempt of court and sentenced to 21 days in confinement. He also must pay a $1000 fine.

Baker is a senior officer within in the highly controversial military commissions process: the Chief of Defense Counsel. Maj. Ben Sakrisson, the Pentagon spokesman for detentions, confirmed that Baker is being confined in his quarters – at Guantanamo Bay.

“The military commissions are willing to put people in jail for defending the rule of law,” Jay Connell, who represents another Guantanamo detainee facing a military commission, told The Daily Beast. “If they’re willing to put a Marine general in jail for standing up for a client’s rights, they’re willing to do just anything.”

Source: Gitmo Judge Convicts U.S. General—Because He Stood Up for Detainee Rights

Mark Turner : ‘The strangest supernova we’ve ever seen’: A star that keeps exploding — and surviving – The Washington Post

November 09, 2017 06:33 PM

An astonishing astronomical event is taking place. We are constantly shown that we have only the slightest idea of how the universe really works.

Some 500 million light-years away, in a galaxy so distant it looks like little more than a smudge, a star exploded five times over the course of nearly two years, spewing the contents of 50 Jupiters and emitting as much energy as 10 quintillion suns.

This isn’t even the first time this star has gone supernova: Astronomers believe this same body was seen exploding 60 years ago.

Somehow, this “zombie” star has managed to survive one of the most powerful, destructive events known to science — multiple times. It should make us question, researchers wrote Wednesday in the journal Nature, how much we really know about supernovas.

Source: ‘The strangest supernova we’ve ever seen’: A star that keeps exploding — and surviving – The Washington Post

Bonus link to ARS Technica article with juicy astronomy details on this event.

Mark Turner : Critiquing Raleigh’s new logo

November 09, 2017 06:07 PM

City of Raleigh logo

Yesterday, the City of Raleigh approved its very first logo after working on it with a design firm for a year. Initially I was not so sure about the design since it appeared to be very antiseptic. As I’ve studied it more it’s grown (so to speak) on me a bit.

My comments is that the tree resembles the hated Bradford Pear rather than an oak that is part of our “City of Oaks” nickname. Nothing says quality like a smelly, brittle tree that collapses with the slightest breeze! The logo is also a bit more angular than I would prefer. Too many sharp edges, like a pile of green razor blades.

Bradford Pear


But you know what? My opinion doesn’t really matter. I wasn’t involved in the process, I’m not a design professional, and I don’t have a vote at the table. No one logo is going to please everyone and I applaud the Council for bravely making the change. I would consider anything an improvement over using the Raleigh City Seal on everything as the seal was never meant to be used as a logo. Any logo is better than no logo at all (i.e, the seal), so I’m happy that Raleigh has something it can now use. If the Council decides in 10 or 15 years that it is ready for something new, it will at least have something to build on.

I can live with it. Not bad for a first try.

Now if Raleigh can refresh its flag

Warren Myers : david pogue’s 1996 mac holiday sing-along

November 08, 2017 05:58 PM

Thanks, Archive.org!

God Rest Ye Copland Programmers
(to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”)

God rest ye Copland programmers,
It’s finally Christmas Day.
You’ve all worked 20-hour shifts
Beginning back in May.
No wonder after such neglect
Your spouses moved away.
The last real meal you had
Was late last year–
That’s what we hear;
And since then you’ve lived on
Pizza, Coke, and beer.

Your bosses change, and change their minds,
Is Copland off or on?
Are last week’s OS plans in place
Or now completely gone?
God rest ye well this Christmas Day,
You’d better sleep in late–
It’s the last sleep you’ll get till ’98.
Isn’t that great?
It’s the last day off you’ll have till ’98!

The Bill Gates Song
(to the tune of “The Christmas Song”)

Netscape roasting on an open fire,
Apple begging on its knees,
Photo popping up on Time magazine,
Yes, Bill Gates dreams of days like these!
Everybody knows he’s never fully satisfied,
Throws himself behind each task,
World dominion is his company’s goal.
Well, hey, is that so much to ask?
He knows the world is in his sway,
We’ll buy whatever software he might toss our way,
We’ll surf his Internet, watch his TV,
He’ll take us anywhere we ask him–for a fee.

