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Topics - LetterRip

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General Comments / To Mask or not to Mask
« on: April 04, 2020, 12:26:36 AM »
Apparently the CDC recommendation is not a CDC recommendation but a recommendation forced on it by the White House, the basic worry is that people will reduce or eliminate their social distancing due to a false sense of security and thus risks increasing infection.

Some public health experts at the US Centers for Disease Control felt "pressured" by the White House to draft recommendations that all Americans wear masks or facial coverings while in public, according to a senior federal health official involved in discussions.

A source told CNN the "CDC was under intense pressure to do this quickly."
""The CDC would not have gone this direction if not for the White House," the senior official told CNN. "We would have tried more to understand about asymptomatic transmission. We would have done more studies if we had more time." "

"It was more than we were comfortable with, the source added. "Things were done very fast. It's a credibility risk to the agency. It's not fabulous for credibility. There is a real worry that this will provide a false sense of security to the public. Also, up until now the CDC has been telling people it's okay not to wear a mask, and it's going to be recommended that we do. It runs the risk of confusing the public."

As to the science behind whether wearing a mask helps, arstechnica did a brief literature review.  N95 when used properly helps workers prevent getting infected.  Surgical masks seem sufficient to help prevent spreading infection to others, but not from getting infection.  Cloth masks likely don't prevent (at least hospital workers) from getting infections and actually appear to increase risk of infection of hospital workers 10 fold (more face touching and cloth has very poor filtration).  Masks usage to prevent getting infections from a sick family member don't seem to be effective.  The big question - which we don't know - is cloth sufficient to reduce spread of virus from asymptomatic individuals; and are people likely to get virus on their mask and then infect themselves due to increased face touching; and which of those is the more likely scenario.

As to countries with high success controlling the virus also being countries that were wearing masks - Singapore didn't have mask wearing till the other day.  Thus most of the success is probably the other measures - their rapid response track and trace and testing.

General Comments / Why Dr. Zelenko's claim is dubious
« on: April 03, 2020, 12:42:46 PM »

his story mainly originates from an interview Dr. Zelenko gave on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News and his since spread over the internet. Dr. Zelenko claims a 100% cure rate of COVID-19 within 4–6 hours[1] using a preparation of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and zinc sulfate.

It is difficult to positively rule it out from the limited information given, but there are enough red flags to safely say the report is false

Some points to consider:

    It’s unclear if 669 patients even exist in the areas he’s practicing. Zelenko gave some geographical statistics from an early claim of roughly 500 patients treated. 350 are from small city of Kiryas Joel, while the other 150 live nearby in the Monsey area.[2] There were 10 confirmed cases in Kiryas Joel at the time of his announcement .[3] While it is true that some cases might not be reported to the state, this is both a shockingly high prevalence-higher even than Riker’s Island,[4] a natural breeding ground for the disease which has been described as a public health catastrophe -and really severe under-reporting. To believe his numbers, you have to believe that people diagnosed with a highly infectious, potentially fatal disease don’t tell anybody - not the state, not their rabbis, not anybody who would leave a record. Orange county officials have said that after an early spike, the prevalence in Kiryas Joel is similar to that of Orange County overall, [5] which would likely leave him with a few dozen potential patients at most in early -mid March when the study occurred.

How did he find all the patients he claims then?

    He believes nearly everybody in Kiryas Joel has COVID-19. The 669 patients is only the people he has treated. Dr. Zelenko thinks there is much more are out there. He is on record that as saying that 90% of the city of Kiryas Joel is infected after a couple of tests came back positive and then extrapolating based on his view of viral dynamics. [6] This claim on such thin evidence earned him a formal reprimand both from the city of Kiryas Joel and the Orange County Health Commissioner:[7]

    “We the undersigned institutions strongly believe that the predictions presented by Dr. Zelenko have been proven false and are not supported by the overall medical establishment, specifically in his wild conclusions as to the spread of the virus in our community,”

    He does not test for COVID-19 before treating. Dr. Zelenko gave up testing after these first few positive results. He now diagnoses based solely on his clinical judgement, which leads to a vicious circle- it is probably the disease because the disease is everywhere and we know the disease is everywhere because we keep diagnosing it.

So, it is completely implausible.

General Comments / Did Technology Review fall for a joke paper?
« on: December 12, 2019, 03:28:40 PM »
Here is a recent Technology Review paper,

If you plug in 1 for A in the typical quadratic formula, it simplifies to the "new easier formula'.  I can't tell if the TR writer can't do math or what.

