Daily Archives: March 27, 2018

A little garbage can cause aquatic ecosystems to waste away. Stash your trash, and keep the waterways #CleanAndGreen. https://dbw.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=29246

A little garbage can cause aquatic ecosystems to waste away. Stash your trash, and keep the waterways #CleanAndGreen. https://dbw.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=29246

A little garbage can cause aquatic ecosystems to waste away. Stash your trash, and keep the waterways #CleanAndGreen.


Watch “The Key to Understanding Facebook’s Current Crisis” on YouTube

Zuckerberg’s refusal to testify before UK MPs ‘absolutely astonishing’


” Este ca si cum furnica ar trage la raspundere pe elefant că a călcat şi strivit un milion de furnici ieri inainte de masă, în drum spre apă! :)”

Zuckerberg’s refusal to testify before UK MPs ‘absolutely astonishing’
Dan Sabbagh

Mark Zuckerberg has come under intense criticism from the UK parliamentary committee investigating fake news after the head of Facebook refused an invitation to testify in front of MPs for a third time.

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The chair, Damian Collins, said it had become more urgent the Facebook founder give evidence in person after oral evidence provided by the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Christopher Wylie.

The MP said: “I think, given the extraordinary evidence we’ve heard so far today, it is absolutely astonishing that Mark Zuckerberg is not prepared to submit himself to questioning in front of a parliamentary or congressional hearing, given these are questions of fundamental importance and concern to his users, as well as to this inquiry.

“I would certainly urge him to think again if he has any care for people that use his company’s services.”

Zuckerberg has been invited three times to speak to the committee, which is investigating the effects of fake news on UK democracy, but has always sent deputies to testify in his stead.

MPs are likely to take a still dimmer view of his decision if he decides to testify before Congress in the US. It was reported on Tuesday that he may do so, with CNN suggesting that he has bowed to public pressure and that the company is now considering strategy for his testimony.

Previously, when the committee travelled to Washington DC in February to obtain oral evidence from US companies, Facebook flew over its UK policy director rather than send a high-level executive to speak to the committee.

In response to the latest request, Facebook has suggested one of two executives could speak to parliament: Chris Cox, the company’ chief product officer, who is in charge of the Facebook news feed, or Mike Schroepfer, the chief technology officer, who heads up the developer platform.

However, Theresa May declined to back Collins. Pressed by the committee chairman at the Commons liaison committee later in the day, the prime minister said “Mr Zuckerberg will decide for himself” whether to give evidence to parliament.

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She said the Cambridge Analytica affair “raises very deep concern in terms of what is suggested” and repeatedly said it was for Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and any individuals involved to “cooperate fully” with the information commissioner.

The company’s head of public policy, Rebecca Stimson, said in a letter to Collins: “Facebook fully recognises the level of public and parliamentary interest in these issues and support your belief that these issues must be addressed at the most senior levels of the company by those in an authoritative position to answer your questions. As such, Mr Zuckerberg has personally asked one of his deputies to make themselves available.”

Both men, Stimson wrote, “report directly to Mr Zuckerberg and are among the longest-serving senior representatives in Facebook’s 15-year history. Both of them have extensive expertise in these issues and are well placed to answer the committee’s questions on these complex subjects.”

During Tuesday’s committee hearing, Wylie suggested Facebook may have been aware of the large-scale harvesting of data carried out by Cambridge Analytica’s partner GSR even earlier than had been previously reported.

“I remember, and I think this was in around July 2014, [Aleksandr Kogan, GSR’s founder] was delayed for a couple of days because Facebook had throttled the app so that it couldn’t pull as much data, or there was some problem with pulling the data at the same speed as before.

“He told me he had had a conversation with some engineers at Facebook. So Facebook would have known from that moment about the project because he had a conversation with Facebook’s engineers, or at least that’s what he told me.”

