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[VIDEO] #SXSW: How Activists Are Using Technology to Fight Dictators

Dissidents are using USB drives to smuggle information into authoritarian regimes.

But if you were looking for something truly disruptive at SXSW, look no further than a group of activists using tech to spread information to citizens oppressed by authoritarian regimes.

“The people out there they don’t have satellites, they don’t have internet, they have nothing,” says Abdalaziz Alhamza who escaped Syria and co-founded Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. “To be stuck with only ISIS propaganda, it will affect them.”

Alhamza and dissidents from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Cuba were brought together by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) for a panel discussion called “The Real Information Revolution.” Reason caught up with the group at the HRF booth on the convention floor, centered around a large wall of Kim Jong Un faces with USB ports for mouths. Attendees were invited to donate USB drives into the display. The drives will later be smuggled into North Korea after being wiped and filled with films and information from the outside world. Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] NAFTA Works. Just Look at Texas

Former Texas Monthly senior editor Erica Grieder explains why international deals like NAFTA have been good for the economy.

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Charles C.W. Cooke on Antonin Scalia: Originalism Was His Judicial Philosophy

Justice Scalia was referred to as a “conservative” justice, but his judicial philosophy was about ahdering to the Constitution.

Source: National Review


Google Expands Self-Driving Car Testing to Washington State

WASHINGTON (Reuters) David Shepardson reports: Alphabet Inc said Wednesday its self-driving car project will expand testing to Kirkland, Washington later this month, the third city where it is testing autonomous vehicles.

 “We’re looking forward to seeing the cars on the road and understanding more about how self-driving cars might someday improve safety and provide traffic relief.”

— Washington Governor Jay Inslee

The company’s Google unit has conducted autonomous vehicle testing for six years in Mountain View, California, where it is based, and it expanded testing to Austin, Texas last summer.

Google said in a statement that one reason for the new site in the northwest United States is to gain experience in “different driving environments, traffic patterns, and road conditions.”

Kirkland has significant seasonal rain that allows for wet weather testing, along with hills that will allow testing of sensors at different angles and elevations.

Google began a few weeks ago driving a single Lexus RX450h SUV around a few square miles in North Kirkland to create a detailed map of the streets. Read the rest of this entry »


Black Activist Charged for Making Fake Racist Death Threats Against Student Protesters

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‘Yet another example of such activists faking racist incidents.’

Richard Lewis reports: On Nov 17 Kean University students engaged in a rally to raise awareness for racial issues. The rally was entirely peaceful and was without incident until the group was informed of some threatening messages aimed at them via Twitter.

These messages included threats to shoot black students and a bomb scare. With an air of panic rising, things had the potential to turn hostile, and the police were notified. The twist? Their resulting investigation found that it was one of the activists who reportedly issued the threats.

NRO  Timpf Black Activists Hoax

24-year old Kayla-Simone McKelvey allegedly left the protest to use a work station in the campus library to create the Twitter account that issued the threats. Following that she returned to the group and notified the group about them. McKelvey will now face one charge of creating a public alarm with the case scheduled to start in two weeks.

[Read the full story here, at Breitbart]

[Also see Tweets Threatening to Kill All Black Students at University Posted by Black Activist]

In light of the revelation, Kean University issued the following public statement:

As a diverse academic community, we wholeheartedly respect and support activism, however, no cause or issue gives anyone the right to threaten the safety of others. We hope this information will begin to bring a sense of relief and security to the campus community.

This is yet another example of such activists faking racist incidents in a bid to generate sympathy and further their agenda. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] REASON TV: Whole Foods’ John Mackey: Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalism

They’re jealous, he says, they side with rulers, and they don’t understand how markets work.

 &  “Intellectuals have always disdained commerce” says Whole Foods Market co-founder John Mackey. They “have always sided…with the aristocrats to maintain a society where the businesspeople were kind of kept down.”

More than any other outlet, Whole Foods has reconfigured what and how America eats and the chain’s commitment to high-quality meats, produce, cheeses, and wines is legendary. Since opening his first store in Austin, Texas in 1980, Mackey now oversees operations around the globe and 51YVrzR5lBL._SL250_continues to set the pace for what’s expected in organic and sustainably raised and harvested food.

Check out the book “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business” at Amazon.com]

Because of Whole Foods’ trendy customer base and because Mackey is himself a vegan and champions collaboration between management and workers, it’s easy to mistake Mackey for a progressive left-winger. Indeed, an early version of Jonah Goldberg‘s best-selling 2008 book Liberal Fascism even bore the subtitle “The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton and The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods.”

