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CFTC – “The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee of the Market Risk Advisory Committee (MRAC) today released a report entitled Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System. The Climate Subcommittee voted unanimously 34-0 to adopt the report. CFTC Commissioner Rostin Behnam, sponsor of the MRAC, noted: “Today would not be possible without the dedication and devotion of the Climate Subcommittee members. They spent tireless hours drafting an incredibly thorough report that has far exceeded expectations. I want to personally thank them for their work on this groundbreaking effort during unprecedented times….Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System is the first of-its-kind effort from a U.S. government entity. Commissioner Behnam initiated this effort to examine climate-related impacts on the financial system in June 2019 when the MRAC convened to examine climate change-related financial risks. At that meeting, Behnam pointed to the critical importance of undertaking this effort, highlighting ongoing work by private market participants and government entities across the globe, including more than 40 central banks and supervisors like the European Central Bank, the World Bank, and the People’s Bank of China…”
Popular Science – The best credential is one even you don’t know – “Using a password manager is one of the best and easiest ways to keep your online accounts safe. If you’re worried about making the jump, don’t be—they’re simple to set up and very much worth your while. There might be slight differences between them, but all password managers work similarly. In our opinion, 1Password is one of the best available, so we’ll go through that setup process so you know what to expect. For other alternatives, check out Dashlane, LastPass, Keeper, Bitwarden, and NordPass…”
Mashable: “Even though California is setting record high temperatures this Labor Day weekend, autumn is mere weeks away. It might not feel like fall yet, but the changing foliage is definitely coming. And we have a digital map to prove it. The 2020 Fall Foliage Prediction Map from SmokyMountains.com is finally live, which means you can officially start planning your outdoor fall activities and scenic road trips. If you’ve never used the annual interactive tool before, you’re in for a real treat. This year’s map begins on Sept. 7, a day when minimal and patchy foliage is predicted in only a few states. The map concludes on Nov. 23, when nearly the entire country will be be past-peak foliage…”
Congressional Budget Office, September 8, 2020: “The federal budget deficit in August 2020 was $198 billion, CBO estimates, $3 billion less than the deficit in August of last year. However, that comparison is distorted by shifts in the timing of certain payments in both years that had opposite effects on the August deficit in their respective years. Because September 1, 2019, fell on a weekend, federal payments totaling about $52 billion were made in August rather than in September of that year (increasing the deficit in August). A similar shift, of $57 billion, occurred this year, but from August into July, reducing the August 2020 deficit. Without those timing shifts, the deficit this August would have been $106 billion (or 72 percent) larger than in the same month last year. Outlays for unemployment compensation contributed significantly to the deficit this August, accounting for about half of the increase in government spending (excluding the timing shifts). The cumulative federal budget deficit for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2020 was $3.0 trillion, CBO estimates, $1.9 trillion more than the deficit recorded for the same period last year. Revenues were 1 percent lower and outlays were 46 percent higher through August 2020 than in the same 11-month period in fiscal year 2019. CBO projects that the 2020 deficit will total $3.3 trillion. At 16.0 percent of gross domestic product, that would be the largest shortfall relative to the size of the economy since 1945…”
Gizmodo: “Most of us open a web browser and either stare at whatever tabs we never closed or a homepage that’s not quite as customized as it could be. This is our launchpad for the web, which is why it’s important to make it as useful as possible. The major browsers now make a distinction between the homepage that appears when the browser starts up, and the new tab page that appears when you open a tab (although you can set the homepage to be the new tab page, if you want). The two differ slightly. Your homepage, for example, can be all the pages you had open the last time you closed the browser, while the new tab can be more easily customized with add-ons. Your homepage is just that: a page (or a set of pages) on the internet. It makes sense to pick one or two that you rely on, or that give you a quick overview of what’s happening in the world at the moment. The new tab page is much more versatile, and can include personalized wallpaper, shortcuts to bookmarks, and so on…”
Google Blog: “Businesses often rely on phone calls to reach out to new customers and serve existing ones. But here’s the hang-up: customers often don’t answer the call if they don’t recognize the number. They worry it could be spam, or worse, a scam: a 2019 FTC report found that phone calls were the number one way people reported being contacted by scammers. While most people said they hung up on those calls, those who lost money reported a median loss of $1,000. Spam and scam calls erode trust in businesses and increase costs to consumers. Verified Calls aims to solve this problem by showing the caller’s name, logo, reason for calling and a verification symbol indicating the business has been authenticated by Google. This is done in a secure way—Google doesn’t collect or store any personally identifiable information after verification. Verified Calls is a feature on Google’s Phone app, which comes pre-loaded on many Android phones and will be available for download starting later this week on even more Android devices…”