It took until 2015 for Facebook to take action on the data-harvesting project, after a Guardian article detailing GSR’s data abuse in support of the Ted Cruz campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

And it was not until last week, after Facebook had again been notified by the Observer about the harvesting, that the company released a statement noting that “the entire company is outraged that we were deceived”.

Wylie also claimed that Palantir, a national security contractor owned by the Facebook board member Peter Thiel, was allowed informal access to the Facebook data harvested by GSR.

“We actually had several meetings with Palantir,” Wylie said. “There were senior Palantir employees that were also working on the Facebook data. That was not an official contract between Palantir and CA, but there were Palantir staff who would come into the office and work on the data. And we would go and meet with Palantir staff at Palantir.”

Despite the confidentiality agreements he entered into with Cambridge Analytica, Wylie described Facebook’s attempts to kill last week’s story as being the most forceful.

“The most amount of legal pushback that I’ve got actually wasn’t from Cambridge Analytica, it was from Facebook. It’s Facebook who’s most upset about this story,” he said.

“They sent some fairly intimidating legal correspondence. They haven’t taken action on that. I think, I’m not sure exactly what they’re planning to do. They’ve gone silent, they won’t talk to me any more.”

Testifying alongside Wylie was Paul-Olivier Dehaye, the co-founder of personaldata.io, who has been fighting to force the social network to apply European data protection law. Dehaye revealed that Facebook repeatedly tried to argue it was exempt from fulfilling “subject access” requirements, which allow individuals to see the data that companies hold about them, because it would be too expensive to comply.

“They’re invoking exceptions … involving disproportionate effort,” Dehaye said. “They’re saying it’s too much effort to give me access to my data. I find that quite intriguing, because they’re making a technical and a business argument as to why I shouldn’t have access to this data.

“In the technical argument they’re shooting themselves in the foot, because they’re saying they’re so big the cost would be too large to provide me data.”

In effect, Dehaye said, Facebook told him it was too big to regulate. “They’re really arguing that they’re too big to comply with data protection law, the cost is too high, which is mind-boggling that they wouldn’t see the direction they’re going there. Do they really want to make this argument?”

Democrats call on Cambridge Analytica head to testify again before Congress
The Guardian
MPs summon Mark Zuckerberg, saying Facebook misled them
The Guardian
Cambridge Analytica misled MPs over work for Leave.EU, says ex-director
The Guardian
Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to face MPs is ‘absolutely astonishing’
Sky News
Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg has flunky tell UK MPs: Nope, he’s sending someone else
The Register

Greece: Yanis Varoufakis launches political party | Greece

Greece: Yanis Varoufakis launches political party

Varoufakis served as the Greek finance minister for six months in 2015 [Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]
Athens, Greece – When Yanis Varoufakis launched the “Democracy in Europe Movement 2025”, or DiEM25, two years ago, he said Europe’s democratic deficit needed to be tackled as a continental problem.

His six-month tenure as Greece’s finance minister the previous year had convinced him that national governments lacked either the willpower or the clout to change Europe.

“The sovereignty of national parliaments has been dissolved by the eurozone and the Eurogroup,” he said at the time, referring – respectively – to the European Union’s monetary union and the body where its finance ministers meet.

On Monday, Varoufakis announced that he is founding a Greek political party: MeRA25.

This is in keeping with his promise to bring his transnational movement down to the national level in due course, where elections take place.

His goal is to mount a pan-European movement by 2025 that will overturn the European establishment which, in his words,

“is becoming ever more toxic, class-oriented, powerless and discredited.”

He still draws energy and bile from those formative months in office, when Greece’s government led by the Syriza, a left-wing party, went up against the country’s creditors in the eurozone and lost.

Varoufakis broke ranks with Syriza in July 2015, after the party capitulated to a third bailout loan with more austerity terms attached.

“What wounded the dream of 2015 was not so much the third memorandum,” he says, using Greek shorthand for the bailout loan.

“It was the sight of its implementation by Syriza – the vision of the left implementing austerity in the name of overcoming it.

