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Oxford University Press Blog: “A new report by the Democracy Project finds that a majority of Americans view democracy in the United States as weak and getting weaker. Even worse, nearly half of Americans express concerns that the United States is in “real danger of becoming a nondemocratic, authoritarian country.” Reports such as this one come at a time in which many political observers are sounding the alarm bell that we are amid an era of resurgent authoritarianism. Though it is a stretch to say that democracy in the United States will collapse any time soon, a number of developments there and elsewhere are indeed cause for concern for global democracy. The first is the growing attractiveness of populism among democratic audiences. In a number of well-established democracies, such as the United States and Hungary, we are seeing leaders who promote populist agendas gain power. The messages they advocate are similar: the country needs a strong leadership, elites and experts cannot be trusted, and established institutions are failing. The rising popularity of populism worldwide is troubling, however, because populist agendas are increasingly being used as a springboard for the dismantling of democracy, such as occurred in Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and Turkey under Reccep Tayyip Erdogan. In such places, populist leaders dismantle the foundations of democracy by putting loyalists in key positions of power (e.g. the judiciary), sidelining the media by censoring it or legislating against it, and muzzling civil society and political opponents. Importantly, their efforts to consolidate control are often difficult to push back against because they occur under the guise of “saving” the country…”
TravelPulse – “You may not be aware, but there’s a secret hidden inside the popular Google Maps navigation app. Every time you cross a border, a tiny icon pops up at the bottom, welcoming you to that particular state or country with a cartoonish representation of the type of citizen you may encounter during your visit. After a long road trip, it can make for a fun and unexpected distraction, (which is, of course, something we all need while driving a motor vehicle.) In the interest of motoring safety, and because some of Google’s choices in representing various states wander into bizarre territory, we’ve collected a few favorites below. And in doing so, we’ve discovered that every Google Map icon basically falls into one of five categories…”
Take a couple of minutes to digest the concept, unthinkable for baby boomers when we recall our respective childhoods, that we now routinely refer to schools and houses of worship, as “soft targets.” What is our civic responsibility in response to the now embedded process of active shooter drills, school lock-downs, screams of code-red, and the aftermath – memorials of candles, flowers, photos and prayers – at the endless crime scenes that have irrevocably changed the fabric of childhood in America. Please go to the polls and vote on November 6.
The New York Times – A ‘Mass Shooting Generation’ Cries Out for Change – “Delaney Tarr, a high school senior, cannot remember a time when she did not know about school shootings. So when a fire alarm went off inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and teachers began screaming “Code red!” as confused students ran in and out of classrooms, Ms. Tarr, 17, knew what to do. Run to the safest place in the classroom — in this case, a closet packed with 19 students and their teacher.
I’ve been told these protocols for years,” she said. “My sister is in middle school — she’s 12 — and in elementary school, she had to do code red drills.” This is life for the children of the mass shooting generation. They were born into a world reshaped by the 1999 attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, and grew up practicing active shooter drills and huddling through lockdowns. They talked about threats and safety steps with their parents and teachers. With friends, they wondered darkly whether it could happen at their own school, and who might do it. Now, this generation is almost grown up. And when a gunman killed 17 people this week at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., the first response of many of their classmates was not to grieve in silence, but to speak out. Their urgent voices — in television interviews, on social media, even from inside a locked school office as they hid from the gunman — are now rising in the national debate over gun violence in the aftermath of yet another school shooting…”
The Nation: “Ask me when they learn that I study climate politics. Fair enough. The science is grim, as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just reminded us with a report on how hard it will be to keep average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But it’s the wrong question. Yes, the path we’re on is ruinous. It’s just as true that other, plausible pathways are not. That’s the real, widely ignored, and surprisingly detailed message of the IPCC report. We’re only doomed if we change nothing. The IPCC report makes it clear that if we make the political choice of bankrupting the fossil-fuel industry and sharing the burden of transition fairly, most humans can live in a world better than the one we have now…”
- See also via BBC: Ten simple things to help save the planet
Another change announced by Google for Gmail users – via the Google Blog: “Over the next few months, we’ll completely replace old Google Contacts with new Google Contacts (also known as Contacts preview). We launched new Contacts in 2015 to provide a modern, smart, and quick contact management experience. We’ve added many features since then and, with the recent launch of contacts delegation, new Contacts now has many comparable features from old Contacts, and more. As a result, new Contacts will replace the older version, and it will be the only Google Contacts version after February 12, 2019. The replacement process will take place in three stages…”