Ars Technica: “AT&T smartphone users who see their network indicators switch from “4G” to “5G” shouldn’t necessarily expect that they’re about to get faster speeds. In PCMag’s annual mobile-network testing, released today, 5G phones connected to AT&T got slower speeds than 4G phones in 21 out of 22 cities. PCMag concluded that “AT&T 5G right now appears to be essentially worthless,” though AT&T’s average download speed of 103.1Mbps was nearly as good as Verizon’s thanks to a strong 4G performance. Of course, AT&T 5G should be faster than 4G in the long run—this isn’t another case of AT&T misleadingly labeling its 4G network as a type of 5G. Instead, the disappointing result on PCMag’s test has to do with how today’s 5G phones work and with how AT&T allocates spectrum…”
Short answer: Yes. Masks have become a necessity. Here’s how to pick the right one, and wash it. “…“It’s definitely recommended to wash that mask every day,” said Dr. Ravina Kullar, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist. Kullar points out that the purpose of the mask is to prevent the virus from spreading, so if there are virus particles on yours, wearing an unwashed mask is counterproductive. Still, despite this advice, surface transmission is not thought to be a major vector of coronavirus spread. The primary transmission mode is person-to-person contact. The recommendation to wash your mask comes out of an abundance of caution, as well as the object’s close proximity to respiratory output. The CDC also recommends washing masks: “Masks should be washed after each use. It is important to always remove masks correctly and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask,” the website says. According to the CDC, taking off your mask correctly means handling it only by the ear loops or ties, folding it to be placed in the washing machine, and washing your hands immediately after…”
The Fight Over Section 230 and Beyond by Paul M. Barrett is the deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. “Recently, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 has come under sharp attack from members of both political parties, including presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The foundational law of the commercial internet, Section 230 does two things: It protects platforms and websites from most lawsuits related to content posted by third parties. And it guarantees this shield from liability even if the platforms and sites actively police the content they host. This protection has encouraged internet companies to innovate and grow, even as it has raised serious questions about whether social media platforms adequately self-regulate harmful content. In addition to the assaults by Trump and Biden, members of Congress have introduced a number of bills designed to limit the reach of Section 230. Some critics have asserted unrealistically that repealing or curbing Section 230 would solve a wide range of problems relating to internet governance. These critics also have played down the potentialy dire consequences that repeal would have for smaller internet companies. Academics, think tank researchers, and others outside of government have made a variety of more nuanced proposals for revising the law. We assess these ideas with an eye toward recommending and integrating the most promising ones. Our conclusion is that Section 230 ought to be preserved—but that it can be improved. It should be used as a means to push platforms to accept greater responsibility for the content they host…”
Gizmodo: “If your Internet habits resemble anything like mine, you probably have 20-plus tabs open at once, maybe multiple windows too, because you want to keep that YouTube playlist or Gmail inbox separate for quicker access. But all overwhelming digital clutter can keep us glued to our screens anyway. Sometimes the best thing to do is step away from your desk, yet it’s not easy when there are a billion things on our screens to hold our attention. A lesser-used Internet browser, Vivaldi, has its own solution for that essentially let you put a pause on the whole thing Vivaldi fancies itself the new Opera—a polished alternative browser to the ones made by the biggest companies in tech. That’s quite fitting because Vivaldi Co-Founder and CEO Jon von Tetzchner was also the co-founder and CEO of Opera. Vivaldi launched in April 2016, and it’s a Chromium-based browser, which means it supports a lot of the same extensions as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. Only its interface is very different—enough so that many Chrome and Edge user interface customizations will not work in Vivaldi. According to a recent announcement by von Tetzchner, the Internet browser received a few new features, including an interesting “Break Mode” feature, which according to von Tetzchner is a “new way to pause the Internet.”…
Consumer Reports – via Pete Weiss – “With COVID-19 still spreading in the U.S., masks have become a daily part of American life. In a nationally representative survey CR conducted in July, 85 percent of Americans said they wear a mask in indoor public spaces “always” or “most of the time” (up from 75 percent the previous month). But consumers still have a lot of questions about masks, and it’s not always easy to find evidence-based answers. We asked CR’s chief scientific officer to weigh in:
- What’s the difference between a KN95 mask and an N95 mask? And how are they different from surgical masks?
- At first we heard that masks only protect other people. Now we’re hearing that they may actually protect the wearer. Is that true?
- I see people wearing masks that don’t cover their nose—is that okay?
- Should kids wear masks, or do they not need to because they aren’t likely to get sick from the virus?
- What if I don’t have a mask with me? Will a handkerchief or bandanna, or even pulling a T-shirt up over my mouth and nose, offer any protection?
- What’s the best or safest fabric to use for a mask? Are all masks equally effective?
- Should I add a filter to my mask if it has a pocket for one? Are DIY options like coffee filters effective? What about PM 2.5 filters?
- How should I remove and clean a mask? Can I reuse a disposable mask?
- We have masks with valves in them. Are they okay or better than masks without valves?
- What about face shields? Are they more protective than masks?
- If I’m wearing a mask, do I still need to social distance?..”
Via LLRX – Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues, September 6, 2020 – 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: Amazon’s Alexa for Landlords Is a Privacy Nightmare in the Making; This Email Could Wreak Havoc on the 2020 Election; How can you spot a tech support scam?; and Republicans flooding internet with deceptive videos and Big Tech isn’t keeping up.