General Comments / Ukraine Timeline
« on: November 24, 2019, 07:34:21 PM »
Here is a timeline, I think it clarifies a lot,

    May 2014: Hunter Biden joins the Board of Directors of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. At this point, Biden has been an executive VP with MBNA, worked for the US Department of Commerce, co-founded his own law firm, and was on the Board of Directors of Amtrak. He holds a bachelors in history from Georgetown, and has his JD from Yale Law. His salary is in-line with what would be expected at a Fortune 500 company.
    Feb 2015: Viktor Shokin becomes Ukraine’s prosecutor general.
    Sep 2015: Geoffrey Pyatt, the US Ambassador to Ukraine, speaks in Ukraine, blasting Shokin for not addressing corruption within Ukraine.
    Oct 2015: Victoria Nuland, Asst US Sec of State, testifies in the US Senate that Shokin is corrupt and needs to be removed.
    Dec 2015: VP Joe Biden joins several other European leaders in telling Ukrainian leadership to replace Shokin with somebody who will end corruption.
    Feb 2016: the International Monetary Fund threatens to end a bailout program for Ukraine unless they address their corruption issues, starting with Shokin.
    Feb 2016: VP Biden speaks with then-Ukrainian President Poroshenko about fighting corruption, including replacing Shokin on both the 11th and 18th. He makes it clear that US financial aid will be withheld until action is taken.
    Mar 2016: Shokin is ousted, replaced by Yuri Lutsenko
    Jan 2017: an investigation into Burisma, that had been dormant under Shokin but re-opened under Lutsenko, finds that Burisma hadn’t been paying enough in taxes. A settlement is reached.
    Jan 2018: Biden speaks at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations and describes one of his discussions with Poroshenko in 2016.

So that should clarify Biden's role regards Shokin.  There is nothing to imply that Shokin was removed to prevent an investigation into his son's company, indeed part of why Shokin was removed was refusal to investigate the company.  After Shokin was removed, Burisma was investigated and the findings were related to taxation, which it was fined for.

    Apr 2019: Mueller Report issued. It finds no illegal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but does find extensive evidence of obstruction of justice by the Trump administration and leaves it to Congress to take action.
    Apr 2019: Zelensky wins election in Ukraine, becomes president. Trump calls to congratulate Zelensky and never brings up the topic of corruption, per transcripts of the call.
    May 2019: Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, tells the NY Times that he will be traveling to Ukraine to push for an investigation into the Biden family “…because that information will be very, very helpful to my client…”.
    May 2019: In an interview with Fox News, Trump falsely portrays Biden’s role in the removal of Shokin, claiming he was preventing an investigation into his son. All fact checks point to this as being a blatant lie.
    May 2019: $400 million in military assistance, dictated by Congress in the federal budget, is due to be released to Ukraine.
    Jul 2019: Trump makes a decision to withhold the aid to Ukraine, this is communicated to the Departments of State and Defense.
    Jul 2019: Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker sends a text message to US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, “Most impt is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation [into the Bidens]”.
    Jul 2019: Volker texts Andriy Yermak, President Zelensky’s top aide, “Heard from White House-assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / 'get to the bottom of what happened' in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington”
    Jul 2019: Trump speaks to Zelensky and, per an edited transcript released by the White House, ties the sale of US arms to Ukraine, as well as a White House visit, to Zelensky investigating the Bidens. After the call, the edited transcript is moved to a classified server reserved for sensitive national security information.
    Jul 2019: State Dept staff circulate emails indicating the Ukrainian embassy is asking about the promised military assistance.
    Jul 2019: an unknown “whistleblower” writes a report about the call to Zelensky.
    Aug 2019: Volker and Sondland text one another, making it clear that Trump wants Zelensky to announce the Bidens are being investigated.
    Aug 2019: Yernak texts Volker, says they need to lock in the date for Zelensky’s White House visit before Zelensky will announce a Biden investigation.
    Aug 2019: Sondland emails two State Department aides: “Kurt & I negotiated a statement from Ze to be delivered for our review in a day or two. The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to authorize an invitation. Ze plans to have a big presser on the openness subject (including specifics) next week.”
    Aug 2019: whistleblower files his complaint with the Inspector General for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson. The IG determines the complaint is credible and a matter of “urgent concern”, legally requiring disclosure to the House and Senate intelligence committees. He forwards it to Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who doesn’t follow policy and refuses to give it to the committees.
    Aug 2019: Volker and Sondland text back and forth about what Zelensky’s statement needs to say.
    Aug 2019: Politico reports that the Trump administration is withholding military aid from Ukraine
    Aug 2019: US Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor writes to Sec of State Pompeo, calling it “folly” to withhold military aid to Ukraine.
    Sep 2019: Taylor texts Sondland, “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”
    Sep 9 2019: IG Atkinson notifies the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about the whistleblower complaint.
    Sep 10 2019: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff writes to Maguire, demanding the whistleblower complaint.
    Sep 11 2019: US aid is released to Ukraine
    Sep 13 2019: Schiff subpoenas Maguire
    Sep 18 2019: Zelensky cancels a CNN interview.
    Sep 26: whistleblower complaint released

This is an interesting theory of money laundering,

Federal prosecutors would allege, however, that by agreeing to decorate roughly two dozen of Santacruz’s properties – including a “postmodern hacienda” and an apocalypse-ready compound as the kingpin’s pursuers closed in on him – the designers had transformed his American cocaine profits into objects of value in Colombia.

It was money laundering, they argued, and an essential cog in the operations of a cartel that the head of the DEA had called “the most well-organized and well-financed crime organization in history.”


In a recent interview, Lerner called the case a “warning shot” to the business community that even if their services were legitimate, they could be prosecuted for having drug traffickers as clients.

“Nobody was saying that the decorators pointed knives and guns and pulled triggers and stuff,” said Lerner, now a partner at a New York law firm. “What we were saying was they were the bagmen for this organization.”