“Hearing [current Finance Minister] Euclid Tsakalotos saying that austerity will be chased away by the prosperity austerity will bring is unbearable.”

DiEM25 vision
DiEM25 has fielded Benoit Hamon, the recent socialist presidential candidate in France, and author Lorenzo Marsili in Italy.

The starting gun for a pan-European election went off last year, when French President Emmanuel Macron suggested using the 73 European Parliament seats vacated by British MEPs to launch a new category of transnational MEPs, who will be elected in several EU member states at once.

The EU could thus seek to reclaim its legitimacy as a democratic institution, but it is also an opportunity for the Eurofederalist Varoufakis, who watched the eurozone emasculate the Greek parliament in 2015.

“We watched government MPs vote for measures they say they disagree with, and opposition MPs vote against them saying they will implement them when they come to power,” Varoufakis told the 600-odd people gathered in a theatre in central Athens.

“That’s a comedy farce. But do you know what we’ll do? Even as they convert our parliament into a comedy farce, we shall convert theatres such as this into parliaments,” he said to thunderous applause.

“You cannot have a common coinage without a common foreign and defence policy,” said author Vasilis Vasilikos, a member of DiEM25, reflecting Greece’s current concerns in the Aegean Sea.

“That’s how, ‘Europe’ lost two letters and became just ‘euro’,” he told Al Jazeera. “In 2025, our movement will bear fruit and solve the problem of Europe which is not Greek, but eminently European.”

WATCH:Greek parliament approves more austerity measures in bailout bid (2:30)
Austerity has alienated most Greeks from Europe, even though this had been one of the most Europhilic societies since joining the European Economic Community in 1981.

According to the latest Eurobarometer poll, three-quarters of Greeks do not trust European institutions – the highest level in the EU, and higher even than in Britain, which has voted to leave the bloc.

Partly as a result of austerity, Greece lost more than a quarter of its economy over eight years – an unprecedented record among developed economies since World War II.

Unemployment skyrocketed to 28 percent and remains officially at 22 percent.

“I decided to join DiEM25 because I’ve decided it’s time to act,” said an actress who signed up to the party. “We have to form an alternative proposal and put it across in an organised way,”

“I like to think that my friends and coworkers will stop hanging their heads and lowering their eyes, and will be able to regain hope for a better life,” she told Al Jazeera.

What to do about Greece?
DiEM25’s ground zero can fairly be said to be Greece, the eurozone’s only remaining underperforming economy, which continues to vex policymakers and confound predictions of recovery.

Its policies here, perhaps, are most indicative of its thinking for Europe as a whole.

The party calls for an immediate restructuring of debt, prolonging its repayment period and lowering the amount of money Greece has to spend annually to service it.

Greece currently spends 3.5 percent of its GDP – about $8bn.

Varoufakis suggests a maximum of 1.5 percent. Otherwise, he believes, austerity will recycle itself by depriving the economy of the means to reinvest in itself.

While Syriza ended up signing onto the third bailout loan, with its further austerity measures, Varoufakis says he preferred to declare a unilateral default on debt payments.

With great reluctance, the eurozone succumbed last May to pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider such a debt restructuring.

But it insists on doing it after Greece graduates from its current bailout loan in August, and will not commit to the depth of restructuring that the IMF recommends.

Varoufakis during the presentation of his new party on Monday [Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]
Varoufakis doubts whether Greece will ever really graduate, likening the Eurogroup’s talk of “enhanced oversight” after August to the CIA’s euphemism of “enhanced interrogation” practices.

Varoufakis’ more controversial proposal is to create a taxpayer-owned “bad bank” for Greece’s 105 billion euros’ worth ($130bn) of nonperforming debt, and protect primary residences from repossession – a protection Syriza removed in 2015.

His reasoning is that loans should not be called in by banks while people lack the means to pay, and collateral should not be auctioned while real estate remains depressed (Greek property prices have fallen by an average 40 percent during the crisis).