And so we’re offering this simple prayer,
To Bill and all his MS grunts:
Since we all follow any standard you write,
Make it good, please,
Make it good, please,
Make it good, please, just once!

Gil Amelio’s Coming to Town!
(to the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”)

You better watch out,
Absurd as it sounds,
‘Cause Apple’s about
To lose a few pounds–
Gil Amelio’s coming to town!

He’s making a list,
And trimming the rolls
Of projects that missed
Their revenue goals–
Gil Amelio’s coming to town!
He knows what’s losing money,
Like eWorld, PowerTalk . . .
You’d better make your project work
Or prepare to take a walk!

Though you follow his lead
Right out the back door,
You know he’ll succeed–
He’s done it before!
Gil Amelio’s coming to town!

Microsoft
(to the tune of “Jingle Bells”)

Nine-tenths of a gig,
Biggest ever seen,
God, this program’s big–
MS Word 15!
Comes on ten CDs,
And requires–damn!
Word is fine, but jeez–
60 megs of RAM?!

Oh! Microsoft, Microsoft,
Bloatware all the way!
I’ve sat here installing Word
Since breakfast yesterday!
Oh! Microsoft, Microsoft,
Moderation, please.
Guess you hadn’t noticed:
Four-gig drives don’t grow on trees!

I’m Dreaming of a Clean System
(to the tune of “White Christmas”)

I’m dreaming of a clean System,
Something that fits on one CD.
Each component matches,
Not bits and patches,
Unlike 7-5-point-3.
I’m longing for a dream System,
Small, stable, fast, and trouble-free.
What we want, I think you’ll agree,
Is called System 6-point-oh-3!

Violent Night
(to the tune of “Silent Night”)

Silent Mac, broken Mac!
System bombed, screen went black.
Books suggested things; I tried ’em all:
Shift key, desktop file, clean reinstall.
Now my deadline is tight,
This Mac’s been silent all night.

Violent night, horrible night!
Lost my cool, filled with spite,
Threw my Mac through the balcony door
Watched it fall from the 20th floor,
Now I’m sleeping in peace;
Thank God I had it on lease.

Prove It’s So!
(to the tune of “Let It Snow”)

Oh, the papers say Apple’s dying,
But before we start good-byeing,
We should call them all up and go,
“Prove it’s so! Prove it’s so! Prove it’s so!”

They say “Mac OS software’s scarcer.”
We say, “Read those numbers, there, sir,
Sales continued this year to grow.
There ya go, there ya go, there ya go!”

When they tell us Win 95
Made the Mac’s famed advantages ebb,
We’ll say, “Why, then, do Macs now drive
60 percent of the Web?”

We can win our PR reversal–
Make the Mac be universal–
Though we may have some years to go,
Make it so, make it so, make it so!

Happily Addicted to the Web
(to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”)

Doorbell rings, I’m not list’nin’,
From my mouth, drool is glist’nin’,
I’m happy–although
My boss let me go–
Happily addicted to the Web.
All night long, I sit clicking,
Unaware time is ticking,
There’s beard on my cheek,
Same clothes for a week,
Happily addicted to the Web.

Friends come by; they shake me,
Saying, “Yo, man!
Don’t you know tonight’s the senior prom?”
With a listless shrug, I mutter, “No, man;
I just discovered letterman-dot-com!”

I don’t phone, don’t send faxes,
Don’t go out, don’t pay taxes,
Who cares if someday
They drag me away?
I’m happily addicted to the Web!

Mark Turner : Blogging tugs at me again

November 08, 2017 02:40 AM

A teletype keyboard at the Living Computer Museum, Seattle, WAAs I scrolled through Facebook today, I noticed the location on a friend’s post was listed as Hayes, NC. It turns out that Hayes does not exist as a municipality but still appears on maps as it was once a stop on the railroad. That reminded me of the old “Neuse Station” depot that I used to live near and how it, too, shows up in maps as Neuse, NC though there’s nothing really there. I then did a search of my blog for posts including “depot” and turned up a great one I wrote in 2005 when I researched Neuse Station:

It was a day spent working in my yard which ignited my current interest. I took a break from digging a trench to climb up the hill near the tracks. On my way up, I spotted the stump of a sawed-off telephone pole. Nearby was a glass insulator, which led me to discover a long length of telegraph wire.