[See more at Reason.com]

Yet nothing could be further from the truth—and more distorting of the radical vision of capitalism at the heart of Mackey’s thought. A high-profile critic of the minimum wage, Obamacare, and the regulatory state, Mackey believes that free markets are the best way not only to raise living standards but also to explore new ways of building community and creating meaning for individuals and society.

[Order Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning”  from Amazon]

At the same time, he challenges all sorts of libertarian dogma, including the notion that publicly traded companies should always seek to exclusively maximize shareholder value. Conscious Capitalism, the book he co-authored with Rajendra Sisodia, lays out a detailed case for Mackey’s vision of a post-industrial capitalism that addresses spiritual desire as much as physial need. Read the rest of this entry »


How Meddlesome Government is Making your Barbecue More Expensive and Less Tasty

The Houston Rodeo Barbecue Grand Champion Kerry Fellows with the pit he used from Pitts by JJ on the Eastex Freeway Saturday March 09, 2013.(Dave Rossman/ For the Chronicle)

The Houston Rodeo Barbecue Grand Champion Kerry Fellows with the pit he used from Pitts by JJ on the Eastex Freeway Saturday March 09, 2013.(Dave Rossman/ For the Chronicle)

Why Freddy’s Barbecue Couldn’t Really Exist

 writes: Between taking bites out of his political opponents, Frank Underwood, in the first two seasons of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” liked to visit a hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint called Freddy’s. Freddy’s BBQ is fictional and the 100-best-bbqshow used a shack in Baltimore for the set.

[Check out Johnny Fugitt’s book “The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America” at Amazon.com]

DC tourists may be disappointed to learn they cannot sample Frank’s favorite ribs, but the most disappointing fact is not that Freddy’s is fictional. The sad truth is that Freddy’s could simply not exist in DC or in most major cities today.

While researching barbecue restaurants for my recently released book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America I visited 365 barbecue restaurants across 48 states. Many owners shared with me that their businesses are hampered by local environmental, safety, and health regulations

Nathaniel E. Bell/Netflix, via Associated Press Kevin Spacey as the ruthless American politician Francis Underwood with Robin Wright as his wife, Claire. Nathaniel E. Bell/Netflix, via Associated Press

No Tasty Barbecue For You

In Houston, for example, Pizzitola’s Barbecue hangs its hat on being the only remaining Houston barbecue restaurant to cook with a traditional open pit. Pizzitola’s has been smoking barbecue this way for 50 years and was grandfathered into the local safety law banning their traditional method of smoking meat.

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“The White Swan came under federal regulations and were required to use electric cookers rather than continuing to smoke as they had for generations.”

As newer barbecue restaurants popped up just outside city limits, Houston lost tax revenue and residents had to leave the city for great barbecue—everyone lost.

[Read the full story here, at TheFederalist.com]freddysbbq

Houston lost tax revenue and residents had to leave the city for great barbecue—everyone lost.

“Today, cities require restaurants to invest tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in safety hoods and equipment.”

It might seem unfair for Pizzitola’s to have such an exemption and, thus, an advantage over their competition, but it’s actually a blessing and a curse. If Pizzitola’s were to make any major changes to the restaurant—like adding a patio or dining-room space—they would lose their grandfathered-in status.

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Pizzitola’s cannot adapt to compete with other restaurants because this risks losing the way they have been preparing barbecue for 50 years. Eventually this handicap will catch up to them.

No More Opportunities For the Little Guys

Although local regulations have done the most damage, federal regulations are also to blame. From the 1940s until 2009, The White Swan smoked traditional North Carolina pork over smoldering oak.

“It was a shame to see a historic, small town, family-run barbecue joint forced to serve cooked pork rather than traditional smoked barbecue simply to comply with federal food regulations.”

When they franchised in 2009 (and created a number of new jobs), The White Swan came under federal regulations and were required to use electric cookers rather than continuing to smoke as they had for generations.  It was a shame to see a historic, small town, family-run barbecue joint forced to serve cooked pork rather than traditional smoked barbecue simply to comply with federal food regulations. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Texas House Gives Final OK to Open Carry of Handguns, Bitches


Jeffrey Kluger: The Enduring Importance of the Last Man on the Moon

cernan-NASA

A new documentary about astronaut Gene Cernan is far more than the story of one person’s life

Jeffrey Kluger  writes: Real astronauts never say goodbye. At least, not the way you’d think they would before they take off on a mission that could very well kill them. They’re good at the quick wave, the hat tip, the catch-you-on-the-flip-side wink. But the real goodbye—the if I don’t come home here are all the things I always wanted to say to you sort of thing? Not a chance.

“You’re almost too young to know what it means to have your Daddy go to the moon. But one day, you’ll have the feeling of excitement and pride Mommy and Daddy do.”

But Gene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, tried to split the difference—as a scene in the new documentary The Last Man on the Moon, sweetly captures. Before Cernan headed off for his first trip to the moon, the Apollo 10 orbital mission, which was the final dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 moon-venuslanding a few months later, he mailed his young daughter Tracy a letter. It was written on the fragile onion skin that was air mail stationery, back in the era when the very idea of air mail carried a whiff of exotic distance.

“Punk, we have lots of camping and horseback riding to do when I get back. I want you to look at the moon, because when you are reading this, Daddy is almost there.”

Cernan was a young man when he wrote the letter in 1969, and is a much older man, at 81, when he returns to it in the film. “You’re almost too young to know what it means to have your Daddy go to the moon,” he reads aloud, “But one day, you’ll have the feeling of excitement and pride Mommy and Daddy do. Punk, we have lots of camping and horseback riding to do when I get back. I want you to look at the moon, because when you are reading this, Daddy is almost there.” If the Navy pilot who once landed jets on carrier decks and twice went to the moon mists up as he reads, if his voice quavers a bit, well what of it?

[Read the full text here, at TIME]

As the title of the movie makes clear, Cernan was the last of the dozen men who set foot on the moon, and the 24 overall who journeyed there. No human being has traveled further into space than low-Earth orbit since Cernan climbed up the ladder of his lunar module in December of 1972, closed the hatch and headed for home. That makes it a very good time for a movie that can serve as equal parts biography, reminiscence and, yes, cultural reprimand for a nation that did a great thing once and has spent a whole lot of time since trying to summon the resolve, the discipline and the political maturity to do something similar again.

“That story, as Cernan and Craig came to agree, would be about the lunar program as a whole and the up-from-the-farm narrative of so many of the men who flew in it, as well as the random currents of fortune that saw some those men make it from terrestrial soil to lunar soil, while others perished in the violent machines that were necessary for them to make those journeys.”

The Last Man on the Moon, which premiered at Austin’s South by Southwest festival in March and was later shown at the Toronto Film Festival, had a long provenance, beginning eight years ago when director Mark Craig, who had read Cernan’s book, requested an interview. Cernan agreed and six months later Craig got back in touch and said he wanted to make a movie based on his memoir.

“My first answer was, ‘Who would be interested in a movie about me?’” Cernan tells TIME. The answer he got impressed him: “This movie is not going to be about you.” It was, instead, going to be about the larger story. Read the rest of this entry »


Twitter Launches Livestreaming App ‘Periscope’ – Its Own Version of Meerkat

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Kurt Wagnerkurt-wagner1 writes: Twitter is officially pulling back the curtain on Periscope, a livestreaming video app that’s been in beta since the company acquired it back in January, reportedly for $100 million.

Periscope streams live audio and video from a user’s smartphone that other people can watch and comment on within the app — the link to the livestream can be shared on Twitter as a way to spread the word and boost the audience.

The free app, which is only available on iOS for now, provides immediate competition to Meerkat, a similar livestreaming app that took off at the Southimg_2914 by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, earlier his month.

Meerkat, which launched just two weeks before the conference, relies heavily on Twitter’s platform. It uses Twitter login and had used its social graph to help users find people to follow before Twitter cut it off.

Given the relationship between the two products, speculation that Twitter might buy Meerkat made sense, but it bought competitor Periscope instead. Things haven’t been all bad for Meerkat, though. The app has more than 400,000 users, according to CEO Ben Rubin, and it just raised $12 million in a deal that values it at $52 million.

The two apps work in a similar way, but Twitter-owned Periscope is actually more independent from Twitter than Meerkat. Unlike Meerkat, where any Likes and comments are reflected on your Twitter profile, all the engagement on Periscope is kept within the app. Read the rest of this entry »


Self Defense Update: Texas Senate Approves Concealed Handguns In College Classrooms

A Glock .40 caliber handgun is displayed

Closing the Victim Loophole

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Senate has given preliminary approval to allowing concealed handguns in college classrooms, a day after passing a measure allowing open carry of guns most everywhere else in America’s second most-populous state….(read more)

TIME


SXSW: Tinder Users Are Falling for a Sexy Robot in Clever ‘Ex Machina’ Marketing Stunt

Ex-Machina

Well, this is sneaky — and for some, a little heartbreaking.

Tinder users at the SXSW festival on Saturday were encountering an attractive 25-year-old woman named Ava on the dating app. A friend of ours made a match with her, and soon they were have a conversation over text message. clear something was amiss…

tinder

There was one photo and one video, both promoting Ex Machina, a sci-fi film that just happened to be premiering Saturday night here in Austin. The link in her bio went to the film’s website. And it turns out the woman in the photos is Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who plays an artificial intelligence in the movie…(read more)

The Hollywood Reporter


Dallas Area School Photographer Todd B. Fleming Gets 20 Years for Child Porn

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TYLER, Texas (AP) – A Dallas-area photographer who did senior portraits for some graduates in East Texas must serve 20 years in prison for producing child pornography.todd-b-fleming

Todd B. Fleming of McKinney was sentenced Tuesday in Tyler.

The 54-year-old Fleming last October pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of children. Investigators say Fleming from 1999 to 2007 coerced juveniles to engage in sexually explicit conduct for producing child porn. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Court Approves Condé Nast $5.85 Million Intern Pay Settlement

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(Reuters) – Condé Nast on Monday won a federal judge’s preliminary approval to pay $5.85 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by thousands of former interns who claimed the magazine publisher underpaid them.

The settlement, made public on Nov. 13, applies to roughly 7,500 interns who had worked at magazines including Vanity Fair, Vogue and the New Yorker.

Former interns who worked at Condé Nast from June 2007 to the present are expected to receive payments from $700 to $1,900.

In granting preliminary approval, U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman in Manhattan said the payout appeared reasonable, citing an estimate by the interns’ lawyers that it exceeded 60 percent of estimated unpaid wages.

“Given defendant’s size and stature in the publishing world, I assume it could withstand greater judgment,” Pitman wrote. “This fact, by itself, however, does not render the proposed settlement unfair.”

The law firm Outten & Golden, which represents the interns, plans to seek legal fees of $650,000, or 11.1 percent of the settlement fund. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Thermodynamics and Chemistry: The Science Of Barbecue

NRO‘s Debby Witt recommends this, among other great items for Independence Day in 4th of July links

Joe Hanson of It’s OK To Be Smart (youtube channel) and the owner of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas discuss the thermodynamic and chemical science behind grilling meat. – VA Viper


Convicted Murderer from ‘Bernie’ Released, Will Now Live in Richard Linklater’s Garage

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AUSTIN, Texas, May 6 (UPI) –The subject of 2011’s Bernie could be released from prison on Tuesday on the condition that he live with the film’s director, Richard Linklater, at his home in Austin.

Bernie Tiede, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Marjorie Nugent, would also be required to receive counseling for sexual abuse.

State district Judge Diane DeVasto will hear testimony from psychiatrists who will argue that Tiede should have received a lighter sentence because he was sexually abused as a youth.

“Through counseling, Mr. Tiede can address his past abusive experiences and develop appropriate coping skills that would allow him to form and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships,” psychiatrist Richard Pesikoff wrote in a report after evaluating Tiede.

The former funeral director, then 38, shot 81-year-old Nugent in the back and hid her body in a freezer more than 17 years ago in 1996…(read more)

Bernie-Tiede

From E.W.

Bernie Tiede, the convicted murderer portrayed by Jack Black in Richard Linklater’s 2011 dark comedy Bernie, was released from prison on Tuesday after a lifetime sentence was reduced to time served. There were a few conditions, in addition to a $10,000 bond. The oddest and most notable of them: living in Linklater’s garage apartment. Read the rest of this entry »


Officials: 17 Treated after Overdosing on Synthetic Marijuana in Downtown Austin

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For the Austin American Statesman, Philip Jankowski reports: EMS officials have treated two more people who suffered from seizures brought on by smoking a synthetic marijuana commonly known as “K2.”

As of 3 p.m., Austin-Travis County EMS had treated 17 people in the past 55 hours for health issues related to the use of the drug. Some had seizures while others lost consciousness. Many became disoriented, and EMS said some became violent.

All incidents have been centralized around Downtown Austin. The most recent incident occurred at 8:35 a.m. Friday on East Seventh Street near San Jacinto Boulevard, EMS and police said.

Austin police said they increased patrols in the downtown area and announced that they had made narcotics arrests in Downtown Austin that caused a disruption to the sale of K2 there. Officers arrested several people on drug possession charges and warrants, many of whom were in possession of suspected synthetic marijuana, officials said. Those suspects were not identified Friday, and the suspected drugs were being tested, police said. Read the rest of this entry »


Boom Time in Texas: Population Has Grown More than Twice the Rate of the Nation’s Over the Past Decade

Austin has the fourth-worst vehicle congestion in North America, according to Inrix Inc., a firm that collects and ranks data on automobile traffic. Above, heavy traffic on Interstate 35 in the state capital. Jon Hicks/Corbis

Austin has the fourth-worst vehicle congestion in North America, according to Inrix Inc., a firm that collects and ranks data on automobile traffic. Above, heavy traffic on Interstate 35 in the state capital. Jon Hicks/Corbis

For WSJ, Nathan Koppel and Ana Campoy report: Americans have flocked to Texas in search of a piece of the state’s booming economy as much of the rest of the country struggled.

Now, the state’s largest cities are seeing crowded highways, strained water supplies and other pressures that have come with the growth. And Texas politicians—protective of the small-government, low-tax policies many of them believe are at the root of the state’s success—are grappling with how to pay the price of prosperity.

 “No state can tax and spend its way to prosperity, but with the right policies you can grow your way there…we can make principled investments in our future without raising taxes.”

Governor Rick Perry

Aided by the promise of plentiful employment and a low cost of living, Texas added 1.3 million people from 2010 to 2013, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Lone Star State’s population has pushed past 26 million and is projected to reach 40 million by 2050.

“We all want to go around and beat our chest that Texas is the best place to do business, but we need to pay for the infrastructure needs that go with growth.”

— Republican state Sen. Kevin Eltife of Tyler

Half of the 10 American cities with the largest population increases in the 12 months ended July 1, 2012, were in Texas, according to the Census Bureau. Houston, the nation’s fourth-biggest city with about 2.2 million people, added 34,625 residents, second only to New York. Austin added 25,395 and now has some 843,000 residents, more than San Francisco.

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The state’s outsize growth is a matter of pride for Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has touted the “Texas Miracle” as proof that its lower taxes and lighter regulations are effective job creators. Texans paid 7.5% of their income in state and local taxes in 2011, compared with 11.4% in California and 9.2% in Florida, according to the most recent data from the Tax Foundation, a research organization. Read the rest of this entry »


Texas town holds ‘Princess Day’ parade for 5-year-old battling cancer

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The weather was fit for a princess, as hundreds of people gathered in a town near Houston Wednesday to cheer on a little girl with terminal cancer.

Five year old Claire Lankford has a rare and incurable form of cancer. Family friend Jaime Harbuck says Claire has five tumors in her lungs and lymph nodes, and that doctors have only given her a couple of months to live, so Harbuck wanted to do something special for her.

Claire had no idea a princess parade was planned in her honor, until Cinderella knocked on her door. At that point, the little girl was transformed into Princess Claire.

Read the rest of this entry »


‘The president likes to think of himself as an empiricist, a nonideological believer in what works…’

Obamanomics: Missing the Obvious

AVIK ROY: On Inequality, Obama Fails His Own Test.

Obama-Asia-EmptyChair

During President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address on Tuesday night, one section stood out. “After four years of economic growth,” said the president, “corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled.” But Obama left unstated the most important point of all: Under his watch and thanks to his policies, those at the bottom of the ladder face fewer and fewer opportunities to get ahead. Worse still, most of the policies he proposed during his address would make social and economic mobility even harder.

“Texas ranked 10th nationwide in a measure of states with the lowest costs of living. That is because the state has a predictable and relatively light regulatory regime that drives down the cost of doing business, and thereby the cost of consumer goods and services.”

I just returned from a three-day trip to Austin, Texas. Spend a few days in Austin and you feel as though you are in a different America from the one described by the president.

Sixth Street is Austin's entertainment showpiece. Sixth Street draws an eclectic bunch including endless streams of mostly single UT students and live music fans. Live music of every genre abounds. From jazz, blues, and country to rock, hip-hop, beat, progressive, metal, punk and derivations of these, there's something to whet everyone's musical pallete.

Sixth Street is Austin’s entertainment showpiece.

In the next two years, downtown Austin’s hotel capacity will increase by 57 percent. In the last 20 years, Austin’s population has increased by an astounding 71 percent. The state of Texas hosts four of the 11 largest cities in the country: Houston (4), Dallas-Fort Worth (5), San Antonio (8) and Austin (11). The biggest problem in Austin is not the economy or unemployment — it is the traffic.

Read the rest of this entry »