General Comments / Fake News
« on: November 07, 2019, 03:25:09 PM »
This is pretty amazing,

you probably heard about the AI text generation that was 'so good it was dangerous to release', it was an AI text generator model called "GPT-2".

Well CTRL is a more recent variant in the same area of research and it produces far more convincing text.

For instance you can provide as input a fake URL such as that contains the headline you want the story to be about,

and voila,

    Trump likes Fortnite

    President Trump, who has been known to play video games for hours at a time, is now playing the popular game “Fortnite” on his phone.

    The president was spotted watching the online battle royale game, which pits players against each other in an attempt to kill their opponents, while he sat down with House and Senate leaders Tuesday afternoon.

    “I like that it’s not just about shooting people but also having fun doing it,” said Trump.

    He then asked if anyone had played it before.

    “You know what, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that,” replied Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

    A White House official told reporters later Wednesday afternoon that Trump did indeed watch the game.

    “He watched it, yeah,” the official said.

Or you put in the reverse headline,

    Trump despises Fortnite

    The president of the United States has a new favorite video game: “Fortnite.”

    President Trump, who is known for his love of fast food and beer, was reportedly so excited about playing this game that he called it “the greatest thing in the world.”

    But according to an Axios report, Trump’s enthusiasm waned after learning how much time players spend on it.

    “He said it’s not even close to being as good as ‘Candy Crush,’ ” one source told the news outlet.

    In fact, the report said, Trump had been watching videos online while eating dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago.

    According to Axios, Trump also complained about the game’s difficulty level — which can be adjusted by spending real money or virtual currency — saying it wasn’t challenging enough.

    “I don’t know why they made it hard,” Trump said.

    He then went off topic when asked if he’d play again.

    “No, I won’t.”

    A White House official later clarified that Trump didn’t say he wouldn’t play, but rather that he’s “not into it.”

Or how about fake economic news using the fake url -

    Apple has filed for bankruptcy.

    The company that made the iPhone and iPad is filing for bankruptcy, according to a report from Bloomberg.

    According to Bloomberg News, Apple’s board of directors voted unanimously on Friday morning in favor of an emergency plan designed to keep it afloat until its next quarterly earnings report.

    In order to avoid paying more than $128 million in back taxes, Apple will have to sell off assets like its Beats headphone business, which was valued at about $1 billion when it went public last year.

    “Apple said today that it plans to file for Chapter 11 protection under US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware this week,” Bloomberg reports.

    A source familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week that Apple had been considering selling some or all of its music streaming service iTunes Music Store as part of a restructuring plan.

    But the news comes just days after reports surfaced suggesting that Apple would be forced into liquidation.

    Last week, Bloomberg reported that Apple could soon announce layoffs if sales don’t pick up soon.

    “We are working hard every day to deliver great products and services to our customers around the world,” Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, wrote in a letter to employees today.

Or a fake discovery in mathematics -

    MIT proves P equals NP

    The University of Massachusetts Amherst has proven that the problem posed by factoring large numbers is NP-complete.

    In a paper published in Nature, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have shown how to factor an integer using only two numbers, one for each digit — which means it takes just three operations on your brain.

    This isn’t quite as impressive as solving the problem, but it’s still pretty impressive.

    “Given any number n, we can find its product n times with polynomial time if there are no factors involved,” said lead author David DeWitt, who worked on this project while he was a graduate student there.

    But what about factorizing larger numbers?

    “We showed you could do it, but not without some extra effort,” DeWitt said.

    To prove this, they used a technique called Monte Carlo integration, where they simulated millions or billions of different inputs from thousands of computers running various versions of Java.

    They then ran their algorithm through all possible combinations of input values until it found the best one.

    “The result shows that even though our system doesn’t solve every single case, it does get close enough to be useful.”

Or fake movie sequel announcement,

    Fox announces Firefly Season 2 revival, original cast returning

    The network has announced that the second season of Joss Whedon’s cult sci-fi series will return for a new run in 2018.

    “Fans have been asking us to bring back Firefly, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about this opportunity,” said Chris Albrecht, president of programming at Fox. “We are excited to continue our relationship with Joss, who is one of the most creative minds working today on television, as well as his amazing cast, which includes Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher, Adrianne Palicki, Tricia Helfer, Jewel Staite, Michael Trucco, and many more.”

    In addition to Whedon himself, executive producers include Damon Lindelof, Maurissa Tancharoen, Vince Gilligan, David Fury, Jeffrey Bell, Greg Plageman, Scott M. Gimple, Heather Kadin, Andrew Chambliss, John Rogers, and Ron Moore.

    “The show was an instant hit when it debuted over 20 years ago, but its popularity only grew after the success of ‘Serenity,’ so we’re very pleased to welcome fans into another chapter of their lives,” added Feige.

Article is well worth reading.  While GPT-2 had pretty obvious errors to even people unfamiliar with the topics it generated fake articles about, I think CTRL can fool non-experts on a variety of topics, especially with minor editing to remove any 'gross' errors.

General Comments / Warren's Medicare for All plan
« on: November 02, 2019, 02:05:32 PM »
Here is a summary of her plan as described by an author at Fast Company.  I haven't dug into the authors math - some seem like they are being expressed as their 'over 10 years' cost, and others seem annual (Overseas Contingency Operations fund).