Curiosity got to me. How old was that wire?

I started putting a picture together from the resources on the Internet. These tracks behind our house are the oldest railroad tracks in North Carolina. They belonged to the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, which was commissioned in 1834 to build a line from Raleigh to Gaston, where other lines led to Petersburg and Norfolk.

Work was slow and sloppy, but progress was eventually made. The first stop northward was a station called Huntsville. Later this stop became known as Neuse Station. Neuse was located right outside my neighborhood. That makes this spot near my neighborhood the second-oldest depot in the state.

The next entry that caught my eye was my “Gimme Shelter” post, written after a night spent in 2003 volunteering at a hurricane shelter:

Occasionally, I would hear “excuse me, sir” and look up to find a sheepish child or lost-looking adult staring at me. “Can you tell me when the hurricane is past?” became a common question. Having the latest WRAL wind field displayed on my laptop, I would reply with confidence that the worst was over. They would always be polite in thanking me for the information.

One time, I looked up and an older gentleman would be in front of me. He was desperate to call his neighbors to see if power was on at their home. After hearing him lament that the payphones were missing from their spot on the wall, I offered him the use of my cellphone. He had difficulty dialing, for whatever reason, prompting his son to give it a try. A few moments later, they had the answer they were seeking, and returned my phone with a smile. Already, I was feeling good about being able to help out.

Damn. There is some mighty fine writing here, if I do say so myself. I spent hours volunteering at that shelter and later spent as many hours capturing my experience with 1,932 words. It perfectly describes the scene and in my mind I can easily put myself back in that spot.

Whatever happened to my writing? One of these posts is from 2003 and the other 2005, times when our kids were a toddler and a baby so I had a bit more free time. It was also before Facebook arrived to suck everyone’s attention (and sometimes just suck). I never really wrote to entertain an audience, though, but more for myself so the fact that my blog doesn’t attract the audience that it once did shouldn’t be a factor in my interest in writing.

I suppose it’s a combination of things that have vied my time. Certainly it’s nothing I can’t fix. And even if no one – no one – reads what I write I still enjoy the process. So, consider this a declaration that I will hereby devote less time scrolling through cat videos on Facebook and more time creating my own media here in MT.Net.

Mark Turner : Most Campaign Outreach Has No Effect on Voters – The Atlantic

November 04, 2017 12:40 AM

$6.4 billion. That’s how much candidates, political parties, and interest groups spent on federal elections in 2016, according to the Open Secrets project at the Center for Responsive Politics. Especially in competitive races, huge amounts of money are invested in reaching voters through ads, phone banks, direct mail, and canvassing. Ostensibly, the goal is to persuade people to vote for a particular candidate.

A new paper by two California political scientists finds that the total effect of these efforts is zero, meaning that they have no impact on how voters vote. David Broockman, a Stanford University assistant professor, and Joshua Kalla, a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed data from 49 field experiments—state, local, and federal campaigns that let political scientists access their data to evaluate their methods. For every flyer stuck in a mailbox, every door knocked by an earnest volunteer, and every candidate message left on an answering machine, there was no measurable change in voting outcomes. Even early outreach efforts, which are somewhat more successful at persuading voters, tend to fade from memory by Election Day. Broockman and Kalla also estimated that the effect of television and online ads is zero, although only a small portion of their data speaks directly to that point.

Source: Most Campaign Outreach Has No Effect on Voters – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : How People Like Paul Manafort Have Multiple U.S. Passports | Travel + Leisure

November 03, 2017 02:40 PM

On Monday, one-time Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was arrested and charged with a plethora of offenses including conspiracy against the United States. But that isn’t even the craziest part of the story, as according to court filings Manafort not only possesses three separate U.S. passports, but he has also filed for 10 passport applications in as many years.