The Chronicle of Higher Education – “Each year, more than 15,000 academic books are published in North America. A scant few will reach beyond their core audience of disciplinary specialists. Fewer still will enter the public consciousness. We invited scholars from across the academy to tell us what they saw as the most influential book published in the past 20 years. (Some respondents named books slightly outside our time frame, but we included them anyway.) We asked them to select books — academic or not, but written by scholars — from within or outside their own fields. It was up to our respondents to define “influential,” but we asked them to explain why they chose the books they did. Here are their answers…”
Paul Bloom | Eric Klinenberg | Peniel Joseph | Johanna Hanink | Jackson Lears | Leon Botstein | Sheena Iyengar | Noliwe M. Rooks | G. Gabrielle Starr | Amy J. Binder | Susan J. Douglas | Mari Matsuda | Steven Shapin | Mark Greif | Ashley Farmer | Nakul Krishna | Richard Delgado | Jonathan Holloway | John L. Jackson | Deborah Tannen | Amitava Kumar
“It’s reasonably common knowledge that most states prohibit people incarcerated for a felony conviction from voting. Twenty-two states also bar people on parole and/or probation, and 12 impose various sanctions that continue post-sentence. But those restrictions rarely apply to people held in jails, who are usually either awaiting trial or serving time for misdemeanor offenses. Legally, detainees like Massey, who filled out her ballot before she was convicted and sentenced, are still eligible to vote; but practically, confusion, fear, and a long list of logistical complications often stand in their way. The exact number of people in American jails who are legally permitted to vote is unknown, but it’s safe to say that Massey is far from alone. Chris Uggen, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied what he refers to as “practical disenfranchisement,” posits that “a good portion” of the U.S. jail population, which hovers at around 600,000 people, retains the right. Jail populations fluctuate constantly, which makes it especially difficult to pin down an estimate of the voting population inside. Similarly, it’s hard to know what portion of those eligible voters are not voting because they are unaware of their rights or because their rights are being denied. The 1974 Supreme Court decision O’Brien v. Skinner protects the right of certain inmates to vote in elections without interference from government. But the Court left it up to state and local jurisdictions to decide how exactly to comply with the law.
There is no national organization that is the anchoring institution to ensure that residents that happen to be in jail on Election Day never lose their voting rights,” said Nicole Porter, who leads state and local advocacy at the justice-reform group the Sentencing Project. Ongoing efforts to help potential voters in jail register or request voting materials “are very grassroots conversations,” she told me…”
The Claremont Institute – Settled Law: Birthright Citizenship And The 14th Amendment by John Yoovia The American Mind. Friday, November 2, 2018
“…The 14th Amendment. According to the best reading of its text, structure, and history, anyone born on American territory, no matter their national origin, ethnicity or station in life, is an American citizen. While the original Constitution required citizenship for federal office, it never defined it. The 14th Amendment, however, provides that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Congress did not draft this language to alter the concept of citizenship, but to affirm American practice dating from the origins of our Republic. With the exception of a few years before the Civil War, the United States followed the British rule of jus solis (citizenship defined by birthplace), rather than the rule of jus sanguinis (citizenship defined by that of parents) that prevails in much of Europe. As the 18th century English jurist William Blackstone explained: “the children of aliens, born here in England, are generally speaking, natural-born subjects, and entitled to all the privileges of such.” After the Civil War, congressional Republicans drafted the 14th Amendment to correct one of slavery’s grave distortions of our law. In Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), Chief Justice Roger Taney found that slaves, even though born in the United States, could never become citizens. The 14th Amendment directly overruled Dred Scott by declaring that all born in the U.S., irrespective of race, were citizens. It also removed from the majoritarian political process the ability to abridge the citizenship of children born to members of disfavored ethnic, religious, or political minorities. The only way to avoid this straightforward understanding is to misread the 14th Amendment’s text, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” as an exception that swallows the jus solis rule. Some originalist scholars, such as John Eastman and Edward Erler, argue that this language must refer to aliens, who owe allegiance to another nation and not the U.S. I believe that view is mistaken. The 14th Amendment’s reference to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” refers to children who are born in U.S. territory and are subject to American law at birth. Almost everyone present in the United States, even aliens, come within the jurisdiction of the United States. If the rule were otherwise, aliens present on our territory could violate the law with impunity…
Amendment’s drafters had wanted “jurisdiction” to exclude children of aliens, they easily could have required citizenship only for those with no “allegiance to a foreign power.”