Continuing our current healthcare system would cost $52 trillion over 10 years. Warren’s plan will cost the same amount—but insure everyone while axing family healthcare costs to near zero. Here’s where the money would come from each year:

    $2.3 trillion: Income from collecting taxes currently not paid due to evasion and fraud, which is roughly 15% of all taxes.
    $3.8 trillion: Fees on financial firms and large companies, including a financial transaction fee such as a small tax (one-tenth of 1%) on sales of stocks, bonds, and derivatives, assessed on firms (not investors). She also proposes removing some corporate tax loopholes.
    $8.8 trillion: Taxes on companies, meant to reroute what they currently pay anyway for employee health insurance. Warren says they would save $20 billion a year.
    $3 trillion: Taxes on the wealthy, including 6 cents per dollar on all net worth over $1 billion, as well as a 1% tax on capital gains every year, for which the tax rate would rise to income tax levels.
    $80 billion: Most of what is currently allocated ($116 billion) for the military Overseas Contingency Operations fund each year, a “slush fund” that makes up roughly 10% of all federal discretionary spending. Warren proposes shutting it down and repurposing most of it toward insurance.

Here is her post on medium describing it in more detail,

General Comments / Do you think Nixon was innocent of wrong doing?
« on: October 28, 2019, 09:04:58 PM »
For those of you who feel that the current investigation is a 'witch hunt' and that Trump did 'nothing wrong' - do you also believe that Nixon did nothing wrong?

General Comments / Employer required attendance at political rally?
« on: September 06, 2019, 03:13:05 PM »
Union workers at Shell's petrochemical plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, were required to attend President Donald Trump's speech at the facility on Tuesday, lest they not be paid, according to a report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The paper reported that workers at Royal Dutch Shell's ethylene cracker plant—which is still unfinished and is currently the largest construction project in Pennsylvania—were told that they had to arrive at 7 a.m., scan their ID cards and wait for hours to hear the president speak in order to be paid.

When reached for comment, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith pushed back on some of the assertions in the report, namely that workers who chose not to attend the speech would be allowed a "non-paid absence."

Those not in attendance would "take paid time off (PTO), instead," Smith wrote.

Smith also claimed that the event "was treated as a training (work day)," the only notable departure from traditional training sessions being that Tuesday's program included "a guest speaker who happened to be the President."

Should businesses be able to host political rallys and make part of employee wages contingent on attendance?

This seems like mandated political speech - I can't believe that it is, or should be legal.

General Comments / US Marshals as student loan debt collectors???
« on: August 22, 2019, 11:36:32 AM »
Texas congressman Gene Green explained to Fox 26 that the federal government has been contracting out student-loan collections to private debt collectors, who are allowed to deploy the U.S. marshals as their enforcement arm. “There’s bound to be a better way to collect on a student loan debt,” said the congressman. Around Houston, that “better way” involves 1,200 to 1,500 arrest warrants. Student debt is at an all time high in the U.S., where students hold an average of $35,000 in federal debt, according to an analysis of government data on Edvisors.

In 2007, the crime-riddled nation of Ecuador did something surprising: It legalized the gangs that had been the source of much of the violence. Then something even more surprising happened over the next decade: Murder rates plummeted.


The country allowed the gangs to remake themselves as cultural associations that could register with the government, which in turn allowed them to qualify for grants and benefit from social programming, just like everybody else.


It turned out they’d undergone a stunning transformation. The members were still very active in their gangs, but these were functioning more like social movements or cultural groups. Previously violent Latin Kings were working in everything from catering to crime analysis. And they were collaborating with other gangs they’d warred with in the past.

I'm curious what a deeper analysis would reveal - I'd be concerned about the gangs using legitimate businesses for money laundering, smuggling, etc.  If it is a legitimate transformation though, then it is pretty amazing.


A new book is alleging that Biden's son Hunter and his partners would time meetings to take place shortly before Vice President Biden would have official meetings and negotiations,

Given that many nations engage in quid pro quo corruption, the Chinese may have interpreted this as a means to influence the negotiations and thus provided favorable deals to Hunter and his partners that he might not otherwise have received.

So, first off - assuming that the deal or lack thereof given to Hunter had no impact on international negotiations, do you think that Hunter and his partners did anything illegal?  What about unethical?

If it isn't illegal, should it be?

Here is his letter of resignation,

Trump first announced the news of Mattis' departure on Twitter, portraying it as a retirement. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., attempted an optimistic view, saying he hoped the general's "decision to resign was motivated solely by a desire to enjoy a well deserved retirement."

That sentiment was quickly replaced, however, after Rubio read Mattis' letter — which did not include any praises or compliments of the president and implicitly criticized the president's military judgment.

To Rubio, the letter "makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation,damage our alliances & empower our adversaries." He also pressed for more oversight of the executive branch by Congress.

Someone in China watched an episode of Black Mirror and said "that's a great idea!",

Hangzhou rolled out its personal credit system earlier this year, rewarding “pro-social behaviors” such as volunteer work and blood donations while punishing those who violate traffic laws and charge under-the-table fees. By the end of May, people with bad credit in China have been blocked from booking more than 11 million flights and 4 million high-speed train trips, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.

