B12 Solipsism

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Reading Around July 9th, 2017

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A few snippets for your reading and eye-rolling muscles, collected from various journeys across the vast wasted plain of the internet…


Daddy, what did You do in the Great War? (Art.IWM PST 0311)  Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/17053

Nothing to see here, says GOP

Russian government hackers were behind recent cyber-intrusions into the business systems of U.S. nuclear power and other energy companies in what appears to be an effort to assess their networks, according to U.S. government officials.

The U.S. officials said there is no evidence the hackers breached or disrupted the core systems controlling operations at the plants, so the public was not at risk. Rather, they said, the hackers broke into systems dealing with business and administrative tasks, such as personnel.

(click here to continue reading U.S. officials say Russian government hackers have penetrated energy and nuclear company business networks – The Washington Post.)

I’ll probably (eventually) see the comedian Kumail Nanjiani’s new film, The Big Sick:

After the panel, in the greenroom, Nanjiani expanded on his thoughts about representation. “People use these words so much that they can start to sound meaningless,” he said. “But I believe it matters. The stories you see as a kid show you what’s possible. I mean, I’m almost forty, and when I saw a brown guy kicking ass in the new ‘Star Wars’ movie I started crying in the movie theatre.” He went on, “Everyone knows what a secular Jew looks like. Everyone knows what a lapsed Catholic looks like. That’s all over pop culture. But there are very few Muslim characters who aren’t terrorists, who aren’t even going to a mosque, who are just people with complicated backstories who do normal things. Obviously, terrorism is an important subject to tackle. But we also need Muslim characters who, like, go to Six Flags and eat ice cream.”

(click here to continue reading Kumail Nanjiani’s Culture-Clash Comedy | The New Yorker.)

You’d think the Russian link to Trump would be a bigger story, and yet, it keeps circling and circling, and the right keeps denying there is any “there there”.

Two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin, according to confidential government records described to The New York Times.

The previously unreported meeting was also attended by Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to interviews and the documents, which were outlined by people familiar with them.

While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and Russians, this episode at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, is the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. It is also the first time that his son Donald Trump Jr. is known to have been involved in such a meeting.

(click here to continue reading Trump Team Met With Lawyer Linked to Kremlin During Campaign – The New York Times.)

A new-to-me term, differential privacy:

Last year, Apple Inc. kicked off a massive experiment with new privacy technology aimed at solving an increasingly thorny problem: how to build products that understand users without snooping on their activities.

Its answer is differential privacy, a term virtually unknown outside of academic circles until a year ago. Today, other companies such as Microsoft Corp. and Uber Technologies Inc. are experimenting with the technology.

The problem differential privacy tries to tackle stems from the fact that modern data-analysis tools are capable of finding links between large databases. Privacy experts worry these tools could be used to identify people in otherwise anonymous data sets.

Two years ago, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discovered shoppers could be identified by linking social-media accounts to anonymous credit-card records and bits of secondary information, such as the location or timing of purchases.

”I don’t think people are aware of how easy it is getting to de-anonymize data,” said Ishaan Nerurkar, whose startup LeapYear Technologies Inc. sells software for leveraging machine learning while using differential privacy to keep user data anonymous.

(click here to continue reading Apple Expands Bet on Cutting Edge Privacy Technology – WSJ.)

Biometric hand scanners are the Mark of the Beast? What about thumbprint scanners that unlock your smart phone? Or worse, the rumored face scanner in iPhone 8?

To more accurately track attendance and time worked, the employer, Consol Energy, installed a biometric hand scanner. Beverly Butcher, an evangelical Christian employed with Consol for over 35 years, refused to use the new biometric scanner. Butcher believed that the Book of Revelation referenced the hand-scanning technology when it described the Antichrist as causing all to have a “mark on their right hand.”

Butcher made repeated requests to Consol to exempt him from use of the biometric hand scanner based on his religious beliefs, but the company denied those requests. The employer reasoned that hand scanner left no physical mark. In any event, Consol understood that the “mark of the beast” related to the right hand and the company could “accommodate” Butcher by allowing him to use his left hand in the scanner. The employer had already approved complete exemptions from the biometric scanner for two employees with hand injuries. In fact, in authorizing the medical accommodations, a company representative wrote, “Let’s make our religious objector use his left hand.”

Facing discipline for refusing to use the biometric scanner with his left hand, Butcher retired. He then filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC alleging that by failing to accommodate his religious beliefs Consol had constructively discharged him. The EEOC took the case to trial and a jury found in favor of the employee. The court awarded the employee a total of $586,860 in lost wages, benefits, and compensatory damages.

(click here to continue reading In employment law, even the “mark of the beast” must be accommodated.)

and a bit of history worth clicking to see the photos:

Work began on the tunnels in 1899 under the auspices the Illinois Telephone and Telegraph Company, reorganized in later years as the Chicago Tunnel Company. An enormous quantity of blue clay soil was excavated by hand and used as landfill to build up low lying areas on the waterfront.

The Chicago Tunnel Company had an aggressive (perhaps brash) business strategy, building 60 miles of tunnels before securing a single client. Once the network was complete they approached downtown buildings and offered an array of services, including telephone and telegraph connections, and coal, mail and merchandise deliveries. And the clients did come; tunnel connections were built to the Board of Trade, City Hall, Merchandise Mart, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Chicago Tribune, the Civic Opera House, the Field Museum, and dozen of others. One of the Chicago Tunnel Company’s  more inventive products was “tunnel air” (55˚F year round), which they piped into theaters and hotels as natural air conditioning.

(click here to continue reading Chicago Freight Tunnels – Chicago, Illinois – Atlas Obscura.)

and finally, a fascinating exploration of a man’s grandfather:

For three years at the end of his life, Dr. Lee Hartman worked as a resident physician and psychiatrist at Huntsville’s Wynne Unit. From 1960 to 1963, he witnessed at least 14 executions as presiding physician, his signature scrawled on the death certificates of the condemned men. All of them died in the electric chair – “Ol’ Sparky” – a grisly method that left flesh burned and bodies smoking in the death chamber as my grandfather read their vital signs.

I had always known from my father that his dad, who died before I was born, worked for the prison system as a psychiatrist.

But I had no idea that he’d worked in the death chamber, witnessing executions. Or that he’d been involved in testing psychedelics on prisoners to see if drugs like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin could treat schizophrenia. Or that he’d been hospitalized repeatedly during his lifelong struggle with depression.

And I didn’t know the truth about his death at age 48, when he was found on the staircase of his house in Houston’s exclusive River Oaks neighborhood.

My obsession with my grandfather’s life grew from my father’s sudden death from a stroke at his Austin home in 2014. Last summer, I came back to Austin after 14 years overseas and began searching for clues about my grandfather – in the state archives, in Huntsville and in boxes of old family keepsakes kept by my aunts.

(click here to continue reading My grandfather was a death row doctor. He tested psychedelic drugs on Texas inmates. | The Texas Tribune.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 9th, 2017 at 11:04 am

Posted in News-esque

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