This move may be the nail in the coffin for Manafort’s ability to be released on bail as it shows he’s likely a significant flight risk, but is it even illegal to own more than one passport?According to the National Passport Information Center, it’s actually perfectly legal for a U.S. citizen to own and obtain two U.S. passports — within certain guidelines. 

An official from the State Department told CNN that “no person shall bear or be in possession of more than one valid or potentially valid passport of the same type (regular, official, diplomatic, no-fee regular, or passport card) at any time, unless authorized by the Department of State.

So when would someone qualify for, or need, a second U.S. passport?

Source: How People Like Paul Manafort Have Multiple U.S. Passports | Travel + Leisure

Mark Turner : The curious case of Paul Manafort’s three passports – ThinkProgress

November 03, 2017 02:38 PM

A court filing on Tuesday showed that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates were not only well-traveled and considerably wealthy, the former also had three U.S. passports to his name.

“In a little more than the last ten years, Manafort has submitted ten United States Passport applications on ten different occasions, indicative of his travel schedule,” a footnote in the court filing indicated. “He currently has three United States passports, with different numbers.”

Both Manafort and Gates were “frequent international travelers” according to the filing, and within the last year alone, Manafort had traveled to Dubai, Cancun, Panama City, Havana, Shanghai, Madrid, Tokyo, Grand Cayman Island, and Cyprus, where many of his foreign bank accounts and shell companies were based. In May and June this year, he also traveled to Mexico, China, and Ecuador while using a phone and email account he had registered under a fake name back in March.

Source: The curious case of Paul Manafort’s three passports – ThinkProgress

Mark Turner : How many U.S. passports can you really own? – Nov. 1, 2017

November 03, 2017 02:21 PM

Eyebrows were raised after a court filing Tuesday revealed former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, now under federal indictment, has three U.S. passports.

On top of that, he had filed for 10 passport applications in as many years, according to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s alleged meddling during the 2016 presidential election.

Three passports? We wanted to find some answers.

Can you have more than one passport?Yes. U.S. citizens are allowed to have more than one valid U.S. passport at the same time, according to the National Passport Information Center, which is a division of the U.S. State Department.

But in most cases, you are only allowed to have two valid passports at a time, according to the NPIC.

As NPIC notes on its website, holding a second passport “is the exception to the rule.”

It remains unclear why Manafort has three.

Source: How many U.S. passports can you really own? – Nov. 1, 2017

Mark Turner : Women rescued by Navy defend their account of ordeal at sea

November 01, 2017 06:23 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — Two women from Hawaii who were rescued after being lost at sea defended their account of the ordeal Tuesday, insisting that a storm was whipping up 30-foot waves and near hurricane-force winds on the night they set sail, despite records that show no severe weather in the area.

The Coast Guard is reviewing records from the days after Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava put to sea in a 50-foot sailboat, but NASA satellite images for the days around their departure show no organized storms in the region where they planned to travel.

There was a tropical cyclone, but it was near Fiji, thousands of miles west of Hawaii. Localized squalls are known to pop up, but a storm lasting three days would have been visible on satellite and would have elicited mass warnings to the public to brace for the weather.

“We got into a Force 11 storm, and it lasted for two nights and three days,” Appel said.Coast Guard officials told The Associated Press on Monday that the two women had an emergency beacon but never turned it on because they did not fear for their lives. If they had, rescue would have been headed their way in a matter of minutes.

The woman “stated they never felt like they were truly in distress, like in a 24-hour period they were going to die,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle said Monday.

The women said Tuesday that they did not use the beacon because they never felt they were in immediate danger, yet they have been quoted as saying they did not think they would survive another day, and that they were fearful during a dramatic tiger shark attack that lasted for six hours. Furthermore, the pair said they had been flagging vessels and sending distress signals for at least 98 days.

“We knew we weren’t going to make it,” Appel said. “So that’s when we started making distress calls.”

The Coast Guard outlined other inconsistencies, most notably on the timing of events.