According to the Beijing government’s plan, different agencies will link databases to get a more detailed picture of every resident’s interactions across a swathe of services. The proposal calls for agencies including tourism bodies, business regulators and transit authorities to work together

Should there be required disclosure for paid protestors?  Or similar paid lobbying and influence campaigns?  (Paying people to contact and try and persuade senators, etc.)

Someone on facebook had posted a meme claiming that a man had a ".00321%" chance of being falsely accused of rape.

So I figured I'd do some back of the envelope estimates.

Lower bound estimate is 2% of rape reports are false allegations, most credible studies are in the 10-20% range, and there are 100,000 criminal allegations per year. 10- 20% * 100,000 = 10,000 to 20,000 false allegations per year - and if you use lifetime risk (say age 16-66 a 50 year span) 50 years * (10-20,000) = 500,000 to 1,000,000 men falsely accused in their lifetime.  And US adult male population in that age range is about 100 million, that is about a .5-1% lifetime risk of a false allegation.

That is only criminal allegations - false accusations are far more likely in the unreported allegations.

This is really impressive, the AI makes a phone call, sets an appointment answers questions about relevant details, offers alternatives, etc.

Here is a more complete video that shows a second example (at 3 minutes) with lots of unexpected replies and someone with a poor master of english from a restaurant owner and it handles it gracefully.

While it is a narrow domain, this seems essentially passing the turing test.

Russian government hackers (same group that targeted Podestra) posed as ISIS threatening military wives and their familes.

"Dear Angela!" the Facebook message read. "Bloody Valentine's Day!"

"We know everything about you, your husband and your children," the message continued, claiming that the hackers operating under the flag of Islamic State militants had penetrated her computer and her phone. "We're much closer than you can even imagine."

Ricketts was one of five military wives who received death threats from the self-styled CyberCaliphate on the morning of Feb. 10, 2015. The warnings led to days of anguished media coverage of Islamic State militants' online reach.

Except it wasn't IS.

The Associated Press has found evidence that the women were targeted not by jihadists but by the same Russian hacking group that intervened in the American election and exposed the emails of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta.

General Comments / OSC is on Quora
« on: April 22, 2018, 10:53:57 AM »
Looks like he has been here for a number of months now.  Browsing his answers - mostly one off paragraphs without much substance but the occassional interesting answer.


Cohen abandoned the suits late Wednesday as he continues to fight to recover documents and electronic files seized from his home, office and hotel room last week by federal authorities as part of what appears to be a broad criminal investigation into his conduct.

"The decision to voluntarily discontinue these cases was a difficult one," Cohen's attorney David Schwartz said. "We believe the defendants defamed my client, and vindicating Mr. Cohen’s rights was — and still remains — important. But given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention, and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits."

If the documents seized prove that he did go to Prague, what would be the consequences had he continued the suits?

I really like this, when a news article is linked at reddit,

They have  bot that gives a list of other links to articles by other news outlets about the same story (so you can see how the headlines are reporting the same story differently, etc.)

General Comments / Justice and murder by the mentally ill
« on: April 18, 2018, 02:22:19 PM »
On facebook, a relative posted a story that a woman who killed her child and then attempted suicide is being sentenced to life (someone apparently the various people commenting had known).  There were a number of comments by people that they were glad that 'justice' had occurred for the child.

To me the word justice in this context seems entirely wrong.

General Comments / Racism or rational response to trespassing
« on: April 15, 2018, 09:26:31 PM »
Two African-American men were arrested for trespassing after they were asked to either order something or to leave and refused to do either.  Then when the police show up, they also refused to leave and were arrested.

Starbucks has a district by district policy on loitering and trespassing.

So in my district we have a new directive from our DM where the shifts are supposed to go around the lobby every few hours and kick out people who are loitering (basically, everyone who hangs out for a few hours studying or working in the lobby) or those who are relaxing in-store but who haven't bought anything. I can see why corporate doesn't want non-paying people using the store's resources, but I feel like this is a really bad look for Starbucks and the "welcoming" brand image that we are supposedly about.

Thursday. A store manager had asked the two men to leave after they attempted to use the bathroom but had not made any purchases, police said. The men said they were waiting for a friend, their attorney later said. The manager then called 911 for assistance, the company said.

“They’re not free to leave. We’re done with that,” an officer replies. “We asked them to leave the first time.” The two men stand up to be cuffed. They do not appear to resist.

Also another discussion at reddit on the recent arrest - a few (white) people have mentioned that they have been asked to leave if they haven't ordered anything as well.

So it isn't clear to me that racism was a motivating factor, it seems the manager was simply enforcing a recently enacted corporate policy against loitering, and the gentlemen refused to comply, so the manager called the police - something typical in this sort of situation.  Then they refused to obey the police when asked to leave, and so were arrested for trespassing.

So what do you think?  Was racism a likely factor?  What should a manager do if individuals loitering refuse to order or leave?  What should police do when individuals refuse to leave after being asked by the police?

General Comments / Sinclair group propoganda video
« on: April 02, 2018, 01:20:23 PM »
Wow, this is creepy.  Sinclair Group instructed all of the 'news' stations they own to make the same statement, and they were put together into a single video.

It is the ultimate in irony.

