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Tenth annual report dives deeper into the ways government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion have changed, from 2007 to 2017: “Over the decade from 2007 to 2017, government restrictions on religion – laws, policies and actions by state officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices – increased markedly around the world. And social hostilities involving religion – including violence and harassment by private individuals, organizations or groups – also have risen since 2007, the year Pew Research Center began tracking the issue. Indeed, the latest data shows that 52 governments – including some in very populous countries like China, Indonesia and Russia – impose either “high” or “very high” levels of restrictions on religion, up from 40 in 2007. And the number of countries where people are experiencing the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion has risen from 39 to 56 over the course of the study…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
MIT Sloan Management Review – By examining cybercrime through a value-chain lens, we can better understand how the ecosystem works and find new strategies for combating it. “…Attackers always seem to be one or two steps ahead of the defenders. Are they more technically adept, or do they have a magical recipe for innovation that enables them to move more quickly? If, as is commonly believed, hackers operated mainly as isolated individuals, they would need to be incredibly skilled and fast to create hacks at the frequency we’ve seen. However, when we conducted research in dark web markets, surveyed the literature on cyberattacks, and interviewed cybersecurity professionals, we found that the prevalence of the “fringe hacker” is a misconception. Through this work, we found a useful lens for examining how cybercriminals innovate and operate. The value chain model developed by Harvard Business School’s Michael E. Porter offers a process-based view of business. When applied to cybercrime, it reveals that the dark web — that part of the internet that has been intentionally hidden, is inaccessible through standard web browsers, and facilitates criminal activities — serves as what Porter called a value system. That system includes a comprehensive cyberattack supply chain, which enables hackers and other providers to develop and sell the products and services needed to mount attacks at scale. Understanding how it works provides new, more effective avenues for combating attacks to companies, security service providers, and the defense community at large…”
BBC – “The constant ping of messages that keep us plugged into work chatter might be doing more harm than good. We feel we must respond – it is about work, after all. But always being switched on means we never have the chance to think deeply. And that is a problem for companies that want to get the most out of their employees. The next great revolution in the office will need to correct this, according to one man who wants to reset the way we work. He believes that the value someone can bring to a company will be judged not by their skill, but by their ability to focus. But how do we find the time to shut off distractions and do our best work? Our workplaces are set up for convenience, not to get the best out of our brains, says Cal Newport, bestselling author of books including Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, and a Georgetown University professor. In knowledge sector jobs, where products are created using human intelligence rather than machines, we must be switched on at all times and prepared to multitask. These are two things that are not compatible with deep, creative, insightful thinking.
“In knowledge work, the main resource is the human brain and its ability to produce new information with value,” says Newport. “But we are not good at getting a good return.” Some people swear by multitasking even when we intuitively know that our brains struggle to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Psychologists thought that busy multitaskers possessed abnormal control over their attention. But evidence suggests that multitaskers do not have a particular gift for being able to juggle multiple projects. In fact, in many cognitive tasks, heavy multitaskers underperform. Our brains have a limited capacity for what they can work on at any given moment. And using tricks to cram as much into our working day as possible might be doing more harm than good…”
Barron’s – How much of a company’s journey toward sustainability is driven by the personal passions of its CEO? Based on the conversations Barron’s had recently with several corporate chieftains, quite a lot. That’s one of the insights from our second annual sustainability ranking of public companies… To create the rankings, Calvert Research and Management analyzed the 1,000 largest publicly held U.S. companies (by stock market value) and scored them on more than 200 key indicators and 28 issues. Calvert then sorted the data into five key categories: shareholders, employees, customers, planet, and community. (The shareholders category might include executive compensation, for example, and the customers category might include data security or product safety.) Each corporation received a rating from zero to 100 in each category. Finally, Calvert produced a single rating for all of the companies, weighted according to how material each category is for their industry: Emissions are less critical for a bank’s score than they are for a trucking company’s, for example. It also excluded companies that didn’t meet the Calvert Principles for Responsible Investment…”
Longreads – Jacqueline Alnes – “…I did not request accommodations until the second year of my PhD. For seven years of school, whenever I experienced a flurry of episodes, I’d spend an inordinate amount of time trying to read passages that had once felt joyful to engage with and arrive at class with blurred vision though I looked “just fine.” I managed my symptoms privately. And I am certainly not alone. Applying for accommodations at university, at least in my experience, seems easy in theory, but brings up complications. First, there is the stigma. For years, I worried that if I applied, I would be seen the same way my professor saw me during my undergraduate degree: as being too lazy to finish my work or attend class. I worried about being hired down the road. I feared that professors would see the way I present myself — I try hard to look well, no matter how I’m feeling — and think I was faking. My symptoms have disrupted some of the most sacred and mundane moments of my life without discrimination, but without an official diagnosis, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to apply for accommodations in the first place. Once I did decide to, I had to secure a letter from my neurologist, which I imagine can also be an obstacle for students who lack financial resources for an additional visit or are discriminated against by medical professionals. I wish I had access to S.E. Smith’s empowering guide “How to Get Disability Accommodations at School” when I was learning to advocate for myself. It clearly explains laws, when to apply for accommodations, and how best to do so.