Banks have already embarked on a plan to reduce their nonperforming portfolio by 40 billion euros (around $50bn) by the end of next year, through a combination of collections, liquidations, sales and write-offs.

Liquidations, controversially, are to amount to 11.5 billion euros ($14bn) and include primary residences.

Varoufakis’ plan would spare those properties, but he did not detail what the cost of such a solution would be to the taxpayer.

Varoufakis also proposes stimulating growth by lowering sales and corporate tax on small businesses, both of which have steadily risen through Greece’s eight-year depression; but he did not provide details of how the lost revenue would be made up.

Greece is projected to grow by 2.4 percent this year, more than it has in a decade, but expectations of 2.7 percent growth last year were bitterly disappointed; the finance ministry’s current estimate of last year’s performance is 1.4 percent.

The lack of any reaction from Greek politicians to Varoufakis’ descent on the political scene suggests how unthreatened they feel.

Two other Syriza cabinet members who thought Greece should leave the eurozone and unilaterally stop servicing its debt formed a splinter party to contest the September 2015 election.

They received 2.86 percent of the vote and did not enter parliament.

Today’s Holiday: Myanmar Armed Forces Day

Today’s Holiday:
Myanmar Armed Forces Day

Throughout most of the 1800s, the Union of Myanmar, known as Burma until 1989, was ruled by the British. Aung San, an outspoken student leader, helped the Japanese oust the British, and the Japanese ruled Burma from 1942 until 1945. On March 27, 1945, he helped the World War II Allied forces remove the Japanese from power. Myanmar celebrates Armed Forces Day on March 27 to commemorate the day that Aung San rebelled against the Japanese. The day is celebrated with a military parade and fireworks. Since 1989, the Tatmadaw has made it a tradition to pardon several prisoners on this day. More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Today’s Birthday: Michael Jackson (1942)

Today’s Birthday:
Michael Jackson (1942)

Not to be confused with the American musician of the same name, English journalist Michael Jackson was arguably the most influential beer and whiskey critic in modern history. He came to prominence after the publication of his influential 1977 book The World Guide to Beer and went on to host a TV show that featured him traveling around the globe sampling various brews. He played an enormous role in the popularization of brewing culture and was especially fond of beers from what country? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

This Day in History: The “Beeching Axe” Decimates British Railways (1963)

This Day in History:
The “Beeching Axe” Decimates British Railways (1963)

In an effort to reduce the cost of running the nationalized railway system of the UK, the British government commissioned a report to find ways to save money. Authored by Dr. Richard Beeching, the report concluded that many of the railway’s lines were costing more to operate than they earned and called for the elimination of unprofitable routes and closure of a large percentage of railway stations. More than 2,000 stations were closed as a result of the “Beeching Axe.” What became of Beeching? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Quote of the Day: Mary Shelley

Quote of the Day:
Mary Shelley

Live, and be happy, and make others so. More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Article of the Day: The Wilhelm Scream

Article of the Day:
The Wilhelm Scream

Often used when a character is plummeting to his death, the Wilhelm scream is a stock sound effect that has been featured in over a hundred films, television shows, and video games since it was first used in the 1951 film Distant Drums. The tradition of inserting the sound into films began when Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt tracked down the original recording—a studio reel labeled “man being eaten by alligator”—and named the sound effect after whom? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Idiom of the Day: a woman of her word

Idiom of the Day:
a woman of her word

A woman who can be expected to keep or follow through with her promises or intentions; a truthful, trustworthy, or reliable person. (Masculine: “man of his word.”) Watch the video…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Word of the Day: wordless

Word of the Day:

Definition: (adjective) Expressed without speech.
Synonyms: mute, unspoken, tongueless
Usage: Never a hearty breakfaster, he had found himself under the influence of her wordless disapproval physically unable to consume the fried egg that confronted him.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch