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Christopher F. Rufo: Fed Up in Seattle 

Citizens of the ultra-progressive city have lost patience with political leaders’ failure to address the homelessness crisis.

Don’t believe the hype that “Amazon killed the Seattle head tax,” the new levy that the city recently passed on businesses to fund an affordable-housing initiative. The truth behind the city council’s stunning reversal—repealing the tax by a 7-2 vote, just four weeks after passing it 9-0—is that Seattle citizens have erupted in frustration against the city’s tax-and-spend political class that has failed to address the homelessness crisis, despite record new revenues.

“To my astonishment, I’ve heard at least a dozen neighbors, friends, and colleagues whisper that ‘Seattle needs a Giuliani’—that is, the city needs to recognize that, in addition to public programs, we need to get tough on street homelessness and enforce the law.”

As recently as a few years ago, it seemed as if Seattle voters largely viewed our hyper-progressive city council as a harmless oddity in an otherwise tolerant, thriving, liberal city. But times have changed. Now, according to recent public polling, 83 percent of Seattle voters are dissatisfied with how the council has addressed homelessness, 65 percent believe that the local government hasn’t used new tax revenues effectively, and 63 percent believe that the city has enough money to solve the problem but isn’t pursuing the right policies.

[Read the full story here, at City Journal]

Progressives have tried to paint the anti-head tax campaign as corporate astroturfing, but beneath the surface, it’s being driven by this broader shift in public opinion. In just two weeks, the No Tax on Jobs campaign, led by local businesses, recruited 2,000 volunteer signature-gatherers and collected nearly 46,000 signatures—more than double the amount required to qualify as a ballot measure. When I spoke with one of the volunteers in the liberal Fremont neighborhood, he told me: “I’m retired and I wanted to volunteer for the cause. I think the tax is a bad idea: if you tax something, you get less of it. I’m going to collect two pages of signatures and then go home.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Cuckoo Journalism for a Tweetable Time

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Edward Kosner writes: Desperate times call forth desperate journalism. Suddenly, what we used to think of as the big-time press is being convulsed by a spasm of amateurism.stock-footage-animated-angry-cuckoo-clock-bird

Rolling Stone, since the 1960s a paragon of hip investigative journalism and gonzo reportage, finds itself sweatily backpedaling from a single-sourced exposé of gang rape at the University of Virginia, an article that rattled the campus designed by Thomas Jefferson and went viral.

The 30-something Facebook zillionaire who bought the New Republic two years ago decided to convert the century-old journal of political and arts commentary into “a vertically integrated digital media company.” The two top editors quit as they were being pushed—and nearly all their staff and 51GQLlXkr7L._SL250_contributors followed them out the door, devastating the magazine.

[Order Edward Kosner‘s book “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist” from Amazon]

Not long ago, Newsweek resurrected itself in print after a near-death experience. Its very first cover story claimed to identify the mysterious Asian creator of bitcoin, the brave new digital currency—only to have the putative inventor surface to insist persuasively that the magazine had the right name, but the wrong man. And the vastly experienced author of a new 500-page biography of Bill Cosby managed to blow the lead: to leave out detailed accusations by more than a dozen women that the beloved comedian had drugged and raped or otherwise sexually molested them.

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Inevitably in any journalistic trend story, there is an element of coincidence in the cascade of these sorry episodes. And, even in the best-run publications, mistakes are as inescapable in journalism as they are in any sustained human activity. But there is ancuckoo-clock-tatoo unseen common denominator to all these fiascoes that helps explain why they happened, illuminating both the existential dangers that serious journalism now faces and its fraught future.

“Here was a story made to go viral—doing journalistic due diligence on it might blunt its sharp edges and sap its appeal. As it happened, the Rolling Stone piece was undone by old-school reporting by the Washington Post, which has the resources to do its job…”

Quite simply, print editors and their writers, and especially the publications’ proprietors, are being unhinged by the challenge of making a splash in a new world increasingly dominated by twitterthe values of digital journalism. Traditional long-form journalism—painstakingly reported, carefully written, rewritten and edited, scrupulously fact-checked—finds itself fighting a losing battle for readers and advertisers. Quick hits, snarky posts and click-bait in the new, ever-expanding cosmos of websites promoted by even quicker teasers on Twitter and Facebook have broadened the audience but shrunk its attention span, sometimes to 140 characters (shorter than this sentence).

Whether they realize it or not, and most do, print journalists feel the pressure to make their material ever more compelling, to make it stand out amid the digital chatter. The easiest way to do that is to come up with stories so sensational that even the Twitterverse has to take notice. Read the rest of this entry »


Bottle of Whiskey with Some News On Top

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Amazon Unveils ‘Fire Phone’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up the new Amazon Fire Phone Associated PressAfter months of leaks and speculation, Amazon unveiled its ‘Fire Phone’ smartphone. The new phone has a 4.7-inch screen, a 13-megapixel camera and unlimited photo storage in cloud, as well as a 3-D like effect where the images move where you do.

The phone will be available July 25, and sells for $649 to $749 with no contract…(read more)

Digits – WSJ

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up the new Amazon Fire Phone Associated Press


What’s The Big Deal if Your e-Book is Spying On You?

John Hurt in a film adaptation of George Orwell's 1984

The only book about surveillance you ever need to read… John Hurt in a film adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

The Facebook generation isn’t bothered about the data e-readers are collecting – just another victory for market forces

For The Guardian writes:

So some big companies are using technology to improve their services – big deal. Or at least that seems to be the balance of opinion around these parts on the news that while you’re reading your favourite ebook, your favourite ebook is reading you. Of course it’s not strictly speaking news to those of you who follow the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or indeed the Wall Street Journal, but for those of us who don’t spend our lives cogitating on the details of every End User License Agreement we sign up to, it still comes of something of a shock to realise that – sotto voce – your electronic device is keeping up running commentary on your reading habits.

Maybe you’ve already followed dickcheeseman’s advice and sprung your Kindle out of Amazon’s embrace or maybe, as R042 suggests, you’ve cut your e-reader off from its natural habitat and foresworn WiFi, but even if like Commontata you “couldn’t care less” what any business has on you, the default collection of user data is another signal that electronic devices shift reading into something a little more commercial. Read the rest of this entry »


Orwellian eBooks Reveal More Than We Realize

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John Hurt holds a book in a scene from the film, 1984. Photograph: Atlantic Releasing Corporation/Getty Images

Although the Kindle highlights function is publicly anonymous, there are still serious privacy concerns as it allows Amazon to track and store the reading statistics of customers

For The Irish TimesSarah Gilmartin writes:

‘The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden.”

Winston Smith’s description of reading in the totalitarian world of 1984 may be satirical, but there’s also some truth to it.
We know the feeling of identifying with a book. It is one of the most satisfying aspects of reading, when a character says or does something that we ourselves think but are unable to articulate so eloquently or with an image that really expresses the sentiment.

Reading 1984 as a traditional book, I might have reached for a pen to underline that quotation. Reading it as an ebook, I have access to an enhanced version of this highlighting process. Since Amazon launched its Kindle Popular Highlights, in 2010, readers have been able to leave their own stamp on their favourite ebooks and can publicly share their insights if they want to. Tracking the scattered thoughts and similar minds of readers around the world, Amazon also gives its Kindle customers the option of viewing the most popular highlights of whatever book they’re reading.

Read the rest of this entry »


In Joint letter to FCC 150 Tech Companies Press Government for Net Neutrality

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AFP reports: Google, Facebook, Amazon and other online giants warn that the Internet faces a “grave threat” if service providers are able to prioritize or restrict usage based on negotiated payments.

In a joint letter Wednesday, some 150 companies told the Federal Communications Commission its proposed rules over net neutrality would permit phone and cable firms to discriminate “both technically and financially” against companies providing online services.

“Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization,” they said.

They said the regulations “should make the market for Internet services more transparent” and warned that fair rules “are essential for the future of the Internet.”

The letter challenged the FCC’s proposed rules on how Internet service providers — mainly a handful of telecommunications giants who control the transmission of data via cable and airwaves — can negotiate individual deals over access levels, speed and priority with online companies rather than keeping access completely neutral. Read the rest of this entry »


[BOOKS] Who Could Go for a Smoothie?

bigsmooveEspecially when it’s free? Okay, the smoothie’s not free, you gotta make your own. In your own blender. And, you know, buy the ingredients to put in the smoothie. But the book is free.

[Smoothies: the most delicious recipes: Vol IV. for Kindle, by B.M. White — Free download from Amazon]

And while you’re there, browsing Amazon, buy a $30,000 eleventy-million inch flat screen LED TV, or something, it helps support this site! Okay, you don’t have to buy a big flat screen TV, but if you get a book, or CD, or some pants, or a ball point pen, or something, it helps support our high-quality news organization.

In the meantime, be like this guy, drink up!


Amazon Needs Heavyweight Content if It’s Developing a Games Console

amazon-logo-HTAmazon’s mystery set-top we keep hearing about like an elusive whale that surfaces distantly for moments before plunging into unlit nether regions is making a few new ripples off reports — rumors, to be sure — that the company’s still toiling and troubling to develop a game console that might compete with, well,everything.

It’s an obvious (if too often glossed-over) point, but the one that matters most in the end: If Amazon (or anyone else, Roku to Apple to Android-based game box X) wants to compete with established industry players like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, it needs what so many have tried and failed, deleteriously, to secure — broad, mainstream, third-party developer support.

Read the rest of this entry »


BOOKS: ‘Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide: 2nd Edition’ Kindle Download, Free

zombie_Amazon offers downloads of Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide 2nd Edition for free.

Dealnews says: ‘That’s $3 off and the lowest price we could find. A Kindle or Kindle-enabled device is required to download and read this eBook.’
From the Amazon description:

100 top-rated professional rules that will help you stay alive in the zombie apocalypse! 

While everyone else is hiding in their house, being eaten alive, and waiting for it to all blow over, 
you’ll be high on the streets kicking undead ass & having a gold ol’ time! 

This is more than just a funny book with rules about the zombie apocalypse… this might actually save your life and the lives of your friends & family! 

Read the rest of this entry »


M.I.T. Separating Hype from Reality on Amazon’s Drones

Yet, in some contexts, drone delivery has shown potential. Last year, a startup called Matternet in Palo Alto, California, tested drones as a way to deliver supplies to refugee camps in Haiti and found it cost only 20 to 70 cents to deliver a two-kilogram package 10 kilometers—at least a fivefold savings compared to standard truck delivery.

“Technically it is totally feasible,” says R. John Hansman, a professor of aeronautics at MIT. “The key issues will be if the [Federal Aviation Administration] allows this kind of operation—they should—and if the business case makes sense.”

But Hansman says the delivery cost could be steep: “They will have to charge a significant premium for this kind of delivery, so the products would need to be worth a $100 to $200 delivery fee for a five-pound or so package.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Retail Robot Wars: Google Robots May Pose Challenge to Amazon drones

Meka's M1 robot is one of the systems that has been acquired by Google

Meka’s M1 robot is one of the systems that has been acquired by Google

Leo Kelion reports:  Google has revealed it has taken over seven robotics companies in the past half a year and has begun hiring staff to develop its own product.

A spokesman confirmed the effort was being headed up by Andy Rubin, who was previously in charge of the Android operating system.

The spokesman was unwilling to discuss what kind of robot was being developed.

But the New York Times reports that at this stage Google does not plan to sell the resulting product to consumers.

SchaftGoogle has hired a team of Japanese engineers who make humanoid robots

Instead, the newspaper suggests, Google’s robots could be paired with its self-driving car research to help automate the delivery of goods to people’s doors.

It notes the company has recently begun a same-day grocery delivery service in San Francisco and San Jose, called Google Shopping Express.

That would pitch the initiative against Amazon’s Prime Air Project, which envisages using drones to transport goods to its customers by air.

“Any description of what Andy and his team might actually create are speculations of the author and the people he interviewed,” said Google of the NYT article. Read the rest of this entry »


UPS Experimenting with Delivery Drones, Set to Challenge Amazon’s Prime Air

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When Jeff Bezos went on 60 Minutes and mentioned that Amazon was experimenting with delivery drones, we knew it was only a matter of time before other companies revealed similar plans.

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Hey Amazon!

HEYAMAZON

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‘We Attempted a Drone Delivery’

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JUST IN: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to Purchase Washington Post