General Comments / Uber self-driving car hits and kills pedestrian
« on: March 19, 2018, 02:25:03 PM »
There was a safety driver, so it might have been unavoidable (such as a person running out from between vehicles).  Uber has suspended their self-driving cars from all public testing for now.

Apparently Trump has required administration employees (White House staffers) to sign NDA's - can they have any legal force?  I would think they would be null and void.

President Donald Trump required senior White House staff members to sign nondisclosure agreements that not only threatened stiff financial penalties for violations, but extended far beyond Trump's time in office, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus reported on Sunday.

According to a draft agreement Marcus said she viewed, violators could face $10 million penalties for each unauthorized release of "confidential information," though it's possible the final NDAs reduced the penalty amount. The agreement applied not only to staffers' White House tenures but "all times thereafter."

General Comments / Are in person prison visitations a right?
« on: December 12, 2017, 06:05:26 PM »
Apparently some prisons are ending in person visits and requiring instead that all contact is via a skype equivalent, etc.

Do you think this is legal, and if so do you think it should be allowed?

General Comments / Arrests and political speech
« on: November 20, 2017, 02:31:00 PM »
Karen Fonseca, a woman in Texas, had "*censored* Trump and *censored* you for voting for him" as a laminate on the rear window of her truck in Texas.  The local sheriff took offense, and posted a partial photo to track the truck down.

She was then arrested "on an outstanding fraud warrant issued from a nearby town".*censored*-trump-decal-debacle

Since it was clear from his facebook posting that his intent was to retaliate for political speech - what implication does that have, even though the arrest is for a valid outstanding warrant?

General Comments / Georgia special election shenanigans
« on: October 26, 2017, 06:34:58 PM »
A server and its backups, believed to be key to a pending federal lawsuit filed against Georgia election officials, was thoroughly deleted according to e-mails recently released under a public records request.

Georgia previously came under heavy scrutiny after a researcher discovered significant problems with his home state’s voting system. A lawsuit soon followed in state court, asking the court to annul the results of the June 20 special election for Congress and to prevent Georgia’s existing computer-based voting system from being used again. The case, Curling v. Kemp, was filed in Fulton County Superior Court on July 3.

As the Associated Press reported Thursday, the data was initially destroyed on July 7 by the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, the entity tasked with running the Peach State’s elections.

The new e-mails, which were sent by the Coalition for Good Governance to Ars, show that Chris Dehner, one of the Information Security staffers, e-mailed his boss, Stephen Gay, to say that the two backup servers had been "degaussed three times."

No one from Kennesaw State University, including Dehner or Gay, immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment as to who ordered the servers to be wiped and why it was done.

Apparently the FBI 'should' have a backup.

One woman told investigators that she overheard Adam Lanza threaten his mother. She said that he "had an assault weapon and that she was scared of him." She said she overheard Lanza say that he "planned to kill his mother and children at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut."

According to investigators' interview notes, she said she called Newtown police and Sandy Hook and told them about the threats, but police said Lanza's mother owned the firearms and there was nothing they could do; they were told to call state police.

General Comments / Supreme Court Gerrymandering
« on: October 04, 2017, 03:10:22 PM »
Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse have filed a 'friend of the court brief' regarding the gerrymandering case before the Supreme Court.  Well worth reading

Friend of the court brief

General Comments / A well qualified nominee for USPTO
« on: August 28, 2017, 03:33:49 PM »
While I think there is a strong chance his enforcement and policies will contrary to what I think are best/correct, he seems like a highly qualified and competent individual,

ncu has been a partner at Irell & Manella since 2004 and was an associate at the firm for five years earlier.

His most notable work in the tech sector is likely his representation of TiVo Corp. in its long-running patent battles with companies like EchoStar, Motorola, Microsoft, Verizon, and Cisco. TiVo ultimately succeeded in compelling those defendants to pay up for its pioneering DVR patents, and payments to TiVo ultimately totaled more than $1.6 billion, according to Iancu's biography page.

Iancu also had a hand in Immersion Corp's $82 million jury verdict against Sony Computer Entertainment in which a jury found that Immersion's patent claims on tactile feedback technology were valid and infringed.

Those big wins aside, most of Iancu's work has been on the defense side. He has represented eBay in a case against Acacia Research Corp., a large publicly traded non-practicing entity, and he worked for Hewlett-Packard when it defended against Xerox patent claims.

He has also worked in the medical device area, enforcing patents for St Jude Medical on vascular closure devices.

Iancu represented Ariosa Diagnostics in a case against Sequenom and succeeded in invalidating a genetic testing patent. The Sequenom decision was not popular among biotech companies and the lawyers who represent them.


ancu earned his JD, along with an MS in mechanical engineering and a BS in aerospace engineering, from UCLA. He worked as an engineer at Hughes Aircraft before attending law school.

Handling the business of a large and successful law firm like Irell & Manella means that Iancu is no slouch when it comes to management skills.

The American Civil Liberties Union, taking a tougher stance on armed protests, will no longer defend hate groups seeking to march with firearms, the group’s executive director said.

Following clashes over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., the civil-rights group also will screen clients more closely for the potential of violence at their rallies, said Anthony Romero, who has been the ACLU’s executive director since 2001.

The ACLU’s Virginia branch defended the right of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other groups under the banner “Unite the Right” to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park.