“Reid, a 30-year-old criminologist and developmental psychologist who’s finishing her PhD at the University of Toronto, has been collecting information on missing persons for more than two years. She’s amassed an in-depth database of thousands of them — drawing from official Search and Rescue (SAR) reports, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) database, collecting tips from crime-beat journalists as well as from friends and family of those missing — in order to obtain the age, ethnicity, demographic, and geographical information of victims. For some of this data collection, she’s delegated research responsibilities to 13 volunteer undergraduates at the University of Toronto. Often, she cross-references this database with another database that she’s been working on for closer to four years — her “serial killer” database — which includes up to 600 variables on the behavioral and psychological development of every known serial killer since the fifteenth century, making it the most complete database on the developmental traits of serial killers in existence…”
Medium: “…If Republicans hold the House of Representatives, they will claim a mandate for the party to expand Trump’s refashioning of American politics along nationalist, authoritarian lines. If Democrats pry the chamber from their hands, it would signal a rebuke to the excesses of the Trump era and provide them the tools to slow the unraveling of democratic norms. But what exactly are we signing up for in either case? The parties have been specific enough in stating their intentions that we can lay out a broad road map for where the country will head…”
HBR – Brigid Schulte: “Ninety-eight percent of companies say they have sexual harassment policies. Many provide anti-sexual harassment training. Some perpetrators have been fired or fallen from grace. And yet more than four decades after the term “sexual harassment” was first coined, it remains a persistent and pervasive problem in virtually every sector and in every industry of the economy, our new Better Life Lab report finds. It wreaks financial, physical, and psychological damage, keeping women and other targets out of power or out of professions entirely. It also costs billions in lost productivity, wasted talent, public penalties, private settlements, and insurance costs. So what does work? Or might? Sadly, there’s very little evidence-based research on strategies to prevent or address sexual harassment. The best related research examines sexual assault on college campuses and in the military. That research shows that training bystanders how to recognize, intervene, and show empathy to targets of assault not only increases awareness and improves attitudes, but also encourages bystanders to disrupt assaults before they happen, and help survivors report and seek support after the fact.
Researchers and workplace experts are now exploring how to prevent sexual harassment in companies by translating that approach. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its 2016 task force report encouraged employers to offer bystander training, for one. And New York City passed a law in May requiring all companies with more than 15 employees to begin providing bystander training by April 2019. It could prove a promising, long-term solution..When bystanders remain silent, and targets are the ones expected to shoulder responsibility for avoiding, fending off, or shrugging off offensive behavior, it normalizes sexual harassment and toxic or hostile work environments. So bystander intervention, which Stapleton and others are beginning to develop for workplaces, is designed to help everyone find their voice and give them tools to speak up…”
The New York Times: “The United States economy is the strongest it has been in ages. Growth has been robust, and the unemployment rate is at generational lows, as new data Friday affirmed. Yet the Republican Party, which controls the White House and Congress, trails Democrats substantially in polling on which party is preferred. It helps to look beyond the overall economic data to understand this disconnect. After all, you can’t eat G.D.P., and good jobs numbers aren’t the same as a place to live. If you look instead at the actual financial lives of average middle-income families from 2016 — their incomes, spending, assets and debt — and how shifts since Election Day in 2016 would have been likely to affect them, you get a more mixed picture.Wages haven’t risen much. Inflation has been low, helping keep the price of most staple goods down, though with gasoline prices a costly exception. The tax cut has left more money in most middle-class families’ pockets, but only a bit.