The California Sunday Magazine – Then came 2020. “…Since the early 1990s,the portion of votes cast by mail has nosed upward in every presidential-election cycle, hitting an all-time high in 2016: 24 percent, or about 33 million ballots. But the national numbers mask a state-by-state variance. As a rule, voting by mail dominates the western states, while the East typically prefers to vote in person. In the 2018 midterms, returned mail-in ballots accounted for 2 percent of turnout in Arkansas and Kentucky, 4 percent in Pennsylvania and New York, but 66 percent in California, 95 percent in Colorado, and 100 percent in Oregon. But the state numbers mask another wild variance: that between counties. The United States has no centralized election system. Instead, the job of executing the fundamental transaction in our democracy falls to officials in our 3,100 counties. There’s an individualist, states’ rights spirit to the fracturedness, that old American disinclination to let Washington call the shots. McDonald’s menus are more consistent across county lines than voting technologies are. In the absence of federal directives, election officials have to shop for every component they need. To run a vote-by-mail election, a county sources two kinds of technology: outbound and inbound. Outbound, which Runbeck handles, is the ballot that goes to the voter. Inbound is what the voter sends back. Outbound requires making something. Inbound requires counting. There are multiple vendors in each category, hundreds of possible combinations. There are the conglomerate players and independents and family outfits, all in competition for similar contracts. In outbound, there’s Runbeck’s main western rival, K&H, in Washington: the biggest ballot printer in the country by volume. There’s the smaller Bradford & Bigelow, in Massachusetts. There’s Magnolia, in Florida; Midwest Direct, in Ohio. Some printers exclusively do ballots, and some do ballots and other commercial products. Cathedral, in upstate New York, earns about 25 percent of its revenue by printing offering envelopes for churches (the technology transfers to ballots because offering envelopes often need to be personalized, with a thank-you for the previous year’s donation)…”
The United States has no centralized election system. Instead, the job of executing the fundamental transaction in our democracy falls to officials in our 3,100 counties…”
Open is not forever: a study of vanished open access journals – Mikael Laakso, Lisa Matthias, Najko Jahn – “The preservation of the scholarly record has been a point of concern since the beginning of knowledge production. With print publications, the responsibility rested primarily with librarians, but the shift towards digital publishing and, in particular, the introduction of open access (OA) have caused ambiguity and complexity. Consequently, the long-term accessibility of journals is not always guaranteed, and they can even disappear from the web completely. The purpose of this exploratory study is to systematically study the phenomenon of vanished journals, something that has not been done before. For the analysis, we consulted several major bibliographic indexes, such as Scopus, Ulrichsweb, and the Directory of Open Access Journals, and traced the journals through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. We found 176 OA journals that, through lack of comprehensive and open archives, vanished from the web between 2000-2019, spanning all major research disciplines and geographic regions of the world. Our results raise vital concern for the integrity of the scholarly record and highlight the urgency to take collaborative action to ensure continued access and prevent the loss of more scholarly knowledge. We encourage those interested in the phenomenon of vanished journals to use the public dataset for their own research.”
The New York Times Magazine – “This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. This series documents lesser-known stories from the end of the conflict, through original reporting and first-person accounts from people who lived through it…We set out to explore the end of the conflict and its aftermath, focusing on lesser-known stories both personal and profound.”
“A recently published study conducted by three Mozilla employees has looked at the privacy provided by browsing histories. Their findings show that most users have unique web browsing habits that allow online advertisers to create accurate profiles. These profiles can then be used to track and re-identify users across different sets of user data that contain even small samples of a user’s browsing history. Effectively, the study comes to dispel an online myth that browsing history, even the anonymized one, isn’t useful for online advertisers. In reality, the study shows that even a small list of 50 to 150 of the user’s favorite and most accessed domains can let advertisers create a unique tracking profile…”
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NBC News – “Vote early by mail or in person. Know your state’s deadlines. Don’t mess with your signature. Check your registration status — and polling place. And definitely don’t vote twice. “The presidential election is fast approaching, and a constellation of factors has caused experts to fear unprecedented levels of chaos and uncertainty over the result. Election officials are gearing up for an unprecedented surge of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus. President Donald Trump is making false claims of fraud and stoking unsubstantiated fears of a “rigged election.” Critics accuse his administration of deliberately sabotaging the U.S. Postal Service to prevent ballots from being mailed on time, which the agency denies. Many Americans are eager to make sure their votes are counted. Here are five voting tips experts recommend to make sure that happens…”
Making Scholarly Articles More Accessible for Machine Learning – “ArXiv, an open-access digital repository of scholarly articles maintained by Cornell University in New York, made available all of its 1.7 million research articles on Kaggle, a public online platform for machine learning training datasets. For each article, the dataset includes information such as the author, article title, category, abstract, citations, as well as a link to the full-text PDF. Researchers can more easily use the data from arXiv articles to perform trend analysis, create algorithms that group scholarly papers by topic, and improve search engines for scholarly papers.”