“If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else,” Mr. Romero said, adding that the decision was in keeping with a 2015 policy adopted by the ACLU’s national board in support  of “reasonable” firearm regulation.

Mr. Romero said the ACLU would continue to deal with requests by white-supremacist groups and others for legal help on a case-by-case basis. “It’s neither a blanket no or a blanket yes,” he said.

General Comments / Uber v Waymo
« on: August 16, 2017, 03:30:06 PM »
Looks like the smoking gun has been found,

Today, Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven said that his team learned only on June 28 that Epiq, a litigation support firm that works for Uber and its law firm Morrison Foerster, had "a complete copy of the image of Levandowski's devices."

"We’ve been trying to get these documents since the outset of this case, and we still don’t have them," Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven told US District Judge William Alsup.

Uber attorney Arturo Gonzalez protested that Waymo's explanation was misleading. It's true that a digital forensics firm, Stroz Friedberg, imaged Levandowski's devices as part of Uber's acquisition. But only a "tiny sliver" of those images came into Morrison Foerster's offices, where they were reviewed by a single associate.

So Uber has been denying from the outset that they had Google's documents.  The fact that MoFo had hard drive images all along likely containing the documents and failed to disclose this - wow.

This seems extremely bad for MoFo - can the lawyers here comment?  This seems extremely damaging.

General Comments / Yanez shooting of Castile verdict
« on: June 22, 2017, 06:29:08 PM »
Do you think the verdict was 'right'?

Personally there was a lot of errors by both Yanez and Castile.

Yanez suspected him of being a robber and thus should have done a high risk stop procedure.

Yanez orders could have been much clearer.

Castile should have realized that reaching for his wallet that was in the same proximity as his gun would have been interpreted as reaching for his gun.

Castile should have followed standard procedure for being stopped with concealed carry.

My interpretation of events is that Yanez saw the gun before Castile declared that he had it - we see Yanez reach for his gun before Castille gets to the word firearm.  I think Castile was reaching for his wallet in his rear pocket and was somewhat high and not realizing that his actions were being interpreted as reaching for his gun.

While Castile says "i'm not reaching for it" - anyone familiar with police shootings will realize that people reaching for their gun ALSO say they aren't reaching for it.  So that isn't something that could or should have been considered by Yanez.

I've heard people say that with the girlfriend and child in the car that obviously even if Castile had been the robber, he wouldn't reach for his gun since that could endanger them.  Unfortunately that isn't the case - people who do robberies usually have no compunction about putting familiy in danger if they think it can benefit them.  So while Castile wasn't the robber, again the presence of the girlfriend and child would not be a deterrent if he had been the robber, and again not something that Yanez should have weighed in his decision.

Top Secret NSA analyst's report published by The Intercept suggests that, in August 2016, the Russian General Main Staff Intelligence Directorate (GRU) hacked into an election-related hardware and software vendor in the US. The GRU then used data from the company for at least two "spear phishing" campaigns against local government officials associated with elections—including one attack close to the election that appeared to target officials dealing with absentee ballots.


The first was a wave of e-mails on October 31 and November 1 sent to 122 local election officials whose e-mail addresses may have been harvested from a compromised vendor e-mail account. The e-mails delivered otherwise legitimate Microsoft Word documents from the company that gave instructions on how to use software to check a voter's registration status. The files had been "Trojanized" with Visual Basic for Applications code that accessed a malicious website and may have installed espionage malware on the targets' computers.


Whether or not the attacks actually compromised the computers of election officials and any other voting data has not been determined. The dates do not match up with previously reported attacks on state election officials.

A new book out by Representative Ken Buck,

essentially he asserts that to hold chairs and seats on committees require the politician to raise certain amounts of funds, and also for congressman that fail to raise funds will have their opponents funded.

Here is an excerpt,

As it is, some members of Congress spend at least half their time fundraising to keep their dues paid and campaign coffers full. If you become the chair of a B committee—congratulations—you’re now expected to raise $875,000 a year for the NRCC. Chairing an A committee means you must raise $1.2 million. The higher your role in the House leadership, the higher the price tag:

Deputy Whip   $2.5 million
Conference Chair   $5 million
Whip   $5 million
Majority Leader   $10 million
Speaker   $20 million

When representatives don’t pay their “dues” or fall behind, they are pressured to pay up—or else. It’s happened to me, and I’ve heard similar stories from countless others.

Candidates’ ability to raise cash is largely influenced by how well they play the game with leadership, and if you don’t pay your dues, you can’t use the NRCC call suites (or other benefits like the NRCC recording studios) to raise money.

To make matters worse, the NRCC got caught using those pay-to-play funds to support a recount effort against a conservative candidate in a Republican primary in 2016. When Andy Biggs ran to replace the retiring Matt Salmon in Arizona’s Fifth District, he narrowly defeated the moderate opponent in the primary, former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones.

The NRCC has a longstanding policy to not meddle in primary elections, a promise affirmed to me in person by leadership. Yet the NRCC paid more than $300,000 in legal fees to fund Jones’s recount effort. After Biggs won the recount by twenty-seven votes and won again in the general election, the NRCC offered to lower his dues and write a check to his campaign for the same amount that they gave his opponent.

I felt the same sting from my own party in 2010 when the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) gave my opponent $500,000 in the primary race. She used that money to label me as anti-woman, a theme my Democratic opponent was only too happy to capitalize on in the general election.

Should this be legal?  Is it legal?

General Comments / The real motivation for ACA repeal
« on: April 21, 2017, 06:02:16 PM »
Apparently the parliamentary rules require that a permanent tax cut (as opposed to a tax cut with a sunset provision) must be revenue neutral over a 10 year horizon.  So by cutting ACA and medicare they can make a permanent tax cut at the same time.

To what extent should private organizations be able to create their own police forces and what authority should they have?  Schools? Churches? Businesses?

General Comments / Iran dropping the dollar as reserve currency
« on: February 03, 2017, 06:10:30 PM »

One of my predictions of a Trump Presidency was that the US dollar could lose its status as reserve currency status.

China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia all have the potential for ending the dollars reserve status.

Under Trump - Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China all have motivation to do so.

If that happens, the purchasing power of the dollar will likely plummet.

Going through silly amounts of courses at online learning sites this past couple of weeks.  Found out Lynda was free through my local library; Udemy had a Christmas sale for a few courses I was interested in; and skillshare has a 'first 3 months for .99$" deal.

My impressions are

Udemy - the courses I've tried are generally well worth the discounted price (10$).  Generally professionally put together.  There is a truly excellent guitar teaching course.

Skillshare - enormous variety of quality; some absolute dreck and some superb content; a large number of Udemy folks have put their same courses on skillshare (though often cut up into more 'classes').  There isn't a good way to navigate the material to separate the wheat from the chaff - the truly awful stuff so far has been in music production; graphic design, t-shirt design and manufacture, and publishing have had excellent content; and some excellent content in music learning.

Lynda - everything seems 'reasonable' quality - nothing amazing and nothing horrible that I've watched so far - though admittedly I've focused my attention on skillshare for the most part.  It also is horrible to find what you want except for their guided paths.  Their guided paths seem to have major holes suggesting a lack of knowledge of the instructors (no mention of Scrivener for their writing and publishing courses??).

Coursera - generally excellent quality, with a focus on wide range of academic topics (though very little artistic and creative type content).  Usually professional quality recording.

Udacity - generally excellent quality, with a focus on programming related topics.  Usually professional quality recording.

General Comments / AI can now beat the best players in the world at HUNL
« on: January 31, 2017, 05:19:48 PM »
Librautus won by 1.7 million against 4 of the top Heads Up No Limit players in the word, so another of the AI challenges has fallen.  I figure Starcraft will fall this year or next year. Fortunately we will still have calvinball!

General Comments / Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning sentence
« on: January 17, 2017, 07:16:34 PM »
I was a bit pleasantly surprised at this,

I do wish he had done the same for Snowden, but can understand the reasoning behind not doing so.

A Charleston, South Carolina, judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a white South Carolina police officer on trial for the video-taped shooting of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man. The video was secretly taken last year by a passerby, and it has been viewed online millions of times. This week, after four days of deliberations, the 12-member jury announced it was hopelessly deadlocked.

General Comments / The result of flipping 1 voter per 100
« on: November 10, 2016, 12:18:40 PM »
Interesting point by 538,

Essentially the results and narrative change dramatically if just 1 in 100 voters voted differently in the election.

General Comments / Election Humor
« on: November 09, 2016, 10:36:41 AM »
So there were some humous quotes in the other thread, but thought would be 'fun' to have one dedicated to them.

Saw this on facebook


General Comments / What if Trump withdraws from the election?
« on: October 08, 2016, 03:08:47 PM »
There is apparently pressure on Trump to 'step down'.  If that happens (though given his personality I think it unlikely), who is the Republican nominee?  How would that be decided?

If he withdraws do you think that will significantly hurt Clinton's chances or improve them?

As pressure mounts for Donald Trump to step aside, the Republican presidential nominee told the Washington Post on Saturday that he would "never withdraw."

“I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life,” Trump told the Post Saturday.. “No, I’m not quitting this race. I have tremendous support.”

General Comments / October Surprises
« on: October 07, 2016, 09:51:36 PM »
So we have the sexist video of Trump and his tax return

And for Clinton we have the release of o batch (2000+ out of over 50,000 apparently to come) of the Podestra emails (Clinton's campaign manager) - allegedly containing one or more of her speeches; and dirty tricks directed at Sanders.

General Comments / PSVR vs Oculus vs HTC Vive vs MS Hololens vs
« on: September 29, 2016, 08:54:52 PM »
Looks like the local best buy will have the Oculus demo set up by the start of next week, and the PSVR sales person comes by regularly so I'll get to try them both out soon.  Gamestop and Micro Center have HTC Vives.

Anyone tried out all three?

From online opinions of the PSVR the 'PS Move' controls are horrid, so it is really only good for games that only use the controller.  The visual quality is definitely inferior to the other two systems, but once immersed in game isn't really noticeable.

From the reviews as arstechnica, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both seem excellent with the Rift having superior headset design, and the Vive having better controller design.

HoloLens is augmented reality rather than virtual reality - it doesn't seem nearly as far along as the other three at this time and the cost seems likely to sink it.  'Select Microsoft stores' will have hololens demos, but it isn't clear when/where etc.

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