Seeking accommodations in school has been addressed recently in essays like “Could the fallout from the admissions scandal hurt kids with disabilities?” and “The most reprehensible part of the college admissions scandal: faking disability accommodations” because of the college admissions scandal, but I believe this is a conversation we should be having regularly. Students with disabilities should receive accommodations without having to perform exhausting physical and emotional tasks. I will heed the voices of others fighting the same fight and listen to their testimonies as I work as a member of a university to make change. This reading list is a place to start…”
CBSLocalNY: “School has been out for a few weeks, and if you’re worried about your child going through summer brain drain, there are some innovative vending machines opening today that might help them out. When you think vending machines, it’s usually chips and soda. But these are filled with free books, and they’re for everyone, reports CBS2’s Cindy Hsu. The idea is to promote reading for toddlers to 14-year-old readers, especially in under-served communities. Marley Dias, from West Orange, N.J., is 14, and helped unveil the vending machines. “They can take as many as they want, they are free. One hundred percent, and you don’t have to return them,” she said. There are six vending machines throughout the five boroughs, and they’re part of the Soar With Reading program from Jet Blue. “Book ownership does help raise levels of intelligence in kids,” said Dias. “It raises curiosity, it raises their ability to feel conscious, aware and motivated to keep on learning…”
Quartz Obsession: “Google-owned YouTube has a radicalization problem. So does Reddit. Twitter is full of fake news. Facebook is flooded with disinformation. The low-paid moderators hired to stem the tide of false and vile content are burning out. And even if you want to ditch the tech giants altogether, good luck with that—their ad reach can follow you all over the internet. The web was created as an open exchange of information. Today, that dream often seems dead. But on the fifth-most popular website in the world, it’s not only still alive, but it also actually works pretty well. The biggest tech companies on earth rely on it to power search results, fight disinformation and make smart speakers smarter. Wikipedia is fallible, and despite its goal of neutrality and ambition to gather all the world’s information, it is not without bias and conflict. Still, a surprisingly small team of volunteers keeps chipping away at disambiguating the world…”
The Hedgehog Review – Untruth has been spreading with new ease and abandon, and often to undemocratic effect. “Conventional wisdom has it that for democracy to work, it is essential that we—the citizens—agree in some minimal way about what reality looks like. We are not, of course, all required to think the same way about big questions, or believe the same things, or hold the same values; in fact, it is expected that we won’t. But somehow or other, we need to have acquired some very basic, shared understanding about what causes what, what’s broadly desirable, what’s dangerous, and how to characterize what’s already happened.
Some social scientists call this “public knowledge.” Some, more cynically, call it “serviceable truth” to emphasize its contingent, socially constructed quality. Either way, it is the foundation on which democratic politics—in which no one person or institution has sole authority to determine what’s what and all claims are ultimately revisable—is supposed to rest. It is also imagined to be one of the most exalted products of the democratic process. And to a certain degree, this peculiar, messy version of truth has held its own in modern liberal democracies, including the United States, for most of their history…”
LifeHacker – “Gmail has over 80 keyboard shortcuts. You don’t need them all. You do need these 19. Not only are they faster than clicking buttons, they’ll encourage other good habits to help you plow through your inbox. Some of these shortcuts require you to enable keyboard shortcuts in Gmail. Go to Settings, scroll down in the General tab, and select “Keyboard shortcuts on.”…”
The Guardian – The founder of the online classifieds site is a survivor from the era of internet optimism. He has given significant sums to protect the future of news – and rejects the idea his website helped cause journalism’s financial crisis
…Newmark, who has previously observed “a trustworthy press is the immune system of democracy”, prefers not to use the term “fake news” – perhaps it has been tainted for ever by Donald Trump. He reasons: “Some people have said fake news is news that I don’t like, so I will talk about misinformation or disinformation and that is often either false news or false witness, either weaponised information or just carelessness…There is an entire ecosystem at work, he continues, that can enable a falsehood from the obscure reaches of the web to jump on to millions of TV screens with dizzying speed. “It’s a small amount of disinformation originating in some of the social media platforms used by foreign adversaries and their domestic allies. They get amplified: there’s multiple levels including conspiracy sites, then news sites which don’t care about fact-checking. And then once that becomes news, sometimes that emerges into conventional or mainstream media.”…”
Bloomberg – The tech giant doesn’t have to be dismantled. Sharing its crown jewel might reshape the internet. ” Recognition is growing worldwide that something big needs to be done about Big Tech, and fast. More than $8 billion in fines have been levied against Google by the European Union since 2017. Facebook Inc., facing an onslaught of investigations, has dropped in reputation to almost rock bottom among the 100 most visible companies in the U.S. Former employees of Google and Facebook have warned that these companies are “ripping apart the social fabric” and can “hijack the mind.” Adding substance to the concerns, documents and videos have been leaking from Big Tech companies, supporting fears—most often expressed by conservatives—about political manipulations and even aspirations to engineer human values. Fixes on the table include forcing the tech titans to divest themselves of some of the companies they’ve bought (more than 250 by Google and Facebook alone) and guaranteeing that user data are transportable. But these and a dozen other proposals never get to the heart of the problem, and that is that Google’s search engine and Facebook’s social network platform have value only if they are intact. Breaking up Google’s search engine would give us a smattering of search engines that yield inferior results (the larger the search engine, the wider the range of results it can give you), and breaking up Facebook’s platform would be like building an immensely long Berlin Wall that would splinter millions of relationships.
With those basic platforms intact, the three biggest threats that Google and Facebook pose to societies worldwide are barely affected by almost any intervention: the aggressive surveillance, the suppression of content, and the subtle manipulation of the thinking and behavior of more than 2.5 billion people. I’m focused here on Google, which I’ve been studying for more than six years through both experimental research and monitoring projects. (Google is well aware of my work and not entirely happy with me. The company did not respond to requests for comment.) Google is especially worrisome because it has maintained an unopposed monopoly on search worldwide for nearly a decade. It controls 92 percent of search, with the next largest competitor, Microsoft’s Bing, drawing only 2.5%…”
The Nation – How the 45th president has packed the courts with ultraconservatives—and reshaped the judiciary for a generation. “…Trump’s Court—the collection of judges and justices now swarming our judicial system, nominated and confirmed to lifetime appointments on his recommendation—will linger, like an infected wound poisoning the body politic even after the initial injury has scabbed over. As of this writing, the Trump administration has had 123 federal judges confirmed, including 41 to the federal courts of appeal—the circuit courts just one rung below the Supreme Court. By comparison, at this point in his presidency, Barack Obama had pushed only 19 circuit-court judges through to confirmation. Trump’s appointees now account for some 14 percent of the federal judiciary and more than 22 percent of the judges on the nation’s courts of appeal—and he has been in office for just two and a half years. Many of Trump’s other offenses could be overturned by a new president with the stroke of a pen. Trump’s Court will remain as his legacy.
The characteristics of these new Trump judges are not limited to their hostility toward a woman’s right to choose. Trump promised anti-choice judges, and he has made good on that threat. But while tapping judges who can be trusted to oppose the Supreme Court precedent of Roe v. Wade, he has also dredged up those who share a nasty disrespect for any individual rights that don’t flow from God or the barrel of a gun…”
Center for Data Innovation – “Earlier this year, France adopted a law which forbids anyone from analyzing data about judges’ court decisions with violators facing up to five years in jail. Supporters of the ban say it is necessary to protect the privacy of judges because statistical analysis may reveal troubling patterns about how certain judges behave on the bench, but the law is a clear loss for transparency and severely limits the use of analytics in the justice system. Now French lawyers are demanding the same protections, which if granted, would be a severe loss of judicial analytics in France. There are three problems with this ban on judicial analytics…”
“The U.S. government is moving to a new unique entity identifier for federal awards management, including, but not limited to, contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements, which will ultimately become the primary key to identify entities throughout the federal awarding lifecycle, in SAM.gov, other [Integrated Award Environment] systems, on required forms, and in downstream government systems,” according to a notice posted Wednesday in the Federal Register. “The DUNS will be phased out as the entity identifier for entity record within SAM.”..”
European Commission – ELI – Advancing the access, shareability and interoperability of legal information published through regional, national European and global legal information systems – “When is this solution for you? You represent a governmental legal information system: you seek a tool to facilitate interoperable and inclusive legal information sharing. You are a legal professional working in either national, European or global law context and you seek access to legal information that is organised and displayed in an efficient and coherent manner. You are a pioneer into business venture for legislation access solution. You are a citizen with a specific interest in regional, national or EU law or taking legal action. The European Legislation Identifier offers a consistent and elaborated mechanism to identify, reference and reuse legal information on the web. Consequently, it sets out good conditions for developing sustainable added value for legislation related services. By promoting linking and reuse of legal data, ELI provides cost-saving solutions for publishers while simultaneously increasing the quality and reliability of data. On top of that, ELI contributes to improving transparency and accountability within public administrations as the exchange of data becomes greater and interconnections between different sources of information domains develop faster.
ELI is built on three pillars: assignment of universal resource identifiers; description of metadata elements; sharing of metadata in machine-readable format This ensures flexibility in using ELI as a tool for legislation data exchange globally. Thanks to its flexibility, not only can ELI be adjusted to various regional, national and EU legal systems, but also to modified resources, such as codes, amendments, consolidations and repealed acts…”
Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues July 13, 2019 – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Four highlights from this week: How Fake News Could Lead to Real War; Researchers detail privacy-related legal, ethical challenges with satellite data Firefox 68 arrives with darker reader view, recommended extensions, IT customizations; ICE, FBI use state driver’s license photos for facial-recognition scans; and Google tracks all Gmail account purchases, even if emails are deleted.
WhoWhatWhy – “Eighteen months ago, WhoWhatWhy talked with political scientist Jennifer Kavanagh — a researcher at RAND Corporation — about the think tank’s report titled “Truth Decay.” The report details a set of very specific trends that has reshaped the media landscape. It looks at how, amidst the cacophony of 24/7 news and information that pours in at us every day, we seem to have lost sight of what constitutes truth, facts, and actual information. The signal-to-noise ratio has shifted overwhelmingly toward noise. In this week’s WhoWhatWhy Podcast, Jennifer Kavanagh returns to talk about Part 2 of the report, titled “News in a Digital Age.” In this second report, she explains how, using computer programs and artificial intelligence, RAND analyzed thirty years of news data to find empirical evidence of what she describes as the diminishing role of facts and data in digital political discourse…”
Decoupling debunked – Evidence and arguments against green growth as a sole strategy for sustainability
Via – EEB – Europe’s largest network of environmental NGOs, bringing together around 150 civil society organisations from more than 30 European countries (virtually all EU Member States plus some accession and neighbouring countries), including a growing number of European networks.
“Is it possible to enjoy both economic growth and environmental sustainability? This question is a matter of fierce political debate between green growth and post-growth advocates. Considering what is at stake, a careful assessment to determine whether the scientific foundations behind this decoupling hypothesis are robust or not is needed. This report reviews the empirical and theoretical literature to assess the validity of this hypothesis. The conclusion is both overwhelmingly clear and sobering: not only is there no empirical evidence supporting the existence of a decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures on anywhere near the scale needed to deal with environmental breakdown, but also, and perhaps more importantly, such decoupling appears unlikely to happen in the future. ‘Decoupling debunked’ highlights the need for the rethinking of green growth policies and to complement efficiency with sufficiency.”
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Motherboard obtained a Palantir user manual through a public records request, and it gives unprecedented insight into how the company logs and tracks individuals – “Palantir is one of the most significant and secretive companies in big data analysis. The company acts as an information management service for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, corporations like JP Morgan and Airbus, and dozens of other local, state, and federal agencies. It’s been described by scholars as a “secondary surveillance network,” since it extensively catalogs and maps interpersonal relationships between individuals, even those who aren’t suspected of a crime…The Palantir user guide shows that police can start with almost no information about a person of interest and instantly know extremely intimate details about their lives. The capabilities are staggering, according to the guide…”