Source: Women rescued by Navy defend their account of ordeal at sea

Mark Turner : Lost Hawaii sailors’ survival story ‘doesn’t add up’ | Daily Mail Online

November 01, 2017 04:54 PM

Questions have been raised over the story of two Hawaii women who say they were lost at sea for six months  – after it emerged they never activated their emergency beacon, sailed past an inhabited island and were caught in a seemingly non-existent storm. Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fiava were rescued by the US Navy 900 miles southeast of Japan last Wednesday after setting sail from Hawaii on May 3.They told a harrowing tale of survival after their rescue, but many of their claims have now been called into question including:

  • The woman claimed they did not have a standard Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on their vessel. The Coast Guard found one on board and say it was never activated.
  • The ‘Force 11 storm’ they claimed they encountered at the start of their journey, featuring 30-foot high seas and 60 mph winds over three days, was not recorded by meteorologists
  • They claim that they considered turning back after the storm but could not because the islands of Maui and Lanai did not have harbors deep enough for their boat. There are several places they could have docked
  • They also claim that, days later, they could not stop at a nearby island to fix their boat because it was ‘uninhabited’ – but Christmas Island, part of Kiribati, is home to over 2,000 people and often welcomes huge commercial ships
  • Instead of stopping at Christmas Island, they set a new destination of 1,000 miles away in the Cook Islands – also hundreds of miles beyond their original destination of Tahiti
  • When off Tahiti in June, the captain of the ship was reported to have told the Coast Guard they were fine and expected to land next morning – but months later they ended up in the western Pacific 

Source: Lost Hawaii sailors’ survival story ‘doesn’t add up’ | Daily Mail Online

Mark Turner : Halloween jamming

November 01, 2017 04:02 PM

“Slash?”

For Halloween this year my costume was of my alter-ego: Slash, the Guns N’ Roses guitarist who has a very distinctive look. I ordered the various pieces about a month ago, including temporary tattoos, and was ready to go on Halloween morning, confident that mine would be one of the top costumes at my office.

Only no one else wore costumes. No one! Halloween fell on a Tuesday this year, a day when many of my officemates work from home. It was kinda sad that the office missed a chance to do a proper Halloween day but in all fairness we had had a chili contest the day before, so that was something.

It wasn’t all for naught for me, though. I brought my electric guitar into the office as part of my costume (though it is a cheap Epiphone and not Slash’s preferred Les Paul). Though my guitar isn’t the best, once I got it somewhat tuned up I reminded myself how much fun it is to just pick up a guitar and noodle around with it during the workday. Several times a day yesterday I would grab my guitar and practice bar chords and other stuff, walking over to a nearby conference room to avoid disturbing my officemates.

Tl;dr I won the costume contest by default and I also reignited my love for playing guitar. Not a bad day.

Mark Turner : Why Nerds and Nurses Are Taking Over the U.S. Economy – The Atlantic

October 27, 2017 11:46 AM

Manufacturing will fall. Retail will wobble. Automation will inch along but stay off the roads, for now. The rich will keep getting richer. And more and more of the country will be paid to take care of old people. That is the future of the labor market, according to the latest 10-year forecast from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These 10-year forecasts—the products of two years’ work from about 25 economists at the BLS —document the government’s best assessment of the fastest and slowest growing jobs of the future. On the decline are automatable work, like typists, and occupations threatened by changing consumer behavior, like clothing store cashiers, as more people shop online.

The fastest-growing jobs through 2026 belong to what one might call the Three Cs: care, computers, and clean energy. No occupation is projected to add more workers than personal-care aides, who perform non-medical duties for older Americans, such as bathing and cooking. Along with home-health aides, these two occupations are projected to create 1.1 million new jobs in the next decade. Remarkably, that’s 10 percent of the total 11.5 million jobs that the BLS expects the economy to add. Clean-energy workers, like solar-panel installers and wind-turbine technicians, are the only occupations that are expected to double by 2026. Mathematicians and statisticians round out the top-10 list.

Source: Why Nerds and Nurses Are Taking Over the U.S. Economy – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : Addicted to Your iPhone? You’re Not Alone – The Atlantic

October 27, 2017 11:27 AM

n a recent evening in San Francisco, Tristan Harris, a former product philosopher at Google, took a name tag from a man in pajamas called “Honey Bear” and wrote down his pseudonym for the night: “Presence.”