In terms of assets, the typical middle-income family has either zero or minimal holdings in the stock market, meaning the surge since November 2016 hasn’t paid direct benefits. But a majority of households in this income bracket do carry some credit card debt, which has become more expensive amid rising interest rates. And in terms of housing costs, rents haven’t risen much — but a sharp rise in mortgage rates has made homes less affordable for anyone looking to buy. Add it all up, and while the benefits of a surging economy, tax cuts and the rising stock market are real, they net out to a less favorable economic reality for a family in the middle of the income scale than the economic headlines might imply…”
Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute aggregator tool tracks “junk” political views being shared on Facebook
TechCrunch: “Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute (OII), which has just launched an aggregator tool which tracks what it terms “junk” political views being shared on Facebook — doing so in near real-time and offering various ways to visualize and explore the junk heap. What’s “junk news” in this context? The OII says this type of political content can include “ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan, or conspiratorial news and information, as well as various forms of propaganda”. This sort of stuff might elsewhere get badged ‘fake news’, although that label is problematical — and has itself been hijacked by known muck spreaders. (So ‘online disinformation’ tends to be the label of choice in academic and policy circles, these days.) The OII is here using its own political propaganda content categorization — i.e. this term “junk news” — which is based on what it describes as “a grounded typology” derived through analyzing a large amount of political communications shared by US social media users.
Specifically it’s based on an analysis of more than 2.5 million tweets sent in the period September 21-30, 2018 — applying what the Institute dubs “rigorous coding and content analysis techniques to define the new phenomenon”. This involved labelling the source websites of shared links based on “a grounded typology that has been tested over several elections around the world in 2016-2018”, with a content source getting coded as a purveyor of junk news if it failed on 3 out of 5 of criteria of the typology…
- The Visual Junk News Aggregator does what it says on the tin, aggregating popular junk news posts into a bipartisan thumbnail wall of over-inflated (or just out and out) BS. Complete with a trigger warning for the risk of graphic images and language. Mousing over the thumbnails brings up any title and description that’s been scraped for the post in question, plus a date stamp and full Facebook reaction data.
- Another tool — the Top 10 Junk News Aggregator — shows the most engaged with English language junk news stories posted to Facebook in the last 24 hours, in the context of the 2018 US midterm elections. (With engagement being based on total Facebook reactions per second of the post’s life.)..”
“As recently as Monday [October 29,2018], computer servers that powered Kentucky’s online voter registration and Wisconsin’s reporting of election results ran software that could potentially expose information to hackers or enable access to sensitive files without a password. The insecure service run by Wisconsin could be reached from internet addresses based in Russia, which has become notorious for seeking to influence U.S. elections. Kentucky’s was accessible from other Eastern European countries. The service, known as FTP, provides public access to files — sometimes anonymously and without encryption. As a result, security experts say, it could act as a gateway for hackers to acquire key details of a server’s operating system and exploit its vulnerabilities. Some corporations and other institutions have dropped FTP in favor of more secure alternatives. Officials in both states said that voter-registration data has not been compromised and that their states’ infrastructure was protected against infiltration. Still, Wisconsin said it turned off its FTP service following ProPublica’s inquiries. Kentucky left its password-free service running and said ProPublica didn’t understand its approach to security…”
Bill Requires Radical Transparency About How Corporations Share, Sell and Use Your Data; Creates Tough Penalties and Jail Time for Executives – “Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., released a discussion draft of sweeping new legislation that would empower consumers to control their personal information, create radical transparency into how corporations use and share their data, and impose harsh fines and prison terms for executives at corporations that misuse Americans’ data. “Today’s economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information – Everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation’s database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it’s used and how it’s shared,” Wyden said. “It’s time for some sunshine on this shadowy network of information sharing. My bill creates radical transparency for consumers, gives them new tools to control their information and backs it up with tough rules with real teeth to punish companies that abuse Americans’ most private information.”
“Disinformation” is a common term at present, in the media, in academic and political discourse, along with related concepts like “fake news”. But what does it really mean? Is it different from misinformation, propaganda, deception, “fake news” or just plain lies? Is it always bad, or can it be a useful and necessary tool of statecraft? And how should we deal with it?
There are no straightforward answers not least because each of these terms provokes a subjective reaction in our minds. Misinformation could be the wrong information put out by mistake, but Disinformation sounds like a deliberate strategy of deceit. Propaganda might be intended to persuade, maybe exaggerated but essentially harmless; or it could be used by an authoritarian state to brainwash its people. In 1948, the Foreign Information Research Department (IRD) was set up in the UK to combat aggressive Communist propaganda, issuing or sponsoring its own propaganda in return: was one of these bad, and the other good? Former CIA analyst Cynthia Grabo said that if propaganda was true, it was public diplomacy; if false, disinformation. Things are not that simple...”
“Taking the Mystery out of Retirement Planning” is a good workbook. This publication with interactive worksheets is designed to help individuals ten years or less away from retirement see if their retirement savings are on track. Here are some helpful tools employees can use to calculate how much money an individual will need at retirement:
- Lifetime Income Calculator – This calculator illustrates an annuitization approach to estimate the monthly lifetime income streams based on both the participant’s current account balance and on the projected value of the account balance at retirement.
- CNN Money – This retirement planner helps you estimate how well your savings program is preparing you for retirement. First it helps you figure out how much you’ll need. Then it tells you your chances of getting there.
- American Savings Education Council – The Ballpark Estimate is an easy-to-use, one-page worksheet that helps you quickly identify approximately how much you need to save to fund a comfortable retirement. The Ballpark Estimate takes complicated issues like projected Social Security benefits and earnings assumptions on savings, and turns them into language and mathematics that are easy to understand.
- Financial Industry Regulatory Authority – These financial calculators are meant to provide you with some of the information necessary to make sound financial decisions and to plan for the future… [h/t Pete Weiss]
Weather 2050 – “Our world is getting warmer. This we know. Just look at Los Angeles, which experienced all-time record heat in July, topping out at 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens of other heat records across the United States were smashed this summer alone.
But how much will temperatures in US cities change by 2050? By then, scientists say average global warming since preindustrial levels could be about twice what it is in 2018 — and much more obvious and disruptive. It’s a world you’ll (probably) be living in. And it’s the one we’re definitely handing off to the next generation. To answer this question, we looked at the average summer high and winter low temperatures in 1,000 cities in the continental US, comparing recorded and modeled temperatures from 1986 to 2015 to projections for 2036 to 2065. This offers us the best possible estimate on how much winters and summers will shift from 2000 to 2050. (More on our methodology here.)
Here’s how much the winters and summers in the city closest to you are predicted to change about 30 years from now. Winters and summers will be warmer in every city by 2050. Type in other cities to see for yourself…
New York Times Magazine – U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It.
“White supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed far more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has reported that 71 percent of the extremist-related fatalities in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for just 26 percent. Data compiled by the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database shows that the number of terror-related incidents has more than tripled in the United States since 2013, and the number of those killed has quadrupled. In 2017, there were 65 incidents totaling 95 deaths. In a recent analysis of the data by the news site Quartz, roughly 60 percent of those incidents were driven by racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, antigovernment or other right-wing ideologies. Left-wing ideologies, like radical environmentalism, were responsible for 11 attacks. Muslim extremists committed just seven attacks.
These statistics belie the strident rhetoric around “foreign-born” terrorists that the Trump administration has used to drive its anti-immigration agenda. They also raise questions about the United States’ counterterrorism strategy, which for nearly two decades has been focused almost exclusively on American and foreign-born jihadists, overshadowing right-wing extremism as a legitimate national-security threat. According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent $2.8 trillion — 16 percent of the overall federal budget — on counterterrorism. Terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the United States during that time. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387 in the United States, according to the 2018 Anti-Defamation League report…”