Harris had just arrived at Unplug SF, a “digital detox experiment” held in honor of the National Day of Unplugging, and the organizers had banned real names. Also outlawed: clocks, “w-talk” (work talk), and “WMDs” (the planners’ loaded shorthand for wireless mobile devices). Harris, a slight 32-year-old with copper hair and a tidy beard, surrendered his iPhone, a device he considers so addictive that he’s called it “a slot machine in my pocket.” He keeps the background set to an image of Scrabble tiles spelling out the words face down, a reminder of the device’s optimal position.

I followed him into a spacious venue packed with nearly 400 people painting faces, filling in coloring books, and wrapping yarn around chopsticks. Despite the cheerful summer-camp atmosphere, the event was a reminder of the binary choice facing smartphone owners, who, according to one study, consult their device 150 times a day: Leave the WMD on and deal with relentless prompts compelling them to check its screen, or else completely disconnect. “It doesn’t have to be the all-or-nothing choice,” Harris told me after taking in the arts-and-crafts scene. “That’s a design failure.”

Harris is the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience. As the co?founder of Time Well Spent, an advocacy group, he is trying to bring moral integrity to software design: essentially, to persuade the tech world to help us disengage more easily from its devices.

Source: Addicted to Your iPhone? You’re Not Alone – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake? – POLITICO Magazine

October 25, 2017 07:55 PM

“Newspaper had been running the equivalent of a very nice high-end steakhouse,” she says. Then McDonald’s moved to town and started selling untold numbers of cheap hamburgers. Newspaper thought, “Let’s compete with that,” and dropped the steak for hamburger, even though it had no real expertise in producing hamburgers. “What they should have done is improve the steak product.”

Source: What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake? – POLITICO Magazine

Magnus Hedemark : One human being, one blog.

October 25, 2017 12:33 PM

I’ve been really quiet here again. There was definitely a lot of personal “inspect and adapt” activity going on. But also, I think I spread myself too thin.

The web, and social media in particular, don’t favor polymaths. Readers want writers to stick to a single subject. But I’m not a single subject kind of human. I’m all over the place. We may have conversations about IT, leadership, fountain pens, writing, canoeing, photography, motorcycles, travel, and more. I am all of those things in one.

So every time I tried splitting those facets of myself into different outlets, I became less and less effective at managing my presence on all of them. I was spinning too many plates.

My intent now is to narrow things down. One blog (this one), two photography outlets (Instagram and either 500px or Flickr). I have multiple Instagrams, which will also be consolidated.

Then, in an act that may be a bit like pissing into the wind, I’ll just focus my efforts in fewer places, but on any subject matter I choose. We’ll see how it goes from there.

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Mark Turner : An Old Colonel Looks at General Kelly – Foreign Policy

October 24, 2017 06:09 PM

A thousand years ago when I was about to begin my military career, a wise old retired Marine colonel, a veteran of the carnage at Tarawa, gave me some advice. Paraphrased here, he said:

So you want to be a career soldier? Good for you. But remember that the longer you stay in uniform, the less you will really understand about the country you protect. Democracy is the antithesis of the military life; it’s chaotic, dishonest, disorganized, and at the same time glorious, exhilarating and free — which you are not.

After a while, if you stay in, you’ll be tempted to say, “Look, you civilians, we’ve got a better way. We’re better organized. We’re patriotic, and we know what it is to sacrifice. Be like us.” And you’ll be dead wrong, son. If you’re a career soldier, you may defend democracy, but you won’t understand it or be part of it. What’s more, you’ll always be a stranger to your own society. That’s the sacrifice you’ll be making.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that old colonel in the aftermath of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s remarkable press conference the other day over the president’s call to the widow of an Army soldier killed in Niger. There’s been a lot of commentary about the general’s attitude toward civilians who hadn’t sacrificed — who weren’t of the “one percent” who had — and it seems to me that most of it misses the point. Masha Gessen’s New Yorker article, “John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup,” comes close, given President Donald Trump’s tendency to hire retired generals who complement his own authoritarian leanings. Certainly we need to be alert for the next three years — having at Trump’s elbow a retired general who disdains civilians should raise some concerns.

Source: An Old Colonel Looks at General Kelly – Foreign Policy

Mark Turner : Trump voters are not animals to be studied by elitists on ‘safari’

October 24, 2017 06:05 PM

My home in rural Michigan is apparently somewhere in the northeastern quadrant of a vast rectangular expanse called “Trump’s America,” a one-of-a-kind admission-free zoo teeming with strange untamed beasts, exotic flora, and a handful of mostly thankless wardens.

Since last November, we have had any number of scientifically minded visitors. The Atlantic recently reported on the “safari” efforts of five researchers from Third Way, the centrist liberal think tank responsible for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign platform. Before that there was Mark Zuckerberg, who this summer reminded himself there are such things as non-driverless cars while looking at bratwursts as if they were glowing polyps surgically removed from the corpse of the titular monster in The Thing. HuffPo even sent a busload of experts to visit 23 of our cities.

Source: Trump voters are not animals to be studied by elitists on ‘safari’

Mark Turner : On Safari in Trump’s America – The Atlantic

October 24, 2017 06:05 PM

It was the hippies who drove Nancy Hale over the edge. She had spent three days listening respectfully to the real people of Middle America, and finally she couldn’t take it any longer.

She turned off the tape recorder and took several deep breaths, leaning back in the passenger seat of the rented GMC Yukon. The sun had just come out from behind a mass of clouds, casting a gleam on the rain-soaked parking lot in rural Wisconsin.

Hale, who is 65 and lives in San Francisco, is a career activist who got her start protesting nuclear plants and nuclear testing in the 1970s. In 2005, she was one of the founders of Third Way, a center-left think tank, and it was in that capacity that she and four colleagues had journeyed from both coasts to the town of Viroqua, Wisconsin, as part of a post-election listening tour. They had come on a well-meaning mission: to better understand their fellow Americans, whose political behavior in the last election had left them confused and distressed.The trip was predicated on the optimistic notion that if Americans would only listen to each other, they would find more that united than divided them. This notion—the idea that, beyond our polarized politics, lies a middle, or third, path on which most can come together in agreement—is Third Way’s raison d’etre. It is premised on the idea that partisanship is bad, consensus is good, and that most Americans would like to meet in the middle.

But these are not uncontested assumptions. And, three days into their safari in flyover country, the researchers were hearing some things that disturbed them greatly—sentiments that threatened their beliefs to the very core.

Source: On Safari in Trump’s America – The Atlantic

Mark Turner : This Is Where The International Space Station Will Go To Die | Popular Science

October 19, 2017 12:30 AM

Roughly 3000 miles off the Eastern coast of New Zealand, 2000 miles north of Antarctica, and 2.5 miles deep, the Spacecraft Cemetery is truly in the middle of nowhere. This isolated spot in the ocean is technically called the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility–the point on Earth farthest from any land mass. This spot was chosen for obvious reasons, as it greatly reduces the risk of human casualties from scorching hot space debris. (According to NASA’s Orbital Debris Office, any objects re-entering Earth’s atmosphere cannot exceed a 0.0001 chance of impact with humans, meaning that if the entry were to occur 10,000 times, there would only be one human casualty expected.)

Source: This Is Where The International Space Station Will Go To Die | Popular Science

Mark Turner : ‘I was gonna curse him out’: Rep. Wilson describes hearing Trump’s phone call with widow of fallen soldier

October 18, 2017 12:09 PM

Despicable.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) on Tuesday spoke with CNN’s Don Lemon about the phone call between Donald Trump and the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, explaining she “was gonna curse” the president out after hearing his remarks.

Wilson was with Johnson’s widow  just before the soldier’s remains arrived at Miami International Airport, ABC 10 reports. That’s when Trump called the pregnant mother of two and told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

“We were in the car together, in the limousine headed to meet the body at the airport,” Wilson told Lemon. “So I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker.”

“This is a young, young woman, who has two children, who is six months pregnant with a third child,” Wilson said. “She has just lost her husband. She was just told that he cannot have an open casket funeral, which gives her all kinds of nightmares how his body must look, how his face must look. And this is what the president of the United States says to her?”

Source: ‘I was gonna curse him out’: Rep. Wilson describes hearing Trump’s phone call with widow of fallen soldier

Mark Turner : How the Russians pretended to be Texans — and Texans believed them – The Washington Post

October 18, 2017 01:52 AM

With each new story of the Russians creating fake online support for Trump I suspect more and more that it was Russian actors behind the fake Mitt Romney Facebook likes of the last election.

In early 2016, while researching some of the most popular U.S. secession groups online, I stumbled across one of the Russian-controlled Facebook accounts that were then pulling in Americans by the thousands.

At the time, I was writing on Russia’s relationship with American secessionists from Texas, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These were people who had hitched flights to Moscow to swap tactics, to offer advice and to find support. They had found succor in the shadow of the Kremlin.That was how I eventually found my way to the “Heart of Texas” Facebook page (and its @itstimetosecede Twitter feed as well). Heart of Texas soon grew into the most popular Texas secession page on Facebook — one that, at one point in 2016, boasted more followers than the official Texas Democrat and Republican Facebook pages combined. By the time Facebook took the page down recently, it had a quarter of a million followers.

The page started slowly — just a few posts per week. Unlike other secession sites I’d come across, this one never carried any contact information, never identified any of the individuals behind the curtain. Even as it grew, there was nothing to locate it in Texas — or anywhere else, for that matter. It was hard to escape the suspicion that there might be Russian involvement here as well.

Source: How the Russians pretended to be Texans — and Texans believed them – The Washington Post

Mark Turner : A witness to #metoo behavior

October 18, 2017 01:49 AM

It was a warm Sunday afternoon in October, 2016.

I’ve just left the Amtrak station in downtown Raleigh. Unable (or too cheap) to call a cab, I drag my overnight back behind as I trudge up Dawson Street toward my home 2 miles away. The rhythm of my pace and the grinding of my bag’s battered wheels along the sidewalk lulls me into a sort of trance.

As I reach the corner of Hargett, I see a rough-looking man approaching. As I’m starting to make room for him on the sidewalk, a woman on a bicycle passes me (safely) from behind. As she passes, the man catcalls her and makes loud, suggestive comments.

In a blink it was over. The man, possibly drunk, stumbles on behind me. The woman, wearing headphones, was immune to his drunken come-ons and was long gone. I pause to think what I should have done or what I might have done.

Had the man been dumb enough to touch that woman I would’ve certainly jumped him. I’m a pretty friendly guy but I don’t like bullying of any sort, yet I was also stunned at what I just heard. It’s 2016. Some men still do this shit? I mean, really? What did this guy hope to accomplish with his clumsy come-ons?

He was clearly a loser and a drunk one at that. She was oblivious and went on with her ride. I continued walking, pondering how the world still needed some work.

Mark Turner : ‘The ravages of cord-cutting’: AT&T’s race against time to save its TV business – The Washington Post

October 17, 2017 05:38 PM

Traditional TV is dying.

On Wednesday, AT&T told regulators that it expects to finish the quarter with about 90,000 fewer TV subscribers than it began with. AT&T blamed a number of issues, including hurricane damage to infrastructure, rising credit standards and competition from rivals. The report also shows AT&T lost more traditional TV customers than it gained back through its online video app, DirecTV Now. And analysts are suggesting that that’s evidence that cord-cutting is the main culprit.

Announced last year, DirecTV Now was AT&T’s answer to Netflix and Hulu. AT&T initially sought to drive aggressive adoption by offering deep discounts, and it bundled it with unlimited data plans for cellphone users.

While those efforts have helped offset losses in DirecTV’s main satellite-based service, it’s that traditional TV package that remains the most lucrative product for providers. Streaming apps don’t do as much to bolster the bottom line — meaning AT&T would be in tough shape even if it were replacing TV subscribers on a one-to-one basis with digital app users, which it isn’t.

Source: ‘The ravages of cord-cutting’: AT&T’s race against time to save its TV business – The Washington Post